Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Yoga and Wild Swimming in the Dordogne

Dordogne, France. Thursday/Thursday 22/29-June-2023.

My first ever yoga retreat after 46 years of doing yoga. I was a little apprehensive, thinking it might be a bit lentils and brown rice and rather serious. As it turned out, it was much more hedonistic than I was expecting. 

It is true that most days there were about four hours of yoga: hatha yoga in the morning and yin yoga late afternoon plus some breathing exercises, but in between times it was more about relaxing and sunbathing and swimming in the lake. In the evening, we ate well and reasonable quantities of wine were consumed. 

There were also trips to nearby villages for a Sunday market and lunch, a small music event and a local wine producer to sample his wares.

The classes were held in a Gîte by a lake. We also had our meals there.

Our gîte was 10 minutes walk from the main house and lake.

We drew the lucky straw and got the most spacious bedroom.

Quirky staircase up to our room.

The walk to the main house went through some lovely woodland and past some tame sheep with a resident dog.

It was a Pyrenean Mountain Dog - a livestock guardian dog - who lives in the field with the sheep to protect them from wolves, bears and us, barking almost every day as we walked past.

Our teacher, Dawn, and Bonnie who had misunderstood downward dog.

The lake at dawn. Mary got up every morning for a pre-class swim.

As we were out in unspoiled countryside we saw lots of wildlife, highlights were a short-tailed eagle, a pine marten and a kingfisher. No pictures because they move too fast.

Friday 23rd we went to nearby Saint-Aulaye-Puymangou for a local music concert. A couple of bands were doing a tour of local villages. 

We went along for a listen and a pre-dinner drink.

The second act was using a tape loop sampling North African style music.

Sunday 25th we went to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne for Sunday lunch preceded by a wander round local shops and a market of artisanal crafts and food. I love the phonetic spelling of antique which puts me in mind of Shakespeare "How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself, as I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on" Hamlet.

Monday 26th we were back to Saint-Aulaye-Puymangou to visit Florent Lagrenaudie, a local wine producer, Histoire de Cep.  He might fall into the category of Garagiste winemaker - a group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region, producing "vins de garage", "garage wine" who emerged in the mid-1990s in reaction to the traditional style of red Bordeaux wine.

We tasted three wines and bought two: a white "L'envol" a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon blanc, and a red "Espelida" a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A man not afraid to buy used oak casks and re-use them. Personally I was never convinced about using 100% new oak: it’s expensive and risks overshadowing the grape itself.

One morning a couple of the girls went skinny dipping and Mary persuaded them to do a Calendar Girls shot. It's brilliant.

That meant a full team photo had to follow a few days later. As photographer I had to hide behind a bush, eyes averted until I was give the all clear to turn round.

Amazingly Mary, a complete yoga novice, took part in every session bar one and surprised herself with an attention span longer than her normal 20 minutes.

My background is Iyengar and Hatha yoga so it was interesting to try Yin yoga and some breathing techniques with a bit of philosophical background thrown in.

A week of yoga, wild swimming, wildlife and friendship in the Dordogne. A unique and enriching experience in so many ways.

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