Walking and Wine Tasting Wellness Retreat

A warm welcome awaits you on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella amidst the Saint Mont, Armagnac and Madiran vineyards in the sun-blessed southwest of France!

Hundreds of thousands (over 200,000 in 2019) of people from all walks of life make their way to Santiago de Compostela via one of the pilgrims’ routes each year. For most, it is an unforgettable experience, resulting in a spiritual awakening or renewal. Few return home unchanged. This is your chance to join them, to walk the Camino de Santiago in the south of France and tick it off your bucket list.

Walking the Camino is hard work – unless you choose to do it during this retreat. Everything will be taken care of for you. You do not have to fret about where you will sleep each night – you will sleep in the same comfortable bed each night. You don’t need to lug around a heavy backpack with all your belongings every day – you will be taken to the start of the walk each morning and will be picked up at the end each afternoon. On your return after a hard day’s walking a hot/cold shower awaits as well as a healthy, home-grown and homemade meal – all YOU have to do is concentrate on experiencing everything that walking the Camino has to offer.

You arrive in time for dinner on Day 1, walk the Camino on Day 2, 3, 4 and leave after breakfast on Day 5. One afternoon after your walk, you will have the opportunity to visit a local wine cellar, where you can sample some of the best wines the region has to offer.

It’s very easy to get here – first per train/plane to Bordeaux or Toulouse. From Bordeaux to Mont de Marsan by train and then by bus to Nogaro. From Toulouse by train to Auch, from there per bus to Nogaro. Easiest is to pick up a hire car in Bordeaux/Toulouse. You can also fly to Pau/Tarbes-Lourdes/Biarritz. Best website for planning your trip is Rome2Rio.com.

I look forward to welcoming you here!

This retreat can be combined with the Intermittent Fasting retreat.

Introduction

Walking the Camino is, more often than not, a life-changing experience.

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Today, few people can take off several weeks to walk to Camino from beginning to end. Luckily this is not essential – even just walking the Camino for a few hours a day nourishes my 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 has told me that this was one of the highlights of their holiday. With this in mind, 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 Day 1, walk the Camino on Day 2 ,3, 4 and leave after breakfast on Day 5. This is the perfect option for single travellers, couples and small groups

  • who is 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 artists, writers, authors, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, essayists, poets, composers and songwriters in need of inspiration: follow in Paulo Coelho’s footsteps

My 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

Why?

Attending a walking and wine tasting retreat here in the south of France will enable you to get away from the stress caused by this pandemic, 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 retreats 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 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?

Les Trois Tilleuls is located near Nogaro and Eauze, so it makes sense for my guests to walk stage 22, from Eauze to Nogaro and stage 23, from Nogaro to Aire-sur-Adour.  As this is a walking and wine tasting retreat, I take my guests to one of the local wine cellars one afternoon, where they can taste a variety of local red, rosé and white wines (COVID restrictions permitting.)

How?

The accommodation basically consists of B-and-B, but during the retreats, we provide our guests with scrumptious brunch during which they can make sandwiches to take with them on Day 2, 3 and 4. Guests can thus walk at their own pace and have lunch where they choose to do so. I also provide dinner on Day 1, 2, 3 and 4. Transport to and from the Camino is included. Even the wine tasting and the transport to and from the wine cellar is included.

Program 

Day 2: On the first day, guests walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostella from EAUZE to MANCIET. This section is about 10 km (6 miles) long and takes about 2,5 – 3 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.

Day 3: On the second day, guests walk from MANCIET to NOGARO. The route 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. The walk takes about 2,5-3 hours to walk and is about  10km (6 miles.)

Day 4: The third 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) if they prefer. 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.

Day 5: Leave after brunch.

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None 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. The daily program is adjustable according to weather conditions.

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Daily

  • 09:30 Brunch
  • 10:30 Transport to the Camino
  • 11:00 Walk the Camino with brunch where and when ready
  • 15:00-17:00 Pick-up at end of the day’s walk (one day will include a visit to a local wine cellar)
  • 17:30 Journalling
  • 19:30 Dinner

Details

  • This weekend getaway starts on the evening of Day 1 from 18h00 and ends at 11H00 on Day 5.
  • Bookings can be made from March to November.
  • We require a 25% non-refundable deposit to secure your booking.
  • Les Trois Tilleuls is located in the Gers department, less than 2 hours 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.
  • Swedish/Russian massage available on-site (additional fee.)

The Gastronomy of Gascony

As guests use up a lot of energy while walking the Camino, I 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, home-made jam and vegetables just-picked in the potager… Gascon food is simple but delicious and I 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 my garden as well as from the local weekly fresh food markets. This region is known for its abundant gourmet cuisine and I would not dream of depriving my guests of the pleasure and benefits that can be had.

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

Travel

The house is 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 me: Pau, (50 minutes) Lourdes (50 minutes) and Biarritz, Toulouse and Bordeaux (just under 2 hours). From Toulouse airport, there is a train to Auch (55 min from us), and from Bordeaux airport, there is a train to Mont de Marsan (40 min from us). It is also possible to travel from these airports/train stations by taxi or by using the carpooling website BlaBlaCar.fr – I pick up my 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 this region. We also offer additional nights on a bed-and-breakfast basis at 69 euro/night for a double bedroom, should any of our visitors wish to extend their stay and explore the area.

It is crucially important to me that my 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 4-night walking and wine tasting retreat, as described above, starts at 699 euro per person.  Also available are 7-day walking and wine tasting holidays, these are priced at 899 euro per person.
  • Guests can choose to prolong their visit by a day or two on a bed-and-breakfast basis at 69 euro 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 brunch on day 5. Tea and coffee are available during the day.
  • Local transport from the property 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.
  • Swedish/Russian massages on request – additional fee
  • Walking meditations with my Friesian horses

A walking 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 here NOW…to help you make your trip a special one, please let me know you are coming by making a reservation. E-mail me on welcome2gascony[at]gmail.com to check availability with “Walking and Wine Tasting” as the subject heading.

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Walking and Writing in the south of France