MIND A journey of self-discovery in Spain

I signed up for the Cortijo Romero experience to discover myself, not someone else ... which was probably just as well. A friend once described the concept behind this mind-expanding holiday in southern Spain as "Club 18-30 with crystals". He was lying. This is not the place to plan a romantic meeting of minds, although most of the people on my holiday were single. He was right about the crystals, though.

The brochure offers "relaxation and restoration, a time for healing and a place for replenishment". For a professional cynic unfamiliar with the language of self-discovery, the promise of sunshine, mountains and good food was, I have to admit, more attractive. So it was I found myself - in the physical sense - on a minibus with 19 strangers and a slightly nauseous feeling. However much I tried to focus on the inner self, the world outside kept encroaching.

Cortijo Romero is a converted farmhouse in the Alpujarras, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Great views, great corners, great big drops inches away from our wheels. Arrival was a great relief. And then it rained. Great.

Only 30 people or so can stay at Cortijo, the rooms are plain but comfortable and all have en-suite bathrooms. Mine also came complete with a room-mate, because I'm too tight to pay extra not to share. Her flight was delayed, which meant she missed dinner. I probably ate hers - I had seconds. The food is vegetarian, delicious and plentiful, and it doesn't even taste healthy. My diet collapsed under the strain of three huge meals a day, and I think I put on half a stone, but I haven't dared weigh myself since I got home.

The rain continued, and the two men realised they were alone, halfway up a mountain, with 18 women. I wondered if 33 was too old for Club 18-30. We lit fires and drank ourselves into instant friendships.

And then there's the actual course. I opted for the introductory "Being Here" week, under the gentle direction of Vanessa. There is no compulsion to turn up if you don't want to, but we mostly did, talking, painting, singing, meditating, laughing, crying, dancing, sharing ... It sounds painfully like the New Age bollocks, but it worked for me.

The sun came out, and stayed for most of the week, the friendships survived nude swimming and the effects of the high-fibre diet. I relaxed so much I even agreed to join the mountain walk, which is as beautiful as it is hard on your calf muscles. But you do get to limp into the bar at the end. And now I'm back at work, fatter, happier, and planning an Club 18- 30s holiday. Charlotte Smith

The week, not including flights, cost pounds 350. For more details, contact Cortijo Romero, c/o Little Grove, Chesham, Bucks HP5 3QQ (01494 782 720).

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