Wwoofing: on the farm 

We arrived and expected to be at work straight away. I think we also both expected to be doing some hard labour, sweating away in a field for 2 weeks whilst picking potatoes (similar to a film we both watched at uni about the gleaners) but that wasn’t really the case. We were introduced to both felix and Martin (our hosts) and as if they could read our minds they offered us a beer, it was 11am! 

Sams first task was to help out at a local artisan brewery for a couple of hours, mine was to count balls of hay on a near by field – there was a 138 if your interested. I came back sweaty and sunburnt, sam came back drunk – I wander who got the better job.

We were also introduced to domesticating cows, an aparently essential task which involved lying down in between lots of cows and letting them lick and sniff you. This wouldn’t be so bad but these are meat cows so they’re huge with giant horns so when they approach you in that lollipy, clumpsey cow like way it’s terrifying!

Another task was feeding the pig, her name was cuchon, meaning pig in French (very original). She was just a pet but I think felix mention saucisson a couple of times. Cuchon was also pregnant so enjoyed a few belly rubs now and again and because she was always hungry she was also always escaping so it was fun to chase her down the road and lure her back home with some bread. 

We also helped repair fences and look after a small orchard. 

One day we dug out a huge mud pit by the lake so that the water causing the mud would have a stream to go through  and eventually dry out. The mud was over our knees and everytime we removed some, a part of it would fly somewhere on your body so there was no avoiding being covered and  by the end so we had a bit of a mud fight! 

We sheared a sheep one day, which involved one person holding the horns and the other person holding it down enough to get some scissors underneath all the wool and chop! we decided to leave our ram with a Maine just so he looked a bit punk!

Also, Just because it was fun we made jam from organically grown raspberries and bread in a real stone oven that felix had on his land. We honestly spent a day preparing bread, cooking and eating it! 

I can’t even think of every we did but it was an amazing experience and we learnt a lot. 

I don’t think I could ever be a farmer as I would get way to attached to any animal I kept but it’s made me appreciate farming and has given me an insight into the care that goes into looking after animals. 

It also makes me feel better about eating meat (I’m still refusing)  but if all animals were treated so well and had such a good life it would make a difference. At felix’s farm he probably sold 10-20 cows a year which isn’t a lot and to know they were all pretty happy until that point. I’m still adement I wouldn’t like the texture of meat so I’m still putting it off but the feeling bad for the animal part has gone down on locally farmed animals. 

Day 32: aix les bains and the extortionate toll road. 

We chose aix lea bains on the map because it was close enough to Lyon and looked as if it had a good lake to settle down by for the night. 

From pontefino that morning we travelled through the rest of Italy, stopping off at a place called rivoli which was nice enough for a coffee and a bit of shade from the afternoon sun. But to get to aix Les Bain we needed to cross the boarder between Italy and France and there were 2 options, the toll road option or the long way round and over a mountain option. We’d already been driving for 3 hours and didn’t fancy the extra 2 to go the long way and having been through plenty of toll roads before we risked it and went forward. 

Little did we know we were going to witness the most expencive road that ever existed! I thought we were paying for an annual pass when she first asked for the money but oh no… 58 euros she took from us to travel 10 minutes down a road! We almost cried! 

Anyway, when we got to aix les bains it was beautiful and it made us quickly forget the painful memory of the robbery. 

We parked up by a local park which had a beach and a bbq area and just mulled around the area, swimming and boarding around until the flies came and ate us alive and we retreated to our little van. 

Day 33: Lyon 

This was a city made for myself, a city obsessed with food. 

Although this discovery nearly never happened, as once again me and hannah managed to miss the city centre, luckily we asked for directions after walking around for an hour, and the kind lady pointed across the other side of the Rhine. 

Lyon is a very pretty place with lots of old buildings and has two rivers running through it, the Rhine being one of them. It was nice to meet up with the Rhine after spending so long near it when we were going up the French and Germany border. 

But anyway the food, everyone owns a restaurant, there are more restaurant than are really needed, but they all seemed to be quite busy. We decided to pop into a place called L’epicerie   Purely because we liked the decor of run down french chic.  

And we had this delicious thing: 

  
We would of done the whole ‘Instagram your food’ photo but it just didn’t last long enough.  
Basically it was poached pear with 3 cheeses on top, we tried to find out which cheeses but our french was just not up to it, but we have guessed it was a blue, goats cheese and mozerella. Simple but blooming delicious!

Clearly good enough to write home about. Actually making me hungry so I am to find a pear and cheese. 

Wwoofing 

We are currently wwoofing in France – This means we are wwoofers and we are gaining an experience of the World Wide Organic Organisation of Farming. 

Anyone can do it although it seems like the majority of people are doing it during a gap year or like Sam and I, just wanting to try something new. Most are aged between 18-30, I think… Do not quote me as I have a very small field of knowledge. I also think families do it as well as we got rejected by a few farms who were saving spaces for families but I think this is rare! 

It’s funny because before we started searching for work on farms in Europe we had no idea wwoofing existed but if you go to a rural town in France then everyone knows! It’s just so commonly done aparently, they all just say “oh cool, you’re wwoofing, I did that too it’s so fun!” – it must be a right of passage in France because most people I have met have wwoofed somewhere in the world. 

So the majority of farms want you to do 2 weeks or more, which before we came felt like a huge amount of our time to commit but I can understand now that it just takes time to get to know everything and for the farming process to become comfortable and enjoyable. Also this gives you a bit more social time with your host! Our host took us to parties, concerts, fairs and local festivals so it was never boring and we always had something to do. 

Also because you only work minimum hours, I think 4 hours was our maximum, you get so much time to yourself! some days we’d choose to siesta, other days we’d make bread, jam or cakes, paint something’s, do some drawings or catching up on game of thrones… It was all very relaxed!

This is just one experience though – in a couple of days we’ll be heading over to an Eco hotel which is like a glamping site just outside of Bordeaux – we’re very excited! 

   
             

Day 31: Manarolla 

we woke up in the cheeky little car park we had found just outside the manarolla and managed to get a free car park space on the side of the road, a local man came up to us after we had parked and congratulated on us getting this parking space and said not too leave as you will never get another shot. 
So went for an explore of the town in daylight and it was just as stunning as at night. Although way too hot, so we went straight down the small port and jumped into the sea, it was amazing to float in the sea looking at up at the stunning town above.  

   Unfortunately James had to rush off to catch a train, so me and hannah were left alone again to enjoy each other’s company. 

We decided that we would try and walk over to the next coastal town which was apparently just as pretty. But our walk was cut short due to the footpath being closed because of a rockfall, so we took the train which we really should of not paid for, the journey took about 30 seconds. 

The town was nice but no completion on manarolla, but did have some amazing fried calamari and sat down on the beach/rock face taking in all the views and Italian sun.  

 We then had to hit the road again so we could start over to the farm, but we stopped off at one last coastal town pontyfino before saying goodbye to the sea once more.  

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Pontyfino by the way was the tiniest town ever which you could not get to really by car, well unless you wanted to pay €5 an hour for the one and only car park, when we finally managed to go explore after ditching the van 3 miles out of town, we realised why so exspencive, the place was packed with super yachts in the harbour and every shop was a Louis Vuitton type shop. 

The best thing was though was in the morning waking up and going for a morning swim. 

We then headed to France! 

Day 29/30: Milan & piacenza & manarola

It was Matt and Beth’s last day in Italy  so as they were flying from Milan airport we decided to do a quick and snappy trip into Milan. Milan was 2 hours away from our campsite so we started out at about 8 but finally got into Milan at about 11 due to the traffic. We parked for 2 hours in the centre for about 6 euros which I didnt feel was bad considering the expense we’d spent in switzerland and Salzburg. Maybe we’ve become immune to parking charges! 

We ran in, grabbing a lovely panini from a shop close to the cathedral and ate it on the move. 

Non of us knew what to expect from Milan as we hadn’t researched it or paid it much attention in the past but it was unexpectedly full of quite nice things including a huge cathedral, a very posh shopping centre, a castle and a park which was really nice! 

We tried to see as much as possible but probably spent the majority of our time staring at cats over the castles walls. 

At 1pm we waved them off and carried in our journey down towards the coat with James as our little hitch hiker. We stopped off at a surprisingly nice place called picenza where we had a great tortilla, mine had strawberries in it and we abused the Internet for a while. 

We made it to manarola at about 9.30pm and hastily made our way down to the harbour to look over the lit up town and enjoy a bottle of wine and some

Chips! 

                 

Hammock musing 

I was basking in the hammock today and realised I haven’t had a gin & tonic for 2 months and even worse, I’ve not had a single Pimms this year. Is 2015 going to be a pimms free year? It’ll go down In our history books of it is! 

I’m not missing these things too much just yet, the weird world of dumpster diving is amusing me at the moment and almost making me feel guilty for slightly craving these things. 

It’s definitely opened my eyes to how much food is wasted every day from just one super market so I can’t imagine how much is wasted in the whole of France and I’d even bet money on England being worse. 

For those who know me, I can be pretty picky with foods, especially if they are mouldy or have touched something mouldy, or look slightly wrinkled or even just a bit grosser then usual. I probably would avoid these in my fridge or worse, throw them. 

I think being in a situation where the only food accessible is food that other people, like myself, have rejected has been a good experience. I can’t say that I would have the guts to be able to do this in England though, I’m too worried about the consequences of being caught, which brings me to the point that maybe something should be done to make this wasted food more easily available. 

I’ve heard of cafes using left over foods to make daily menus, which is great but it’s one in a million and I’m not sure the right people are getting it. 

Hopefully when Sam and I get back home we’ll be more sustainable with our food, have less waste and use absolutely everything in our cupboards. And we’ll maybe try our luck in the waitrose bins if we dare…  

       

Day 28: Porte torchin

We walked for hours to find a beach that we’d convinced ourselves was going to be the most beautiful beach in lake garda only to find it was the same as the one 5 minutes down the road from our campsite. 

This didn’t matter, we spent the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and taking care of or hangovers from the wine tour.

We also saw a baptism on the beach in full view of the public. It was interesting to watch. 

That evenning was out last night altogether. We room the advice of the vin yard farmer and went to a restaurant he recommended highly called la rhin meaning the rhino and he was not wrong! the food was absolutely stunning!! 

James, Beth and I shared pumpkin ravioli which was served on this huge serving dish and math and Sam shared a fish spaghetti which I had so much food envy over. Everything was delicious so the plates were basically licked clean. 

That was only a secondi so we also had our mains. I had sea bass which was beautiful! I had no regrets or food envy for anyone else’s meals. 

   
 

Day 27: pedalo and wine day 

This day we rented pedalos and a sup board and decided to challenge ourselves to pedal to the island at the edge of our cove. We all had a go on the sup board and especially laughed at matts attempt of standing up on it, he looked like a cross between bambi and someone straining on the toilet! We have evidence on the go pro. 

We spent a good morning/ afternoon doing this so there’s not much else to say apart from our attempts at playing around on the slide at the back of the pedalo and swimming in the water. 

Again the tabs got a good top up. 

Later that evenning we’d booked to go to a vin yard In a Local town to taste the wines. We were so lucky that the farmer had agreed to see us privately so we made a lot of effort to learn as much as possible and drink as much as possible too! 

The wine was beautiful, I’ll find out the name and post it up but they specialised in red and rose wine. The most expencive at 18euros a bottle which was rich and full of flavour and very very very drinkable!

We walked away with 5 bottles! Eek! 

The vin yard farmer also fed us this amazing homemade olive pate which was stunning and hopefully he will send Beth the receipe and she will share it!