Peterborough resident Johanna Sinclair fell in love with France when she was a 15-year-old exchange student.
And now, years later, she shares her passion for the Dordogne region with group and solo travellers through her beautifully renovated villa, La Résidence Terrasson.
Located in the French village of Terrasson and overlooking the Market Square, the villa is airy and bright. With generous space for 10 guests, Johanna’s home-away-from-home is turning into a desired destination for writers, cyclists, and explorers from Peterborough and the Kawarthas.
This is the second year that Johanna is offering the use of her villa for group retreats, with eight experiences scheduled for 2019 (one is already sold out).
Last year’s retreats proved so popular through word of mouth alone that Johanna is now welcoming guests to her piece of paradise through a booking website.
“I’m always looking to share this with people who are fun, with people who will appreciate this,” explains Johanna, who is the former owner of fair trade roasting company and cafe Dreams of Beans in downtown Peterborough and a graduate of Trent University, where she studied geography and (not surprisingly) French studies.
And there is so much to appreciate.
The Dordogne region of southwestern France is known for its wine, walnuts, figs and truffles. The rolling hills of the region are dotted with ancient chateaus and it’s the perfect place to let the heart and mind find inspiration.
From the lush landscapes to delicious and affordable French cuisine, it’s the perfect backdrop for all the specialized retreats offered through La Résidence Terrasson.
The villa was built in the 1700s and has been respectfully renovated. The kitchen, bathrooms, and living room are all fully modern, but old-world charm remains with period furnishings, handcrafted by a local family of cabinet makers who built pieces for estate homes and chateaus in the region.
There is a whimsical charm that can be found in every room of the home, thanks to light fixtures sourced through yard sales and antique shops.
In the summer months, it’s not uncommon to leave all the doors and windows open to let the warm and fragrant air flood through the home.
The space feels magical and it brings Johanna great joy to share it with friends and strangers through group and solo bookings.
“I wanted to give back to Peterborough and to artists and entrepreneurs,” Johanna explains. “From the time the first group of artists arrived at the house for a retreat, I knew this was the perfect place for people to make connections, to experience a slower pace, and to be inspired.”
Artists who have attended retreats are amazed at their productivity and Johanna says this has a lasting effect.
“I’ve seen guests in tears on their first night,” she explains. “Women who have completely forgotten how to be good to themselves and then they’re here, enjoying a slower pace, learning from the French and simply going with the flow.”
The flow, as Johanna explains it, involves lots of time to wander the village, to walk the gorgeous 12th-century stone footbridge that was built by monks, while allowing your mind and your imagination wander.
“You can walk on the bridges and just imagine Napoleon’s people coming down on the river,” she sighs.
This imaginative backdrop makes La Résidence Terrasson a perfect spot for retreats focused on cycling, painting, health and wellness, inspired living, and antiquing. This fall, there’s even an erotic essay writing retreat.
Johanna notes that all the retreat facilitators that she works with are ready to inspire and entertain the small groups that sign-up for these life-changing experiences. The retreat facilitators will all be familiar names to Peterborough-area residents.
The cycling tour is hosted by cyclist and musician Chris Culgin, the artist retreats are hosted by painters Valerie Kent and John Climenhage, and the health and wellness retreat is hosted by yoga teacher Anne Ryan.
The inspired living retreat is hosted by transformation coach and artist Maura Joy Lustig and the erotic essay writing retreat is hosted by playwright and short story writer Laurel Paluck.
Johanna adds that she’s always looking for ideas for new retreats at La Résidence Terrasson by partnering with local entrepreneurs and artists (she is already working on a wine and cheese tour for next year).
VIDEO: Cycling through the French countryside around Dordogne by Chris Culgin
Johanna finds it very rewarding to see how guests embrace their time at La Résidence Terrasson.
“I really enjoyed the cyclists filming their experience and the artists being approached by local residents to see what they were doing,” she says.
It’s easy to understand the excitement of guests when you watch the short video above that Chris Culgin prepared during one of his retreats. The scenery is breathtaking, the winding roads are free from vehicular traffic, and each day provides ample time for cycling but also for sightseeing, feasting on great local food and, of course, there is the wine.
For those who prefer to travel alone or who don’t need the programming of a retreat, Johanna also offers weekly rentals of the villa for those who would like to plan their own adventures — and she’s always available to help with the planning.
“One woman enjoyed a retreat so much that she booked the villa for a trip with her husband right after she returned home,” Johanna laughs.
For those who are planning on going on their own, Johanna says there is so much to enjoy. From two-hour lunches that feature multiple courses that run around $15 in the village to Market Days that offer fresh Turkish kebabs, you could easily structure your vacation plans around all the local food (and did we mention the wine?).
“And it is possible to lose weight while you’re enjoying all of this French food,” Johanna explains. “There is a higher quality of grains, there are no GMOs, and you’re going to be walking every day.”
Plus, she adds, life just gets easier when your stress melts away.
Johanna can also help to arrange private chefs, kayak rentals, bicycle rentals, and anything else a guest needs.
“Or you can relax on the balcony or linger over coffee,” she says, as a plug for those who prefer to un-schedule for a week.
Whatever travellers are seeking, Johanna is available to offer suggestions and support and, of course, her home-away-from home for private or group bookings for those who are ready to escape to France for the inspirational adventure of a lifetime.
“This is a very special place,” she says. “And I certainly don’t mind sharing it.”
For more information about La Résidence Terrasson, and to book a retreat or a weekly rental, visit www.francehomerental.com.
Note: Johanna Sinclair is not a travel agent and is not associated with a travel or tour agency. She does not book travel, she only rents her home in France, La Résidence Terrasson, and organizes session leaders.