It’s always a risk going somewhere or doing something a second time if you’ve enjoyed your first experience of it. There’s always the risk that the second time around doesn’t really match up to your expectations or what you were hoping for. Some things are worth seeing or doing once but you wouldn’t necessarily want to do them again. We’ve enjoyed all the Helpx’s we have done (some more than others) and they were all worth doing but there are just a few that we have ever considered going back to. One of them was Donkey HQ in Portugal which we went back to in December last year and another was Chateau de Jalesnes where we are now.
There have been rewards and frustrations with all the Helpx’s we have done so far. I think we have stayed with seven different hosts and, other than Donkey HQ where we stayed two months, we have spent between three and four weeks at a time with a host.
Helpx involves staying with a host (generally a couple or a family) and doing, on average, four hours a day in exchange for accommodation and food. The types of opportunities you can apply for range from helping out on farms, smallholdings, B&B’s, backpacker’s hostels, summer camps, language exchanges and the like. They all vary and what the host expect varies as well although they are all supposed to follow the guidelines outlined on the Helpx website.
Generally you live with the host in their home although some hosts provide separate accommodation. As you can imagine living with other people in their home can be challenging sometimes especially when you are on the mature side like us! Despite the challenges though we’ve always laughed our way through them and we would still say that all the Helpx opportunities we have done have been worth doing, we’ve learnt loads and we’ve been able to have a go at things that we would never be employed to do without some experience. I mean no-one was ever going to pay us to be let loose with forty four alpacas without some sort of certificate in Alpaca care were they?
So, after that rambling introduction, was coming back to Chateau de Jalesnes a second time and committing to staying nearly four week’s worth it? Absolutely. I think we can say we have enjoyed our time here more the second time around. The balance between work and free time has been spot on.
After the wedding the first weekend we were here, when it was all a bit manic, things quietened down considerably as the season came to a close. The guests have been few but there is still work to be done but it’s not been all go at the chateau. I mean, it’s not a holiday, you do have to work every day but our hosts, Jenny and David, are exceptional and have just left us to get on with things at our own pace.
There’s always something to do either inside or outside. After the wedding guests had left all the beds needed making. Fortunately, there are a couple of ladies who come in to clean the apartments after an event so we just needed to make the beds. It was a lot of beds but we had quite a good system going and managed pretty well.
Thank the Lord for fitted sheets and whoever invented duvets with slits in the top corners to yank the top of the duvet through is a genius.
We’ve had plenty of free time to ‘do our own thing’ and have had access to the chateau car for trips out.
I have to confess we’ve not been out a great deal as generally the weather has been poor but also we have been happy to potter about with our own interests during our free time.
We’ve frequented one of the local bars in the village a couple of times and were made to feel really welcome.
Tim went along to a local band a couple of times and was made to feel really welcome and I think they were a bit disappointed he wasn’t in the area longer. I’m not sure Tim was too disappointed though!
We’ve been invited at least twice a week to eat with Jenny and David, our hosts, and Tim has been able to play at a couple of them.
It suits us here as the volunteers are housed in an outbuilding in the garden of the chateau which is affectionately known as the ‘Hi-De-Hi’.
Anyone middle aged living in the UK will understand why.
We’ve shared the Hi-De-Hi with Alex from Brazil and Jigmy from the U.S. who have both been considerate house mates.
We are given a weekly allowance each to buy food at the local supermarket and we can just shop for whatever we want and put it on the Chateau tab.
We all shopped separately and cooked for ourselves which suited me as on other Helpx’s I’ve ended up doing a fair amount of cooking which takes quite a lot of time and can be a bit tedious if all I really wanted was a sandwich.
All the people who had worked at the chateau throughout the season were invited to a lunch as a thank you for all their hard work.
The Hi-De-Hi was in need of a freshen up so we were tasked with doing just that. Now, decorating wouldn’t normally be my kind of fun activity but as the weather had been pretty grim since the wedding guests had left I was quite happy to have an indoor project that would keep us going for several days.
We’ve managed to get the walls and ceilings done in the three bedrooms, the living room, kitchen and bathroom and we’ll leave all the window frames and doors to the next Helpxer’s.
So our time here Helpxing at Chateau de Jalesnes has come to an end and it’s time to hit the road again.
Thank you to Jenny and David for hosting us again and being such great hosts. We’ve been here almost four weeks and it really only feels like two but we’re ready for the next chapter in our travels.
We’ve decided not to dilly dally in France for too long so we are heading towards San Sebastian in Northern Spain as it feels like time for a new country and culture. We spent a few days in San Sebastian about the same time last year but it had turned really really really cold so we’re hoping this time we can experience it with a bit of sunshine and warmth.