Every aspect of The Holy Tree, a massage and treatment space found at the Old Course golf club in Mandelieu, is deeply rooted in nature. In the heart of the salle, the trunk of the parasol pine, which is just one of only a handful still alive in the region and measures over one and a half metres in diameter, extends upwards through the ceiling, its branches and foliage visible through a cleverly placed skylight just above the massage table. Back in the room and a panorama of greenery and rustic materials surrounds you on all sides.
30-year-old Laetitia Duhamel launched her wellness concept – a blend of massage and treatments, lifestyle coaching, nutritional advice and fitness classes – in September last year. Originally from the north of Paris, the former competitive-level triathlete had been in business with her Institut du Massage Balinais since 2013 (when an injury brought an end to her sporting career), but decided to leave it all behind and travel the world in 2015. Each of the destinations she visited taught her something different: in Australia she met with Instagram-famous fitness gurus such as Kayla Itsines and trained in sports massage, she learned the secrets of volcanic ingredients in Hawaii, encountered shamans and sages, and launched a travel and lifestyle blog that helped her get her brand off the ground when she returned.
“I met the Princess of Ubud who invited me to the pa-lace and took me around the local markets while I was in Bali,” she says. “She taught me various skills that I’ve integrated into my own style of massage. When I got back to France, a friend introduced me to the Franco-Japanese shiatsu association in Paris. In total, I have trained in techniques from eight cultures around the globe: Asia, Oceania, the US, Latin America… All of these experiences have in some way influenced my style. I no longer try to recreate Balinese or Japanese massage. I’m trying to present something unique and wholesome that brings fitness, massage, cuisine and even psychology together.”
When Laetitia first arrived in the south of France in the months following her return, she worked with a Scottish-Irish family that resided in the region. Four hours a day were dedicated to their wellness needs, ranging from massage to sports, while her remaining ‘free time’ allowed her to start building a client base. Laetitia freely admits that it remains small, but she likes it that way.
“I’m not so interested in people who are just going along with the times and see wellness as a trend. I prefer to get to know my clients and their lifestyles on a deeper level so that I can truly understand their needs. I would much rather work with people who want to make meaningful change rather than the superficial. I’m an advocate for beauty from the inside out, and healing from the inside out.”
Alongside her regular clients, Laetitia is always available for clients of the golf club (a course designed by the legendary Harry Colt). Members receive 15% off her treatments and she’s even developed a specialist golfer’s massage to combat the stresses of the sport: €80 for 45 minutes.
“A great number of my clients are expats,” she continues, in fluent English. “There seems to be so much open-mindedness towards holistic and alternative treatments among the international community.”
All of the ingredients and products she uses have been carefully selected for their ethical and environmentally-friendly attributes. She treats Riviera Insider to a clean-sing exfoliation (Rituel Signature: €210 for two hours and 15 minutes) and reviving massage (Massage Signature:€95 for an hour), which both utilise seasonal produce of spring in the French Riviera: grapefruit, lemon and mimosa. Her approach is intuitive and connective – “We work together to accurately define your massage…” –and with ingredients such as aloe vera, kiwifruit and roucou oil, many of her treatments are entirely vegan. The recipes are always changing: “Bali taught me to take inspiration from what was around me.”
*Originally published in the #178 edition of Riviera Insider as part of the Health & Wellness dossier