Fasting and Hiking in Bayons
Englishman in Provence
Detailed account of John’s weeklong experience
in Provence in July 2013
I’m John, and I’m about to tell you about my first experience of Jeûne et Randonnée (fast and hiking). What an adventure ! An Englishman who voluntarily fasts… Come-on ! Follow in my footsteps ! Try to imagine how it’s like ! I’ll help you.
First of all, I should outline the reasons that lead me to sign up for this program :
– The need to step aside and take stock of my professional career. I’ve reached the age of retirement, yet I want to carry on some occupation so as to keep up the pace and retain youth. At 62, I can still be of use. I still have my vitality, motivation and skills. “You aren’t quite an old chap, John !”.
– The need to rest my body. I had been running in full swing for too long. I felt like taking a break, slowing down to recharge my batteries. My body needed some time-off : a real break, a genuine proof of love and commitment to myself. Excesses of all sorts have punctuated my life. I felt the need for an in-depth detox, a full-scale scrubbing of these excesses’ leftovers. And a check-up !
– The desire to consider this fast like a starting point, a new beginning : not an end in itself. I needed to start afresh to face the coming decades with a newly found vitality and health !
– As a bonus, if, at the end of this Jeûne et Randonnée program, the scale could show I lost a few pounds, I certainly wouldn’t complain. At my age, any unnecessary weighs is a burden !!!
Why did I choose Bayons, in Provence, to live this Jeûne et Randonnée experience ? A friend of mine had already enjoyed an extraordinary week there and had strongly recommended the Top Vitalité program, which includes 6 vitality treatments.
He told me : “In Bayons, you will be far from everything, and yet so close to the essential”. That was enough to convince me.
As soon as my subscription was confirmed, I received a box of blond psyllium at home, to prepare smoothly and efficiently my digestive system for the fast. The psyllium is to be taken in a glass of water or fruit juice. You stir one tablespoon of it in the glass and drink it immediately. This liquid is to be taken twice to three times a day, for 2 to 3 days.
The preparation for this fasting and hiking program is simple : for 5 days (D-7 to D-2), adopt a vegetarian diet and walk, if possible 1h per day. Prefer stairs to lifts. The last two days before (D-2 to D-day), consume only raw and cooked fruits and vegetables + blond psyllium.
During my stay in Bayons, I did not eat anything, though I drank a lot of water of herbal tea.
I drove to Bayons. If you arrive by train, no worries ! Florence will come and pick-you up at the Sisteron train station.
My first impression upon arrival : home sweet home ! A haven of peace, hidden from the rest of the world… My bedroom was clean, the bed freshly made, bath towels neatly stacked in my closet, a hot-water bottle resting on my pillow, ready to use ! Herbal teas, Bottot water and essential oils: nothing was missing. The bathroom is equipped with a shower, which managed to surprise me… The water coming out was astonishing : soft and voluptuous. I simply loved it !
I settled down before Chris came to guide me through the vitality check-up : a 30 minutes questions and answers session, carried while drinking rosemary infusions and other gifts of Mother Nature ! Time to step on the scale for various measures: weight, BMI, muscle mass, metabolic age and so on.
The other participants were all very nice. Our group was made of 7 people. Groups are limited to 10 participants. The living space is very comfortable, sober and warm.
Chris organises a welcome conference to outline the week ahead: fasting and its mechanisms, the vitality treatments offered by the team of Jeûne Vitalité therapists, the weekly program. Clear, specific and reassuring ! My doubts on not eating for a whole week, while hiking for 3 to 4 hours each morning, faded away. Out of our 7-person group, 3 had already come to Bayons more than once. As it turns out, the experience was brand new only for two of us.
Time to go to bed. First night. I slept very little. Strangely enough, in the morning, I felt well rested and perfectly well. I woke up with a minor headache (my liver was actually a bit tired so everything makes sense!) but peppered-mint essential oil rubbed on my temples worked wonders.
Every morning, we proceeded to a muscular awakening, based on breathing, stretching and relaxation exercises, ludic activities and muscle strengthening. The aim was to set the body in motion after the night.
The hikes were breath taking. The chemin de fer, the Massif des Monges, the Baudinard, forests, waterfalls, the Plates, Tavanon, Rouinon – all are magnificent !
The Flora and Fauna of the Massif des Monges includes deer, marmots, bighorn sheep, chamois, butterflies, eagles, wild orchids, thyme, lavender, and so on. The GR6, a famous hiking path, links Briançon to Bordeaux. Bayons lies at the crossroads of the paths to Arles and Rome, on the famous road to Saint Jacques de Compostelle.
In the afternoons, we are offered a wide choice of activities:
– The vitality treatments
– The relaxation room, which includes a sauna, a Jacuzzi and 3 stretching tables : Phyisiostretch, Decompress and inversion table
– Regenerating naps, soothed by the sound of a fellow faster gently playing his guitar,
– Amandine took advantage of the piano to lull us into deep sleep !
– Others preferred enjoying the sun and stayed on the terrace to discuss or read.
The treatments ! Chris and the hydrotherapy (colonic irrigation), Serge and the ayurvedic massage, Traute and the lymphatic massage, Maryse and the Thaï reflexology followed by an Indian head massage, Aurélie and the shiatsu and Swedish massage… The Top Vitality program is the best, without any doubt !
Jacqueline and Michel joined us one night for… well, it’s a surprise. I won’t say another word !
We met Séverine and her alembic, and discovered her products : refined lavender essential oil, thyme or wild carrots hydrolates and homemade syrups.
I also had a chance to play chess with Éliot… an adorable child ! He’s the son of the house.
Chris’s conference on breaking fast and returning to a healthy lifestyle in general was refreshing. Far from dogmas and ideologies, he presented us a realistic, applicable approach that can easily be adapted to anyone’s everyday life.
And then Friday came : the week had flown by. It was already six days since I had last eaten and I felt in great shape! Incredible ! My English friends, at least those to whom I dared confide that I was willingly going to fast in Provence, would have a hard time believing I managed to live this experience “fingers in the nose” as they say in Bayons ! “Sacrés Français !” They are as capable of eating frog-legs as of not eating at all for several days or weeks. It’s now certain, despite the tunnel, the Channel will always materialise a real cultural gap.
I still had to visit the village’s church, built in the 11th and 13th centuries, and discovered what its “unique sonority” is about. Wonderful ! Florence organises a classical music concert there every summer. I had the chance to attend a philharmonic concert there.
On Friday afternoon, it was time for us to step back on the scale. Chris explained to us individually how the evolution of the different measures could be understood : BMI, muscular mass, weight, etc. We are not equal when it comes to fasting ! Although we all have lost weight and water, we did not do so in the same proportions. I will need to buy a pair of hangers or change my “guarde-robe” ! They really must have me confused for a Scottish if they think I wear dresses.
I bought some lavender and acacia honey, spirulin and other local delicacies.
And then it was time to break fast, a long awaited moment for some of us. Thank you Florence ! She is as discreet as she is a great cook, who had prepared for us some soup, compotes, vegetable juices and prunes. For the “apéro”, Chris had us try a Pianto vegetables juice : delicious !
The discussions I had with Chris regarding my professional orientation turned out to be even more helpful than I had hoped. His ability to listen, his enlightened opinion, his advice, his ideas and his efficient method (strategic analysis) were all very precious to me. I don’t even know how to thank him properly !
On my last night, I already started planning my next fast, which will probably last 15 days to 3 weeks. And I will certainly come back to Bayons before long !
After breakfast we said goodbye : hugs and laughs to close a formidable week. This week has been a parenthesis, far from everything, yet so close to the essential… The words of my friend have become crystal clear to me : I could not have said it better myself.
I am thankful for the wonderful people I met, and for discovering myself to some extent.
The Sisteron market, the organic store “Made in Local” : ideas are flowing in. I am leaving with new resolutions, though it is not a revolution.
Coming back home in a cleaned body, adopting a healthier diet, my first contacts with this globalised, borderline crazy civilisation: it struck me. The world is sick with short-term yield, profits, productivity, manipulations, and over-consumption. Hopefully there are still some havens that managed to remain sheltered from all this frenzy. Bayons is one of them.
What can I say about my physical energy ? I felt like I had been given wings. I could fly ! I have regained the sensations of my youth… The young lion, strong, elegant, generous, powerful with an unbroken will ! I have energy, time and passion, for myself and those who matter to me. I can’t believe how great I feel ! Long life to fasting… in Bayons, with Florence and Christian.
One question remains : why did I have to wait until I was 62 to learn about this concept of fasting and hiking ? How could I have not come to this by myself, long ago ? As Chris would say, “the main characteristic of the past is that it has passed”. So I keep looking forward, with a rejuvenated heart and a lighter soul…