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Kathryn Liston tries a two-night Welcoming Ritual at the Longevity Wellness Resort, Portugal’s first anti-ageing medical spa.  For more than 2,000 years, the pretty mountain town of Caldas de Monchique has attracted people to its healing ‘Agua de Monchique’ thermal waters in the western Algarve. Now the €35 million...

Living Well – Living Long

Kathryn Liston tries a two-night Welcoming Ritual at the Longevity Wellness Resort, Portugal’s first anti-ageing medical spa. 

For more than 2,000 years, the pretty mountain town of Caldas de Monchique has attracted people to its healing ‘Agua de Monchique’ thermal waters in the western Algarve. Now the €35 million Longevity Wellness Resort – Portugal’s first anti-ageing medical spa – is hoping that its preventative medicine and beauty programmes will attract even more holidaymakers to the Monchique Mountains. 

Run in partnership with La Clinique de Paris International and its founder Dr Claude Chauchard, a top specialist in preventative medicine and ageing management, the resort offers everything from a two-night Welcoming Ritualto an intensive 30-day Total Ageing Management programme. The Look Younger in a Week option also caught my eye, so I headed off to the resort eager to see if the reality lived up to its promise. 

It took around 45 minutes to drive from Faro airport to the resort. Despite its sympathetic design, the extensive building loomed large on the protected nature reserve. Built in tiers to follow the contours of the rock face, the 195-suite resort has been built in sections, which made negotiating the interconnecting tunnels and floors confusing at first. Fortunately, a bellboy pointed me in the direction of my suite, although didn’t offer to take me there – surprising for a five-star resort. 

My first impressions were favourable, the chic minimalist interior of natural greens, browns and beiges blending seamlessly with furniture made from local wood and Monchique ‘siento’ stone and quirky sculptures. Semi-open verandas and floor-to-ceiling glass windows provided a fabulous view of the nature outside. 

When I eventually found my suite, I was impressed. Spacious and modern, there was a large lounge with flat-screen TV, two bathrooms – one with a walk-in shower, a bedroom and a well-fitted kitchen with recycling bins – at last, a hotel that lives up to its ecological promises. Huge doors led to an attractive patio with sun loungers, a delightful herb garden, lawn and amazing views over the mountains – the fragrant fresh mountain air was a health tonic in itself. 

I decided to check out the spa. The receptionist who handed me a swimming cap was not particularly welcoming and the spa was much smaller than I expected. The indoor heated pool was large enough for a fairly decent swim but the Turkish bath was out of order and the showers offered only two options – rain or side jets. 

By now, I was looking forward to my signature body scrub with sea salts and citrus and massage (€60). The aromatic oils permeated the air as my therapist rubbed the sea salt all over my body leaving my skin delightfully soft and smooth. I was invited to take a shower before the massage, which was one of the best I have ever had – firm yet sensual and relaxing, the session seemed far longer than the 50 minutes booked. 

Feeling rested, rejuvenated and relaxed, I was shown to the delightful relaxation area, its Zen-like atmosphere, décor and candles providing a peaceful, restorative ambience. I was offered a herbal tea and left to chill out. 

Although it is possible to spend a holiday here and enjoy a few beauty treatments on the side, the main emphasis is on preventative medicine and ageing management. The approach is holistic, so spa therapies, yoga, Pilates, walking, fit ball, meditation and healthy cooking classes are recommended. 

Medical and wellness programmes start with a consultation and assessment, followed by a fitness, nutritional or biophysical evaluation and blood and urine analysis by a qualified doctor. A personalised programme is then devised around the results. Tests that cannot be analysed locally are sent to a clinic in Paris. 

The medical menu is exhaustive and includes options such as Feel & Look Younger in a Week (€4256/£3773), Detox and Stress Management (€4413/£3912), Dr Chauchard’s 15-day Fast, Slimming & Detox (€5113/ £4533), Basic and Premium Evaluations (from €1808/ £1603), Health Optimization (€6713/£5952) and a 30-day Total Ageing Management programme (€10,675/ £9465), which can be taken as 15-day breaks twice a year. Prices include accommodation and buffet breakfast. Programmes of seven nights or more also offer up to five meals a day. 

On the beauty and rejuvenation side, the resort offers a variety of non-invasive treatments such as micro-dermabrasion and ultrasonic exfoliation to revitalise the skin, micro-needle skin nourishing and Botox fillers (winter only as clients must avoid contact with the sun). 

Since opening last year, guests have generally been couples of 45+. Children are allowed in the resort and a kids club operates in peak periods. For adults, there is a weekly activities programme, which includes a morning walk each day, fitness and hydro slow sessions, meditation, fit ball, breathing and wellness games. 

I decided to join the walk the following morning, our guide escorting the group up the mountain footpath opposite the resort. We zigzagged our way up the slope looking down steep banks at gushing streams. Each part of our ascent provided inspiring glimpses of the magnificent mountain range until we arrived at the top where the 360º views were amazing. Some people had treatments booked, so we descended the same way we had come, only faster. 

With time to kill before lunch, I had a refreshing swim in the large outdoor pool in preparation for a culinary feast at the signature Longevity Cuisine restaurant. Hosted by Portuguese chef, Olivier da Costa, who runs three top restaurants in Lisbon, the emphasis is on healthy cuisine – no butter or refined sugar, only vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats such as organic olive oil. Special diets are also catered for. 

A plate of olive oil, onion and hummus was brought first, accompanied by three interesting breads, including one made from beans. The cold melon soup was delightfully refreshing and unusual, as was the octopus carpaccio with bell pepper and coriander. While the baked salmon with seasonal vegetables was lightly cooked and delicious, the lemon grass crème brulee with coconut ice cream was too fragrant and creamy for me, particularly with a Pilates class to follow. Eating here is expensive with main courses costing around £20. 

This restaurant was far superior to the evening buffet, which had a decent salad bar but unappetising hot turkey and pasta dishes. In contrast, the breakfast buffet was excellent offering a selection of fresh fruit, wholemeal croissants, unsweetened muesli, smoked salmon, mushrooms and scrambled eggs. 

Still, the food was not the main reason for my visit. And with fantastic walking country, fabulous beaches and historic towns such as Lagos, Silves and Sagres to explore on the doorstep, there were plenty of opportunities to work off any excess calories. 

If only I could have shaved a few years off my face. Maybe next time, I’ll try the Look Younger in a Week programme although it may possibly take me a little longer than seven days. 

The Longevity Wellness Resort
Lugar do Montinho
8550-232 Monchique Municipality, Portugal
www.longevitywellnessresort.comA two-night Welcoming Ritual includes accommodation, body scrub with sea salts and citrus (30 minutes), detox experience (30 minutes), Fountain of Youth facial, a massage plus access to the indoor spa and costs €359 (£318*) per person.
* Based on exchange rate 26 April 2011.Monarch offers flights to Faro from Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton (summer only) and Manchester airports from £46.50 one way, £83.99 return.
Seats can be pre-booked at £7.50 one way; extra legroom seats are also available.
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