Spain: And now for a bit of me time

The landscape around Bernia is perfect for walking.
The landscape around Bernia is perfect for walking.
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Feeling frazzled? Clair Chadwick heads to the Spanish mountains and a retreat that promises to wind back the years.

If like me, you wake up and can’t figure out what happened to the last ten years and you don’t recognise yourself staring back at you in the mirror, when the only relaxation is reaching for the corkscrew and stress levels are akin to standing in the path of a truck with headlights on at full beam; then you need a break. Turning 40, running your own business and being a single mum can do that to you.

When the opportunity arose to spend a few days at a new retreat in the remote Bernia mountains in Spain, it was too good an offer to turn down. Last minute flights were booked, arrangements were hastily made for childcare and then I was off.

On reaching Alicante a Beniconnect bus met me and drove me one and a half hours along a motorway, past the eyesore which is Benidorm and into the countryside. It was an unexpected surprise to behold the breathtaking Bernia mountains near Benissa, a range reminiscent of the Viviers area of France if it wasn’t for the arid landscape.

The bus dropped me off at the working town of Benissa, where I was met by Brenda who would drive me to the retreat. Then she breezily said: “There is no mobile phone reception at the retreat.” I tried not to show my panic, which quickly subsided to relief, thankful that there was no way I could check my work emails. Brenda drove me up into the mountains, around several hairpin bends, until we reached the Inside Out resort at 540ft where I was warmly greeted by owners Gareth Stubbs and Jeroen Coenan.

Their retreat consists of a sprawling eight-bedroomed eco-friendly villa, which has a labyrinth-like quality, spiral staircases and even a turret. The lounge alternates between evening relaxation, meditation, yoga, cinema room and “mindset classes”. Gareth and Jeroen, both 40, are business partners who had always had a vision to open a retreat. One of them had suffered two heart attacks by the time he was 30 and had been on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Both had suffered from addiction problems in the past. After getting themselves back in balance they have become passionate advocates of good food, healthy exercise and detoxing the mind and body.

They made their dream a reality and launched Inside Out in February. They describe the retreat as a “home away from home”,where residents can be as little or as fully involved in their programme of activities as they wish. They offer a three- day juicing detox, daily hour-long walks in the mountains or a longer two-hour walk to the local town of Xalo (the end goal being the local winery to taste very affordable Spanish wine). The mountain walk is a sensory overload with the air full of the smells of thyme, rosemary, camomile and lavender. The landscape is dotted with olive and almond trees, Mediterranean underbush and gorse, so sturdy walking shoes are a must and walking sticks are available on request.

The resort offers classes in circuit training, rebounding, Boxercise, kettle bells, yoga, meditation and evening mindset classes with personal development workbooks. All are optional, with some guests preferring to spend the day by the pool with a good book or watching the swallows dip into the water. Others, like me, took part in everything on offer.

Gareth and Jeoren also host organised trips to the beach at Calpe, which is only 30 minutes away by car, plus coastal and sunrise walks.

One class which I particularly enjoyed was painting. Jeroen’s mother, Jeanette Pulles, a well-known artist in her own
right in Paris, convivially hosts a “creativity and expression” class. I haven’t painted since school and this was great fun.

As I threw myself into the programme I partook in taster classes for yoga, which the teacher insisted was suitable for somebody as apparently inflexible as me. All the classes on offer can be adapted for beginners as well as the more advanced.

Gareth and Jeroen are both NLP-trained and their philosophy is that healthy living is not just eating healthily but thinking healthily. Let’s face it, we all know what to do to lose weight. Inside Out helps identify the barriers which stop us from doing so, working from the inside out.

I completed the three-day detox and was as active as I could be. Each guest is given a “Fit-Bit” wristband which monitors the number of steps you take per day and buzzes once you reach 10,000 steps (circa five miles). Even with a glass of wine or two I managed to lose six pounds in five days. Every guest I spoke to said they would return and one was already planning her third visit this year.

On my last day I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in a long time liked what I saw. My face looks fresher and I felt more relaxed than I have been in years. Perhaps life really does begin at 40.

• flies to Alicante from Leeds- Bradford Airport with return flights costing around £200.

To find out more about the Inside Out retreat, which takes booking from Saturday to Saturday, go to The resort is offering a 30 per cent discount for readers, but please quote The Yorkshire Post when booking.