Week 11: Workaway in Bagnoles de L’Orne

An Apple Galette. Our time in Bagnoles De L’Orne can be simply described by this delicious open apple pie. Why? Because it is beautiful, simple, delicious, and just screams fall…just like our time in this little town in Normandy, France.

Our second Workaway beckoned our name when we saw an opportunity to work at a Bed & Breakfast situated in the Andrian Forest just 3 hours south of Paris. We didn’t know exactly what the work entailed but we did know we were ready for a step away from the big cities and a deep breath of fresh air.

Our travel to Bagnoles de L’Orne was quite hectic and we did not arrive until very late so the town that we drove into was dark…but the town that we woke up to was out of a storybook. From our window at Les Poppies Bed & Breakfast, we could see the fog settle in, the orange and yellow trees, open fields with cows lazily grazing on fresh green grass and the feeling of…”Oh yeah, we are going to like it here” sunk in nicely.

Our hosts, Rosemary & Hugh Perry were the absolute cherry on top of our wonderful 10 days spent in their home. The moment we walked in, we felt so welcomed by them. I can’t even begin to tell you how many cups of tea we all enjoyed together as we chatted about anything and everything from their life growing up in the UK, stories about our crazy cat Squeaks, how they ended up in France and what our future goals are for after our trip. Their home was warm and cozy and always had a roaring fire (thanks to Hugh!), but what truly warmed up the home were their loving hearts, sharp sense of humor, and endless laughs that we all shared together.

Each night, Rosemary would make a delicious dinner and we gathered around the table over glasses of wine and lots of stories. We loved learning not only about France, but also about Wales (where Hugh is from) and England (where Rosemary is from). We asked countless questions about the royal family, food from their region and how France differs from their hometowns. There was one night where we all just sat around the fire for hours and Hugh told us stories of when he was in the Welsh Guards and his interactions with the Queen. His face lit up when he spoke about the time the Queen and him took a walk and she remembered that he recently had a child. And their faces were somber when they spoke about what England was like when Princess Diana passed away. The food is what brought us to the table, but the conversation is what kept us there for hours and hours.

I bet you’re wondering what kind of work we did in order to earn our keep at Les Poppies! Well, the first day we were there, Rosemary took us around their property and told us all the things that she “would like to see done eventually” so we had our pick at the things that we wanted to do during our 10 days there! We spent time gardening, organizing, taking a break for a cup of tea, picking apples, raking fall leaves, grabbing eggs out of the chicken coop and baking. Yes, I said baking! Obviously, that was my dream come true. You mean…I get to stay here for free, you feed me AND I get to bake? What kind of heaven did I just end up in? My task was to use the apples that we picked to make apple pies, jam bars, apple sauce, cookies, and my favorite…the Apple Galette to store in the freezer for Les Poppies future guests to enjoy. As Sean cleaned out the greenhouse, I blasted Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday while mixing, whisking, and baking the day away. AND it was raining that day. PERFECTION. We enjoyed the galette the next evening as we sat around the table with one of their guests from Holland.

We took a walk almost every day to explore the surroundings and it was beautiful morning, afternoon and night. The sun illuminated the fall colors and the crisp air refreshed our souls. On the 2 days we did not work, we spent them out and about. One day, we went to the beaches of Normandy with Rosemary and Hugh where we stopped first at a fish market, then for lunch and then ended at a great museum that told the stories of the beaches of Normandy during WWII. On our other day off, Sean and I took the afternoon to wander around the downtown of Bagnoles de L’Orne, get lost in the forest, enjoy French crepes and sit in the park to do our weekly devotional. Even though our time working felt like an amazing vacation as it was, our days off were just as wonderful.

10 days at Les Poppies went by way too fast and our only regret is not planning to stay longer! It looks like we just have to plan another visit to Rosemary, Hugh and their 5 cats soon enough so we can catch up and get more of that fresh air we seem to be craving! And of course, stock their freezer once again with delicious goodies!


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