One of our most experienced travel writers, Sabi Phagura headed to France to discover more about the La Clairière wellness hotel in Alsace, France
“Breakfast like a king” is the motto here at the bio and spa hotel La Clairière. And taking one look at the buffet spread, I’m inclined to agree. With 100% organic food, you can start your day on the right foot. Expect spreads of pastries, meats, cheeses, olives, fresh bread, buckwheat pancakes, homemade granola and gluten free products. There’s even breakfast ‘soup’ of daal to keep energy levels up all day. If you can, try the homemade Crêpes with mascarpone and blueberries – you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven.
Rediscovering the pleasure of food, coupled with rejuvenating the mind and body in idyllic surroundings, is the whole philosophy behind this hotel. Angele Van Dijck and Robert Strohmenger were captivated by the place in 1981, and decided to build a small hotel in a clearing of the forest. Twenty years later, and those ten rooms have expanded into 50, and today their daughters Lisbeth and Kareen have taken over the family business and look after this little gem in the Vosges du Nord Nature Reserve. The La Clairière hotel is now home to a wellness spa, an English pub and a top restaurant which became the first hotel eatery in France to be certified as organic.
The spa is quite literally a window on to the forest. You can do absolutely nothing, but just stare out into space at the trees from a sun lounger, and feel a sense of calm and that you are a million miles away from your hectic life. Technology detox is encouraged throughout the hotel, so don’t even think about connecting to the Wi-Fi – unless you’re in the communal area. It won’t work! But with so many relaxation options, why would you want to?
It includes a steam bath, tepidarium, light sauna (60°C), Finnish sauna (80°C), infra-red sauna (42°C), cold water plunge pool, ice fountain, Whirlpool, relaxation room, solarium, health café and a yoga room. There are two swimming pools: an outdoor hydrotherapy pool for relaxation, heated to 30°C all year-round, and an indoor swimming pool (12 x 6m), ideal for swimming laps. If you’re feeling more active, you can also head to the gym, but I would recommend ditching the four walls of the exercise room, to instead wander along the forest paths around La Clairière which are ideal for hiking and cycling.
Head-to-toe pampering at La Clairière
For a head-to-toe pampering, ask a therapist for the best treatment suited to your needs. All the holistic treatments and therapies take inspiration from both Eastern and Western traditions. (Lisbeth has an MSc in complimentary medicine, and is also a qualified Ayurvedic therapist). Unable to pick one, I opted for a ‘soin visage harmonisant’ (facial), ‘soin du dos al’arnica (back massage with arnica essential oil) and a ‘massage relaxant’ (full body massage) during my stay. Each one of these treatments sent me to sleep which is a great sign that I was totally relaxed. It was hard pulling myself off the massage bed into the relaxation room when the treatments ended!
The chefs at La Clairière pride themselves on serving the best that nature has to offer through a variety of culinary experiences. It’s like re-discovering the pleasure of food again, especially if you’ve gotten into the rut of eating boring bland foods because they happen to be healthy. Besides a tasty selection of vegetarian options, there is fish, poultry, lamb and game from the forest. And if you’ve enrolled on one the hotel’s detox or fitness programmes, the chef adapts meals to fit in with your bespoke nutrition plan.
The restaurant holds ECOCERT organic certification, and food really is out of this world. Dishes like cucumber, turnip, cabbage, pumpkin seed and grinded flax seed salad, and grilled scallops with carrot and orange puree, will not only have you feeling happily full, but also virtuous. And you won’t even feel too guilty by the wine offerings. The list includes a selection of the best organic French wines from the Alsace region. The Pinot Noir served cold went exceptionally well with the semi-cooked tuna steak in sesame crust.
The rooms are extremely spacious and modern, and are decorated in bright colours with a bit of abstract art dotted around. In keeping with the ecological character of La Clairière, beds have natural latex mattresses, and bed linen is made from organic wool and cotton. The bathrooms are equipped with organic massage oil, and toiletries and herbal teas can be found beside the kettle.
Advice on how to live in harmony with nature’s rhythm is plentiful in and around the hotel as well as in the handy book placed in individual rooms. A short stay teaches you to stop and live in the moment. Unfortunately, I can’t stay at this beautiful place forever, but one of the tips I did take away with me was to practice ‘tratak’ meditation – an exercise in concentration. It requires you to stare at a candle flame without blinking while seated in an upright position. This I can do from the comfort of my room.
For more information, visit www.la-clairiere.com/en/wellnesshotel-france.html
See more of La Clairière in the gallery below