A very hectic six months in London had left me feeling exhausted; a breakup, a knee injury and barely a hint of sunshine to lighten my days, had left me wanting to run away from it all and get back to the one thing that never fails to make me happy – chasing the sun of course!
My 27th birthday was coming up and as it was my first time in a long time as a singleton, I wanted to get away from home and the ‘woe is me’ feeling that was threatening to take over. Unfortunately, having left plans to the very last minute, none of my friends were available/could afford to come away. So, I decided to do the scariest thing I’ve done in a long time…book a trip for one.
Despite the fact that I had packed up everything for an indefinite round-the-world trip at just 21, for some reason this felt far scarier. I guess constant companionship for the past four years will do that to a girl, but I decided that it was time for me to step outside of my comfort zone and what better way to do that than by jumping in feet first?
As a bit of a fitness fan, I thought a holiday that involved some kind of activity would be the best option to keep me entertained and so I started researching yoga retreats in Europe. I came across some stunning resorts in Italy, Greece and Morocco but unfortunately they were all far too expensive for an impromptu weekend away. Luckily, I then stumbled across Casa de Carassco. Perfect!
Getting the courage to go it alone
Now the easy part was done. Flights booked, accommodation sorted, travel money exchanged. But as departure day arrived, it suddenly hit me…I was going alone! As I packed my bags, a serious case of the jitters took over. But once I arrived at the airport (and sank back a Corona or two), I was starting to feel pleased with my decision and excited for the adventure ahead.
Camping in the hills in Spain
My first camping experience (in Byron Bay) had been idyllic; I had Rich by my side to put the tent up, the sun was constantly on full beam and we’d landed on perhaps the nicest camp-site on earth. Since then, my camping experiences have left little to be desired; I’ve got lost on a camp-site in the New Forest (don’t take your contact lenses out and then try to find your way back to your tent – especially when it’s pitch black!) and been run out of a soggy field in Devon due to torrential rain. So naturally I decided to to try camping again!
But this was no ordinary camping trip. For 55 euros a night (or 40pp if you are sharing with a friend), you can hire one of these fabulous safari tents at Casa de Carrasco.
Included in the price is a delicious, healthy breakfast (also the perfect place to get to know the other guests) and a daily yoga class. Whether you’re a beginner to yoga or a novice, standing on a sun deck in the hills of Spain and doing sun salutations to the actual sun, will leave you beaming with energy for the rest of the day – even if the unusually windy nights mean that you’ve barely had a minutes sleep!
That very first night; wind blowing the sides of the tent in, no phone signal to let my family know I had arrived and no Rich to cuddle up to, I started to wonder if I’d made the wrong decision. What had I been thinking? I hate spending time alone, what made me think four days of solitude would be an enjoyable way to spend my birthday?
Luckily, I needn’t have worried because from the moment I stepped into the casita, I was welcomed into the fold. Yoga teachers on vacation, fellow Londoners wanting to escape the big smoke, a father and daughter spending some quality time together – the range of people was diverse.
Each morning after yoga, we would all sit by the Casita and enjoy breakfast in the sunshine, getting to know each other by sharing tales from our lives at home. It felt like everyone was there for a different reason; thinking about moving to a new city, taking a break after a breakup or just wanting to escape from a busy life at home and, not to sound too hippy-dippy and sentimental, but it did feel like each person gave me some perspective on my own conundrum – to leave London or not to leave London…
Day one was spent lazing by the pool and reading a book. But on day two – my birthday, I wanted to go out and explore! Thankfully, a couple of the other guests were also keen to head to the ‘nearby’ beach in a village called L’Ampolla. Sarah (the retreat owner) drove us down at midday and we spent the first half of the afternoon turning like spit roasts under the hot Spanish sun. After a dip in the (freezing cold) sea, we packed up our beach bags and headed for a walk along the coast to the next beach, Cambrils. The walk itself was enjoyable but the ice cold drinks at the other end were definitely welcome and it wasn’t long after that we were heading back to the more ‘lively’ L’Ampolla for dinner by the beach.
We’d skipped lunch so by the time 5pm arrived we were desperate for some food. Being in Spain however, everyone was on siesta time and it was only Casa David at the end of the beach with their doors still open. Luckily the food was delicious, as was the huge jug of Sangria we had to accompany it! Soon it was time to head home for the night…
The kindness of strangers
Considering I’d only been at Casa de Carrasco for just two days at this point, a few drinks at the beach was more than I was expecting in terms of birthday celebrations. Yet when we arrived back at the camp site, I walked in to find a huge chocolate cake (courtesy of Sarah) and a bottle of Cava from Kate and Rachel – pretty much a perfect end to what had already been a memorable birthday.
The third day was spent recovering by the pool with some more new arrivals – Mathilda and Nina, from Norway. Fun-loving and lively one minute, serious and thoughtful the next, they were an interesting pair and definitely the kind of holiday friends I would like to see again. We spent hours posing by the pool…
Then headed to the local supermarket with some of the other girls to collect supplies for the evening BBQ.
Fresh caprese salads, grilled chicken, charcoaled sausages and a couple of Coronas to wash it all down. Divine!
Row-row-row your boat
Once the BBQ was over, most people headed to their respective tents for an early night, especially those wanting to conserve some energy for the finale of the trip, a two hour canoeing experience down the River Ebre.
What started out as a relatively easy paddle down the still river, turned into a battle to stay upright, and it wasn’t just once that I had to shout to the instructor: ‘Help, Louis’ as my canoe went in directions of its own will. I can’t say it was my most pleasurable boating experience but it was a nice way to see the surrounding area and although I won’t be canoeing solo any time soon, it was a good way to burn off the calories from all those extra Coronas I’ve been indulging in recently.
Back to the Casa for a shower and then it was time to bid farewell to my peaceful home in the hills and journey back to bustling London. I can’t say I was too thrilled at the prospect, but at least the trip had reminded me that I don’t need to wait for someone to whisk me off to my dream life by the beach, I can go searching for it myself!
Next I head back to Barcelona, this time for a girls holiday with my best friend…