Inside the Californian detox retreat where the 1% recover after a solid week of debauchery in the de
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Cooling down from Burning Man: Inside the Californian detox retreat where the 1% recover after a solid week of debauchery in the desert Cal-a-Vie is a health retreat in San Diego, popular with post-party revellers from Nevada's Burning Man Celebrity devotees include Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Ford, among others A three-day stay costs $4,550 (£3,435) plus tax per person, including food, fitness and spa treatments Burning Man - the legendary week-long festival in Nevada's desert wasteland - has just wrapped for another year, and many will still be licking their wounds. For the lucky one percent, that means jetting straight off to the lap of luxury at a health spa for a much-needed detox and some peace and quiet. I was lucky enough last week, following my first voyage to Burning Man, to follow their footsteps inside one such retreat, Cal-a-Vie, nestled away in the hills of California's San Diego. Cal-a-Vie has hosted stars including Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Ford among many others - and it's easy to see the draw. It's a sprawling luxury compound, with 32 private villas and a 5:1 staff to guest ratio; set on 200 private acres in Vista, just north of San Diego, and offering a tailored three-day fitness and nutrition program for each individual. I arrived at 11pm, my hair white with desert dust, exhausted from a solid week of dancing my way around the desert, my ears still ringing and my liver pleading for mercy. It was quite embarrassing really. I kept dropping things and bumping into door frames in a shambolic fashion, but the graceful staff kindly pretended this was normal. Burning Man, while one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my life thus far, is certainly not kind to the human body. It's boiling hot during the day, with corrosive alkaline dust that clings to every part of you, and freezing cold at night, during which time not much sleep happens. Fresh food is a rarity but alcohol plentiful - I survived on a diet almost entirely consisting of instant noodles, Nutri-Grain bars and tequila. Basically, I was the ideal candidate for a good fixing. On my first morning, following a long slumber on what might be the most comfortable bed on the planet (memory foam, Frette sheets), I am presented with a jam-packed printed schedule of the day ahead. To my horror, this includes no less than four exercise classes; yoga, kickboxing, weight training and barre. I am also asked to let my scheduling chief, Michelle, know how much weight I'm hoping to lose so that my meals can be modified by calorie count. Ideally, I sheepishly explain, I would like to consume as much delicious food as possible even if it renders me fat, and to move around as little as possible. To my immense relief, this isn't boot camp, and I am free to recover in whichever way I see fit. This involves a drop of red wine from Cal-a-Vie's very own vineyard (sorry liver), long leisurely strolls, dips in the pool, and plenty of alone time. My fitness classes - the resort boasts a catalogue of more than 125 options - are hastily replaced with spa treatments; hydrotherapy, a hair and scalp treatment, a facial, and a massage every day. 'Hydrotherapy', as I discovered, is essentially a glorified bath, something I hadn't enjoyed in quite a while. I can't rate the massages in detail because on every occasion I was lulled almost instantly into unconsciousness for the entire 50 minutes, but take that as a testament to their effectiveness. I left feeling purged of toxins and as though I was walking on air. My facial was the definite highlight; performed by a charming woman called Georgeta Huculeci who not only brightened up my desert-ravished complexion but was also extremely interesting to talk to. I did find my way to one yoga class, advertised as being 'gentle', and was fortunate enough to be the only one there, which meant an impromptu private lesson with an instructor who managed - where none have before - to provide an enjoyable experience, not a difficult and disheartening one. Having lived in a confined space with three of my friends at Burning Man for seven days, solitude was what I felt like, and I got that in spades. There were around ten other guests gliding around in their dressing gowns, sipping green juice and looking very pleased with themselves, but everyone seemed to keep to themselves. All my meals - delicious, healthy, with fresh vegetables from the resort's garden - were served to me in my 400-square-foot villa; although my less antisocial fellow guests enjoyed their lunches on a blissful sunny veranda, and their dinners in the elaborate dining room. What separates Cal-a-Vie from most other American health retreats, for me, was its very un-American French/Tuscan decor. It's hard to imagine, while you're there, that you aren't in the Mediterranean. Every single piece of antique furniture was flown in from Europe by the owners Terri and John Havens.