Although much is made of the love-hate relationship Americans have with all things French, there is no denying that France often tops the must-visit list of many U.S. travelers. The country never fails to charm with its engaging sidewalk cafés, historic treasures, captivating culture, and sensational sense of style. Known for its numerous beauty brands, France is no stranger to lavish spas and decadent skincare treatments. Thanks to two Four Seasons spas—each embracing its celebrated locale—the country can claim even more bragging rights.
Guests at the legendary Four Seasons Hotel George V have Paris at their feet, thanks to its prime location in the heart of the city.
Spa-ing in Paris
Located just off the Champs-Elysees, the Four Seasons Hotel George V (Paris) offers the ultimate in unadulterated luxury. Opened in 1928, the original George V raised the bar in the hospitality industry with numerous innovations, such as a telephone in each guest room with both an inside and outside line and a dumb waiter system to expedite food service. Not surprisingly, the hotel attracted an influential clientele. In fact, it became General Eisenhower's headquarters during the liberation of Paris in 1944. He later returned while president of the U.S., as did other heads of states, including Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and François Mitterand.
The elegant sitting area, which overlooks the pool, features a classic Louis XVI-style decor with its marble columns, decorative fireplace, and crystal chandelier.
Today, the hotel is managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts thanks to a long-term agreement signed in November 1997. As part of that agreement, the hotel incorporated the Four Seasons name and underwent a $125-million renovation project. Intended to recapture the hotel's original style and grandeur, the renovation also included the addition of a full-service spa. Opened in December 1999, the Four Seasons Hotel George V Spa features a classic Louis XVI style. According to spa director Verena Fox, the spa's French interior design sets it apart from other local spas. It is also one of the few spas in Paris to feature an indoor pool. Upon entering the spa lobby, guests are treated to a view of the pool and its frescoes, depicting the gardens of Versailles.
The relaxation lounge serves as a tranquil place to indulge in a post-treatment drink and snack.
Courting France's rich past, the spa relies on historical figures and places as a source of inspiration for its treatment menu. Marie Antoinette and her beauty secrets, for example, inspired A Stroll Through Versailles ($514, 2 hours 30 minutes), which honors her favorite scent: orange blossoms. The package involves a steamed orange blossom body scrub, a relaxing massage with warm shea butter, and a milky facial. According to Fox, it is the spa's most popular offering. Spa-goers can also opt to indulge in the package's treatments individually. Each concludes with a serving of delicious pink pastries.
This past holiday season, the spa introduced the 24 Karat ($748, 2 hours) package, which draws on the restorative powers of gold. Using this precious metal in its many incarnations, the package features a 60-minute four-handed face and body treatment using massage oil that is mixed with particles of gold and three thin sheets of 24-karat gold that are massaged into the face. Spa-goers are then treated to a moisturizing hair treatment, followed by a blow-dry. The package is wrapped up with a serving of green tea packaged in 24-karat gold leaves from the French teahouse Mariage Frères and a homemade macaroon topped with gold shavings.
Guests can appreciate the spa's frescoes, which depict the gardens of Versailles, while soaking in the pool or Jacuzzi.
According to Fox, the menu is designed to feature an international flavor with local influences. As a result, Carita and Decléor, both France-based brands, were selected as the product lines of choice. The spa is also the only one in France using Sodashi, an organic skincare line from Australia. "Sodashi was chosen because the company only works with five luxury spas," says Fox. "It is very exclusive and is only present, at this point, in forty spas worldwide. One of the reasons is that the company produces in small quantities to assure its products are of the best quality."
The steady stream of guests who filter through the spa each day to indulge in the vast array of pampering treatments are welcomed warmly by the staff, which is made up of 25 full-time employees and 15 independent contractors. Catering to a mix of business travelers and savvy spa-goers, the spa can accommodate approximately 70 clients each day. With success comes its own set of challenges, and for Fox, one of those challenges is dealing with the limitations presented by the spa's small size. For guests, it may be tearing themselves away from the enchanting spa to explore the City of Light that lies beyond the doors of the legendary George V.
The spa in Provence has two suites, each featuring a Jacuzzi and outdoor terrace overlooking a garden of cypress and olive trees.
A Spa in Provence
Fans of the French countryside will want to indulge in style at the new Spa at Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche, where the scents of lavender, thyme, and mimosa fill the air. Opened in April of last year, the 14-treatment room spa beckons guests with a host of signature treatments inspired by Provence's idyllic setting. The Sugar and White Heather Honey Exfoliation ($101, 25 minutes) and the Aloe Vera and Lavender Honey Wrap ($272, 70 minutes) both rely on locally grown and blended ingredients. The spa also offers a host of ESPA treatments and is the first in the area to offer Terraké, a French product line. According to spa director Julien Pradels, ESPA was chosen for its brand recognition, product consistency, and meticulous protocols. Terraké, on the other hand, is a luxe local line that appeals to guests wanting to savor all that is French. It also incorporates nature with its four ranges: earth, water, plants, and air.
Set amid the French countryside, the Terre Blanche-based spa charms guests with its bucolic setting.
One of the spa's most popular treatments is its signature Provençal Escape ($413, 1 hour 50 minutes), which is an all-encompassing experience that not only cleanses and refreshes the body, but also uplifts and revitalizes the mind. It involves a full-body exfoliation using Camargue sea salts, crushed lavender buds, and Provençal olive oil, followed by a full-body massage using olive oil that has been infused with lavender and rosemary. A blend of white heather honey, aloe vera, and red and white clay is then applied to the body before guests are cocooned in a warm blanket and given a relaxing scalp massage. This indulgent escape concludes with an application of lavender and rose geranium balm. Such services deliver the type of experiences guests are seeking when they visit the spa. According to Pradels, spa-goers want quality treatments, not gimmicks.
With the U.S. and U.K. serving as its two primary markets, the spa caters to a fair number of American and British guests. "The rest of our guests come from other parts of Europe, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland," says Pradels. In the high season, the spa is staffed with 25 full-time and 11 part-time employees. On a busy day, the spa can accommodate approximately 70 treatments.
Included as part of the 14 treatment rooms are two suites, each with a steam room, a Jacuzzi, and an outdoor terrace overlooking a charming garden of cypress and olive trees. Outside of the treatment rooms, guests are free to enjoy the spa's heat experiences, which include a sauna, steam room, laconium, ice fountain, and showers with tropical rain and arctic mist. The spa also features a 20-meter indoor pool and an outdoor Vitality Pool, complete with high-pressure jets, a swan neck fountain, airbed lounges, and reflexology floor jets. Fitness-minded guests will also enjoy the state-of-the-art gym, which includes the Huber, a piece of equipment that helps assess a person's posture, mobility, and balance. With views of the grounds, the fitness studio keeps guests in touch with the Provençal setting even when they're working out indoors.
The spa's Provençal theme also comes into play with the fare served at the spa. Infusion, the spa restaurant, offers light Mediterranean cuisine from the resort's Michelin-starred chef, Philippe Jourdin, who uses fresh regional produce and locally grown herbs. Inspired by the garden and surrounding nature, Jourdin created four fresh lunch menus from which spa-goers may choose. One of the menus, Le Provençal, includes iced tomato soup with cucumber, pepper, and basil; cold-pressed Provençal vegetable terrine with black olive paste; taggiashe olive rocket salad with feta cheese; and olive oil ice cream. Spa-goers can indulge in the fresh fare and soak up the sensational setting on the restaurant's terrace, which overlooks the surrounding hilltop villages. It's enough to get spa-goers pondering the possibility of a year in Provence.