When you first become a vampire, you’re fixated on the small things. You look for hours at a pattern on a carpet, a stained glass window or even life itself, according to Ann Rice in The Vampire Lestat. This is the book I take with me for my week at Golden Door in NSW’s Hunter Valley. And whilst perhaps the Golden Door is not the perfect place for vampires: lack of night life, in bed by nine and up at sunrise, being there does transform you into a mindful mortal. You take time to watch nature such as the flight of the butterfly who mesmerised me with its golden wings that flitted and danced upwards to the clear sky and back to the magnolia tree with its white flowers and large brown leaves.
Whilst I lack a vampire bite, it’s not needed. Special guest Michael Hallock alerts me at his mindfulness talk to take time to notice my surroundings. “We all have a superpower,” he says. “We can switch on and off. It’s all about living in the present.” Michael travels from Ubud in Bali to teach his brand of mindfulness at Golden Door. One of the guests, Leanne, who is partaking in Michael’s course, tells me how she enjoyed sitting in front of a plate of fruit, breathing deeply and taking time to concentrate on the tastes and the textures of the fruit as she ate them slowly. Much better than shovelling down some pasta sitting on your phone or watching TV. Michael also specialises in the aqua dance. This is no waltz with aqua man but a form of Watsu, the signature treatment of the Golden Door. Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork where you are cradled in a warm pool by a therapist and stretched, moved and massaged in the water. My husband, David describes it as being in the womb, and having a form of rebirth.
David enjoys the Golden Door as much as I do, which is saying something for a man who loves his alcohol and Lindt: contraband at the Golden Door. There’s no coffee, no caffeinated teas, no wine and no chocolate, although we do have a small piece of sweet potato and carob cake. It melts in our sugar-deprived mouths. The food here is fresh, with a lot of local produce and plentiful. They serve no red meat and cater to all types of dietary requirements. Breakfast is buffet style with yoghurt, fruits and a choice of three mueslis. There’s also a hot option and two types of herbal teas. Lunch and dinner are both plated so no sneaking back for seconds. Usually a fresh salad with fish, chicken or tofu and an amazing sauce to heighten the taste. There are bowls of fresh fruit placed in the dining area. The stone fruit is sweet and succulent and definitely not from a supermarket. There’s also morning tea and afternoon tea so you won’t go hungry.
Activities begin with tai chi at six thirty am. Then there’s a choice of deep water running or a walk. Breakfast at 8 am. Stretch at nine and then a variety of activities from water polo, volley ball, strength training, yoga, spin class (I particularly enjoy the disco spin with Mel – although having never done it before I’m frothing for the next spin class), meditation and more. Lunch is at one and dinner at six. After dinner there’s usually a talk or activity and then you’re ready for bed. Wander outside the main building and down the path and you may see a group of kangaroos. I’m lucky enough to see one with a baby joey. There’s mesmerising butterflies and dandelion heads in abundance. Catch one and blow it away and make a wish my mother would say. There are plenty of wishes to be found on the walk ‘home’ where Fronk the green frog greets me on the hearth of villa 14. Inside there’s a TV so hubby can watch the Big Bash cricket. I put my feet up on the couch and read about vampires, occasionally staring out at the panoramic view of mountains and grape vines.
Besides activities, there’s the most pleasurable part of the Golden Door: the Spa. Even the change rooms have my jaw dropping. It’s brimming with fluffy white towels, a steam room, sauna and one of those cool little machines that dries your swimming costume. There’s beds to relax on, both inside the change rooms and also outside in the waiting area. My concrete slab shoulders transform into play dough after a week of therapies including a lomi lomi, deep tissue massage, and the Zen Monk therapy with Kung Fu instructor and acupuncture specialist Dean Monk. I chat about the Shaolin temple as he scrapes me with a Chinese soup spoon, needles me and cups me. My back looks like Bruce Lee’s punching bag at the end but wow am I Zen.
The Elysia spa may be the house of true pleasure but it’s the outdoor pool that steals my heart. There are no kids screaming and peeing in the pool because there are no children allowed at the resort. Bliss. You can swim or float on the blow up flamingo and watch the kangaroos on the other side of the fence. There’s also a wonderful lap pool indoors if you want some lines to follow whilst you swim.
The Golden Door is a bubble far removed from the stresses of everyday life. Your phone must stay in your room, as I mentioned no wine or coffee and no kids. You watch people’s shoulders start to drop as they unwind. Their smiles grow and by the end of the week the once quiet dining room transforms into a noisy hubbub of chilled out friends discussing their latest treatments and giving recommendations of therapists. Sonja Bollnow comes highly recommended. “I don’t know exactly what she does, but you must go,” said a friend who has visited previously. Well that’s enough for me. It turns out Sonja is a hypnotherapist who does intuitive counselling. It’s enlightening to find the future me and have a conversation with her. She’s standing inside the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh in a tweed suit, holding her latest novel. I still have the vision of her and it’s spurring me on to finish the book which is not about vampires but about dragons.
There are no dragons at the Golden Door and it’s definitely not a place for vampires but it is a place of magic and of new beginnings. When David and I return home, we throw out everything sweet from the cupboard and the fridge and with our Golden Door cook book we hit Harris Farm markets and buy up. Tonight’s dinner is quinoa vegie burger with lemongrass salad and I know it’s going to be far tastier than a slap-up pasta.
For more personalised information tips and advice, or to book this incredible holiday contact your local TravelManagers’ personal travel manager here.