In February of this year my search for the perfect retreat for writers took me to the beautiful Casa Ana. I found it on google and was immediately drawn in by the photographs of what can only be described as paradise. Of course, I conveniently forgot about my fear of heights and ignored the fact that this beautiful house is on a mountain. Casa Ana is a 400 year old family home that Anne (the owner) has restored to it’s former grandeur. Although the house has been modernised, it has been done in keeping with the historic feel of the village. Casa Ana only runs three writers retreats per year. For the rest of the year it offers bed and breakfast accomodation, walking holidays and (new this year) cookery courses.
Casa Ana is located in a tiny village called Ferreirola on La Alpujarra (the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada). When I say this village is small I am not exagerating. Many of the buildings in the village are empty. I can’t remember exactly how many people live in the village but it is less than 50. This makes Ferreirola the perfect place for a writers retreat. Quiet, isolated, peaceful. You have to search far and wide for distractions!
Casa Ana is located 90 minutes from Grenada Airport and two hours from Malaga Airport. There are buses that go to nearby towns and villages but no public transport going directly to Ferreirola. Anne is able to arrange taxis for an additional cost and I booked a taxi through her. The taxi was provided by Kitty. She met four of us at the airport and drove us up the mountain to Casa Ana. I was very grateful for her slow, careful driving when it came to the narrower roads, which also seemed to be the roads with the steepest drops.
I booked the smallest room in the house so I was surprised to find myself in a spacious single bedroom with a decent sized ensuite bathroom. The room was clean and comfortably furnished. Many writing retreats do not seem to have ensuite bathrooms so I was pleased to find one that did. The ensuite consisted of a shower, toilet and sink and like the rest of the room was a good size. There was plenty of storage in the room with a wardrobe, some shelves and a cupboard in the bathroom.
The bedrooms and bathrooms all have underfloor heating. In addition to this, electric heaters are available in the rooms. Wifi is available in the common areas and in some of the bedrooms (including the room that I was in).
Most of the bedrooms open directly onto the courtyard and do not connect to the other rooms in the house. I loved this because it made it feel more private. Some writing retreats can feel like everyone is on top of each other but this is absolutely not the case at Casa Ana.
In addition to having your own bedroom with a writing desk, there is a dining room with a big table that is good for writing on, a guest lounge and kitchen (with breath taking views) and lots of outdoor areas to write or relax. Tea and coffee is available in the guest kitchen and there is a selection of soft drinks, wines, beers and chocolate available for purchase. There is space to store food and drink in the fridge or cupboards.
The Retreat Experience
The evening that we arrived at Casa Ana, Anne gathered us all in the guest lounge and we had nibbles and prosecco. This was such a lovely welcome to the retreat and it gave everyone the chance to get to know each other and to get to know Anne. Wes, Casa Ana’s chef, cooked dinner three nights each week and one of the nights was the first night. It is worth visiting Casa Ana just for the food! If I liked cooking i would definitely be booking myself onto one of his cookery courses. It was like having a michelin stared chef preparing a private dinner.
Breakfast and lunch is provided every day. Our meals were prepared mostly by Christof and I think that his cooking rivals Wes. Meals are at set times but on the few occassions that people missed meals, it was easy enough to just put some food aside for them. Breakfast and lunch are both big meals at Casa Ana and there was often food left over for us to eat in the evening.
The retreat is very well structured with set times for quiet writing time, broken up by meals. Twice per week there is the option to read your work to the group. I only took part in this once but really enjoyed it. It is completely optional and there was no pressure to join the group or read anything if you do join the group. The group that I was there with was very supportive but obviously this will depend on who else is at the retreat.
On the evenings when meals aren’t provided there is the option to walk into Mecina, a slightly bigger village with a disproportionate amount of restaurants, including a vegetarian one. The walk to Mecina terrified me. It is dark (the kind of dark that you don’t get in cities) and it is on a mountain (did I mention that I’m scared of heights?). Food there is really reasonably priced (you can eat for 5 euros) and you will receive a warm welcome at whatever restaurant you choose. When I go on retreat I prefer to stay in the retreat and not go out for something to eat (although I did really enjoy my trips into Mecina) and in the future I would be better prepared and bring more food with me. There is plenty of space to store food and there is access to cooking facilities on the nights that Wes doesn’t cook so it is possible to remain at Casa Ana and eat there. There is a supermarket but it is about an hours walk (I didn’t go there so this is based on what other people told me). Taxis can also be booked.
You can have laundry done once per week during your visit. The room is cleaned three times during the two week stay. There is an accessible room available. If anyone has dietary needs these can be catered for.
My two weeks at Casa Ana were incredibly productive. I completed the second draft of my novel and wrote a short story while I was there. I made some great friends and met some inspirational writers.
Rooms cost from £300 per week for a two week stay. This includes breakfast and lunch.
Taxi prices depend on if you share or take a taxi alone. From Granada it costs up to 65euros and from Malaga it costs up to 105euros.
Dinners prepared by Wes cost 60 euros per week.
This is probably the best value writers retreat that I have found so far.
The Perfect Retreat?
This is certainly a perfect retreat. If I could pick Casa Ana up and put it at sea level, it would be my perfect retreat. There is nothing (other than the height) that I didn’t love about this retreat. It was well structured, the facilties were of a high standard, the food was excellent and there was chocolate available at all times.
The next retreat is in November. Book now, places go quickly.