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 Travel Award Winner

 "Malibu Club Resort: Retreat and Surrender" by Jan DeGrass

was selected as winner of the best article in the category of

"Spas/B&Bs/Resorts" at the B.C. Association of Travel Writers in-

house writing competition, and was announced at their gala event

February 28, 2004. Entries had to be under 1,000 words and could

be either original or previously published material. (Revised from a

similar story in the Coast Reporter, May 2002.)

 Malibu Club Resort: Retreat and


by Jan DeGrass

Those who rise early at the first ever arts retreat of the Malibu Club

Resort will glimpse the bear on the opposite shore angling for fish in

the eddies that mark the entrance to the wilderness waters of British

Columbia's Princess Louisa Inlet.

    Not me. I'm snuggled in my cozy bed in a spacious log cabin.

When I open my eyes at first light on a May morning, I can see the

cliffs banded in lemon yellow lichen as they reflect in the depths of

the calm, clear inlet. Why get out of bed when the million-dollar view

is at my window?

    So it is that I don't join the early risers who, undaunted by the

chill, practise yoga on the cold floor of the resort's main hall called

the Big Squawka. They've earned their pancakes piled high on

breakfast plates. It's healthy granola and yogurt for me. Hey, I'm the

writing instructor at this arts retreat. Got to keep a clear brain.

    After breakfast, some go for a puff outdoors on Smoker's Rock

while others take a stroll around the sprawling camp.

    With the glorious warm spring weather the rhododendrons are in

bloom, their roots grabbing the shallow purchase on the terraced

rock face. Malibu staff, many of whom live there almost year round,

will hand water the gardens using supply from the mountain creeks.

By summer, when the boardwalks are lined with hundreds of

hanging baskets, it will take a worker three hours to feed all the


    The agenda is flexible for the 85 guests at the arts retreat. They

will seek out daily workshops-a mixed media art class with Nadina

Tandy or painting in the outdoors with Jan Poynter or perhaps a

healing art-individual sessions of body work with Mariette

Berenstein. Ian Gazeley's photography class is popular; everyone

has brought camera gear along on this trip.

    "Writing?" Ian teases me as we walk to our classrooms. "Isn't that

something you do indoors in the dark?"

    Wrong. One of the joys of this arts and nature retreat is that just

about all the classes are much richer and fuller for being held out of

doors. I will lead three days of writing classes on the coffee shop's

patio surrounded by trees, with the group seated on dainty Paris

café chairs, the morning sunlight rippling over our notebooks.

    Words such as "moss green, panorama, rustling cedars" creep

into their work. Some write about wolves in the wild or about road

trips around B.C. They are in good company. In the mid-1930s, the

prolific crime fiction writer Erle Stanley Gardener visited the inlet.

"There is no scenery in the world that can beat it," he wrote. "Not

that I've seen the rest of the world but I don't need to. I've seen

Princess Louisa."

    This first arts retreat has been sponsored by an arts marketing

group, the Coast Cultural Alliance, and put together by experienced

tour operator Catherine Evans. The art instructors are local, from

the Sunshine Coast, but the visitors are from all over: Chicago,

Seattle, Edmonton, Vancouver.

    "I've waited 20 years to stay at this resort," one woman tells us in

the dining hall. "Finally..."

    Previously, boaters could admire the resort but not stay in the

cabins. Since the early 1950s, when the resort was bought by its

present owners, Young Life, Malibu has been a summer vacation

camp for Christian teens. The arts retreat, which is not associated

with Young Life, has squeaked in before the kids' season begins

and will run again in September when the teens have returned to


    Built by an aviation tycoon as a wilderness playground for

Hollywood starlets and millionaires in the late 1930s, Malibu retains

much of its rustic elegance. The cabins are vintage in design, but

thankfully modern in their plumbing and electricity. The 13-hole golf

course is set among the cedars; there is beach volleyball below and

a massive gymnasium high on a hill. The swimming pool, excavated

from solid rock, occupies a prominent spot overlooking the rapids.

After swimming, we enjoy hanging over the railing like thrill seekers

at Niagara Falls watching the dark waters swirl and the small boats

as they scud along the waves.

    For the more energetic, afternoon is a time for cruising to

Chatterbox Falls. Others want to loaf around the resort, smiling into

the sunshine or kayaking off the wharf, happy to be cut off from their

work world. (Cell phones don't operate here. There is only satellite

phone communication, one computer and one photocopier in the

Club's office.)

    After the cruise there's just time for me to catch Sylvain Brochu's

dance class for rank amateurs. "Circle left--make a big gesture with

your arms. Now, monkey walk." This is joint-popping, muscle-

stretching fun and it works off energy prior to a home-cooked

dinner: poached salmon, new potatoes and fruit torte. No pizza

delivery up the inlet.


On Saturday evening, everyone crowds into the big hall to watch

the unrehearsed entertainment. The singers chant a song they

learned that day, two little girls give a performance that knocks our

socks off, Leigh Gabriel plays piano, and the Coast's own Ten Bear

band lends a professional edge to the show. And the writers…they

read their prose aloud just as it was fashioned that very day on our

sunlit patio. Take that, Erle Stanley Gardner!

    If you go: Malibu Club is accessible by a three-hour boat trip from

Egmont on the Sunshine Coast or by seaplane. You can book for

the September 19-22 Malibu Arts Retreat now by calling 604-886-

4278 or 1-800-690-7887 or check out www.suncoastarts.com. Fee

is $580 inclusive of workshops, transportation, meals,

accommodation, cruises and entertainment.



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Malibu Club Resort