A Slice of Joie de Vivre

A Slice of Joie de Vivre

When I arrived at Chateau d’Avignon last Saturday I was travelling a lot lighter than planned.  My suitcase had gone on it’s own little holiday somewhere, and wouldn’t arrive for 3 days when it showed up with a gallic shrug.  Who needs knives anyway?

I was in Avignon, Provence to cook at Susan Hyatt’s Life is Delicious retreat where 12 women gathered at a beautiful chateau.  Susan describes her international retreats as a “life coaching seminar swirled with unforgettable field trips and adventures”.

I would be preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for the ladies, with the help of Gerard, the in-house chef, and his team. The kitchen was beautiful, with blue and white tiles and window opening to fresh Rosemary and Mint growing outside the door.

Breakfast was a selection of fresh baguettes and croissants, homemade granola, fruit, juices, vegetarian frittatas and bacon.

We had a light lunch most days, soup, salad and bread.

I offered Gerard a glass of my homemade lemonade. "I am French. I drink Pernod."

We went on a day trip to St Tropez, taking a yacht to Pampelonne Beach, and had lunch at the super-glam Club 55 where we sat beside the Kardashians, nonchalantly, of course.

It was an incredible week.  I made new friends, warm, supportive women who share their stories, listen without judgment and lift each other up.

It’s interesting to think about the word “retreat” and what it means to people.  On the plane home to Dublin I was sitting beside an Irish lady from Fermoy who had spent 3 days with her sister, a nun, who was in Marseille for a silent retreat at a monastery.  We were chatting and I told her where I’d been - a week full of deep conversations and laughter, glamour, reflection and champagne.  It was fascinating to think of the contrast between the two retreat experiences we had both had, but also the similarities and why women go on retreat - religious or otherwise - it’s the magic that happens when women gather for connection, nourishment and inspiration, it’s life changing.

Susan has said that when she goes on retreat, the location is her coach.  That there is always something to learn from visiting a new place, at meals shared with a new group of people, and I thought about what I had learned. Arriving without my knives, laptop, recipes, shoes (lol), I was un petit poisson out of water but I got stuck in, shopped, cooked and it all worked out just fine, better than fine.   It's good to be thrown outside of your comfort zone every now and then, and channel Del Boy - "it's que sera sera, as the French say".

Next up, I'll be cooking at Rachel Rodgers' MADE retreat in Normandy in late September.

I'm now taking bookings for 2017!  If you're looking to hire a chef or would be interested in co-hosting a retreat please get in touch at joanna@thechoppingboard.ie.

Joanna

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My 3 Most Popular Retreat Dishes

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Tomato and Chilli Jam