So here we are, our 1st workaway.
This is where you work in exchange for board, lodging, learning new things and experiencing the local way of life.
Yes, we may be older than the usual gap year kids but midlife gap year people do have a lot to give. We have a lot more wealth of skills and experiences and we seem to have a lot more stamina than the young ones.
We turn up earlier than our estimated time and are greeted by a couple who appear really happy to see us.. Colin and Nicki. Another workaway had also just arrived, he was called Alan from Hamburg, he was staying a couple of weeks to help too. We quickly get settled into our room in a static mobile house situated on the 3 hectare vineyard and before you know it we are drinking wine to celebrate our arrival with another couple of friends of Colin and Nicki’s.
It’s so quiet and peaceful, apart from all of us chatting and laughing, then off to bed as it’s a 07:00 start to start the picking.
Suddenly the alarm goes off and it’s time to start our 1st day. Think you call that a good nights sleep!
Off we go down to meet the team, we find ourselves meeting another workaway called Kelcie, a sommelier from Canada, she is with the owner from a different vineyard up in the mountains who comes to help us. Grape picking is a community affair, everyone mucks in, the guests from last night arrive to help too.
Next day, once we have finished down in our vineyard, it’s off up in the hills in a 4×4 to go and help the vineyard who helped us. The 2nd day turned out to be a long hot one but we were rewarded with beer, wine and a huge lunch.
Deb just had to do it again, she loses her designer prescription glasses somewhere in the vineyard. Luckily she remembers when she could see and when she couldn’t. After a quick look we couldn’t find them. The locals are really kind and mark the line of vines with a stone and we continue the picking as you don’t want the grapes to get too hot. Once we are all finished and before lunch, everyone walks up the vineyard in search of my lunettes, (Deb learns a new French word for glasses) Deb is super lucky and Kelcie gets the biggest hug for finding them.
Lesson learnt. When you are picking grapes, don’t wear your best glasses and take your jewellery off! You can’t all be as lucky as Debs was. AND always remember your hat in case you are out in the sun longer than you plan to be…
At the end of the day Debs and Steve are flagging. Deb ends up in bed fighting off a migraine, too much sun and no hat! Meanwhile, Steve tucks into and over fills his belly with Nicki’s homemade meatballs and pasta to the point that he is going to burst and some of Colins wine from the vineyard.
Debs is much better the next day and up early for the usual coffee and croissant before the pick starts. Sometimes we have some of the customers from the vineyard come to help, amazing that their ages varied so much. Oldest was a lady of 83, men in their 70’s and a lovely couple who were 69¾. So inspirational, they are so fit and healthy and do so much, must be all that good living in the South of France.
Each day after the morning pick was complete and the equipment washed down we would all join on the terrace for nibbles and wine. It’s traditional you know! We even got to taste someones homemade Pastis.
Some days a man comes and tests the juice in the back of his car so the vineyard knows the alcohol content and other levels required to make good quality wine.
We could write away forever on what we are learning but time to have a shower and clean up so we can go off and start exploring this area.
In our next installment we will tell you all about the wines produced at the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer.
Debs and Steve