Jessica Zanotti | golden door retreat
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golden door retreat

22 Aug golden door retreat

Of all of the experiences I have had in this past year, it seems that every new adventure seems to top the last; I come across more and more beautiful destinations to visit, more exciting opportunities arise, and more wonderful people enter my life. Every event seems to teach me something, shifting my perspective on life. Just when I thought that the Universe couldn’t possibly bless me with any more life changing experiences this year, I find myself at Golden Door.

As I arrive at the front gate, the doors open and I clap excitedly. Driving down the winding road and past the vast orange groves I get a glimpse of the property and what lies behind the infamous doors; more excited clapping, and involuntary squeals arise from my throat. Walking up to the Golden Door in all it’s decorative glory, I take one last inhale of the old, having no idea that once entering, I would be leaving brand new.

Exhaling, the door opens and it’s as if an unforeseen wind of zen overwhelms my body. We walk down the wooden bridge, where I am told the bend was created to help ward off evil spirits as they typically travel in straight lines, according to Japanese superstition. Through the next set of doors, I am greeted by the stone warrior, placed there to protect all the guests that enter. Though all the talk about spirits and warriors would typically frighten me, in this moment it actually gives me a sense of comfort.

Upon arriving at the reception area, I fall immediately in love with the Japanese inspired decor; the art, the prints, the textures; all so intricate yet delicate at the same time. I am instantly reminded of my childhood, when I used to love collecting wooden geisha dolls, tiny trinket boxes and be surrounded by Japanese art at the craft parties my relatives would throw. Feeling like that excited little girl again, I am anxious to see more.

As I step out of the reception area, I see a garden so serene that the excited anxiety melts back into a calm tranquil state. I am then greeted by the wonderful Debbie Ann, who takes me on a tour of the property. She introduces me to the zen gardens, the labyrinth, the spa, the pool, the gyms, the koi pond, all while being educated on all that The Golden Door has to offer. My heart melts when I learn that they pledge 100 percent of their net profits from the resort to select charities in support of their missions to help children. As we continue on, I find the mix of color throughout the property stunning. Vast gold paintings, gold couches at the entrance and of course the true gold of the Golden Door itself. My favorite accent colors, blue and red, make appearances throughout as well. Blue shibori pillows, blue and white patterned plates, a velvety red floor in the lounge, and the only pop of red in my room: the blanket on the chair. Having a deep appreciation for small details like that, my creative spirit was certainly nurtured. After the tour, I get to my room in Camellia court, open the shoji screen, and my whirlwind Golden Door journey truly begins.

Each day at the Golden Door you are given a fan with a suggested itinerary written on the back. If I were to tell you about every class I took, this article would literally be ten pages long and as much as I would love to describe each activity in detail; aint’ nobody got time for that. In short, they offer a wide range of classes; there’s everything from zen yoga, vinyasa yoga, pilates, aqua sculpt, archery, meditation, dance classes, tai chi, and hikes around the 600 acre property. They provided daily massages, facials, a manicure/pedicure, a body scrub, an herbal wrap and a hair treatment throughout the week, all included with the stay. But wait, there’s more. There was a gorgeous bath house with the most inviting jacuzzi, steam room and sauna all at my disposal as well. Nightly lectures were offered after dinner, in which I learned about Chinese Medicine from acupuncturist Mike Corradino, sat in on a talk with Anna Cummins, co-founder of 5 Gyres where she educated us on her effort to rid our oceans of plastic pollutions, and learned about Tibetan bowls while experiencing a sound bath.

What made this week extra special (on top of all the amazing previously mentioned) was that I was able to participate in a new course added to their itinerary; Cooking School. As I have been considering taking cooking courses here in LA, I found this to be quite synchronistic. The hands on experience was more than I could have ever expected it to be and left me with so much more knowledge and inspiration to bring home to my own kitchen. Throughout the week I learned knife skills, the correct way to handle and store produce, and various techniques for cooking vegetables. I toured the 3 acres of beautifully curated gardens that housed the most plentiful selection of flowers, organic herbs, vegetables and fruits, and even got to sit down with Will, the Garden Manager to learn about bio intensive gardening. We went on a bee tour that actually helped ease my lifelong fear of bees, where l learned how important they are to the ecosystem and tasted the nectarous fresh honey directly from the hive on the property. And to top it all off, I got to have a little meet and greet with the chickens and pull out fresh eggs that the hens had just laid; a first for this LA girl! By the weeks end I had participated in and learned about every detail that went into making what was to be our heavenly farm to table graduation dinner. We dined on the orange glazed roasted duck breast, baked squash stuffed with ratatouille, ciopinno, and chocolate avocado ganache that was made from scratch by myself and the other cooking school graduates. It was most definitely rewarding to see the fruits of our labor displayed beautifully, while enjoying every last bite with the strong and wise women attending the retreat that I felt honored to connect with throughout the week.

All of this being said, I haven’t even gotten into what a delight and special experience it was to learn from Golden’s Door’s Executive Chef, Greg Frey. I was beyond inspired by his wealth of knowledge and divine passion for his craft; it emanated through his fun and light hearted teaching style. A lot of the tips and techniques I learned from him led me to realize that the philosophies of good, healthy cooking are similar to the philosophies of living a healthy and happy life. I enjoyed his talk on the three most important things in cultivating your own cooking style: research, shopping and exposure. Research where you are going to get your food; sourcing is important. Shopping mindfully; finding quality fresh ingredients by talking to the vendors at the farmers market and asking how they raise their crops; educating yourself on where your produce is coming from. And most important of all: exposure. Expose yourself to different cultures, different styles of cooking, different tools, different tastes and techniques. All of these together help to cultivate your style in the kitchen. All the talk about exposure seemed to really strike a cord with me and got me thinking about how it is just as important in shaping who you are outside of the kitchen. When applied to life in general, it is imperative to building your character. Being exposed to different cultures, traditions, experiences, and people are influential to your perspective on life.

I can’t say that I have ever been in a place where the good energy radiates quite like it did at Golden Door. I felt so taken care of, nurtured, and continually impressed with the passionate and well rounded staff. Each night as I plopped down onto the comfy bed in my plush robe and meditated on my day, I would be so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that I would cry. I felt so lucky to be in such a special place, thankful for all that I had learned and the people I had met. On my last night, I found myself anxious, wondering what could possibly top this experience. What comes next? And how on earth would I proceed in life outside of Golden Door? And then I realized: life is not about following the recipe, it’s about going with the flow, experimenting with all kinds of ingredients and using your imagination to create something beautiful.


thanks so much to Golden Door and all its beautiful employees  <3

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