We’ve just said au revoir to our lastest WorkAway visitors, a very handy French couple, from the Pyrenees area, but on a travelling sabbatical, in their trusty campervan. They contacted us, having seen our profile on the website, and felt that their skills were a good match for what we required.

We’ve had two previous fabulous WorkAway experiences, but the last one was not so good and so we really investigated our French would-be guests, as we definitely didn’t want people who were actually on HolidayAway, rather than WorkAway. Like the last one. But, we felt very reassured with everything we read and our email communications were easy, friendly and informative. And, so last Saturday Patricia and Pierre arrived in their campervan.

We always make sure that one of the spare bedrooms is made up for WorkAway guests – the whole point of this scheme is that there should be a fair exchange. So, if people are coming into our home and giving us their time and skills, free of charge, then it’s only right that we ensure that they are comfortable, warm and well fed.  Now that we feel at ease and confident with the scheme, we make sure that on arrival, we discuss expectations so as to minimise any room for confusion or misunderstanding. Although they were happy to stay in the campervan if necessary, we didn’t feel this was a “fair exchange” – especially as we immediately hit it off with them – and so they were delighted, after weeks in the van, at the prospect of having a big, comfy bed, as well as a hot shower when they needed it. We also provide breakfast, lunch and an evening meal – we cannot expect people to do quite manual work, without feeding them.

We can almost see the finishing line in terms of our house renovations. We could go on forever, but we have a new, exciting plan in the pipeline and so we’ve honed our profile so that anyone looking for hosts, knows exactly what we need and why we need it. With Pierre’s background in plumbing and building and Patricia’s in landscape gardening, they came to us just at the right time.

So, what did they do?

Our upstairs bathroom hasn’t been renovated, to date – apart from us giving it a lick of paint and adding some nice accessories. But, with us starting to now market the house, we felt that this room finally needed to be tackled and so bit the bullet and made this the priority, ensuring that our French visitors knew beforehand what we wanted then to do.

Although we knew exactly what we wanted in terms of bath etc, we didn’t purchase anything before they arrived becasue we wanted to take their professional advice re fittings etc, and so set off, with them, to Pula, to make the purchases. Only we were thwarted by the not-very-well-publicised Pula Half Marathon, as all roads into the city were closed until 3pm and on a Sunday, Bauhaus – where we were making the purchases from – is only open until 2pm. However, once back at the house, it did mean we could set about ripping out the old bathroom. A mightily pleasurable task…

A return trip to Pula the next day was much more successful and meant that Pierre could begin the task of installing the new sanitaryware. I don’t want to give away too much here, as the bathroom isn’t fully finished, although the bath, sink, toilet and new taps are all in. Our new friends left yesterday, to head off for their next adventure in Dubrovnik, so it’s over to us now.

The floor tiles have all been removed but have left behind that hideous, sticky adhesive which is hellish to remove. However, with a mix of a sander, a scraper, a hairdryer and good old elbow grease, we will succeed and we will get rid of it. (We could go out and buy a solution which could make it easier, BUT this would involve a long trip back to Pula, probably, and we’ve decided that in the time this would take, we could probably have shifted a fair amount by other means).

The sander is sanding away upstairs and hopefully the boards will be smooth and glue-free, quite soon. We had toyed with the idea of removing the white wall tiles and replacing with Spanish style tiles – BUT, with the prospect of the house being up for sale, we’ve decided against this expense and instead are going to paint one of the walls in a feature colour.

We’re veering towards either Parma Gray or Lulworth Blue, and in a very handy coincidence, we’re off to Treviso for a short visit – where there is a Farrow & Ball showroom. That’s what I call a result.

I’ve also set us a bit of a challenge – to try and get the bathroom (excluding labour) renovated for £500 or less. All will be revealed in a subsequent blog, when all is finished, as to whether we’ve met this challenge or not…

As well as the bathroom, Patricia also focused on the garden, helping to get it winter ready for us. Plants have been cut back, the little area we call the “The Secret Garden”, because it is hidden away, has been cleared and tidied up and lots of bulbs have been planted, which we hope will produce some pops of colour, come springtime. Much advice was also dispensed by her, so that if we are still here next year, we have a much better idea of how to make the garden, more of a garden.

Would We Recommend WorkAway?

Absolutely, we would. The one blip we had, was entirely my fault, as I didn’t really do my research on this one. It was in the early days of us being part of the scheme, that arrangements were made and I didn’t go back to them, until he was about to arrive and I felt it was unfair to cancel at such short notice. I did have reservations, but thought we’d give this one a chance – when it became quite clear that this particular exchange was going in one direction (us providing accommodation, food, comfortable living etc) and we were getting very, very little reciprocated, we brought things to a close earlier than had been arranged.

Four experiences in, and we are very much enjoying the scheme. We have made three sets of great friends and our house has come on in leaps and bounds, thanks to the skills these people brought with them.

If you don’t really like having people in your home, this scheme is probably not for you. But, we’ve found it be overall a very positive and enriching experience and has enabled us to meet interesting people who we wouldn’t have otherwise met, and we’ve learned new skills – as well as being able to tick off a whole load of tasks on our to-do renovation list.

Next week, we have a couple from the States arriving – and the agreed task this time, is to have a wooden floor, with insulation, laid over the stone flags in the Well Room. No more cold feet in the winter 😉