Even in the dim evening light, the quaint villages between Strasbourg and eco spa hotel La Clairière are a fairytale feast of delicate gabled roofs and charming crooked cottages. Further on, as you speed through dark forests, the impression grows stronger until, suddenly, La Clairière looms up out of the foliage like Rapunzel’s tower.
I, however, had not come to eat enchanted gingerbread or drink magical wine – or indeed, anything approaching either of those at all. Instead, I was here for a detox programme, one of the many wellness programs offered by the Alsace-based spa hotel. Three days, scores of treatments, four-course detox lunches and dinners and unlimited use of the spa – I was ready to go. First though, I headed upstairs to check out my room, which was far more traditional than the brightly coloured communal seating area downstairs and equipped with twin beds, a living space with a sofa, two balconies, a TV, mini bar and kettle with complimentary herbal teas. The bathroom, equipped with delightful smelling toiletries, a natural sponge loofah, a crisp white robe and slippers, was roomy and contained a giant bath. Perfect.
But it was the spa I had travelled through the enchanted forest to see, and it’s easily the most beautiful part of the hotel. Totally silent, save for the calming sound of the trickling water, the spa is where guests kick back and enjoy treatments, before allowing themselves a time out in the relaxation room post treatment, sipping on a cup of hot ginger tea whilst relaxing on a reclining bed lined with crisp linen. It is also where you go to swim in the sizeable indoor pool or enjoy a Jacuzzi, ice bath, sauna, steam room or Turkish bath. Treatments available at the spa range from the Pantai Luar, a surprisingly relaxing traditional Thai massage to Dr. Hauschka facials, body wraps and an infrared sauna, which can apparently help with everything from weight loss to pain relief.
As well as relaxing treatments, the detox plan includes a breakfast buffet and four course gourmet lunch and dinners, all prepared on site. The hotel operates a colour-coding system, which meant for those of us on the detox plan, only green items were allowed. The delicious looking breads, pastries , meats and cheeses were off limits , which meant I ended up with a cup of loose-leaf herbal tea, fresh fruit and vegetable juice, a bowl of fruit salad sprinkled with coconut flakes, flax seed and sesame seeds and a bowl of super healthy mung bean daal with romanesco and carrot.
While it might not sound particularly exciting, the detox menu – which is free from sugar, animal proteins and salt – is surprisingly tasty. Most of what you’re served is vegan – I lost count of how many carrots and heads of romanesco I ate… But it didn’t matter because the ingredients emerged from the kitchen looking entirely different each time.
But it’s not all about food. The forest I was driven through on my way to La Clairière is criss-crossed with hiking trails, while the hotel itself is only 2km away from La Petite-Pierre. Still semi-somnolent from my Thai massage, I didn’t get very far at all but enjoyed the view of slippery bronze leaves and gnarled trees that stretched out before me. I half expected to see the witch from Hansel and Gretel stumbling through the woods proffering a sticky portion of gingerbread but was destined to be disappointed.
What La Clairière lacked in wicked witches, it more than managed to make up in pounds lost – I left considerably lighter and with pleasingly glowy skin. But it wasn’t all about detoxing. With spa treatments and a sauna to enjoy, it left me feeling totally relaxed and ready to face the madness of London again. Now that really is magic.
NEED TO KNOW…
Wellbeing Escapes offers the Detox Short Break at La Clairière for a minimum of three nights and a maximum of five, from £630 per person. Ryanair flies to Strasbourg from London Stansted, with prices starting at £19.99 one way. See Ryanair.com for more information and to book. From Strasbourg, you can take a private 50 minute transfer, or the SNCF train from Strasbourg airport to Ingwiller, then a 10 minute taxi transfer to the hotel.