Long weekend detox at The Golden Door Health Retreat - Elysia
It's 8.30pm on a Saturday night and I'm tucked up in bed. And it's not a disco nap, either. My body aches, in a good way, my belly's full, but not bloated, and I'm surrounded by crisp white sheets and fluffy pillows.
I've gorged myself on seafood for dinner and am relishing the idea of having a long, beautiful uninterrupted night's sleep. And, despite the fact it's been a while since my Saturday night has been devoid of alcohol, I'm not missing it a bit.
In serious need of relaxation and a good detox (in equal measure), my partner and I opted for the much-raved-about Elysia Golden Door health retreat in the Hunter Valley for a long weekend.
The suggestion was initially met with much male objection, but after replacing old 'health farm' stereotypes of mung beans and austere accommodations with images of resort-style villas, stunning views, gourmet food and five-star facilities not to mention spa services on tap my partner quickly changed his tune and even got excited. (I still wasn't allowed to tell friends he was going to have a facial.)
Desperate need of a getaway
After a particularly exhausting project at work, by the time we hit the road north to the Hunter all we could think about was a weekend of sleep. When we arrived at the serene hilltop location of Elysia, behind Cypress Lakes in Pokolbin, we were greeted by the radiant and lovely program manager, Jasmine. She revealed that the facilities include an indoor lap pool, huge gym, yoga studio, cycle room, meditation hill, tennis courts and enormous day spa. Sleep was really only an option when you collapsed into bed in the early evening, spent from all the activity.
As 'independent guests' (minimum two-night stay), we could choose our own itinerary. The Golden Door Health Retreat - Elysia also offers five- and seven-night programs. We could see those guests laughing and being all chummy at meals.
Independent guests can often join in the activities schedule, which includes everything from morning stretch to tai chi, walks, volleyball, yoga, Pilates and lots more. I loved that we could dip in and out of this, but also had the time and space to simply be together.
A Sunday with no hangover
Sunday morning, 7am, and I'm awake and feeling good. What a welcome change! That dinner of lemongrass and sweet potato soup followed by pine-nut and sweet corn fritters must have served me well.
Influenced as we were by our magnificent and activity-inducing surroundings, Nick and I hit the gym for another session before a swim, indoor cycle class (hilarious to see my partner endure his first, and possibly last, spin session!) and a well-deserved massage. By the time I emerged from a firm but blissful remedial massage in the spa I was zonked.
Who needs vino when there's liquorice tea?
High on all the country air and endorphins, we dressed for dinner and happily sipped the signature tea like it was a crisp Hunter semillon. I even bought some to take home! Nick, who doesn't need to lose a scrap of weight, was happy to see ravioli (carbs!) on the menu. As he tucked in and asked for another serving, I noticed he didn't seem to mind a bit that there was no meat in sight.
We discussed the idea of cooking this delicious healthy food at home and Nick whole-heartedly agreed that he quite liked the idea of lentil pies, yummy soups and veggie pasta. This from someone whose diet staple is pizza.
By day three I was surprised to find I have no headaches (a big coffee drinker, I was sure I'd kill for my long black) and I was feeling great, although a little tired from all that adrenalin leaving my knackered body. Tennis was first up, before quite a challenging gym circuit and lunch of warm root vegetable pie and heaps of crisp green salad.
The perfect couple's hideaway
We talked to one guest who had sold her car to spend eight weeks at Elysia to kick-start an entire diet, fitness and wellness routine. Another guest, an overweight man, had been sent by his wife, and a dietician had come to practise what she preaches. It was encouraging to see lots of couples like us, and quite a few men sometimes alone which is a real turnaround from the old female-dominated days of health retreats.
Choosing to do as much or as little as you like, eating yummy, nutritious food (that you don't have to cook), taking a few much-needed days away from alcohol, caffeine and smoggy air, being pampered head-to-toe with fabulous massages and facials and spending quality time together just having fun ... I'm starting to think Elysia is the perfect couples' weekend getaway. And, for the record, so does my man.