Sri Lanka Wellness Week Meda Gedara Villa


Hello Everyone, I hope you are all well and enjoying warmer days. I have to say sunshine makes waking up to a new day so much easier.

I am really  excited to share this blog with you as it is trip/experience that will stay with me for a very long time.

A few months ago a chance meeting introduced me to the lovely Fiona McLeod.  (owner of the wonderful Meda Gedara) 

Fiona DM'd me about something, we chatted and over a period of time a friendship developed. Long story short, Fiona told me about her Villa in Sri Lanka and the wellness weeks she runs in the Villa. I love a wellness week but the prospect for flying to Sri Lanka seemed a step too far. Mid January I looked at myself in the mirror and I looked really tired and felt lethargic and lack lustre. After a bit of juggling, I checked  online for flights,  found one that worked, sent Fiona message to enquire if there was place available and by chance just that morning she’d had a cancellation. My angels had worked their magic and I was off. 
So here goes, let me give you a little insight into my newly discovered paradise, my Q&A with Fiona.
1. Fiona, tell us a little bit about you.

I'm 48 and live in Cheltenham, mother of 3 boys, my parents were farmers so we had a carefree , country (slightly ferrel) childhood which has carved much of my character.
I love travel and exploring, I love vintage finds, auctions, laughing and dressing up. I also love wellness, kindness, community support, connection with oneself & others and learning how to live well
My happy places are: around the table with family and friends, walking the hills with my dog, laughing with my friends and sitting in auction rooms. My favourite happy place is the ocean shala at our villa at Meda Gedara.

2. Why Sri Lanka?

We first came to Sri Lanka in 2012 for some Easter sun. My older boys were 4 and 6 at the time and I wanted to take them on a travelling adventure to experience dusty old trains, tuk tuks, elephants, safari’s, surfing and cinnamon. We explored the whole country, we met wonderful people, climbed up ancient temples, saw snakes and rickety old bicycles and ended up swimming with turtles and frolicking in the Indian Ocean and  on the south coast where we were staying with a friend. The same friend had a patch of land for sale further along the coast which we thought we’d go and check out; we explicitly had no intention of buying any land (many people had told us that land was great value and the country was so beautiful). 
However, when we bumped down the track and pulled up at the old bungalow and saw the view of the Indian Ocean, listened to the bird song and watched the butterflies flit by we were mesmerised and the dream began. 
I took the view that we could never have afforded to get beach access in Devon or Cornwall so Sri Lanka did indeed feel like very good value!

3. How did MG come about?

Well after thinking we would buy the land and just sit on it for a long while, shortly after getting back to the UK I was playing with the kids LEGO and decided to make a floor plan for the villa that I had been looking to rent. The proportions of the lego board seemed to lend itself perfectly to the proportions of my ideal family villa. I found myself lost in dreamy flow as I began to visualise the layout of this ideal villa, I did the ground floor and then the first floor and by the time I looked up it was dark and the kids were really hungry!!

4. Sourcing, how difficult was it pulling the project together?

During the design phase I was literally living the dream, designing the dream beach house and thinking of all the elements my family needed to relax and have fun, the communal space we ned to play games, the big front bedrooms, the nursery bedroom, also the space we need for peace and quiet and contemplation,  etc I just wallowed in my imagination until I had settled on the most practical and classically good-looking design. Initially I just thought it was a bit of fun, I didn’t really expect to actually turn it into reality, it started off just as a little creative idea to see where I got to. Then we engaged with members of the team who went on to make it happen and it became a bit clearer that this could become more than just a pipe dream. I began to take it a bit more seriously and consider that I was actually going to build a little beach house as a family bolt-hole.
So, for a couple of years I walked around with a tape measure in my pocket, feasting on heights of skirting boards, the drop of pendant lights, the depth of bullnoses, the breadth of banisters and the height of the step risers on the freeform staircase. I was absorbed in a constant state of flow.
I worked with a man called David Kenyon, born in Cheltenham but based in Sri Lanka. Fortunately we became great friends immediately because we worked on Skype together for about 10 hours every week as David patiently put everything into CAD and brought my ideas to life - together we made millions of little decisions. Strangely, I found the most complicated bits were the doors and windows because every room is completely different and there are so many different mechanisms and designs; the bedrooms are glazed for AC, some have balcony doors, some are double aspect, the ground floor is wide open so needs securing at night, the variations the doors and windows just seemed to go on forever!

Our Project Manager Oliver Francis, was also born in Cheltenham and but based in Sri Lanka and he patiently worked with the builders to actually bring our CAD dream to a reality. The builders were a local Sri Lankan company Southern Construction and Engineering, although thankfully Oliver sheltered us from the day to day chaos of building in Sri Lanka.
The water slide was made in Salisbury UK, just down the road from my childhood home; I certainly didn’t know that a pool slide could be so technical and require so much engineering. I did wonder what on earth I’d embarked upon when they asked me for the average windspeed at 10 meters above sea level for the past 20 years! Then having to get huge wooden crates made for each of the sections to ship it to Sri Lanka, I don't think the customs officials had ever seen anything quite like it when it arrived at the docks.

As the architectural design was going on I was also busy scouring auction sites for suitable furniture. Old colonial furniture in Sri Lanka is really expensive but much of the big old dark wood furniture isn’t so popular in the UK now so I picked up huge bits of incredible furniture for next to nothing. I slowly filled up the garage with bits, then the garden shed, then the basement. My husband Jeremy thought I was absolutely nuts but I had a vision. I would pick up pieces from junk shops, antiques fairs, vintage collections and market stalls. One of my favourite pieces in the villa is an enormous mirror which my friend made for the entrance hall, it’s absolutely spectacular but I was so nervous about it getting broken in transit. Then when the villa was nearly ready we packed it all up, put it in a container and shipped it off to Sri Lanka. It arrived safely and was unpacked into the villa and that really was one of the most euphoric days of my life and the start of the next phase of this adventure.

Meanwhile my friend Nicola Kirkman created the beautiful logo and also did the painting on the back of the huge mirror, she has subsequently illustrated the recipe cards and menu cards, she’s so talented and always has a great interpretation of my rough briefs.

5. Tell us a little about your team 

The staff team at MG has been built up since we opened properly in 2018. Managed  by our brilliantly efficient and radiant manager Charith, all 13 members of the team have their own specific roles but they all work together as a team in any department when needed. Lal, our engineer is the newest member of the team and he joins us form the Sri Lankan Air Force. Niruk has just become a father for the second time and Sugathe has worked on this land for the past 25 years. Three of the staff live on site and the rest live locally and come to work daily.

6. When and why did you decide  to do Wellness week

Right from the outset I wanted to make MG accessible to everybody, not only big families and groups. So, I created the wellness weeks so individuals and couples could come and enjoy MG and all it has to offer. A week that can be crafted into ones own holiday, where guests can dip in and out of the organised activities. I wanted to create an experience that was much more than the traditional ‘yoga retreat’ that might not appeal to all for being too communal and too yogy’ish!!.
I hope now that we are getting the programme just about right, with a distinct focus on connection, on expansion, on adventure and on extraordinary food and nutrition. Time away from the hum-drum of everyday life where you can meet new people, or spend time in retreat, a little G&T in the evening if you wish or stick to the incredible juices, these weeks are very personal and MG has the abundance to deliver to everybody’s needs.

7. Your kids best day 

When we’re here on family holidays the kids love to play cricket or football with the staff team, or with the local boys on the beach. They love coming here with friends and just hanging out, going swimming with turtles, playing beach volleyball, watching movies in the evening. It’s also the teenagers coming up with the best games to play in the evening. 
My youngest son loves to paint postcards with our local friend Rasika who comes to the villa with all his cards and paints.

8. Activities outside MG

There’s so much to do in the local area which is another reason some of our wonderful guests come back again and again. It’s great fun to book a big bike ride, there are several great routes close to the villa, one which ends up at the monumental Mulkirigala Temple you then climb 211 meters to the top! Exercise, nature and culture are all more fun for teenagers when there’s a big group outing!
Learning to surf is always exciting

9. Your dream day in Sri Lanka 

My dream day involves yoga in the morning, a big lunch on the verandah, maybe a few games of backgammon, a swoosh down the slide, a stroll down the beach with a sundowner in hand before a long family dinner in the garden, feasting on Chef Sudantha’s Sri Lankan curries and coconut sorbet, his incredible menus are to die for! Then the real dream to end that perfect day is complete with a turtle coming ashore and laying her eggs, that’s an experience that will stay with you forever, it’s an incredibly laborious process and quite extraordinary to behold - the best end to the biggest dream day. 
Oh and maybe several kaftan changes!! 

10. Dates for next wellness retreat 

Saturday 25th January - 1st February
Saturday 1st  February - 8th February
The cost for Meda Gedara Wellness Week includes 10 optional sessions of yoga & meditation and all of your meals including the daily 3 course dinners by Jay Halford. (All adventures are extra).
*Ocean Facing Master Suites*
£3,500 - Double occupancy £2,800 - Single occupancy
*Jungle Facing Twin Room*
£2,700 - Double occupancy £2,250 - Single occupancy
*Bunk Room*
£1,500 - Per 4ft bottom double bed (2 beds)
*Cinema Bedroom*
£1,500 - Double bed in shared room (3 beds)

I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have ever done in life. I am not a practising Yogi but I loved every single class. The others in class were much more experienced but never once did I feel "bottom of the class" . The people I met on the retreat were all absolutely lovely and I some will remain life long friends.
It was not strict. A few nights we went to the beach for a sundowner. The odd night we had a glass of red with dinner.  Totally relaxed. 
To summarise, what did I come away with?...well I loved myself more than I did when I went in. I had really invested in myself. I ate well, I moved, I slept and I spent time with lovely, loving people. Warm, positive, loving people. All with their own stories, their own journey but all with the same intention - to have a week of wellness and self care.
I could not recommend it enough - truly! Thank you Fiona. Thank you Meda Gedara and your incredible team.
Please do not hesitate to ask should you have any questions.
Lots of Love
Rae xxx
Ps. Chef Jay Halford food was off the scale outstanding -
Grace our guest Yoga teacher also outstanding and her classes are available online