Port Grimaud, Côte d’Azur.

1 Jul

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Sitting in the warmth of the evening sun overlooking Port Grimaud on Frances cote d’Azur whilst watching the yachts coming in to moor for the evening and with a cold beer in hand, I couldn’t help but think how idyllic a way to spend an hour on a late summers evening this was. It made me appreciate how all is good in the world and life is really not that shabby at all. Except, as in life, things were not really that straightforward.
In fact the reason I was there at all was to take a long, hard look at all that was wrong with my life and learn the techniques that would help me to improve those areas with which I felt dissatisfied and that I hoped to change.
The man who was going to help me achieve these somewhat herculean life changes was chartered psychologist and personal development specialist Graham Price. Over the course of a week in his waterside villa he would endow me with all the tools I would need to live a life free of worry and regret and become the person I had always wished to be.
I must be honest that as I took another sip from my beer and felt the cool breeze on my face I couldn’t help but think that I was already the person I wanted to be.
But I have always believed that there is room for improvement in everyones life and if you were to say that there was none in yours I’m not sure I would believe you. So, cynisism firmly put to one side, I had jumped at the opportunity to take part and was ready to embrace the experience with an open mind.
First up was meeting my fellow participants which turned out to be a slightly covert operation at Nice airport involving subtle methods of identification, think blind date without the red carnation in my lapel. Any fears I may have had about the types of people who sign up for such a course where allayed during the 90 minute drive along the coast and I could start to relax and allow myself to realise the week might just turn out to be fun too.IMG_0858
The week would consist of two one and a half hour training sessions, one after breakfast and another each evening before dinner. The time in between could be spent either at your own leisure or by taking up yachtsman Grahams very kind offer of sailing lessons on his beautiful 50ft boat. The port was purpose built on reclaimed marshland in the 1960s by French architect Francois Spoerry and is often described as a mini Venice with its many channels and bridges. A keen sailor himself, Spoerry designed the town with sailing in mind and many of the properties are the second homes of wealthy yacht owners from across Europe.
The atmosphere amongst the group was relaxed on our first morning and it turned out that not content with turning our lives around in the space of 7 days everybody was also up for taking on this seemingly highly skilled sport and giving it a go.
The title of the course was The Power to Choose and after a delicious Continental breakfast on the terrace is was time to get down to some learning. The thing that became apparent quite quickly on was that the week was going to be a lot more relaxed than I had first anticipated which was a welcomed realisation. It was also a hugely beneficial way of taking the information Graham was giving us on board. If I am being honest I had slightly anticipated a sort of Psychologists couch enviroment but all lessons were very informal and felt almost like a friendly discussion. I had been afraid that I would be expected to indulge in an outpouring of all my life’s disappointments and failures but thankfully this wasn’t to be the case. Instead Graham encouraged an open discussion on generally shared experiences and offered us the tools that in his experience have successfully and continually helped himself and those who take part in his many courses.
Focussing on everyday thought processes and how we deal with them you slowly begin to realise that some of these thoughts have gradually become second nature and overtime even create obstacles to how you see others and yourself. As suggested by the course title if you can learn how to put these lessons into practice then you can choose to change many things about your life which you are unhappy with. Smoking cessation, weight loss and even how to reconcile relationships are amongst many of the issues that can be dealt with at either of Graham’s London clinics or here in France. And as easy as that our first exercise is over. Graham turns out to be very enjoyable company and puts the group at ease with this beginning to the week. That wasn’t so bad after all. And neither is the rest of the weeks training. As the time is largly spent on discussion it would be quite difficult to give a blow by blow account of everything that we learn over the seven days of training. But as the week progresses we learn how to improve our confidence, how to deal with negative or uncomfortable feelings and how to generally take control of our lives in a way that benefits us most. We are also shown how to combat all feelings of worry in our lives and promised that now we will be able to eradicate it forever. A fairly lofty claim I hear you say? But Graham assures us that worry is an emotion he has not experienced in almost thirty years now that he has the techniques to deal with it.
I must admit that with this announcement I could feel my earlier cynicisms ears stand on end. However I am not going to give in and remain focussed on my goals. That’s the thing with this type of trip. As displayed by my companions it is very brave to acknowledge that there are areas in your life that you are perhaps not fulfilling to their potential and to seek out and commit to such a holiday I feel is to be commended and unless you are willing to embrace the situation fully then what’s the point?
And yes I did say holiday. I wouldn’t want anybody reading this to think that it’s all introspective learning and heartfelt confessions because it most certainly isn’t.
Some of my spare time was spent on the beautiful beach a ten minute stroll from the villa or drinking coffee and taking in the atmosphere at the weekly market in the ports main square. Pt. GrimaudI even managed to become a surprisingly proficient sailor on our daily trips to the nearby towns of St. Tropez and St. Maxime where we would moor the yacht and explore the surroundings either solo or with the group. Some evenings after dinner were spent on the terrace drinking rose, unlimited during our stay from Grahams cave, and chatting late into the night. After one night we even decided to have a later start and the next days training took place onboard the yacht in the glorious sunshine. We dropped anchor off the coast of St. Tropez and discussion took place over a lunch of local cheeses and meats whilst dipping in and out of the water to cool down.
There is a lot to get your head around and at times you can end up feeling a little drained mentally but fortunately the beautiful setting and the physicality of the sailing offer the perfect counter balance. Together they also offer a winning combination for a great holiday.DSC02726
Can I say that the trip changed my life? Not really but perhaps my personal goals were minor. The course does exactly what it promises to do by providing you with the information that you will need to initiate and maintain change. The rest I’m afraid is up to you. So whilst my life is still recognisable to those who know me there is definitely a lot I have taken away with me which I remain commited to putting into practice everyday. I am not always successful but nobodys perfect right? And at the very least if anyone out there needs a skipper for their beautiful yacht then I’m your man.

* Seminars conducted by Graham Price cover:

Developement training for organisations and individuals.

Guaranteed smoking cessation and weight loss.

Cognative behavior therapy, hypnotherapy and more.

* Trips to Port Grimaud take place monthly during the Summer months and also during the year at regular dates. The next trip is scheduled for March 28 2013. See www.abicord.com for further details, prices etc.

This article was first published in the Irish Mail on Sunday on January 20 2013.

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