WHEN a mate, John Rozentals publisher of OzBabyBoomers (an online magazine for wrinklies like ourselves,) was telling us about the delights of a first-time encounter with a health resort, we couldn't resist asking him to share his tale with other possible sceptics like ourselves.
So this week it's over to John:
For me it's a first-time encounter. But for another guest Carolyn, this is her 25th pilgrimage to Solar Springs, a wonderful health retreat in NSW's beautiful Southern Highlands.
As usual, Carolyn's trip is the last week of an annual two-month post-Christmas detox that she says clears cobwebs and readies her for another assault on the precarious south face of the mountain called multi-national marketing.
And, she says, the joy of Solar Springs is that it's more easy-going, and doesn't have "the touches of fascism" – as she so delightfully puts it – that can be found elsewhere.
"Here you can do as little or as much as you want," Carolyn adds, "and no one is going to chip you if you're relaxing in the lounge with a coffee and reading the papers, or just wandering through the gardens on your own."
Like other regulars — and there seem to be plenty of them — she tells me the secret is to pace yourself between relaxing and signing up for the many activities on offer.
For the couple of days I'm here, my must-do's include guided bushwalks, short morning and evening walks, stretch and fitball classes, aquarobics, general gym exercises, pilates and power bar.
Archery, naturopathy, meditation and yoga are also on the week's agenda, and guests are welcome to use the resort's bicycles and tennis courts (equipment supplied) free of charge.
Solar Springs has occupied a rambling, superbly maintained 1920s Bundanoon guest house for more than 30 years, and the location is certainly an idyllic one.
Just down the hill is the charming Bundanoon village centre, complete with delightful cafés and galleries. Once a year it becomes 'Brigadoon' — even the signs on the railway station change — and hosts an impressive Scottish Highlands Gathering, complete with caber tossing, stones lifting, haggis hurling and massed pipe bands.
On the other side is a majestic outlook over Morton National Park, for spectacular bushwalking opportunities with Solar Springs staff.
In 1995 a fully fledged aquatic centre was added — 25-metre heated pool, sauna, steam room and spa with a view — and the gymnasium offers the works.
The resort's 'quiet room' — don't even think about using your mobile phone in here — has wall-to-wall glass on one side and provides a wonderful venue for contemplating the scene and sorting out your thoughts before heading to the dining room.
And healthy, delicious food is a major part of the Solar Springs experience, with three meals a day included in the tariff.
French-born Francois Razevet is in charge of the kitchen. He was a chef at 15 and worked in Provence, London, Corsica, Canada and Ireland before moving to Bundanoon in 2005, initially to work at Peppers Manor House.
His menus change daily and he relishes working with — and "not murdering" — the vast range of top-quality local fresh ingredients he has access to.
Lunch might include Provencal ratatouille with pasta and salads of tomato, basil, fetta pinenuts, red cabbage, apple, herbs and green leaves. On one of my nights there, the three-course dinner comprised entrée of goat cheese, watermelon and quinoa salad, main course of marinated chicken sous-vide (sealed in airtight plastic bag and cooked in a water bath,) baked polenta chips and tomato jam, and dessert of carrot cake, lemon sour cream and candied walnut. Absolutely delicious flavours, but still light and so well balanced.
And, yes, there is a small, but well selected list of wines available at reasonable prices for dinner. As Carolyn says, no sense of fascism here.
All-inclusive rates start at $450 per person twin-share for two nights midweek.
The only extras come in the form of massages and beauty treatments. Rates for those vary but look at $80 per hour as the basis.
And certainly don't miss the excellent remedial massage, or the pedicure. You'll feel a million dollars better for both.
(John Rozentals was a guest for two days of Solar Springs.)
1.SOLAR SPRINGS a delightful one-time 1920s Bundanoon guest house.
2. POOL classes just one of many activities on offer.
3. YOGA too.
4. SPA the view overlooking Morton National Park.
5. ESCAPE for a read in the picturesque Gazebo.
6. MASSAGE to get all those little aches out.
(Photos: Solar Springs Health Retreat.)