7/12/2017 0 Comments
WORDS: Samantha Chalker
With one hand holding my phone to my ear and the other on the steering wheel, I attempt to reverse our loaned Fiat Panda up a narrow dirt path in the dark of the night. Our petrol light is flashing, our baby is howling, and the whereabouts of our Yoga retreat is puzzle we cannot crack. On the end of the line is Diana, her calming voice getting put to the test hours before our first scheduled meditation session.
Slowly, surely, patiently, she plays life line through the airwaves as we squeal past a black cat and flick obtrusive tree branches out of our windows. Back on tarmacked terrain we find our one foolish wrong turn and slip easily into the arms of Quinta da Rosa, our nest for the next 6-nights.
A hot soup sits simmering on the stove and a mound of salad, raspberry water and vegan bliss balls are laid out on the table. The eight other retreat guests sleep soundly as we nourish up and slink through the house, purring over what might await us when the daylight pours in.
By the next night our worldly stresses and fretful travel have slipped deep under the earth, buried and forgotten. We’ve been lulled by the Portuguese air - thick, warm, and filled with the scent of wild lavender growing by the Quinta’s pool – and our first bout of Yoga and surfing.
Diana’s retreats in the sunny Algarve nod to a travel style that’s appeal is growing immensely in the wake of busy, stressful lives. The chance to slow down, unwind and reconnect to our bodies has become more tempting than a week of piña coladas, club sandwiches and French fries. Retreat holidays offer a genuine rejuvenation, something that’s often hoped for but rarely found in the worn-out boozy beach flop.
Our intimate retreat group finds indulgence in early morning sips of turmeric faux coffee and hefty serves of quinoa porridge with fresh berries. Together we span many age brackets and both genders, and though it seems there are people who have travelled together, it’s impossible to know exactly where the group lines sit and who arrived solo.
During mealtimes Diana talks earnestly about her dedication to her Yoga practise, confessing it moves in waves and took more than a few years to establish itself. In the Yoga Shala there is room to play and freedom to giggle if the situation calls for it. They are the kind of classes you feel comfortable sneaking into a few minutes late; warm, sincere and free from rigidity.
Each day feels like 3 days rolled into one, with hours on the beach interrupted only by a fresh lunch delivery from the casa’s kitchen, overflowing with nuts and grains and fresh produce. Despite the daily surf lessons and the 2 yoga classes per day, the vegetarian meals provide amble fuel, and our bodies feel more awakened than tired.
With most of us having the freedom to holiday for just a few precious weeks per, picking the right type of break has become all too critical. The Algarve Yoga retreats strike a carefully constructed balance of movement and rest, nourishment and indulgence. The satisfied smiles wiped over our faces on the final night hinted that this wouldn’t be the last time any of us take such a holiday.
Samantha Chalker is an Australian Travel Writer published by Lonely Planet and The Huffington Post. When she's not busy packing her suitcase and visiting pretty retreats she runs Monsoon Blooms - a plant dyed clothing label made of organic, Fairtrade cotton - and cares for her baby boy Cypress.
So you've booked and planned and waited patiently, and the day of departure is almost near. Now the fun begins: the packing! Nothing makes the journey feel real quite like sifting through the swimsuit draw and popping out to pick up summer essentials. But there are a few things we recommend thinking about before you pull out the suitcase and start shopping for bikinis. We hope it makes packing for your summer retreat that little bit easier...
Bring as few distractions as possible
Slipping completely off the grid might be out of the question, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep distractions and technology to a minimum. Can you just bring your smart phone and leave your laptop behind? Can you just bring a dodgy old Nokia and leave your smart phone behind? Find a balance that works for you and your circumstances. You don’t want to spend the whole trip stressing that your loved ones are crumbling apart without you, but leaving a technological toy or two behind but still being reachable can make the whole trip that bit more rejuvenating.
Wearing soft, comfortable clothes is always best
Suffocating crop tops and suck-everything-in exercise pants have no place on your Yoga retreat. Pick clothes that let you bend and stretch whilst feeling blissfully comfortable. Natural cotton and bamboo fabrics are ideal.
Sarongs or wraps will always come in handy
Nothing screams Yoga retreat more than a casually draped pashmina (think Julia Roberts: Eat Pray Love). Perfect for taking the chill off a brisk morning meditate or making a dinner outfit out of your Yoga gear by night. If you haven’t made a recent trip to India and your pashmina collection is non-existent, a few sarongs or a sheer blanket will do the trick.
Consider packing your special things
Lavender sleep balm, a journal, a photo of someone special, your cleansed crystal collection – there’s nothing weird about bringing a few treasures from home.
Be rational about the number of swimsuits you'll need!
Going to Portugal, and indeed going on surf retreat, feels like a license to buy 18 new swimsuits. In all honesty, you could probably survive with just one. Firstly, you wear them in the ocean so they’re not exactly filthy. Secondly, you’ll spend most of your ocean time with additional layers to protect your precious skin from being irritated by your surfboard and surf wax. Our advice? Don’t bother bring more than a few. You can put the saved money in locked tin to make buying your next surf and Yoga retreat that little bit easier (they’re addictive, round 2 is more or less inevitable).
Don't forget the camera
If you heed our advice from point one and leave your smart phone at home, don’t forget that this means you’ve left your camera at home! Be sure to pack another one, you won’t want to forget these Portuguese memories and sceneries.
Pack your summer essentials
If you’re travelling into Portugal from cooler lands, it’s easy to overlook all the summer essentials you may want to have on hand. Aloe vera for sun-soaked skin, lip balm for wind kissed lips, argan oil for salty tresses. Your summer toolkit will come in handy on this getaway.
Every holiday needs a good book
With the sudden absence of Facebook and Instagram found by those taking up digital detox, it’s time to reconnect with an old and faithful friend: reading! Sweet, uninterrupted hours of freedom mean you are even at liberty to take on more than a magazine. We suggest 300 Days of Sun By Deborah Lawrenson, Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, or The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa if you want to get into the spirit of your trip to Portugal through your holiday read.
PHOTO BY NAGNATA.
Wondering how your appetite will be satisfied after long days of surfing and twice-daily Yoga rituals? Allow us to share some of our meal time secrets. A hearty bowl of quinoa, banana and home made yoghurt might start you off for breakfast. A bountiful salad filled with nuts, vegetables, oils, olives and seeds may see you through the middle hours of the day. And a Mexican bean stew with guacamole, brown rice, vegetables and salad could conclude your retreat day at shared dinner.
We are proud to serve exclusively vegetarian dishes, and we cater easily to vegan and gluten free diets, offering substitutes rather than just removing ingredients. Our food philosophy is based on eating food with soul, grown from mother nature - pure foods made from air, water and sunshine. Toxins and processed foods have no place in our kitchen.
Spoiler alert: a special treat like like mango, banana and tahini "ice-cream" might be there at the end of the week to top it all off.
Calling this dreamy quinta our own every summer is an indescribable blessing. With a polished charm, bountiful gardens, and boutique finishes found in the arched windows and dreamy pool, there's nowhere more suited to our surf, Yoga and detox retreats. Take a sneak peek at this photo diary to set the scene, but remember the true beauty of it needs to be seen to be believed. An image can't create the magic of a cool breeze to a swaying hammock or fresh lavender, jasmine and rosemary wafting in from the garden's air.
It's normal to umm and aghh a little before booking a retreat. Maybe you're unsure if you "deserve" it. Perhaps you're worried you'll need the money for car insurance later in the year. Maybe you're wondering about the logistics of work / kids / flights etc. etc. But you shouldn't send yourself into a frenzy contemplating it. Every so often you need to abandon all hesitations. And in this instance, just book the trip! Here are some signs that you're in desperate need of a retreat in Portugal...
The last time you took a holiday the word “quinoa” meant nothing outside of South America.
A friend returns from 3 weeks in Vietnam, all bronzed and gushing and sparkly eyed. It gets you thinking about the last time you felt that sweet holiday glow … “I went to a friend’s wedding in Italy in 2009, that was a bit stressful… then there was my backpacking trip in 2003.” If you can hardly remember the last time you took a "real" holiday, a break from life and all of its monotonies, then you are desperately deserving of a surf and Yoga retreat in Portugal.
Your only daily forward folds are done to put on or take off socks.
Tending to your winter woollies is about as close as you get to a Yoga class these days. Forward folds with hands in prayer position? A distant memory of days gone by. Sighhhh. Sounds like it’s time to book a retreat.
You’ve unfollowed every travel blogger slash Yoga addict slash surfer slash health food advocate on social media because the envy was making you nauseous.
Is there anything worse than watching other people’s holidays and Yoga slash surfing capabilities from the discomfort of your chicken coop office chair? Not really. Anyone who holidays for longer than a weekend gets a swift un-follow, because your Yoga retreat envy has hit a new level. This means you’re in need of some Portuguese retreating.
You’ve started taking that little retreat space in your house a bit too seriously
Most of us have a sacred space in our house that we go to when we need to retreat from the world (and by world we even mean beloved children, adored partner, fab roommates and well-meaning parents). Maybe it’s your bathtub. Maybe it’s a manifestation table in your wardrobe. Maybe it’s the garden shed in your backyard. Wherever it is, it’s yours and it’s wonderful. Until it starts getting a little too serious. Like if a builder has given you a quote to soundproof the walls. Or if a feng shui expert has been employed to assess the levels of zen. Or if yellow tape prohibits entry from intruders. These are all signs you might be getting a little loco over your special space, which is a sign in itself that you may be in desperate need of a more legitimate retreat. A surf and Yoga retreat in Portugal might simmer down the tension.
Your boss has had a word to you about your internet usage
Squirm. That awkward conversation about your time spent perusing travel sites at work. Maybe you can disguise transcendentalmeditation.com as "trying to improve your work performance,” but Conde Nast Traveller? Hmmm. Unless you’re a travel agent, there’s no waxing over this one. Just move past the procrastination and book yourself a holiday.
We'll be waiting to greet you on the flip side!