Thursday, April 12, 2012

Planning a trip to the Loire Valley and Workaway, a unique idea for those who would like to spend some time abroad

Looking out the window at Versailles


Whew! Who knew that there are so many castles to visit and so many different places to stay in the Loire Valley? I certainly didn't until I started looking for a destination for Stephane's and my romantic weekend getaway at the end of April. Perusing website after website of castles with interesting histories, charming rooms and blazing fires, my eyes glazed over with châteaux fatigue. For those of you who are blissfully unfamiliar with this condition, it occurs when you've seen too many photos of turrets, moats and deer. For some reason there are an astonishing number of deer on castle websites! Deer amongst the flowers, fawns hiding in the forest and deer rambling about the fields. If we hadn't had deer traipsing through our yard and destroying our plants in Ohio, I might be more enthusiastic about the possibility of spotting one. But I digress...

Amongst all the castles, the website that caught my attention was Workaway, an organization that matches hosts with people willing to work abroad in exchange for room and board. While Stephane and I hope to have a relaxing trip to the Loire Valley, I couldn't help but think that we could stay for free if we were ready to devote a certain numbers of hours a day to gardening, teaching English, painting or helping with tourists (oh, that would be us!). It's a great idea that provides owners of organic farms, bed and breakfasts, castles, dog hotels, etc. with extra help. There are even a couple of offers for positions in Paris.

If you're intrigued by the idea of working abroad, learning a new language and integrating in the local culture, take a look at the Workaway website. Alternatively, if you own a castle in the Loire Valley and need a bit of help, I'm very handy with a paintbrush! In the meantime, I've booked a room at the Château de la Villaine.

For native English speakers who like to talk, Pueblo Inglés offers volunteers free room, board and Spanish wine in various locations in Spain and Germany. In exchange, "Anglos" are asked to speak with guests so that they improve their language skills in real-life situations. They also have a teen program.

Do you have a suggestion for our visit to the Loire Valley or know of an interesting idea for travel abroad? I would love to hear about it!

One job that I wouldn't want - cleaning the chandeliers in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles! Yes, it's possible to take a photo without tourists. You just have to wait until the very end of the day when the guards escort you out the door!

20 comments:

  1. Great comment about your last photo. "But sirs, I just need a shot without people in the photo. One moment please."

    I so admire your adventurous spirit in even thinking about something like Workaway. And I'm glad you chose to stay in a nice chateau for a romantic weekend rather than painting walls white.

    Now the trick to cleaning the chandeliers: they probably lower from the ceiling which makes the cleaning much easier. If not, then yes, it would be done on scaffolding or ladders, by hand.

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    1. Getting a photo of the Hall of Mirrors without anyone in it was a big thrill! Since they only let you go in one direction while visiting the castle, I had to keep following the circuit until a couple of minutes before closing time. That's when the guards formed a line and herded all of the tourists towards the exit. When we arrived at the end of the hall, a determined Frenchwoman asked if we could take some photos...and if the guards would kindly move out of the way. Fortunately, they were in a good mood and did what she asked.

      As for the chandeliers, that job would drive me crazy - whether they were lowered from the ceiling or not. I'll paint a room any day of the week but don't give me glass to clean!

      Whenever I see something like Workaway, it reminds me of the kind of thing that I did when I was younger. To make a long story short - before the internet, I put a position wanted ad in the International Herald Tribune for a summer job in Paris. A family in Geneva answered, so I watched their son for a couple of hours in the morning and spoke English with him (they were an American/German family) in exchange for room and board. That's the summer I met Stephane so I'm all for this sort of experience, especially now that it's so easy with the internet!

      I'm glad that we're staying in a chateau, too! :)

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  2. Hey!

    How exciting! Seb and I were there this fall. Here are some suggestions!

    (I hope the links show up)

    Photos from Loire

    Places to Go in Loire

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    1. Thanks for sharing the links, Mlle Ella! I can't believe that I missed your "Photos from Loire" post. I do, however, remember reading about your romantic weekend but didn't realize that it was in the Loire Valley . My knowledge of that region leaves much to be desired. In any event, I hope to get to L'Ange est Reveur the next time that we're there. It sounds as if it's a great place. Plus, it has excellent reviews on Trip Advisor.

      Thanks again!

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  3. Hi, I posted this on my blog as well, in case it helps anyone over there. I spent ages putting bloody html tags on the links, but unlike MademoisElla, mine didn't work. Stick to your day job, huh?

    Chenonceau is definitely worth seeing. My past visits:

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/chenonceau-again.html

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/photos-chenonceau.html

    My favourite small town is Chinon, the wine there is amaaazing too. More info plus my trip to the nearby château of Ussé:

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/la-belle-au-bois-dormant.html

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/visiting-brothel-with-my-sister-other.html

    I really enjoyed seeing the castle and town of Blois with my parents, and was less impressed by Amboise and especially Le Clos Lucé (the Leonardo da Vinci castle)

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/christmas-new-year-pics.html

    Another small town I visited is Langeais, which I know Ella has also blogged about:

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/lounging-in-langeais.html

    In and around Tours, I loved the Maison des Vins de Loire, as mentioned recently. There is also, of course, the cathedral

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/tours-photos.html

    and a perhaps lesser-known spot that I really enjoyed was the Prieuré de Saint-Cosme, in a suburb of Tours:

    http://gwannelsandiego.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/prieure-de-saint-cosme.html

    Places that I haven't been, but have heard good things about include the Château of Villandry, mostly for the gardens, Château Chambord and the Abbey of Fontevraud, where a lot of the Plantagenet monarchs including Eleanor of Aquitaine, I think Henry II and Richard of Lionheart are buried.

    That's probably plenty out of me, you're probably wanting to relax on your trip!! Drink lots of wine, it's a fabulous region for it. And try some of the local specialities such as Saint Maure de Touraine cheese or rillettes.

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  4. Gwan, I'm going to try to make clickable links so that I can easily refer to all of the helpful information over on your blog as we plan our trip. Thanks for taking the time to post all of them!

    Chenonceau
    Chenonceau, Again
    Photos of Chenonceau

    Chinon/Chateau of Usse
    La Belle au Bois Dormant
    Visiting a brothel with my sister and other adventures

    Amboise Castle and Blois

    Lounging in Langeais

    Tours Cathedral

    Prieuré de Saint-Cosme

    Before I write anything else, I'm going to make sure that the links work.

    Thanks again for being so generous with all of this information. Oh! I loved seeing the photos of your family while I was quickly getting the links!

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    1. Thanks! What was the trick, wrapping the post title in tags rather than the link itself? I'm hopeless at html!

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  5. MK- when are you two going!??! Sir L and I are heading there as well on May 3rd!! Let's touch base for sure on our research to make sure we hit all the good spots (i have a feeling that you're going to be much more prepared than me!)

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    1. We're going from April 29-May 1. It's a shame that we won't be there at the same time because we could have done some wine tasting together in the evening.

      Now that we've found a place to stay, I'm getting excited about this trip!

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  6. Clos Luce for sure...a nice antidote to chateau overdosing. Chenonceau is my favorite. Chambord totally impressive. Villandry for gardens (you can skip interiors.)

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    1. Thanks for the advice, Anne! Shortly after I read your comment about Clos Luce, someone else told me that it's their favorite.

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  7. I checked out that Workaway site. Looks like an amazing opportunity if you are young and fit.....of which I am neither. The closest I came was a in Israel working on a Kibbutz (1970's) and as a volunteer in the Army (early 1990's). Learned alot in a very short time, as you can well imagine.
    nancyb

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    1. You don't have to be young and fit, Nancy! There are also listings for people to teach English, help with computers and even to be a companion for an elderly woman in the South of France. We're not too old to do something like this!

      You'll have to tell me tales of what it was like to work on a Kibbutz and volunteer in the army when you're in Paris. Not much longer now!

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  8. Enjoy your trip to the Loire Valley, it sounds like it's going to be so romantic!

    Great tip about the Workaday program, it sounds like an adventure.

    Great shot of the empty Hall of Mirrors. Wish I had thought of waiting til closing time.

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    1. Thanks, nycgirl! Shortly before closing time seems to be the perfect opportunity to get tourist free shots of Versailles and the light on that particular day was magical.

      I'm with you in thinking that the Loire Valley sounds romantic - I hope it lives up to its reputation!

      Delete
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