Published in partnership with Land of Verse and Nomad Botanicals
Laura Ash (Clinical Herbalist and Founder of Scarlet Sage and Land of Verse) and Carole Addison-Goyne (Botanical Perfumer and Founder of Nomad Botanicals) know a few things about the healing power of aromatic botanicals. The two Bay Area entrepreneurs, who have decades of expertise in herbal medicine and botanical perfumery under their belts, respectively, have teamed up to design an exclusive sensory journey in the heart of Provence this summer. During the retreat, guests will relax and meditate under the Solstice sun, craft their own botanical perfume, enjoy delicious, healthy chef-prepared local food, and explore Provencal villages, amid the blooming Lavender fields. This sacred retreat is intended to create a deeper sense of belonging to the land, celebrating the senses through local food, connecting with the art of traditional perfume making, and using native plants for healing with herbal medicine.
MerciSF sat down with co-hosts Laura and Carole to get the whole story behind this exclusive retreat.
How was the idea of a summer retreat in Provence born?
Laura: As a herbalist, I have always sought out the places in the world where herbal medicine is still being practiced, where traditions are alive. I first traveled from California to Provence in my teens, not knowing then that I have ancestors from that area of Europe. I fell in love with the land, the people, and the food. After I began practicing herbalism in the early 2000’s, I went back to Provence to seek out essential oil distilleries and explore the countryside. The Luberon region feels like home.
In my work, connecting people with their ancestral wisdom is essential to belonging. Many folks I know are disconnected from their roots, which can make people untethered, feeling like something is missing.
I have had a dream to bring people to Provence to share in the love I have for this rich botanical area of the world, and when I met Carole I knew that her craft would be the cornerstone of a retreat.
What makes Provence the ideal destination for this sacred retreat?
Laura: Centuries ago, botanical perfume was formalized in Provence, and even now perfume houses still function and reside. Combining herbal medicine, perfume, and the Summer Solstice in a villa on a lavender farm is why Provence is the place for relaxation, exploration, and transformation.
Carole: Plants have a sacred life force that we, as humans, connect with deeply on many levels. Through their scent, taste, and healing properties, they share stories with us, capturing aspects of their terroir and the influence of people who have helped them thrive throughout time. Gathering people together to experience the profound beauty of botanicals native to Provence, a region celebrated throughout the centuries for its rich sensory heritage, is a way of honoring those stories and keeping them alive.
How are you each infusing elements of your expertise into the retreat?
Laura: Our participants will walk the land and gather herbal medicines for teas and incense in the mornings.
Carole: I have dedicated the past 30 years to working in the aromatherapy, natural perfumery, and clean skincare & cosmetics field, and I will be sharing my experience, knowledge, and passion for botanicals throughout the transformative retreat. I will be guiding our participants through the art, science, and heritage of botanicals, based on the collective experiences I have had in these three areas and the magic that precipitates.
I have worked with different cultures during my aroma travels, from Morocco to France, and have seen firsthand how important it is to connect with plants that play a role in our heritage. Through my chemistry studies, I have gained an understanding of the importance of the science of essential oils in creating botanical perfumes as well as in anticipating the effects they have on us mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have had several important mentors along my journey, including Mandy Aftel, a world renowned Natural Perfumer and bestselling author. One of the greatest things I’ve learned from her is how to tap into the art of creating natural perfumes. One of my greatest joys is to share the perfume knowledge & traditional wisdom I’ve gathered along the way, and there will be a wellspring of it on this retreat!
Laura: We are also bringing in a Parisian chef, who is a native of Provence, to prepare each meal for our guests. All of the food will be infused with the local spices and essences of the area, honoring the season of summer.
Who is the retreat intended for?
Carole: We are curating an environment to foster a return to the senses through our week together in Provence. In the fast-paced lives that define the day and age we live in, we can sometimes forget to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature in all the ways it scents, flavors, and colors our journey. During the retreat, we will focus on slowing down time and living like our ancestors did. We invite people to marvel at the perfume and flavors that originate from the ground in this rich and fertile region, as we engage our senses and relish in the art of slowing down.
What will a sample day look like?
- Meditation + Relaxation: Begin your day with a walking meditation through lavender fields, gathering herbs for the day. Relax by the pool for a midday summer swim.
- Perfume Class: Craft your signature scent in a setting inspired by the rich perfume history of the region. Build your repertoire of perfume knowledge with exquisite essential oils & absolutes.
- Explore the Local Village: Grab a café or explore the farmers market in the nearest village. Walk to see the sights during free moments.
- Eating Well: Enjoy a summer meal outside under the stars, celebrating the local produce and scent laden foods to enjoy traditional Provençal meals.
How transformative will your retreat be for your guests?
True transformation comes with meaning. We tailored this retreat with decades of personal journeying into the healing arts of botanicals. We know the power of plants, and the connection to land brings peace and deep, sometimes profound healing. We hope that each person brings their own goals of transformation into the retreat in order for us to support each and every one to have the experience they want.
Ready to embark on this transformative journey?