Woman in Pilates teaser in front of blue door

Sunshine and relaxation: Pilates retreat in South West France

I love teaching Pilates classes in London; I’ve got lots of different types of classes, from Pilates corporate classes in the city to private groups in lovely front rooms. Life running Pilates classes London can be pretty hectic, as much as I love my clients and sharing the fun of Pilates with them a break is always welcome.  If you have spent any time in the city, you know how hectic London can be.

I was really lucky to have a break from the city, leaving the early autumn chill of London for the late summer sun of Gascony, South West France, where I joined a group of Pilates teachers from across the UK on a Pilates retreat at Domaine due Domaine du Pignoulet.

Flying into Lourdes airport (where most of my fellow passengers were off to their Pilgrimage at the holy site) I felt that I was off on a modern day retreat; escaping from the bustle and busyness of city living and working.

On arrival at La Pignoulet we were greeted with sunshine and a chilled glass of Rose by our lovely hosts Susie and James.  We were taken to our rooms, rooms allocated; it was time for the serious business of meeting the other guests.

Glass of wine, carafe of red and bottle of white

Rose, white or red. Decisions, decisions.

La Pignoulet is an old farm house, probably the equivalent of a manor house in this tiny village of 200 or so inhabitants. We had lunch in one of the converted barn spaces, well, with the sun heating up our bones; it would have been such a waste not to. It was the first meal of the weekend and it set the standard for the rest of our meals, we were spoiled with fresh local produce, well, it was rural France after all.

Cheese and figs on a plate

Sampling the local produce.

After lunch, it was a tough call, sit by the pool with my book or nibble on some delicious home-made cake? Needless to say, I did both.

Pool, greenery and bright blue sky

What to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon?

During our first Pilates class, I almost regretted my extra slice of home-made cake, or maybe it was the early start to catch my flight that made me a little less mobile than usual…. it could not have been the cheeky rose top up at the end of lunch, I am sure.  Susie taught the session and shared some lovely new movements with us. Pilates class in an outdoor studio in the early evening sun, truly, a Pilates teacher’s dream.

Pilates mat on studio floor with ball and bricks set up

Ready for Pilates class

After another break, chatting with my fellow teachers, it was already time for dinner. Once again Susie and James treated us well with a luscious 3 course meal and wine; I seemed to have a bottomless glass. But, then, I am sure that I read somewhere that red wine is good for you?

Glasses and plate on table. Glass with red wine

Local red wine, amazing stuff, it never came to an end.

My room backed onto fields, for miles and miles, looking out of the window first thing in the morning was just blissful. A real reminder that we were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing much to do.  We’d all found it pretty easy to wind down and get into the way of life, slow, relaxed and chilled. La Pignoulet is the great escape.

Shutters open onto sunny field

A room with a sunny, relaxing rural view.

After an energising snack first thing, it was my turn to teach a class to the other Pilates teachers, no pressure there then…. It was a chilly start to the day, but I’m pleased to say that we moved enough to get some to peel off a hoodie layer or two.

Women in Pilates studio floor with legs in the air

Pilates teachers, rolling with it.

After breakfast, which featured delightful the grilling of a pile of tomatoes that the neighbours had spontaneously given James (I told you, it’s rural France) we headed to the nearby market for a relaxed wander. The drive, the drive, the drive, through fields of late sunflowers, corn and cereals, it was a far cry from wrestling with the Jubilee line and Green Park.

Plate on a table stacked with tomatoes

When good neighbours become…good donors of tomatoes

Surprisingly for me, I didn’t buy anything at the market. My Ryanair one-bag policy saved me from spending a fortune on the yummy cheese and loading up on sheepskin gloves and slippers for winter…. next time.

Woman standing with back to the sun and old buildings

Avoiding shopping at the Sunday market

Back at Pignoulet, time for more  food with lunch, another great Pilates class (balance, balls and hip levelling, lots of great stuff to share with my own clients back home). Then more time at the pool, with my book and chatting over tea and more of that moist fruit cake. Our final class was a delicious aromatherapy-based relaxation session. Imagine it, specially blended aromatherapy oils, head massage and the tranquility of the old farm building. Such. A. Hard. Life.

View of blue sky, old building roof and ladies knee near pool

Sunday evening, best reading room ever.

Pignoulet, relaxed, calm and joyful.  Our hosts were kind, generous and great company, the created a space (both in terms of the building and the environment) where a group of us Pilates teachers could come together, bond and really enjoy one of the last weekends of the summer.

Couple standing and smiling in the sunshine

James and Susie. That bread did not last long after we got it back to the table….


Woman in green dress sitting on the doorstep infront of a blue door, under a balcony

Pignoulet I look forward to getting back there again sometime.Need a break from the rat race in London? Find yourself a cheap flight to South West France and make your way to Domaine du Pignoulet. Relax and enjoy.

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