Snorkeling to see the Mediterranean’s underwater treasures, kayaking in the Dordogne, swimming in the limpid waters of Lake Annecy or a Nice backcountry lagoon, communing with the tides of Brittany. Here are ten elemental immersions to enjoy while staying at Relais & Châteaux properties.
Taste Manon Fleury’s surf and turf delights - Monte-Carlo Beach, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
The Elsa, a seafront restaurant that serves 100% organic food and wild-caught fish, now welcomes chef Manon Fleury, who insists on ecological responsibility: conservative water and energy use, a reduce-reuse-recycle approach to waste, biodiversity preservation as a practice, not just a philosophy. For this zero-waste activist, the challenge of using the entire ingredient is a formidable one that pushes her to even greater creative heights. Her cuisine brings out the best in botanicals and Mediterranean riches. As she treasures terroir, too, she is naturally locavore, selecting vegetables from the Domaine d’Agerbol, an organically grown garden spanning several acres high above Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.
Lanneretonne Anthony © Monte-Carlo - Société des Bains de Mer
Paddle on the Dordogne River - Château de la Treyne, Lacave
It seems to be hanging in the void, clinging to the rock. From atop its perch, rising up in venerable, 14th-century stones, the Château de la Treyne contemplates the Dordogne. The chateau has not only an extensive history but a breathtaking location, surrounded by forests and French-style grounds. After kayaking down the river between Meyronne and La Treyne, the property serves as a marvelous, tranquil refuge. Fishing lovers can indulge in their favorite sport, as the Dordogne basin is listed by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve. Those who would rather go angling in the clouds will be delighted to experience a hot-air balloon flight taking off directly from the chateau grounds.
Dive artistically off the Lérins Islands - Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel, Antibes
This property is renowned for its outstanding location at the gateway of Cap d’Antibes, right on the water. In the distance are the Lérins Islands and their irresistible siren song, calling you to explore their brand-new underwater ecomuseum. Six statues, the handiwork of British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, are submerged off the shores of Île Sainte-Marguerite. The art installation is, of course, ecologically sound, as the no-mooring zone between the Lérins Islands has been extended; the statues will become a refuge for underwater life. See them with mask and snorkel during an exclusive outing on the hotel’s boat, with a gourmet picnic ready and waiting thanks to artistry of the culinary kind by Michelin-starred chef Nicolas Rondelli.
Cannes Underwater Museum – © Jason de Caires Taylor
Feel the power of the ocean - Les Maisons de Bricourt, Cancale
Set in the estuary facing Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Château Richeux is an this incomparable sanctuary to meditate and recharge your batteries facing the ocean. To complete the experience, the Roellinger family has opened La Ferme du Vent, a few meters away from the main property. Shaped by materials both rough-hewn and refined (stone, wood, metal…) this is a place for feeling and being, sensing the vibration and the power of the ocean, observing the beauty of the tides. One of the property’s barns is now home to the Bains Celtiques® (“Celtic Baths”), carved from granite that radiates beneficial energy to recharge and refresh. Succumb to the temptation of a session with reflexologist Gwenn Libouban, whose expert hands rebalance the body’s energies and release tension. A divine sensory experience of conversing with Nature in her purest state.
Float on a lazy lagoon in the Nice backcountry - Le Domaine du Mas de Pierre, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
At the base of the ramparts surrounding Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Le Domaine du Mas de Pierre has forged a reputation for excellence over the years. With time and care, it has become a 20-acre property with a wealth of fruit trees, ancient olive trees, and other Mediterranean species. An Eden dotted with artworks that now is home to a clear-water lagoon rimmed by a beach of fine sand, with waterfalls and slides – a splendidly natural addition to the Domaine’s sublime swimming pools. Of course, as the hotel boasts the EU Ecolabel, the water filtration for both lagoon and pools uses activated oxygen. A cool, clear oasis, a haven where you can shed life’s little preoccupations, an idyllic place for a reset.
Explore the unspoiled coves of Corsica - La Villa Calvi, Calvi
Steeped in the inimitable perfume of the maquis, Corsica is a natural wonderland where enchanting villages rub shoulders in cool, green valleys. Embracing this land of contrasts is the Mediterranean. In the calm countryside outside Calvi, La Villa beckons: A serene resort ideally located for exploring the island’s granite coasts and unspoiled beaches by boat. Head south, towards the Scandola Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and stop for lunch in the village of Girolata, accessible only by boat, or contemplate the red rocks surrounding Piana, a picturesque village clustered on the other side of the Gulf of Porto. Or head northeast, towards Saleccia Beach bordering the Agriates Desert. Corsica at its most spectacular.
© Benjamin Loyseau
Enjoy a waterside getaway - L’Île de la Lagune Thalasso & SPA, Saint-Cyprien
The location couldn’t be more exquisite, encircled by the lagoon of Saint-Cyprien, a seaside town on the edge of the Mediterranean, just a stone’s throw from Perpignan. There lies a private islet that is home to the Île de la Lagune Thalasso & Spa. The hotel is an exclusive retreat with water options aplenty: a thalassotherapy center, a rooftop seawater swimming pool, a private pontoon for docking boats. Adrenaline-lovers will be thrilled with the popular kite-surfing spots, and those who like a slower pace can swim in unspoiled coves and relax on the Côte Vermeille for a splendid waterside getaway. The Mediterranean in all its glory.
Contemplate the limpid waters of Lake Annecy - Hôtel Restaurant Auberge du Père Bise – Jean Sulpice, Talloires
On the shores of Lake Annecy, this institution is more than a century old, now reenergized by the talents of Michelin-starred chef Jean Sulpice and his wife, Magali. The cuisine of this fervent lover of wide-open spaces reflects heartfelt labor with local focus, particularly when it comes to the edible treasures of the lake. And then there is the auberge’s décor, redesigned with elegance in shades of sea green and blue, echoing the waters that add so much to the property’s relaxing atmosphere. Take the time to contemplate the sky, the mountains, and their reflections, stretched comfortably in a deckchair, explore the lake with the hotel’s boat, or simply swim in the clear waters.
Commune with the tides of Brittany - Castel Clara Thalasso & SPA, Belle-Île-en-Mer
In September 1886, Claude Monet landed at Belle-Île-en-Mer. There he met Australian painter John Peter Russell and was inspired by the jagged, ocean-battered rocks and windswept moorland shown him by his peer. And it is on the very site of Russell’s property that the Castel Clara Thalasso & Spa was founded in the 1960s. A place where you move with your mood: spa treatments, excursions, daydreaming in the shade. On foot, venture along the coastal path leading to secret coves and breathtaking viewpoints, the Port-Coton Needles, La Pointe des Poulains. By bicycle, traverse the inland expanses, heading for Port Donnant to watch surfers coasting into their favorite beach. At Castel Clara, time stands still as you replenish body and soul.
Venture into the waters of the Gorges du Verdon - La Bonne Étape, Château-Arnoux
Deep in the sweet-scented, enchanted lands of Provence, stay a spell at La Bonne Étape, where the hospitality is warm and true. Over the decades, the former coaching inn, dating to the days of Napoleon, has been transformed by its owners into a prominent hotel and restaurant. Today, it is the perfect resort for comfort and charm, not far from Manosque, home of literary luminaries, the medieval city of Sisteron and its famed citadel, the village of Lurs high on its rocky spur, the lavender fields of the Valensole plateau. More adventurous sorts will try a guided kayak excursion on the turquoise waters that carve the Gorges du Verdom. Uncommon enjoyment and unforgettable moments guaranteed.