We are a couple of international artists (Laury is a sculptor, she is French but was raised in the USA for 6 years and her mother was Dutch - while Joe is a professional freelance videographer and is an American with dual citizenship with Great Britain). We have a very small place in England on a Ducal estate (where both Laury and Joe are artists-in-residence, giving the Duchess a percentage of their time annually) but we spend a lot of our year in France.
At two old French houses where we run Art Projects from time to time, we need help with renovations!!! From sanding old beams, to plastering and painting and tiling...(and all the rest in between and above). We also can use help with every day living tasks such as cleaning / cooking / dog walking.
Renovating three places: a small townhouse, plus a ruin, plus a big 20 room French "Maison de Maitre" in a medieval town in Southwest France. We work to a high standard with as many Eco features as we can which requires enthusiastic volunteers. Part of the bigger house is 18th century - the other part is 14th century.
Thanks to workaways (some of whom have returned again and again) the 14th century portion of the house was completed and the 18th century portion is now well along. There's a picture below of the attic during the early days. As of now it is nearly completed and one of our favourite places in both the houses--with two bedrooms, a movie room, bathroom, kitchenette and an Italian walk-in shower.
The ruin is anold stone Forge (1652) inside a private walled garden with an attached 18th century wood structure house that is being gutted and re-done from the top down. This project is at an exiting phase with the roof going on and lots to do (window installation, first floor installation, ground floor, garden stone walls, interior walls, electrics, plumbing, etc.!
Although we can also accommodate single people, the work is ideal for a workaway couple to dedicate itself to the stone restoration work at the Old Forge--including the building of new stone walls in the garden, removal of portion of a 3rd storey stone wall as well as cleaning up and re-pointing all the stone walls of the Forge itself. Later in the summer you'll be able to gorge yourself with table grapes off the 100 year old grapevine that lines the Forge wall. This is a long-term project, so the longer you can stay, the better!
So much to do and all of it fun and interesting! We love to share with you our love of the area and its culture.
Bags of atmosphere and tons of opportunities to explore the surrounding area: vineyards, lakes, Cathar Castles, Pyrenees (skiing nearby in winter), Roman baths... The small town of Chalabre is 45 minutes from the walled city of Carcassonne, 45 minutes from Foix, 90 minutes from Toulouse as well as the Meditteranean and Andorra, and just 3 hours from Barcelona. The village of Chalabre is not large (one baker, two butchers, three greengrocers, a pharmacy, two cafes, one hotel/restaurant) and has no train or bus service in or out (but we are happy to come pick you up and drop you off from nearby train station).
We are warm, friendly hosts who love to work hard and also love to play. There is so much for you to do here in your spare time: great walking and bicycling on the Voie Verte, exploring the Cathar Way, hiking in the mountains, canoeing, swimming in lakes, playing tennis in the local inexpensive tennis courts (we have rackets and you can find someone locally to play with unless you can tempt Joe), internet-surfing, ambling around local "vide greniers" (the equivalent of car boot sales = literally "empty your attic fairs"), etc.
Training provided for any tasks we ask you to do - strong arms and a willingness to work and play hard are all you need! We have a zero drugs tolerance - but we love a few glasses of wine at the end of the day. We expect you to pay your share of wine if you drink (but the first glass of a work day evening is on us!)
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
You will be around people from all nationalities (we have Russian, English, Belgian, Irish, Dutch, American, Australian and German neighbours in this small town as well as of course many FRENCH people!!!! :)
We both love to share our skills (our own artforms sculpture and video, and also our knowledge of renovations work). You might also learn to cook in different ways than you are familiar with (Laury's style of cooking is very international with a French base).
Driving on the right hand side of the road might be an experience for some of you!
Learning the way of life of international people living in the midst of a small French town will also be an experience in itself.
We are flexible as to working hours - and we believe the best way forward with any offer to volunteer is to take it on an individual basis. If you are happy to work long hours for a number of days and then take a long break of several days - that's fine. If you'd rather work shorter days and go off exploring every day that is fine too.
Really your schedule will be up to you - provided it is fair to us to accommodate and feed you in exchange for the work you put in.
We need a lot of elbow work (depending on when you come, there is demolition, wallpaper removal/stripping, insulation, carpentry, joinery, electrical work, painting and decorating, stonework, and cleaning at all phases). Please be aware it's best if you have work shoes that can protect your toes and one set of clothes that can get ruined (by plaster, paint, etc.). We have some spare clothing if necessary but not spare work shoes.
We also welcome help with creating meals, walking the two dogs, etc.
English and French and Dutch and a very little Mandarin
The house is HUGE - and functional, though parts are still under renovations.... Not a good place for anyone allergic to cats /dogs or for dust allergy sufferers as renovations do imply dust and some demolition, and then the clean-up of building materials. You will have your own room. There is good wi-fi and mobile phone signal (but only some mobile networks work here), and hot water for showers or baths...!
How to travel here:? You can arrive by bicycle, by car, by plane (closest airports are Carcassonne, followed by Toulouse) or by train (not to Chalabre directly) to stations in the nearby towns listed in order of closeness: Limoux, Pamiers, Carcassonne, Foix.
There is no public transport to and from Chalabre - which is why as hosts we will encourage you to tag along with us to some of the lovely spots around us (whether for recreation or for shopping, etc.).
In your time off you can hike around the area, or if you have your own car or we trust you with ours or you just tag along with us you can visit Mirepoix, Limoux, Carcassonne, Foix, Toulouse, Ax-les-Thermes (skiing and also Roman Baths all year), Andorra, Barcelona, or go and dip your feet in the Mediterranean. (Re car, as long as you have a few years driving experience, a driving license and we feel we can trust your driving, you can borrow our car).
We expect you to work hard and then enjoy yourself a lot too - and we will go out of our way to make the latter happen. We eat fresh food and will feed you well. We also love to drink good wine / beer and laugh and relax. Within a few hundred metres of the house you are out in the open countryside in the foothills of the Pyrennees: mountain walking, biking, lake swimming, horsebackriding, skiiing are all available depending on the season, your budget and your stamina.
As to the bit about 'smokers', only Joe smokes, but no worries, there's no smoking in the house at all.
(Joe here: Yea, but we have a beautiful private terrace--actually the 3 storey ruin of a former house where the walls still stand--where you can smoke. It's really quite interesting...you walk from the 17th century house on the square through to the next house (14th century) onto the ruins of the next one, our terrace where we usually eat in the summer months)
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
Maximum 5 hours a day, 5 days a week