featured, france, journey, Travel, Volunteering

Aston Martin, helicopters and 2CVs

Finally, to continue on from my week 1 experience of driving for the first time in years; a transport theme, purely by chance! It’s a little too easy to write about a fun-filled 7 days so you could almost say this is a novella. Week 2 at the Chateau de Jalesnes is equally as relaxing and so easy to form a rhythm and routine. Up for 8.30am, help yourself to a form of breakfast to your own personal preference (the good having oatmeal with fruit and nuts, me eating Nutella on toast – how did that fall into the trolley?), divvy up the tasks for the day and off we go. All of us still sleepy and not ready to dive into conversation just yet, we happily take our part but do so quietly.

The projects in the past range from building furniture for the Chateau, making wooden doors from scratch for the caves’ entrances into the moat, interiors renovation, painting and decorating, and much much more. It all depends on who’s allocating the jobs. Co-owner Jenny admits herself that when she’s looking after us HelpXers then there’s always more focus on the garden and grounds. This suits me fine as I’m forming a very good tan and I’ve only been here 8 days! The manual labour, as such, is good for the body even though I ache sometimes, it has most successfully switched off the constant brain chatter.

I think the familiarity of what we need to do makes us relax all the more. The Sunday day trip to Nantes had been a little anticlimactic, I’m not sure about visiting French towns or cities on Sundays when they ultimately ‘close up shop’, kinda lose a bit of magic and atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, please visit as you may love it but I have 2 days Tours later in the month and this is definitely a better option. We arrived in Nantes, literally abandoned the car after eventually finding a parking space and then trekked across the town and river to see an attraction of large-scale animatronics.

According to Wikipedia, The Machines of the Isle of Nantes (or Les Machines De l’île) is an artistic, touristic and cultural project. In the old covered buildings of the former shipyards that were at one time very busy in ship construction. Created by two artists, François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice the project’s aim is to promote the city’s image and tries to build an identity as a creative metropolis of dream and of fantasy. I’m sure the restaurants and attractions will soon entice tourists who need a break from wine tasting.

elephantWatching The Great Elephant ‘walk’ was impressive to see especially as the driver spurts water out of the trunk at little children – sounds quite macabre of me, so maternal. My video is brief but you can appreciate the mechanics behind the art, you will not appreciate my filming.  I made a boob but it’s funny to keep.

If you’re happy to pay to enter The Galarie des Machines, this is a ‘veritable bestiary of machines’. Not sure about Google Translate with that one! More animals include a spider that can seat 4 people on its abdomen, a heron with an 8 meter-long wingspan (perfect for my mate Debs!) and the giant ant. I steered clear, not exactly a fan of regular sized spiders and saving my pennies for the priorities – wine and food.

Monday 12th June 2017 – only real cherries are delicious

The fruit trees need weeding – yes, more weeding! This is what happens when Jenny hasn’t been to the Chateau for a good couple of months and the HelpXers are not so focused on the garden. The garden is a little overrun with these trailing weeds, they get everywhere. Good timing as summer has most definitely arrived and this weekend’s guests are dining in the garden. The finish of the garden is important for the French Chateau style. I found out a past HelpXer had designed the garden with the owners of the Chateau and you can really see the design replicates the French formal Chateau style from the balcony. Straight-lined geometric shapes, neatly trimmed trees and shrubs, gravel for paving, and the wildflowers adding colour and a little contrast.  Not as costly as the one recently in the news! 


They have cherry, apple and lemon trees. I feel like I’m missing other fruits but I really can’t remember. It’s a sign that I need to take more notes. So easy to forget the smaller things when doing something new each day. A week can start to become one very long but very filled day, and I’m only on week 2! The details ‘make’ my shaggy dog stories and you ‘need’ details! I’ve taken to writing very short bullets each day with the desire to prompt the full memory. This didn’t work for my A levels but I’m hopeful. This blogging malarkey takes time you know, I knew but now actually appreciate, that for anyone who writes, it is a ‘job’ as well as a creative outlet. I need to be more applied to writing time and stop enjoying myself 🙂 It’s ever so contradictory of ‘holiday mode’; to be in a new place then lie in or stay inside for hours typing but it has to be done. Oops, did I say lie in?

As per usual Rowan conversation, I digress, sadly not enough for fruit pies but still, they need trimming back, tidying up and new wood chip. The formal wood chipped beds of the trees is important to the look. Thankfully whilst we were low on fruit in the Chateau garden, we had a very generous neighbour. Another of the owners, Micheal, popped into the Hi De Hi with what must have been 4kg of cherries, tasty, sweet and deep cherry red. Between 6 of us and happily sharing with anyone else who popped in; we devoured every last one. Too difficult to get the stone out and make pies. Actually…. how do they get the stone out for pies? Promoting a conversation about how a real cherry is tasty and desired but all artificial cherry flavours are not and those disgusting maraschino cherries are the worst! Like some say, I believe they are ‘the devil’s food’. This was discussed for at least erm, 3 or 4 minutes.

My good old mate Fiona once challenged me to rate many things in my top or bottom ‘5’; completely deliberately to distract me from the horrific hangover I was experiencing. Much appreciated! Maraschino cherries would be at the very bottom of all fruit based bottom 5’s or even ‘100’s’. I would rather eat durian over these little beggars.

Weirdly we noted that cherries are extortionate in all 5 of our countries so this farmer was making a tidy sum. Why are cherries so pricey, they are an abundant fruit and grow in quite a few countries? The land surrounding the Chateau was a mix of the neighboring farmer and his brother’s land plus also forestry which is part of the Chateau grounds. I was really pleased to see a public walkway was signed posted through Vernantes, the forest land, and fields of what looks like cannabis, yes, cannabis. In reality, hemp. From the same plant family and the familiar leaf shape that I’ve seen… in films… and on postcards. Two different walks of 4km or 10km I think, I had the urge to investigate further and the feeling passed quickly. I need to research long distance walks more for each destination, I’m never going to get rid of this extra 3 stone by sunbathing, eating cheese and drinking wine!

I happily weeded the tree beds and took this gorgeous picture (if I say so myself) you may have seen on social media. 19400491_10155559998879258_9156713285159959922_oIt was a cooler day with cloud cover, a great day for gardening. The wildflowers contrast well with the formality of the exterior of the building. Between 3 of us, we got the task done and it’s quite satisfying to have a goal to complete no matter how basic. The weather was still rain free so these trees needed some water. Last time I saw rain was early in week 1 but that’s it. We had an amazing lightning storm, hardly any thunder and then a fair bit of rain dumped itself over the garden for about 2 hours then disappeared as quickly as it came. I’ve tried to film the lightning and here are 2 options for you to view but it could be a case of “you had to see it yourself”, it really was spectacular. Hint – I’m filming landscape, you should be able to make out cloud formations and irregularly, you can see a tree skyline low in the picture. I appreciate its mainly black so no hard feelings if you’re not as impressed as I was in person.

Jenny and Clara had previously worked out to feed the fruit trees 30 litres of water, we needed to give it 4 minutes worth of water from the handy little-hidden water taps in the ground. A very simple task to drag the hose around and I could weed the planters around me. I didn’t do much more weeding in the end, proof the slightly hypnotic Monday morning daze affects me where ever I am it seems. I’ve been way from London only 1 week and it feels like much more, in a very good way.

Tuesday 13th June 2017 – Pies

Still watering trees and weeding, life is simple y’know. I even happily volunteer to do the supermarket shop for another stint in the driver’s seat. Music on and windows down. I really enjoy the jaunt down the country roads with little traffic and yes, I admit to mainly driving in the middle of the road. But I think I did that years ago on some of the smaller country roads to Sambourne and Warwick, back in the day. I shouldn’t have gone of my own though, I accidentally used all the loyalty points to pay for the shopping instead of requesting it be charged to their account. I couldn’t understand what the cashier was telling me so I just nodded and uh oh! Thankfully, they’ll just sign off my little boob as expenses. I need the French folk to speak veeerrrrryyyy sllllloooooowwwly and maybe I’ll get it. However, I can see how immersing yourself in the language and continually listen to the ‘other’ language helps. Helps my understanding a little that is; my speech and lack of accent remain awkward.

Jenny hosted dinner again for us, a yummy chilli or a salmon pea pasta combo. Or both. Then after all my talk of pies, Jenny coincidentally made an apple pie and a cherry pie. Michael and Jonathan joined us; we’ve not really seen much of them these 2 weeks as the Chateau is getting busier and busier.  I really do hope you look at their website, the idea of self-catering apartments is not the French way but if you’re wanting the deluxe accommodation with the benefit of kitchenette facilities then this is a subtle alternative to hotel life. Or a family and you want a base to stay for a longer time then this is a perfect solution.

Not forgetting if you know anyone who’s getting married and wants to do so abroad, the chapel is stunning. A captivating space for a civil blessing or maybe you’d even like the magical feeling of the forest. A short walk into the woods takes you to this guardhouse or bird coup, I’m really not sure what it was, imagine a trail in fairy lights with the bride and groom at the top of the stairs whilst the guests are watching from below. Daniel was unknowingly doing a good Burton catalogue pose when I snapped this pic.



We enjoy good conversation over dinner and once again generous with the Cote du Rhone. It’s really appreciated to be welcomed by the owners; definitely no ‘them and us’ and you can see this is working together not for!

Wednesday 14th June 2017 – oh look, a cloud

We’re all a little more with it by Wednesday – no hump days in the Loire Valley. That said, I cannot remember what I did with my morning. We’re mainly tidying up the grounds for the exclusive use group that is arriving tomorrow and Friday. Members of The Aston Martin Owners’ Club are coming. Not just for the Chateau but for Le Mans. Again Wiki as my source; the 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans) is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near and in the town of Le Mans, France. It is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and is often called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”.

The circuit on which the 24 Hours of Le Mans is run is named the Circuit de la Sarthe, after the department that Le Mans is within. I didn’t know that the circuit consists of both permanent track and public roads that are temporarily closed for the race. Funnily, this weekend we were going to visit Le Mans – don’t think that will be happening!

Competing teams race in groups called “classes”, or cars of similar specification, while also competing simultaneously for outright placing amongst all classes. Originally, the race showcased cars as they were sold to the general public, then called “Sports Cars”, in contrast with the specialized racing cars used in Grand Prix motor racing. Over time, the competing vehicles evolved away from their publicly available road car roots, and today the race is made of two overall classes: prototypes, and Grand Touring cars (similar to sports cars sold to the public). These are further broken down into 2 sub-classes each, constructors’ prototypes, privateer prototypes and 2 subclasses of GT cars. Basically, it is popular with race team and spectators alike!

Aston Martin has been involved in the race since forever and I can imagine the Aston Martin Owners’ Club has been following the race as equally as long. As my career history is in hospitality including some high rollers, I’m interested to see the demographic and geographical reach. Nah, I’m just nosey. We’ve found out the couples have paid 4 figures for their weekends excluding their travel to France. Plus one set of guests, not sure how many, will be arriving into Tours by private jet. If you can own an Aston Martin, then I’m sure it is pocket-money to have VIP trackside hospitality and oh did I mention the helicopter ride to and from Le Mans each day.

The cost was too much for some of my fellow volunteers to understand but it’s not only about available disposable income, it’s about having a hobby that you really love! The cost becomes irrelevant. I’m sure some would pay above the odds to see a favourite band from side of stage and ‘meet & greet’ on the tour bus. Or maybe prime seats at a World Cup rugby final and a dip in the post-match bath – just me then. I would be happy to get a ride in the helicopter – I’ve only had 1 very short bumpy 15-minute heli-flight over the Evesham countryside many many moons ago but I would jump at the chance to do again and even have lessons.

I start Googling the cost of lessons and helicopters for sale. I really should be doing some work!

All this week I’ve been thoroughly chilled and this proves a challenge to then focus the mind. I have freelance project work throughout my afternoons or evenings which I complete remotely if you need any editing or marketing then I’m the freelancer for you – www.rowanvpaservices.wordpress.com. I am extremely grateful for the continued work and merrily complete my projects once I’ve got past setting myself up with laptop, windows wide open for a breeze, cup of tea, review Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – to get it out of my system – and then before you know it, I’ve been staring up at the clouds for about 10 minutes. Who needs mindfulness and meditation techniques?!?

Darn it, I really should be doing some work!

Thursday 15th June 2017 – Jenny leaves us to it!

What are we going to do? Our leader is off to have pre-birthday fun with her family. What’s that about? Jenny is always working before us and continues after we finish so to keep us motivated and busy, Jenny gives us a long list of activities to do in her absence. Unlikely we’d get it all done but better to have more. Before she headed off to her train, we all come together to tidy up this circular patch of wildflowers. The seeds have simply been picked up by the wind and taken over what should be a circle of small colourful flowering bulbs. We tried to pull out all the grasses and thistles to leave the flowering plants but now it just looked odd. So here’s a few pics of us ‘at work’…. eventually, the lawnmower came out and we went ‘crew cut’. It really would have looked weird leaving the 4 random flowering plants with a solo lemon tree in the middle with its one large lemon hanging low. No innuendo intended. You can tell the 2 of us who don’t want to catch the sun – the long sleeves Ray Bans club.

I have not done very well at taking candid photos of people as I challenged myself but I will try harder.

I’ve been allocated housekeeping tasks, reminds me of my first hotel job and also duty management when I worked for Hilton and IHG. Yet I still managed to forget which suites I sorted with flowers and those with fridges on and Ackerman’s sparkling wine in. I have always struggled with a good balance of daydream or work efficient. I am usually one or the other. That’s why I love working on my own, no-one wanting me ‘on’ when I need a time out. I could be lethal if I was switched to ‘work efficient’ all the time but to be honest, it sounds ever so tiring. The same long time friend of mine that knows I’ll happily rate anything in a top 5 also used to compare me to Joey from Friends when he is in own ‘Joey’ world…. could not, cannot, argue with her.

Whilst every dinner is great fun sometimes we’re all chatted out. I am very surprised I’ve enjoyed being surrounded by these guys as much as I have. It’s not personal but I’m very used to having more time to myself. All of us solo volunteers are similar in needing that individual time out to recharge. Clara and Nahuel bid their good nights as they are deep in the Twin Peaks box set – the proper original series! The boys are online or read. I manage to get the TV and my laptop to speak to each other, very pleased with my technical prowess and no remote control for said TV. Didn’t do my efforts justice really as I then watched an Adam Sandler film – cheese on a cheesy stick with cheese flakes. Remember, I do like cheese. Excluding visiting my parents’ house, I can’t remember the last time I watched something on a proper TV screen. Even at my old house, I watch everything on my trusty 17″ laptop that I have with me now.

Friday 16th June 2017 – I wonder if they’d let me drive an Aston Martin

The car park is filling up with the latest Aston Martins, however, my favoured one is an antique, a vintage convertible. I can get close up to it.  This is how to travel around vineyards of France, top down and ideally chauffeur – how else can I keep up the wine tasting if I have to drive. Very 007. james_bond_daniel_craig_astonDaniel Craig can be my chauffeur any day. I would love to just pootle around for 30 minutes, I would be careful, just for the wind in my hair and music on, top down time. You could say it’s similar to my desired car that was a little more in my price range back in London. I would have loved to buy a little Nissan Figaro, nissan_figaroin original beige, yes they say beige. I decided against the car and the stamp duty savings for travelling and here I am!  I’ll come back to the car or get one over here 🙂

We’d been requested to become a little more invisible than usual, simply to ensure the guests really feel the exclusivity of their hire. Very difficult to do when we’re eating dinner in our ‘back garden’ and 2 of the guests come walking through the farmers’ fields short cut after having had drinks in Vernantes, our closest village. Transpired one of the ladies was French Canadian but now both she and her Aston Martin loving husband live in Toron’o, just across town from our volunteer Diego. It’s a small world!

Additionally, I’d found out the group organisers were a 3rd party booker to venues back home, an events agency, sorry ‘lifestyle management and concierge services’ company that I’ve worked with in the past in London. Offices on Portland Place, just minutes from an old London workplace of mine. Small world indeed. I said nothing, I’m immersing myself in a completely different type of lifestyle thank you!

We’re starting to really jell as a group so it feels strange to think about my solo travels in 2 days. I know what I’m doing for the next week but after that I’m indecisive. So many choices to reach my short-term destination, my next HelpX placement. A teaching English school called AngloVille host an immersive English programme for children and adults, I have agreed to help at a 9-day course in Warsaw, Poland. I have to arrive by 13th July 2017. What I do between now and then is to be confirmed.

You know we’d jelled, with the help of 4 bottles of red wine and the rest of the beer, when the conversation of “how do you define love?” comes up!!! How we got there I have no idea, hilarious and left field to have such a deep and meaningful question come from the quietest of the group, Vivienne. Now I am notoriously single and have been for years so gawd knows how I will reply. I was also the last to be asked the question 🙂 I think they were respecting their elders – ha! It was really interesting to hear what individuals thought by no means are any of us drunk but wine lubricates the tongue – “being a better version of you, because of the other person”, “a feeling of home”, “putting the other person before yourself”. For me, I remembered the cartoons from the 00’s but I’m sure they’ve been around since the 70’s. You know the one where the man and woman were invariably naked – never found out why – and the strapline was always ‘Love is…’

It’s not a coincidence that the majority of solo travellers are also single, seems obvious really. Many hoping they’ll find a like-minded individual on their adventures no doubt. I wonder what the ratios are on this. No way of knowing how many international travellers meet a certain someone on the road. Not the best timing to meet someone right at the beginning of my exploration through Europe, but hey I’m open to suggestions. I’m feeling I am cougar material though and this will be difficult but I’ll cope…

We end the night by checking out the stars, trying to work out what was above our heads with the useful star iPad and iPhone app but nope, the attention span of a gnat. I like the idea of it learning more but if the only time I do look up is when I’ve been drinking then well, it’s never gonna stick is it.

We have a lie in tomorrow hence the flowing drinks over and after dinner, the residents are off to Le Mans and this means the helicopters are coming. Now you may wonder if the Chateau has a helipad. Of sorts – it’s called the back garden. Lots of flat grass areas for a little 4 seater to drop in. Little did we know that we’d be entertained quite so much by 8 helicopters coming!

Saturday 17th June 2017 – it’s just a helicopter

How exciting! I had no clue that we were having more than one helicopter coming. I didn’t even click that Le Mans is a good 15 minutes flight away and the guests numbered at least 35 or so. One helicopter would never be enough. Holiday brain! We’d enjoyed our breakfast and chilled, knowing that we needed to stay inside from around 10am mainly for our own safety than anything else. The Hi De Hi is very close to the makeshift helipads = the lawn! I was lay on my bed and then we hear the familiar sound of the rotor blades. It was like an episode of Air Wolf or Magnum PI or MacGuyver; ok it was nothing like that but they were so close.

One of my favourite scenes from the musical Miss Saigon is the full-size helicopter replica lowering onto the stage, highly recommend the show if you’re into musicals. It could be the technology or simply the flying, both I suppose. My reaction seeing a Chinook flying over London was a little excitable, y’know the ones with tandem rotors, I would love a flight in one of those. Why is it that I really don’t like heights but I love flying?

Of course, I have film that I’ll share on The Volunteer Voyager Facebook page.  Being in my bedroom was just by chance and happened to be ideal viewing as the windows open fully with no obstructions. The best arrival was when one pilot came a little too close to the tree-lined pathway in the garden and the air streams were clearly playing silly buggers as he was bobbing about a bit. Sorry no film of this, it was too good to miss him juggling a little. It seems like he nonchalantly swings the helicopter up and around to reposition himself to land further away from the trees, buildings, and people! These small helicopters are really responsive. I remember it costs thousands to learn how to fly.

I love this pic, it shows how close they swiftly settle vertically and land.  All in the timing! IMG_20170618_162326515

As I say we had 7 arrivals in quick succession, 1 landing, 1 already on the ground and filling up with guests then quickly up and off they go to the race. Alternating over about an hour. The last came to pick up their staff, just 2 people who’d been ground crew. That is waving a white cap in the air to indicate the landing area. You could tell they’d done this many times, very slick and quick. When the last helicopter arrived, we volunteers were already in the garden with our tasks. Vivienne got a great film from her vantage point where she’d been picking strawberries, fancy pants has added music so it does look even better.

It felt like everyone was on a little high after the helicopters had successfully picked everyone up with no damage and injury. The owners were very pleased with all the footage and pictures for their website, social media and of course, not every day you have one, let alone 8, land in your back garden. This was a first for the Chateau and I’m sure not the last.

We cracked on as there was much to do; the Chateau kitchen had been used the previous night by the caterer and also for guest breakfast. Job didn’t take long when there’s a couple of us doing and in return, we happily gained plates of cheese, hams and so many croissants. Plus half bottles of champagne and wine. Not a bad deal I think. With further icing on the cake being no guests on site, after our 4 hours were done we were all in the pool! The weather had been gradually getting hotter each day I was at the Chateau. I hadn’t anticipated a heat wave but when in my first week it had been a comfortable 23, I’d taken a photo of the local village pharmacy sign. In France, these green flashing pharmacy crosses always have the date, time and temperature. I was feeling happy when I took this pic that 23 was most definitely better than back in London. On the 17th we’d reached highs of 30. I love the heat and the sun but we all needed cooling down. I’d been in the pool before, it is heated however it had taken a few deep breaths to get my shoulders under the first time. On Saturday, I happily jumped straight in.

I’ve not really told you much about Lulu or LouLou – however, it’s spelled – she’s Jonathan and Michael’s golden lab puppy. A big playful but solemn looking girl who has moments of madness. I don’t think she’s even a year but is ‘big for her age’. In the previous week, she’d followed me to the deer and sheep. I was trying to feed the deer but she thought the young leafy plant branch I was holding was a toy for her. It was like it flipped a switch, next thing I know she’s running around at top speed towards the horse and donkey. Hearing me shout “no Lulu, no Lulu” over and over again was funny. She doesn’t know me from Adam so ignored me. Shades of the “Fenton” You Tube clip – you should watch the link if you’ve never seen it before. Next thing I know she’s rolling around in the horse manure and she knew she was being naughty. Thankfully the horse did too and ran after her, Lulu escaped but covered in horse poo. The joys of dog ownership, guess who needed a hose down later.

During the last 2 weeks, we easily see how Lulu loves all the attention she gets from IMG_20170617_153638606numerous people including us, the guests and even the delivery guys she meets at the front door. She loves to eat the water out of the sprinklers and her trick is stealing tools from the guys in the garden, she gnawed on a pair of secateurs for hours and some lost fake Birkenstocks that had been left after the wedding. She wants you to chase her to get them out of her mouth. If you have a dog, you know how cute they are when being naughty. I am a cat person but Lulu was a big softy.

On this occasion, we were all feeling particularly encouraging of getting Lulu in the pool. I had an inkling she wasn’t allowed in the water but …

She’s running around the pool like a lunatic because we’re all in high spirits. Eventually, she steps down onto the first step, stairs straight into the pool, then to the second step. Really she’s liking the splashing, trying to eat the water. We shouldn’t have got her in but all 6 of us trying to get her to swim to us was too funny. She is still learning to swim, would only go so far and then try to clamber 2 front paws onto your shoulders for support. She’s like me, I don’t like to be out of my depth either. I wish we’d got a photo. We didn’t get caught but we did get caught out by Michael as he’s giving her cuddles. Rule 2 broken! No Lulu in the pool. Hilarious. What a minute, what is rule 1?

poolBy this time we’ve the stubbies out and the music on. Ah, rule 1 broken! No glass near the pool let alone in it. Sooorrry, we didn’t know. I toddle off in my towel to fetch the plastic cups and Lulu decides the corner of my towel is another toy. I thought she was going to win for a minute and whip it straight off me. I should have told her off but I was too busy laughing. Michael had to come save me otherwise she could find it too much fun and do it more often. If I did ever get a dog then I would want one as playful as Lulu.

The day turned into a farewell bash as such, Vivienne and I arrived on the same day and we were both heading off on Monday. And a welcome dinner for Fritz, our new German arrival this afternoon. A last feast and lots of wine savoured as I don’t think my budget will stretch to continue eating the same array of foods and quantity of red I’ve consumed over the past 2 weeks. It’s funny when a new person arrives, we did the same to Daniel on Monday gone – the Spanish Inquisition. Firing questions left, right and centre. As expected most questions continue to relate to travel and food.

Things took a turn for the worse when someone, me, suggests drinking games. We didn’t even need the alcohol. Vivienne’s argument for not wanting to play the name game had us all in stitches. Most of you will know this game: start with the name of a famous person (Jennifer Anniston) and use the first letter of that surname (A) to name your next famous person (Angelina Jolie). Anyone who hesitates or goes blank or wrong has to drink! Vivienne states “ah but the Chinese don’t always use the western name!”, oh yes, we jeer, such as …. her example had us in stitches. Can you work out which famous Hollywood star this is “Brado Pitto”! As you can imagine, she lost her argument.

A good night had by all and a small suggestion, don’t mix Johnny Walker Red Label and peach iced tea. An awful idea.

Sunday 18th June 2017 – SOS, 999, 911, 112 – no wine, no wine

Helicopter, schmelicopter… saw 8 of them yesterday! Yeah, yeah, I can hear them…. I’m too busy lying down to get up 🙂 Isn’t it disappointing how blase we could become, and I remind you of the conversation we volunteers had about disposable income and what is ‘normal’ to a person. If you see something all the time, it’d be a shame for the sheen to wane after time.

I didn’t just lie there. I watched! Of course. This time we had 6, I think the guests at Le Mans could stay and view the race all night if they wanted though I’m not sure it’d be quite so captivating in the dark? Thankfully there are noise restrictions so guests returned late last night was by car, looking back I don’t think we’d have noticed what with the drinking games. This morning it looked like we had bigger helicopters but I haven’t got the ‘copter-spotter-esque levels just yet so I’m not confident. It was the landing – louder for sure, chairs went over and a poolside umbrella pole bent straight over and into the deep end of the pool.

Still exciting to watch, maybe it’s because they land and take off in such quick succession. I really couldn’t tell you but I enjoyed each one, even when they came back 6 hours later.

IMG_20170617_155554010The Chateau feels ever so calm after the flurry of excitement, the same thing happened yesterday. We had no major jobs to do, help to tidy up and clean, the kitchen again but no way near as messy as yesterday. A few of the volunteers had to set up the sprinklers, tables, and chairs for the evening dining later but all in all a really relaxing day ahead. Jonathan kindly shared the love after our morning’s work, this is how I’d like to finish each day of ‘work’ please.

We hadn’t known until the day before but a 2CV owners club were arriving in the afternoon as the finish to a day rally. The complete antithesis to helicopters and Aston Martins. Totally 35 2CVs cars and vans! This is only a few before I had to take shade from the sun. *fans oneself


Owner Jonathan has a green 2CV. All you’d need now is a beret-wearing man on a bike with a basket, a baguette and a string of onions. The Citroen 2CV or in French: “deux chevaux” or “deux chevaux-vapeur” translates to “two steam horses” or “two tax horsepower”. Conceived by Citroën Vice-President Pierre Boulanger in the 30s to help motorise a large number of farmers still using horses and carts but not introduced or manufactured till 1948. Thanks, Wiki!

AND my dad once owned one, why? I will have to ask. I would recommend never sitting in the middle of the back seat as the cushion is thin and the framework underneath could literally be a pain in the bum on a bumpy road. He would deliberately race of over the hump in the road to Knaphill when we lived in Bisley, Surrey. Not needing much encouragement but I’m sure I egged him on.

Fritz’s arrival was appreciated in many ways – on Sunday it was because he was able to drive a manual car and very very used to driving on the left. Designated drivers – Daniel and I – wanted a lazy day and didn’t really want to head out but some of the others were chomping at the bit to see something other than the chateau.

I had a few hours of paid work to do and then my treat would be a swim, a snooze in the sun and then…da daaaaa, Bread and butter pudI was making a bread and butter pudding using the many pain au chocolat we had. It’s relatively easy to make but guessing the right ratio of croissant to milky custard can make or break a good pudding. I was impressed with myself especially as this was a hard pudding to explain the taste sensation. Just for fun – the top 5 of puddings, easy and quick to rate. At no 5 – rich, thick, chocolate mouse, 4 – my mum’s rice pudding (even though she’d be surprised and invariably burnt the skin on top, that’s how I like it), 3 – rhubarb crumble and custard, 2 – a melt in the middle chocolate pud and 1 – bread and butter pudding!!! Love, love, love. Won’t bore you with the bottom 5 but let’s just say trifle is the worst.

Then, the news! The shop was closed and Daniel hadn’t had time to go earlier in the day. We had no wine. A little worrying and funny that Daniel asks me to message the guys out for the day to see if they can look for a shop. SOS, 999. I felt a little desperate sending it but I couldn’t deny I did fancy a glass. Sadly it is Sunday at 5pm. All shops in France are closed. I was surprised the Super U had been open till 2pm. Whilst we had a tasty BBQ with some spicy ‘frankfurter looking’ but ‘chorizo tasting’ sausages, it was a relatively quiet last night while I anticipate the next step in my journey.

Monday 19th June 2017 – Au revoir folks, it’s been amazing

A strange morning, I only had time to help the wood chippers for an hour or so. I packed my bag, cursed the amount of stuff I’d got again, stripped and washed the bed linen then it was time to go. Grabbed a bit of lunch, goodbyes to the guys and Fritz gave me a lift to the train station.

I have to say how lucky I have been with my first HelpX experience. I think I will struggle with my expectations of the next one I’m doing in July. It has been such great fun.  What out for the location plus Jonathan and Michael on Channel 4’s Escape to the Chateau, coming soon. 

The time flies when you’ve gotta be at a particular timed train from Saumur, however, I wasn’t exactly going far. Just 70 miles to Tours for 2 nights to do a little sightseeing, Monday was my first afternoon of actually being a solo backpacker. Exciting further adventures ahead…. Rowan was actually on the road.

5 thoughts on “Aston Martin, helicopters and 2CVs”

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