I have always loved snow but being from London I never get to see it. Instead, I go abroad and London gets a generous helping of the white stuff dumped on it – pffft! Just last December I got stuck in Budapest whilst Heathrow struggled to cope with a few inches of the stuff.
Just after Christmas I decided I needed another trip in the diary but rather than head for sun, I wanted something a little different, a bit of a retreat with freezing temperatures and plenty of snow. I went to the British Airways site to check their Holiday Finder tool and see what I could get on the cheap – more on savvy travel from me soon. I put in my requirements;
- Cold and snowy
- 3 nights
- 4* at least
Sofia, Bulgaria popped up and a lovely looking hotel I had seen on searches before but thought was too out in the sticks was perfect for this trip. TERRA Complex is about a 2-hour drive from Sofia airport on the outskirts of the ski resort, Bansko. The hotel had a spa with a swimming pool and a free shuttle bus in to the town so catered perfectly to me.
Saturday 20th January
Annoyingly, just before I boarded my flight, I started to get blurred vision, oh no, Migraine Aura – shit! I dashed to Boots to see what drugs they could sell me to stop this ruining my trip. I found Ibuprofen and some cold forehead patches, not ideal but all I could get my hands on. Like clockwork after half an hour the pain set in and then the nausea. I sat down in my seat, cold patch on, headphones and relaxation playlist on, scarf wrapped around my head to cover my eyes, I don’t care what I look like I just need to sleep this bitch off! My body had other plans though and I had to rush to the toilet twice to be violently sick. I still had a two-hour drive to the hotel to get through after this! 😦
During my drive to the hotel, feeling a little better but still a bit out of it, I couldn’t hide my disappointed at the lack of snow, where was it? Had I spent money on new snow boots for nothing? I put my head down and tried to nap. About 30 mins from the hotel I looked and…. SNOOOOWW! So much of it! Where did that come from? Instant mood lifter! As I looked at the snow covered trees and mountains I began to have romantic notions about making snow angels, snowmen and snow ball fights with my lover and then I remember… I’m here on my own!
I had already emailed the hotel to ensure I had a mountain view room, the pictures on their website sold me and they didn’t disappoint. I walked in to my room and gasped at the view, breath-taking! Despite the minus temperatures, I stood on my balcony for ages taking in the beautiful views of the hotels snow covered golf course and the snow-capped Pirin Mountains in the background, this was perfect! The room itself was big, clean and nicely decorated. The bathroom was spacious, clean and modern. There was a mini bar with alcohol, snacks and coffee – you had to pay for coffee but the cheapest option was 41p so you can’t complain too much. I noted that everything else on the mini-bar menu seemed very cheap, £2.80 for half a bottle of local red wine – that was going to be very tempting!
The main reason for this trip was to get some rest and relaxation and a bit of a detox so I took myself off to the spa to book some treatments. I attempted a swim but my head was having none of it. Back in my room, it was dark outside but I could see it was snowing. Yaaassssss!!!! I took some pictures out on the balcony and excitedly posted them on social media like I’m the first person to ever see snow! Head still banging and needing to hydrate I filled my Brita water bottle and made some herbal tea I bought with me. I didn’t want to change my healthy habits from home so I packed my favourite dairy free milk, Rude Health Almond Drink, Numi Turmeric tea and Tea Pigs (Peppermint, Clean & Green, Ginger & Lemon and Camomile) tea bags. I put on my favourite Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Face Mask and laid down in bed staring lovingly out at the snow falling outside, ahhhh.
Just before dinner I went on a little walk around the hotel to see what else it had to offer. Have to confess I was a little over-excited at the sight of the Christmas trees and decorations still being up at the end of January. The bar area has plenty of chairs and a lovely open fire. There were a few activities available, air-hockey, table tennis, arcade games and a children’s play area. There is also an outdoor play area for children. Those wanting to give skiing a try could hire equipment and book lessons through the hotel.
7pm and dinner is served in the restaurant. The staff were great, the waiters were all very friendly and chatty. There wasn’t a huge choice with the buffet dinner (which was included in my half board package) but it was easy enough to be healthy with the salad selection. There were about 8 hot dishes, the ones I tried were all cooked well and tasty. I would fill a plate with salad and pickles then head up for more salad and some grilled fish and vegetables. There was as A La Carte menu available but I found everything I wanted in the buffet. For desert I would take some fruit back to my room and have one of my Primal Pantry bars I bought with me from home.
Sunday 21st January
The next morning, I woke up with a clear head, took my vitamins (Multi-vitamins, Vitamin D3, Probiotic) drank my coffee on the balcony with my dose of clean crisp air and then headed to breakfast. There was plenty of choice if you wanted a bit of a fry-up. but I stuck to beans, scrambled eggs and some fruit.
I headed to the spa for a swim before the detox treatment I had booked. The pool is a very good size, clean and heated and when the windows aren’t steamed up you get a gorgeous view of the mountains. There is a Jacuzzi too and they have an outdoor pool which is used during the summer months. I learned to avoid the pool in the evenings as families returned to the hotel because it can get a bit crowded but during the day it is peaceful and quiet. I was taken down to a treatment room to have my massage. The room was warm, dark and with ambient music playing – very relaxing. I got undressed and ready for a pampering. The treatment started with a lymphatic draining massage which involved long, firm strokes to get your circulation going and help your body get rid of toxins naturally. My therapist was very good and her pressure very firm. The next stage was a full body coffee scrub which I am still feeling the benefits of, my skin feels amazing! A thick cream was then applied on top of the scrub and then I was wrapped in a plastic sheet for 15 minutes to ferment and let the ingredients do their work whilst having a little nap. I then showered off and had 10 minutes in the sauna. Considering this treatment took almost 2hrs it was a snip at 100lev (£45)
I got dressed in layers of thermals and got a taxi in to town about 20 minutes away to find somewhere nice for lunch. I had already done my homework and had a list of places with the best reviews. The snow was coming down hard, it was beautiful! The taxi dropped me by the ski lift gondola. Thank god I did have my new snow boots, think Bambi on Ice! I’m the clumsiest of people so to be writing this on the plane without injury Is a small miracle. There was thick snow on the ground and it was still coming down hard. I got my Google maps out and went off to find Mehana Dedo Tase, a traditional Mehana away from the ski crowds. I found it downhill on Pirin Street, settled down by their fire for a glass of their homemade red wine. I was recommended the starter of baked feta with honey and walnuts followed by Sea bream cooked on the fire with a mix of potatoes and leeks on the side. It was delicious and sooo cheap! £12 for the lot!
After lunch, I walked around the town for a bit, sussing out the place. If I was coming for a weekend with friends this would be a great place, lots of bars, restaurants and super cheap!
Back at the hotel, I sat in the bar by the fire with a book and my laptop to do some writing. The hotel was quiet with most people still out on the slopes. I had dinner and retreated back to my room to put on my Neals Yard hair treatment, finish watching The Crown and put a face mask on ready for an early night. #donotdisturb
Monday 22nd January
The next morning, I awoke to my balcony 4 inches deep with snow – happy Becky! The sky was a perfect clear blue and the mountains looked even more stunning in this light. I spent an hour in the pool getting in the lengths and some Jacuzzi time then got the shuttle bus from the hotel in to town. Sadly, I had to find a coffee bar to get online to do some work which was against everything I wanted for this weekend and kind of put a dampener on it but once done I went on the hunt for another mehana on my list, Yebepmeto Chevermeto It was at the bottom of Pirin Street by the town square, an area I was yet to explore. The staff were extra friendly here and the food as good as the welcome. I had an espresso and a plate full of King prawns cooked in butter with garlic. I decided I needed a beer to make up for the work I had to do. I then went off to have a look around the towns churches and museums to get some culture and steps in. This town really is pretty, traditional old building built with a mix of stone and wood and cobbled streets. Walking back to the town centre was an effort, up an icy hill – didn’t think of that on the way down! Managed it back without going ass over tit and celebrated with a coffee and another beer in one of the more touristy bars, Ginger. You definitely don’t get the same smiley welcome here, stick to the restaurants in the back streets. I headed to the Ski lift pick-up point for the hotel shuttle bus. Watching everyone come back off the mountain I couldn’t help think I was missing out by not skiing.
Back at the hotel I had another dip in the pool, a session in the steam room and sauna and got ready for my next treatment, a manicure (£16) and pedicure (£20). These were done by a lady who comes to the hotel from the town so you need to book this a day or so in advance. Both treatments were done very well and included cuticle work and a foot spa. I was really happy with the outcome and I was beyond relaxed now so it was sad this was my going to be my last night but it was the perfect end to a very relaxing weekend.
I had a lovely break in Bansko and this was proof that you don’t need to holiday at a retreat to retreat and it can be very affordable. Thank you to everyone at Terra Complex who looked after me during my stay. See you next year for some more post Christmas R&R.
20th – 23rd Janaury 2018
My package deal included- BA flights to/from Heathrow / 3 nights / Half Board
What I paid – £220
One thought on “Snowy Bulgarian ‘Retreat’”
Wow, this sounds like an amazing experience!