Wow! What an experience.
Where does one start… well of course me being me, I had to be fashionably late and organiser Alex was kind enough to wait for me to get through security. No it wasn’t the happy meal at Liverpool St Station… promise!
From the moment we arrived when we were greeted warmly by the lovely Clare and Madeleine. Whilst I was latest arriving to Stansted, I was the first through the gate at Bergerac.
We were chauffeured in a beautiful Range Rover and given a wonderful guided tour through the local vineyards en route to where we would call home for the next few days.
No stranger to France, having spent most of my childhood summer holidays in South of France with my Dad, it was nice to be reacquainted with the sounds and smells of Southern France. There was even a pizza van at the airport that brought so many memories flooding back.
It was a Nicholas family tradition to drive through France over 2 days to many of the camp sites where we would stay for 2wks. It was also a tradition to find the decent pizza van. Usually the only one in the vicinity that used mozzarella and pizza not taste like cheese on toast.
As we arrived the big cast iron gates opened and we pull up to a beautiful chateau. It was straight out of a postcard with big castle like doors and forage neatly surrounding the entrance.
Traditionally French with a wild boar head mounted on the wall as you walk in and a big dining table in the hall where we were asked to leave our bags.
We were welcomed with refreshments and given an official welcome to the outside terrace where we would congregate most our free time.
We were then shown to our rooms where we greeted by the most wonderful welcome pack and an agenda for the next few days. Now I would spoil it for future guests so I will just give a summary of the activities.
No rest for the wicked and straight into the action. We were welcomed on to a boat trip/letting go ceremony around the surrounding land. Now this place is absolutely stunning! Not only is the property beautiful but the surroundings grounds are vast.
Peter, who owns the property with Madeleine, is our designated driver and he is hilarious! Think a old country gent crossed with Michael Caine. We are served veg and dips, my fav! We are asked to think about what we want to take from the retreat but also what we need to let go of. We write on a piece of paper and burn it, letting it out and letting it go forever.
Clare as some of you reading will know is a keen meditation teacher and has various mediations on YouTube and Insight Timer so it was amazing to enjoy Clare’s soft tones in real life with lots of meditation throughout the retreat. She has the perfect voice for it. Check it out below and I think you’ll agree…
Some of the other activities included a daily silent walk around the grounds where some opted to paddle bare foot across the stream.
Massages – Clare is also a trained masseuse (Also currently training in hypnotherapy. Is there anything she doesn’t do?)
Mindful colouring- don’t knock it til you try it. It’s strangely therapeutic.
Yoga – it was nice to experience yoga from a local yoga teacher. Her chanting was hypnotic! Inhaleeeeee EXHALEEEEEEEE
Workshop – Where we explored what we wanted to get out of the retreat and why we were there. It was nice to be all together working on ourselves but for completely different reasons.
Kawasaki- Now you really need to experience this for yourself rather than me try and describe it and not do it justice. A all terrain golf buggy on steroids is the first thing that comes to mind. A tour of the grounds and how the owners use the land was a great insight into a farmers life in rural France.
Lots of various mediations – all were very different and brought something different to the table. Of course Clare being a seasoned pro, her dulcet tones were the perfect remedy to sail our stress away.
We even had a trip to the local market which was amazing! The weather really looked after us that day. We were able to sample some of the local delicacies, namely pastries, bread, even a couple of coke zeros. Old habits die the hardest eh! All of the market stalls were very picturesque.
I learned lots about myself being on the retreat. Mainly that we don’t need half the things we think we do. That we create our own habits.
In fact I did when I was there. I got into the habit of using the water bottle we were given as the fridge there had an inbuilt ice maker. So it was quite refreshing to take it everywhere I went. It was interesting to think I didn’t even think about my home habits of drinking Coke Zero and eating meat. Whilst we did eventually have some chicken, It really gave me food for thought that I could actually get by without both.
Also being in an environment solely to relax was extremely refreshing. Not to mention that the internet was very scarce that we could hardly use it if we wanted to. This was a welcome change. In fact I noticed how much I’d go into apps even though I wasn’t able to access them. A little bit like when I would go into the cupboards when intermittent fasting. We operate on autopilot.
I must admit, I have changed. All of the things I thought were important just aren’t. Made me think how much we polarise our problems. Also how little we actually need outside ourselves. Coke Zero, TV, Internet, Meat, Smart phones, low calorie ice cream. Why we incessantly spend our money on things we think we need. When I’m fav they’re all distractions from the relationship we can have with ourselves.
Instead we can appreciate the views, the sounds, new surroundings to run in, the sunrise, all the little things we overlook when we’re consuming “stuff”
Food for thought.
It was great to meet with likeminded people and be exposed to different ways of thinking. Not to mention such a blissful environment. I’ve noticed being in a class or group does allow positive peer pressure to get more out of yourself. Much easier to go with the flow instead of being kept to your own personal habits.
Saying that though I did do my own thing from time to time. I wasn’t used to the late night activities so tended to skip those to get well needed rest so my back could heal. There was a lot of sitting which really plays havoc with my sciatica so had to play it smart. Clare was very accommodating and I was able to lie down on my side a sun longer or sofa where possible.
I also very much enjoyed having the very relaxing hot tub on site and used it daily. It became my own ritual of mine to go and watch the sunrise as it twinkles through the trees and I read my book.
Also to sit on the terraces area and listen to the water mill was very relaxing. The white noise of continuously falling water really takes your mind somewhere else. A welcome change to the cars, airplanes, sirens and foxes in London.
Overall I must say I really enjoyed myself! So much so I’m already considering going again. I was even more excited to learn that Clare is planning further retreats to other destinations. However Maison De Gallas is absolutely delightful and a real joy to stay at. It was great to talk to the owners and find out what it must be like to live there and wake up there everyday. “Still grateful after all these years!” Madeleine told me. I must say that feeling is echoed even after a week and the profound effect staying there has had on me.
I really don’t feel like the same person I was before I went… and that’s a very good thing!
You can see some video highlight of the trip here:
If you’re interested in knowing more about the relaxation retreats you can check out www.ClareCockell.com for more info
I must say it’s an experience I’ll never forget… You’re welcomed into somebody’s home and made to feel a part of the family.