Les Marguerites

Les Marguerites main house

It is a pivotal, primordial paradox, feeling fifty at your fingertips. For me, it’s queued up for this July, and with it, a wealth of anticipation, hope, ambivalence, and aspiration. There is a reckoning of self, a reflection of soul, and a reunion of reality and dreams. It is the lesser known, lesser spoken, undeniably transformational coming of age. And in the South of France, in a two-hundred-year-old mansion, this transition is celebrated, and stewarded in a five-day retreat I was entirely honoured to attend, at Les Marguerites.

The setting is a bit beyond description. Nestled in the Pyrenean mountains in the Occitanie region of France, Alet les Bains is one those storybook villages that exist if only to allow our belief that these places do. Bound by the Aude River, the region itself is known for its thermal spa waters, arcaded stone and timber homes, a visual rhapsody of ruins, abbeys, countryside and castles. A sensorial reverie of surreal surrounds.

Four different wellness retreats are hosted throughout the year at Les Marguerites. I selected the Menopause Retreat, because frankly friends, it’s coming for me. Learning how to breathe through this next metamorphosis with mental clarity and emotional embodiment, learning how to govern my journey with intention and an education, where better, than the place that captured my heart nearly two decades prior.

Les marguerites swimming pool

The retreat itself is four fully inclusive nights (Monday afternoon through Friday morning) of activity, edification, compassion, and nourishment, limited to an intimate group of at most, six women. Niche knowledge surrounding this specific shift is delivered so thoughtfully, so conscientiously, it is clear we are in the presence of sages of the sweetest kind. With them, we tap into the deep. We are goddess cards in spiritual circles, secret gardens, stone casters into the sea, sharing and connecting and the unity… it is euphoric.

The grounds of this chambre d’hote (French bed and breakfast), with the soaring trees and the pebbled gardens, where you can literally lie in the lap of lavender and take in the alchemy of garden roses and greenery, the rushing Aude River, and the indisputable tranquillity of Alet les Bains, cobbled and pastel shutters, it makes me weep. Genuine, honest, tears down the face, weep. I can’t wrap this kind of beauty in words. I don’t even know if we’re meant to.

What I do know, is that the gentle, enveloping, empowering magic that happens here, I know we are meant for that. And I can attest with utmost confidence, that exploring this transition into perimenopause or menopause, while ultimately may be an inside job, the communal camaraderie that happens here, is something extraordinary. There is power in it. And the emotional Etch-a-Sketch that comes from venturing beyond our norm, stepping outside our comfort, exploring a deeper dive, an awakening arrives in its place.

Les Marguerites suite

We profoundly connect with women from around the globe. We are bonded by brave, vulnerable, conversation, and we have time to ourselves. On my own time I walked the village (see aforementioned weeping), I went on hikes with views of the river and the Pyrenees. I finished a book and started a new one. The balance of schedule and free time is perfectly on point. The final night is the last night of summer camp. Bonds have been forged. The thing that happens when all masks are off and only truths are exchanged. In a very short time, something beautiful has been built.

Antoinette Fairhurst, creator and host of Les Marguerites, together with her glorious family and team of specialists, they are the sacred guardians of this journey. Antoinette’s gift with graciousness cannot be overstated, nor can her culinary aptitude. They flock for the food alone – she is village famous. Every meal, a rainbow of wellness, cooked with intention and explanation of what healing properties are provided within. Her goodness is as comforting as her cuisine, both a master class.

With a background in nursing and psychotherapy, Hazel Ratcliffe worked in Women’s Health and Wellbeing for pretty much always, and her infectious warmth combined with her wealth of knowledge is vast and intoxicating. She gorgeously spans the gamut of the silly to the spiritual, wildly wise and wonderfully versed in all things wellness. And a little more than a little moxie in that sparkle.


Suzanne, spunky and fun and full of holistic teachings, guides us through pilates and yoga, ending with a one-on-one reiki session, my first bathing in vibrational energy. And finally, Pedro Morrell, whose background in massage therapy and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy integrates mind, body, and touch, reminds us of the slow, deliberate bodywork that produces how health can feel. And how to find it if we forgot. With Pedro, by a crackling fire, we are graced with a 90-minute full body massage. If massage is an art, and massage is a therapy, Pedro, without question, has mastered the ability of both. Otherworldly.

The compilation of this experience, wholeheartedly, I cannot think of a more worthwhile, more meaningful gift. To anyone coming of age, to your friend, to your sister, to your soulmate, to yourself. This is the ultimate destination of soul searching, self-respecting, scenery saturating and sensory stirring awe. I wish it for every woman I know and don’t know.

Eighteen years ago I fell for Provence in life altering fashion. The experience affirmed my affinity for savouring life’s pleasures, basking in any found beauty, breathing in the details, from the glorious to the imperceptible: writing about them. Letting them change me in the way that travel is meant to. For eighteen years I have dreamed of a return to France’s south, wondering if the deepest caverns of my idealistic imagination painted a picture that elevated the truth. Thank you, Les Marguerites, thank you Antoinette and Hazel and everyone who steered and stewarded us, for validating that some places are meant to live with us and in us always, where reality holds the hand of fantasy, and intersects our unwavering want with a tangible, breathtaking reminder that the same world that can break our hearts, can also repair it.

The Details

Les Marguerites, 57 Avenue Nicolas Pavillon, 11580 Alet-les-Bains, France.

Tel +33 468 20 53 56 / +33 633 41 12 10

Website: www.les-marguerites.fr

Email: antoinette@les-marguerites.fr

Les Marguerites is set amongst the Pyrenean mountains and just an hour’s drive to some beautiful Mediterranean beaches. The closest airport is Toulouse, where transport arrangements will be made from there. If you are driving, there is private off-road parking available for guests.

Type of Hotel: Luxury Bed & Breakfast / Chambre d’hote and restaurant

Number of Rooms: Double bedrooms, family suites and large singles available. You can also rent the entire house which can sleep up to 15 guests. There is complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the house and garden. A new private swimming pool is available for all guests to use.

Price Band: Low to medium

Insider Tip: While rooms can be rented for the night, their retreats are well worth a flight around the globe for. Transformation aside, the value is extraordinary.

Fact File: The tiny town of Alet-les-Bains is an absolute dream. Staying at this property and experiencing a retreat here, I am convinced, there is no better gift to yourself or other.

The entire week, outside of air expense, cost under $2,000 for what I have described (inclusive of giant single room and giant gorgeous bathroom), and under $1,700 should you go with a friend and opt to share a room.

Three unbelievable meals a day (some served al fresco in the garden, weather depending), a stunning bedroom with a view, magical, meaningful, activities, yoga, pilates, reiki sessions, hikes, 90min full body massage, a genuine master class of self-care and a wealth of wellness experienced in the south of France, for well under $2,000. I cannot encourage or recommend this experience more highly.

Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10

Author Bio:

Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.

Photographs by Rupert Soskin courtesy of Les Marguerites and Jolie Loeb


  1. A Menopause Retreat?! In Provence?! Seriously?! Mrs. Loeb…when is your book about this experience coming out? I want to go to here! The setting. The experience. The concept. This makes my day, learning that such a week could be had. Thank you for sharing!

    • Oh yes. I think, and have thought for a long time, that it’s wrong that we do so little to mark this absolutely pivotal life cycle process. Like so many of life’s passages, it is not really an event, to be marked in a moment. This kind of retreat should be part of everyone’s journey! It sounds like such an open-hearted and generous group of people to guide you and is set in such a special place! I’m totally up for this😊🪻

  2. This looks like something out of a dream! Wellness retreats are the ultimate in self-care, and it doesn’t seem like there would be a better place than this extraordinary setting. Thank you for sharing. I am envisioning how amazing this would be with a group of women for a 50th birthday, or something special. A girl can dream!!

  3. Holy smokes!! This d as Linda insane… you’ve got me totally inspired to book our next vacay here. Thanks for sharing the top notch bro as always!!

  4. You sounded more and more alive every day of your stay. What a priceless (actually very well-priced!) experience. I strongly believe every woman deserves to attend a peri/menopause, coming of age retreat.

  5. What a true gift to self! While your words and reporting are true food for the soul and spirit.
    One can hope to make a visit here — an inspired in-person nourishment for mind and body. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Your words were written as though you were breathless. I experienced your state of awe. It seemed like all unknowns came together to embrace you. The physical the emotional and the ethereal. Just knowing it’s a possibility is a fantastic gift. This was an exceptionally beautiful review……Thank Youso much.

    What an incredible healing beautiful remarkable place!!!
    Thank you for brining it to my attention!

  8. Omg Jolie!!! I have been looking for something like this. It should be mandatory for us women to do this at this time in life. So many changes and having put our own selves on hold to raise children, it’s a necessity to reconnect with oneself, and what better way than with women around the globe and IN FRANCE!
    The price point is great too!
    I love your deep and sincère description of your time here. Wonderfully written and I can imagine myself strolling the cobbled streets and stopping for a coffee. Heaven.

    • Look no further Victoria! We definitely agree with you that all women should get an opportunity to reconnect to themselves and other women during these pivotal moments in life. And yes, the magical land of France is an ideal location for this beautiful journey! We would love to have you Victoria on one of our next retreats. Please feel free to reach out to set up a phone call to learn more and book your spot: antoinette@les-marguerites.fr

  9. Sounds amazing! Happy birthday Jolie!! Sounds like an amazing place to come into this stage of life. Welcome aboard!!!

  10. Breathtaking! Amazing! Inspirational!
    Unfortunately, the transition into menopause can be so easily swept under the rug making it so hard to explore it, and thus grow into a well rounded woman.
    This sounds like a lovely and meaningful way to celebrate this life milestone not everyone is blessed to have.
    The price is so reasonable … my wheels are spinning how and with whom?

  11. I didn’t know a place like this existed at such a reasonable price. It sounds magical and almost too good to be true. Thank you for going and adding to my dreams. Putting it in the “to go” file!

  12. Replying because we live near to Antoinette and Alet les Bains and everything that Jolie Loeb says is 100% accurate. Alet is one of the jewels in the crown of the Occitanie, close to Limoux where they boast that Dom Perignon (creator of champagne) visited to find out how to make sparkling wine because they had been making their local Blanquette de Limoux for decades before he arrived (and still do), and also to the fairytale city of Carcassonne. Down here we say that champagne isn’t a bad copy of our blanquette (which costs less than $5 a bottle).
    This area was recently voted in a French opinion poll as the politest region of France, and it is certainly as friendly as everywhere else in the country.
    So thank you Jolie, and do come to see us again soon. And to all your readers, you will also all be equally welcome.

  13. What an amazing experience Antoinette, Hazel, and the others created for you. And, of course, a fittingly beautiful written review/homage to the retreat itself. A getaway from the world and a chance to reset — it sounds wonderful. Let’s try another one of their retreats all together (maybe one of the non-menopause themes!

    • Fungabi, we have many retreats we will be very happy to welcome you on one of our other retreats. We offer a healing rest and reset “heartwork retreat” as well as Indian cooking retreats and many more! Feel free to check out our website: http://www.lesmarguerites.fr to check out our full list of retreat options!

  14. Perfection! As if menopause is not dreaded. Like the young girls in “Are you there God it’s me Margaret”, but with a French twist and wisdom of age. This sounds like a dream. So happy it is reality for you!

  15. This article reflects my experience perfectly – I was fortunate to attend the very first menopause retreat at Les Marguerites. Alet les Bains is a very special place, it is a village I have the great fortune to call home. Antoinette creates the ultimate experience to nurture heart, body and soul. Hazel is there to guide, support and bring out the very best of who we are. I cannot express how much such a retreat brings to the quality of our lives. If you can, come and experience it for yourself, the return on your investment will be boundless.

  16. This sounds heaven sent and something all of us need desperately! Thanks to your enchanting review a possible girls trip has been inspired that would not have been sparked otherwise. Another bucket list addition!

  17. Loved reading about this amazing place. Your words to describe it made it sound like a dream. Too bad I’m too old for that retreat but I’m sure the others are just as wonderful. Thanks for your awesome reviews!

  18. I absolutely LOVE that part of France! I hope to get back there one day and am grateful for you wonderful recommendations!

  19. What a beautiful write up, I would love to visit there some day! It absolutely sounds divine. Thank you for sharing every experience in such detail, it made me feel I was already there!

  20. Full disclosure…I am Jolies father and she has been doing these reviews for many years now and I have never seen her so enthused about a property. Not only was the getaway so enthralling, but the hostesses were so genuinely kind. Based on her experience, I would recommend this to anyone, especially mother and daughters.

    • Wow Allan, thank you so much for this comment. It really warms our hearts to hear! Our arms and house are wide open for anyone who wishes to visit us and especially mother and daughters!

  21. I love learning about retreat experiences around the globe and this one sounds gorgeous. How fun and uplifting this must have been for the writer!

  22. I wish I had known of this place before now. It would have been a wonderful gift to have given my sister when she was preparing for her transformation. It looks so lovely and given what’s included, quite affordable.

  23. Jolie this is such a pivotal time in your life and every milestone will be a learning experience for you. life will open your eyes and ears to all of the wonderful things that God in a blessing for you. This trip was in the plan was planned in the beginning of your beautiful life. Thank you for allowing me to travel along with you.

  24. This retreat is such a win-win. We are finally starting to talk openly about menopause and all the challenges and changes that come with it. What a better place to learn about this next chapter than in a soothing and gorgeous spot like Les Marguerites

  25. This is such a beautifully written review. It captures the magical mystery of being in Southern France all while revealing just the right amount of details. This makes me want to go and experience this wonder for myself.

  26. This place looks like it could be in a fairy tale. I will definitely put it on my wishlist of places I want to visit.

  27. Well I want to lie in the lavender. I felt my shoulders relax and my breathing slow as I read this beautiful review celebrating this beautiful place.

  28. Sold! This looks and sounds unimaginable. The way you shared your experience, the detail, the tone, it’s all breathtaking. You are such a fabulous writer. What you say is palpable. Truly. I can feel the awe of it. I want to go there. I WILL go there. Thank you for sharing this!!

  29. This is exquisite! Sign me up! Four retreats to choose from and staying at such a lovely and serene mansion. Sounds like a great place to relax and recharge!

  30. This is where I want to go for my next birthday. I’m not sure what I loved more… Your description of this place and your experience or or how I feel when I imagine myself there. This is a dream, magical place. It is now on my bucket list!

  31. Wow, this beautifully written review was like a poem, an ode to what sounds like a dream retreat. I will absolutely add this to my list of wishes!

  32. Jolie, you are truly living the dream, and your words slide off your pen (or laptop) like velvet. Ladies, my passport is current if anyone else wants to go on an epic vacation.

  33. What a treat for myself to be asked to contribute to this wonderful retreat. Having worked in the holistic health industry for nearly 30 years & on many a retreat including my own. This was indeed a very special event. To be given a very warm welcome & to be able to share my varied knowleged & chat openly in beautiful surroundings was a delight. Meeting people from close by & afar & eating a delicious lunch was an honour. Despite only being there for a few hours I came away with a warm heart & smile, so I know after a week it will have been magical. Take care everyone, I hope to meet you again soon & maybe some new people 🤞🙏

  34. Do it. This is a priceless event to get to, not only to learn more about menopause, but it is also great to simply get to recharge in such a beautiful setting. Antoinette and Hazel are such impressive and cool women to know. It took me a while to get to write this, but honestly, the few days we’ve spent together there, was, very much and in every aspect of it all, well, incredibly lovely. Retreats can be tricky, it really is a hit and miss no matter how well the organisation is. To me, this was a superb quality girlfriends hang out on a isle of positive thinking. We got a lot of stuff worked out and openly talked about so many topics. In a very respectful, but very honest way. Antoinette is a fantastic chef with a heart on her sleeve and her naturally shared unconditional love is certainly added to all that she does and shares. Go.

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