Dr Margaretha Montagu’s Complete Cultural Immersion and Camino de Santiago Walking Retreat

Dates:30 July-6 August 2023 : 4 places left8 days
20-27 August 2023 : 2 places left8 days
To inquire about/book a retreat, please send an email to Welcome2Gascony@gmail.com

Vivre Aux Eclatsan Esprit Meraki Retreat

Indulge Your Senses

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in the south of France?

Not in the hectic and overrun-by-tourists Provence, but in Gascony, the unspoilt and mostly undiscovered southwest, also known as the French Tuscany…

… in an authentic, much-loved French farmhouse, for 8 days of blissful contemplation of a completely different way of life.

Let’s go to my local fresh food market to buy a still-warm-from-the-oven crusty baguette, succulent sun-ripened tomatoes and rich, creamy French cheese. Let’s sit down at this little table on the sidewalk, savour a fragrant café crème and eat our sandwiches while we watch my friends hustle and haggle to make sure they get the freshest ingredients for this evening’s dinner, until they join us, exhausted from their efforts, for a glass of Floc and a “light” three-course lunch.

If you, like the French, love walking, then maybe walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela is on your bucket list. Walking the Camino de Santiago can literally change your life – you can find solutions to problems, answers to questions and clarity on the way forward – just as thousands of hikers have before you, for the last 800 years. For most, it is an unforgettable and life-enhancing experience. During this retreat, you can walk parts of the Camino, without having to carry a heavy backpack or worry about where you are going to sleep each night.

At the end of this 8-day retreat, you will have thoroughly indulged your senses, à la Française, you know, much like those enviable French women who manage to age so elegantly, despite eating and drinking to their hearts’ content and live happy and healthy lives well into their nineties.

Vivre Intensionellement

Embark on an Epic Journey to discover a unique Way of Life

Let’s fast forward to the end of the retreat that you have attended here at Maison Meraki. You are still à table, where you are savouring the last sip and morsel of the end-of-retreat Celebratory Champagne Brunch, which was everything it promised to be and much more, d’ailleurs. You close your eyes, the sun warming your skin with a certain familiarity, while your thoughts drift…are you a different person from the person you were when you arrived?

No doubt about it, you have changed dramatically. You feel intensely alive, supremely self-confident, profoundly rested, serenely contented, positively radiant, intangibly irresistible, curiously chic, irrepressibly energetic, bien dans votre peau…  and at least ten years younger. The new you grab every second of every minute of every hour of the day and squeezes every last ounce of meaning out of it. Just like most Frenchwomen do.

Vivre l’Instant Présent

Connect with your inner Amélie Poulain

Prepare to be surprised, as each one of your six senses comes fully alive:

  • Visit a bustling French fresh food market, the best in the region, with its kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells awakening and seducing your senses
  • Walk part of the often life-changing Camino de Santiago de Compostela -as much or as little of it as you want. Discover how to do walking meditation while you walk the Camino, to enrich your experience.
  • At t the end of the walk, taste some of the region’s exceptional wines, an invigorating feast for the senses.
  • Enjoy the very best food and wine that Gascony has to offer: Paella with an African twist, Tagine à la Française, Ratatouille aux 7 Epices served al fresco…your taste buds will be in seventh heaven.
  • Experience the not-to-be-missed under any circumstances sacred Sunday Morning Breadbaking Ceremony
  • Indulge your sense of touch by staying in cool, light and airy rooms, with beds smothered in thick vintage bed linen and handmade boutis covers
  • Visit an intriguing local antiquaire/brocante, where you can buy your own vintage French bedlinen, so bring enough suitcases!
  • Use lush towels, homemade soaps, salts and candles, making every bath/shower a sensual experience
  • Take part in a discussion: Could it be that the French live happy and healthy lives well into their nineties because they cope with stress by focusing on être (being) instead of faire (doing) or avoir (having)? Is it because they know that being mindful of life’s tiny delights is what makes them happy so they intentionally slow down so they don’t miss any mini-miracles?
  • To titillate your sense of hearing, the end-of-July retreat also includes a visit to a world-famous annual music festival and flea market, where you can listen to some mellow music and sipping a glass of Cote de Gascogne wine.
  • An ancient fire ceremony, a simple ritual that, as the sparks fly up to the night sky, connects us to the past, present and future of this mystical and mysterious land.

Prepare to be a different person by the time you have to tear yourself away from this profoundly restful and peaceful haven to return home.

And that’s not all, you can also add:

  • a massage bien-être, out on the lawn, or on your own terrace, and give yourself over to Sarah’s magical hands, while the lavender bushes dispense 100% natural aromatherapy.
  • a visit to an authentic Armagnac chai, where the same aristocratic family has been making Armagnac for centuries, and meet the current Count who will show you around his cellar and chateau.
  • a watercolour painting lesson, hosted by a local painter, to try your hand at capturing the breathtaking Gascon scenery.
  • a French Language and Etiquette lesson, emphasising the colourful and vibrant Gascon culture and expression.
  • an equine-guided mindfulness meditation session – have you always been fascinated by horses, and longed to connect with them on a deeper level but have always been intimidated by their size? This retreat offers you the opportunity to connect with Maison Meraki’s breathtakingly beautiful Friesian horses and benefit from their intuitive and authentic wisdom.

All the above is subject to availability and additional cost.

Vivre Aux Eclats – Living Life to the Full

Your retreat host Dr Margaretha Montagu

L’art de Vivre à la Française

Self Confidence Made Simple eBook

Eh oui, because you also get me, the author of Self-Confidence Made Simple – discover the secrets of 12 supremely self-confident Frenchwomen, with my two decades’ experience as a medical doctor and my decade’s experience of hosting transformational retreats, as part of the package. If you are impressed by qualifications, this is what I’ve got: MBChB, MRCGP, MedHypnotherapyDip, Counselling Cert, EAGALA Cert, Life Coaching Cert. and NLP Master Pract Cert….but what makes me an exceptional transformation retreat host, is not my qualifications, but the life experience I gained each time I got stuck at a crossroads and had to figure out how to navigate yet another life change, often related to the risk of losing one of my senses, my eyesight.

During this retreat, we are going to investigate the way of life of the people of Gascony and look at how you can use your senses to dramatically enrich your life, based on the age-old concepts that people here in the south of France have applied for centuries and that has given them some of the happiest, healthiest, longest and most laid-back lifespans in Europe.

Who will most benefit from this retreat:

  • Anyone who is intrigued by the French way of life, culture, food, language etc.
  • Anyone who wants to reconnect with themselves, with others and with nature in the glorious French countryside.
  • Anyone interested in mindfulness and how we can use our senses to enrich our lives
  • Anyone who favours Slow Living, Slow Food and Slow and Sustainable travel
  • Anyone who always wanted to walk part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

You will have access to
-a short but intense and insight-giving online retreat to prepare you for your retreat
-the 30-page e-book “Make Your Next Retreat Your Best Retreat Ever” that you can use to enrich your retreat experience
-detailed instructions on how to keep a travel diary, so that you can benefit from what you learned for years after your retreat ended
-a pop-up WhatsApp group to stay in contact with the other amazing women you will meet on this retreat, and to facilitate interaction, during and after the retreat, you can join
-an online group coaching session, to help you integrate what you have learned during the retreat into everyday life, after your retreat


I’ve been wondering where to begin with thanking you for the wonderful experience at your place. It was such a valuable time for me, ranging from being immersed in the gentle beauty of the French countryside, getting a taste of the Camino, to your hospitality, openness and the privilege of getting a small glimpse into your remarkable life journey. And, of course, the horses, cats and huge hound are a bonus!! Hopefully, I will have another opportunity to visit Esprit Meraki some time in the future! Lausanne O.

My stay with you at your beautiful home exceeded all expectations. We had three wonderful days walking the Camino on routes that benefitted from your extensive knowledge of the area to take in all the beautiful surrounding scenery and adjust to a relaxed pace of life. You were an excellent and welcoming host and I am looking forward to returning to your little sanctuary of rest and relaxation. I really enjoyed our visit to you and have come away feeling the benefits. I enjoyed our conversations and your great insights, I think I can safely say that Nikki and I both managed to answer some of the questions that were playing on our minds and are now feeling that we’re on the right track for future successes in our lives. I really hope we can join you again and in the meantime wish you all the very best for your busy summer. Anna W.

Spending time in nature and moving during hours in the forest or in a field helped me see where I wanted to move in my life. I gained clarity about my direction, my projects and desires in different areas of my life. I got very enthusiastic and I love that feeling! During the evenings we shared dinner and had very interesting conversations, you gave me new ideas and new points of view that were really enriching. I liked listening to your wisdom and exchanging with you. Thank you for this experience! Barbara M.

Vivre VertSlow and Sustainable Tourism in the Southwest of France

It is important to me that the retreats 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 extremely privileged to live here. As its custodian, my intention is to look after Maison Meraki 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 this open- and warmhearted house with my guests without harming the natural environment and helping environmentally aware local producers at the same time.

Preserving the cultural heritage of this region is important to me: I am on the board of the Amis de Abbaye de Flaran, an association that contributes financially to the upkeep of this monument and until recently, I was the president of the Ladies Lunch Club d’Armagnac, an association that helps integrate newcomers to our region. I am also a volunteer with the Order of Malta and I donate a % of the income I earn by leading retreats to this charity.

Vivre tout Simplementin an authentic French Farmhouse

La Maison Meraki huddles in the midst of a sunny clearing in the heart of a great and ancient forest, like a little old lady gathering her shawl around her bony shoulders. She has been here for at least 200 years, from her elevated position she looks out over the treetops to the mighty Pyrenées mountains. Who knows who has ventured over her threshold, maybe D’Artagnan himself, the chateau where he was born is only a few kilometres away. Yes, this is indeed Gascony, land not only of milk and honey but also of divine wines, persillade, garbure, foie gras, cèpes, duck confit…all less than two hour’s drive southeast of Bordeaux.

Maison Meraki is a half-timbered house that faces southeast, towards the sunrise, typical of all Landaise fermettes. She has her back to the sunset, where the cold winds and weather come from in the winter. The house is U-shaped, with a central, secluded courtyard, where lavender perfumes the air in the summer. There are two guest bedrooms downstairs, each opening onto its own patio where guests can sit and soak up the sun with a cool drink and a good book. There is a third bedroom upstairs, with glorious views of the surrounding woods, meadows, vineyards and sunflower fields.

The heart of the house is the kitchen-sitting room, delightfully cool in the summer, and extended by a shaded patio into the courtyard and snug and warm in the winter, heated by a Godin wood burner. Three centuries-old Line trees guard the eastern flank, and even older, majestic oak trees hold court in the paddocks surrounding the house.

I renovated Maison Meraki slowly, with infinite care. I have respected its humble origins and kept it dans son jus, comfortable but unpretentious, so if you want to experience unadulterated French farm life, this is the retreat for you. If you are looking for 8 days in a luxurious chateau, it is not.

En plus, this is a French farmhouse, unlike any you have visited before. Even though I am a Frenchwoman through and through, I was born in Africa, so the interior is decorated, the meals flavoured, and the garden is scented by the warm spices and fragment herbs of the country of my birth.

Savourer la Vie – la Cuisine de chez Margaretha

Nowhere in France is the French Paradox more prevalent than in Gascony. A paradox, because despite frying just about everything in duck fat, and washing undeniably rich dishes down with copious amounts of Cotes de Gascogne and Saint Mont wines, the people from this region live long, some of the longest in Europe, and healthy lives.

Not to be outdone, chez Margaretha you will be able to investigate this paradox first-hand. Most of our fruit and vegetables will be gathered the same morning from my neighbour’s potager, and what he doesn’t have, we’ll buy directly from the grower at one of the local fresh food markets. Eggs come from the free-range chickens of another neighbour, all preserves and jams are homemade from last year’s abundance of fruit, and our bread we bake ourselves, during the Sunday morning bread-baking ceremony.

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

Your Investment

Make an investment in yourself and your future by attending this unique retreat for 2999€ pp. in a private room. If you are two friends travelling together, double room occupancy is available at 2499€ pp in a double room.

This includes:

  • Transfer to and from Bordeaux airport to the retreat
  • 8 days/7 nights accommodation in a single room
  • Brunch and dinner, from the Wholesome Welcome Dinner of Day 1 to the Celebration Champagne Brunch on Day 8, with access to tea, coffee,  chocolat chaud and French patisserie 24/7
  • Transport during the retreat, including pick-ups and drop-offs at the start and end of Camino walks
  • Discussion about the best books to read about France and the French way of life
  • Free pre-retreat online course, e-book and worksheets and free post-retreat group coaching consultation
  • Stargazing and communing-with-the-universe Yoga Nidra practice (there is barely any light pollution here)
  • Sunday morning Bread-making Ceremony
  • Introduction to walking meditation
  • wine tasting – had to include this, as it’s an integral part of the French lifestyle – and a visit to a local seller
  • A visit to an annual music festival during the 30 July- 6 August 2023 retreat
  • Free access to high-speed internet

If you are thinking of asking your employer to pay for this retreat, you can motivate your application by mentioning that according to Forbes, approximately 70% of people experienced burnout in the last year. Work-related consequences include job dissatisfaction, decreased productivity, poor performance, professional mistakes, absenteeism, quiet quitting and resignations resulting in a high turnover rate. Although conditions at work may also need improvement, a retreat focused on stress management, led by a medical doctor; can contribute significantly to preventing burnout in employees.

NOT included:

  • Transport costs to Bordeaux airport
  • Dinner on Day 4 – we eat in a family-owned restaurant to stimulate the economic growth of the region post-COVID – cost 15-30 euro pp, depending on your choices
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Personal Health Insurance and/or Travel Insurance (we highly recommend insurance cover in case you need to cancel)
  • A variety of massages (subject to availability)

So seize this exceptional opportunity to spend a few nights here NOW…an open-armed and a two-kisses-on-each-cheek welcome awaits you amidst the Armagnac, Saint Mont and Cotes de Gascogne vineyards in the sun-blessed southwest of France.

Ready to make a reservation? To pay your deposit and secure your booking – there are only 2 of these retreats per year – please contact us with the dates of the week that suits you at welcome2gascony@gmail.com to inquire about availability.

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Cancellation Policy


To secure your booking, a non-refundable 25% deposit is required. As the group is very small, only a paid deposit will guarantee your attendance. If your retreat is fully booked, you will be offered a place on the waiting list. Your deposit is transferable to another person for the retreat you booked, subject to approval.

Final Payment

The balance of payment is due 30 days prior to the start of your retreat. Reservations made less than 30 days before the retreat starts, must be paid in full. Please note: Due to the extensive and expensive preparation that goes into each of these retreats, I cannot offer refunds, so I highly recommend that you purchase adequate travel insurance to cover any unanticipated changes in your travel plans. Any cancellation made in writing less than 30 days before the retreat starts, or once the retreat 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, within the same calendar year.

I reserve the right to cancel the retreat if it is not meeting the retreat minimum (if I do so your deposit is refunded in full). I reserve the right to determine if you are a good fit for this retreat (if not, your deposit will be refunded in full).  I reserve the right to cancel the retreat for personal reasons (if I do so your deposit/full payment will be refunded in full).

This cancellation policy is firm therefore please do not make any travel arrangements until you receive your registration confirmation.

Please read our terms and conditions