Fortune graced me with the opportunity to spend two weeks in Paris in early December. It wasn’t my first trip so there was no need to play tourist bingo. Instead, I had the luxury of seeking out a few alternative highlights. Here are some of my favourite discoveries.
It was time for two and a half days of Wong time, attending a Chakra workshop series taught by Master Duncan Wong in Paris. I was there for the two base Chakra sessions: Muladhara (roots) and Swadhisthana (pleasure and self-expression). Having attended Duncan’s teacher training as part of a retreat in Italy I knew what I was letting myself in for – lots of energy, action, passion and knowledge. The main thing I felt during the workshops was my lack of strength and power. But I was in the right place to work on this.
As well as these two days of intensive yoga practice, my trip to Paris included a visit to the Rodin Museum to see the work of this nineteenth century master sculptor and painter. I clearly still had yoga on the brain because the toned muscularity of these sculptures was what struck me most, alongside their beauty and the skill of creating them. Some of the sculptures bore striking similarity to yoga poses…
Since completing my yoga teacher training, a few friends have said they would like to take the plunge too. They always admit this with some trepidation, as if it might be an unachievable goal, which of course it isn’t. This makes me smile because I know that if their heart is in it, they will have an incredible, positive experience and no regrets. So, for any prospective teacher trainees, here is my honest take on what it is like to commit to the mat and learn to teach yoga.
It was with great reluctance that I first stepped into the Roda; a small circle of French people clapping their hands and singing in Portuguese. The prospect of someone aiming a kick at me while I sheepishly ducked in the centre of the group didn’t fill me with joy.
But when you are living in a small village in a foreign country you are more willing to try new things to make friends. So it was that our estate agent Olivier (one of our closest friends in the village) convinced us to join him in his weekly Capoeira class.
I’ve always had a thing for water parks. Ever since I was first introduced to the gargantuan slides at Aqualand Ste Maxime (well, they seemed larger than life to a skinny seven year old girl) I’ve sought out aquatic adrenaline-kicks. True to form, one of the highlights of my recent yoga retreat was jumping off the top of a waterfall and swimming in the fresh water below.
And so this summer, I made it my mission to seek out the best spots in the South of France for fresh water fixes. My most prized discovery was the Bain du Sémite, a bathing spot, near Saorge in the Alpes-Maritimes. This natural waterpark had the clearest, freshest water I’ve ever had the pleasure of submersing myself in and a series of magnificent waterfalls (or cascades, in French) to explore.
Noticing the inscription, 1892, I pondered on the bathers who might have enjoyed its qualities over years gone by. On doing some research, I found that some mischievous soldiers had added the inscription “Le Bain du Sémite, 1892” themselves just before the First World War. It is said that they named the spot after a friend of theirs; a Jewish soldier, who apparently had a penchant for riding his horse naked into the waters, even in the icy depths of winter. There were no naked soldiers on my watch but the experience was made extra special by the presence of clusters of yellow butterflies gathering at the ravine that day.
On a gusty Sunday in January we took a long and ambling walk along one of the most stunning stretches of the Côte d’Azur – the national park that runs from Cap Lardier to Plage de Gigaro. Here are some pictures to try and capture just how beautiful it is here. Tip: If you visit out of season you’ll get the place almost to yourself!
We’re now starting to understand why the locals in our village look at us with some concern when we tell them we are here for the whole year and are not just sun seekers on a jolly holiday. It gets pretty quiet here in January. The plane trees, which give such an iconic look to the whole village, are raising up their bare branches, as if they’re asking themselves where the sun has gone. Most of the restaurants have closed their doors for the season. And the villagers have retreated behind their shutters seemingly to hibernate for the winter. I’m sort of doing the same, staying in most evenings, watching old episodes of Twin Peaks and soaking up some bleak vibes. So, yes, it appears that even in sunny south of France you can catch the winter blues.