We are English, and have been living in SW France since 2005. Now several years older with a lot of new experiences under our belts, we are running out of energy but still have a lot work to complete before we can sit back and enjoy our home and garden! We love animals and have two dogs (a Beagle and a Jack Russell), two cats (both look and behave like Siamese but have moggy parentage), one Cockatiel and a varying number of Muscovy/Barbary ducks.
Our house is quite large and we live in a two-bedroom (plus an office) apartment on the first floor with a self-contained apartment on the ground floor consisting of four en-suite guest bedrooms, "family" bathroom, lounge and kitchen. Although it is in use for occasional visitors, there is some decorating to be finished and several "projects" we would like to tackle.
My husband is a multi-talented engineer but no longer has the ability to work non-stop on his own. He has a a garden tractor, welding equipment and tools of every kind but there are not enough hours in the day!! I have similar problems balancing domestic necessities with DIY projects (and playing with the dogs etc)! We have lots of friends and outside interests and, like many retired people, cannot remember how we ever found time to work for our living or bring up the children!
Cooking / shopping
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
Jobs available range from gardening, ironing and walking the dogs to construction tasks, painting and wallpapering. I am hoping to have a mass clear out of rubbish soon which means going up in the attic and sorting the good stuff from the rubbish and taking all the resulting bags down to the car for disposal. I just know that the attic will have a lot more empty space after this!
Thanks to the hard work of our workaway visitors, digging out the cellar and cementing the floors is now complete and we have created an activity area for table tennis, board games etc (for guests when they cannot be outside in the sun!). We have moved the pool table down there already (former workawayers will be relieved to hear!!) and (with the help of Workawayers staying with us over Christmas in 2014), we have now positioned the hot tub (which used to be outside next to the swimming pool) in a section of the cellar which includes a sauna, a toilet, shower and handbasin, and a hairdressing basin. While the major projects are nearly complete, there are always the boring and repetitive jobs, like window cleaning, clearing leaves, bramble, overgrown shrubs, cutting the grass and collecting the hay, etc.
The new garage in our front garden, built during 2014, still needs "finishing". The outside "render" will be French cream-coloured, spray-on "crepi". It has so far this year been either too wet or too hot! Tony has used the digger to tidy and level the "building site". The top section will be laid to gravel or paved (eventually) to be used as car parking and the lower two levels (which are visible from the entrance to the house) need clearing and planting to create something pretty to look at! We have sold the digger as we had no real use for it any longer.
The next major construction works in the top garden, apart from the car parking area, will be a "bridge" to allow access to the house directly from the garage without having to go down a flight of 8 steps and then up 12. The bridge will allow, in particular, my mother to get out of the car by the garage and walk directly to the front door "all on one level". Anyone who has visited us will know that going up and down is a "fact of life" here, and keeps us very fit!
In our lower (rear) garden we have a large pond (originally dug and constructed by two of our workawayers, on two separate visits), which is full of (green) water and provides endless amusement for the ducks, but the landscaping is incomplete and finishing this would please us, and our ducks. It would also provide a wonderful place to sit in the sun or shade. Spare soil from other parts of the garden (and demolition rubble resulting from works in the cellar) needs to be moved to the duck pond to further build-up the lower boundary (so that the pond can hold more water), and we have a small "feeder" pond and pump/filter arrangement which need to be incorporated into the plan.
Of the four guest bedrooms on the ground floor, three are decorated and complete (although there is some white paintwork outstanding), and one requires "finishing". Curtains are my next improvement to these rooms, which have large windows or French doors. I have made curtains for the guest lounge and for the family bathroom but finding time is a puzzle with so much else going on - there is always something I would like to do, or have started and left un-finished!! I bought sufficient material to re-cover all the cushions on the garden furniture, but that was a year ago and I've completed only one.
Early in 2015, we demolished the fireplace in our lounge upstairs and installed a new, very modern, wood-burning stove. We also added curtains to the front windows, which has made the room so much cosier and more attractive. However, I also have the material to make curtains for the dining room and the balcony door. These curtains are a big job which I haven't even started yet and it would be great to get them in place for the winter.
We have been looking for a house-sitter for April/May 2016 but this role has now been filled. We are staying at home for Christmas 2015 and have some personal friends coming to stay. One Christmas is over, I hope to get on with the jobs which we have not completed this year (curtains and decorating mainly). We have been at home for the last two winters and had Workaway visitors over both those Christmases (a Canadian for 2013 and a trio of a Brazilian, a Chinese and a Nigerian for 2014).
We would like to hear from anyone who is looking for an easy-going base in a rural part of France. We hope that any workaway visitor here doing work with us would feel part of the family and share kitchen duties sometimes, maybe even cooking? We are very relaxed - no pressure!! We are not early risers and if you are an early-bird the dogs would appreciate an early morning walk with you.
English and very poor French
A working visitor (or couple) would have some independence from us in an en-suite room downstairs. All our guest rooms are intended to be doubles and have double beds. We have considered the idea of having a family come under the Workaway arrangements and this is a possibility. Obviously we would need to discuss details!
There is a TV in the lounge downstairs, and Tony is fixing up televisions in each of the bedrooms.
Our wi-fi seems to work well wherever you are on our premises.
We live in a village but it is attached to a small French town, called Decazeville. The villagers are friendly but apart from a bar (where they run the local rugby club), the Post Office and a pharmacy, there is nothing much to do within immediate walking distance. However, there is a local bus and we would be happy to show you around. On your days off we would be pleased to take you out to see some of the sights locally. You can look at our tourist information and if something appeals to you, let us know!! If you have French, there is a 3-screen cinema in Decazeville and several bars, takeaways and cafés.
I can now report that a super new McDonalds opened in Decazeville on 22nd September 2015. It is a new-style layout with almost no counters, and some cosy seating. It relies almost totally on the "remote" ordering pillars. The meal is brought to you at your table, inside or out, so you just take your ticket and go and find a seat! Until now I have only seen these "pillars" used for ordering and paying, you still had to collect from the counter. My only comment is (having sat there watching on a couple of occasions) that there are probably not enough ordering points and nowhere to wait so there's going to be a lot of confusion. Maybe this is a test? Outside, the drive-thru has TWO ordering points which is also new to me! It has certainly provided a number of new jobs for the town as we counted 12 people working there on our first visit, although it WAS lunchtime and the French are VERY keen on eating between 12 and 2!!
Apart from this new innovation, the department is very rural, with lots of tourist hotspots. We are just over an hour from the nearest ski resort and we have a small airport at Rodez (35 minutes) served by Ryanair to Stansted (but not during the winter - the last flights are on usually around 5th November and resume around the end of March). Ryanair also goes to Dublin and Brussels and Air France has flights to Paris.
We have a railway station which we can see from the house, and there is a sleeper service to Paris at 11.25 every night. If you are looking at train times our station is called Viviez-Decazeville. We would be happy to meet you off the train at Figeac or Capdenac to avoid the last section to Viviez! Several of our visitors have arrived and/or departed by train (occasionally finding the train replaced by a bus) and have generally found the service quite reliable and (for a small village) very regular.
As workaway hosts, we are flexible and will discuss the best options for your travels if you tell us where you propose to travel FROM so that we can offer to meet you somewhere if possible!
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
After having a variety of workaway guests it seems to be generally agreed that a flexible 5 hours a day for 5 days is ideal, with two days free (usually the weekend but no necessarily). We would expect to pay some pocket money for house-sitting as this i