Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Golden Door Elysia

Well, what can I say? We had the most amazing time and I'm still in a cloud of good aura. What a beautiful place. What a beautiful experience.

Golden Door Elysia is the country's premier health retreat and we were really buzzing about going there. It is set amongst vineyards of the Hunter Valley, in it's own private space on top of a hill. The change of environment was palpable as soon as we drove through the gates: peace and calm through each warmly minimalist-designed area. The sound of trinkling water, clean air, the colour and smell of lavendar and bottle brush. The accommodation is perfectly designed to feel private and uncrowded, the colours blending in with the environment. Our two-bedroom villa was ridiculously luxurious, a large living area with a balcony affording an expanse of views of the vines and mountains; stylish bedrooms; sexy bathrooms with glass doors, deep, deep baths - that look that I adore: cool, sleek and luxurious. And at turn-down, you return to your villa and find oil burners lit with soothing oils by the bath and a selection of teas, pots and cups for you to have a cup before bed.

We arrived and went straight to lunch, and over the next three days were blown away with the flavour, quality, choice and presentation of their spa cuisine. Breakfast was a choice of different mueslis and fruits with an a la carte menu of hot dishes: I had gorgeous organic eggs and on the last day buckwheat and prune pancakes with a date and prune jam. But their Bircher muesli was something of a godsend, we couldn't get enough and it's what I'll be trying to replicate. Lunch consisted of a buffet of different salads and a choice of an a la carte dish: we had seafood pies and vegetable calzone. Dinner was again a la carte, we had lobster and giant prawns, and for dessert tart with banana icecream and saffron and honey panacotta made from goat's milk. There were afternoon tea muffins, beautiful signature teas and water with lemon at every stop. The food was an eye-opener: very little carbs, no sugar and negligible fat, and lots of vegetables and interesting ingredients. As Kath pointed out, it takes a good chef to create delicious food without using staples like butter and cream. And we were really impressed. Mum bought us their cookbook as a thank you for her surprise weekend, and I'm looking forward to incorporating their ideas on cooking into my own cooking.

There are plenty of activites on offer: both the spiritual and phsyical sides are looked after with tai chi, yoga and meditation classes along with stretch, cardio and gym. There are also lectures and cooking demos, which we attended (the former on chakras). We did stretch and I did two tai chi classes on their gorgeous meditation hill. I really liked that classes were a half hour long, with my short attention span it was a nice dose of the activity and I walked away rejuvenated and calm. When we arrived it was 36 degrees and we spent the afternoon lolling by their beautiful outdoor pool, the mountains on the horizon and the sun warming our city bones.

As part of the surprise we also booked in for some treatments in their spa and they were blissful. A facial that left us all glowing, and a Hawaiian body salt scrub, bath and lomi massage. The salt scrub really made our skin sparkle and the massage was just right: I like a good hard...massage and this was it.

The long weekend was much more than we expected, speaking for myself I left feeling lighter physically and calmer in my head. It takes something as simple as some deep breaths to realise how tense your muscles and thoughts are, and so little to undo it. It also takes little to go back to the stressed city slicker I am, so I'm hoping to retain this good feeling for as long as I can.

On the way back mum and I stopped at some wineries and the Hunter Valley Cheese Shop to stock up on some goodies, to be enjoyed in moderation at least for now as the assault to the system would be too much. We also had a lovely lunch at the Hunter Valley Gardens, unfortunately no steak sandwiches as we all craved but instead a charcuterie plate of incredible pate, a blah unterrine-like terrine and balsamic onions and cornichons.

A perfect three days.

The villas and the view

Our loungeroom



The view from our balcony

The beautiful lavendar-dotted meditation hill

The pool - bliss

One of my favourite dishes: roast beetroot with bocconcini and balsamic reduction

Beautiful grilled lobster

Filo tart with banana icecream

Buckwheat and prune pancakes

In love with their Bircher muesli

My new cookbook

Back to the real world with a charcuterie plate

Happy Birthday P!


Blogger Domestic Goddess said...

It's official. I HATE YOU ALL.Very cruel to flaunt your blatant public display of MY dream weekend!! And pictures to boot. That's just plain mean..

2:34 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

oh wow.

3:11 PM  
Blogger AlphaChick said...

Wow! What a gem! Your Mum is one very special lady

3:44 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

That she is.

3:47 PM  
Blogger chimera said...

wow, what a glorious weekend - am completely green with envy !

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Alice said...

Looks like a heavenly weekend -- I love seeing the pics! That healthy yet scrumptious food must have been wonderful...

6:46 PM  
Blogger jenjen said...

Oh wow, I absolutely love the Hunter Valley. We are going there next year Sept for a wedding. I wish it was sooner as it's been a while since our last visit.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

sounds awesome.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Jules said...

That sounds like a fabulous weekend away! Exactly what was needed!

11:22 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

As I sit here, eating my frozen entree, I am officially jealous. Wow. Bliss. Amazing. Beautiful. Stunning. Yummy. Wow.

11:42 AM  
Blogger eurobrat said...


2:40 AM  

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