Note: I was invited to Domaine du Pignoulet for a 2 night pilates retreat and full board. I paid for travel and transport myself.
When I heard I was invited to a Pilates Retreat in Gascony in a restored country manor, I couldn’t believe it. It sounded right up my street. As long time readers will know, I love France, and this was in a part of the country I had never been to, and the word retreat conjured up all kinds of relaxation and quiet and peaceful scenarios in my mind. Even better, I was going with some of the lovely free from blogger gang of ladies, some of who I had met already and others who I was looking forward to meeting. This time ten days ago I was on a plane from London Luton to Toulouse. These girls became fast friends and not just because of the peace and beautiful surroundings of our country retreat. We put the world to rights over the few days we spent together and found we had lots more in common along with blogging about allergies and free from!
There’s a lot of talk these days about taking time out, ‘me time’ and making time for yourself. Especially as a mother, I find every second article you read online is telling you how you need to put yourself first once in a while and how happy Mum means happy kids. I think I do a pretty good balance of getting time for myself along with being a busy working Mum – I do a 90 minute yoga class each week and try to make it to gym or pool to exercise a couple of other times. As with everyone I’m sure, I let work and busy-ness and life overtake things and end up very stressed out. The retreat came at a great time for me, just after the kids went back to school and it was like stealing an extra 3 days of summer before embracing the autumn and darker days at home.
I don’t think I can put in words how relaxing Pignoulet is. Each of the 10 strong women on this retreat had different things going on, life challenges of all sorts, and 25 children between us, so getting away like this was a rare treat, and really couldn’t have been more perfect. The setting is just stunning. So quiet, so peaceful. In the middle of nowhere. Countryside all around. The only sounds are cocks crowing and the odd church bell.
The house itself is fabulous, each room with unique characteristics and restored perfectly. I was obsessed with the shuttered windows and the pretty doors and the exposed rafters on the ceilings. Our hosts Susie and James made us feel welcome from the moment we arrived. The house has been in James’ family since 2000 and Susie and James bought it in 2016. They have since left their busy lives in the UK and settled there and offer the house for rental, B&B and pilates retreats.
There is a pristine outdoor pool in a beautiful garden with sun loungers by its side in the grass. We were extremely lucky with the September weather and we swam each day of the stay.
All of our meals were prepared for us to the highest standard by Susie and James, noting all of our intolerances, allergies and dietary requirements, with no asking and checking over and over, just total inclusion. I’m lucky enough to have no allergies myself but I would have felt completely at ease having the boys there for meals. The food was local fresh produce, right down to figs from Pignoulet’s own fig trees. Stuffed peppers, bean salads, chicken stuffed with sundried tomatoes and basil and salmon wrapped in parma ham were some of my favourites. Full board included breakfast, lunch and 3 course dinner with local wines. In the afternoon there was cake put out by the kettle and you could have afternoon tea (or coffee) at any stage which was a lovely touch. The cakes were made allergen free also. Every little detail was thought of.
It was years since I had done any kind of pilates. Susie is an amazing teacher and made everyone at ease from those who do pilates all the time to complete beginners like me. The class at 8am as the sun was coming up was my favourite. I would go back for this alone!
How to get there
Lourdes is the nearest airport, 40 minutes away. I couldn’t find any direct flights from Ireland to Lourdes but you can fly to Toulouse, Bordeaux or Biarritz, each about 2 hours drive to Domaine du Pignoulet. You will need to rent a car to get there as it is very rural. From the UK you can fly London Luton to Toulouse or Stansted to Lourdes.
As we were on a retreat, most of our time was spent at Domaine du Pignoulet itself, but we did pop down to a local market in Beaumarche on the Sunday morning. The market was visually stunning with all sorts of bric a brac and local produce available. There is plenty of other activities available locally from cycling to golf, and even skiing in the winter months.
The house has 6 twin bedrooms and can be rented in its entirety for self catering. This would be ideal for a family get away with grandparents, siblings and their children, there is plenty of room for a large family to holiday together.
Bed and Breakfast
Bed, Breakfast and Dinner
A pilates retreat including 2-3 classes per day.
You can find all details on pignoulet.com. Susie and James are very accomodating so if you have an idea for Pignoulet get in touch, if they can make it happen they will.
Would I Go Back?
In a heartbeat! The other ladies are planning to return the same time next year and while I can’t make it those dates, I hope to return with either my family or friends another time.
Disclosure: I received full board pilates retreat in return for this review. I paid for all transport myself and as always all views are my own.