WWOOFing at Le Chateau: Au Revoir

October 4th Day 4

“Travel Diaries tend to be introspective, but you should try instead to write about the things you do and see.” A tip from the editor.

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15:25 on this absolutely gorgeous day. Not a cloud in the French blue sky, as I stare, again, through the gaping window. The air is still, but the bees drift through. We’ve just finished lunch on the lawn. Today, outside’s in. My hands are sore, but the work has never felt like a chore.

Down the old staircase, greeted by the sun. In the kitchen, the table was set with breakfast. Hermine had returned. More yogurt, baked pears, and granola. Coffee to wash it all down.

To begin the day, Hermine had us gather wood for the stove. And then, we uprooted several plants to store them in the barn ahead of winter. Before eleven, we’d reached the end.

 “Who is this man?” I whispered to Minha. The door opened, and Hugo, the husband, emerged.

With a jagged jaw line, a tweed blazer, and a swoosh of white hair. Before he even spoke, his origin was clear.

Hugo was most definitely a Brit. And as morning turned to afternoon, over lunch on the front lawn, he exuded character and wtt. A magazine editor of over 30 years, who loathes computers and works exclusively in print. As we enjoyed another fresh meal of beet, carrot, pear slaw, fresh greens, a pallet of couscous, goats cheese, and bread, Hugo and I chatted about my desires to write.

“Travel Diaries tend to be introspective, but you should try instead to write about the things you do and see.” He said.

With Hermine away from the table, I asked Hugo how’d they met. “Well, Hermine came to London for a weekend trip nearly 50 years ago, and we met entirely by chance.” “Aside from the time she spends here in recent years, we’ve lived in London ever since.”

As we packed up the picnic, he asked “What brought you to France?” “I too have fallen for a French girl” I said. I briefly recounted my story of Flora. He seemed fascinated by the romance.

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After lunch, I took a stroll through the nearby village. Minha asked to join. I would have preferred to go alone, but I couldn’t say no. The streets were empty. The sky was too. Around the bend, and through the alleyway, deep shadows contrasted the bright white stone of the homes. Through a wooden gate, a petit yellow fiat sat in the shade. Basking in the sun from a balcony, a French Flag draped. History, and character, at every turn.

In the afternoon we returned to the garden and completed a few more simple tasks. I sat down to write until tea time. Hugo’s advice looped in my mind.  

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Lunch on the front patio, tea was served out back. Through the open shutters, Hermine handed me a cake to deliver to the table. Her bright yellow shirt glowed in the afternoon sun, along with her smile. She’s particular, sure, but she’s kind at heart, and I’ll always be grateful to her for allowing my stay.

Before dinner, I roamed the grounds one last time. My last evening at the Chateau. Minha prepared Kimchi pancakes and noodles for the table. And we completed the trifecta, of a third meal outside, this one, under the stars of night.

Hugo and I picked up our conversation on writing. “You’ve got a book in you, you know” He said. We talked about his travel books, and how he’d written them. Back in my chambers, I searched his name. He’d downplayed his accomplishments.

Before bed, and after billiards, Minha gifted me a back of Korean treats. Spicy noodles, milk candies, and a can of kimchi. As I sorted through, I discovered the homemade card with a lovely illustration of our first trip to the village.

In that empty room, filled with cobwebs, I thought about my time at the chateau, as I drifted off to sleep.

October 5th: Bon voyage

Watching the sunrise while waiting for the bus to arrive.

Watching the sunrise while waiting for the bus to arrive.

A fit of church bells marked another morning. My alarm was set for 7:30, but 7:00 marked the end of a mostly sleepless night. My mind always races before I take a leap. To the first rays of a fiery orange sunrise, I stuffed my bag with a few last items.

In the kitchen, I signed the guestbook, chatted briefly with Minha, then realized I was out of time. Together, with Hermine, I rushed toward the gate. “Write to us !” Hugo shouted from a second story window. I thanked Hermine for everything, and she pointed me to the bus. Au revoir Chateau de Sacy. Merci beaucoup!