Pignoulet Pilates retreat is the perfect place to take time out and to relax and unwind. And if you just want accommodation (or B&B), Pignoulet can also be booked without Pilates classes.
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Pignoulet Pilates retreat – a place to be calm and reflect
Have you ever considered a Pilates retreat? Or for that matter, any time out for YOU? Sometimes we need to stop… Breathe… Reflect… And heal. So, I want to tell you about my experience at the amazing Domaine du Pignoulet in Gascony, France. And why retreats are great for the soul.
Back in 2018, I was lucky enough to spend an amazing weekend at Pignoulet, with the loveliest group of bloggers you’re ever likely to meet. Some I already knew and some I didn’t. But we were all there for the same reason… To spend time practicing a little Pilates and taking a step back from our crazy family lives… with delicious food and calm… LOTS of calm.
Susie and James – hosts and nurturers
Pignoulet is run by Susie and James… A couple of Brits who have taken the bold step of leaving behind the UK rat-race to pursue a more peaceful existence in the south of France. They bought this wonderful character-filled ex-farmhouse in 2016 from James’ parents and now share its zen and beauty with the rest of us by way of opening it to paying guests.
Susie and James have undertaken a significant amount of renovation to the property. They can offer anything from holiday rental (sleeping up to 14), to Bed & Breakfast, part or fully catered holidays and either Yoga or Pilates retreats.
I am quite envious of their decisiveness in making the break from UK life-stress. Their ideas and creativity for Pignoulet are inspiring. But they are also such wonderful people with huge hearts and bags of care, that this is clearly a great move for them. Pignoulet offers a little haven of peace and tranquility that is perfect for regenerating the mind, body and soul. And Susie and James are genuinely at the centre of that nurture.
The house at Pignoulet – A perfect venue for a Pilates retreat
Pignoulet is beautifully restored and comfortable, maintaining much of its rustic charm. The old wooden staircases, ornate ironwork, antique furniture, huge French shutters, colourful trinkets and farmyard memorabilia all add to the interest and atmosphere.
The garden which surrounds it is equally delightful. With a large pool enveloped by rural quiet (apart from local bees buzzing round the fig trees), it is ideal for relaxing with friends and family. The whole place is a photographer’s paradise, especially if you like quirky angles, natural charm and nature.
I returned to this beautiful Pilates retreat in 2019 and was impressed with the continuing work being done to renovate still more ramshackle barns. It seems there is a lot more of this old house to give yet…
Perfect timing for a Pilates Retreat
I mentioned above the importance of taking time out to reflect. And the timing of the 2018 Pilates retreat couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
The couple of years before my stay at Pignoulet had been incredibly tough. I had experienced multiple and unexpected bereavements and a close shave with a terror attack in Barcelona. This was set against an emotionally punishing day job where I was experiencing a considerable amount of bullying from managers. Trying to balance my emotions against a demanding full-on home life was tough. The impact was taking its toll on my resilience and my ability to manage and stay strong.
Of course, my own experience was in no way unique. Life was clearly tough for most of us in our group of ten ‘retreaters’. Between us, we had 25 young kids and a myriad of other life, loss, relationship, parenting and health issues. Not only stressed on arrival, we were more than ready to share the vulnerability that experiencing complete relaxation can trigger. The setting of Domaine du Pignoulet invites the opportunity to bond, share and regenerate with those we know. And those we don’t. Driving through the gates, we were welcomed with open arms… and with complete acceptance by Susie and James.
This place has an amazing affect on the soul. Being at Domaine du Pignoulet was the most calm and relaxed I have been in many, many years. Sometimes stepping back from life is exactly what we need… And experiencing these beautiful and tranquil surroundings left me feeling blessed and emotionally restored.
A Pilates retreat for novices and experts
If you have never considered Pilates, I would thoroughly recommend you give it some thought. Regardless of your age or level of fitness, it is a wonderful practice that can be pitched for everyone. Pilates has a particular focus on improving core strength, flexibility, balance and posture. Its methods gently push the body to betterness, but with less risk of damage than other, more strenuous forms of exercise. But don’t be fooled. ‘Gentleness’ in no way limits ‘effectiveness’ and the benefits are quickly felt.
The emphasis on being constantly aware of your breathing and how your body moves, has an additional benefit… Encouraging an incredibly liberating level of mind-body connection. Whether a beginner or more experienced, the focus seemlessly removes disturbance from the white noise around you, allowing complete calm and stillness.
But whether novice or expert, Susie offers Pilates classes tailored to your individual needs. Pignoulet even welcomes external teachers to bring their own Pilates retreat to Gascony.
At Domaine du Pignoulet, the outside studio used for a warm weather pilates retreat is idyllic. Set in an open, converted barn, it is surrounded by fresh air and sounds of the countryside… The perfect ambience and setting for starting my journey on this most healing of activities.
A Determined Novice
Before attending my first Pilates retreat in 2018, I had not done Pilates before. Neither had several of my fellow retreaters. Susie was a wonderful teacher however. A fully trained Pilates instructor, personal trainer, sports massage therapist and nordic walking instructor, she provides gentle encouragement and oversight to get the best out of each session.
With close attention to ensuring we didn’t push ourselves beyond where we were comfortable, the gains were measurable, even over the course of a weekend. Yes… my body had clearly been encouraged to push itself in new directions, but my back and many age-ached joints started to appreciate the new strength they were being offered.
With my return to the UK following the retreat, my determination to continue practising was firm. Now nearly 2 years in, I still attend weekly Pilates classes at a local studio. I’m looking forward to a third Pilates retreat at Pignoulet in the Autumn. My core strength, stability and body health is unrecognisably better.
The food at Pignoulet
The 2018 group that attended Pignoulet were incredibly diverse when it came to food needs. Despite a wide range of allergies, intolerances and dietary preferences to cater for however, Susie and James took feeding us in their stride. They embraced all and each of our needs not only safely, but in a way that made us feel like we were no trouble at all.
As a Coeliac, I frequently encounter rolled eyes and tuts when it comes to catering… So the experience at Pignoulet was refreshing… And reassuring. I allowed myself to embrace that rare feeling of trust around meal times… Susie and James had done their research well and yet were equally open to checking and learning about the micro-risks that were important to health.
Safety approved, the food we ate was amazing. Fresh, local and seasonal produce whipped up into nutritious meals and energy-boosting snacks. All served with genuine care and generosity that can only come when someone has put their heart into making it themselves.
From freshly-grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, kitchen-blended museli, local honey, fresh juice and home-made energy balls at breakfast… To crisp, fresh and colourful salads, olives, cold meats, home-whizzed houmous and local cheeses for lunch… And dinner? All perfectly planned and inclusive 3 course meals… including desserts of boozy figs from the garden and vegan aqua faba chocolate mousse. Everything we ate was not only delicious, but healthy too. In the afternoons we even got treated to tea and gluten free cake… The piece de resistance, was a divine flourless orange cake.
Of course, no weekend of relaxation would be complete without a little tipple… A pampering with delectable local wines and (a favourite) Kir Royale… That heavenly combination of champagne with an infusion of Creme de Cassis.
The local Area…
Although we stayed at Domaine du Pignoulet on a Pilates retreat, the house is also available to book as holiday accommodation, with or without catering. I last visited Gascony many years ago. But this trip reminded me of its beauty and potential as a holiday destination in its own right. Pignoulet sits close to the Pyrenees and to centres such as Toulouse and Lourdes as well as many pretty small towns and villages. It is an ideal location for hiking, cycling, swimming, running, horse riding and fishing. Or just sightseeing Gascony, its neighbouring regions and pottering in the local markets.
Would I do another Pignoulet Pilates Retreat?
Although invited to attend Domaine du Pignoulet on a bloggers Pilates retreat, I honestly cannot shout loudly enough about the wonderfulness of the experience I had there. From the attention to detail, homeliness and comfort, to the emotional acceptance and carefully facilitated Pilates sessions. Not to mention the delicious home-cooked food and the opportunity to connect in such beautiful surroundings with a group of women I now firmly call friends. It is a time I will treasure forever.
Would I go back? I already have. I visited again for a slightly longer Pilates retreat in Autumn 2019 and have booked to return this year as well.
If you too would like to experience a little piece of this Pilates paradise or spend some time in this most beautiful of French regions, visit the Domaine du Pignoulet website and contact Susie and James for more information. I seriously cannot recommend it enough.
For more advice on travelling Gluten Free and with Coeliac, check out our page on Gluten Free Travel Tips and Planning. We also have information on other travel Destinations we have visited. And also lots of Travel-Inspired Recipes too.
For other reviews on the Pignoulet bloggers retreat :
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I was invited (2018) to attend a bloggers retreat at Domaine du Pignoulet. All views and opinions on the trip are absolutely my own. I have shared a completely honest account of my experience. The costs of accommodation were covered by the retreat, however I paid for all flights and transfers myself. I have since returned as a fully paying guest.