May 25, 2012

To where do you retreat?!

Everyone has one, right? (Tell me I'm not alone in this) - a favourite place to go to to relax, recharge, just get away... and dream.

Last weekend I went to my favourite 'retreat' - Hanmer Springs. It is about a ninety minute drive from my town - it is inland and north. Hanmer is a little alpine style village that's frosty and pretty and nestled next to a beautiful river and mountains. But the absolute draw card?!

Thermal Springs.

I ADORE hot pools. There is nothing like sitting outside in lovely warm water on a cold, cold day. I find it relaxing and inspiring. There's a raft of info out there on the benefits of water and creativity (something to do with negative ions I think) - anyway, that's another blog topic. Suffice to say for me, going there gives me a creative boost and a mental break.

I've been going to Hanmer since I was a kid (it was and still is a destination for school camps!), and my best friend's parents have a holiday home up there that they so generously let us use :)

I've been there in the hottest days of summer (when we all just about got sunstroke waiting in the line to go down the SuperBowl) and have stood in the hottest of the pools while snow flurries swirled down and collected in our hair and eyelashes.

The Aquaplay land that the kids
and I spend hours on.
I'm a total hydroslide junkie. 
In winter there's the sheer hell of dashing (not running!) on the concrete to get from changing room to the nearest pool - and the total tingle of the toes as you enter that hot water. The return dash is more painful though! I always think the worst thing about swimming is getting dressed again afterwards. I once had the great fortune to go to Iceland - in winter - and they have the most amazing thermal pools there too - including the famous 'blue lagoon' (it has a mineral rich mud that apparently will make your zits go away). There was no cold concrete dash there, you could enter the warm water from INSIDE the changing facility and walk/swim through a tunnel thing to get outside - very smart!

Hanmer has a spa facility of course and over the last twenty years or so has gotten a number more cafes and restaurants (there only used to be the 'Hastie Tastie') - but it still only has a permanent population of around 800. And yes, I've used it in a book - in UNBUTTONED BY HER MAVERICK BOSS (or REBEL WITH A CAUSE in the US) Lorenzo takes Sophy there to escape so she can FOCUS ON HER WORK (art imitating life there) -- and they may or may not have had an intimate moment in one of those private pools...

Anyway this weekend, much to my children's HORROR, I  went without them and took two writing buddies instead.  Sweet author Soraya Lane and Desire author Tessa Radley. We plotted, wrote and ate (not necessarily in that order). I think the people near us in the pool must have wondered about our lives when Tessa and I talked devious twists in our prospective stories... It was just brilliant - we hunched over our laptops during the day, in three armchairs pulled up to the logburner, pausing for plotting breaks, sugar breaks, caffeine breaks... and of course pool breaks.

We're going again in a few months and I can't wait. (Though the kids, hubby and I are heading back there in the next school holidays too! I'd get ousted from the nest if I went without them again in the near future!!!).

So have you got a favourite place that you like to retreat to!?!? Or a dream one?! What about thermal pools - do they float your boat like they do mine?! I've love to know!


  1. Natalie, this sounds like the perfect retreat. No wonder you enjoy it. I love thermal springs. We visited some in Turkey years ago and it was just fabulous.

    Personally I like getting away to the mountains (since I live on the coast) and I don't even mind if it's misty and cold or raining as it's all part of the experience - and a great excuse to visit coffee shops and book shops!

  2. Sounds as if you had an excellent time, Natalie! Thermal springs fascinate me -- I've never had the fortune to visit any, but I hope there's a couple in my future. :-)

    I've had a couple of writers' retreats at Varuna, The Writers' House, in the Blue Mountains and, like Annie, I'd recommend the mountains. Especially in winter -- there's just something about the cold outside and a log fire inside. :-)

  3. Sometime Annie and Michelle - you will both have to get to Hanmer - it has hot pools AND mountains :) And definitely has COLD weather - sometimes snow to build snowmen and icy water to drink...
    I think writer's retreats are the new black, I really do - a must! ;)

  4. Your retreat with Soraya and Tessa sounds divine! I recently went on a writing retreat to Cockatoo Island (in the middle of Sydney Harbour) with Nikki Logan, Bronwyn Jameson and Claire Baxter - it was *fabulous*. I've got some photos, and am planning to do a post at some stage. Maybe next week!