My Mama Mia - Part Two

by Rachel Ashwell

The night before I left for France I went to see Mama Mia! Here We Go Again.Yes, it’s cheesy but so joyous. I loved the freedom of spirit, the singing & dancing and the dream location with its white and turquoise palette. It was the perfect segue for my travels to Kathryn Ireland’s farmhouse in France.

Kathryn and I have much in common. Even though our personalities couldn’t be more different, we have had parallel lives. Both living in Los Angeles (via the UK) for over 30 years. We both prioritized motherhood while building successful businesses.   And we both were divorced a million years ago.  We did this while balancing the trails and tribulations that come with day to day life.

Kathryn is the life and soul of the party. I am the quiet one. She wears colorful dresses and I have my uniform or white. She went to proper English schools and has a huge cast of characters of friends with exotic names (Pinknie and Ithaca as an example.) She is a great storyteller with so many stories to tell. I don’t know that anyone makes me laugh as much as she does.

My plan this summer was to find time to visit her.  She hosts retreats called Boot Camp all over the world and I arrived in the middle of one of them. Women come far and near, wanting to experience and learn a little bit of Kathryn’s world.  She cooks with them, they visit markets and meet her cast of local residents.

Everyone’s door is always open to her and her door I don’t think even has a lock. Food is picked from her garden, I took on the task of watering as the European heatwave continues to follow me. We talked to her horses that apparently are qualified to be show horses, but she chooses to let them roam on her fields. Kathryn says they are her joy in lieu of jewelry, albeit less mobile.

On our little outings I always stumbled on tiny, humble ancient churches for which I have such a connection. I couldn’t resist buying some vintage lights at a local “brocante” which I have no idea how I will transport home (affordably.) Too fragile to ship and in excess of my bag allowance so other guests got them as far as London for me. If only my crew had been with me I would have bought loads.

Our days were filled with talks, food, swimming and exploring. Onions and garlic were a mainstay which I navigated around as I only like salt to flavor. While Kathryn jumped in and out of her pool I timidly dangled my feet. Napping here and there was as much rest that could be had as there wasn’t really time to sleep.

When the Boot Camp ended other friends came to stay, along with a constant stream of local residents.  One evening she arranged a wine tasting for which I attempted to be part of but since I don’t drink wine I had to pretend.  She also had a floral designer come and give a floral display lesson. I felt more in my element but pretended I didn’t know much.

One evening we went wondering into her sunflower-fields lit by the full moon, dancing and singing ensued. My play list was much appreciated and even though I didn’t sing I did hum and gently “kind of” danced. Being in Kathryn’s presence is fully inspires one to feel the joy of life.  I truly didn’t want to leave but 16 new friends were arriving, so it was time... And I had more places to go.

Amongst all the joy I was inspired to write and write until my hand hurt. I left this chapter of my journey with a new benchmark of bliss and freedom. If only the feeling could be bottled. I will be sure to hold that feeling in my heart as my travels continue. 

To learn more about my friend Kathryn, her retreats and her business click on the links below.

Kathryn Ireland Retreat Information

Kathryn Ireland’s The Perfect Room


  • As always, your words are a beautiful reflection of the artist you are. I would love to have you capture the beautiful ancient chapels in a book; as all your books are an inspiration to warm our hearts and spark creativity! Your pictures and words together would share their beauty to so many who love them too!

    Marianne Bolger on

  • Sounds like incredibly delicious food for the soul, some of it sweet, some savory. What I wouldn’t give to tour those little ancient chapels. I have daydreamed about building our own. Wouldn’t that be a blessing!?! I have a friend like Kathryn – the life of the party – the storyteller who elevates the ordinary and brings so much vivid color you feel tipsy around her. Looking forward to the next installment and so happy you were inspired to write. xox

    michele on

  • I do hope those journals become a book soon it sounded like you had found a little piece of Heaven x

    Lynda Briers on

  • I love learning of new retreats and intimate places to visit. I just returned from Greece and tend to venture toward water and warm weather. But lately, my desire has been to visit France. Maybe it’s due to my times at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista, California where the owners have transported the most amazing French antiques one can imagine including a chapel brought over from Dijon, France. My heart was raw from a divorce but somehow being in the midst of such soulful pieces and details, I was able to enjoy my surroundings and forget the pain. I love your writing and storytelling, Rachel. But mostly your beautiful bohemian spirit. Always forward….even when we crawl.

    Laura Castanos on

  • What a joy filled post and I too truly wish I could hold on to those feeling when I receive them.

    ALice GEnzlinger on

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© 2017 Rachel Ashwell