So here’s a question: would you pay £300 for the privilege of being a manual labourer for a week? Would you travel to a foreign country with a bunch of people you don’t know to renovate a house belonging to someone you haven’t met? Would you work hard, stretch muscles, gain bruises, lose sleep all for the possibility of a real holiday some time in the distant future?
And, having done all of that, would you enthusiastically sign up to do it all over again?
As crazy as it might seem, that’s the story of Chateau Duffy, Matryoshka Haus’ oddest project yet. Over the last year a rag-tag bunch of disparate Americans and Brits have trekked off to rural France to work on renovating a 400-year-old French farmhouse and barn; one that has been derelict for the last 150 years!
So far 26 of us have made the trip (27 if you count baby J!), every one of us volunteering our time as a builder and labourer. And most of us paying for that privilege! We have worked and sweated to rig scaffolding, move tiles, point walls, raise beams, cut grass and generally (wo)manned-up to the task. Even though the vast majority of us have had no clue what we were doing…
It might sound crazy to you, but it has been a lot of fun. Having made the trip three times myself, I can say there is a huge sense of achievement when looking at the barn roof, now rebuilt and water-tight (for the 1st time in many a long year). Even if I get nothing more from Chateau Duffy, being able to say “we did that” is pretty-darned-awesome…
But of course we get a lot more from Chateau Duffy than that.
We get a week in the French sunshine (and rain). We get copious amounts of wine, bread and cheese. We get long days of hard work yes, but days full of laughter and real fellowship. Just read back at some of the stories in this blog if you don’t believe me…
We will all also get the right to stay in the completed Chateau Duffy in the future, as a reward for our labours. Chris Duffy, owner of this romantic pile of old French rock and tile, is promising us all weeks in this future holiday home in return for our weeks of work. And having enjoyed the delights of St Denis des Murs a few times now, I have to say I’m looking forward to that!
Call it madness or method, we are heading back to Chateau Duffy next spring. We have a large gite reserved and a website ready to take bookings. With the barn roof finished, this time we hope will bring a real sense of progress – the beginnings of the transformation from barn to (holiday) home.
Eric, our builder, and Carl, our architect – two crazily-committed Texan professionals, are keen to return. So is Mr Richard, the amazing chef from our adventures last Easter. But that still gives us plenty of space for friends old and new. Will you join us?