The Great Escape
I am still astounded at what is possible through home exchange. Over the years, I’ve learned another language, discovered new musical tastes, enjoyed books I would never buy myself, and my latest wheeze is inventing an escape into the Spanish sunshine.
Let me explain. Fellow exchangers, Claire and Louis wanted to come to London for a few days in May. Their apartment in Paris sounded fabulous, but the timing was wrong. I was looking, not for the buzz of Paris, but for peace and serenity and a much improved lotus position. Preferably somewhere sunny.
Our favourite getaway, La Quinta Club in the heart of La Manga in Southern Spain is always seductive, with an enchanting Andalusian style villa plus golf, tennis, a pool out of a Faye Dunaway movie and a fabulous coastline; but there was no Well Being break on the calendar.
“Why don’t you do it?”, asked Laura Sanchez, the Managing Director. Why not? I am a yoga teacher, lapsed, but the muscle memory lingers on; my daughter-in-law is a Pilates teacher and everything else, including specially prepared fresh, healthy food and delightful accommodation were right there on site. I figured that having to teach it, my lotus position would slip into place in a nanosecond. Melissa, my daughter-in-law decided both she and my three-year old granddaughter deserved a break while my husband looked forward to indulging in a little golf and reading by the pool. Meanwhile, Claire and Louis could enjoy our house in London and we could put their Paris apartment ‘on hold’ for another time when we felt in French mode. You have to admit. It ticked all the boxes.
To wake every day in Spain to certain sunshine is a luxury we Brits can’t get enough of. Each morning I walked to the clubhouse for the pre- breakfast yoga session, relishing the sun on my shoulders, the birdsong and the vibrant colours of scarlet hibiscus, pink cactus flowers and huge, shiny banana palms.
We were 10 altogether, all pinching ourselves at the joy of actually being here, all throwing ourselves into the deep end of well being and loving every moment. Within days, the ‘girls’ (we’re all girls, age is irrelevant) spoke of the wonderful feeling of spiritual well being that only yoga can provide, and the undoubted improvement in body awareness and discipline that comes with Pilates. In between classes we investigated local markets, took long walks in the Spanish countryside, ate delicious high fibre, low sugar food, no booze, well hardly any, and found that we had fewer kilos, especially around the hips, than we started with.
Naturally we had our moments. Six of the girls were all best pals from their school days. This get-together with no husbands, no children, no commitments to anything except having a good time in a ‘Well Being’ sort of way was a revelation. They shared a three-bedroom villa, threw pyjama parties harking back to their teenage days and had a ball. The fact that despite all this hilarity and high jinks they finished the week lighter, brighter and more relaxed was a bonus they really hadn’t relied upon.
The others came in pairs and found their own ways to turn the break into a proper holiday. Daytime was for cleansing of mind and body. Evenings were for finding some of the best restaurants in southern Spain and indulging ever so slightly. After all, when in Spain you do as the Spaniards do and eat paella and drink Rioja wine. It would appear rude not to, they maintained.
As for us, Leela, my granddaughter found that ice cream did the same job in the spiritual well-being department as Yoga. Melissa, her mother, found teaching Pilates in such a beautiful environment was almost a holiday in itself, while my lotus position has become as easy for me as – well – it’s supposed to be for a good yoga teacher.
On the day we were due to depart I got a text from Claire and Louis. ‘We love London and your home and the experience we have enjoyed. Please can we swap again some time? ‘ Now that’s what I call a win-win situation.
– SANDRA’S TIPS –
La Quinta Club is unique. It operates as a five star, fractional ownership club within Spain’s best known sports and villa complex La Manga Club. Villas can be rented at any time,
RESTAURANTS & BARS
There are many restaurants within the La Manga complex, including the Principe Filipe Hotel, which is a beautiful, Spanish style hotel with a piano bar, much prized by La Quinta members in the summer and great restaurants. Well worth visiting.
There are another 15 or so restaurants within La Manga Club. Our actual favourite is La Finca, walking distance from La Quinta and beautiful all year round. The garden in the summer festooned with fairy lights and with a special table over the pool is stunning. In cooler times of the year the interior is exactly as you would hope your own ‘La Finca’ (farmhouse home) might be. With quite a few modern touches.
La Manga means ‘the sleeve’ in Spanish and La Manga is named for a sleeve of land that divides the Mediterranean Sea from the Sea of Menor. It is very built up and looks like a kind of Spanish version of small town main street; a promenade of shops, cafes, apartment buildings and seaside paraphanalia. But there are gems. One of them, right down the end of the 22 km strip is:
Escuela de Pieter
30380 La Manga del Menor +34 96843-7059
Lovely food, lovely setting and sun-beds when you feel weary. Try not to go on a windy day!
30380 La Manga de Mar Menor, +34 968563130
Perfect for children, this restaurant is actually on the beach. The little ones can make sand-castles while waiting for their tapas. Food, price, ambience, all lovely.
The City of Cartegena is only 20 minutes drive from La Quinta. It has the second larges port in Spain and is a fabulous, baroque style city, with some beautiful architecture, a great restored Roman Ampitheatre and museum and a many good restaurants. Our favourite is La Tartana. Really Spanish, really warm and welcoming and you’ll eat tapas you’ve never even heard of before.
The town of Murcia is about an hour’s drive away and has a fantastic cathedral, well worth visiting. Also, some of the best Spanish restaurants in Spain. La Cabana, amazing food, ambience and service.
Taberna Tipica La Pequena SL
Plaza San Juan 2
30003, Murcia Spain
+34 9682 19840