On Spain's Costa Blanca coast, just north of Alicante, is the town of Albir. If the town is likened to a lady, it has the feel of a chic lady who wears her hat wide-rimmed, signalling an unobtrusive bent of mind to her fellow residents. The town is pretty with flower, cactus, lemon tree and palm lined streets that bear names like the celestial planets - Neptune, Pluto and Jupiter. The homes on the streets continue the carry of the celestial - with house names like 'Stairway to Heaven'. And this particular house does literally and metaphorically point to a 'Stairway to Heaven' - Albir's spectacular Mediterranean coastline. It is in this hug like space that La Crisalida - a well being retreat centre was established by the founders John and Lisa.
John and Lisa, both British made the journey from busy London to this oasis of sun, sea, sand and serenity a few years ago and since then there's been no turning back for them. They converted the premises on which La Crisalida now stands, from a managed residential home to a calm inspiring space. The building takes its shape from two swimming pools - one indoor and the other outdoor. The indoor pool is bordered by the yoga studios and studio flats. The outdoor pool, paying obeisance to the faraway mountains standing tall, is the view enjoyed by the shared flats.
I stayed in a shared flat. My room window and balcony offered unrivalled views. For the week I spent at La Crisalida I awoke before dawn each morning to take in the views of the mountains changing hue - from the twinkling lights of the town that sat on its lap to rose crowns on its rounded, head-like peaks. The crowns then carried the mountains into daylight. Each morning I stood - solitary and complete - as a passerby watching the bridge of crepuscular light transitioning night into day.
Often the day began with a guided meditation in the yoga studio led by different instructors who each brought their own styles to bear on the meditation sessions. During the week I was there, on four days the meditation was substituted by early morning walks. The walks were blissful and meditative in themselves. They included walks along the beautiful coastline and to the light house in nearby Benidorm. On the coastline walks, about an hour into our walks, we would sit on a slice of rock protruding into the sea. We watched the dance of the seagulls between sky and sea, their glide onto the sea surface, and the play of sun that lit the whole stage up for us.
The trek to the lighthouse offered a bird’s eye view of untempered natural beauty. Any element of ardour to the uphill walk, was entirely mitigated by the soul nurturing, sweeping views of the Mediterranean. The mountains played guard to the ocean and played the road to us – a road of perpetual vantage points to take in the awe-inspiring views.
The nurture of nature on the walks was always met by a nourishing breakfast once we were back at the retreat. From fresh juices to different types of porridge for each day of the week optionally garnished with nutritious toppings like desiccated coconut, gogi berries, flaked almonds and raisons – breakfast was always sumptuous. The food – breakfast, lunch and dinner was consistently incredible. If you ever thought ‘delicious and healthy’ was an oxymoron, La Crisalida challenges it. For someone like myself, who is not too fond of beans, I found their beans with a dill dressing lip-smackingly delicious. Lunch would comprise of a nourishing soup, a variety of salads and hot food options like the Black Bean Burgers that were a hit with the guests.
Dinner would have a spread of salads and hot food options with dessert twice a week – on Tuesdays and Fridays. The dips and salad dressings were among the best I’ve had – they would give our supermarkets a run for their money! Incredulously, La Crisalida’s nutritionists and chefs achieve this without the use of any sugar or salt. Fruit juice and rice syrup are used instead of sugar and tamari as a substitute for salt.
Herbs, spices, lemon and lime are used generously. An Italian guest said the Italian herb dressing was tastier than the versions she has had in Italy! The food, though entirely plant based and vegan, had no element of deprivation to it. It was my first week long experience of vegan food and surprisingly, I felt nourished and, dare I say with so many delicious options, I even felt over fed at times!
The most unique aspect of La Crisalida is its flexibility – the retreat runs around the year and with no bounded programmes you chose your day of arrival and departure and your length of stay. I visited in February when retreats in Europe are scare. Moreover, you have a range of retreat types to choose from – detox (which is juice based); yoga; life make-over or relax and rejuvenate. Their typical days have different yoga styles, meditation and well being workshops on offer.
For more details on retreat packages please visit: https://www.lacrisalidaretreats.com/
Written byDr Priya Virmani
Dr. Priya Virmani is a Political and Economic Analyst and an International Speaker based in London. She is the Foundress and Director of Paint Our World - a humanitarian project that works to heal underprivileged children who have endured trauma. Together with her passion for her work, she derives her nurture from being in nature, horse-riding, writing, painting, classical music and travelling. Travel, in her words, is 'the best medicine and the best teacher'. She loves travelling to explores the souls of places