It’s a pleasing moment when a journalist receives an invitation to eat something delicious, sleep somewhere beautiful or participate in something fun (often we are chained to writing articles of our editor’s choosing) because it provides us with a blank page on which to run with any narrative theme. For me, on this occasion, the theme is LUXURY; pure, indulgent, gratifying luxury.
As a shoe-string-backpacker at heart, the prospect of some occasional luxury remains a delightful treat. When travelling, I’m more likely to be heard asking “Would it be possible to get some sheets on this bed?” than “Are these sheets 100-count Egyptian cotton?” but make no mistake: I know 5 Star. I have stayed in some of the best hotels around the world, received some of the best service and gorged myself on the best pillow mints in existence, so when I give somewhere the thumbs up, I do not do so lightly.
I was pondering the concept of luxury as the chauffeur-driven car (a shiny black Jaguar, to be accurate) wound its way through dense forest, circling the basin in which lies the picturesque town of Clervaux, Luxembourg, where I was about to spend two nights reviewing the boutique and design hotel, Le Clervaux. Through small gaps in the trees I caught frequent glimpses of steeples and spires, of turrets and 12th Century architectural detail; the town appeared to be the setting of a medieval fairytale. It also appeared to be a well-kept secret, quietly nestled into a beautiful valley, typical of the Ardennes region, and I wondered how long it would remain so undiscovered.
Arriving at the hotel stirred a mixture of awe and childlike excitement within me. The design was instantly striking; both sensitive to the building’s history and in keeping with modern aesthetics. Architecturally, the façades of the conjoined buildings demonstrated perfect union between old and new, and woven into the strong interior design was a dynamic fusion of masculine and feminine.
Moody greys and sultry blacks were accented by blocks of bold, fiery red. Here, a touch of elegance in the wallpaper print; there, robust angles and clean lines. The design spoke of glamour, of European chic and of smoldering beauty, with a distinct fashionista edge. It was the most remarkable hotel interior I’d seen.
Best described as deluxe, my suite was no less impressive, with picture-perfect views of the castle. The attention to detail within the design and layout was notable, and the amenities were superb. It seems the thrill of the miniature kettle is a thing of travel past; Le Clervaux has raised the bar with individual Nespresso coffee machines. Inside the undeniably sexy en-suite, an assortment of divine-smelling Fairtrade toiletries prompted me to let out an involuntary squeal, which echoed against the high ceiling and sounded at odds with the peaceful silence of my surroundings.
Despite the enormous bed luring me into the embrace of an afternoon nap, the wellness centre was calling me louder. With a comprehensive spa menu and therapists of the highest quality, it was clear these facilities were one of Le Clervaux’s key assets. I experienced head-to-toe treatments: a whole-body sea salt scrub (which left me with cashmere-soft skin), a deep cleansing facial and all manner of massage techniques. Forget Hot Stone Massage; at Le Clervaux it’s all about the Hot Ball – a heated balloon which is rolled at just the right pressure over your body, accessing every inch to loosen the muscles and lull you into a helpless state of relaxation. As someone with sensitive skin and a strong environmental conscience, it is also crucial that I mention the wellness centre’s important choice of beauty products: Thalgo. Created from naturally occurring minerals and nutrients found in the sea, these marine-based beauty products left neither a blemish on my skin, nor unnecessary impact on the environment, thanks to the brand’s core commitment to minimising its ecological footprint.
Outside of the treatment rooms, there was an abundance of facilities to profit from – mood-enhancing, colour-changing lights in the pool, a decent sized jacuzzi and a relaxation room of ample comfort – but it was the hot zone I found the most enthralling, with its dark, enigmatic design and unusual variations on the classic sauna and steam experience. Acutely aware of European spa protocol (namely the insistence of complete nudity) I let go of my inhibitions and de-robed into my own unashamed nakedness. Admittedly, it did enhance the experience somewhat, allowing the skin to fully benefit from the steam, salt vapour and other glow-inducing atmospheric conditions. But a friendly warning: if you’re averse to witnessing the unclothed form of the opposite sex in close proximity, some prior mental preparation is in order.
Post-pampering, it felt a shame to spoil my newly cleansed skin with unnecessary cosmetics, so I was relieved to note at dinner that whilst the hotel itself oozed glamour, there was no pressure on its guests to follow suit. As a pescetarian, the hotel’s most prestigious restaurant Rhino’s Steakhouse was sadly wasted on me, however I can highly commend them on their extraordinarily generous crayfish salad and wood-fired pizzas, and with regards to the meat, let me say this: as someone who once was a carnivore, the steak menu was something to behold. Meat lovers, eat your heart out because the choice of quality cuts, sauces and sides is extensive. The hotel’s other restaurant Da Lonati served me the most tender, flavour-rich melanzane parmagiana of my life – which is saying something given how many times I’ve eaten this dish in Italy. If you can resist the temptation of sinking into the world’s most comfortable bed for just a little longer, it’s worth pausing in the Cabana Lounge for a nightcap.
In my humble opinion, the mark of excellence at any hotel is the standard of the breakfast – I’m looking for quality, creativity, variation and abundance – so I was delighted to discover Le Clervaux excelled on every point. Each morning I was greeted with “Voulez-vous du Champagne?” (note: never in life is the answer to that question anything but “Oui, merci”) and a mouth-watering buffet so broad I deemed it necessary to wear stretchy pants to allow for my inevitable over-indulgence. It was a breakfast-lover’s paradise; farm-fresh, locally-sourced, hot from the oven, freshly-squeezed, decadent, vitamin-rich and always beautifully presented.
It intrigued me as to who would visit this wonderful little gem, so discreetly tucked away in the Luxembourgish forest, but as the Marketing & Communications Manager, Nicole, explained during a tour of the facilities, the town of Clervaux is situated amongst some of Europe’s best rural hiking routes, and is especially blessed in historical buildings and landmarks. It is also a town of unique character (exhibit A: the mayor recently “handed over the keys” to the town and red carpets were laid along the small streets surrounding the hotel, upon which were held a delightful little festival for all to enjoy). Add to that the superb business and conference facilities of the hotel itself and the aforementioned spa heaven and you’ll start to understand, as I did, why this well-kept secret is quickly gaining recognition as a travel destination.
Go for business, go for golf, go for the cuisine and the fine wines, go for history, go for hiking, go for your physical wellbeing, or simply go for your sanity – because at Le Clervaux the stresses of your daily life will simply melt away, and in my experience that’s the greatest luxury of all.
I departed the charming streets of Clervaux the same way I had arrived – in that shiny black Jaguar – sad to leave behind the romanticism of the Rapunzel-esque town, but sure of one thing: if you are somebody well accustomed to luxury of the highest order, Le Clervaux will more than meet your expectations, and if you are somebody for whom luxury is a rare treat, it will simply blow your mind.