Under the Lime Tree, a vegan and vegetarian B&B and spa retreat, has been on my radar for several years. I’d been promising myself a visit, but just never seemed to find the right time or someone to go with. A solo trip felt overly self-indulgent. So, when DD’s annual visit coincided with her birthday what better reason did we need for a girls’ day out? Back in the UK she’s a holistic therapist, so I was a bit concerned it might be a bit of a busman’s holiday, but I needn’t have worried.
Living as we do, in the middle of nowhere, there’s no fast route to UTLT although it is only 40 miles away as the crow flies. Nevertheless, we had plenty of time so we set the sat nav and let TomTom lead us along the winding back roads of the Haute Vienne and Charente borders. It was a glorious day, with clear blue skies and a warm late summer sun. We passed through quaint French villages and past soft-eyed Limousin cows lazing in fields laid bare by the scorching heatwave. Eventually, after a few wrong turns that landed us in a Lidl carpark, TomTom and Google maps were in agreement and we pulled up, literally, under the lime tree.
After a warm welcome from Nikki, our spa day began with a sumptuous vegan lunch under a shady gazebo. Aubergine steaks baked with lashings of garlicky BBQ sauce, two salads of rainbow colours, all made with produce picked fresh from the potager. The feast was complimented with a cooling soy yoghurt dip and crusty olive bread. Dessert was a luscious butternut squash cake with a healthy dose of chilli, topped with raspberry sorbet. We dutifully turned down the offer of wine in favour of lemon water. Once replete, it was time to change into our cozzies and enjoy a post-lunch herbal cuppa in the spa pool.
The location of UTLT is stunning. Set in about twenty-five acres of pasture and woodland, the traditional stone buildings are set around a sunny courtyard. An enormous lime tree stands guard over the garden – I wonder how old it is? – its leafy boughs offering a shady place to relax post-treatment. Or maybe sit in the little summerhouse and enjoy a view over the valley. In every nook and cranny there are seats, loungers, hammocks and sofas, stones, statutes and artwork. The spa pool is set at the edge of the garden, just before a sweeping meadow falls away, so once you are relaxing in the warm bubbles it’s almost like an infinity pool with a huge backdrop of blue sky. You can’t help but immediately feel at ease here. The atmosphere is at once calm, yet has a feeling of energy. It’s peaceful and quiet, and as I later discovered, had no mobile phone signal. And that’s a good thing, right!
It was probably about twenty years since I’d last had any type of beauty treatment, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Nikki told us her speciality is hot stone massage, so I decided to just let her plan how the treatment would go. As I entered the treatment room a beam of light from the Velux window encapsulated the massage couch. It’s haven of tranquillity and I quickly felt at ease. All I needed to do was relax and enjoy the magical touch of Nikki’s healing hands. Of course, it wasn’t long before she found the knots in my shoulders and elbows, caused by too many hours spent in front of the computer. Once these were soothed, all too soon my treatment was over and it was my turn to relax out in the garden. Considering that I rarely sit and do nothing – there is always a keyboard beneath my fingers or a pencil in my hand – I did pretty well to relax in the lounger under the lime tree for over an hour, without even once looking at the mobile phone.
What a wonderful day we both had at UTLT. Before long it was time to leave, but not before treating ourselves to Nikki’s two veggie cookery books. Well, we just had to get that chilli cake recipe! We opted against the fast route back via St Junien, and again followed the quiet backroads roads through the countryside, watching the late afternoon sun dappling through the first golden leaves of autumn, with not another car on the road. A perfect end to a perfect day.