Meet Prue, creative and wellbeing holiday host in the Dordogne
Together with a team of dedicated professionals and experts in their fields, Prue and her family offer painting and art holidays as well as wellbeing retreats throughout the year from their delightful countryside Gites.
Read on to find out why Prue does what she does…
Where are you and your husband from? What made you settle in this area?
My husband Andrew and I are both from Cheshire and when our children were young we spent a lot of time staying at a holiday village near Bergerac, so when we started to look for our own home in 2002 we wanted to stay in the area we love. There are wide rivers to canoe on, beautiful rolling countryside peppered with medieval bastide villages, daily markets and within very easy reach of Bergerac airport so hopping backwards and forwards from the UK while the builders were working was a doddle!
While our children were young and my husband was working we spent every holiday in France – each year we did a little more work – from building the pool, to completely renovating the farmhouse – twice! Sadly, my husband died in 2016 and since then I have been focusing on continuing the work we started, building the business, adding new aspects to the business with our art holidays and wellbeing & Pilates retreats. However, also making sure that we close the whole place for a couple of weeks every year so my children, as well as my large extended family, can really enjoy holidaying at our wonderful French home.
What kinds of activity holidays do you offer?
We offer week long art & painting holidays, as well as wellbeing & Pilates/yoga retreats. Having worked in hospitality for many years, I am on hand to provide home cooked meals for our guests. We always aim to have at least a couple of evenings round the fire pit, barbecuing and enjoying the sunset from our secluded retreat. I am very pleased to say we are a family affair, and we are completely geared up for babies & children.
What are your favourite aspects of being a host?
I love people, and I love making my guests feel welcome. Cooking is a great pleasure for me, so I love to cook great food for my lovely guests. One of the greatest pleasures of being a host is facilitating new groups of people coming together and often becoming firm friends over the course of the week.
What part of hosting does your family play into, if any?
Now that I am without my lovely husband, the main part of the hosting is down to me – he was a great host and I hope that I match up! My three (now grown up) children pop in often, and when they are here, they help with everything from cooking & serving at mealtimes, to setting up for classes, to lighting the fire pit for a fabulous evening under the stars.
I often have friends staying with me to help with the courses – whoever is there, we have a great time and the aim is always to give our guests a holiday full of great memories. My home is always open to everyone, so you never know you may meet.
Where do you find your learning holiday tutors and where are they from?
Our painting and creative holiday tutors are Mark Page and Adrian Green.
Mark is usually based in Dorset but comes over to France for our painting holidays. He has a wide following and his subjects are as wide, ranging from Dorset scenery to quirky pen and ink drawings of hares and other animals. I met him through an artisan yard in Dorset where we both display. Mark runs regular ‘drink and draw’ workshops in Dorset and has an ever growing following of students – he’s a great art teacher and I’ve seen first hand the improvement his students make over the course of a week – amazing!
Adrian stayed with us at Gigan about 6 years ago with his young family and at the end of the stay he presented us with the most beautiful pen and ink drawings of our houses. He is an award winning artist based in Cardiff and has regular exhibitions. I am really thrilled that he has agreed to run two painting weeks for us in 2018.
The Pilates retreat host is Naomi Langford Archer who is an exciting young lady. She is a qualified nutritionist and has a growing clientele in London & Shropshire. Naomi works alongside Angela who has an exciting programme for a week long retreat of relaxation and reinvigoration through yoga and Pilates.
What can someone expect on one of your activity holidays?
Our guests can expect a relaxed, professional welcome to our houses which are luxurious, comfortable, homes away from homes and they are furnished as homes rather than holiday properties. Guests are accommodated in our two Gites – comfortable, luxurious bedrooms, large comfortable living rooms and fully fitted kitchens. They will be able to help themselves to tea, coffee & home made cakes.
The day starts with a sociable breakfast in my large open plan home but during the summer, breakfast is served on the terrace. Painting or wellbeing tuition starts at around 10am and finishes around 4pm.
The art tuition is mainly in different areas of the extensive grounds – there are also several locations just a short drive away. Both our artists are very flexible and will discuss with the painting guests how they would like the week to progress. Location visits include local markets, bastide villages with medieval architecture.
During the wellness & Pilates holiday, there will be private consultations with Naomi, group and individual classes with Angela, and cooking demonstrations in my large open plan barn.
Lunch is served either on the covered terrace or the terrace overlooking the infinity pool and we aim to spend at least two evenings barbecuing on the fire pit – a great location for bringing everyone together.
What are your favourite things about living in this region? What do you and your family like to do for fun?
We love the Lot & Garonne and Dordogne area so much. It is a fabulous area of rolling hills, far horizons and wide rivers. We are in the ‘larder of France’, named because it is such an agricultural area and it is fascinating year round.
There are daily markets, all within a short drive, lots of great hilltop bastide villages to visit, fantastic castles and plenty of great cafes & restaurants. In the height of summer the very best things are the night markets where only local producers can sell. A lovely market is set up selling food for the evening meal, from Arcachon oysters, local foie gras & duck, farm grown local chicken through to a great butchers van and even snails – with tables set out under the trees, locals and visitors alike come together to enjoy a great evening together. An absolute favourite with all our visitors and a foodies dream.
As a family we love the river, just 10 mins away and perfect for wild swimming and kayaking. There are an enormous number of walking & cycle routes here locally and we have bikes for all. For us our favourite days are exploring the green lanes by bike or taking our canoe down to the river armed with a picnic for a full day on the water. Feel free to grab a bike and discover for yourself!
What do you think makes your painting and Pilates/yoga holidays unique?
Domaine de Gigan is a very special place – we have spent 16 years creating an oasis, tucked away and peaceful. Everything we do shouts quality and we aim for everyone who comes to Gigan to experience a real wow factor. That’s just the start.
The tutors are chosen carefully to give our guests the best experience possible. We aim to make everyone feel welcomed, comfortable & relaxed. Many of our summer guests return year after year and we aim for our retreat guests to enjoy the experience of spending time with us so much that they will become regular visitors to our unique corner of France.
Do you have any advice for the first time solo traveller on your holidays?
Arrive ready to be welcomed into a group of like minded people, whether your an artist, or like to focus on wellbeing, or just need the serenity here to relax. Don’t worry – everyone is very welcoming. You will have your own comfortable private space as well as plenty of places you can relax getting to know the tutors and other guests.