Wow. Okay. Where do I begin to recap on a bliss-filled 48 hours at Billabong Retreat on the way to Richmond, NSW? Should I start with the delicious vegetarian food, the awesome tent I was in, the yoga, breathing, and vocal sessions, the tea ceremony, or the purrrty scenery?
Shall I start with the food, as that’s what you’ve come to expect? :)
On arrival there was a spelt and fruit based slice and tea on offer (and caffeinated products because for the addicts, there was no point spending the whole weekend with a headache!), and some delicious tasting filtered rain water. Technically they can only recommend us drinking from two of the taps (the bubbler and the kitchen tap) but the rest of the water is rain water, so no issues with brushing teeth with that water.
Stacks of mandarines, green apples (my favourite!), bananas and seedless red grapes kept making appearances in front of me, and were soon in my belly :) There was a stash of Freedom Foods bikkies for the sensitive tummies amongst us, and we were welcome to help ourselves to snacks through the weekend from the kitchen.
I can smell all the spices now!
Mignon, the chef, fed us well for our main meals as well as baking up a storm. Most of the produce was local when possible, and in season was the way to go. Seconds were often had!
OMG people, I ate hard boiled eggs for the first time since I was maybe six. I thought it was the least egg smelling way to get back into eating eggs. I’m still a long way off eating runny eggs. Small Steps!
Lots of fresh breads, jams and spreads on offer. The gluten free loaf was from the freezer, but hey, it was there!
Porridge on the first morning was cinnamon, morning two there was vanilla added, and I think it inspired a winter of porridge eaters.
With bananas with Greek yoghurt, local honey and home made muesli (unfortunately not gluten free) for those after something lighter. I think most people went for a little bit of everything!
A spicy pumpkin soup. Probably towards the edge of this wuss’s chilli coping range. But delish!
Roasted Mediterranean vegetables baked with ricotta.
A plate of ‘nachos’. A little mix up meant there were some difficulties for the guy with the nut allergy, but he didn’t die, so all went well :P (He’d forgotten his epipen and all!) The salads with our meals were amazing! Simple, like with cabbage, apple, walnut and dressing, but crunchy and tasty.
(excuse the dodgy photo)
A vegetable curry and a dhal, seconds were sought by a lot of us!
Yes! We were given dessert :) Like I said, no one went hungry this weekend!
Berry sorbet with tofu cream and crumble.
MMm poached pears. Gotta love cinnamon!
If you’re going, and have dietary requests, such as allergies, intolerances or if you’re vegan, they can cater for you at Billabong. Jut let them know when you book, and have a chat to the chef when she gets there on the first afternoon to make sure accommodations are made :)
I got to experience the walk-in tents. Don’t let anyone tell you they are too cold! With a super thick doona,blankets, hot water bottle and oil heater, I overheated on the first night! Meep!
In the long term, they hope to only have the rooms along the ridge overlooking the billabong, with ensuites etc. But for now, the tent and old cottage serve well! Short dash in the rain to the loo at 3am, but I lived to tell the tale ;)
The showers all have little egg timers for 4 minutes. My first shower was so under two minutes, but I couldn’t get in under 4 on the Sunday, because I decided to wash my hair with the biodegradable shampoo and conditioner. It was soft and fluffy once it dried :)
Below are some of the other parts of the main building – the fireplaces, the super comfy couches, the yoga room and the view.
The yoga and meditation sessions were WONDERFUL. There was such a mix of experience in the room, from people who’d done nothing along those lines at all, to some of me who get so distracted meditating, to people who’d done yoga for 15+ years. But everyone got something new out of the weekend. I focussed on my breathing, an was able to take home some yoga techniques to help with my stress reduction and anxiety management that I’ve applied already!
(and for those of you that know me, no, it wasn’t all “woo” ;) Lots of practical stuff)
An amazing part of the weekend, we were guided through a mindful tea making exercise with the gorgeous Basia from My Tea Ritual. Taking note of all the aspects of the tea making, from the sound of the water, to the blooming of the tea, to the heat of the cup and the taste on your tongue. At least 3 people were “wow, I can do THIS at any time with my normal tea” to create a peaceful, portable ritual. Yep, even during 3:30-itis at work!
I had an amazing weekend and would certainly recommend it to anyone who needs to escape but can’t really find more than the weekend to do it. You walk in, and an instant calm just… happens! The place it only 45 mins from Sydney (3 hours from Newcastle by train, but that’s another story and I slept for a lot of it :p), and they pick you up and drop you back from the station if you go by train :)
Billabong Retreat can be stalked via their website, blog (where Paul promises he’ll start putting up recipes soon!) and their Facebook Page (skim for a pic of my group and for spur of the moment offers for last minute bookings)
Basia’s tea ritual information, bookings and products such as blooming tea and tea pots is over at MyTeaRitual.com and she’s on Facebook and Twitter. You should consider booking her for a team building day to help your staff appreciate their cuppas that little bit more mindfully rather than just for the caffeine hit ;)
I stayed as a guest of Billabong Retreat, and loved every moment! My only gripe is that 48 hours is just enough time to get used to it… would love to go to a longer retreat next time. :) And while it rained pretty much the whole weekend, that simply added to the beauty – and who doesn’t love falling asleep to the sound of rain?! :)