Reviews

some_alt

April, 2015

I spent one week in late April at the wonderful Le Mas Blanc Writer’s Retreat to work on my memoir, and I wish I could have stayed at least two weeks longer.  Apart from the beautiful landscape and the lovely studio in the old stone barn, I loved the evenings sharing dinners with Isabel who always shed insight into my writing and thinking.

I highly recommend Le Mas Blanc Writer’s Retreat to anyone who needs a place to think, write, and share rich discussions with a marvellous author who can also help you with your own writing when you need her advice.

Thanh-Nu Leroy from Zurich Switzerland.

===============================

October, 2014

My retreat at Mas Blanc was deeply rewarding in many ways and provided a creative refreshment that has resonated with me all year. Time away from daily demands in a place with a palpable sense of history relieved me of my momentary concerns, and allowed my mind much-needed rest and regeneration. While I accomplished some writing, it was conversation with Isabel that really got my cogs turning. Insightful, generous and fearless in conversation, Isabel provided a wonderful foil for ideas and self-reflection so necessary to my art-making. I came home feeling grounded and energized as an artist, and have had my most productive creative year in a long time. Thank you, Isabel!

Sara Porter (Contemporary dancer, choreographer and writer, based in Toronto)

===============================

April, 2014

I read 'The Elizabeth Stories' in 1988, sent to me in England by an American friend, and they made a profound impression that never left. So when I was browsing the internet, looking for places to stay in France to write, and found that Isabel Huggan was living in the Cevennes and offering her studio for individual retreats, I couldn't believe my good fortune. I was also thrilled to see that I could read two more of her books, 'You Never Know' and 'Belonging: Home Away from Home' and get to know her better on the page before I met her in person.

My week in late April was blessed with lovely weather - warmer than England, sunny, but not too hot for walking in the local hills or sitting out on the terrace to read or eat lunch (and breakfast!). There were many lovely spots to wander around to balance the desk-bound moments: in the olive grove, breathing in the scent of wild sage, gathering thyme up in the hills or fragrant narcissi in the meadow. Isabel generously gave up her time to guide me round these spots and these will be scenes to reflect on in tranquillity when the rain is pouring down in Hampshire. Coming from a busy life full of noise and distraction, the first thing that struck me was the loveliness of the noises in Le Mas Blanc: above all the sound of the river running outside was a soothing balm that I found immediately calming. Then the hoopoe's gentle hoots, the owl calling in the night and the nightingale singing loudly at dawn on the last morning as we packed up the car for the journey to the airport, told me that I was listening with a fresh ear during a week of profound peace.

But the highlight - apart from the satisfaction of writing and reading more than I could ever hope to at home - were the evenings spent with Isabel, sharing stories and ideas, books and music. I also felt heard, as a writer and as a person, and that is a rare thing.

Elizabeth Woodgate, Winchester, UK.

=========================================

December, 2013

The toughest part of my trip to Le Mas Blanc was packing up and leaving. Two weeks in the writing studio in the old barn alongside the river, flew by much too quickly. I could easily have spent two more weeks. Probably longer. Already a devout Francophile, I fell in love with the rugged landscape of the Languedoc – the river and ancient vineyards within a stone’s throw of the studio, the nearby old village, the charming local towns, and off in the distance the craggy, blue grey Cévennes Mountains.

I arrived in early April amongst unseasonably cold temperatures throughout Europe and watched as spring unfolded daily in the South of France. Flowers bloomed, local produce appeared at the market stalls and in the river beyond the studio windows, the frogs began ribbeting and croaking and at times, bellowing. When I asked Isabel about the bellowing, she explained that this was apparently the sound of frogs mating. Every night while I was France, I fell asleep to the sound of frogs making love.

By day, I worked steadily in the writing studio – enjoying the absolute peace and quiet – breaking only to eat from the thoughtfully laid in provisions or walk along one of many local routes. At night, I chose to dine with Isabel. Because of my interest in food and cooking, on a couple of occasions, Isabel consented let me loose in her kitchen. For me it was a sweet and memorable highlight to spend an afternoon harvesting wild leeks and then make a beautiful wild leek omelette for our dinner.

The studio is an ideal spot for writing. The distractions are few. The studio itself is spacious, well-equipped, and comfortable. Isabel is an ideal hostess. The area is beautiful. My only wish – that I could go back again. And soon.

Lindy Mechefske

Lindy is a Kingston based freelance writer and photographer, and associate editor of the Queen’s Alumni Review. She is also the author of A Taste of Wintergreen and blogs about her adventures in the kitchen at www.lindymechefske.com where you can find her contact details.

============================================================

October, 2013

I booked my week at Mas Blanc to give me a space to write in a lovely place, with the added attraction of editorial advice. In the end I got all this but much more.

The writer's studio is charming, and also well thought-out with a solid desk, comfortable chairs, excellent lighting, fast internet and enough reference and other books to encourage but not to distract you. I liked the self-catering arrangements for breakfast and lunch, as it gave me privacy and independence. Isabel had already asked what foods I preferred and there was plenty for me to choose from. 

Mas Blanc is situated beside a small river in a quiet corner of the countryside near Anduze in Languedoc. At the end of October meant the weather was still fine, and I often spent time outdoors as a break from writing. I could choose between sitting on the terrace to read and taking walks along small roads and woodland paths.

I started off on a new writing project but also shared a few existing short stories with Isabel and we decided to work more closely on one of these together. This was incredibly helpful, and Isabel's  comments in turn encouraged and challenged me.

I had flown to France and decided not to hire a car, so opted to eat with Isabel in the evenings. These shared meals and evening hours proved to be  a highlight of the whole trip. There was good food and wine, but more than that there was a humorous , intelligent, interesting and thoughtful hostess. These informal evenings, full of good company, provided a welcome contrast at the end of a day.

Best wishes and Bon voyage

Dr. Katie Reed
University of Manchester UK
(Enthusiastic but still unpublished children's author)

============================================================

October, 2013

I spent four days at Mas Blanc, relishing the well-appointed, private and quiet apartment, the ambiance of rural France - ancient trees and buildings of old stone near the river, vineyards stretching for miles - and especially, Isabel's kind welcome and stimulating company. We sat outside talking about writing and eating her marvellous meals, and then, both of us would retreat to think and work, and then come together again.

I couldn't recommend a stay at Mas Blanc more highly - it was bliss, and I hope to go again. 

Beth Kaplan
author of "Finding the Jewish Shakespeare"
teacher of creative non-fiction writing at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University

www.bethkaplan.ca

============================================================

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For continuing information about LE MAS BLANC WRITER'S RETREAT, have a look at my ongoing blog... the Mas Blanc Writers Retreat.