How does life in a French ecovillage look like? We wanted to find out, and spent a couple of December weeks in Vispens, Saint Affrique, Aveyron! Read on for more info and photos. Clickbait: You get to see a (kind of) hobbit house!
How we ended up visiting Vispens ecovillage
Jean met a guy named Jaques while they were both travelling in Laos more than a year ago, and since Jean expressed an interest in ecovillages, Jaques invited him to come and visit his place if Jean ever ended up close to Vispens. After our work exchange in Issamoulenc, the timing was great for us to take advantage of this generous invitation!
Who we met
Our generous host Jaques was happy to share his house, locally grown food and views on life with us in exchange for services to the ecovillage and it’s inhabitants. The kind-hearted Annie gladly explained to us how she built her awesome “hobbit house”, as well as showing me some Qi Gong moves. The fellow artist Elise Boidin, (and her lovely daughter), showed us her inspired artwork, and I hope to do a collaboration with her next time we meet. The couple Florent and Claire (aka the horse whisperer) showed us have to handle the farm and it’s animals. The couple Vincent and Sidney have also travelled doing wwoofing, and aided Jean with healing essential oils for his sore back after heavy work.
What we did
Taking down and putting up a new fence. Preparing a field ready to grow vegetables in spring. Building a raised garden bed. Carving and planting new woodpoles for the raspberry garden. Constructing a metal rack for the kiwi vines to grow on. Pruning the kiwi. Making a bench and a coat rack using reclaimed wood. Cleaning the wood workshop. House-cleaning. Yoga. Qi Gong. Talking lots and eating yummy food!
What we discovered
The town Saint Affrique close by is a melting pot consisting of urban people, farmers, hippies, travellers and punk. We were introduced to the awesome café/restaurant/bookstore Le Lieu-Dit where we ate delicious food prepared by a two-Michelin-starred chef. The place is run as an association, with mostly volunteer workers. We visited the Saturday market with delicious food, and stopped by the store Aux Saveurs Aveyronnaises that offers local produce only. One day Jaques brought us to a Christmas market in another ecovillage that reminded me of Pai in Thailand!
What we learned
One way to run an ecovillage, including financially. How to build a “hobbit house”, at least in theory, with a construction base of two circles. That we could be interested in living in an ecovillage, although one that focuses more on growing plantbased food rather than producing meat and dairy would suit us better due to personal convictions. The importance of buying local produce. I’ve never really thought about all the fuel that goes into transport of those tropical fruits and juices I love so much…
How we travelled
Hitch-hiking with generous people from Algerie, Senegal, Tunisia, Netherlands, and Frenchies that had travelled abroad before. Codriving via Bla Bla Car, and by that meeting the talented artist Patrick di Meglio and his lovely family.
Photos from Vispens