Saturday, September 25, 2010

If you fancy a relaxing retreat in the heart of Languedoc, the place to go is Gardoussel, a wonderful stone-built complex of gites and workrooms with stunning views, yoga decks, gardens, a field complete with donkeys, and a warm communal kitchen providing fabulous Ayurvedic meals throughout the day.

A perfect place to write and just be, not too isolated from the community as there's a village about a mile down the river road: St André de Valborgne, a one horse town without a horse, but with lovely traditional stone buildings and a sandy boule rink outside the only café where locals gather. No room for much more as the high foothills of the Cévennes edge close as hungry cats, their pine-dense crags and sweet chestnut forests looming steeply on either side.
I first came here two years ago, and eulogised about the venue, Sharon and Alex who run it, their family, and their way of life: it’s the most tranquil and inspiring place you could find anywhere in the world.

Unsurprisingly, my writing sessions last week were an absolute delight, a great group of warm-hearted individuals who generated a sense of immediate friendship as well as producing some amazing writing to share in our morning and evening sessions. In the afternoons I explored the forest trails, going for miles seeing no-one, both exhilarated and scared, once escorted by a mysterious wolf-dog, swimming by the waterfalls, finding masses of orchids and a four-leafed clover. Equinox full moon added even more enchantment to this magic place. As the old man in the café said: “Un peu sauvage, mais vraiment cool.”

Gardoussel – what can I say that's negative? No waitress service with cheery muzac in the dining-room, no cocktail bar, no Full English fries, no Jeremy Kyle in the lounge, no jostling coachloads, no tour guide, no artificiality, nothing that doesn’t feel nourishing, and warm, and generous, and right.

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