I have a firm belief, that what you need comes along at the right time and what is meant for you won’t miss you. Well having just returned from the most blissfully relaxing wellness retreat in beautiful Bergerac, that belief was confirmed and demonstrated to me yet again. I very nearly didn’t make it to the wellness retreat, but, about five hours in on that first day, I realised that I needed it more than I even knew. Read on, and let me share this soul nourishing experience with you….
I have attended wellness and yoga days in the Uk before, but had never attended one abroad, or for more than an overnight stay. This retreat was just and hour and a half flight from London, in the stunning Bergerac countryside in South Western France, and was for three nights. I was both excited and nervous about the retreat, as I was going to it on my own. That nervousness was quickly squashed as when I met the rest of the group at the airport, most of the group of 7 were attending alone. Its worth noting that this retreat only has small numbers, around 5-8, so it is very comfortable. It is also private bedrooms (unless you opted to share) so you have your own space and privacy.
We were collected from the airport by our wonderful hosts, Clare who runs the mindfulness retreat, and Madeline who opens her beautiful home to us. Clare, and her assistant Alex, who had flown out with us, had a beautiful zen weekend planned out. I was so excited! The short drive from the airport gave us chance to see the openness and space of the Bergerac countryside. I could feel my shoulders start to drop and relax already!
Turning into the driveway of the home we to be staying in for the next few days, I was stunned at how beautiful it was. Set on the river, surrounded by open green spaces and cascading water, I knew I had found the perfect place to have chance to pause. To take a breath. To re-gather my strength. To refuel my soul ready for the next leg of our families battle against my husbands illness. It was a place to gain a little head space. I felt incredibly emotional stepping out of the car, and so very grateful to be there. I am so thankful that my husband made me go.
Wellness Retreat – The start
Once we were welcomed warmly, had settled in our rooms and had some refreshments, we were treated to a tranquil boat trip down the river. Our wonderful house owners Peter and Madeline had arranged it with Clare to help ease us into the relaxation that the wellness retreat promised. We boarded the boat and began our weekend with a gentle drift along the river that runs through the houses grounds. Cold drinks and snacks were served as we slowly meandered along, nothing but trees either side. Just the sounds of nature and gentle lapping water accompanied us on our journey, the soothing bobbing of the boat aiding my already felt relaxation. Nature, water, all the trees, this place could have been made for me!
We took part in a lovely little ritual as we were about to turn back. Pausing the boat for a moment, we were all handed pen and paper, and told to write down anything that we wished to leave behind in France. So, you could be wanting to shed feelings of fear, self doubt, lack of confidence, anything that you were feeling that didnt serve you positivly. We wrote it down, then each set fire to our bit of paper and let it burn in a little tin. We left those negative feelings down the river. It was a great, symbolic way to start the weekend.
Meditation Retreat – There if you needed it
There was an itinerary for the weekend, but you were under no obligation to take part in anything that you didn’t want to. For example, there was a dawn walk around the grounds, ending with an invigorating paddle in the stream. A beautiful start to the day if you wanted it. Some people decided that they preferred to sleep in, and that was no problem. I have spoken to you about my love of meditation in this post, Meditation and Mindfulness so I loved the meditation twice a day. It felt like I was on my own little meditation retreat and I benefitted hugely.
The itinerary was there is you wanted it. There were morning and evening meditations, mindful colouring sessions and workshops on helping you look inwardly. You could then take part in gentle walks, a tour with Peter (and Barty the beautiful dog) around the grounds on a golf buggy type vehicle, and yoga sessions with a fabulous local Yoga teacher. There was also lots of free time to read, go in the hot tub on the veranda, or just chat with other guests. I spent a lot of time snuggled under a fluffy blanket, in the comfy chairs on the veranda, reading, chatting, thinking. Its amazing to be surrounded with other, like minded people. That in itself is inspiring and an added benefit of a wellness retreat. You are all there for the same reason.
Of course, we also enjoyed three beautiful meals a day, which we all ate together as a group. It was lovely. Clare, who runs the retreat, is a wellness and meditation coach, as well as the owner of a Spa, so everything on the agenda is thought of with your relaxation, wellbeing and comfort in mind. Nothing was too much trouble for Clare and Alex, and Madeline and Peter welcomed us into their home like old friends. Wonderful people. I thought it was the perfect balance of free time and activities. There are lots of places in the grounds you can go and just “be” if you want to get some space. I really liked the activities, very calm and chilled, and I thought the itinerary was very well thought out and I did all of it.
Retreat in France – Getting out and about
One of our mornings, the Sunday, was spent at a local french market in Issigeac, about 15 minutes from the house. I absolutely loved the market. I longed to have a basket like the locals and buy bread, olives, cheese, wine…….It was just a beautiful little village and so traditional and charming. I feel like I need to explore more of France. I am smitten!
The fruit and vegetables looked so vibrant. Olives so plump and tasty. Cheese of every variety of course in abundance, along with wine suggestions for accompanying them. It was a busy local market day, but still managed to feel un-rushed and gentle. It was perfect.
The food that was provided for us While on retreat was gorgeous. All cooked fresh every day by Clare and Alex, it was manly vegetarian, so they just tweaked it a little for me, catering for my vegan diet. Funnily enough, I felt so good eating at regular times, and proper meals, that it is something that I have implemented at home. I was always a grab and go kind of eater, taking opportunity to eat my lunch etc when I could. Now I set regular meal times out and stick to them. It has made a huge difference in how I feel, and my relationship with food. I feel like I want to nourish my body with good food, and owe it to myself to do so. That was an unexpected, but very welcome gain from the retreat. It has surprised me how that impacted me.
People go on retreats for many different reasons. For the wise few, they go because they know how important it is to occassionaly take time out for themselves to regain clarity, ground themselves or just relax. Others go because they need to quiet the noise and hear themselves think. Some to try to find answers that they know are within themselves.
Whatever the reason, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Clare runs these retreats a coupe of times a year, and you can find out full details of it here. She has created something truly magical there. For me, I know that I have to stay strong, and focused in my belief that better days are coming for my husband, my family. Days where worry isn’t blurring the edges of our time. Days where we can make plans and be spontaneous again. I know that those days are coming, but I also knew that the last two years have taken their toll. As a wise woman once told me, you cant pour from an empty cup!
As well as a million book recommendations (one of which I fully recommend, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, its amazing) I have come away with a renewed strength coursing through my veins. I feel refreshed and refueled. I feel like it gave me lots of time to think, and that in turn has made me realise that I need to set myself some new goals. I am a person that is goal motivated, and since closing my business, I have rested. Now I am ready for some new goals. I feel hopeful and motivated that sunshine is on the horizon!
I would love to hear what you think. Have you had any experience of retreats? Is it something that you would love to do? Does going to something like this alone put you off? If so, I urge you not to let it. I think I actually got more from it being on my own. I have even booked to go back in September! As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts.