A Little Introduction
I met Gill and Andreas some time ago when they were looking for someone to develop a website for their fabulous retreat, and in an instant, I knew that I had met two very special people.
I worked closely with both Gill and Andreas to get a real feel for what they were offering so that I could provide the best website possible for them and hopefully do it justice. I then booked a place for my Mam and myself to go out on retreat on the first week of May 2019. It’s safe to say that it is one of the best weeks of my 39 years!
The flight to Crete was just over 4 hours and Andreas met us at Heraklion airport with a huge smile that lit up the car park. The drive was then around 50 minutes to our accommodation.
We arrived pretty late on the Tuesday evening but were greeted by Gill and also by the accommodation owners and staff who were all so welcoming. I have a number of dietary requirements and the chef came to meet me personally on arrival to find out what I liked to eat and to fully understand my allergies which was simply wonderful! We were then given a plate of delicious Cretan food before we all went to our rooms.
The next morning, I awoke at 7am. I opened my eyes, looked out onto the balcony and was faced with the most breathtaking view. In my opinion it’s one of the best views of the island and I can see exactly why Gill and Andreas have chosen it.
It’s important to mention here that I had never done Pilates before. In fact (due to my ignorance) I was a bit sceptical about how any exercise as slow as I thought it was could have any benefit at all. I was very wrong and discovered muscles I never knew I had!
Our first Pilates class was at 8:30am on day 2 in the lovely spacious studio on-site. Being a complete novice and surrounded by people who ranged from advanced to expert level, I was worried that I either wouldn’t be able to keep up, or that the others would get frustrated if I held them back. I had nothing at all to worry about. Gill is such an amazing teacher and every class was suitable for all of us in the group. All exercises/movements were adapted to suit each and every one of us despite various back/hip/knee issues in the group and I never once felt uncomfortable or out of place in the class.
Each class was very different but equally enjoyable and I learned so much about my own body and even my mind. The class on our final day was extra special though – as we did this outside under the sun with the most incredible view across the sea. We were even treated to a flying display of wild Eagles overhead during the class! It was a truly amazing experience.
I will definitely be joining Gill at Pilates North East to continue with her Pilates classes because the health benefits were clear after just one week and also because I am absolutely sure that Gill is a very special, unique teacher and I know I’d be disappointed anywhere else.
The Retreat & Culture
Whenever I told any of my friends that I was going on retreat, they all had the same question: Is it a total detox retreat with classes 3 times a day, no alcohol and just lettuce? I can safely say absolutely not! The retreat is all about the full package of mindfulness, Pilates, relaxation and getting the best experience of Cretan culture possible from a true expert (and yes I do mean it includes lots of fabulous food and Raki).
The Pilates is a morning practice to start the day. This is followed by a lovely breakfast/brunch with the most fabulous view! From there Gill and Andreas have carefully selected some activities which are optional, and there are also 2 full day trips with Andreas if you choose to go (and I highly recommend that you do!).
I opted to do everything. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the Cretan culture and Andreas’ passion for the island, its history and the amazing restaurants that you would struggle to find on your own is just invaluable. I loved every single second of each day. I met some amazing Greek people and can say without any hesitation that Greek hospitality is the best I have experienced.
If you’re a foodie, then book your place on retreat right now (whether you know anything about Pilates or not!). The Cretan cuisine is absolutely beautiful. Andreas took us to fabulous restaurants during the day trips and even the restaurant where we were staying was fabulous. I ate all kinds of Cretan delicacies including salt-baked sea bass, sardines and the nicest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Everything seems to taste so much better when it has been grown under the Cretan sun. (I did also try the snails but they weren’t my favourite dish of the week!)
The whole retreat itself was therapy for me. It was the perfect chance for me to press pause on the stresses of life, to find myself again and to reset and I did exactly that.
On top of this, you do get a 25 minute therapy of your choice as part of your package. You can choose from various treatments including a back, neck and shoulder massage, but I highly recommend the reflexology. Anna is an outstanding reflexologist (and is a very special lady) and she helped so many of us in the group. I was completely sceptical about reflexology but am now fully converted!
I believe that Greek hospitality is the best in the world so you will meet some truly wonderful people in Crete. Every group on retreat will obviously be different, but for me, the people we were there with really made it special. You can go off and do your own thing if you want to (Create Retreats is rightly named as you can literally create the right retreat for you) but if I’d done that I would’ve missed out on so much.
There were 9 of us in our group and every single person had their own personal reasons for being there. Some to escape their busy, stressful work lives, some were dealing with grief or trauma, and some just wanted a chance to relax in the paradise that is Crete. Whatever the reason, we all went on a special journey of our own which included letting go of a lot, making new friends, and laughing until we cried. There is no better therapy in the world in my opinion!
I took so many photographs when I was there (it is a photographer’s paradise) so please have a look through the gallery to see just how stunning Crete really is and to get a real feel for the Create Retreats experience. Then, just do yourself a huge favour and book yourself a place. Treat yourself to 7 days of relaxation in this paradise – you won’t be disappointed. I have only been back a week and I am going to book to go again before it is fully booked.