Walking and Wine Tasting Workshop

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Introduction

When I started writing, I often got stuck. I surfed the net – as you do – and eventually, I found a Youtube video that changed my approach to writing completely. I never got stuck again.

This was the video:

Paulo Coelho explains in this video how walking the Camino de Santiago inspired him to start writing.  He wrote his first book, The Pilgrimage, after he walked the Camino.

It just so happens that the Camino runs past not far from my back door and is thus easily accessible whenever writer’s block strikes. Thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago to Spain every year and pilgrims have walked this route for at least a thousand years. Walking the Camino is, more often than not, a life-changing experience. It can certainly inspire writers, just as it did Coelho as well as a host of other authors.

Today, few people can take off several weeks to walk to Camino from beginning to end. Luckily this is not essential – just walking the Camino for few hours nourishes my creative spirit, so much so that I felt the need to share the experience with others. Those of our Connect with Horses mindfulness and meditation workshop participants who added an extra day to their workshop to walk that Camino have told us that this was one of the highlights of their holiday. With this in mind,  my husband and I created our walking and wine tasting breaks, as an introduction to the Camino de Santiago (St James’ Way/St Jacques de Compostelle) Pilgrim’s Route.

Practicalities

Who?

Our guests usually arrive on a Friday evening, walk the Camino on Saturday and Sunday and leave after breakfast on Tuesday mornings. This is the perfect option for single travellers, couples and small groups

  • who are touring the region and would like to spend a day or two of their holiday walking the Camino,
  • who would like to walk a short distance of the Camino before committing to a longer walk,
  • of writers, authors, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, essayists, poets, composers and songwriters in need of inspiration: follow in Paulo Coelho’s footsteps

Our guests appreciate

  • not having to carry heavy backpacks while walking
  • sleeping in the same bed each night
  • the opportunity to taste some of the region’s excellent wines
  • indulging in some of the region’s famous gastronomy
  • a swim in our 2-acre lake after the day’s walk followed by a well-earned siesta in a hammock or sun-lounger by the lake.

Why?

Attending a walking and wine tasting workshop here in the south of France will enable you to get away from the hustle, bustle and never-ending demands of everyday life, allowing you to recharge your batteries, reconnect with nature, unwind and de-clutter your mind and increase your physical fitness.

Walking the Camino de Santiago is on many people’s bucket list but many are intimidated by the physical and mental demands of walking the full distance – these workshops offer you the opportunity to walk part of the Camino and experience the Camino first-hand: the easy camaraderie between walkers, the breathtaking scenery, the mood-lifting effect of following in the footsteps of walkers who have walked the Camino these last 900 years, sleeping along the way in an ancient French farmhouse, swimming in a private lake at the end of the walking day and sampling the excellent food and wine of the region.

Most of us already know that walking can increase our cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, strengthen our bones, reduce excess body fat, improves digestion, increase muscle power and reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.

But did you know that walking improves not only your physical health but also your mental health?

Walking can make you feel more positive enabling you to handle stressful situations more effectively
Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that spending time in nature substantially decreases the number and frequency of negative thoughts that individuals experience. People who walk for approximately ninety minutes also experience reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness.

Walking without technology can enhance creativity and problem-solving skills
According to a study performed by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David Strayer, connecting with nature as opposed to connecting with technology greatly enhances our creativity. In this study, participants who walked for four days without using any modern technology showed a 50% increase in problem-solving abilities as a result.

Walking improves brain function and prevents memory loss
A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume, which is the section of the brain related to spatial and episodic memory. In other words, walking can prevent memory loss from occurring, in addition to reducing memory loss. Walking can cause the release of endorphins and thus reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing self-esteem.

Where?

Our farm is located near Eauze, so it makes sense for our guests to walk stage 22, from Eauze to Nogaro on Saturday and stage 23, from Nogaro to Aire-sur-Adour, on Sunday.  As this is a walking, writing and wine tasting tour, we take our guests to one of the local wine cellars on Saturday afternoon, where they can taste a diverse variety of local red, rosé and white wines.

How?

Our accommodation basically consists of B-and-B, but during the workshops, we provide our guests with the ingredients to make themselves scrumptious sandwiches as a packed lunch on Saturday, Sunday and Monday so that they can walk at their own pace and have lunch where they choose to do so. We also provide dinner on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night. Transport to Eauze and back from Nogaro on Saturday is also included, and so is transport on Sunday to Nogaro and back from Aire-sur-Adour. Even the wine tasting and the transport to and from the wine cellar is included.

Program 

Saturday: On the first day, guests walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostella from EAUZE to NOGARO. This section is 20 km (12. miles) long and takes about 5 hours to walk. The walk meanders through woods, vineyards, meadows, orchards and sunflower fields from the Roman and cathedral city of Eauze towards Manciet, a small market town with a beautifully preserved lavoir. It continues past an ancient church that once belonged to the Order of the Knights of Malta and an 18th-century milestone with a Maltese cross to Nogaro or Nogarium, which means ‘a place planted with walnut trees.’ This small town was established in the 11th century and has a fine Romanesque church.

Sunday: The second day’s walk is from NOGARO to AIRE SUR ADOUR. The full walk is (28 km 17,4 miles) but we encourage our guests to opt for a shorter walk (23 km or 14.3 miles). The shorter walk takes 5 hours to walk. The walk is fairly flat: Nogaro is at 100m above sea level and Aire is at 80m above sea level. The path passes by several ancient farmhouses, along the vineyards towards Lanne-Soubiran and onwards towards Barcellone-du-Gers, a small town adjacent to Aire. From Barcellone the scenery changes, The vineyards give way to trees: oaks, pines and chestnuts until one finally arrives in the beautiful town of Aire-sur-Adour, on the mighty Adour river.

Monday: Wine tasting in the morning and writing meditation in the afternoon. Lots of free time for writing, relaxing and recharging your batteries after the two day’s walking.

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Neither of the walks is particularly strenuous. There are no steep hills to clamber up nor deep valleys to scale down, but a certain level of fitness is essential to be able to walk for several hours a day. So is a pair of decent, well broken-in walking shoes. The route is very well indicated. The walk is self-guided, but if anything should go wrong, help is just a phone call away.

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Details

  • This weekend getaway starts on a Friday evening from 18h00 and ends at 11H00 the next Tuesday.
  • Bookings can be made from March to November.
  • We require a 25% non-refundable deposit to secure your booking.
  • Our farm is located in the Gers department, 90 minutes south-east of Bordeaux and is easily accessible by car, train or plane: there are 5 international airports less than 2 hours’ drive from us – Pau, Tarbes/Lourdes, Toulouse, Biarritz and Bordeaux (see “Travel Options” below).
  • Guests who would like to explore the region or who want to spend some time in the peaceful surroundings writing can choose to arrive a day or two early or stay a day or two longer on a bed-and-breakfast basis.
  • Accompanying guests, who might not want to do the walking/wine tasting, are also welcome.

The Gastronomy of Gascony

As our guests use up a lot of energy while walking the Camino, we ensure that they do not go hungry by enticing them to indulge in the best food and wine that our region has to offer: freshly baked, crunchy French bread, wildflower-flavoured honey, jam made from the fruit grown in our orchard, vegetables just-picked in our potager and pure spring water…Our food is simple but delicious and we aim to give your digestive tract as much of a rest as the rest of you while feeding your body as well and as generously as your mind.

This is most definitely not a detox retreat, but rather a celebration of the wonderful variety of fresh local produce available from our garden as well as from the local weekly fresh food markets. This region is known for its abundant gourmet cuisine and we would not dream of depriving our guests of the pleasure and benefits that can be had.

Even the wine of the region is reputed to have healing and anti-aging properties (see Prof Roger Corder’s book The Red Wine Diet) and the people of the region live some of the longest and healthiest lives in Europe.

If you have any intolerances, allergies or dislike some ingredient or food, please let us know during your booking.

Travel

Our farm is also located near a small but lively little town called Nogaro, founded in 1065, a stop-over town on the St Jacques de Compostella pilgrims’ route. Nogaro is in the Midi-Pyrenées region in the south-west of France.

  • Air: The most convenient, if not the most eco-friendly way to travel here, depending on where you are coming from, is by air. Several of the low-cost airlines fly to the 5 international airports closest to us: Pau, (40 minutes) Lourdes (40 minutes) and Biarritz, Toulouse and Bordeaux (just under 2 hours). For the convenience of our guests, we offer transfers from Pau and Tarbes – at additional cost. From Toulouse airport, there is a train to Auch (50 min from us), and from Bordeaux airport, there is a train to Mont de Marsan (45 min from us). We also offer transfers from Auch and Mont de Marsan – at additional cost. It is also possible to travel from these airports/train stations by taxi or by using the carpooling website BlaBlaCar.fr – we pick up our guests from Nogaro at no additional cost.
  • Train: Another comfortable and much more eco-friendly option is to travel here by train, from Paris/London/several other European cities. Trains go to Toulouse station and from there to Auch station – or otherwise to Bordeaux station and from there to Mont de Marsan station. You can book your train ticket (in English) on the SNCF Voyages website. Prices are often very reasonable, especially if one books in advance. Travelling by train also reduces carbon emissions – much better for the environment.
  • Car: If you are coming from the UK, you can choose to travel in your own car and take a ferry across the channel – very useful if you are planning on buying some of the excellent wine of our region. We also offer additional nights on a bed-and-breakfast basis at £55/night for a double bedroom, should any of our visitors wish to extend their stay and explore the area.

It is crucially important to us that our holidays do as little damage to the environment as possible, while at the same time contribute to the local community’s economy. 

Investment

  • The cost of a 5-day walking, writing and wine tasting workshop, as described above, starts at £549 per person.
  • Guests can choose to prolong their visit with a day or two on a bed-and-breakfast basis at £55 per room per night.
  • Balance of payment is due at least 30 days prior to each holiday. Please note: As our deposits are not refundable and our cancellation policy is firm, we strongly recommend the purchase of adequate travel insurance.  Any cancellation received in writing up to 30 days before the holiday starts will result in a loss of 50% of the holiday price. Any cancellation made in writing less than 30 days before the holiday starts, or once the holiday has started, will result in a total loss of funds. Depending on availability, you can choose to transfer your booking to another date without incurring any additional fees. We reserve the right to cancel the holiday (if we do so your deposit is refunded in full).

Included

  • Accommodation in a single or double room: prices are based on double occupancy.
  • All meals, from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 4. Tea and coffee are available during the day.
  • Local transport from the farm to walks (where applicable) and from walks back to the farm as well as transport to and from the cellar for the wine tasting.

Not included

  • Travel insurance.
  • Travel costs to nearest airport/train station/self-drive expenses.
  • Travel costs from nearest airport/train station to the farm. We offer transfers at additional cost (see above).

A walking, writing and wine tasting tour in this part of the world is a very special experience…the best way to discover why our guests come back year after year is to visit in person.

So seize this exceptional opportunity to spend a few nights with us NOW…to help you make your trip a special one, please let us know you are coming by making a reservation. E-mail us on welcome2gascony[at]gmail.com to check availability with “Walking, writing and Wine Tasting” as the subject heading.

A warm welcome awaits you amidst the Saint Mont, Armagnac and Madiran vineyards in the sun-blessed south-west of France!

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Walking and Writing in the south of France