20.12.2012 - 28.12.2012 5 °C
Since Paris we have left the city and the bright lights behind us, and are now settled in the countryside. Said countryside contains one auberge, one church, one yurt, a few houses and a resident flock of sheep complete with bells, although without a shepherd it seems.
The Auberge is where we live, for anyone lacking on the French language front, an auberge is a small inn, like a little hotel. We are living with and working for a Dutch couple called Eric and Caroline, helping out where needed. For those not in the know, we are currently doing a thing called ‘Workaway’. It basically means that in return for food and board, we go and help out about 5 hours a day or 25 hours a week doing what ever needs done. Have a look online if you want more details, it’s pretty easy to organise and a good way to spend some time in one place, or in a culture without having to part with a small fortune to do it.
Our daily duties are nicely spaced out between helping clean guest rooms, the dining room and the bar, with a casual dog walk in the afternoon. In return, we have a fully stocked restaurant kitchen (stocked with fresh croissants and baguettes… uh, uh, uh baguettes every morning) and an entire floor of the house basically to ourselves.
We arrived on the 20th of Dec and have helped out with Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day meals for guests – Iain has even been in the kitchen plating the dinners up! Don’t worry; from all accounts no one has died from the meals so far. Although if they did die, it would probably be from scurvy - the French do not like salad that’s for sure!
However it has been pretty quiet on the home front around here, just getting the hang of things and seeing the countryside by walking the dogs (often in the rain) or having the dogs walk us. Today we feared we may have to cart a deer back to the kitchen as one of the dogs proceeded to chase it through the fields… keep in mind we are in a regional park so that dragging would have had to be under the cover of darkness…
On the whole Christmas front, like many Christmas orphans we were taken in by a group of Scots, Irish, Welsh and Dutch – who themselves seem to be orphans of the French countryside. Many of them have arrived for the lifestyle and stuck around even though they don’t seem to fit entirely with the French way of life, which is not uncommon here in the rural backblocks of Auvergne province. Anyway, there was about ten of us all around a big table in a farmhouse kitchen about 10 minutes down the road, and it was fantastic. Lots of wine, great food and good company is all you can ask for from the Christmas season. And it was with very sore heads that we woke on boxing day, but still with a smile on our face. It’s funny when you spend time away from family during the holiday season, you attempt to draw parallels to your own Christmas even if it is not connected by any tangible threads. With a lot of time pondering, I think the overwhelming feeling of content was probably the only enduring theme.
Although things are quiet, the bank account is looking a little better – not because we have received any magical money, but for the first time in months, we have been in one place for longer than 7 days, and we have not spent a penny (or Euro cent as the case may be) since the 20th. All the coffee, wine, cheese and bread you could want here – I’m a little unsure what else you would spend money on?
So until our snowboards arrive, it is dog walks and staring longingly at the mountain on the horizon. In the short term we will enjoy the relaxed nature and consistency that life away from the city offers. The church bells ring every hour from 7am. When it chimes 9 we get out of bed, after 3 chimes the sheep wander down the main street on their own and somewhere between 4 and 5 bells Iain and I and the dogs go for a walk. It’s easy, and for the first time in my life, I think I can say that country life agrees with me. Certainly not long term, but for the moment, it is nice to only have to consider what book I will read today.