From my journal: March 23, 2009 London, England
“Just received an email from someone with the initials JB…? It didn’t ring a bell at first…turns out it was from Julie from Devon!”
After reading the email twice, it all came back to me…ah, that week in October of 2008.
Overworked and needing some time away, Robert asked if I’d like to go on a retreat. Before he could even inflect the question mark into his voice, I had my bags packed. All three of them. One contained make up and toiletries. Another held my journals, books, and art supplies. Number three brimmed with casual attire, workout clothes, trainers (sneakers) and pajamas. The only thing I didn’t include was a plush robe and velvety slippers. Afterall, soft snuggly lounge wear was bound to be hanging in our room’s closet, just waiting for me to wrap myself in it.
The morning of our departure, golden sunshine streaked through the brilliant clouds brightening the pale sky. I relaxed listening to 89.1 BBC Radio 2, while Robert tooled along the M5 towards Devon. Excited, I reread the information we had received about our destination. The accommodations sounded a bit rustic, but homely (homey). Features of the main building included “open beams and inglenook fireplaces”. The pictures of the bedrooms looked light and bright. And the surrounding area was located near Exmoor National Park with its lush rolling green hills and sparkling lakes. If all this wasn’t enough, we’d be treated to gourmet meals, as well as massages, and a variety of activities like hiking, cycling, yoga, and even salsa dancing!
Five hours later, we navigated off the motorway, down a main road, then along a pebbled pathway lined with stone walls. Soon a grand white country home came into view. Greeting us on one wall was a huge grey bust of a majestic lady draped in dark ivy. Everything looked so lovely!
Searching for a place to park, we spied a sign for the retreat. Funny though, it pointed away from this magnificent house and over to two large barns. Right about then, a 20-something woman dressed in a track suit with short dark hair welcomed us, clipboard in hand. Friendly and smiley, she said her name was Julie while she checked our names off her list. Then she asked us to follow her. Entering the larger outbuilding, we climbed up a creaky staircase to the second floor, where she instructed us to drop our bags and meet her and the others downstairs within 30 minutes. Wow! Certainly not your typical check-in, but I thought maybe that’s just how things are done in Devon. We squeezed into our cozy space, and me, being the organizer I am, I headed straight for the closet to hang up my clothes. It’s then I gasped! It wasn’t at what I saw…it was at what I didn’t see. No bathrobes, no slippers! Only three wooden hangers – really?! Next, I checked our ensuite. Yes, there were towels and soap, but… no lotions, potions or even shampoo!
As directed, we met in the huge rectangle-shaped recreational style living room. Once our group of 12 was assembled, Julie greeted us again and introduced her partner, Marie another young athletic woman who probably lettered in every sport throughout high school like her. Around the room, names and residences were shared and interestingly our ages ranged from mid-20s to mid-70s, and among us were seven Brits, one German, one Scot, one Irish person and us, the two Americans. And much to Robert’s relief, there was another of his kind. He and David, the only two men, were going to become fast friends.
By the end of the first evening, we had also met our chef and were given our schedule for the week. This itinerary included five to six work outs, three meals and snacks, and one or two workshops PER DAY, all starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 21:00 (9:00) p.m.! A bit stunned, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she realized she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Before turning out the light that night, Robert and I both looked at each other accusatorially and said, as we have done hundreds of times before, “Who’s idea was this anyway?!”
A new adventure was on the horizon, and I knew I had two choices. I could feign temporary insanity and beg to be released or I could readjust my rose-colored spa glasses and get on with the program. I wanted to choose the first, but ended up doing the second.