Why an ‘art therapy’ retreat in Crete is the perfect antidote to life in the 21st century

Gavalochori - Photo Simply Crete Holidays

The Telegraph Travel  — Bleverde, is a marvellous estate graced with flowers, herbs and fruit trees near the heritage village of Gavalochori on Crete. It’s the base for art therapy breaks led by  Penelope Orfanoudaki, a Cretan art therapist, who discovered the technique after a stressful 18-year corporate career.

“Art therapy uses ‘mark making’ to help you connect with yourself and whatever is going on in your life at the moment,” explains Penelope. “You don’t have to be traumatised or ‘good at art’ to come, just living in the 21st century”.

Each day starts with a gentle outdoor yoga class, suitable for all levels including beginners, and led by empathetic Eleni Blazaki, a local teacher. This is followed by a tasty breakfast of bircher muesli, apple cake and toast before we make our way to a little stone studio for our sessions. Tasks vary, from recreating the cadence of our breath with pastels (surprisingly relaxing) and sketching a fellow guest with our non-dominant hand (difficult and hilarious) to drawing a self-portrait with our eyes closed (no comment) and creating a picture inspired by a theme such as “I am perfectly imperfect” (interesting).
The process is helped along mightily by the Cretian sunshine, wide views of the Cretan countryside
Lunch is served on the terrace here with tasty Cretan dishes prepared by the local taverna, such as potato, feta and tomato pie with spinach and pomegranate salad, while evening meals of moussaka and Greek salads are eaten out in charming, local villages.

on the last day,  looking at a wall display of all the pieces I’ve produced during the retreat, I realise that while I found them hilarious or weird a few days before, I now rather like them. I leave Bleverde feeling free, with a stronger sense of self trust and self acceptance than I had when I arrived.