10% off bookings for the rest of the year!

Yes, I know écovallée is cheaper than other yurt camps. And in a better location. With more gorgeous, planet-friendly facilities. In fact, it’s probably the most carefully planned and beautiful yurt camp in this part of the Milky Way. But offering a 10% discount to single parents and solo travellers still seems completely reasonable.

So that’s what’s going to happen for the rest of 2016.

The terms of this offer should be obvious. But if you do happen to meet someone between the time of booking and arriving, and suddenly want to bring them along, they’ll be more than welcome if they also arrive with the 10% discount. These things happen.

Every year, écovallée rises again with the return of the wild orchids and migrating birds. And every year, tweaks and improvements are made to the campsite so that guests enjoy a uniquely wonderful experience.

This year, I will live blog the return of the yurt camp so you can watch it all blossom from wherever you are.

 

There will be plenty to show – new covers for the Play Yurt and Outdoor Kitchen – new people, including a chef who is growing various veggies in and around the polytunnel (and available to give guests hints and tips on how to make their food more fabulous) – and other news.

At this time of year, it feels like everything’s new.

Last year, one of our guests was reading a book by Eckhart Tolle. I can’t remember which book – and it’s not important – I have listened to him a lot over the last couple of weeks and everything he has said is useful. Life changing. In a good way.

All of his teaching points you towards living in the only place it is possible to live: The present moment. The Now.

I’ve begun to practise this whenever I get a (ahem) second – and one thing I’ve noticed is how much more time you have when you are Present. It’s astonishing to discover how much time is wasted on needless and repetitive thinking. Thinking that is rarely useful and often untrue.

I won’t go on about this too much on this blog (even though it’s the most significant spiritual breakthrough, for me, for decades). But if you are coming to écovallée this summer, I’d love to talk to you about it. If you haven’t booked your holiday yet, there is obviously only one time to do it…

Summer thing to look forward to

Me and the kids at the dune de Pyla in 2012. Coming back up was a different story.

Regular readers of this blog will know that écovallée was created by me and (the former) Her Outdoors as the perfect yurt holiday for people with young children. More specifically, Guardianreading families who are interested in the environment. We’ve had Daily Mail readers – which I’ve found surprising and alarming – and this has taught me that that particular newspaper is very good for lighting fires. (Previously, I thought it had no use whatsoever.)

Now that we are no longer living together as a family, the question is: How does that change écovallée?

Since September, I’ve been wondering how it looks to have a family campsite run by someone who is, essentially, a single parent. I’m not even a single parent all the time, as my kids live with their mum, about 15 minutes away. I’ve imagined that this might put off families who are together.

That it might look a bit odd.

But – in the last day or so – I’ve realised the error in my thinking. I recognise that the worry exists only in my head as a not-very-useful thought. Past guests at écovallée have included people travelling on their own, with a sibling, or with up to three children, and couples who are together – with and without kids – kids they’ve had with each other and with other people… Basically, everyone. And that hasn’t changed.

We all have our own stories and we’re all at different places in those stories. So I’m not going to worry about how it looks any more. (Phew.)

I’ve tweaked the website to reflect this slight change. For example, I’m now calling the “couple’s yurt” a “small yurt” for solo travellers, couples and people with small families. It’s a bit embarrassing that I didn’t spot this before. Sometimes, you can get so focused on your “target audience” (I used to work in advertising – please forgive the jargon), that you exclude other people who may want to come. My previous word choice may have even put off some people travelling on their own. Or people who are single parents (is this even the best expression for this?). If you’re one of them, I apologise.

In fact, écovallée is for everyone who wants to experience living outside, in a beautiful environment, in a beautiful structure, with very low impact facilities. If that sounds like you, come on down/across/up/over. This summer is going to be fantastic. Come and share it with existing friends, make new ones, or just come here on your own.

And bring a good book.

And a head torch.

Head torches are cool.

If you teach yoga or meditation (or something similar) and would like to run a course at écovallée, don’t be shy. Use the contact form in the sidebar and let’s talk…

 

Living like a hermit in écovallée this winter has given me plenty of time to reflect. This year, I’ve been literally (and filmically) introduced to – and inspired by – people like Paramahansa Yogananda, Sadhguru and Barry Long. Eckhart Tolle is my latest discovery.

If you’re looking for inner peace and/or interested in exploring your full potential as a human being – and not just a human doing – have a look at some videos on YouTube. It’s Sunday – you’re allowed to invest some of that time in your personal development. Have a great day.

Looking for a holiday that ticks everyone’s boxes? Here are five top reasons to stay in a yurt in écovallée (in the Dordogne, in southwest France), from someone who lives there all year round.

 

yurt camp

écovallée on a cloudy day, with the Play Yurt, Mustardseed, the outdoor kitchen and solar shower visible.

Lots of space

How would you like to swap your four walls for a 12.5-acre park, with a huge field surrounded by woods, overlooked by no one, a trampoline, Play Yurt, sand pit and more to entertain the kids? 

City-dwelling parents often realise they’ve never been more than a few feet from their children since the day they were born. In écovallée, they can be 100 yards (metres) away, with no worries at all. Toddlers can learn to walk on grassy slopes and up steps cut through the woods – it might be the first time they’ve experienced their natural habitat. 

If you are travelling without children, come during term time and enjoy the peace. Cars are not allowed in écovallée, and only a few planes fly over each day on their way to land at Bergerac, 20 minutes west. The rest of the time, it’s just you in a hammock made for two, buzzards circling in the midday heat, deer in the cool of the evening, and bats at dusk.

Letting your eyes rest on the trees in the breeze on the far side of the valley is as relaxing as watching the ocean. And the best news is, you’re already home for the night. If you’ve made the short trip down the hill to the medieval market town of Lalinde for supplies, you can relax and look forward to the evening show in the actual-sized planetarium.

rouffignac01

A few of the drawings you’ll see at nearby Rouffignac.

Human prehistory

You’ll be at home in the Dordogne in a way you’ve never been before – because the Dordogne and Vézère valleys are where we modern humans established ourselves as a species, about 40,000 years ago. Our ancestors sheltered in the limestone caves carved out by the retreating ocean that covered Aquitaine about 4,000,000 years before that. Some of these are decorated with images of the wildlife of the time. It’s incredible to stand a few inches from a painting that was created thousands of years ago, by the Michelangelo, Tony Hart or Banksy of the day.

The Vézére valley has 147 prehistoric sites and 25 decorated caves dating from the Paleolithic era. In 1979, UNESCO designated these a World Heritage Site, including the caves in Lascaux. (Lascaux II is a millimetre-accurate replica, which is well worth a visit.) Les Eyzies, with its cliffs overhanging the road, is an incredible place – and home to the national museum of prehistory. It’s not all primitive art, though. Other caves have magnificent rock formations and are naturally air conditioned – so great places to visit on a hot day.

There are too many caves to see in one trip, so you should plan ahead. Here’s a site that might help.

golden oriole

The golden oriole has the most exotic song you’ve ever heard. A real bird of paradise.

Rare birds

Nothing beats turning into the road towards écovallée and following a swooping green woodpecker down the hill. Or spotting a buzzard as it glides out of a tree, hoping the sound of your car will scare its next meal out of hiding. Every few weeks sees a rare or stunning bird come back to écovallée, like the hoopoe or golden oriole. At certain times, woodpeckers and cuckoos abound. At others, you drift off to sleep with owls hooting their presence to each other. Crossing the river on the way into Lalinde, you will see storks, ducks and swans. Hire a canoe for a microadventure upriver and you may even spot a kingfisher. 

solar shower

The big solar shower tank was new in 2015. Now everyone gets a hot shower whenever they want.

Low-impact living

Everything about écovallée has been created to minimise its environmental impact. The yurt frames are carbon positive (having re-grown since). The two outdoor kitchens are made using wood, rocks and pounded earth from écovallée, recycled fittings and furnishings, and are lit by solar fairy lights. The 160-litre solar shower drains into a reed bed and willow trench. The compost toilet and baby-changing area – a tree bog – will never need emptying. The fridge-freezer at reception runs on 100% renewable electricity. And the eggs and vegetables (when in season) are grown a few hundred metres down the field. 

Come and see how écovallée was made, pick up some ideas, and offer a few of your own. You may meet new friends who are on a similar path to yours. If you have enough friends already, why not bring some of them instead?

How to repair our pizza oven

Playing with mud – the pizza oven at reception during construction.

Try before you buy

Maybe you are thinking about getting off the hamster wheel of 21st-Century living. Perhaps you want to do something similar to écovallée. Or you’re considering buying a yurt as a studio, spare room, or home. Come and talk to Alex about the good and the bad. Find out what he would have done differently, knowing what he knows now, nine years after moving to rural France, and seven years after living in a yurt full time.

Yes, it’s beautiful. And peaceful. And warm. And it doesn’t rain all the time. And you stay fit. And healthy. And you get to live fully as a human being, in the environment we evolved to live in, with all your needs easily met. It’s perfect for a holiday, where you can unplug from the grid, and still hook up to WiFi if you must.

But could you live somewhere like écovallée 52 weeks of the year? Growing as much of your own food as you can? Cutting your own wood? Generating income to pay for life’s mandatories, like petrol, gloves and insurance? Right now, you can only guess that this lifestyle would suit you. The next step is to try it on for size.

For further details, visit ecovallee.com – there is still availability in all three yurts (two 18-foot yurts sleeping up to five and one 12-foot for a couple) for 2016. Book early to avoid having to stay somewhere else.

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