When I was on my last legs in London – no job, no money and a return ticket dated only a few days away – I was desperate to stay in my new home country. I wasn’t done with the UK and really wasn’t ready to go back to Australia, so I started applying for jobs on Gumtree. Luckily I got a job interview for a job in Paris! It sounded amazing, and slightly too good to be true, and my aunty who I was living with at the time was a big sceptical about it, but I went to the interview anyway.
I found out I could work in France because I was being hired and paid through a UK recruitment company. The job was 45 minutes out of Paris in a town called Fontaine-le-Port and was basically a cleaning role in a chateau for six weeks – and I was given cash to leave on the weekends and stay in Paris! Oh, and the pay was double what I was currently able to earn in a bar job in London – and no, it wasn’t too good to be true!
So I packed my bag, caught the Eurail (which they also paid for) and made my way there. It took a couple of changing trains and a hike up a massive amount of steps up the side of a hill once I’d arrived, but I quickly settled into my new room which was on the top floor of one of the buildings.
If you’re anything like me you probably thought a chateau was one ‘building’, but this place was a village. Owned by the Sultan of Oman, it employed 40 full-time French staff and a rotating roster of around 10 Aussies plus Kiwis (because we “worked the hardest”). And the kicker? No one lived there (apart from us). No one visited there. The last time the sultan was there was four years ago. But I guess that’s one of the benefits of being one of the most obscenely rich men in the world: employing people to clean and run a mini village, for no apparent reason. Because that’s all we did! Every morning started with breakfast in our common room and then straight into our morning jobs. Then, we had a manager who delegated the jobs for the day.
On Mondays for example, we cleaned one of the levels of the building we lived in. Every level had about 40 rooms, and every room had two beds and a bathroom. We stripped every bed, put on fresh linen, wiped the walls, floors, bathrooms – everything. No one had ever slept in them, or been in since the prior Monday. How bizarre is that? Lunch was cooked for us by a team – French cheeses, a different menu every day, freshly baked bread. We got everything.
On weekends no one was to stay at the chateau so they gave us cash to leave. We also got to drink wine on the Friday afternoon before we left, while we cleaned our rooms. Sometimes we stayed in Paris; sometimes we stayed in another little village named Fontainebleau. We stayed in Etaps, which are the most basic of hotels, and partied. As well as the Aussies, there were some French guys as well who lived in the area and did this as a summer job every year, so all knew each other.
Once we went and stayed in a tent in one of their backyards, and when we stayed in Fontaine-le-Port we caught up at the local pub with them. I got to know the metro lines in Paris, which Indian restaurants allowed BYO, the best flea markets to buy vintage Parisian dresses, and of course better my language skills.
So if you are looking for something a little different, out of the norm (and probably your comfort zone) and don’t mind cleaning a toilet, look them up on your next adventure over to Europe!
Written by Madelin Baldwin