by Avril O’Connor
The vista is of grapevines which stretch as far as the eye can see. Only the buzzing sound of cicadas can be heard as the sun goes down amid the heat of the late afternoon. On the patio outside my room at Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine I catch the last rays of the day’s sunshine and sip a champagne cocktail. I can see the bobbing heads of cyclists, fellow guests slowly making their way through the vines.
Built in the 12th-century, the abbey was a place of sanctuary and solitude for monks, but after years of restoration it is now a hotel with a Michelin star restaurant and El Santuario, a world-class spa in the heart of the Duero Valley wine region.
We are almost in the centre of Spain – in Don Quijote country – a two-hour drive from Madrid, and a few kilometres from Valladaloid, once the capital of Spain. The motorway journey passes by the ancient city of Segovia and we see its Gothic cathedral towering above the city, silhouetted against the sky.
This region, Castile and León is not so popular with tourists, particularly those, from the UK, but it has lots to offer including stunning countryside, uncrowded cities with palaces and of course the sensational wines.
The ‘abbey’ is set in 1,730 acres of farmland with 500 acres dedicated to the vine. The wines as you would expect are mainly red – merlot, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and various blends of these varieties and exquisite – and we get to sample them with lunch and dinner.
Its early August and in this part of Spain the summers are hot and searing and winters freezing because of the altitude on a plateau surrounded by mountains. The vines have to be nurtured in Spring with huge windmills that chop through the chilly air to prevent frostbite killing the young shoots.
The spa is below ground – to avoid compromising the architectural integrity of a 900-year-old building – underneath what was the stables. There are eight new spacious rooms, which have direct spa access. Mine is one of these with an outside patio that looks across the vineyards. The hotel has a total of 30 rooms and suites.
The one star Michelin-starred Refectorio, was once the abbey’s dining hall. It is a the stunning setting for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is under the direction of Pablo Montero the hotel’s Head Chef. In addition to Refectorio, guests may choose to dine at Vinoteca, which serves a selection of tapas and in fine weather outdoors in the Jardín del Claustro.
A personalised treatment programme is created for all spa guests and is based on a ‘blind tasting’ – of oils to smell and wines to taste – and depending on palette and aroma preferences, designs appropriate spa experiences to target the guests’ physical and spiritual needs at that specific moment in their wellness journey. There are seasonal teas and juices for those who don’t want to drink alcohol.
So after a look in the mirror – I could do with rejuvenation – and after an a la carte breakfast in the Refectorio with freshly squeezed orange juice I go down to the spa and seek the advice of my spa sommelier
The spa menu offers a full range of classical treatments and services, while the abbey’s deep-rooted wine culture is embodied in a bespoke fusion-wine vinotherapy spa concept of personalised spa journeys based on local wine traditions.
My recommendations include Le Grand Cru, the ultimate oenotherapy experience combining a soothing footbath, body exfoliation with grape seeds and essential oils, vitamin drink, nurturing anti-aging body wrap and soothing pumices massage.
I try this and along with my other treatments – the Anti-Fatigue Back Remedy 60minutes of a combination of self heating mineral mud, oils and minerals are put onto my back and followed by a massage. This is followed by the Abadia Retuerta Signature Facial – a 90 minutes treat that hydrates and revitalises the skin leaving it radiant and fresh. The experience – the quality of the massage and the ambience in the spa is the best I have ever experienced. And I have visited lots of spas!
The spa has an array of guest facilities including four individual treatment rooms, a Spa Suite, outdoor rain showers, indoor heated pool, outdoor pool with a snack menu and separate ladies and men’s wellness areas each with a sauna, steam baths, experience showers, hydrotherapy pools, relaxation room and changing areas. There is a gym where you can get personal training sessions, advice on exercise regimes and classes in Pilates, yoga, meditation and Qi Gong.
Andres Araya, the hotel’s Managing Director, a Chilean highly experienced in running five star resort hotels across the world said: “We have juxtaposed an historic, 12th-century abbey hotel and winery with a 21st-century wellness centre to create an unprecedented guest experience in Spain. Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine is defined by its exquisite facilities, savvy hospitality, storied ambiance and pampered personalisation, wrapped in holistic healing at a transformational new spa.”
Setting the table for guests’ spa experiences there is also nutritious, healthy and light Spa Cuisine – that is also tantalisingly delicious.
El Santuario is energy-efficient uses solar panels and groundwater pumps to generate energy for heating and cooling. Geothermal storage systems compensate for the seasonal fluctuations in energy demand. And a dedicated water-treatment plant allows water to be recycled and used for irrigation.
The guest programmes include:
– Spa Gourmet Getaway, combining rejuvenative treatments with healthy cuisine for two guests. Included are accommodations for three nights, breakfast daily, welcoming foot ritual, Le Grand Cru two-hour spa journey, two lunches at Vinoteca and two dinners at Refectorio, free mini bar, free internet, use of recreational and fitness facilities and upgrade and late check-out (subject to availability). From €1,961 (GBP1,470*)
– Detox and Weight Care, a natural detox and wellness programme. Included are accommodations for three nights, in-room detox breakfast daily, three spa cuisine lunches at Vinoteca and three dinners at Refectorio, full butler service, wellness consultation, one-hour personal training session, yoga or Pilates session daily, bicycle excursion through the vineyards, welcome foot ritual, one 60-minute Detox Wrap, one 60-minute Revitalising Massage, one 60-minute Cryo Jetlag Reviver, free mini bar, free internet, use of recreational and fitness facilities and upgrade and late check-out (subject to availability). From €2,751 (GBP2,070*)
– Couples Romance Retreat, combining spa experiences for two with gourmet dining. Included are accommodations for two nights, in-room breakfast daily, two spa cuisine lunches at Vinoteca and two romantic dinners at Refectorio, full butler service, welcome bottle of Cava, welcome foot ritual, 60-minute Couples Massage with hydrotherapy bath, sauna and steam, 30-minute Wellness Circle, 60-minute Cryo Time Freeze Facial, rose petal turndown, free mini bar, free internet, use of recreational and fitness facilities and upgrade and late check-out (subject to availability). From €1,904 (GBP1,430*).
*Available March through December 2016 all prices and conversions correct at time of printing. For further information and reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel. +34 98 368 0368; www.ledomaine.es