Van loaded, Newhaven to Dieppe on the ferry and we found ourselves in France again. We had a cheeky overnight stop at Mantes La Joile (Tour De France soon to pass through) and motored on down to a hamlet call Prats on the banks of the Dordogne about 30 miles inland of Bordeaux. We were warmly greeted at Chateau Destinee by Pete and Linda – our Australian hosts who bought the chateau in February and have since performed wonders transforming it into a flexible venue aimed at the wedding and holiday market. We were fed well, shown to our very comfortable (as yet un-renovated) room with a fantastic view of the river.
So the workaway begins … first thing is a trip to the Recylerie de L’Ustom; a place where 2nd hand furniture is sold at rock bottom prices. It’s a dog-eat-dog environment to get your hands on the items you want. We went as a team and pretty much managed to get the drawers, mirrors, etc. Pete instructed us to get (except Andy missed out his table and chairs). Good fun!
Fran worked with Linda to clear and re-organise some flower beds and an arbor and Andy set to work with Pete to build a planter box that would serve as a final resting place for ‘Chino’ Linda and Pete’s dog that sadly died soon after moving in to the chateau. The planter box soon became a week long project for Andy in very hot weather but the end result was worth it.
We took an afternoon out to go kayaking – a fantastic experience on an extremely hot day. Beers and a swim helped cool things off.
Fran began painting a warren of rooms in the chateau and Andy worked (with Pete and Abdel – works at the Chateau every Wednesday) on leveling a large area of soil around the newly installed pool ready for sowing grass seed. Again – hot work in the hot sun!
We had a day off and cycled to St Emilion – a beautiful town in the centre of the famous wine region. We climbed the bell tower for a fantastic view of the town and surrounding countryside before cycling back to the chateau … a gruelling ride in 37C – never seen Fran so exhausted!
We both sowed the grass seed and Andy worked on an irrigation system for the arbor. Our friends Adrian and Sue were in the area with their motor home and Linda and Pete kindly offered them a pitch and an electric cable for a couple on nights. We enjoyed meals on the chateau terrace over looking the river and a wet trip to Libourne for the Sunday market.
Work continued with painting, fixing curtain poles, furniture assembly, shifting things, trips to the dump and building supplies etc.. Typically we’d have breakfast at 8am, be ready to go at 9:15 or so, tea break at 11(ish), lunch at 1:30 and finish at 5-6pm – so fairly long days for a workaway but Linda and Pete were so driven it was hard to stop and let them carry on!
Pete is a great chef and provided fabulous meals each evening (highlights including quails, roast pork and our final meal of Italian lamb with KeiserSchmaren – a pancake-based dessert). We also cooked a few evening meals when Pete was tending to paying guests. We treated Linda and Pete to fish and chips at a nearby restaurant one Friday where al the ex-pats gathered. Interesting experience … people of a certain demographic some very much enjoying and some looking over burdened by their life of gites, pools and fine wine of the Bordeaux region.
We took a weekend break to head for Arcachon on the atlantic coast – staying in an AirBnB in slighly uninspiring nearby Teste-de-Buch. Arcachon itself was lovely – some fantastic 19th Century architecture, a vibrant main street and we cycled to Europe’s larget sand dune “Dune du Pilat”. It’s enormous and the view from the top is staggering. We stayed for a couple of hours in the sun soaking up the view – stunning.
Two more workaway-ers (Mike and Maggie) arrived and the focus then turned to a ‘thank you’ event Linda and Pete held for all the people in the area that had helped them (Kevin and Tim the tree surgeons & their wives, Gary & family (the builder), Lucy (bi-lingual key employee) and her parents, Abdel and his wife, Kay who helps decorate and clean the chateau and her partner Pete who runs a campsite etc. etc). It was a really nice event with kind words spoken by our hosts and a good time was had.
We took the following day off to ride to Bergerac – stopping at Peter and Kay’s campsite along the way (very nice too!). Bergerac is another picture perfect town with amazing medieval archtiecture near the banks of the river (or a vibrant ‘upper’ town full of fine 19th century buildings).
All the focus turned to completing the warren of rooms – painting was a priority and Andy removed and re-applied silicone to three bathrooms. At last they were complete! And so were we! Our time at the chateau had come to an end.
We met some great people, felt like we added a samll part to the story of the chateau and made some good friends with Linda and Pete – no doubt we’ll be back.
The final word goes to the queen of the chateau though … Xena the Yorkshire Terrior. She tip-taps around the place like she owns it resting on velvet cushions and eating snacks by roaring fires while everyone around her works madly to keep the place going. Her foe is ‘Evil Lola’ the cat that claws and scratches but Xena just rises above it all and is clearly Queen of the castle!
p.s. On the way back we stopped by Monet’s Garden – something Fran has always wanted to do. It was a riot of flowers with some pretty cool paintings too!