Let’s Salsa at Lou Casteau

Have you every marvelled at the swan-like performances magically served up by celebrity dancers on Strictly Come Dancing only two or three weeks after having initially dribbled about like headless chickens?  Practice makes perfect and dance is no different.  I know we’ve all wanted to trip the light fantastic and impress our partners, family, onlookers or even just our own selves but above hubristic recognition is the universally accepted fact that dance is a joyous and uplifting activity.  One hour of salsa dancing is guaranteed to release all the right endorphins to combat stress most effectively and boost your mood and senses.  Now what if you could learn to salsa or improve your skills at a gorgeous luxurious holiday retreat in Cote d’Azur with lessons from top professionals, complementary fitness classes to keep you in good shape and the experience further embellished by the most exquisite food and drink in the South of France and an extra dollop of a bunch of lovely people who share the passion for dance but also know how to have a lot of fun.  The heady mix of sun, fun, food and dance is the Salsa retreat at Château Lou Casteou, an hour’s drive away from Nice and forty-five minutes from Cannes. It is an immaculately luxurious home-away-from-home run by the lovely couple of Morag and Chris.  They offer innovatively packaged experiences variously also focused on tennis and fitness along. Dances covered during the salsa retreat include Cross body salsa, Cuban salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Chacha, Semba, Merengue, Regaetton, and Funaná! Once bitten, most visitors can’t wait to get back, year on year, to the sheer pleasure of the communal experience at Lou Casteou.  It is a destination accommodation with a lovely swimming pool, ensuite bedrooms, wondrous terraces, cosy lounges, and glorious surroundings that boast both sea and mountain views.  The charm and grandeur of the property coupled with the owners’ hands-on approach has transformed it into a multi-purpose building which is even available for ‘Shoot & Stay’ rentals with Simon Cowell having used it as the X-Factor ‘Judges’ home in one of the earlier series as well as weddings and special events.

Let’s set the scene for this fabulous retreat.  The invitation very succinctly states:

’Join us for a four day luxury, gastronomical Latin and Afro-Dance event.  Your stay will include accommodation in the stunning château in en-suite bedrooms with sea or mountain views.  Set in the beautiful Côte d’Azur countryside, minutes from the sea, dances taught include Salsa, Kizomba, Semba, Bachata, Cuban Salsa, ChaCha, Merengue, Regaetton and Afrobeat.’ 

Morag McLaren, the hostess with the mostest, is a semi-professional dancer, an uber-professional businesswoman and a top-class soul!! A superb organiser with a penchant for keeping hectic affairs bubbling along without hitches and with minimal stress.  It is extremely tough to put together these retreats but she carries it off with amazing finesse and nonchalant grace   The spirit of Morag is key to everything at Lou Costeau.   Her hands-on approach is evident in every little detail of the property which has been lovingly recovered from the ruins of Lord Amherst of London’s original home from 1904.

However, the dance retreat is very much a team effort and every person employed for the four-day event is a thorough professional with a valuable lesson to impart.  There’s Dave Higgins – the fitness guru and a vital glue to the entire programme  – who keeps each and every dancer in shape for the vigorously regular classes that ensue over the happily-intense period of 96 hours or so.  The teachers/dancers know each other well and feed off each other and the delightful camaraderie is a wondrous affair with absolutely none of the Strictly Come Dancing rivalry vibes here.  Tim Rowe will regale you with stories of his time in Cuba whilst adroitly answering any queries and concerns about your dancing style. Simon will salsa into your heart whilst making sure you shake those hips right and John ‘Let’s Salsa’ Hylton will make you laugh and sweat all the way to making you a better dancer.  They are all heroes.  I can never thank John enough for his belter of a fitness/dance class which fully harnessed the power of Amapiano – that beautiful bastard of subgenre that combines kwaito and house music or for Tim making me feel right at home or Simon for discussing curry and Dave for just being a super guy.  Special mention also to Christian Jean-Francois, Lukas prize winner of  Best Kizomba teacher who graced the occasion and made me aware of his work with OSSR .  He is a big gun and teacher to everyone

The legendary Amapiano Fitness Class

The food is catered for by Matteo and his wife Silvia is an integral part of the total package of wonderment that is Lou Costeau.  It is homecooked Mediterranean face with a polished, gourmet touch that keeps you coming back for seconds and thirds and year on year as most regulars at the retreat will confirm.  Every meal is a hearty treat be it omelettes and fruit and nuts at breakfast or pasta bakes and salads and sometimes even a chicken curry for lunch.  Dinners are obviously grand considering the themed dance nights and dressing-up is the norm in keeping with the programme.  Elegant wines lubricate all social gatherings at Lou Costeau but it all coincides fabulously with a perfectly packed itinerary of fitness activities and imminent dance sessions which ensures a robust, positive jollity all day long.

It doesn’t just end there.  Beyond the myriad walks to be had around the area, the dips in the lovely swimming pool, champagne receptions, dinners in the cloisters and beautiful sunshine that splashes all across Lou Casteau, there is the added comfort of having dedicated guests and learners from far and wide that form the core of the retreat.  Guests are encouraged to book in, if possible, as couples so that they can always avail of a partner to dance with when returning home but solo travellers are always welcome at Lou Casteau and partners provided readily. Most return every six months or annually to re-experience the magic at the retreat.  I had the good fortune of hanging out with regulars such as Kirsa and Piotrek, Benta, Kate, Madawi, Michael, Ligia, Diane, Stephane and Denise George – the latter being Morags son – and his lovely girlfriend Hannah! They were an absolute joy to be with and I shall always cherish the four days I spent with all those lovely people. In fact, I shall return very shortly in October 2024 and continue my quest to improve my salsa or meet some stupendously lovely people, gorge on some fabulous food, joke around with Tim, Dave, John, Christian and Simon, swim in that heavenly pool or get that one-on-one lesson from Morag once again if possible. I can’t wait!!


Book your Places NOW!

4 Day Luxury Dance Retreat 10th-13th October 2024

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