Tyson and I were welcomed with such a warmth and generosity that we were quickly at ease in their midst. After our first day of work in the vines, the family took us boating on the Lot River to have a go at wakeboarding and water skiing, a pastime in which they were all very skilled. Tyson’s attempts were an instant success. As with most sport-type activities, he made it look easy – and while I did manage to get up out of the water on the wakeboard after three attempts, my victory was rather short-lived as I took an unladylike nosedive directly beside two highly entertained spectators in a canoe. (At least I’m good for a laugh!) We then went out for chips and beer at a local bar in the nearest French village and spent the rest of the evening conversing with the family and a good number of their friends well into the night.
Each day at Domaine des Sangliers, Tyson and I would tackle what quickly became our main task: weeding the vines. This sounds easy, but believe me, it was tough work. Since Lisa and Kim do not use pesticides or herbicides on their crops, those pesky weeds needed to be removed by hand. The bramble was by far the worst of it. As we worked our way down row upon row, large piles of weed and bramble slowly accumulated behind us, where it would eventually be tilled back into the earth as natural compost, befitting of the winery’s organic status. Despite the laborious work, Tyson and I listened to music, sampled the delicious Malbec grapes here and there, talked together, even danced (well, I danced – badly – while Tyson laughed at me), and generally enjoyed being out in Southern France’s radiant summer sunshine. By the end of our two-week stay, we had cleared countless rows; but there were a few odds-and-ends jobs as well, such as hand-labeling boxes of bottled wines, giving the wine-tasting barroom a thorough cleaning, and on one joyous occasion, putting a borrowed strimmer to use for a day while weeding.
Displaying a length of bramble pulled from the vines.
Piles of our handiwork.
Fresh figs off the tree were an unbeatable post-weeding snack!
On a few sunny afternoons, once our work was done, we would hop on a pair of bicycles and pedal through the beautiful countryside, passing vineyards and quaint cottages along the open fields and gently forested hills. We visited the village of Puy L’Éveque along the Lot River – the same on which we’d previously wakeboarded – and sampled a few scrumptious pastries from a small local patisserie. I must say, French baking holds top rank in my books! One day the Stantons dropped us off to see Fumel, too, a medieval town complete with castle and gardens
that overlook the Lot valley. The terraced views, luscious grounds and treed walking paths were a highlight. And once again, a few delicious baked treats were purchased. How very thankful I am for a husband who indulges my extreme sweet tooth!
In the evenings, we ate our dinners with the Stantons. These meals were loud with chatter from the whole table, delicious in the way that only homemade meals can be, and so endearingly familiar in that chaotic yet harmonious “big family” way of eating to which I’m quite happily accustomed. Afterward, Tyson and I often found ourselves enjoying the fresh air out on the deck of our trailer, with cats and kids alike coming and going through the backyard to visit us. As a few grapevines had gone wild right at our doorstep, on one occasion Tyson treated me to a homemade glass of freshly squeezed grape juice. Mmmm… I can’t tell you how tasty that was! At night, the stars came out in full force. We were told that the area was reputed to have some of the lowest light pollution in Europe, which was easy to believe when we looked up at such a luminous night sky. Inside our camper, Tyson valiantly squashed many a spider for me – one particular giant decided to surprise me in the shower, but I’m sure I surprised him more with my subsequent shriek!
Having discovered BlaBla Car
, we decided to hitch a ride with a lovely woman and her dog to Carcassonne for the weekend. Having arrived to a cozy AirBnB
late that same evening, we took the next day to explore the old city – a walled castle straight from the Middle Ages, complete with parapets, towers, cathedrals, and cobblestone streets. After we indulged in a freshly made crepe from a street vendor, we walked the length of the high walls overlooking the sprawl of town and countryside.