Published: June 3rd 2012June 3rd 2012
The first leg of our trip from Paris to Bressuire was via a bus, destined for Portugal. We'd obviously alight prior to Portugal, but it meant that our bus was full of middle aged Portugese. We managed to nab a seat together, a few rows from the front. Unbeknownst to us, these were apparently the most sought-after seats on the bus. We had an elderly couple approach us at the first 'comfort stop', trying to speak to us in Portugese. We explained that we didn't understand Portugese (or French for that matter) yet they continued to gabber away at us in Portugese, making some kind of gestures implying that the wife had a heart condition. We stood there for about 5 minutes, just looking blankly at them until the bus driver approached and explained to them in Portugese the didn't understand them. Even that didn't stop them! They still kept talking away at us, trying to get us to agree to something! As we boarded the bus to continue our journey, the driver explained that they wanted our seats (who knows why, they were sitting right behind us anyway) and he had advised them that we were getting off soon anyway
and they could have them then. However, we noticed that a pair of ladies were also eyeing off our seats, and asked us when we were getting off. Once we arrived at our destination, before the bus had even come to a complete stop, these two couples were out of their seats trying to stake their claim ours. As we clambered out of the bus, neither couple had backed down.. these Portugese sure are passionate about their seats!!
Another bus ride later we arrived in Bressuire. Rachael and Chris kindly picked us up from the bus station in their London Taxi (yes they drive a decommissioned London Taxi! Awesome!) and drove us the 15kms or so out to their Chateau in Noirlieu. Chris and Rachael bought the Chateau a number of years ago in a state of unliveable ruin. About 2 years ago they moved into a caravan on site and began the full time renovation of it with the help of people like us. The Chateau now has a master bedroom, kitchen and bathroom completed, so Chris and Rachael can live inside the Chateau and the helpers live in the Caravans. Along with renovating the Chatueau,
they also have almost 100 chickens, 4 ducks and 3 cats to look after, and a huge veggie patch with 2 (almost 3!) greenhouses to maintain. Millie, one of the cats, had recently given birth to a gorgeous litter of kittens that we all fell in love with. Unfortunately they had just reached weaning age when we arrived and during our first week they were all dispatched off to loving homes. I was so close to convincing Abe that we could definitely complete the rest of our trip with a furry feline friend….
When we arrived at Chateau Noirlieu, there were already five other helpers here - a crazy Brit (Cayden), newlyweds from Texas (Jason & Liz) and another married couple from Arizona (Adrian & Maria). It is a fun group and we have been exploring the area during our time off with Cayden, Jason & Liz. Noirlieu is a small village with a Church, a Bar and a soccer field and that's about it. After our working days (we work 9am-3pm Monday to Friday) we generally stroll down to the bar for a carafe of rose, or take the soccer ball out to the fields and
muck about there. There are also a bunch of old bikes available for us to use, and we have also been going on cycling adventures to the nearby towns. Last weekend we cycled out to Sanzay, which is home to another beautiful old Chateau. We took some beers and had an explore and Liz managed to find an old kayak that Jason & Cayden had turns paddling in the moat! One night last week we hopped on the bikes again and went to suss out the nearby wind turbines (they are HUGE) and visit the lake at the nearby town of Noirterre. Noirlieu and Noirterre mean 'Dark Place' and 'Dark Land' respectively. The story is that centuries ago during one of the many British Invasions of France, as the British Armies were descending upon the area, the villagers set fire to all the houses and the fields and killed all the livestock so that when the British arrived, there would be nothing left of the towns for them to claim. From a distance, all that was left of the two villages was a smouldering black mess - hence Dark Place/Land.
The work at Chateau Noirlieu has been
tiring but fun! Our soft office hands really don't know what has hit them! In the first week alone, we both we nursing a number of blisters on both hands! During our first two weeks here, Abe has chipped off hundred-year old plaster from the stone walls in the 'Medieval Dining Room' with a hammer and chisel, constructed a poly-tunnel (the third big green house) and sifted soil through a sieve to make two big (2m x 10m) beautiful soft garden beds for me to plant seeds in! Aside from a day painting the front gate, I have spent most of my time in the garden (which I have been thrilled about!). I have weeded a massive crop of potatoes, planted out hundreds of seedlings (broccoli, paprika, onions, peanuts, cucumber, sweet corn, tomatoes…) and also planted seeds direct into Abe & Jason's garden beds (cabbage, onion, eggplant, zucchini, rocket, lettuce…). The cats have also enjoyed Abe's hard work sifting the soil… the fresh garden beds have turned into a deluxe kitty-litter tray for Millie, Scruffy and Gizmo. Most mornings I have to be very wary of new land-mines that have been deposited by one of those generous cats.
For the most part the weather has been beautifully sunny and we have both been going very brown, despite the amount of sunscreen that we lather on. Yesterday we went out to another nearby town, Argenton, to have a swim in the river and pools. Very luxurious after a hard week of manual labour!
We have one more week left in Noirlieu before we make the trek South to Rosans to visit Michele, the owner of a little B&B.