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 three dogs (a nearly 14-year old Beagle, a Jack Russell age 8 and a black miniature poodle just two in Nov 2019), two cats (one 13-year old Siamese look-alike with moggy parentage and one rather large grey tabby), one Cockatiel and two male alpaca (grass cutting crew).
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. This is mainly used for friends and family visitors, although we occasionally have paying guests. We have a hot tub and sauna in the cellar, with a pool table and a group of gym appliances.
My husband is a multi-talented engineer but no longer has the ability to work non-stop on his own. We built a new garage with a storage area underneath and two inspection pits where he does most of our car maintenance (we currently have a Citroen C3, a Land Rover Discovery (5-seater) and an Iveco van (used only for the pacas, so referred to as the "pacavan"). He has a small tractor and a mini digger, 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! Talking of which, we both became Great Grandparents during 2019 (having three adult children each from previous relationships), and went back to UK at the beginning of December 2019 to visit the families. With several "threats" to visit next summer, we are now expected to proceed with the replacement swimming pool, which was delayed last year while I (Penny) spent three months having and recovering from heart surgery. Unfortunately that didn't turn the clock back to my twenties, although I certainly have noticeably more energy.
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. We have been in our home nearly 15 years now and there are still two rooms we have not yet decorated (the dining room and the stairway/hall between our apartment and the groundfloor. The kitchen is also in need of a refresher!
We are constantly clearing out rubbish and we have a lot of redundant luggage and empty cardboard boxes in the attic which need to be brought down and taken to the tip. There is a similar exercise waiting for me in the cellar was we brought a lot of stuff back from the UK when my mother died so there is a lot of gardening equipment to be re-homed!
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. So we have a leisure facility available for relaxing after a day in the sun doing 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 was built during 2014 and the landscaping is not quite complete. We have some paviours, concrete locks, sand and cement to lay footpaths which will make access easier for us throughout the year.
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 provided endless amusement for our ducks (lost to the fox before we had the alpacas and still considering whether or not to get some more), but the landscaping is incomplete and finishing this would enable us to complete a seating area. This would give someone with an interest in landscaping an opportunity to use their initiative!
The four guest bedrooms on the ground floor are all en-suite and I am constantly refreshing the decor and linen. 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 three years ago and I've completed only one (and bought some additional new cushions).
Our main projects for 2020 are a replacement swimming pool and the resulting landscaping, and an en-suite to the second bedroom (upstairs next to our own). The en-suite was delayed from 2017 when my mother came to live with us. Although she died (aged 91) in late summer 2018, we have found ourselves with rather a lot of commitments tidying up her affairs (and then I had my heart operation in June 2019).
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"! We are NOT early risers and if you are an early-bird the dogs would appreciate an early morning walk with you. The alpacas are also a "project" as they are not yet easy to walk with, and need more practice. It is difficult to walk them AND the dogs, and the dogs don't appreciate being left at home. At the moment, it is necessary for both pacas to go out together but that is something to be addressed during their training!
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 which we would be prepared to discuss!
There is a TV in the lounge downstairs, and each room has its own facility.
Our wi-fi seems to work well wherever you are on our premises. There is a booster in the downstairs apartment.
We live in a village but it is attached to a small French town, called Decazeville. The villagers are friendly but apart from the Station Hotel (which re-opened late summer 2019 after 18 months), the Post Office and a pharmacy, there is nothing much to do within immediate walking distance. The InterMarché supermarket is within walking distance of home, as long as you don't buy too much.
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.
The McDonalds which opened in Decazeville on 22nd September 2015 has proved very popular and the effect on the local restaurants was very "positive". There are a number of very nice eateries still available, and several made an effort to improve their services (which was good for the town generally).
Decazeville was built around a coal mine which has subsequently closed. The "decouverte" has been renovated as an arena with a lake in the middle, and is used for pop concerts and firework festivals, and more recently for motorbike scrambling. The town has attracted a lot of investment trying to replace the lost employment, and some of the ambitious plans for the future have included tidying up the town centre and trying to make it more appealing. Work continues, but the economy fluctuates!
Apart from the innovative plans of the local Mayor, the area is very rural, with lots of tourist hotspots around and about. We are just over an hour from the nearest ski resort and we have a small airport at our department capital 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 has also been going to Dublin and Brussels but cannot be depended upon. Air France has flights to Paris.
We have a railway station in Viviez, 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 enjoyed 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 not necessarily). We would expect to pay some pocket money for house-sitting.