I first took part in a writing retreat many moons ago, in deepest darkest Shropshire. It was a year or two after I graduated, and I had recently read a book by an Arvon Foundation alumni that had reignited my desire to write; a passion of mine that has always played second fiddle to my love of books. I spent a week at The Arvon Foundation’s retreat, The Hurst, surrounded by the forest-covered Shropshire Hills, and the days passed by in a blur of wintry walks, writing workshops and wine-fuelled suppers as we discussed and dissected our work. I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful group of aspiring writers, and one of my dearest friends today is Laura – a girl I instantly bonded with on the retreat.
While my writing practise has since become a daily habit, I always prioritise my blog over any sort of creative writing, and the would-be memoir I’ve been attempting to write since I first moved to Sydney is yet to make any real progress.
Thus it was with great delight that I found out towards the end of 2018 that I had won a creative writing retreat in Ibiza at Villa Maecenas. Given that I was on the shadow-judging panel for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award (and the winner’s ceremony was taking pace in December) I had already been toying with the idea of flying home for Christmas, and needed little further encouragement to head home a few weeks early for a week of memoir writing on the aptly named white isle.
Located just a short drive from Ibiza airport and nestled amongst many hectares of pine forests, olive groves and wild flowers, Villa Maecenas (which means Patron of the Arts) is a a unique and creative sanctuary, hidden away from the well-trodden parts of the island known for its hedonistic party scene. Surrounded by forests and fields of lavender in the heart of northern Ibiza, yet just a few minutes away from quaint white-washed villages and farm houses scattered around the island, Villa Maecenas is a refuge from the rest of the world, serene and stimulating, rich in inspiration and surrounded by nature; and a picture-perfect spot for anyone wanting to relax and recharge or hone and nurture their creative juices. Designed by Rolf Blaskstad, this charming 400 year-old finca – is set amidst a large lavender field and framed by mountains – and offers guests an undeniably authentic Ibizan experience.
The villa itself is stunning space of blues and whites, with ample outdoor ares, high ceilings, thick white walls and elegant interiors throughout. Designed by renowned architect Rolf Blakstad, this 400 year old finca was lovingly restored into a stunning, stylish and spacious house, that Brazilian owner Cleyenne has turned into a beautiful Ibizan home. With a nod to her South American roots, Cleyenne has fused elements of colour and handmade textiles from Northern coastal Brazil with light mediterranean touches including lush green houseplants and oversized original artwork by the likes of Damian Hurst et al. The white washed walls have soft curves that lend themselves well to the feminine and creative environment Cleyenne has created for guests. The sitting room has a high Sabina wood ceiling with original open fire – perfect for cosy evenings after a day spent in the winter sun – and the snug, which sits just off the sitting room has a comfy sofa, low ceilings and a TV; an ideal spot for anyone wanting to Netflix and chill..
I stayed in one of the villa’s largest bedrooms, that overlooked a sunny courtyard and featured a stand alone tub, writing desk and waterfall shower. The bedrooms are splashed with bright pops of stylish art, crisp white linen and heavy oak doors, charming little windows and Sabina wood ceilings. The bathrooms are generous in size with grey cement basins, touches of wood and intricately tiled floors.
There are a number of outdoor spaces at Villa Maecena that offer idyllic spots for reading, writing and relaxing. Oversized, rustic wooden tables sit under the speckled shade of olive trees, and guests can rest under the sheltered seating area, that feature large comfy seats, dotted with scatter cushions and boasting unrivalled views of the gardens. The beautifully maintained lily pad layered pond is a secluded spot for anyone wanting some solitude to write or bask in the afternoon Ibizan sun.
The pool is a perfect topaz blue, extensive, complete with a kitchen and bar, and fanked by double sized purple sun-beds that offset the surrounding lavender fields and earthy wooden features. There too is a full sized Tepee – often used for wellness treatments – an old wooden treehouse, and an outdoor campfire. Perfect for anyone with a penchant for art, literature, yoga, wellness or creativity, Villa Maecenas is impeccably designed and furnished – both inside and out – and is a dream destination for anyone wanting to recharge.
Food and drink
All food and drink is included in the retreats hosted at Villa Maecenas – and you can expect impressive spreads of vegetarian Mediterranean food. The salads and fruit are often sourced from the villa’s orchard and vegetable garden, and the meals are nourishing, plentiful and delicious to boot.
As soon as I landed in Ibiza I knew I was in for a magical week ahead. Despite having spend much of my adult life in London, I had never previously visited the White Isle; and certainly never imagined my first taste of Ibiza would be to take part in a writing retreat having flown in from Sydney. Due to a last-minute date change, Cleyenne kindly agreed to host me alone, and while it meant the structure of my days was less rigid, it allowed me ample time to explore the neighbouring Ibizan villages.
Mornings – often my favourite part of day – were slow and serene. While I didn’t set an alarm during my stay at Villa Maecenas, I’m a naturally early riser, and often woke shortly after sunrise, to take ta short walk around the dew-drenched gardens. Breakfasts were tranquil and taken in the early morning winter sun – and a feast of smashed avo, hot cups of tea and aromatic coffee, fruits and yoghurts were laid out on the outside table.
Following breakfast, I would then have a Skype call with creative writing tutor and writer Anthony Cropper, author of The Accidental Memoir. who would talk me through my goals for the day ahead before setting me ‘homework’ which I would then sit down under the shade of an olive tree to do. I spent the midday hours lounging by the pool with a book, before an afternoon excursion – and did everything from sunset paddle boarding with Paddle Board Ibiza, to a trip into Ibiza Old Town for an afternoon spent drinking chilled glasses of crisp white wine on the terrace of a hotel bar, warmed by the flames of a warming fire.
While the temptations of the island and the chance to spend time with Cleyenne and her friends meant I didn’t come close to my ambitious word count goal of 20k, my week at Villa Maecenas was an unforgettable experience; one that has re-stoked my love of writing, and nurtured a new found determination to make it a priority in 2019.
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