A head full of ideas at Villa Maecenas, Ibiza
Selda Goodwin reviews a writing retreat at a delectable wellbeing retreat on Ibiza with yoga, writing workshops, massage, walks and gourmet meals and leaves encouraged and motivated to grow, expand and develop.
I enter an art lover’s paradise filled with books and works by renowned international artists when I arrive at Villa Maecenas (which means Patron of Arts). A 400-year-old Spanish finca in the north of Ibiza near popular beach hangout Benirràs, it has been created to host artists, writers and anyone with a creative vibe who wish to explore and discover their true creative nature.
My host Cleyenne is a Brazilian goddess whose smile is as beautiful as her home. Greeted with gentle kisses from Marvin her loving whippet, I have a sense of returning home, to four hectares of lush land coated in olive and carob trees, fields of butterfly lavender and oceans of pennisetum.
We drink juice of freshly plucked pomegranates from the thriving garden and nibble raspberry dark chocolate as we share our love of words, art and nature. My room is simple, white and alive with inspiring colourful art. In true finca style, low ceilings help to retain warmth, the handmade driftwood shelves hold books of old, and the luxuriously soft linen tells me I will sleep very well.
I’m here alone for four days to discover how a typical writing retreat unfolds and what it is that makes Villa Maecenas so special. I will experience a daily schedule of yoga, writing workshops and healthy meals and explore creativity through imagination, nature and play.
Villa Maecenas hosts writing focused retreats with the likes of senior lecturer Anthony Cropper, author of ‘Songbird’ Julia Blackbird and Emmy-nominated screenwriter Hugh Costello. Guests often arrive with serious manuscripts and clear intentions to develop their fertile work. I enter with a head full of ideas, several tatty notebooks of unstructured thoughts, emotions captured on phone and an open heart.
Mornings begin at 9 am with light Yin Yang yoga led by Scarlet Stolker, resident teacher from the Netherlands. The class is a gentle blend of still, floor based postures and breath-led movement where no experience is required. Fifteen minutes of guided meditation gives a boost like Turkish coffee and I am ready for a continental breakfast of homemade cereal, breads, cheese, fruits and more. I tear through the layers of a buttery croissant as excitedly as I consume the fables of Kalila and Dimna, the book that inspired Cleyenne’s love of the arts many years ago.
At 11am each day I sit to write for 2-3 hours at a table buried in lavender with sage bushes wafting their scent into the breeze. The workshops are varied but writing and discussion lie at their centre. I’m given five minutes to recount an experience of being hurt and feel a little under pressure and insecure, but with each session I notice transformations, as if page-by-page many personal layers peel away, and I’m encouraged by Anthony Cropper’s words, ‘The only way you can learn to write is by doing it yourself’.
Feedback is essential for growth and under the guidance of informed novelists, lecturers and authors, groups can gather here to share and find ways around writing blocks, then put pen to paper to overcome self-doubt. Exercises include exploring earliest memories, composing ranting letters to enemies, and what exactly you would do if you were invisible. Three objects are placed along the sweeping outdoor table and I am invited to write a story from any perspective, in any language, style or form based on one of them.
Lunch at 1.30pm is organic farm-to-table style, with great effort to consume produce from the island. Couscous with peppers, olives, pine nuts and local Spanish fish bonito, accompanied by roasted veggies, falafel with tahini dip and a well-dressed tender sweet potato and lambs lettuce salad is up for grabs. The setting for every meal is creative and sensitive to the surroundings, with inviting crockery, flowers and aged-candles bringing meditative Zen to the table.
I snooze in the afternoons, write and read on the hammock, or hang out with Marvin (my new besty) on his over sized stripey coloured beanbag. I also trust in the hands of experienced massage therapist Niccolo Bianchini as he guides me beyond space and time into relaxation, and thoroughly enjoy a ninety-minute walk learning more about the history Ibiza with Toby (and Cosmos the dog) from Walking Ibiza tours.
Cleyenne emphasises the importance of finding love for oneself, so I make an effort to dress up for dinner each evening at 8pm. Gin and tonic in hand, we sit on the comfy terrace sofas, where conversations effortlessly shift from chat to life stories. A candle lit garden, flowers from the soil, soothing background music and a bottle of red sets the scene for the evening.
Alex Marks is our incredibly humble and dedicated English fine dining chef. Having worked internationally for the Four Seasons in the Maldives to London’s finest including Gordon Ramsay’s Maze, he has now settled in Ibiza full time. Tonight he offers us lightly seasoned wild grilled sea bass with fragrant braised fennel and creamy dill mash, along with an aubergine puree, cucumber and pomegranate salad. I ‘mmm’ at every mouthful and as he carefully presents his thin-crusted, perfectly cooked homemade apple tart with caramel mascarpone, there are squeals of delight.
On my last night, I am fortunate enough to bathe under a mystical Full Moon as Marvin rests his head on my lap. Villa Maecenas has been a stoney road that takes my hand and leads me into the wild woods of creativity. I leave encouraged and motivated to grow, expand and develop. For good ideas stay with us until we eventually write the story we need to – or perhaps even the greatest of novels.