Need some time to yourself? These treehouse escapes at Loire Valley Lodges will soothe your soul.
I’m not sure I realised how stressed I was until, at about two hours into my stay at Loire Valley Lodges, I found myself wandering through the forest and audibly breathing a sigh of relief. There’s something about being surrounded by nothing but trees and, instead, just the sounds of nature, to really give yourself the chance to exhale.
WHAT TO PACK
Loire Valley Lodges is a luxury boutique hotel with a huge difference: each of the 18 “rooms” is actually a self-contained treehouse apartment. Each is secluded, far enough away from its neighbour that you can’t see – or hear – anyone else, and is set back from the main path – blending into the 750-acre surrounding forest.
Stepping up and inside the treehouse room, the smell of the Douglas pine is enveloping, and padding around barefoot with the pine underfoot is strangely grounding – despite being four metres in the air. The floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows remove any boundaries between you and the trees and so, from the instant I put my bags down and gaze out, I already feel a sense of deep peace. The next morning, as I wake up in my super king-sized bed, I am instantly staring out again at the forest (this is my kind of camping!).
Inside the vibe is discreet, natural luxury. It’s pared back – the vista is the star of the show – but the bathroom, equipped with double sinks and a rain shower, comes with the fluffiest white towels and robes plus Le Labo and Aesop products, while the king-sized bed has luxury Egyptian cotton linen. On the huge 25-square metre decking at the front is a dining table, lounge chairs and – the luxury to end all luxuries – a private hot tub (with a bottle of Champagne chilling in the fridge nearby).
Everything has been designed to help guests relax and enjoy the natural surroundings to their fullest. The lodges are Wi-Fi free (with very patchy reception – your phone is essentially useless in the forest) and have no TVs; instead, they’re equipped with binoculars to help spot wildlife from the deck, a book about trees and a leather-bound notepad to encourage creative jottings. I found that the enforced digital detox combined with so much fresh air and many hikes, helped me to sleep more soundly than I have in years.
Each lodge has its own personality, thanks to being designed individually by a contemporary artist. In mine, O’Plumes, Parisian artist Charlotte Perrot was inspired to create an ode to femininity: shades of blues in abstract artworks line the walls; soft furnishings are accentuated against the natural hues of the lodge; and soft feather in sculptural lampshades add detail.
There is more contemporary art strategically placed around the estate, acting as a treasure hunt on my explorations. I stumble across a giant whale skeleton sculpture sunken into a forest clearing, a giant dog guarding the entrance to the property, and an archangel sitting nonchalantly against a tree. It’s at once unobtrusive and otherworldly, contributing to a reawakening of all my senses.
The Food + Drink
Just like the wine, the food is carefully selected to celebrate the hyper-local: handpicked salads from the vegetable garden; Douglas pine needles from the forest blended into hummus; eggs from the chickens who live in the garden; honey from the on-site bees (who have their own mini lodge); trout from the river; and meat from local farmers.
The main house (a 16th-century hunting lodge that the owners bought eight years ago) is where you go to reconnect with other guests, connect to the Wi-Fi (if you need it) and eat lunch and dinner (although room service is available on request with enough notice). There are two restaurants to choose from – the award-winning restaurant, Ardent, and since July, the newly-opened second restaurant Asperatus, which has rotating resident chefs showing off their skills in outdoor kitchens. Cucumber gazpacho with local goats’ cheese is a highlight for lunch in Ardent, while at Asperatus, the stand-out dish is roasted trout served whole on a rustic board alongside huge plates of deliciously-ripe tomatoes paired with strawberries, beans and apricots and roasted aubergines, all fresh from the garden.
But my favourite meal is breakfast for its truly unique theatrical appeal: waking up and slipping into a robe, all I have to do is lean over the balcony and hoist up a hamper on a pulley (having been silently delivered by an electric golf buggy). Inside is a feast of eggs, salmon, bread, an enormous croissant loaf, local honey and juice. Eating in silence, with no one asking for anything: pure bliss.
The Little Extras
Unwilling to leave my treetop perch, I book a massage. Back in the main lodge, there are treatments including facials and luxury pedicures available to book, but having a massage on your own private deck is as luxurious as it gets. The on-site masseuse uses oils concocted from plants, trees and herbs from the estate, and uses a combination of Californian-Swedish and Japanese kobido methods. The best part – you don’t have to move a muscle afterwards.
The To-Do List
There are lots of activities you can book nearby, from Chateau visits to kayaking or hot air ballooning in the locality. But really, the most enticing thing – and often the hardest in normal life – is to sit and do nothing. I take the halfway house on my first morning and head off for a hike around the forest, desperately searching for deer that I know reside in the thickets.
I’d left my headphones at home by accident – and soon realise what a gift it is, as I start to really tune into the sounds of the forest. When I listen, I realise it’s far from silent: crickets take the top notes with interjections from the songbirds, percussion from the woodpeckers, and owls and kestrels joining in the chorus.
There are also bikes available to borrow – either for commuting to and from the main house (although it’s easy to walk) or to cycle around the local area and down to the Indre River for a wild swim.
For those who like their swimming less wild, there is a beautiful 20-metre pool lined with luxurious sunbeds and manicured planting – from verbenas that attract butterflies to aromatic thyme and lavender that end up in salads and cocktails. The poolside drinks service will serve up a glass of local wine, hand selected by the sommelier, including bottles from the owners’ son’s vineyard further down the valley.
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