August 20 marked the very last day of the 2014 Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne. The day started early for me at 5:30 am with me bidding adieu to our wonderful and talented intern, Meghan Tilley, as she when to catch her flight at Charles de Gaulle Airport. By 8 am, all of our terrific writers, artists, and yoga-philes sat down at the great table in the Château de Verderonne hunting lodge to have one last breakfast together. Our writers would be returning home to the US, the Philippines, the UK, and Germany after this all-too-short and productive retreat. Breakfast was bittersweet as we all said our fond farewells, exchanged emails, and promised to keep in touch with our writing partners and workshop groups. We chose November 20 as our first post-retreat rendez-vous date when all of our 2014 retreat participants would meet via Skype to exchange their writing and update us on the projects we had begun at the Château de Verderonne. Participants began to make their way to the train station and airport around 11 am. Some writers would be staying a few days extra in Paris while others would do a short tour of Europe before they returned home.
After 11 am, only a few of the participants and instructors remained at the Château de Verderonne. We thanked Gina & Jessica for their incredibility generosity and fierceness of spirit, which brought a of light and great humor to the retreat. We walked around the blooming flower gardens and lush green estates of the château one more time together, remembered our meetings on the trampoline, the incredible meals we had made together, and all the writing that was produced on the trip. We made a pact to not only keep in touch, but to keep each other posted on our creative projects, and to most of all, keep on writing. The creative energy at the end of the trip was tangible. And after spending the afternoon working on our own writing and art, Norma, Elissa, and I joined Monsieur and Madame Marié de l’Isle for one last dinner at the château. Over apéritifs and a wonderful home-cooked meal, we spoke of our favorite French authors and thinkers, the luminaries who had graced the Château de Verderonne, and the exciting plans for the château’s future.
Returning to our rooms late in the evening when the fog and mist had settled over the château’s gardens, we enjoyed one last midnight discussion together, and then rested for the next day we would be heading off to Paris! In Paris, we met up with Jessica and Antonia Alexandra Klimenko, a celebrated member of SpokenWord Paris and one of the most renowned English-language poets currently living in Paris. Together, we enjoyed a to-die-for Morrocan meal complete with mouth-watering tajines, delicious couscous, and hot mint tea at La Baracka in Paris. A black cat with green eyes watched us overhead as we enjoyed our dinner together. Then we visited L’altelier Charonne which was featuring Jazz Manouche and Tzigane music. Two of the musicians were of Roma descent and the third was Italian, and together they blended French classical music styles, bossa nova, and traditional Gypsy music themes together beautifully. After the concert, Jess and Norma had a chance to chat with the Roma musicians as well.
After the amazing concert, we noticed an unmarked building with gorgeous electric lights, dark curtains, and an assortment of odd mid-century modern furniture inside. The place was actually a tavern called Bar Sans Nom (A Bar With No Name), and as the owner later described it to us, the place purposefully lacked a marquee sign and any exterior indication that it was a bar at all. In this way, the tavern could be magical. Hard to spot the first time, and even harder to find the second. The dark velvet walls seemed to invite. And sitting there in the middle of old television sets, typewriters, pianofortes, and hard-metal fans, it was easy to wonder if this place was really real, or rather, if it was something we had imagined to entertain one last evening together.
– Rita Banerjee, Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Creative Director