Four years ago, on the same month-long Europe trip based in Barcelona, I spent ten days in Caylus, France. I had never heard of Caylus before, nor its greater region, Tarn-et-Garonne, and the only place I’d been to in France prior to that was, of course, Paris. But a home base of Barcelona made it easy to weed through all the listings on the Help Exchange. My criteria: a reasonable train ride away from the city, my host would ideally speak English pretty well, and some sort of easy gardening work.
All of my criteria were met- and then some.
My host, Jeremy, was English and had lived in France for much of his adult life. He was extremely accommodating (One of my most memorable travel mess-ups was getting locked out of my bank account, therefore running out of cash and needing to sleep in the Toulouse train station. Jeremy drove the two hours to Toulouse to pick me up. Hi, embarrassing much?), generous, and eager to give me a first-hand taste of French country life.
Before my arrival, we discussed my food preferences (typically, Help Exchange hosts cook for you): I was still a fish-eating vegetarian, oh my goodness yes please to cheese, and the one thing I can’t stand is mushrooms. Jeremy took the cheese love and ran with it:
My my my, was I spoiled. A few hours of garden work a day, and I deserve all this?
Breakfasts at Jeremy’s house were so delightful, so unique. Sometimes, I even had two.
I believe it was around this time that I started eating walnuts; for most of my life, I’ve only eaten peanuts (fortunately, that’s since drastically changed!).
Jeremy was an omnivore, but he had a few vegetarian specialty recipes that I ended up really liking. Walnut loaf was a new-to-me dish, and now that I think about it, I should try making it myself some time.
We ate a few fishy dinners:
And this one isn’t very attractive, but as it was my first dinner in the storybook cottage after my harrowing night in the Toulouse train station, it was much-needed and tasted fantastic:
Here, a picture perfect asparagus omelet to make up for that mess:
Of course, when I travel, I invariably get sick in one way or another. I had echinacea with me, and Jeremy provided the honey and the vanilla tea:
When I put all these pictures together, it seems as though my ten days in Caylus were a small slice of heaven. Jeremy cooked for me and gave me his little stone guesthouse in exchange for 5-6 hours of work in his gardens a day. He also shared a lot of very nice French wine and showed me around the nearby villages (by the way, can we talk about how quiet and peaceful this region is? The ‘next door neighbors’ were barely even visible from the top of ‘our’ hill).
All was not perfect: since I was sick some of the time, I didn’t work as much as I wanted to, and subsequently felt guilty. Jeremy drove far out of his way to come get me, and there were some issues with my photos and using his computer. Looking back, though, the bounty I received outweighed the anxieties and sniffles.
This pizza in particular helped erase any sense of negativity:
The more I go through my France pictures, I realize how much more there is to show you! So look for a France Part 2 post sometime in the future, friends.
It was so nice reminiscing with you 🙂
Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art. –Freya Stark