Neals Yard Remedies- Health Retreat Portugal
Sooooo some of you may know from my photos, and excited posts, that I won the opportunity to go to Portugal on an incredible 5 star health retreat at the incredible Vivenda Miranda Hotel. I did this by entering a few of my recipes into the Neals Yard Remedies competition (who are the most amazing organic, natural product and superfood company by the way, if you don’t know them check them out now!) and I won (eeeeekkkk) with my healthy pancake recipe made with chickpea flour out of all of the other entries! Seriously WTF…… !!!!!
I am still so overwhelmed by it all, I can’t quite believe that I won! I wanted to really capture my experience in writing for you so you can fully understand how amazing it was! It is a memory, and a week of my life that I will be wrapping up in a box in my mind, and depositing firmly! I have taken so much inspiration from it and so many memories as well as friends for life. I just had to to put in on paper (or a computer screen lol) and share it with you and the world!
It is the night before I head to the airport for the Neals yard remedies Portugal health retreat. I have found a little Bed and Breakfast just outside gatwick airport, where I am frantically trying to pull a few items out of my suitcase to make it lighter……it is definitely over the weight allowance lol! (but I NEED everything….I am sure a few of you can relate to this problem).
As I am sat on the floor surrounded by clothes that I may or may not take, I am filled with feelings of excitement and anticipation… I am way too excited to sleep! I have that feeling in that part of your stomach that feels like butterflies! (You know where I mean). I still cannot quite believe that little me won this competition out of so many entries! It feels so surreal, but so right! Like this has happened at exactly the right moment in my life.
Its the morning of the trip and super early! I have hardly slept but I spring out of bed with a smile on my face and jump in a cab. I walk through the double doors to departures and it is perfect timing! The rest of the group have arrived at exactly the same time as me and everyone smiles broadly and introduces themselves. I meet Lottie, Jess, Ines and Daphne.
This might sound strange to you, but when I meet Lottie (our pilates instructor for the week) and Jess (The head of social media for Neals Yard Remedies) it is like I have known them for years not just met them…..is that normal???? We have yummy breakfast which we take our time over (a little too much time) then end up running all the way to the flight thinking we were late, we run past a load of people walking who meet us at the gate…haha! I guess the exercise was good for us even if we were not late! I look like a school child running for the bus with my rucksack with all my camera equipment in. (Am I the only one who feels like a kid at school in a rucksack?)
“To me airports have always been such magical places, the feeling of excitement and anticipation before you go away! The start of a new adventure and the door to new experiences!”
As we walked towards the plane, the sun was twinkling across the wing. I climbed the steps to board and I could not help but feel so fortunate and grateful for this moment in my life. I take my seat with Lottie and Jess and we set off on our adventure! Yep we chat for the entire trip (no reading my book just yet!) The second the plane left the runway I had an overwhelming sense of adventure and freedom, I love getting on flights! We were off!
Lagos here we come!
Does anyone else love, love, love, that feeling of getting off the plane? The sun shining on your face, and the warmth hitting your body as you try to balance your bag and your passport whilst trying to put on your sunglasses desperately? They are always hidden in the deepest darkest part of your bag? It could be one of the best feelings in the world (not finding the sunglasses the sun lol)! The warmth on your skin! I feel like a lizard getting energy in the sun!
We make our way to the hotel, we cant wait to see it! I am so excited! We pull up and it is so beautiful, beautiful flowers and palms blowing in the wind, gorgeous european plastered reddish walls and gorgeous decor.
“The most impressive part of the hotel hits you as soon as you walk into the reception! You can see the expanse of ocean as soon as you walk through the door, just glistening at you (how magical is that)! I have never been anywhere like it!”
As you walk out to the restaurant from reception, down onto the veranda, you can see a huge expanse of ocean as far as your peripheral vision can see. The hotel is up on the top of the cliff and looks down onto the ocean! What an incredible, magical place! I feel so grateful right now.
We are taken to our rooms and they are so lavish! I can’t believe how gorgeous it is here! There is a huge bed, my own lounge area on another level, a huge walk in shower, and the most amazing sea views! Pure blissful luxury!
As we had an early flight, we get the whole afternoon to settle in and we have arrived at the hotel the day before all the other guests so we chill out by the pool and have our first lunch (we are all so excited) they bring out a platter of the most gorgeous looking local fish, I am in heaven! I eat fish a couple of times a week at home, but when I am by the ocean and it is so fresh, I crave it all the time. It feels so right!
After relaxing, we decide a night in Lagos would be great to really take in the town, the culture, and location before everyone else arrives. We decide on a super cute little place and sit outside in the little narrow walk ways so we can watch the world of bye, and take in the atmosphere. Jess and Ines get the biggest seafood skewers I have ever seen! The seafood here is seriously good! Oh and yes we sample some local wine before the health retreat officially starts it would be rude not too! It is so good! We have the best night! I honestly still can’t believe we have only known each other for 1 day! We chat late into the night then sleep before tomorrow!
The group come together!
It is the first official day of the retreat and the guests arrive at different times, most don’t arrive until the evening so we start our day by helping ourselves to the most incredible buffet of healthy food I have ever seen! This hotel is amazing and so set up for people who are into healthy food, they cater for veggies and vegans and health conscious people! Every nut and seed you can ever imagine is laid out for you, along with fresh, glorious fruit! Fresh cashew yoghurt, freshly made almond milk, rice milk and hazelnut milk! I have never been anywhere with so much choice and so fresh! You can even make your own juice with the local organic produce! NOM NOM!!! Get in my belly!!!
After a day of chilling and taking in the surroundings the group starts to arrive, it is so exciting meeting the lovely ladies who have decided to come on the retreat, every one of them has come alone which I think is so fantastic!
“The common trait I immediately identify between all of these beautiful women is they are independent, inspirational, women who are comfortable in themselves and there own company and they are beautiful souls! They work hard and are in tune with there bodies and they know when they could do with a rest and rejuvenation! This retreat is perfect for that!”
We are treated to light dinner, with foods designed specifically to cleanse and aid digestion such as artichokes. The whole week of food is designed by our workshop leader Daphne Lambert, who was not only a chef/coowner of an award winning organic restaurant for 25years, she also ran her own nutrition consultancy practice and is a medicinal chef for over 25 years in other words she is a nutrition ninja who is packed full of knowledge to share with us this week!! I am super excited!!
Every day over our week we are up at 7.30 to enjoy our warm water, lemon and cayenne pepper together (This sounds early but honestly you have so much energy with the food). I already knew the benefits of lemon and water in the morning due to its alkalising effect but by adding in the cayenne pepper it boosts your metabolism and improves your circulation which is amazing for me as I suffer with circulation in my hands and feet!
We then go for our first Pilates class with the amazing Lottie Murphy! The spot we do it is so incredible! It overlooks the ocean, there is something so special about starting our day like this and with Pilates! I have actually fallen in love with pilates since doing it with Lottie! I had no idea how great it was on the core and how wonderful it made me feel! If you have not tried it before you simply have to check out her you tube channel for some more pilates exercises you can do at home- https://www.youtube.com/user/lifestylewithlottie!
Breakfast is light and is a large green juice and 3 of the most delicious local figs I have ever eaten, honestly they were so sweet they tasted like little sweets (natures sweets)! I would have thought I would be super hungry after them but I am not. We head over to our first nutrition workshop after breakfast which is food and vitality! If you want to learn more about nutrition in an incredible environment then this retreat is for you! I absolutely love nutrition and it is so incredible to combine learning with relaxing and pampering!
I have always thought I have had a very good understanding of nutrition but this retreat has opened my eyes and taught me so much more! The best thing I took from our nutrition lecture was that-
“nutrition is simple, we spend so much time over complicating food with every different diet we are told about, and all we need to do is eat as close to natural as possible! We need to trust and listen to our bodies.”
After the most delicious vibrant lunch I am off to one of two massages that are included as part of the retreat! The spa here is so beautiful and the massage therapist gives me a detox massage using the Neals Yard remedies detox oil http://www.nealsyardremedies.com/bath-and-body/body/massage-and-body-oils/1401.html after the massage I am handed a Neals Yard Remedies detox tea that tastes so good and I honestly feel like i am walking on air!! So relaxed and chilled, I make my way over to a sun lounger overlooking the ocean and just relax and take in the moment.
Tonight feel so fortunate to be sharing a table with 8 other vibrant, like minded, gorgeous women on the Neals Yard Remedies Portugal retreat. It is amazing how the group seem to have gelled together already, we exchange stories, lives and ambitions and we feast on the most incredible raw falafel with beetroot humous and I cannot wait to take inspiration from all the dishes and share them with you when I get back!!
It is already day three! I can’t believe it! We have had our lemon and cayenne, done pilates, had a huge green juice and now we get to feast on the most delicious sprouted buckwheat breakfast!! Honestly it tastes so good, something I have never thought of making but I 100% will be again! Recipe on inspired by this is 100% coming to you soon!
So Have you ever tried sprouting? What do you sprout? If you have not heard of sprouting then listen up and give it a try! Sprouting it is simply soaking the nuts or legumes then allowing them to dry and sprout,
“the soaking and sprouting process deactivates enzyme inhibitors and makes it is easier for our body to digest them by breaking them down prior to eating them.”
They also contain up to 100 times more enzymes than uncooked fruits and vegetables, increased quality of protein in the nuts or legumes and higher vitamin content.
I have always bought sprouts from my local health food shop but I am going to be doing it myself from now on! All you need to do is take your sprouts put them in a jar so it is filled to a 1/3 of the jar then cover with filtered water. Leave overnight to soak then drain off the water. Leave jar on its side with the dried sprouts in and rinse with water twice that day and drain then leave until the sprout is twice the size! Then eat!!! How easy is that?
We all wake up feeling fresh and vibrant! Pilates and breakfast followed by a trip to a gorgeous farm house in the algarve countryside! As we drive up a little piggy comes to greet us who is roaming free across the land! Exactly how it should be in my opinion!
After a quick look around and admiring how beautiful the farm house is and the abundance of home grown fruit and veg and happy looking animals we go to our digestion workshop with Daphne. The biggest thing I took from this workshop was that we often forget that
“digestion does not just start in the mouth when we chew, it starts before we even eat, with our senses, sounds, smells and saliva production”
Actually growing vegetables ourselves in places like this farmhouse, seeing where it comes from or getting food from farmers markets and having a relationship with food is part of the digestive process. I have learnt we need to be conscious with your decisions and take responsibility for where our food comes from!
We head back to the hotel after a beautiful day and feast on a vibrant 3 course dinner and our first dessert of the trip which is a chocolate mousse made with cacoa, cashew nuts and dates! It was so yummy!!
After a light breakfast of avocado and fennel over looking the ocean and the sun beaming down on us (wow I feel so lucky at this moment) the fennel is awesome for digestion too! We then do a workshop on Fermenting! Yes I know the word fermenting sounds a little strange to a lot of people!! But if you ferment food you can have fabulous results on how you feel, your digestion and guess what it is super duper cheap to do!! Woo!!
“By fermenting foods you increase the nutrition of every meal bringing life force to it! It puts good bacteria into our food and it is our friend!”
Fermentation has been used for hundreds of years to preserve and protect foods in different climates, you may have heard of Sauerkraut and Kimchi? These are fabulous fermented foods! It makes it easier to digest foods, provides all the enzymes necessary for digestion, contains pro and pre biotics, supports immune function and is basically pretty awesome! Look out for a video coming up on how to ferment food!
After a gorgeous lunch we head off to the local organic farm and we are greeted by the owner! She is honestly the most passionate and full of life character! She shows us around her incredible farm that she works on for around 15hours a day (she is so dedicated to her cause) I love walking around and she allows us to pick the gorgeous super sweet strawberries straight from the plant (OMG they are amazing).
We collect tomatoes that are the most delicious I have ever eaten and pull fresh figs from the trees! WOW I am inspired and appreciative of all the work that goes into it! I love her approach and she works with animals not against them, every creature having a purpose, she even feeds her pigs squash who then poop out the seeds and fertilise the soil then they move the pigs to the next part of the field it is so cool! Exactly how it should be, a circle of life! I keep making little excited noises when we are shown more different local produce!
Did you know that loofers that you scrub your body with grow on trees and look like massive courgettes?? Yep! They grow and then you peel them! Mental! The lovely lady gives me two to take home!! so cool!
So my learning from today was that we often think about where our protein or meat comes from but what about our plants? How we prepare our food, how it grows and what we use on it directly effects how it nourishes our bodies.
“Try to buy organic where ever possible, eat seasonal produce and support local farmers. Together we can make a difference!!”
We have a three course dinner tonight including the most delicious grain free bread made with carrots and nuts that are dehydrated with humous! Nom Nom!! Who knew you could even make these things! This is why I love food, you never stop learning! this is then followed by possibly my favourite dish of the week so far! It is butternut squash risotto made with brown rice! WOW!!! This melted in your mouth! I am for sure making that bad boy for you and I will be recipe testing to get it just right!!!
I literally cannot believe it is Thursday and only one full day left after this! The time has flown and I have loved every minute! We start our day slightly differently this morning! We decide to get up early and walk along the cliffs to the lighthouse to watch the sun rise! I am so glad we decide to do this! Getting up early and feeling the air change and the colours change in the sky is so magical and to do this with fabulous group of women who were once strangers and are now friends! We laugh and talk all the way there! We find a little spot and I suggest a doing a meditation for the group that they agree too! It is the first time I have done it but it feels so right! I start and I love it! When I take the ladies out of the meditation we see a whole shoal of dolphins in the ocean directly ahead of us! It was the most powerful, beautiful moment and it felt like a big fat sign from the universe! Wow! What a morning!
“Always take time to really breathe in those special moments, try something new and thank nature for its beauty.”
We then make our way to pilates, talking about our fabulous morning and we are greeted by a fox who walks within 1 meter of us! Staring at us! It was incredible! The lady who was from Portugal on the retreat Selena said she had never seen either of those things the whole time she has been there! How amazing! This morning have the most delicious raw granola I have ever put in my mouth! It was sweet and savoury and soon good! All served with freshly made almond milk! MMMMM!!! I am so inspired by the creativity of the food on this trip!
For lunch today we get our hands dirty and create our own little raw masterpieces! They are Raw chard leaves used as wraps filled with cabbage with an almond, tahini sauce, nuts, mixed herbs and shredded veg! They are so good and so incredibly filling!! It was so nice getting together and working as a team to make the food, it makes you appreciate it and forms a bond between you all!
This afternoon we went to a local bee farm where they have 700 hives. The guy who owned the place showed us around (he had the best moustache I have ever seen, oh and the best character he was so full of life!) We were able to try the honey straight from the hive and it tasted amazing!!
The honey takes on the flavor of what the bees feed on and this had an orange taste. Depending on what they feed on gives it different benefits for your body.
“All the little bees have to go to two million flowers to make 1/2 kilo of honey!”
That is serious hard work and makes you really appreciate your honey! Did you know that without bees over 80% of our food would be gone? Respect your bees and buy local honey! It is so good for you!
We get back and dress up ready to head off to the Farm house this time for a BBQ, the smell of bbq fish hits us right in the nostrils (in a good way) as we arrive and it smells so good! I have loved the raw food but I am looking forward to the fish so much!! It is prepared beautifully! We have local wines and delicious salads! We all chat late into the evening and have such a wonderful night! A few of us carry on the night and head into Lagos for a few drinks and a dance! It is so much fun!
Ooops so I fell asleep in my dress from the night before and I may have missed Pilates……nooooo! I forgot to set my alarm! What a silly billy!! I am a little annoyed at myself but never mind! These things happen! It is out last day! I honestly can’t believe it! How did this happen?? I still make it for a green juice and breakfast with everyone! We have the most yummy brekkie and by this point everyone is talking like we have been long term friends! Everyone had bonded and it feels so easy! We have laughed so much this week!
Our final workshop is on water! A few of us were not sure what to expect when it said this! I mean what could she say about water……..IT BLEW MY MIND!!! Yes we think about our food and the products we put on our skin sometimes but what about water??????
It makes up 70% of our bodies and we do not consider the quality of our water! It is a reflection of our relationship with nature. There is a life force in water!
The fresher and more pure the water the better it is for you! Nature adds minerals and oxygen to our water! I mean it is logical isn’t it….a bottle of plastic water that has sat in the sunshine in your car is not going to be anywhere near as nutritious as fresh running water from a spring! Not to mention the fact that it has taken on some of the properties from the plastic which is dangerous in itself! Nitrates, herbicides and heavy metals get through to our tap water. Try getting a filter for you water and putting a rose quartz crystal in your water to give back the structure of your water. (This is not hippie talk it is scientifically backed information) Think about where everything you put in and on your body comes from!
After a fabulous day and free time this afternoon when I headed to the beach with the other ladies we chilled, sun bathed and read my awesome book Light is the New black by Rebecca Campbell who I would totally recommend!! Before dinner I walk back to the hotel with the other lovely ladies for my final massage of the week! It is incredible, it was using essential oils for women health and I felt amazing for it!! I totally chill out on a sun lounger and just be at peace! It is so wonderful!
I still can’t believe it is the last day of the retreat as I make my way to dinner! I feel so inspired by my experience and I am so glad I could share it with you!! This trip has been such an incredible journey not only of health and nutrition but self love, discovery, joy and happiness!
Being in this incredibly inspiring location, on this amazing trip has made me want to burst out and share my message with the world!! It has picked me up, dusted me off and shown me how amazing I am. Self doubt and fear are often the things that prevent us moving forward and sometimes taking time away can put you back on track! Especially going away by yourself! You get put into scenarios that you would not normally be put into and meet amazing people you may not otherwise normally meet and if you have a husband or partner like me then it is also amazing for you. I learnt a fabulous quote off one of the lovely ladies on this retreat
“Let there be space in your togetherness”
and it is so true! Take time apart to appreciate and love each other!
The biggest thing I have leant on this trip and is going to be my biggest teaching to you all, the purpose of my passion and story is to show you all that to be healthy inside and out we need to-
“nourish yourself, then you can nourish others”
So many of us give our energy to other people but forget to take time to look after ourselves!! This is something I have not done for years, always focusing on other people and never on myself and nourishing me. It is only when my passion for health began and nurturing myself that I have realised how important it is. Nourishing our minds, bodies and souls. When you look after yourself you are then in the best place to look after others. Why not try things like having a regular massage? Aromatherapy massage is so fantastic! Why not book a retreat like this one? Don’t have anyone to go with? Why not go by yourself? Spend time pampering yourself! You deserve it!!
We sit down to our final meal, a table full of beautiful inspiring women! We are the first ones to be seated in the restaurant and the last ones to leave! We laugh, we share stories, we inspire each other and we feast on the most beautiful meal including the local speciality Cataplana which I would highly recommend to anyone to try in Portugal! It is a beautiful dish dish served at your table with fresh fish, prawns and a delicious tomatoes sauce with potatoes! So simple but so yummy!! What a beautiful way to end the most amazing week with the best people! Delicious destination??? I think sooooooo!!!
Oh and don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter not only for the recipes and inspiration from my trip but for the awesome video that I filmed on the trip woo! Oh and now I will only be sending out the recipes to new dishes on my newsletter if you have signed up and it will be going out every Sunday from now on! I had not been consistent with my times before but now I will be and very Sunday it will be heading over to you to inspire your week ahead!
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