Corfu is the Northernmost of the Ionian islands and a much-maligned travel destination. With some areas blighted by over-development and a reputation for package holidays and cheap drinks for some years, it is now undergoing something of a well-needed renaissance.
North-east of Corfu town in the mountains just above Agios Stefanos, approximately 45 minutes from the airport, lies the breathtaking Rou Estate which, twice a year, is home to the Health Matters 360 experience.
The site of the Rou Estate possesses a special kind of magic, built on ley lines converging through quartz and limestone, and endowed with an incredible quality of light. Rou means flow of energy/river/wind, and this principle has been carefully integrated into the re-design of the estate which was once a bustling village lain derelict since the 70’s.
Like an elaborate stage set or three dimensional painting, the British owner of the Rou estate has managed to create an arcadia that sits harmoniously in it’s natural surrounds with an attention to detail that is almost bewildering. Local labour and materials, much of it recycled were employed in the village’s renovation with an eco-conscious use of underline cooling and solar panels to fulfil it’s energy needs.
Thoughtful landscaping sees fragrant pathways of lavender, rosemary and jasmine meandering between each villa, terracotta pots overflow with a colour palette of silvery greens, lavender blues and aromatic white blossoms that perfume the air with a delicate fragrance constantly changing from day to night. The stone villas themselves have been sympathetically restored and re-designed to a luxuriously high standard, with stylish, pebble-toned interiors each with it’s own plunge pool, landscaped gardens, wood burning stove and spectacular views of the ocean. Gift bags containing Apivita natural body care products are provided for every guest. I can honestly say I’ve never stayed anywhere quite so beautiful in my life.
The treatment area and gym are discreetly tucked away near to the stunning infinity pool lined with plush day beds. An expertly executed massage or facial takes place on traditional polished wooden beds and are just the ticket after a day in the Health Matters 360 program.
The Health Matters 360 philosophy is to create a life in balance, physically, nutritionally and mentally. Co-founded by fitness instructor Ian Freeman, and Sarah Morgan, once a high flying advertising executive who, after experiencing a serious ‘burnout’ and it’s resultant health issues, decided to quit her career and retrain as a meditation and relaxation teacher.
Their team consists of leading experts in their chosen fields, all of whom boast many years of experience in the health and wellbeing industry. Each highly qualified nutritional therapist, mind matters coach and yoga instructor will ensure maximum benefits for every guest, such as increased fitness and energy levels, stress relief, weight management and a heightened sense of well being.
Early morning yoga is taught on a mountain-side platform with breathtaking panoramic views over the twinkling Ionian sea and Albanian coastline, by Canadian Melissa Vandivier who has taught yoga for over 11 years. Melissa trained in Asia, Portugal and Greece, in Hatha, Hot, Vinyasa, Power and Yin yoga and her serenely gentle, encouraging approach had even the most reluctant of guests participating eagerly after just a day.
It must be said that this is not a boot camp or one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing. The Health Matters 360 team take great pains to tailor the program to each individuals needs. One is encouraged to listen to ones body and take things at ones own instinctive pace, but where necessary, to push one’s own boundaries in order to overcome mental obstacles. As well as daily yoga, there are hiking sessions along a winding coastal path with stunning views, fitness classes, swimming and a fully equipped gym.
Having never attended a program like this before, I was worried that the food might be a little austere, though I needn’t have. The menu has been designed with a holistic approach by expert nutritional therapist Jenny Tschiesche and Michelin-starred consultant chef Adam Simmonds and consists of delicious, local, seasonal produce. Meals were served al fresco on a beautiful terrace dotted with fire pits and lanterns, and everyone took up the opportunity to sample a little of the local organic wines. There is no opportunity to go hungry with three healthy yet mouth-watering meals a day and two snack breaks consisting of home made dips, local breads, olives and nuts, and freshly squeezed juices. My guilty sweet tooth was completely sated by a goat’s cheesecake with fig confit.
Of course, real balance includes the body, spirit and mind. Mind matters coach Janice Haddon is trained in psychology, NLP, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy, and has sensitively devised a timetable of group and one-to-one sessions that help one uncover the mental blocks that hinder progress in life. I found these sessions to be extremely useful, particularly the instruction on learning how to conserve your energy for the more stressful times in life, and the techniques were very simple to incorporate into my daily routine. Additionally, on your return home the support is continued with follow-up telephone calls from Janice to help remind you where you need to keep focused. I have to admit I missed Janice and her soothing ways when I was back in Blighty!
As a practiced healthy eater, I assumed I had fairly solid nutritional knowledge. But the daily sessions with Jenny Tschiesche revealed just how much I had to learn. I identified several areas of bad eating habits along with the emotional causes and learned just how detrimental sugar and yeast is for me personally. I was given a menu of energy boosting foods and taught how to choose healthily from restaurants. Once home, you receive a specifically tailored nutritional report from Jenny with recipes to help you continue to live healthily.
I arrived in Corfu with a variety of stress-related illnesses, so this experience could not have arrived at a better time. The incredible peace and picture-postcard beauty of the Rou Estate left me feeling more relaxed, calm and cosseted than I have in years. Not only that, the great care and attention shown to the guests by the Health Matters 360 team resulted in a shift of emotions and an enthusiasm to begin the journey to get my health back on track. I could not recommend it highly enough.
It doesn’t take much to uncover the secret of Corfu; that it is a place of unique beauty and refuge, a diamond in the rough.
Health Hubs at The Rou Estate in Corfu start from £2,345 per person for a week on a full board basis, including flights and transfers. Prices include an extensive programme of physical, nutritional and mind matters coaching, as well as full use of the gym and pool facilities. Health Matters 360 is working in partnership with Simpson Travel who are ATOL Holders (5858) and members of ABTA the Travel Association (W5698). To book, please visit www.simpsontravel.com or telephone: 020 8392 5858. For more information on Health Matters 360, please visit www.healthmatters360.co.uk or telephone: 0800 1588 360.
For tourist information on Corfu, please visit: www.corfu.gr