Christmas Reading Retreat

for book lovers in the south of France

How many times during Christmas holidays in the past have you wished to be left alone to read your book in front of a roaring fireplace, with a mug of coffee/chocolate/gluhwein in your hand, a Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, a soft rug warming your knees and your feet tucked under you in a comfy chair? At this Christmas Reading Retreat, your wish can become reality.

When all you wished was to sit quietly and undisturbed, with your nose in your favourite book, you instead had to cope with a house full of guests. You had to get the Christmas Day meal (with all the trimmings) ready, listen to your family endlessly complaining about this, that and the other, clean up after everyone and keep the children from killing each other, or the dog or the cat etc.

Undisturbed Reading Bliss is within Reach

at this Christmas Reading Retreat

If this sounds like your last Christmas, how about escaping this year to a winter wonderland in the south of France, where you’ll be able to spend the whole day reading if that’s what you want? You won’t have to worry about meals, or about keeping the peace, or about keeping the house standing. No one will make demands on your time, or make ever-more-desperate attempts to get your attention, or blow up the kitchen in an attempt to help with the cooking…

Here in the heart of the Cotes de Gascogne vineyards, you can read to your heart’s content. You can go for short (or long) walks in the glorious surrounding countryside. You can sit down to scrumptious meals without having to do any cooking, and sleep as long as you want in a cosy bedroom in this 200-year-old, lovingly restored French farmhouse.

Book Lovers gather for a Christmas Reading Retreat

Imagine for a moment that it’s brunch time on Christmas morning. Join me in the reading room. The reader on the chair next to the Godin wood burner is Samantha. She has been curled up in that chair since early this morning, lost in a world of her own. If she is staring round-eyed at the words on the page, it’s because Sam loves horror stories. Let me just get her a hot chocolate to keep her sugar levels up. Lucille is still in bed, she does her best reading there. I am just going to get a brunch tray ready for her…she may join us later today, still in her PJ’s, with a mohair blanket wrapped around her. She’s into murder mysteries. This is her second reading retreat. Tucking into a scrumptious brunch is Sandra and Emily, sounds like they are discussing the merits of the various fantasy sub-genres. On her back on the sofa is Liz, and that must be her 7th romance novel since she arrived two days ago. Just between you and me, she reads them back to back, I don’t think she has slept a wink since her arrival. Better wait until she has finished this chapter before I suggest going to walk part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Just to get the blood circulating again, you know? Communing with nature, and all that.

Read to your heart’s content, without feeling guilty, selfish or lazy.

Your host for this Christmas Reading Retreat, is Dr Margaretha Montagu, a five-time published author and voracious reader herself, who has hosted retreats for more than a decade. She will make sure that you can finally enjoy the stressless Chrismas of your dreams. Every Christmas, she invites a small group of solo travellers and couples into her home. Her one priority is to offer you a home-from-home and enough time to read in peace and quiet. You can choose solitude and spend your time with only your favourite books for company, or you can choose to share some of your time with other readers. Fast-speed internet is available throughout the house, so you can read your books on your tablet or phone, if you prefer, and indulge in watching videos back to back the whole night long if you want.

Going on a reading retreat has become a popular pastime, even business magnate Bill Gates schedules regular week-long reading retreats, when he reads the books he has put aside to be read.

What makes this Christmas Reading Retreat unique?

  • Apart from the fact that it only happens once a year, you can opt for a one-to-one session with a bibliotherapist (additional fee.) Bibliotherapy refers to the use of literature to help people cope with challenges and changes in their lives. A bibliotherapist will help you choose fictional books to empower you to cope with challenges.
  • On Christmas Eve, we celebrate Jolabokaflod, an irresistible Iceland Christmas tradition. Jolabokaflod translates into “Christmas Book Flood.” The tradition is to give and receive books on Christmas Eve and then read until early Christmas morning. In November, a free catalogue of Iceland’s newest books called the Bokatidindi lands in every home’s mailbox, and Icelanders head for the bookstores. We do something similar: each guest brings one (or more) books as Secret Santas to share on Christmas Eve.

Program

  • Anytime: Wake up, pop your glasses on your nose, and start reading.
  • A while later: Get up to get a hot chocolate/coffee/tea with Christmas cookies. Go back to bed (optional.)
  • Mid-morning: Buffet Brunch
  • After brunch: Read a bit (or a lot) more.
  • Mid-afternoon: weather permitting, walk a stretch of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (optional)
  • A bit later: Gather for afternoon tea and a chat with other readers.
  • Early evening: Dinner
  • After dinner: Read a few more chapters.
  • Midnight: Sleep (optional)
  • At your convenience: Short text to family and/or friends to wish them Merry Christmas.

Food

Our food is simple but delicious and we aim to give your digestive tract as much of a rest as the rest of you while feeding your body as well and as generously as your mind.

This is a celebration of the wonderful variety of fresh local produce available from our garden as well as from the local weekly fresh food markets.

In the morning we serve a copious brunch buffet, consisting of cereal, fruit, bread, confiture, honey, milk, yoghurt, typical cheeses and patés of the region. Tea and coffee are available from early, and throughout the day. You can also make sandwiches and take some fruit/yoghurt with you, to eat during your walk.

Dinner is served early and consists of a wholesome, hot homemade soup, a healthy and hearty main course, often vegetarian and often heavily influenced by the cuisine of our Spanish neighbours, followed by something sweet, if required.

We have one meal at a local restaurant to help regenerate the local economy post-COVID. The cost of this meal is not included.

We cater for most diets  (Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Nut-allergy-friendly, Low fat, Sugar conscious, Egg-free, Dairy-free) if you have any intolerances, allergies or dislike some ingredient or food, please let me know during your booking, at the latest two weeks before your arrival.

Retreat Leader

M Montagu

After working for 20 years as a medical doctor in a variety of specialities including psychiatry and general practice, I came to the conclusion that many diseases have their roots in my patients’ inability to handle stress effectively. Instead of treating stress-related illnesses, I decided to look at practical ways that my patients can use to prevent stress from ruining their health. I studied a number of alternative therapies including hypnotherapy and NLP, and eventually combined my education and experience to create the transformational virtual and residential retreats that I host in the south of France.

Dr M Montagu MBChB MRCGP MedHypDip NLP Master Cert Prof Life Coach Cert Counseling CertEAGALA Cert

Location

The venue, deep in the heart of Gascony, less than two hours’ drive south-east of Bordeaux, near a small town called Eauze, is located on several acres of lush, green meadows and is surrounded by vineyards, woods, orchards, and sunflower fields. Secluded but not isolated, this 200-year-old farmhouse is only 3km from a typical local town with all amenities.​

Further afield, you’ll find vineyards, woods, medieval villages, bottomless lakes, orchards, and of course, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

The authentic Landaise farmhouse, some 200 years old and lovingly restored, is set on two levels, with two bedrooms on the ground floor and one on the first floor with glorious views of the surrounding woods, meadows, vineyards and sunflower fields. Some of the bedrooms on the ground floor have doors directly onto a patio and into the garden. Each has a small seating area. There are several seating spots in the garden.

The heart of the house is the reading room, snug and warm in the winter, heated by a Godin wood burner.

The bedrooms have two comfortable beds/a double bed and views of the garden, woods, meadows, and the horses’ paddocks. Fresh towels and linens, an iron and ironing board (used only very rarely!) and a hairdryer are provided.

There is ample, safe, off-road parking.

Free access to high-speed internet. 

In only a few other places you will find all the ingredients of a perfect holiday combined with such abundance as in Gascony: fabulous food, outstanding wine, generous people and the breathtaking beauty of mountains, rivers, lakes and medieval villages perched on hilltops.

Weather

This part of France is protected from the harsh Atlantic winds in winter by the heavily forested department to the west of it, the Landes. It is sheltered from snow in winter by the Pyrenées and it enjoys mild and early springs, beginning at the end of March. During the winter, which usually starts mid-December, temperatures at night can fall way below zero, and end-January and February daytime temperatures may not reach 10°C. Snow falls every 3/4 years, but rarely lingers for longer than a day. It is often possible to have lunch outside right up to Christmas day. In 2021, we even had lunch outside on New Year’s day.

How to get here (flights, airport transfers, buses, trains)

Airports

The most convenient way to travel here, depending on where you are coming from, is by air. Several of the low-cost airlines fly to airports close to us. Our closest airports Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS), and Bordeaux Airport (BOD)– both just under 2 hours away (by car.) NEW: Facilitated access for travellers flying to Bordeaux: Pick-up from Mont de Marsan train station (additional fee and depends on availability) Pick-up/drop-off also available from Pau airport (additional fee and subject to availability) Please inquire!

Car rental

We highly recommend renting a car on your arrival at a local airport or train station, especially if you intend to stay with us a couple of days before or after a retreat as the region has much to offer a discerning tourist.

Other Options

From Toulouse airport, there is a train to Auch (50 min from us by car), and from Bordeaux airport, there is a train to Mont de Marsan (45 min from us by car). Airport shuttles and trams connect the airports and train stations. From both these train stations, there is a bus service to Nogaro via Aire-sur-Adour. In addition, there is now an excellent carpooling website in France that several of our guests have used successfully. It is called Blablacar.fr and one could possibly get a lift, sometimes all the way to Nogaro from the airport for less than 10 euros. We pick up our guests from Nogaro at no additional cost.

What’s Included In This Package

  • 4 nights’ accommodation in an authentic half-timbered Landaise farmhouse
  • Wholesome brunches, delicious dinners (except one meal) Option at brunch to make sandwiches to have later in the day
  • 3 optional Camino de Santiago de Compostela walks
  • Introduction to Walking Meditation
  • Meraki Morning Program
  • Transport to and from the starting and end points of the Camino on each walking day
  • Wifi connection

What’s Not Included In This Package

  • Transport costs to local airports (flights) – there are 5 international airports (Toulouse, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Tarbes and Pau) less than 2 hours’ drive from us
  • Transport from local airports to local train stations (Auch and Mont de Marsan) to Nogaro
  • Personal Health Insurance and/or Travel Insurance (we highly recommend insurance cover in case you need to cancel)
  • Additional activities not included in the itinerary
  • Option to add a massage at the end of the walk (subject to availability)
  • Extra day/night bed-and-breakfast (€79)
  • We have one meal at a restaurant nearby to support local small business owners
  • Alcoholic beverages

Responsible Travel

  • It is important to me that the holidays I offer do as little damage to the environment as possible, while at the same time contributing to the local community’s economy. I feel more like the custodian than the owner of this property – I feel very privileged to live here. As its custodian, my intention is to look after it to the very best of my ability and to preserve it for generations to come. In the meantime, I share the exceptional natural beauty, the rich cultural heritage and the nurturing tranquillity of my house with my guests without harming the natural environment and helping environmentally-aware local producers at the same time. Recommendations for guests:
  • Turn off your lights when you leave your room
  • Turn off your computer when not in use. Conserve energy by using your computer’s “sleep mode” instead of a screensaver.
  • Unplug unused electronics (even your mobile phone)
  • Conserve water. Take a shower rather than a bath and take shorter showers – using less hot water means using less energy
  • Recycle paper, plastic and glass – separately
  • Buy organic food – chemicals used in modern agriculture pollute the water supply, and require energy to produce.
  • Use cloth/paper/reusable bags/a basket when shopping instead of plastic or paper bags.
  • Buy minimally packaged goods
  • Buy produce that is in season
  • Always ask before you take pictures
  • Support the local community economically by buying what you need, whenever possible, directly from the producer: often from a neighbour, a small local business or a market.

Cost

This 5-day-4-night special Christmas Reading retreat package includes accommodation, brunch and dinner (option to make sandwiches at brunch for later), access to the reading lounge, transport to and from each day’s optional walk, as well as pick-up and drop-off at the start and end of the retreat:

  • in a private room €799
  • in a shared room €699
  • in a double room (2 people) €I399

So seize this exceptional opportunity to spend Christmas with us NOW…to help you make your reading retreat a special one, please let us know you are coming by making a reservation. A warm welcome awaits you amidst the Armagnac, Saint Mont and Cotes de Gascogne vineyards in southwest France.

Ready to make a reservation? To pay your deposit and secure your booking, please contact us with the dates of the week that suits you at welcome2gascony(at)gmail.com to inquire about availability.

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Cancellation Policy

Deposit

To confirm your booking, a 25% deposit is required. The balance of payment is due at least 14 days prior to the start of your holiday. Please note: As our deposits are not refundable and our cancellation policy is firm, we strongly recommend the purchase of adequate travel insurance.  Any cancellation received in writing up to 30 days before the holiday starts will result in a loss of 50% of the holiday price. Any cancellation made in writing less than 30 days before the holiday starts, or once the holiday has started, will result in a total loss of funds. Depending on availability, you can choose to transfer your booking to another date without incurring any additional fees. We reserve the right to cancel the holiday (if we do so your deposit is refunded in full).

Please read our terms and conditions