The jewel of the Evian Resort, the Hôtel Royal is one of the most unique and luxurious hotels in the world.
My instinct is to leap off the bed. The therapist’s instinct is to cup her hands, as if shouldering the force. We are in a spa – a pristine white spa with views of the Alps – and right on the mattress, my baby has done a large and explosive poo.
Karine, the therapist, congratulates him enthusiastically. “Oui, oui, Jack!” My son, clearly appreciative of the good the baby massage has done his digestive system, starts kicking his legs and cooing.
We’re on day three of the “mother and baby programme” at the Hotel Royal Evian in France and Jack, five months, is completely at home. The etiquette of wearing paper pants (or not, as it were) and roaming about in a state of undress seems to suit him.
This is our first holiday, a spa trip designed for parents and their newborns, and definitely not something I planned to be doing on maternity leave. But there’s a lot you discover as a new parent. You can take your infant along to anything, it seems, from an Ibizan yoga break to an upmarket wellbeing retreat. Travelling with a new arrival has never been so appealing.
I actually couldn’t wait to get away for some quiet time with my son. Jack arrived five weeks early amid chaos (maternity leave began when my waters broke in the office) and I felt slightly deprived of the contemplative time I might have had at home with my bump. I liked the idea of a change of scenery and some fresh air.
According to the brochure for the programme, we were going to have “a calming, soothing, bonding experience” and there was even some talk in French of “persistent crying reduced”. But what really appealed was that this break wasn’t just about me indulging myself, or putting my baby into childcare.
At this luxury hotel and spa, there’s an even split of attention lavished on mother and baby. Mornings are all about Jack: each day he is pampered with a baby massage (performed by me under the guidance of our therapist), followed by a daily baby swimming lesson in the heated outdoor pool. Then it’s officially “me” time. After a leisurely lunch together in the restaurant or our hotel room, Jack heads to the Baby Resort, a nirvana of stuffed toys and soft play, so I can get my own R&R.
It sounds like a dream for a sleep-deprived parent and it almost was. My first treatment is a combined facial and massage lasting almost three hours, but an hour in and I’m asleep. And on day two, my brain’s still not quite in gear. I’m booked for an aromatherapy massage, followed by a session of “light stretching” with the hotel gym’s yoga instructor, Olivier, but for some reason it doesn’t register that I need to wear gym kit. Presented with me in just my robe, Olivier kindly adapts his moves so I can stretch wearing my dressing gown and not flash him.
Thankfully, no one here makes snoresome jokes about baby brain, so you can continue to live in ignorance of your failings as a human. During the mani-pedi session and scalp and hair treatments that follow, I find I start to relax and feel a lot better about the fact something is being done about my post-baby ailments (brittle nails, hair falling out… I could go on).
The most difficult aspect for me is leaving my baby in daycare for the first time. When Jack arrives at the Baby Resort the staff discover they aren’t just babysitting my son but also my husband – dads are welcome here, too, so the three of us have come along. By the end of the week, Rhys has gone off for a day’s skiing at nearby Morzine, a 45-minute drive from the hotel. When I pick up Jack, the nannies present me with his first ever school report – a picture collage of everything he’d been doing at fun club.
Back at the room, there’s all the equipment we need (a cot, baby bath, bottle warmer and Winnie-the-Pooh steam steriliser), plus a tiny robe for Jack and baby room service – the ham and potato purée and apple and vanilla compote sound tasty, if you ask me. There’s also a copy of the glossy baby magazine MilK on the bedstand, and chocolate teddy bear lollipops and crayons, should the adults need to do some drawing.
With bath and bedtime dictating the evening schedule, after dark is less eventful. We extend the day by taking Jack night swimming – the hydrotherapy pool is lit in the evening, making all the bubbles and steam particularly exciting – and venture into Evian, the slow-paced spa town where the famous mineral water is sprung. In the summer you can ride the funiculaire, a wooden cable car, from the water source to the top of the mountain, where there are incredible views and walking routes overlooking Lake Geneva, or even take a boat over the Swiss border to Lausanne. Luckily I have a dinner companion or two, so once Jack is settled in his buggy, the three of us head down to the hotel restaurant. There’s an option to take every meal as room service, but even better is being able to enjoy three courses with Jack sleeping next to us. We enjoy exceptional steak one night, and pork with truffled potatoes the next, all the while taking recommendations from the attentive sommelier. I haven’t been out for dinner with my husband in five months. So, when we eventually wheel Jack back to his cot and manage to lower him in without him stirring, it makes us feel like we’re winning at this parenting lark.
A three-night stay on the mother and baby programme costs €1,495 (£1,325), including treatments. A five-night stay is €1,985 (£1,755). A day’s skiing organised by the hotel costs €135 (£120), including transfers, equipment and a lift pass (hotel-royal-evian.com)
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