When I was 32 and my son was 11, I became very ill. The doctors told me my condition was life threatening and there was no cure. I had just qualified as a commercial pilot which had taken all my savings and now I could never fly again. Bad times /sad times. I had a friend who lived in the South West of France and was invited to stay for some R&R. Whilst there my son overheard a conversation about a place called Lourdes – a place where miracles happened and people got cured. In his 11 year old mind it was a straightforward solution to my problem and he insisted we go.
I hadn’t the heart to try and explain that it was not that straightforward or that a miracle may not be on the cards for me. I made countless excuses why we couldn’t go but he was adamant and relentless in his tactics. I am not a Catholic, but I have and always have had a deep faith. My son badgered until I relented and we visited Lourdes together. He queued at the Grotto for holy water and enthusiastically anointed the various parts of my body that were suffering the most. Then cupped his hands and made me drink. On the way home he kept asking me how I felt ‘any better Mummy’ was his Mantra until he fell asleep – I reassured him that Miracles may take some time and we must be patient.
The next day I stumbled across a house for sale in the incredibly beautiful village of Bassoues. My pain was better in the heat, and if I was going to die I wanted somewhere warm to end my days. I purchased the house and my parents were so struck by the appeal of Gascony, its breath-taking scenery, its simplicity and its long hot season, they immediately purchased Chateau Garderes, a magnificent 17c Gascon Manor house high on a ridge with breath taking views surrounded by wonderful woodland. It had a pace and a rhythm which seemed profoundly healing to all who visited, from movie stars, to politicians, to actors and authors and dear friends alike. We all call it being ‘Gardered’ and time spent there is referenced as ‘Garderes Time’.
I came back from France and my visit to Lourdes and discovered Complementary Medicine as an alternative to the drugs the doctors were giving me. I engaged on a regime of Aromatherapy and Reflexology, a vegan diet and natural remedies consisting of vitamins minerals, herbs and Homeopathy. Within 9 months my health was restored and I wasn’t going to die. A Miracle from Lourdes? or the Miracle of natural medicine?
After my Father died in 2006 and my Mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s, Garderes passed to my siblings and myself. It was a vast estate and needed full time care not to mention renovation, a daunting task by anyone’s standards. My siblings wanted out so I had the opportunity to buy it. All my friends agreed it would make an amazing Retreat destination, but I needed confirmation – a sign from the universe – something – that would convince me my plans for a complementary therapy and energy medicine Retreat would be right for Garderes.
I attended a local fete in the nearby village and encountered a young French woman who asked where I lived. She was incredulous. She told me that Garderes had been her home growing up and that it was a very special house. ‘Why’, I enquired. ‘Have you discovered the Source yet ‘ she replied. I told her I hadn’t.
She went on to explain that many years ago her Father had found a natural spring with its origins reputedly established from the famous ‘Healing Source’ just 1km away. During the early to mid 1900’s people boasted of its miraculous healing powers. She told me everything she knew about Garderes with stories of the many Pilgrims en route to St Jean de Compestella staying there, of the Monastery on the facing hill whose ruins were used to build Garderes, and where the big stone with 1065 carved into it came from. Its history as a vineyard, a treasury in the 15c to the nearby Chateau which burnt down by three feuding siblings, which resulted in Garderes being re named Chateau Gardres being the next principal house in the area. Finally, she told me that her Mother had tried to set up a Retreat at Garderes, and the person that owned the property before her had also tried to establish a healing centre. Naturally I was entranced. Could this be the sign I was looking for?
The following day two friends arrived from the UK. We went to Lourdes for a day out and decided to take a ‘scenic route’ home. The sat Nav took us up a long winding driveway, to an isolated mill house. We were all bemused when a red faced woman who appeared to be intoxicated ran out waving her arms and yelling at us. We looked at the sat nav which appeared to direct us around her house and up and unmade road to the rear of the property. A mountain goat would have struggled with the rugged incline. We reached the top and the safety of a small road which to our astonishment was only a 1k away from Garderes. Thinking nothing more of this adventure we retired to bed.
The following week an elderly man came to Garderes to give a quotation for some work. His knowledge of the area was extensive and he was inquisitive as to what I did for a living and why I wanted to take on such a large property. I told him I was a Naturopath and I was considering turning Garderes into a Retreat. With a meaningful look he asked if I had heard of the Healing Source 1km down the road, situated up a rugged road lying above an old mill house. We shot a glance between us and I enquired whether a slightly aggressive red faced woman owned the mill house – he laughed and said Yes. He told us the history of the Healing Source where doctors throughout the region used to send people for ‘le Cure’. It became so popular and well patronised in the 1900’s, that the owners of the land where the Source was situated, closed the road and forbade people access. He told us that there was reputedly a spur off the Healing Source which passed onto Garderes land, and once again we shot a glance between us.
So, after asking the universe for a sign whether or not to buy Garderes and turn it into a Healing Retreat destination, in the space of 2 weeks I had been taken on a journey of discovery and verification and delivered 3 conclusive stories relating Garderes to healing. I didn’t need any further confirmation, Garderes was going to finally achieve its latent vocation, and so he Garderes story continues………….