We set off for Alegria Beauty Farm & Casa Alegria on a bright and sunny Saturday morning. Even though its only 60 minutes drive from Auckland’s city centre, it still feels like we’re going away.

It’s a glorious drive through Orewa up to Warkworth past side-of-the-road fruit stalls and past fields with spring lambs and cows with their calves. There’s something special about escaping for a weekend retreat, and it’s not long before Dan and I have forgotten all about work, and are ready for a weekend of r’n’r, with some golf thrown in for Dan, of course.

We arrive at midday, and are warmly greeted by the owners Claudia, Alex and their daughter Julia, who are so welcoming that we immediately feel at home. We are shown to our room the ‘Spanish room’ – which hosts a bed so big and luxurious, and I wonder if such a bed would fit in our bedroom at home. There are simple touches of lavender from Claudia’s garden dotted around the room which makes it feel even more indulgent.

We dump our bags and head towards the main house for a light refreshing drink. We briefly chat on the patio to Claudia, sampling what is quite possibly the best cake we’ve eaten in a long time, and then I have to drop Dan off at the Warkworth Golf Club. I’m more than happy to do so as I am being treated to Claudia’s speciality treatment Pamper Mania which will take 2 1/2 glorious hours, when I return. Back from taking Dan to golf, I head to our room to don the bathrobe supplied in the wardrobe and pad my way towards the beauty spa.

Claudia is a German qualified beauty therapist, so I know I’m in good hands I’m first treated to a massage, of which eases the aches and pains from a particularly tough previous day’s visit to the gym. Claudia has magical hands and I am soon feeling extremely relaxed under her care.

Next on the menu is the application of a special self-warming mud which works to rid the skin of toxins. While that takes effect, it’s time for the facial. Claudia first assesses by skin type and condition and gets to work. Every time I receive a facial, I feel like a new person, and this time is certainly no exception. Claudia uses only the prestigious French Phytomer products – and it’s not long before I start to fall asleep. It’s a magical experience.

All too soon the pampering is over, and it’s time to get dressed, and pick up Dan from the golf course. Claudia very kindly offers to pick him up for me, but I decline, and she has been more than generous already. On the drive back from picking up Dan he comments he loves it when I get facials, as I am so relaxed and calm – a different person from the slightly wound-up wife he came up here with.

Before we leave for dinner, Claudia knocks on the door with an ice cold bottle of Lindauer Fraise [the same as we had at our wedding], and two glasses for us to enjoy either before we go out or when we return. We’re both blown away by this gesture and plan to indulge when we get back from our meal. Claudia asks us what time we’d like breakfast, and as we like Sunday sleep-ins we say 9.30 am.

Dan and I have a table booked at a local eatery called The Rusty Pelican and I have forgotten that there’s a game on and it’s packed with locals enjoying a pint and the game. Despite this we still receive top notch service from our waitress Rachel, and exceptionally tasty food. I’m so relaxed and content and I’m even happy for Dan to sit and watch the game while we eat, and I spot the couple from My House My Castle Ten Acre Dream at a table not far from us.

It’s a windy and rainy night and we feel so warm and snug in our room, as the rain pelts down outside. We both sleep blissfully and wake to a wonderfully sunny spring Sunday morning. Breakfast is something out of this world. I’m afraid to go and get the camera as Dan would have polished off the lot before I get back. It’s a typical European breakfast, with cold meats such as prosciutto, and so many cheeses I think Dan has found his new home.

Claudia also bakes her own bread, and it’s delicious. Topped off with hot fresh coffee, Dan and I completely indulge. Over breakfast, we chat and joke with Claudia and Alex, and they’re such a lovely, warm couple and we feel like we’re old friends in no time. We’re told stories of when they first moved to New Zealand a little over four years ago from Germany, and how much they both love the lifestyle here. Julia, their daughter, has no trace of an accent even though she was 8 when they first arrived.

We reluctantly leave the table, as it’s time to head home and decide to take a few more photos before we leave. The views are so magnificent that it’s impossible to take just one photo that will do this haven justice. Before we leave however we read through the messages left by previous guests in the visitor’s book. Everyone has left similar messages to how we feel. They, like us, have been completely touched at Alex and Claudia’s warm personalities and generous hospitality. World of mouth must prevail, as most of the guests have been from Auckland too.

Alegria Beauty Farm & Casa Alegria is a home away from home. Because it’s a short drive Auckland, it’s the perfect place to unwind and let the peacefulness of the setting wash over you. Dan and I say our goodbyes, and reluctantly leave. We wish we had booked in for a couple of nights – but as it’s so close we will possibly return, and soon.

NZ Xtra Channel – Oct 2004