I’m lying, suspended in pale, deep mud. It’s the colour and consistency of double cream. I’m naked, the dark hairs on my body artificially exaggerated by the milky mantle, a stark contrast to its smooth, glossy consistency.
I’m on my back, helpless. Alone, I experiment with my weightlessness, flipping first onto side, then front.
I have little trouble moving my limbs through the gunge beneath me, yet show little sign of sinking.
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I’m supposed to be relaxing, but the threat of being swallowed by the gloop and the disconcerting sensation of floating completely free is too peculiar to allow for much meditation.
I’m not in the womb; I’m dreaming of mud crocodiles, vicious teeth sinking into my exposed, vulnerable rump, leaving only a red whirl in the cream. Fortunately, I’m not eaten so am able to briefly meet the architect of my flopping about.
Michel Guerard is many things. He’s the father of Cuisine Minceur (where seemingly luxurious lunches weigh in at about 600 calories, even with a glass of wine).
In his 80s, he’s spry and still holds three Michelin stars. They came to Les Pres D’Eugenie 40 years ago and, like Michel himself, stayed.
Aside from being master of the kitchen, he’s also author of the secret recipe that creates the mud; the posterchild treatment at his resort’s natural hot spring spa.
But despite these attractions of this remarkable place it’s a third element that delivers the greatest draw.
Michel can cook up a storm, the sulphurous waters can seethe and boil but nobody brings the parts of a hotel together like his wife Christine.
It’s not that she’s responsible for the design and dressing of the property and its various offshoots. It’s that every element is an expression of her will to forge a seamless bubble of hospitality while projecting a minimum of fuss.
Smiling, she clasps the hands of everyone in our group and simply says: “I just put the things that love each other together.”
Her touch is everywhere, most obvious in the lions paws at the corner of the pieces she’s designed.
There’s a temptation to imagine these have a practical purpose. I’ve a suspicion all she has to do is smile warmly, incline a finger for the furniture to scurry into a fresh, elegant arrangement.
As partners, she and Michel deliver a formidable proposition to the well heeled traveller – professional, natural warmth.
For all their cuddly twinkling, the couple are perfectionists; strivers, obsessives but not without humour. They employ, according to their website “180 hospitality virtuosos”, which isn’t far wide of the mark.
So, having saved up a sizeable mound of gold, what should visitors do at Les Pres?
The short answer, as is the case with all resorts of this calibre, is anything they want – everything’s possible.
However, there are certain activities that demand consideration. First swim in the classically proportioned outdoor pool while waiters deliver suitable refreshment.
Then dine at the main restaurant – it might be pricy at 70 euros for a main, but the food is unforgettable and served with suitable mischief.
Then, the following day, if you’re in need of a detox, try a herbal bath at the spa (beat yourself gently with a bundle of aromatic leaves from the garden outside the window before relaxing with a piercing infusion in front of the fire). You must also take a dip in the mud, crocodiles permitting.
Afterwards, Cuisine Minceur for lunch is appropriate, which should set your body up nicely for your onward journey and, indeed, you life ahead. It’ll leave you only wafer thin.
Jon was a guest of Les Pres D’Eugenie in Eugenie Les Bains, Gascony. Rooms rates start at 360 euros per night. A Pure Spa Wellness Week at the resort including accommodation starts at 2,270 euros per person for seven nights.
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