Where your next holiday begins… Close to Baden Baden, the traditional watering hole for the world’s affluent wellness seekers and Strasbourg, the picturesque seat of the European Council, La Clarriere unveils a captivating je ne sais quoi factor. As one of France’s few bio and spa hotels, combining holistic treatments and gourmet organic food with gracious hospitality and Yoga, its rural location in the midst of the dense forests of Alsace Lorraine add to its unique appeal. Lisa Durante reviews.
LOCATION Easy to reach nearby Strasbourg via plane or train from London and Paris.
AMBIENCE Low-key, casual and outdoorsy.
CUISINE A wholesome menu of organic and locally-sourced produce with a touch of Alsatian flair. A tasty weight-loss vegetarian detox menu is also available. PROGRAMS Affordable yet comprehensive bespoke spa, holistic healing, detox and yoga packages ranging from three to five days.
FEEL-GOOD FACTOR Everyone visits for different reasons and durations, but if weight-loss and a nature kick is up your alley, then La Clarriere ticks all the boxes
Like many living here, my life in Dubai is blessed with myriad creature comforts, but of all the things that I do miss, trees are top of my list. Not only does greenery soothe the soul but its wellbeing benefits are undisputed. Did you know that negative ions are affecting our health in a positive way? Noticed the great sense of wellbeing when walking in a forest or by the beach? It’s all because of the negative and positive charged particles in the environment, which benefit our neuro-muscular system. So by the time we hit the month of May in this neck of the desert, with mercury levels making their inexorable climb, I am gasping for fresh air. This is exactly the quality of air to be found in the Vosges Mountains, enveloped by hectares of virgin forest within which La Clarriere – ‘the clearing’ in French – is nestled.
Another element I can’t get enough of is water. Not of the de-salinised or chlorinated kind, but pure mountain springs to drink from and warm natural water jacuzzis and temperaturecontrolled pools to bask in. With an extensive spa offering being the initial driver of La Clarriere’ s repositioning from a hearty countryside hotel to an award winning wellness resort, Lisbeth Strohmenger, the daughter of the owners of this family-run property, explains that this transition evolved gradually.
“The first stepping stone was investing in a well-appointed spa. We were the first hotel in this region to do so and everyone in the nearby village of La Petite Pierre was initially sceptical.” Then after they had climbed up the first rung of the wellness facilities ladder, garnering success from a niche clientele seeking relaxation and wellness, Lisbeth found that aspects of the heavy traditional Alsatian menu no longer gelled with La Clarriere’ s emerging wellbeing focus. She muses, “How could we continue serving foie gras?” she asks.
“Some things just had to go. That is the opportunity and the challenge of committing to an authentic wellbeing hospitality concept.” She realised that for La Clarriere to evolve to the next level, all brand touch-points had to be holistic, from the spa services and the F&B, to the group activities.
This was a process that evolved gradually, not aiming to alienate their traditional clientele, but likewise that did not change its fresh positioning if some of these clients naturally fell away, to be replaced by guests seeking experiences and services closer to nature.
Locally sourced goodness
In the case of the cuisine Lisbeth explains that “enjoying our menu that reflects nutritional wholesomeness combined with subtlety of taste is vital to getting the most from a stay with us.” This is why she worked with a chef from the renowned five-star Kamalaya Resort in Thailand for one year to re-work the menu to develop organic specialities from locally sourced producers.
Means to vitality
The next two pillars of La Clarriere’s foundation towards wellbeing tourism – Yoga and Chinese Medicine – were initiated thanks to Lisbeth’s own passions converging with what was an ideal complement to the resort’s service offering. “Initially my parents were worried that the hotel would become a niche hangout for proverbial ‘tree hugger’ guests, but over the years they’ve realised that La Clarriere’s appeal has blossomed. We may have lost a few diehard traditionalists, but overall the resort has managed to grow both segments.”
Aside from the meetings and events bookings, Lisbeth and her team have devised several three to five-day packages to choose from; from the ever-popular Weight Balance and Detox programmes, to the Pure Relaxation, Yoga and No Stress programmes, La Clarriere attracts guests seeking results-based transformation and vitality. Whether it be couples embarking on a fitness getaway, or a single person craving me-time and weightloss, the comfortable rooms, excellent food, superb massages and holistic consulting with trained practitioners create an environment where wellness compliance isn’t only possible, it’s also pleasurable.
Every day group activities like nature walks, Yoga classes and sundry wellness lectures are listed on the blackboard in the lobby but nothing is rammed down your throat. “I believe it’s important to keep guests busy if they want to be, but we are not drill sergeants, every guest’s needs are unique and thankfully a resort of this size still has the capacity to individualise everyone’s experience so that their stay is memorable and energising”, Lisbeth says.
As an ex-banker who returned to the region in 2001 and has seen her family-run enterprise flourish, she is excited about forthcoming developments. “My sister who is a naturopath and her husband who is a physiotherapist are moving back to join the family business which is fantastic; the range of additional expertise they can bring to our guests can further ensure that when people visit La Clarriere it sets the stage for greater longterm health awareness. We don’t just want to offer a three to five-day health kick that fizzles out once guests have gone home”, she says.
La Clarriere’ s own metamorphosis has not only benefitted the guests and the encouraging percentage of repeat visitors who choose this resort nestled in the forests of Alsace, but it has given a boost to Lisbeth’s own parents. Both suffered with serious conditions like cancer and stroke but over the years they have managed to curtail their illnesses and stay well. Lisbeth explains, “I can’t say that my parents entirely embraced the holistic lifestyle in one go, but they have expanded their awareness about the need to lead a clean lifestyle by degrees. This has been beneficial to them for sure and has demonstrated to me that this lifestyle works.” Her healing message is clearly to ‘make smart choices one day at a time’, or more appropriately, ‘one holiday at a time.’ After all, optimal wellbeing is a journey and not a destination and a visit to La Clarriere can be seen as a useful steppingstone on the route to Mind-body wellbeing. www.la-clairiere.com
“Whether it be couples embarking on a fitness getaway, or a single person craving me-time and weightloss, the comfortable rooms, excellent food, superb massages and holistic consulting with trained practitioners create an environment where wellness compliance isn’t only possible, it’s also pleasurable.”