WWOOFing at le Chateau: Arrival

She added two logs from the tall stack, into the wood burning stove. My eyes danced around the room in an exhausted excitement. Two flights and a layover through the night. I unloaded my bag from the cab around nine.

I was too enthralled on the plane to dare of sleeping. That moment, Atlantic blue became patches of green and brown, behind a sea of puffy white clouds. Farms, and hills. scattered clusters of rustic roofs. Few roads. A river carved through the land, the Seine. A divide overhead. Half sun, half clouds. A band of rain on the horizon.  

I spotted the Eifel tower as we began to descend. No customs, no border check. An airport. A bus terminal. A ride through the outskirts. A village. A church. A train. A cab. Narrow roads. Dark. A beanie, a scarf, and pajama pants, Hermine.

The iron gate slammed shut. Down a white gravel path, we walked toward the shutters’ yellow glow. To the staircase through the foyer. An ancient mirror on the second-floor landing, the attic loft on the third. I ducked my head as she flicked on the light, revealing four small beds and a slanted room.

“Tyler, would you like some wine?” She asked persistently, as if it wasn’t the first time.” “Uhhh yes, I mean oui” “Please” I looked down at the table. An earthy orange soup, a loaf of hearty bread, a pungent cheese. I sipped the Merlot.

I’d found the place online. Through a suggestion from a friend. I made a quick profile (Name, bio, photo) and paid a small annual fee. We exchanged a few messages, in English. I booked a flight. A month later, I arrived. And now, Hermine sat across the table from me.

Madeleine, the other WWOOFer, sat to my left. Orange hair, freckles, from the states, 19. “So, you must wake early to catch the shuttle.” Hermine said to Madeleine. Then, she explained to me that it was her last night. Much of the dinner was quiet. “Bonne nuit” Hermine said, “I’m off to get some rest.”

In the attic, Madeleine and I chatted. “There are some good books up here, to help pass the time.” “It can be boring when it’s just you and Hermine.”. She gave me tips on how she’d survived her week at The Chateau. We talked about her gap year, and her plans to study horticulture once she returned to the states for university. Her sense of adventure and curiosity intrigued me. We exchanged emails. We said goodnight. Finally, I went to sleep.