What is it like staying at the Glass House Retreat? Well, it’s impossible not to relax, everything is so soothing, but delivered with exceptional care. It's casual but professional and welcoming. There are many solo travellers, male and female, as well as small groups of friends. All body types and fitness levels will feel at home. Meals are communal and everyone chats to you and shares their experiences and everything, apart from treatments, is included, there are loads of classes, workshops and demos. I met many different people who were all enjoying their own wellness journey – it’s a mental and physical reset.
My top tips for a successful stay:
- Leave your worries at the door
- Bring a good book
- Be open to new experiences and try everything
We arrived after lunch and had a warm welcome, our bags were taken to our rooms while we were given a tour and introduced to the resort. All the practicalities, class and meal times were explained, and we were encouraged to try as much as we wanted to. Each day had a full schedule of active and passive sessions from HIIT and Aqua Yoga to mindfulness and cooking demonstrations.
In my room I had a lovely welcome pack and there was a very helpful in-room guide packed with additional details.
My first taster was literally a taster. The chef gave a 10 minute talk on nutrition and introduced us to the usefulness of Chia seeds as a sauce of protein. He blended them with coconut milk and let them rest for 3 hours. After which they had expanded and softened into a porridge type consistency. A dash of raspberry puree was added resulting in a delightful energising shot.
This prepared me for my next task, sitting in the sun with a good book (Rules of Civility by Amor Towles). I was joined by my friend, Daniel, and we discussed the best approach for using the outdoor plunge pool and Swedish sauna. We decided to go for a few rounds of chilling down in the water then heating up in the sauna. This worked well, with a lovely cycle of cold and hot and all the benefits this offers.
The sun was getting low so I made myself a cup of Camomile flower tea in the communal kitchen and moved into the sitting room to carry on reading and find out about Katey’s life journey in 1920’s New York society. I met another guest, Cameron, originally from Scotland but now London-based. Staying on his own for 5 nights as a well-earned spa break, Cameron had already stayed for a couple of nights and was very in tune with the place and well-versed in wellness trends. He was also making use of the digital safe to remove himself from his phone.
It was a lovely sunny evening and still warm enough outside to dine on the terrace. Like most of the East of England, this part of Essex has big skys, not hemmed in by any hills or buildings so we could enjoy the full experience as the sun set. We were even treated to a Sparrow Hawk chasing a small bird (perhaps a Sparrow) for her own supper. We were served the traditional 1st night meal – roasted vegetable paella with warm green olives and baby peppers. For dessert I chose Blood Orange sorbet. It felt apt to pick a flavour to match the setting sun.
Retiring to bed, I closed the blackout blind and applied the complementary roll-on essential oil (lavender) to aid sleep. Not that I needed it with such a comfy bed and silent room.
Daniel was keen for an early morning swim. But I was at the pool before him, and was actually the first in, so had it all to myself. The pool was undisturbed and tranquil. It felt a pity to dive in and spoil it. After 30 mins of so of lengths, and a chat to another guest, Angela, who was treating herself to 3 nights without her husband it was time to dress for breakfast.
We had selected our breakfast the night before and sat with Rebecca to eat flaxseed pancakes with coconut yogurt, agave syrup and fresh fruit, alongside a carrot based smoothie. We chatted about the best places for a safari, crypto currency and house prices. Rebecca was on a 10-day solo visit and had only left the resort for a couple of walks and a bike ride. She travelled by tube to the retreat with a short uber from Upminster station.
I checked my day’s itinerary and moved my spa treatment, then set outside for more relaxing. I did not fancy the Barre class (ballet) and was tempted by HIIT, but settled for a cup of peppermint tea and a catch up on Katey’s sassy adventures as she moved up the social ladder.
I had booked a session in the Lifecube, a cryogenic chamber where you are chilled to -100 degrees for 3 minutes. I had zero idea of the mechanics of this, but its was straightforward and painless. The therapist leads you into a small room and explains the process. Donning a mask, ear covering and gloves (due to the cold), you step into a small anti-chamber, chilled to -31 for a minute to acclimatise, then go through to the main chamber (the size of a phonebox) for 3 minutes at -100. Its certainly cold but not painfully so, but also an invigorating and energising experience. My eye lashes froze. When I came out, I warmed up quickly (I think because my core had not got very cold).
The timing of my session meant that I could go straight to a short mindfulness class. We sat outside on beanbags and were lead through a breathing journey with our eyes closed, making us aware of all our body, where we were physically and mentally in the moment. This was deliciously relaxing and blissful.
For lunch I chose an Asian Spring Roll - beautifully presented. This was a selection of raw vegetables in a rice paper wrap with a sweet chilli sauce that had a good kick. It was super fresh (all the food is ordered the day before from Covent Garden) to help eliminate waste. It set me up well for a good hour of yoga. The session had a lot of strong body positions, was well led and peaceful.
I happened to pass through the dining room as chef was demonstrating making a date bar, with yummy vegan ingredients. It tasted delicious, rich with a mellow sweetness. To finish my day, I headed back to the outdoor pool and Swedish sauna for a few rounds of cooling and heating before my massage.
My massage was a Hydrotherm back massage. The bed was a pillow of warm water, a strange but pleasant sensation. The massage itself was divine. I asked for “deep” and it really got to my knots and was unbelievably relaxing, I could have carried on for hours…I did not want it to end.
I retired for another lie down to prepare myself for dinner. Sitting with some new guests, a couple on a two night break and a doctor, there for a well earned three night break from work and family in London. I had a deliciously fresh (raw) Vegetable Pho, followed by a vegan burger and sweet potato chips with slaw. We had an animated chat over dinner then I retired to find out how Katey was getting on, would she choose Theodore “Tinker” Grey, a well educated romantic, Wallace Walter, the most eligible bachelor in NYC or “Dicky” one of the party gang….
My final morning, and I decided to get up early and go for the organised walk as a way to stretch my legs and meet new people. We walked from the door (boots provided), across freshly harvested golden fields, over which the sun was rising. We got back in time for breakfast, raspberry smoothie and pancakes. I decided to stay for an extra class as I had not tried a Pilates one. It was as I hoped, a great core workout but for all levels, I was able to challenge myself and focus on my own goals.
So, what makes the Glass House Retreat special. Well, its the whole package. Apart from treatments, everything is included for mind and body. You easily have plenty to do and experience over a few days but perhaps treat yourself for a treatment or two. Travelling solo is also the norm. The retreat is inclusive and every body is welcome. There were many different people from different backgrounds on their own health journeys. Coming away I felt totally relaxed and would like to have stayed for two more nights to really start to feel a change. Secondly, I feel empowered to make, perhaps small, changes to my diet and lifestyle, I will eat less flour-based food and take up swimming lessons.