Caudet Radha Yoga Centre
They say that when horses instead of cows were brought in to pull ploughs in the region surrounding Caudet Radha, the farmers refused to change over. Their reason? The horses would move too fast. The adage, apocryphal or not, gives an insight into this beautiful but understated region, which continues the same quiet, unhurried pace of life it’s been nurturing for generations. Its gentle pull was strong enough to persuade Danuta and Steve, originally from Kent, England, to set up a yoga practice here in 2006. The couple had spent the previous six months shuffling around Spain and Portugal looking for a rural escape, but they’d found nothing. Only on the return trip, empty-handed and despondent, did they discover Caudet. Four years and a whole lot of elbow grease later, the place looks vastly different to how it was when they first saw it, and it’s easier than ever to see just why the couple were bowled over. Nestled in the Gers countryside, Caudet is surrounded by the gently undulating patchworks of sunflowers, vineyards, and wheat, which along with the clusters of woodlands, beautiful farmhouses, and that unhurried pace of life, earned it the sobriquet ‘French Tuscany’. This place has ‘peaceful retreat’ written all over it.
The couple have renovated the main farmhouse into a gorgeous home and yoga centre, where Danuta holds weekend and week-long retreats for international participants. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be able to wrap your legs behind your head or pass any circular breathing tests to stay at Caudet – just an appreciation of Nature, tranquillity, and simple living will do.
For, while the main raison d’être of the place is yoga instruction, the campsite has been built as a creative and sociable annexe to the site rather than an annexe to the yoga philosophy per se. There are just three pitches, all close to the house and garden or hidden away in a charming area of woodland. The site has open grassy areas on two levels, overlooking a valley that hosts wheat, melon, and sunflowers, and great views of the surrounding area. There’s also a lovely little tipi perfectly poised beneath a chestnut tree, and a bell tent is further away,close to a little cave with a spring. At the time of writing an eco-cabin was being built, but if you fancy a bit of comfort in the meantime, make a bid for one of the gorgeous rooms in the main house. In fact, the campsite is usually closed when the centre is open, though owner and course instructor Danuta, being – ha ha – very flexible, would no doubt be happy to book a one-to-one or small-group course.
Otherwise there’s plenty to do in the area, which is secluded but not isolated. The unspoilt spa town of Lectoure is just five minutes away by car. It has small cafés, restaurants, a weekly market on Fridays, and a relaxing thermal spa, which offers a range of treatments and experiences.
The charming ‘pink city’ of Toulouse, with its abundant churches and cathedrals and quirky space and aeronautical attractions, is also only just over an hour away, and you can access the Mediterranean in three hours, the Atlantic in two and a half hours, as well as the Pyrénées in two hours. Nothing, in other words – and somewhat paradoxically – is too much of a ‘stretch’.
Campfires in designated areas welcome. One superb bathroom using solar-heated water. Laundry facilities (€2). Compost and conventional toilets; washing-up area or dishwasher. No playground, but lots of woods and fields. No onsite shop.
Tents, campervans, caravans (limited) – yes. Pets – no.
The pilgrimage route of St Jacques de Compostelle (Santiago de Compostela) passes through Marsolan, which is also the route of the GR65 – the section from Marsolan to La Romieu is very pretty and drop-offs can be arranged. There is a spa in Lectoure (00 33 5 62 68 56 00) and a good outdoor swimming pool; also there you can visit Bleus de Pastel de Lectoure and witness the revival of the art of woad-dying (00 33 5 62 68 78 30). Putting fanatics can find a nice 9-hole golf course in nearby Fleurance (00 33 5 62 06 26 26). En route, watch out for signs for the Pony Club. And the Lac des Trois Vallées, 5 miles (8 km) away, is lovely and big, perfect for family picnics. Also in Fleurance is an observatory, and, if your French is up to it, the Hameau des Étoiles runs courses in school holidays on astronomy and the origin of the universe. This area has very little light pollution so is wonderful for star-gazing. Bicycles can be hired just outside Lectoure (ask on site for details). La Romieu, within cycling distance, has an inexpensive pottery, and is a world heritage site on account of the 14th-century cloisters.
Food & Drink
The owners can provide breakfasts (€5). Off site, try Auberge des Bouviers on Lectoure’s main street (00 33 5 62 68 95 13), which has a lovely ambience and good-quality seafood. For something special try Le Logis du Cordeliers in Condom (00 33 5 62 28 03 68), which is listed in the Guide du Routard and Michelin, or head to Astaffort (20–30 minutes away) for the wonderful surprise menu at the Auberge en Gascogne (00 33 5 53 67 10 27), one of the top 350 gourmet restaurants in France. In Agen, a 2,000-year-old city about half an hour away, is Le Mariottat (00 33 5 53 77 95 77). The area is well known for foie gras and Armagnac and the owners recommend shops, farms, and vineyards. Markets are in Lectoure (Friday), Fleurance (Thursdays), and Nérac (Saturdays).
All year, when courses are not running (they run every 1st and 4th weekend of the month, and every 2nd full week of the month).
Caudet Radha Yoga Centre, 32700 Marsolan, Gers, France
Quarter of a mile (1⁄2 km) south, off D7, about 5 minutes from Lectoure.
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