Padding through the sleek cavernous spa at La Reserve Ramatuelle is akin to wandering around a subterranean art gallery. Space age tunnels, areas sculpted from local rock and tricks of the light combine to eye-catching effect. Even the pyramids of rolled-up towels look strangely intriguing. But particularly arresting is the moving projection of a glass shark on the back wall. I spend some time contemplating this before I go in for my deep tissue massage. Afterwards, I don’t give it a second thought; my brain has completely shut down. Expect this to happen at La Reserve Ramatuelle.
Clinging to a pine-clad bluff overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean, this privately-owned spa-hotel is the ultimate blow-the-budget girly retreat. Designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, it is the antithesis of Saint Tropez living. Everything is toned down, pared back and softly lit (staff pad around in slippers). First impressions don’t come much better: pearlescent cream surfaces gleam, orchids overflow from glassware and epic sea views hit you at every turn. In the distance, sail boats dot the horizon and there’s a lighthouse to the east could easily have been installed for effect (in fact it’s a working lighthouse).
16 ultra-luxe suites have been built into the hillside with floor-to-ceiling windows making the most of the location. Boasting stylish living room areas and enormous bathroom suites, the aesthetic is modern coastal chic. Think hand-knotted rope details, deep-shag carpets and walnut sliding doors.
Come here if you want to start living healthier – guests simply aren’t given any other option. All the menus, overseen by head chef Eric Anino, are designed to re-educate the palette. Anino learned all the tricks of the trade from the legendary Michel Guérard, inventor of ‘cuisine minceur’ a form of healthy low-calorie cuisine now adopted by the Hollywood élite – no sugar, butter or cream is added to any of the dishes yet they look and taste every bit as delicious as something you’d select from a Michelin-star menu. Plus, everything that passes your lips is grown locally – much of it plucked from La Reserve’s impressive potager. Wines are also local, supplied by the owner’s vineyard.
With 20km of panoramic hiking trails leading from the back door of the hotel, there’s plenty of opportunity to expand the lungs, although if sunbathing and people-spotting is your thing, the world-famous beachclub Club 55 is just ten minutes down the road. Best of all, La Reserve’s cocoon-like spa is a true haven of tranquility. Modelled from crystalline-white glass and natural exposed sandstone, and featuring 11 treatment rooms, a state-of-the-art Kynésis gym, indoor and outdoor pools and a full programme of Crème de la Mer treatments, it is one of the best spas in the south of France.
La Reserve is a place to recover from anything life throws at you: divorce, redundancy, baby blues – or like me, a nagging sense of ennui that just won’t shift. I can’t help feeling that with its food, climate, spa therapists and uplifting views, any malaise can be cured. I certainly returned with spring in my step ready to take on the rest of the year.
Double rooms start from £518 per night. See lareserve-ramatuelle.com for more information or to book. British Airways has return flights to Nice from London Gatwick starting at £78. See ba.com for more information and to book.
IN THE AREA…
The local medieval village of Ramatuelle is the perfect place to go for a roam, with winding streets and vaulted passageways giving way to panoramic views of the Riviera. Pop into Alm, a gallery-cum-showroom next to the bell tower, and you’ll get a satisfying culture fix. The gallery’s owner Marjolaine Leray jets around the world collecting avant-garde pieces for her collection – that is when she’s not designing wallpaper for Chanel. For something buzzier, St Tropez is 20 minutes away (on a good traffic day) and the beach clubs of Pampelonne are a ten-minute drive along the coast. There are also plenty of vineyards to visit including Chateau des Marres and Domaine la Tourraque.