This blog was written by EPM's assistant coordinator, Sarah Roseberry Thanks for sharing with us! ♥
Before I was ever on the team at EAT.PRAY.MOVE, I was a retreat guest.
Erin and EPM showed up in my life at a time where I wanted more adventure, more travel, more life, and I also wanted to do something just for myself, by myself, and I wanted to prove that I was capable of doing something extraordinary on my own. So I took a trip to Italy, and it changed my life. After that, I was hooked, and I knew I had to plan my next trip.
I chose the Provence retreat because I knew it was something I would never plan my own. The region is so vast, with so much possible ground to cover, it would be very hard to organize on my own. It's an incredible value for all you get to experience and see. And France had not been crossed off my very extensive bucket list!
I was nervous about several things. The travel was a big one, as I DO NOT SPEAK FRENCH! I am a really great traveler when I'm in the US, but this was totally out of my comfort zone. I had a fear of getting off the plane in Marseille and being totally lost. Luckily, as Erin had shared, it was not too complicated. And if I needed to double check anything, the people were actually very helpful. I got there in one piece, exactly as planned!
The other factor that worried me was having a roommate. In Italy, I had a room to myself, so while I had been on retreat, I had not had the standard experience of sharing a room. I'm pretty introverted, and I need down time to decompress, so this was a major concern. I am so happy to say that it was great. My roommate, Meg, was super sweet. As with all of the EPM retreats, it's rare that you are in your room unless you really want to be. There's so many yoga classes, day trips, meals and villa activities that I was really only in my room to shower and sleep. I spent the rest of my time hanging out with other guests (and the really incredible owners of the Bastide, who are full of fascinating stories!)
Our first excursion was through some of the nearby mountain towns. They were surreal, some of them carved into the sides of cliffs or over waterfalls. To visit these tiny havens felt like a really special gift, as these are not places attended by tourists for the most part. We really got to feel what it's like to live in rural France. We ate crepes and ice cream, and we got to stop in lavender country, which was a HUGE bucket list item for me!
My favorite day of the trip (and one of the deciding factors for me to go on the retreat) was the Isle de Porquerolles. I met someone from this island before attending the retreat, and he was incredibly impressed to hear it was on the itinerary, as it is not an oft visited island--it's kind of a French secret. I am a beach gal, so any time I can be in water is pure joy, and the beaches on this island are everything you want from the French coastline: clear, blue and pristine. We also enjoyed the local food, which was a highlight. I had a pizza with brie and mushrooms! Does it get any better than that?
We spent a day in Aix-en-Provence, which is just as quaint and charming as you would expect. I strolled the markets with retreat friends, stopping every so often for cappuccinos, baked bread, and other treats. I promised I wouldn't spend much (which is actually highly possible on EPM retreats--I usually don't have to spend much once I'm there), but I did grab some local soaps, herbs de provence, and fresh lavender sachets. I loved taking in the architecture, the smells and the local street musicians.
One of the things I love about EPM is that the retreats often make me feel like I'm living a life I never thought possible, and our day in St. Tropez was one of those times. There are always moments on these trips where I feel like I have jumped into the life of a celebrity, and I have to pinch myself! We went to a spa that was essentially a castle, a giant luxury hotel on the top of a hillside overlooking the ocean. After a stellar massage, we all lounged poolside overlooking the lush hills of the Cote D'Azur. As if that weren't enough, we had time to walk the cobblestone streets of St. Tropez, stopping in tiny jewelry shops and patisseries, sitting for a while to observe the yachts and the unique people aboard them as we drank champagne.
Yet, for all of the giant, Instagrammable sights, some of the times I enjoyed most were at the villa with the rest of the group. I always love the raucous mornings--after yoga, everyone is alive and awake and anticipating the day, so some of the best conversation happens over breakfast. (It doesn't hurt when it's croissants.) We spent time in the pool, played jokingly competitive games of petanque and lounged with wine after dinner as we chatted about life and how lucky we were to be there. I was overjoyed to have friends from a past retreat there, so conversation was abundant, but I was so thrilled to get to meet new, lovely people from all walks of life.
I hope you are fortunate enough to get to take one of Erin's retreats at some point, and I can tell you now that the Provence retreat does not disappoint. I can't believe how much we saw in one week or how well it was organized. For what we saw, we should have been exhausted, but it was one of the most relaxing weeks of my life. I feel like I got to see the best of France in the most authentic way imaginable. I will forever cherish my time at Bastide Avellane.