France - The Pyrenees
Hatha yoga by the foot of the French Pyrenees
You will be welcomed by Mike and Dagmar, both British. Their small and beautiful mansion is located in the heart of the lower Pyrenees in a region adjacent to Spain and Andorra. Here are two large, fully equipped yoga studios. One is on the top floor in the castle with french windows out towards the estate and the pond in front. The second yoga studio is located in a renovated stone barn which is to some extent built against a dramatic cliff. This makes it perfect during hot summer days as it stays cool in there.
The main building is a small castle built in 1772, it has been totally renovated and modernized. It is located in a small, calm valley surrounded by tree covered hills, wildflower covered fields and right next to a creek. There is a small pond in front of the castle. It fills up from one of the many water sources on the estate and runs out in to the creek which makes the water in it very clear. It is very refreshing to take a swim in it and thanks to a whole choir of frogs it is free from mosquitoes.
Dagmar who will be your yoga instructor has the original Hathayoga as her base. She was educated at the British Wheel of Yoga 1981 and has been teaching at sport centers and privately for more than 25 years. Dagmar has except from Hathayoga also studied Iyengaryoga for three years, Viniyoga, Sivananda and the Desikachar method. In her classes they are all combined and adjusted after the participants level and need.
The morning class will be 09.30-10.30 and the evening class will be 18.00-19.00. The classes suits all levels, from beginners to experienced yogis. Dagmar is also offering guided meditation to help you relax and calm down. This is offered Monday and Thursday night 21.30-22.00.
Dagmar combines all aspects of yoga, from cautious to challenging. You get the opportunity to experience or regain healthy energy everyday through yoga classes intended to develop your own potential.
Here are two large, fully equipped yoga rooms. One is on the top floor in the castle with french windows looking out over the estate. The other one is located in a renovated stone barn which is partly built against a cliff which makes it a perfect and cool place during hot summer days. Here you can breathe in the fresh air, a pleasure and gift for those who practice yogic breathing. There is a very friendly and sweet little cat who lives in the castle and sometimes joins the yoga classes.
You will live in one of the two traditional stonehouses next to the main building. They are beautifully restored and renovated with original material for a living with high standard. The rooms are available for arrival after 16.00 and the departure is before 10.00.
In this building there are three bedrooms, all with their own bathroom. Two of the rooms are located on the second floor, one of them has a double bed and the other one has two separate beds. The third room is on the bottom floor and has two separate beds.
There is a fully equipped kitchen/dining room with logs in the ceiling and a view of green fields and a rolling landscape. It is often possible to see deer who come by to drink from the pond in the early mornings.
The spacious, cool and comfortable livingroom has walls made of stone from the surroundings and if you look closely you can see fossils in them. There are french doors leading from the livingroom out to a terrace with a nice yard outside. You can sit out on the terrace and enjoy the nature and calmness surrounding you.
The bottom floor in The Grange started out as a stable, feed stock and a place where they produced wine. It is now renovated and has been changed in to four double rooms and one single room, all with their own bathrooms.
On the second floor where hay used to be stored are now two double rooms, two fully equipped kitchens and one large livingroom which continues on out in to a long balcony where you can sit and eat or just relax in the shade. If you want to relax in the sun there is a big terrace. There is also a pergola for those who do not want to be out in the bright sun light.
It is possible to connect to Wi-Fi on your own computer, but it is not something that is encouraged since the thought with this trip is that you are going to relax and disconnect from work and email.
Self-catering or eating out
You will cook your own food or enjoy the food at one off the many local restaurants. There are three spacious kitchens available for guests, all equipped with stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator and freezer. When you arrive you will get a welcome package and a little something to eat.
There is a small store and café about a ten minute walk or a 5 minute bikeride from where you are staying. In the store you can find food and some supplies etc. A little bit further away it is possible to buy fruitpies which are baked in a woodburning oven. In the next village, Maury, you can find an excellent delicacy store which is specialized in regional products.
The closest city is Le Mas d'Azil. It is about 8 kilometers away and there you can find two supermarkets, a butcher, bakery, pharmacy, ATM etc. There are also two restaurant, one café and one good pizzeria where you can eat in or take away. Both supermarkets have departments for organic products (in France marked Bio or Eco). The closest store which has specialized in organic health food is located in Saint Girons which is about 16 km from where you are staying.
It is fun to visit one of the local markets, not just because of their selection of locally produced products but also to experience how locals meet and interact.
The traditional french Plât du Jour eller Menu du Jour, which are the daily specials, are offered at most restaurants and cafées every weekday and is a good option if you do not want to cook yourself. One course is about 7 EUR and a three course lunch, sometimes including win and coffee, costs from 9 EUR and up.
The area has several good restaurants to choose from, ranging from trendy places in the cities to cozy mountain restaurants with terraces hanging over the rushing waters. Mike and Dagmar are happy to tell you where to go.
Holistic treatments, optional
There is a treatment room in the castle and you can choose between following:
- Reiki, an ancient healing method with hand application
- Soft massage, a combination of Swedish massage, Shitatsu (pressurepoints) and different Asian techniques.
- Energy massage, a relaxing massage which is good when you are stressed, have a headache and are tired.
- Asian acupressure massage, good for stress, muscle pain and circulation problems.
- Tachyon treatment, crystals are used to steer energy to problem areas in your body.
- Foot reflexology, pressure at certain points under your feet.
Ariege is France's best kept vacation secret. It is one of the least populated and most untouched parts of the country and the people living here is keeping the old traditions alive. Here is a large amount of butterflies and orchids thanks to the old farming methods. Ariege has always offered an escape from the cities. Our ancestors took protection in the many caves and catharsis while they were fighting against the church and so did the refugees when they were escaping from the Nazis during the second world war.
Caves: Ariege has the largest concentration of caves in all of France. It is also one of the last places where you can see real cave paintings, created by the magdalenians around 12000-9000 years before Christ.
Waterfall: There are plenty of waterfalls in the valleys around Arieges. The most famous and impressing one is Cascade d'Ars which falls 110 meter in three different segments.
Underground rivers: Labouiche is the longest navigable river in Europe. It is 60 meters under ground. You can take a guided tour along 1.5 km of the river, where you slowly pass ghostlike rock formations.
Medieval cities: St. Lizier, which is only about 16 km from the place where you are staying, is officially classed as one of France most beautiful villages. There are many more in the surrounding area for example: Mirepoiz, St. Ybars, St. Martin d'Oydes, Carla Bayle and Tourtouse.
Cathar castles: The Cathars religion was, in some parts of France, established during the 11th and 12th century. It was crushed in 1244 after the assault of the castle Montsegur.
Local festivities: During the summer there are several festivals taking place. Festivals with music, dance and art themes are common during this time.
The time between yoga classes can be spent in the surrounding nature. The untouched and sparsely populated mountains and hills are perfect for hiking, swimming, bike riding, horse-back riding, fishing etc. It is possible to borrow bikes and Mike offers transportation to fantastic hiking trails up in the mountains.