Forgive me for the cheesy title, but I just love the movie the Best Exotic Marigold hotel. My aunt even asked me why I liked the movie, that it was an “old-person’s movie,” and while she is probably right, any film that puts Judy Dench & Maggie Smith together is pure magic. Plus, I may have a small place in my heart for dearest Dev Patel. I supposed deep down I have an old soul, one that appreciated old British humor!
Ever since I saw the movie, I’ve wanted to explore India. The sensory overload…the plethora of tastes, smells, exotic-everything appeared tantalizing. Of course, the timely release of the the sequel to the movie just made everything seem even more perfect, I was fated to experience India in April 2015!
I have been getting more and more into yoga lately, finding that the escape it gives me from the daily demands of life and technology helps to keep my mind, body and soul clear and happy. I thought India would be the perfect place for a yoga retreat, though I didn’t want anything too serious, like an ashram where you can’t speak or anything.
I discovered the Little Cova Yoga Retreat online in Goa, India and I immediately knew it would be perfect. When planning travel, I really heavily on intuition (and of course the help of TripAdvisor!). No one ever talks about intuition as a travel-planning tool, but truly, I often search tirelessly for the perfect hotel or destination to no avail, and then stumble upon something and automatically just know it’s the perfect spot.
I immediately knew my friend Elise would be on board, and upon mentioning it to my friend Rachel, she joined up too, and I just knew it was going to be an incredible trip.
We were able to find extremely cheap tickets to Goa, but the clincher was that we’d have two layovers and almost a 24 hour journey. But I didn’t care. I was ready for India (after a 114 euro visa, of course, let’s not forget that). Nevermind all the advice from people, “you won’t eat for a week, bring granola bars” or “you’ll hate it, it’s dirty and smelly” (smelly it was…but that’s part of the charm).
After a long and hilarious (life is just good when Rachel and Elise are part of it) 26 hour journey (which included sprinting through the Mumbai airport and a lot of sweating) we landed in Goa. We changed some euros into rupees and headed outside into the sweltering sunshine of India.
Our driver Raj, was waiting for us, and we piled into a dusty Land Rover which took us through several small villages, a large town, past old Portuguese houses (history lesson: Goa was once owned by Portugal), rivers, jungles, cashew nut trees, cattle, motorbikes, swerving buses and more. The last two kilometers were over a bumpy dirt road, and we excitedly bounced around in the backseat as we awaited the appearance of Little Cove.
It was just as picturesque and I could have ever hoped for. Down a rocky set of stairs awaited my very own paradise, beach shacks, a beachfront yoga bungalow swathed in palm trees set on the loveliest cove beach one could ever imagine.
We anxiously checked in and got our bungalows. The rustic one-room shacks were perfect. My bathroom even had a net instead of a roof so I could stare at the palm trees while showering.
That evening, we made it just in time for evening mediation and a light Vinyassa flow before dinner.
Dinner…where do I even start? Sunil and his accompaniment spoiled us rotten all week long with delicious vegetarian cuisine. Dhal, chapati, okra, beet and carrot salad…every single meal was perfect. I am already missing the amazing food.
I am going to share my daily schedule now, but before I do so, I want to just explain one small story I find rather entertaining. The first night we were all just exhausted from the crazy-long journey, so we crashed at about 8:30 p.m. I set my alarm for 7 a.m. so I would be able to have a coffee before 8 a.m. yoga and prepare. Well, I woke up at 7:50 in a panic…what had happened?! Turns out, the waves were crashing so loud, I couldn’t hear my alarm! #seriousproblems
Our days went a little something like this:
7:30: Wake up to waves crashing and birds chirping (well, there were some crazy crows so perhaps crowing). Have a coffee and sit on Elise’s porch and giggle.
8 a.m: Ashtanga yoga with Pardeshi. Pardeshi is a tiny magical Indian man who I feel morphed down from his place in nirvana to assist us in finding ourselves for approximately six nights and seven days.
The classes started with pranayama breathing, which I immediately balked at, figuring it was a waste of time, and later learned to love. After about 30 minutes of that, we would typically do about 1.5-2 hours of yoga, which included all the traditional poses.
10-1030 am: Fresh fruit and tea on the beach swing
11:15 am: Brunch. I’ve already discussed the amazing vegetarian food, and for brunch, we eat on the floor in the yoga studio using these cool little stool table combinations.
12:00: Beach time. All day long, sitting on our private cove reading, napping, chatting, collecting shells, laughing with the girls.
4:00: Retreat to room to hang out and relax, nap, chill
5:30: either meditation on the rocks or a yoga class with the lovely Nadia, an Italian yogi who was staying for awhile at the retreat. I learned a lot from Nadia, and plus, I always love Italians, so it was a win-win.
7:30: Dinner at the long table. It was so dark, I usually couldn’t even see what was on my plate, but I happily ate it with no qualms.
8:30: Porch chat. We’d hang out on our porch and chat, talk, laugh and just enjoy each other’s company. Since Elise has been so busy this year doing a master and working full-time and Rachel lives in a far-off land called Brooklyn, I never see these girls and it was wonderful to just enjoy some girl time.
10:00 pm: Bedtime! Fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
The only deviations we made from our plan were to visit a nearby beach (we were at Little Cola beach and we walked over to Cola Beach) which was similar to our but bigger.
We also took an afternoon to hit up the nearby village of Agonda, in order to shop and see a little bit more of our surroundings. The town was quaint and reminded me of the typical markets you will find in Asia where they sell clothes and other gifty items. I bought some tea, and then we stumbled into a store called the Himalayan where we all got our chakras read, which was entertaining, and Elise bought a meditation gong.
I bought a wall hanging for my office, some soap and a few other small presents. Rachel got some scarves and clothing, and we were quite bemused at the site sight of motorbikes sharing the road with cattle. By this point, we were borderline having heat stroke and headed down to the beach to cool off.
On the way home we stopped at a cool temple in the jungle and took some photos, and I was especially interested in the coconut offerings left outside the temple.
When it was time to leave Little Cove, I was almost in tears. Such a memorable experience, one of true beauty. I felt rejuvenated and ready to again take on the daily demands of life. I can’t wait to return to this little slice of heaven again soon!