La Casa de Maria in Montecito has been hosting retreats for 55 years. The drive into the hills above Montecito will begin to relax you even before you leave your car. The old oaks, some more than 300 years old, have withstood every economic downturn. The Immaculate Heart retreat house and neighboring Hermitage are the ideal choices for individuals, couples, even a small family seeking time away. The original manor house, built in the 1920s feels more like a B& B than a Spartan monastic experience. The Hermitage house is more sedate with fewer amenities. Either way, as Juliet Spohn Twomey, associate director who oversees the ecumenical approach to the center says, “People come here to discern their next step.” The current economic crisis however is not current at all. “The economy wasn’t working long before this crisis, it was driving mother earth into the ground,” she says. They offer vegetarian and vegan meals, as well as meat and fish for the spiritual carnivore. Three acres of orchards and organic gardens allow for the physical to be nourished in concert with the spiritual. A large formal dining room utilizes some foods grown in the garden. Like every retreat center, the goal is, “restoration through silence,” and there is a 10 p.m. noise curfew throughout the entire 26 acres. There is also a pool, volleyball court, even massage services, and lodging for larger groups.
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