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Expat Focus Wellbeing Update November 2023

The French Wellness Frontier

This month’s focus is on France—a country recently dubbed by Tatler as the ‘new frontier’ for luxury wellness escapes. The South of France has long been a hotspot for glamour and the celebrity lifestyle, with a coastal region developing from a series of tiny fishing villages in the early part of the 20th century to some of the wealthiest and most exclusive resorts in Europe. More recently it’s become a centre for the wellness industry – a perfect fit with the sophistication of the Cote d’Azur and the French Riviera.

This wellness trend is very much in keeping with French standards: haute cuisine with a healthy twist and an emphasis upon sourcing locally from the Med. Grasse’s status as the perfume industry’s capital, together with the Provence’s acclaim for herbs and vineyards, offers the possibility for the South of France to become the premier destination for wellness.

Wellness and Glamour

Let’s take a look at some of the wellness centres that are making their mark in the South of France. First, there’s La Réserve Ramatuelle, which offers spectacular sea views and is only a few miles from St Tropez. Its restaurant, La Voile, is Michelin starred and features an extensive cocktail menu (note that, in keeping with the resort’s winter hours, this will be re-opening in May 2024, but call them well beforehand on +33 4 94 44 94 53 to make a reservation). La Réserve’s in-house spa features a range of the latest treatments, including hand, foot and facial preparations, as well as a dedicated menu for men. There are also treatments specifically for teenagers (useful if your children have been dragging their feet at the prospect of visiting a spa for the day!) 

The resort states: 

Spa Nescens invites you to discover a selection of treatments and programs stemming from the latest advances in the field of health, fitness and aesthetics, all dispensed by our multi-disciplinary team of therapists. Nescens cosmeceutical products blur the line between cosmetics and pharmaceutics. They contain biologically-active components, selected on the basis of scientific data resulting from biomedical research.

The resort also offers 3-5 day wellness retreats, which include a Nordic walking programme, cryotherapy and workouts in the pool. La Réserve also has exclusive access to more than 4 km of Pampelonne Beach, if your idea of a workout is more of a gentle stroll along the sands. 

Further down the coast, you’ll find cycling hub Coquillade Provence, which was founded by BMC owner Andy Rihs. As you might expect, this resort focuses on cycling activities, and you can take bike tours up into the Luberon – the resort is favoured by the Tour de France cycling teams, as it has professional facilities. If you’re really serious about getting fit, the resort has 4 or 6 day triathlon training programmes, too. Hydromassage and a Detox and Shape programme are available for those who prefer a less intensive experience.

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These are only two of the southern resorts; you may also like to check out the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes or the Lily of the Valley resorts. Lily of the Valley has been gaining attention in recent months for its ‘Train à Grande Vitesse’ (TGV) diet plan, so called for its speed and efficiency. 

Spas in the South of France

In Cannes, Nice and other coastal towns, there are a plethora of spas, such as the Holiday Green Resort and Spa, the Hôtel Club Plein Sud, and Le Méridien Nice. In Grasse, you will find Baie des Anges, which relies on the Provencal reputation for lavender and thyme growing to source its products, along with 3 seawater pools. 

In Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the Maybourne Riviera has become notable for its FaceGym experience, not to mention its stunning sea views. Further into Provence, the Villa La Coste is situated in the middle of the biodynamic vineyard Château La Coste and focuses on rural wellbeing with a traditional but sophisticated edge, based on a range of organic Provencal products including Jasmine, Lavender, Rose, Olive and Apricot. The spa’s “Wellness area” has a number of “Signature Rituals” using Himalayan salt scrubs and hot mud, Hammam treatments, a dry floating bed or a Vichy shower. There is a wide range of massages, since this is a feature of this establishment. The resort also features a number of art walks, with a focus on architecture or painting, including works by Yoko Ono and Tadao Ando.

If you fancy a city break as well as the spa experience, head for 27 rue Mazarine in central Aix en Provence, which has a pool and massage rooms. Also in Aix is the Thermes Sextius, reflecting Aix’s history as a spa – long before the idea of wellness was formally invented! The Thermes Sextius has been constructed on the site of the old Roman Baths in Aix and has its own water source. It’s a hydrotherapy centre and linked to the Hotel Aquabella next door. 

Yoga is also easy to find in the region: many spas run yoga programmes of their own, and some make a feature of it, such as the Hotel Crillon le Brave, which run in-house but also personalised retreats. If you’re interested in running a yoga retreat here, you can contact them for more information on how to do so.

The hotel also offers opportunities for Pilates and meditation in its beautiful gardens. 

The Château de Montcaud also offers yoga retreats, for beginners up to advanced level. They can be found in Sabran, not far from Avignon.

These resorts are the tip of the iceberg with regard to the wellness sector in the South of France – you are certainly not devoid of choices in this part of Europe!

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