Enchanted by tumbling beauty at Trasierra, Spain
Connie Allfrey reviews a yoga and walking retreat with Amber Scott at Trasierra in Spain and finds bright, kind and precise yoga teaching and creative Bohemian surroundings that inspire her next move.
Trasierra announces itself immediately as more home than hotel on my arrival – dogs appear in a flurry out of nowhere to curl up on the vast white sofas unperturbed, the books in the rooms are read, the place feels lived in, loved and carefully observed. This was illustrated by my finding a creative hub worthy of Matisse on a visit to Charlotte’s office to use the internet (Charlotte Scott being the owner and grand doyenne of all) – faded photos spilled over a coffee table, a vintage book called Tribulations of a Baronet was open and apparently in use, plates studding the walls, mini oil painting squares propped on the fireplace. As a result of this nostalgic intrigue, Trasierra creates an environment a thousand times more interesting than your standard stay. I can’t tell if I am Miss Havisham or Estelle or Laurie Lee as I wander through the grounds eating pomegranate jewels and young walnuts straight from the trees, or try to capture the easy, tumbling beauty as I watch lanterns throwing the light out come nightfall.
I arrived fresh from a wedding in the Andalucian hills, tired but happy, with extremely tight hamstrings from enthusiastic biking and unenthusiastic stretching back in London. At once I felt peace, for Trasierra straddles that curious combination of enchanting fading grandeur with topnotch efficiency. We were immediately ushered up to the Orangery for tea, where the mini bowls of date balls, goji berries, mammoth almonds, and broad selection of tea felt thoughtful and nourishing. I was delighted with my enormous white wedding chamber of a room, The Studio, with tall imposing curtains, a beautiful French desk I am writing this at now, wild grasses in a vase, a Brita water filter, tissues tied with a ribbon, an adaptor in a basket, endless pieces of white linen reminiscent of Japan in blossom – so many small thoughts and touches, everything fresh, white and inviting. It is more about totality than perfection though, for some ends are left undone – there was a high round window ensconced in cobwebs that I kept intending to get cleared or to clear, but somehow never got round to.
My twelve fellow guests are all women – mostly mums or creatives in their 40s and 50s, coming from England, Austria and France and working in professions such as costume design, hotels or publishing, with one twenty something tattoo-artist from Stoke Newington keeping us all cool.
Amber Scott, our yoga teacher, born and bred at Trasierra, continues the thoughtful and nourishing theme – her bare face and cool blue eyes seem to sing with the wide Andalucian sky and I can understand why a few return retreaters mutter: ‘I’m slightly obsessed with her’. Amber is the real deal, pure and kind and the freest of souls, I can tell from the way her arms flap with abandon when she walks. There is no spiritual pride or excessive yoga jargon here, just a measured consistent pace, which is the only way anything of worth gets achieved I have finally come to realise. ‘There’s no rush right?’ we hear through her classes, but a surprising intensity gathers within as we are asked to hold postures with the correct alignment for some time; there is ‘no room for cheating’, as one guest sighs.
Amber’s classes are humble, bright and holy, inviting us to ‘tune into the energetic realm within’ as she words it, and so invite our own healing, rather than pushing for the glory of the pose at the expense of the body. ‘Take a breath for nothing,’ Amber invites us in the spaces, and I begin to see that this breath is where the body unravels to its original peaceful state, and wherein I hope it will learn to reside more. Having practised quite a physical Jivamukti style yoga for about 12 years, I am aware my body responds well to more subtle movements now; I can hear Amber’s otherworldly tones inviting me to slow down, to listen, to savour.
It rained for the first two days, but strangely it didn’t matter. I was transfixed by the whitest of skies, and wondered if perhaps I had finally achieved equanimity of mind. I spent the mornings curled up by a roaring fire in the Church room, reading Vanda Scaravelli’s Awakening the Spine under vast family oils, and a grand arch twined with olive. We went for a hill walk the first day when it cleared, passing mighty cork trees, muddling eucalpytus leaves between our fingers, and breathing in the invigorating views, before scrambling down the hillside to lunch when we realised it was already 2.15pm and our stomachs were rumbling. I missed the river walk the second day, though went for my own run to assuage the guilt, using the mild rain as an excuse to simply be at Trasierra, observing a wicker bowl of lemons and the itch of a new idea for a book trying to hatch. There is something transformative about the place: the light and noble yoga studio, overlooking walnut and pomegranate trees, used to be a derelict barn; the dining-room, with its slanting floor and bridle holders, was once old stables. Trasierra’s passion and energy for renovation and renewal seems to rub off a bit, and call softly for something to be created out of nothing.
The vegetarian food, concocted by Argentinian chef Fiona, was nutritious and healthy, though perhaps lacking excitement. I found a chickpea curry for lunch, followed by dahl and roasted cauliflower for dinner on the first day, a bit heavy on the pulses for my stomach, and a bit wan in colour. Breakfast was an array of fresh fruit, chia and yoghurt, a delicious finely milled granola or toast. There were little pools of dried fruit and nuts pocketed around for snacks, which is dangerous for the squirrels. I am assured that the food is normally cooked by Giaconda, Amber’ sister, and is excellent, with everyone nipping into the kitchen for demonstrations and enterprising tips on how to transform home-cooking with a few strokes, and several return guests were waxing lyrical about the vegan chefs and their creations on a different retreat.
I left feeling ready for Autumn, with peace in my bones and some valuable yoga tips, such as bending my arms and legs slightly instead of locking my hyper-mobile joints out and inhibiting the pranic flow. I still miss swimming in the cool pool before supper, with the sun slipping down behind white domes and a rogue palm tree through a roof, Rome and Juliet style. There is something special and personal about this retreat – perhaps it is the combination of a beautiful home, and its intriguing home-keepers, that keep the bright hearth of Trasierra’s soul burning. The Scott family seem cut from a particularly original cloth and their authentic manner of being invites the original in each of us to come out, and beat to the Flamenco band from Seville we listen to on the last night, and luxuriate in the glory of the natural world while we can.