In this day and age, people are often looking to get a little more from a holiday than just relaxation: they also want to achieve results. Moreover, today the spa ‘experience’ is no longer the preserve of women, and spa hotels are cropping up all over world. Thus it came as little surprise to discover that at La Réserve Ramatuelle, not too far from home in the South of France, men are equally represented on the guest-list.
Opened only last year, this deeply glamorous, privately-owned 24-room spa-hotel – awarded Best New Hotel at the Wallpaper* 2011 Design Awards – is the perfect spot for those looking to cleanse and re-energise the mind, body and soul. It is situated just outside the coastal town of Ramatuelle, minutes from St Tropez, in hills offering stunning panoramic views over the Mediterranean and French Riviera. More than pure pleasure, the focus here is on health: wellbeing, quality of life and ageing-prevention.
Throughout the autumn months, La Réserve Ramatuelle offers a luxury boot camp particularly aimed at those who want to lose weight or simply age better. The bespoke programme includes specific treatments, supervised daily physical activity and a controlled Mediterranean diet. More specifically, this includes ‘Nordic walking’ – a low-stress, full-body workout that is renowned for aiding weight-loss – along the Côte d’Azur’s coastal paths, yoga and spa treatments, all complemented by Executive Chef Eric Canino’s low-calorie menu to get guests into tip-top condition before the winter months set in. The full experience lasts for five nights, during which time guests can expect to walk 15-20km per day along the undulating Côte d’Azur.
Different from the architecture traditional to the region, the hotel’s 1970s building has been transformed by the internationally acclaimed architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. With striking lines and contemporary design infused with natural materials, La Réserve Ramatuelle is a sanctuary of relaxation. The 17 suites and seven rooms have simple and contemporary interiors, with a mixture of ochre, white and sand tones and stone floors, woven rugs and linen and cotton curtains echoing the hotel’s natural surroundings. Each room has its own south-facing terrace or private garden and – wherever you are – sea view.
There’s definitely an air of calm and serenity about the place and I was certainly impressed with the surroundings, but still I wondered whether La Réserve Ramatuelle could actually deliver what it promised. If the beautiful and athletic team of staff were anything to go by, then it certainly could!
Upon arrival, guests undergo a medical and fitness assessment by a local doctor before a personal itinerary is created. The standard day on the boot camp starts with yoga at 7am next to the pool. A gentle way to start the day, the hour-long class slowly wakes up and stretches the muscles. After breakfast – fruit, muesli and egg-white omelettes – we were met by our instructor Mathieu, who was to guide us on a four-hour walk along the coastal paths. Our French neighbours warned us, ‘Today will be very difficult!’ which left us a little concerned about the journey ahead. But what they failed to mention was how we would be mesmerised by the sparkling Mediterranean views over the Bay of Pampelonne and St Tropez, the sumptuous villas we passed and even the occasional glimpse of Continental-style nudity! All of which were good distractions from the fact that we were being seriously put through our paces. We stopped for regular water breaks and, halfway through, stretched and did some sit ups on a beautiful empty beach. Although reluctant to use them at first, we soon realised that the Nordic poles were truly beneficial to providing that all-over body workout. The pace was dictated wholly by the group – we could take as long or as little as we liked – but the walk still had to be completed, as it was the only way back to the hotel. Tired but enthused, we were back at the hotel by noon, which meant we had time for a quick 40 minutes of water aerobics (admittedly tough after the walk), followed by a light lunch and then an afternoon in the spa.
The state-of-the art spa has 11 treatment rooms, an indoor swimming pool with water jets, an outdoor swimming pool, a steam room and a fully equipped gym with cutting-edge Technogym equipment. Individual or limited-group exercises on offer include Pilates, Body Sculpt, Stretching and Yoga Balance. Impressively, this is the only Crème de la Mer spa in France. My treatments started with a body wrap that was quite unlike anything I’d had before – surely the closest feeling to being back in the womb – then continued with balneotherapy, which is a detoxifying bath set in a dark room with twinkling lights, and La Réserve’s signature ‘Better Ageing’ facial. It was an exquisite way to spend the afternoon – even better, after the morning’s walk, I felt like I deserved it!
The restaurant serves traditional Mediterranean flavours and health-conscious cuisine by Head Chef Eric Canino, who previously worked under Michel Guérard, the inventor of cuisine minceur, a form of healthy, low-calorie cooking. Menus reflect the spa’s philosophy of ‘Live Better, Live Longer’ by excluding all added fats and refined sugars, thus both aiding weight-loss and detoxifying the body. The delicious selection of protein-rich flavours was designed to feed the muscles and meant we never went hungry.
The programme is designed for anyone from elite athletes to the very overweight. The spa treatments were exceptional, and a fabulous complement to the wonderfully restorative walks. What’s more, the beautiful surroundings and exceptional staff made the physical exertion a whole lot easier. La Réserve Ramatuelle really is an exceptional retreat designed not only for pure relaxation, but also the health, wellbeing and future quality of life of its guests. I definitely felt trimmer and healthier after just a couple of days and wish I could have stayed longer.