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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

My second WWOOFing experience took place in the “Tuscany of France,” the Drome. Located just above Provence in the southeast of France, the climate and environment was very similar to its Italian counterpart. Though different than my time spent WWOOFing in the Tuscany of Italy, this experience was very special and taught me a great deal.
The beginning of the story was funny. I arrived at the wrong farm through a series of miscommunications and coincidences, but things worked out for the better. My wonderful host, Odette, was kind enough to take me in despite having declined my request to WWOOF at her place and having another WWOOFer arriving on the same day.
This time WWOOFing included very little field time. WWOOFing doesn’t necessarily mean laboring in a garden and can include a variety of other activities. I got to help out a little in the kitchen and in the garden, but most of my “work” was done away from the farm.
Odette teaches at a forestry school and brings her WWOOFers to class to talk to her students about where they come from and places they have traveled to. I really enjoyed talking to her students about Hawaii and my current trip. They were attentive, polite, and kind enough to feign interest while I blathered away. I was thoroughly impressed with both the faculty and the students and wish I could have spent more time with them.
One day Odette took us to a butcher/cheese/wine shop after school. It was the single greatest seller of things I love that I have ever been to. They had every part of every animal, a variety of house made pates, terrines, and sausages, a killer assortment of cheese, and a wine selection that can hold its own anywhere. This place makes Eataly look like a 7-11. The sommelier was outstanding and hooked me up with a few bottles to take back home. I could have spent hours/days in this place.
My co-WWOOFer, Julia, and I had a nice day trip to Avignon. When we returned to Montelimar, we had dinner at one of Odette’s friend’s house. This friend also hosts WWOOFers but didn’t have any at the moment. Along with her husband, she converted an old stone barn into a very beautiful home. If I hadn’t just met them, I would have taken pics of their house. It was that nice. We had a great meal featuring homemade pate, seafood gratin, and three local wines.
There is one restaurant in Odette’s beautiful little town of St. Marcel les Sauzet. Le Priorie received two Michelin forks, which are the small-scale equivalent of a star. I had an excellent meal there that included foie gras three different ways, veal kidneys and sweetbreads, and a beautiful dessert.
Odette is a dedicated nature lover and took Julia and I on a couple hikes. The first place she took us is full of fossilized seashells despite being hundreds of kilometers from the sea. She pointed out many of the local plants and taught us quite a bit about the environment surrounding her home. Wild thyme, fennel, rosemary, and juniper seemed to be everywhere.
For my last night in town, Odette’s son Olivier took Julia and I to a house party. It was nice being around people my age and they were all incredibly nice. In fact, everyone I came across in the Drome was beyond nice. I can’t recall a place I’ve been to that had nicer people.
My week spent in the Drome seemed like a (very long and full) day. We squeezed a lot of things into a small amount of time and I enjoyed every second of it. Odette was an incredible host and I am truly thankful that she took in an accidental WWOOFer and showed him how she lives. The beauty of the Drome is only surpassed by the kindness and hospitality of its inhabitants. It was a week I will never forget.

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