2015: Short-cut to Happiness

2015 felt nearly too short – so much happened in such a short time. We had to work very hard to renovate our 400 year old French farm house, our fields, our lake, our wood, our garden, our orchard and our potager so that we could host our equine-guided personal growth and meditation retreats here. The horses also needed a lot of time and attention to get comfortably settled. Even though it was a very busy year, it was also a year full of blessings and we are intensely grateful for each and every blessing that came our way. We seem to have found a short-cut to happiness – and we intend to share this short-cut with our retreat guests. Our 2015 happiness highlights were:

Although we have lived and owned a house in the region for the last 8/9 years, 2015 was the year we moved into our dream house, Les Sources Sacrées, in Gascony, in the south-west of France, 2 hours from the Atlantic ocean, 2h north of the Spanish border and 90 minutes south-east of Bordeaux.

Our dream house in gascony
Les Sources Sacrées

Before we renovated the rest of the house, starting on the second of January 2015, we renovated the guest wing. Here we house our Equine Guided Meditation Retreat and our Learn how to Meditate with Horses Workshops participants. There are single and double bedrooms – useful for participants who want to bring their non-participating partners/spouses/better halves. More pictures of the house here: Accommodation.

2015 was the year we renovated the 2 acres/1 hectare lake on the farm, as well as the small, adjacent wood. Wading around in water-boots up to one’s thighs was called for, and we removed a small mountain of weeds that was suffocating the black bass (ze fishes). We cleared most of the brambles in the wood and on the island that were sometimes up to 2m tall and we built a bridge to the island so that guests can get to the 14 step meditation path laid out on the island.


2015 was the year Bass came to live with us. An exceptionally beautiful tinker stallion, he also has the gentlest of characters. Thank you so much to Leonoor van Dongen for introducing us to Tinkers and selling us Bass (and bringing him to us all the way from the Netherlands!). It is already clear that he is going to be an exceptionally perceptive equine guide. Read more about him here: Bass des Sources Sacrées

Tinker stallion

2015 was the year Leo, the horse we rescued from slaughter, decided to stop running away from us and that being with us is an acceptable, even desirable, option. Leo does not work with guests yet, but he now allows just about anyone to approach him, as long as the approach ends in an extensive neck scratch. People with carrots are welcome too. Read more about him here: Aurileo d’Alegria

Aurileo d’Alegria

In 2015, especially during the portes ouvertes de Madiran and Saint Mont, we tried some more excellent wines, but our favourite for 2015 is Altera’s Merlot. Our second favourite has to be the wine of our neighbour at LaPrune, who sells the season’s wine “en vrac” at 1 euro 80 per 2 litres. Also appreciated was Beréjat’s Chardonnay and Domaine de la Rose’s Rosé. We offer our guests the opportunity to discover our region’s wines by adding an extra day to their stay to do a Tutored Wine Tour.

Merlot -our favourite wine of 2015

In 2015 we discovered wholegrain pasta. Difficult to find here in deepest rural France, but we did manage to find a couple of local shops that stock it. Even though our favourite restaurant of 2015, Chez Quintin in Nogaro, does not use wholegrain pasta for their Pasta à la Carbonara with mushrooms, cream , “lardons” (ham) and a raw egg (on the side), it remains irresistible. We share some sort of pasta dish with our retreat and workshop guests at least once during their stay.

2015 was the year we met Monica Gould, a Masterson’s Method and Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork practitioner. 2015 was the first year we and our horses benefited from her training and experience as a cranio-sacral therapist, her sunny disposition, her extensive knowledge of barefoot practices and of aromatherapy.

Monica Gould

2015 was the year we started to do yoga here in the south of France – we would have done so before if we could have found a class within half an hour’s drive from us), my better half for the first time in his life. Our teacher is Kate Coulson, from Happy Yoga. We feel much better for it, definitely more supple, but also more relaxed and more focused.

Kate Coulson

2015 was the year we built the raised beds for the vegetable garden, and planted 30+ fruit trees. With our neighbours’ help, we also installed a bee swarm in a hive. We use as much home-grown produce when we prepare meals for our guests, the rest we buy at the weekly fresh (and often organic) farmer’s market in Eauze.

vegetables garden

With sustainability in mind, 2015 was the year I read up about permaculture, and incorporated as many ideas as I could: water butts so that we can capture and store rainwater, compost heaps for garden and kitchen waste and gathering of he horses’ manure to use as fertiliser next year. Sustainable tourism is important to us.

compost heap

2015 was the year I started blogging, initially to introduce our mindfulness meditation retreats with horses to the world, but as time went on and I made more and more friends in Blogland, my blogging become about so much more. I had been on Facebook for many years, but 2015 was the year I discovered Twitter and Pinterest (and was soon addicted to the latter). I have a Gratitude Dairy Pinterest board, where I post pictures of the things that I am grateful for, as well as a French Country Garden and a French Country Style Pinterest Board.

Equine Guided Personal Growth Blog

2015 was the year I took up singing again. I have been a member of two or three choirs for the last 5 years, and I took singing lessons as a teenager, but 2015 was the year I gathered all my courage together and found myself a highly qualified and very well-known Gascon soprano, Cécile Fornerod, to teach me how to sing properly.


Talking about singing, 2015 was the year my better half joined the Christmas Carol Choir that I sing in every year from September to December to raise money for cancer patients in our region (a first time ever for him). It was also the year we found him a grand piano and he started playing again (not having played for many years). We had to get rid of quite a bit of furniture to fit the piano in the house, just getting it through the door was a near insurmountable challenge!


2015 was the first year we felt we needed a tractor. As we now owned 8 hectares / 20 acres, mowing the grass was going to need more than a lawn mover. So 2015 was the year we became the proud owners of a 52 year old tractor (bright red), still going strong, except for the time it got stuck in a ditch and had to be pulled out by a Lamborghini (tractor!)


2015 was the first year that my better half finally had a wine cellar that he was happy to store his treasured wines in. The cellar came with the house, but needed a bit of updating before, eventually, the precious bottles could be carefully laid down on the new shelves.

wine cellar

While we are sad to leave 2015 behind, we are also looking with barely suppressed anticipation towards 2016 – we hope that the 2016 vintage will be as good as the 2015 was! We would love to share our “petit paradis” with you. Chances are you will discover a short-cut to happiness here too! If you are interested in joining us for a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat/Workshop guided by our Horses, please send us an e-mail on welcome2gascony@gmail.com or fill in the form below.

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