By Adam Attew
For most people seeking pampering in luxury, Belgium isn’t their first port of call. However, La Butte aux Bois, a plush country estate hidden in the Hoge Kempen National Park, will radically change that opinion.
Originally the estate of Sir Lagasse de Locht and his family, the property is now a luxury Relais & Châteaux four-star hotel with one Michelin star, 3 Gault & Millau Toques restaurants and a beautifully designed spa that will fulfill your every heart’s desire.
The hotel underwent a huge refurbishment which opened in 2017, creating a whole new wing called ‘La Forêt’ which houses the Spa retreat and 20 modern rooms with views of the Hoge Kempen national park, all of which are quiet and peaceful . The original hotel is classic northern European country style architecture, whereas the new ‘La Forêt’ – with its simple neutrals and clean woods – creates a stunning juxtaposition of the two styles. The architects have been brave here, and I am glad that they were, as the result is quite striking.
This expansive Spa retreat comprises of Le Spa, Le Spa Terrasse, Le Gym and La Forêt. In Le Spa one will find a whole plethora of amenities, from the super warm indoor pool to the panoramic sauna, Hammam, infrared duo seats to heal those aches and pains, and an ice water area to slap the body into alertness. Le Spa Terrasse is mainly a large covered terrace and outdoor jacuzzi, with space for meditation and yoga sessions too. La Forêt Lounge and Terrasse also serves healthy spa lunches specifically designed to target your skin’s vitality and health. That being said, it’s the spa menu of treatments that are really unmissable.
Belgium’s Best Spa?
La Forêt’s spa concept is based on five principles: Reenergizing, Reharmonizing, Refreshing, Regeneration and Recovering. With these five ideals in mind, treatments are tailored to your individual requirements. The choice of treatments are vast, with a range of facials, skin improvements and rejuvenations by Jetpeel, signature facials and dermatological consultations by Dr. Bullens. Of course, the body isn’t neglected, thanks to various massages and specialised treatments like spawave light and sound therapy, detoxing scrubs, and wax hair removal.
Dr Yolande Bullens-Goessens is a renowned dermatologist with access to the latest methods and developments in the field of aesthetic cosmetics. Through her experience and knowledge, she’s developed the ‘La Forêt by Dr. Bullens’ medical beauty line with high-dose active ingredients sourced directly from nature. The range is paraben and silicone-free, not tested on animals, dermatologically tested, perfume-free and is non-comedogenic. The line also includes many other vegan friendly skincare products as well, which are put to work in the ‘La Forêt by Dr. Bullen’ Signature facials.
Turning Back the Years
As I am heading further into my 40s, I thought that I might as well choose an anti-ageing treatment from Dr. Bullen’s facial selection. I made my way to the collection of peaceful treatment rooms filled with natural light. Once settled in, my skin was very gently cleansed before ozone steam was pressed onto it eliminate toxins. A 3D hyaluronic acid treatment ampoule was then applied, followed by a very soothing head and face massage, leaving me feeling feather light and a bit sleepy. A face mask followed by anti-ageing day cream with hyaluronic acid and plant extracts capped off the treatment, and by the time the facial was finished, my pores were clearer, smaller and my skin dewier.
And the pampering went on. Later that day I had my first mud massage, which involved being covered in a warm mud/wax mixture, then wrapped in cling film and cocooned in towels to keep me warm. I snoozed a bit before being unwrapped and told to go rinse off the remnants of the mud in the shower. The result? My skin felt cleaner and softer immediately. Quite a unique experience, and worth trying just for the amusement of feeling like a dish prepared in the kitchen.
Putting In the Effort
After being pampered passively for hours, it was time for me to put in a bit of effort, so I headed to Le Gym to meet personal coach and former professional sportsman Ingmar Harthoorn. He leads guests through various activities such as yoga, pilates, Tai Chi, running, Nordic, walking, mountain biking and more, and ensured my butt was thoroughly kicked in the well equipped gym. But you can get fit outside, too: La Butte aux Bois’s surroundings are perfect for those who love being active – there’s a surrounding forest begging to be hiked in, and you can run, walk or ride through its 380 km of trails in 5000 hectares of lush forest.
Thoroughly toned and trained, it was time to top off the luxurious delights of La Butte Aux Bois with a dining experience in the Michelin starred restaurant La Source, led by chef Ralf Berendsen. Here, I enjoyed a delightful evening of rich, flavourful dish after dish such as oyster with apple sorbet, Thai Lobster Bisque with lemongrass, Hamachi and North Sea crab, and perfectly cooked turbot followed by several sweet delights such as Chocolate Jivara Lactee and a selection of hand crafted chocolates. Each dish blew me away – and the global wine pairings were divine.
If you’re looking to escape the humdrum of everyday life to detox the mind, body and soul, then La Butte aux Bois is the complete package. From the setting in the forest, the architecture and interiors, to the fine dining, sports activities and of course, the vast array of treatments, you’ll surely leave here revived, refreshed and ready to return to Belgium for another stay soon.
For more information or booking, please click here.