Travel Diary, the yoga retreat in Montbron, France

Day 12, Saturday, June 28 – Day 18, Friday, July 4
At the Montparnasse station we easily found most of the members of our yoga group, who spent the following week with us.  We were more than an hour early, but the track number of our train was only announced 20 minutes before departure, so hundreds of people streamed down the track at once.  This was one of the famous high velocity trains (TGV), but boarding was worse than anything we underwent in Africa.  Every seat was taken, and there was not nearly enough room for all of our baggage.  Some suitcases had to be left sitting in the entrance way, to be moved into the coach as passengers got off.

But the ride going southwest to Angoulème took less than 3 hours, as we joked that the champagne cart must be coming any minute.  Our yoga teacher Wendy met us along with Bruce, our friend from last year in Chichester, England.  They drove two vans so there was plenty of room for the 40 minute ride to Montbron.

We ten yoga students all lived for the week in the home of Bruce and Sally Woodhead, a stately building at one end of a town square that is lined with linden trees, blooming fragrantly at the time.  We had a large bedroom overlooking the extensive gardens behind the house, really six areas each planted with distinctive color schemes.  The house is loaded with antiques and books, and in one living room are two grand pianos.

At 4 pm tea, Bruce introduced us to a local sweet white wine, pineau.  Sally’s cooking deserves a Michelin star.  I noted the menu every evening, but here I will just list the first dinner: salade niçoise and a mélange of grains, including quinoa, with cheesecake for dessert.

Wendy offered an hour of yoga each morning and an hour before dinner.  I was the only one who did all 14 hours in the week.  Bruce remodeled a shed into a yoga/art studio perfect for our classes, except twice when we enjoyed yoga on the lawn.

Our outings on different days: We went to a village swap meet where I bought some gifts and we watched rival villages compete in stunts like a three-legged race or rolling a hay bale.  The castle of the Duke of Rochefoucauld (rosh-foo-koh), the 43rd generation of his family to own that property.  We did not meet him, but his grandmother, who lives there, spent 90 minutes with us, showing us the rooms and telling us the history.  She made the point that people who are born in castles don’t care about them; it is people who marry into the family, like herself, who keep them going.  In Montbron we visited another swap meet and the local museum of prehistory, which stretches back past the Druids all the way to the Neanderthals.

We skipped a couple of outings and took time for Joan to practice Chopin and for me to read.  We all enjoyed a trip to nearby Brantome, where a natural spring supported settlements from the earliest times and a prosperous monastery in the Middle Ages.

Day 19, Saturday, July 5 – Day 20, Sunday, July 6
Returning to Paris by train, we found our reserved hotel on the Left Bank: tiny rooms, but a view over the street from the 6th floor and helpful staff.  We chose the hotel because it is on Rue Monge, one block from our favorite shops on Rue Mouffetard.  At dinner time we walked up Mouffetard to see the apartment building where we lived for two months in 2004.  The owner of the nearby CD/LP store remembered Joan and confirmed for us that our corner was indeed where Woody Allen filmed the magic taxi that picked up Owen Wilson every night in Midnight in Paris.  We had a wonderful pizza for dinner.

And Sunday was the day of our smooth and happy return home to find a happy dog and the house well cared for by our friend Mariana.

Thanks for reading.

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