My head bobbed side to side as I faded into consciousness. I’d slept for about an hour when I peeked out the bus window and the sky graced a gradient of pastel orange to dark blue. Brad was seated to my right, eyes wide open.
Brad and I had finally left Andorra which served as our base for three months. Andorra is a tiny country sandwiched between Spain and France. Most people haven’t heard of it, and neither had I until I met Brad about 20 months ago who had been there a few times for work.
I wish I had stayed up to see the sky’s colors change, but my eyes were too heavy to stay open. When I fully awoke about thirty minutes later, the sky had transformed into a canvas of pastels. It was spectacular. It cast gray silhouettes of the distant trees and houses that lay sparsely among grass fields on both sides of the road. Layers of thick fog about one to two meters high lay low on the fields, romanticizing our first sight of France–on a bus ride to Toulouse on a late-summer dawn.
We all have this idea that France is a romantic place. Well, this place taught me a valuable lesson: “I’ve realized that I had set my expectations too high, and that this whole experience being more like everything else I’ve experienced, caught me off guard. I had expected people to be different, the workshop to be different, and the food to be so much better.” [Journal – 5th morning]
We were picked up by a mini bus at the Poitiers bus station at 5 pm on Sunday, 18th of August. The bus ride took a little over an hour when we arrived at Domaine de Boisbuchet. We were then greeted by the staff, run by people my age, some even younger. We had to line up by the buffet table to receive refreshments, preceded by a short exchange of introduction with a staff member who would then give us a name tag. It felt like we had just landed into a high school summer camp run by students.
We were classified as participants of the week. Some of the staff had been previous participants, some participants had been staff, and some staff would be participants. Basically, they volunteer as staff for 4 weeks to earn a free workshop. So mind you, Boisbuchet was far from a hospitality establishment, which was made clear to us on the very first evening. But I think they should’ve had at least one staff member with hospitality background that would manage the young staff.
And the food was a whole new issue altogether! I learned that the previous weeks had been much more worse for meals, so we were actually quite lucky to have okay food. On our first morning, I remember waking up to the smell of toast and fried food only to come down to stale bread with bee-infested jams. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday however, they would serve yogurts and cereals as well, but the yogurts would never be enough for everyone. That left me wondering: who gets all the toast and fried food?
The place itself however was gorgeous. Too enormous to see all of it, the whole property had little treasures, art installations by students, sprinkled throughout. With separate areas with seating here and there, it was a romantic setting altogether. The rooms were also nice and comfortable, and they offered laundry as well. Aside from the disreputable food and the unprofessional staff, our week in Boisbuchet left us with a great experience I will always remember. ♥
“I’ve realized that I had set my expectations too high, and that this whole experience being more like everything else I’ve experienced, caught me off guard. I had expected people to be different, the workshop to be different, and the food to be so much better. So I’ve learned that it’s just the same everywhere else. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Asia, Europe or Australia—it’s just the same everywhere. The people, systems, organizations, you name it. Take the very same person, like me, with the same outlook, background, and personality, to anywhere in the world, and it will be just the same. It is my attitude that determines whether I’ll have it good or not.”
PS! Here’s the post on the Slow Design workshop I attended by Pierre Favresse.