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: email@example.com; tel. +34 98 368 0368; www.ledomaine.es
Marbella: The glamorous Sentidos en Rio Real hotel, Marbellas first and only five-star boutique hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, has opened a stunning spa called Petite Sérénité to bring a high calibre, intimate, authentic and personalised wellness experience to its guests and to complement its golf experience, arguably one of the best in Marbella.
Petite Sérénité has a glorious roof top location, adjacent to the hotels pool and terrace. Combining warm hues, natural materials such as wood and stone and contemporary design, Petite Sérénité is a tranquil sanctuary, with two treatment rooms, a wet treatment suite, a relaxation area, and male and female changing areas. Taking great care to avoid a formulaic and impersonal approach to hotel spa, great attention is paid to providing high levels of personal service and in developing innovative treatments including exfoliations, massage and rituals.
At Petite Sérénité, treatments take inspiration from the rich local flora and are based on natural, indigenous ingredients such as jasmine flowers, honey, Muscatel and Mediterranean herbs to evoke the Andalucían culture and to deliver a unique experience that reflects the location.
Treatments include Essence of the South body exfoliations such as the Salt and Fire Ritual,which combines a hot stone skin preparation with an exfoliation using nourishing sea salts, flower extracts and aromatic herbs; and the Malaga Flower Exfoliation, incorporating aromatic jasmine and geranium flowers. Both of these treatments conclude with a soft moisturising massage.
Massages and rituals include the Rosemary Ritual, an invigorating treatment combining the tonic strength of rosemary with a firm massage.
As a 29-room golf hotel, a number of treatments have also been developed with specific therapeutic focus on the needs of golfers, such as the Mint and Camomile Massage, a refreshing and soothing treatment that reduces tension in the feet and legs.
With a serene location nestled between the Sierra Blanca and the Mediterranean Sea, just three kilometres from the bustling centre of Marbella, Sentidos en Rio Real also offers creative fine dining at the elegant Sentidos Restaurant, with legendary local dishes such as black pasta with fresh red prawns, complimented by wines from the hotels extensive wine cellar.
In addition to the hotels beautiful par 72, Javier Arena-designed golf course, known to be one of the best in Marbella with spectacular views, other facilities include new floodlit tennis and padel tennis courts and a luxury motor yacht Rio Real III, moored in the glamorous Puerto Banús marina, and available for guests. Sentidos en Rio features 29 deluxe rooms and suites blending modern décor with traditional influences courtesy of renowned interior designer Pascua Ortega.
Sentidos en Rio Real is 30 minutes by car from Malaga International Airport, which is well served by a number of airlines operating direct flights from 16 UK airports including British Airways, bmi, easyJet, Flybe, Globespan, and Monarch Airlines.
Ctra. Vallvidrera al Tibidabo, 83-93, 08035
T: +34 93 259 30 00 www.hotellaflorida.com
Sitting above the City this hotel has glorious views across the Mediterranean and some rooms have private terraces and whirlpools. Built in 1925 it has a huge 37 metre indoor/outdoor pool. The spa offers a full range of treatments inlcuding massages, facials and manicures using Natura Bisse, Thalgo and Kanebo products. The restaurant, L’Orangerie, offers five star Med food.