Pilates, like Muggle and credit default swap, is one of those terms that has entered my vocabulary without my having any clue to its meaning.
If you’d put a gun to my head, I might have said it involved trying to touch my toes, a bit of heavy breathing. Perhaps a star-jump or two. After an introductory hour, I can report that ‘with a gun to my head’ is one of the few situations in which I would attempt it again.
I was invited to Little Beach House just outside Barcelona, the second-newest addition to Soho House’s international empire.
Well-balanced: Little Beach House is in the coastal town of Garraf, near Barcelona
Although Soho House is best known as a private members’ club — and is a favourite of Meghan and Harry — anyone can stay here. Like any hotel group worth its Himalayan, crystal salt, it must follow the trends, and so ‘wellness’ is a key offering.
There are vegan options on the menus, high-intensity interval training on the beach at dawn, horse riding in the hills, yoga and beauty treatments. Which is how I came to find myself in a kind of glass-walled lounge when the sun was barely up. There I was, heaving on the floor, reminding myself of whales that sometimes wash up on the beach in Devon.
It wasn’t only that I couldn’t do all the exercises, but, in some cases, I couldn’t even get myself into the correct starting position.
Health kick: The hotel has a range of healthy activities including Yoga and Pilates
‘OK, legs in the air together, like this,’ our instructor called, ‘and then just reach with the arms. One, two, three, four…’ A ripple of agony ran through the centre of my body — a set of muscles I have since learned is called my ‘core’. I collapsed and wondered why people pay to be tortured.
The previous evening I’d taken a sound therapy session. Our group lay in a semicircle while the therapist played a gong. ‘Empty your minds,’ she said. I resisted at first, then started to relax. But that might have been the two, rather accomplished, gin martinis I’d sunk beforehand, when the gong session had slipped my mind.
Herein lies the contradiction of Little Beach House. Most nonbusiness hotels are still built around the opposite of wellness. Most of us don’t want a health club on holiday. We crave comfy beds, hearty breakfasts, the odd swim, abundant food and drink.
Elegant: The view of Garraf from the beach outside the hotel
Luckily, Little Beach House offers more conventional attractions, too. It is an elegant, but unshowy, spot, in the pretty whitewashed village of Garraf, 30 minutes by car from the Catalonia’s capital city, but much less than that from the airport.
The beach, a few hundred metres long, is lined with higgledypiggledy green and white Art Deco huts.
The hotel building dates from the Fifties and has just 17 rooms spread over two floors. They are finished in the usual Soho House style: rustic natural materials, and lots of timber and Moroccan tiles.
When I entered my room, a Roberts radio was tuned to Radio3 and a cold beer was waiting in a bucket. The Mediterranean crashed lazily onto the sand close to my balcony. It made you want to unbutton your shirt, kick off your shoes and greet people with a relaxed, ‘Hey, man’.
Competent and comfortable: Rooms are designed in the classic Soho House style
There were a few House Rules, which seemed bossy at first, but I liked the ones about no posting on social media or phone calls in public areas.
Little Beach House is probably too far out of Barcelona for those craving instant access to its museums, bars and restaurants.
And its Soho House style may not win prizes for originality. But for competence and comfort, it scores highly. They know what they are doing.
By the time I left, I had even forgiven them the Pilates.