So, how did I come to choose this one?
I first went to a day of yarn crafts locally to me organised by Natasha from the account 'Taking A Moment In Time' as it was one of the few things that I didn't have to travel too far to go to. I soon realised that this lady gives terrific value for money and her attention to detail is incredible.
|our home for the week|
After trying a weekend retreat in Rye with her, I knew that this trip to Romania would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only that, but I wouldn't have to worry about airport transfers, food, days out, accommodation etc etc and hence this is where 'retreat' kicks in as the difference to a weekend holiday. You can switch your brain off and just ... enjoy.
In this blog post I'm going to talk mainly about the retreat and as there is so much to say and show, I will follow up with a few other posts addressing what I thought of the country too, and the crafts we learnt.
|our own knitting advisor to hand|
|the hills are alive with the sound of me eating cheese|
We flew to Cluj airport from Luton and from there our house was about a four hour drive north, up towards the Ukraine border in the mountains. The journey was a great eye opener to seeing the different style of houses and get the feel for the lifestyle in this part of the country. It soon occurs to you that the locals like to have chickens and a vine in the back garden, and you straight away see horses and carts on the road, little old ladies in headscarves sitting on benches. The old ways are still in evidence here which is very pretty to look at but not so great to actually live, so luckily for us, our home for the week was a top notch, state of the art eco-house set in a pretty valley.
On our arrival at the house we were greeted with lovely gifts awaiting us on our beds, the rooms were spotless, we had our own private bathroom and a balcony, and everything you would expect from a five star hotel, phew, I wasn't wrong in trusting Natasha to pick something out of this world. I can rough it for the odd day but I'm a Leo, I love luxury.
|our beautiful home from home|
Bio Valeputna is the name of the house set in Valea Putnei, on the edge of a national park which covers mountains and scenes of tremendous beauty. Our cook for the week was Romanian so we had a chance to sample local food, and of course, this way the vegetarians in the group could be safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't go hungry. I can see that it could be tricky for non meat eaters if you were solo travellers here where the diet is heavily meat based with polenta accompaniment. The house was decorated with a lovely mixture of old and new, some lovely antiques and rustic arts and some reclaimed materials too.
Our days were filled with so many projects and trips out, none of which would also have been so easy to do if I had travelled on my own. We visited local weavers, who also spin their own yarn, tanners who treat the hides of just about every animal known to man (it was a bit overwhelming to see bear, badger, deer hides piled up). There were trips out to antique shops, and to the tops of mountains where we ate at a shepherds hut, the food prepared on an open fire and a view that looked like a painted backdrop from the sound of music.
In the evenings and between trips we learnt to spin wool with a drop spindle, knit a project, make a delicate wall hanging and play with yarn to our hearts content. I will do a separate blog post about the crafts as I think they deserve more attention.
Every day we were treated to tasty treats at meal times with the most delicious cakes in-between. I think we all could feel our waistbands tighten during the week!
It was Christmas come early, with goodie bags at every meal and a picture perfect view surrounded by christmas trees and smoke from chimneys.
My fellow retreaters were a fabulous mixed bunch of travellers and craft fans, we had such fun and laughter every day, every moment was thoroughly enjoyable for me, being surrounded by like minded people and chatting about our different lives. We also seemed to be the Canon camera appreciation society as everyone of us loves photography and this was also something we talked about and had help with.
I expect I will be writing more about retreats with Natasha as she moves into her own farm this week and work has commenced on the building of guest rooms, social areas and craft rooms. Her UK farm is called Hill View, so keep a look out for details of events when they start here.
On our last day we had a late flight so a few of us decided to explore the mountains north of our house before taking the main road to the airport. The autumnal colours were set to vibrant, as we found the most breathtaking views. Hills covered in every hue, populated by cows with bells and old shepherds with their flocks, little streams running along side the road and even the odd black squirrel. My eyes were on stalks trying to take it all in.
In my next post I will be talking more about the country and people of Romania from my week of observations, but this post is an attempt to give some tips on what to look for when booking a retreat.
I would say that some organisers may over gloss the look of what you are likely to get, perhaps trading too highly on their name. Make sure you are going to be fed enough, it's pretty hard to scrutinise this as people have very different ideas about portion size! If in doubt pack lots of snack foods in your suitcase! Think about your own personal habits and make sure you compensate, if your host isn't a big coffee drinker they may not supply you with enough caffeine to get through the day, so pop some sachets or tea bags in your case just in case. Luckily for us there were more than enough variations on tea and coffee to suit, including proper english tea bags (us Brits do not like the wishy washy european stuff), and that's my thing, so don't expect your host to be a mind reader and don't be shy about telling them your special needs before you go.
Not all countries are good at feeding vegetarians and may have a funny interpretation on what this involves. Natasha is an excellent cook and so is her assistant and translator so our veggies had good negotiators in providing them with variety. I discovered myself that sampling every single different cheese all in one day may cause nightmares !!
I have heard that on some retreats the host stays in the beautiful house and the guests stay somewhere else, I personally would not be happy about this, so check where you will actually be staying and don't assume it's the beautiful apartments that feature in the photos! Personally I like a home from home to be at least as nice as my own home, if not better. All I can say is that Natasha will always check out a place before hand so there are no worries with her and no nasty surprises.
Last tip, remember you are the person paying, don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and take some control over your experience, it is a very British thing to suffer in silence (unless you have met me, haha !!) Fortunately on this occasion it wasn't necessary, I could not fault a single aspect. Check the group size as well, a large group may mean that you don't get the personal attention you deserve, it is a retreat after all, and not a school trip! I found our group of a dozen to be perfect.
|don't let yourself be treated like a sheep!|
I hope I have given you some things to consider if you are booking a retreat and that my recommendations here are helpful. I can one hundred percent, with hand on heart recommend Taking A Moment In Time retreats, and hope to see you on one in the future, as I will most definitely be joining them again.
Next time let's look at travelling to this part of the world and what that entails. See you next week, Janice.