Painting in the studio

Art and Yoga Holiday, Cerf Gris 2008

I started out looking for a holiday that would allow me to holiday on my own but would also give the opportunity for company and some new experiences. I had a vague notion that painting or drawing might be fun and after a search I stumbled on Acy Holidays. The website showed a fabulous French villa  in a great location for flights and weather offering art and yoga holidays run by a Cambridge artist, Karen Stamper. It seemed to be just what I was looking for, no pressure to have experience – just a willingness to come and try out something new. In both art and yoga I was a complete novice, I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush for nearly 25 years other than to decorate the hall and , as for yoga? Well it was all a bit scary to be honest.

So with some trepidation I made a booking and it was, without doubt , a great decision. Karen is a fabulous teacher, she seems to know exactly how to direct, support and challenge you! She manages to deal with a wide range of abilities and experience and makes everyone feel included while instilling a  belief that you will make progress.

Karen’s approach to art is very hands-on, no long sessions watching someone else show you how good they are while all sorts of inadequacies build in your head. Quite the opposite in fact, from the very start you all get involved together. It’s great fun, very messy and quite liberating! Remember making mud pies at the seaside? Well it feels a bit like that. Fortunately Karen is able to use these activities to get you making pictures surprisingly quickly. Genuinely I guarantee you will be amazed at what you can produce in a short time. More importantly you will take away a stack of new ideas and techniques that you are able to use at home, maybe even some art to hang on your walls too. Karen’s advice is well timed, she lets you get on with things and gives assistance at key points keeping you focussed and moving forward. Yes, you’ll make mistakes but there is always help to get you back on track.

Yoga was always going to be a challenge for me but at no point did I feel that my complete lack of experience was a nuisance or holding anyone else back. Iyenga yoga makes use of all sorts of props to allow you to do the exercises and stretches at your own level. Karen is very experienced and you have a real sense of being in safe hands. I truly enjoyed the calming sessions which allowed you to focus your  mind and body, a bit like taking time out just to centre on yourself. What a luxury!

Socially, it’s a great mix of people who come on these holidays and meeting others was a very positive part of the holiday. But it’s not like meeting new people in a hotel. Here you are sharing experiences and working alongside others in the art barn or in the yoga studio. You quickly get a sense of each other and it’s really interesting to see how the conversations develop over the week, but you always have that shared experience that somehow makes everything seem so much more natural and puts everyone at their ease. It is always possible to get time away on your own, whether you sunbathe at the poolside. go to read quietly in the library or make use of the comfy seats on the terrace – there really is something for everyone.

I have to mention the catering as well; the meals are delicious and beautifully presented, every type of diet is catered for so you have no worries on that count. All of this is washed down with a local rose Corbiere – fantastic!

Lastly you need to know that these holidays are such fun, Karen is a wonderful host and she makes sure everyone is included from the very start. She has a lovely sense of humour and a genuine interest in everyone. Without doubt you will have a wonderful time, the holiday offers you a real retreat and gives you some space to take time for yourself. That might be time to challenge yourself to develop your skills or it may just be that you need some time for quiet reflection or even a serious attempt at developing a good tan. Whatever you are looking for the opportunity is there for you to have a truly fabulous holiday.

My only regret is that my second holiday here has just come to an end. I am sitting in a beautiful French villa looking out over an old stone terrace with all sorts of beautiful plants and trees that frame a very inviting pool. The sun is shining and a cooling breeze is wafting through the trees. I am so sorry to be leaving and would happily stay on for another week.

My advice is don’t hesitate – get your holiday booked now. You will then have a place where you are able to return with confidence, a place for new experiences, meeting new people or taking time out for yourself , I am genuinely so happy to have discovered this gem of a holiday and can’t wait until my next visit.

Many many thanks Karen, it has been another fabulous holiday and I know I’ll be back, wherever that may be.

Anne, July 2011