Health & Grooming | Chronicles of a Spa Junkie

Spa Junkie in… St Tropez

Our undercover reporter seeks rejuvenation in the South of France

Spa Junkie in… St Tropez

Image: Jay Yeo

September 17 2011
Spa Junkie

Part: 1 | 2

From the moment you drive up the perfectly manicured driveway into the bird sanctuary, beyond which the coral pink gabled entrance awaits you, the sound of cicadas is all consuming. As I consider the view, I admit: Château de la Messardière, the luxury hotel and spa in St Tropez, is gorgeous. Perhaps even more so in early September, when the weather is still perfect. If you venture down to the beach, you can actually see the sand – rather than the blinding rays of diamond jewellery adorning the rows of perfectly sculpted bodies beautifully suspended in their latest Heidi Klein bathing suits.

Every year it’s a similar story: the debauchery kicks off in mid-July, when the great and the good create meticulous guest lists, throw open the well-guarded doors of their Les Parcs mansions and line the decks of their super yachts with eight-inch-thick Louboutin-resistant flooring. Goga Ashkenazi’s welcome back to St Tropez sets the pace each year; this time round she hosted the return of summer in spectacular style with a leatherette-themed party where guests danced the night away to Grace Jones.

So by the time French supermarket owner Thomas Leclerc throws his annual circus fête (wowing guests with real tigers roaming the lawn), even the most beautiful Drs Dray, Lowe and Sebagh-enhanced faces start showing signs of wear and tear.

For 10 days, the great, the good and some of the ghastly pile into this little gem of a town on the Côte d’Azur. It’s a bunfight, all right; there is a queue from car to cashier. And it’s not just at night that the jostling for position and access takes place. The Vilebrequin muffin-top and botox and Birkin bag brigade clamber for seats and tables at a handful of restaurants, beach bars and clubs. The position of the table and timing of the reservation are key indicators of one’s level of influence, so emotions can run high and cortisone levels skyrocket in the battle for ego space. I imagine that Les Caves du Roy and Club 55 must be the most expensive per-inch real estate in the world during the summer.

The scene has become so predictable, this year my girlfriend and I have decided to buck the trend and skip the first wave of madness. Hence the September visit.

Bonjour! You are here for the Platinum Rare facial and then a blow-dry with Bruno?” The spa is as gorgeous as the Château – spacious and elegant with lots of light, an indoor pool and well-sized treatment rooms.

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m here for. I’ve been eager to try La Prairie’s line of Platinum products, though they’re tear-inducingly expensive: the cellular cream retails at £630 a pot. I have tried the Carita equivalent, and it was good.

However, as I wait in my robe for my therapists to collect me, I do have to marvel a bit at the booming billion-dollar beauty business. In its perennial quest for the next “wonder active ingredient”, I often ask myself where it’s all heading. I was recently persuaded to have a peat bath treatment. “Bodies have been found perfectly preserved in the bogs for hundreds of years; I’m telling you, this is incredible stuff – and there is so much of it in Ireland you would not believe, it’s truly the next wonder product!” the panting Irishman explained as he tried to sell me this on-the-internet-only, non-FDA-approved product.

For those of you who have not been to Ireland, peat is decaying vegetation that forms into what are known as peat bogs – now that’s a branding nightmare if I ever heard of one. It sounds more like Shrek’s ablution block than a beauty balm. Of course, I tried it; later that evening, covered in black grime from head to toe for half an hour, arms stretched out like a scarecrow, stinking to high heaven, I had to laugh. The lengths our vanity will take us to.

I recount the story to the rather sullen and serious French therapists. “So, did it work?” one asks. “Not really,” I say; I was really very unimpressed, I tell them, and irritated that I had to spend almost an hour in the shower. Their eyes glaze over; I have lost them. Stay on brand, I think to myself, drawing my thoughts back to the job in hand.

“Have you had good results with this new Platinum line?” I enquire.

Oui. The range contains some of the most advanced anti-ageing formulations in skincare and obviously the reason it’s so expensive is because of the pure platinum. It’s much more valuable than gold, you know?”

Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.