Inspired by Dr Zeuss and the long weeks of confinement, I have been taking imaginary trips to all the places I hope to see soon. From small museums to wide-open spaces, from restaurants and wineries to eclectically curated shops and perfectly balanced buildings, this weekly series is a journey around the world in search of the cultural must-sees, the one-of-a-kind destinations for the ultimate art lover, food finder, and off-the-beaten-path traveller.
Sitting halfway between Limoges and Angoulême, near the town of Massignac, is a haven nothing short of extraordinary. Nature, comfort, food and art are all united here to create the perfect blend of relaxation and enrichment of mind and body, with a dash of indulgence. My weekly trip around the world starts in France at what looks like the retreat of dreams, the Domaine des Etangs.
My bag packed full of summer dresses, in my dreams I start leisurely walking around and exploring the several buildings that form the complex: all absolutely charming, with the earliest parts dating back to the 11th century when the place was built as a home to the knights of Chasteignier de la Roche-Posay. Le Domaine kept its magic for centuries, but it was Didier Primat, the French businessman, who purchased the buildings and the surrounding thousand hectares in 1980, and started its renaissance. For years, it was the Primat summer home, until Garance Primat, Didier’s daughter, turned Les Etangs into a hotel cum natural retreat, complete with on-site contemporary art gallery. And thank God for that!
For months I’ve been dreaming of arriving at this place, deciding what to do first. I can picture myself taking a leisurely boat ride in one of the larger ponds (Etangs, meaning ponds, from which the Domaine gets its name), and then, after several naps and pampering sessions at the spa, purpose-build in a restored mill, I spend my afternoon at La Laiterie, the Domaine’s art gallery.
The Dragonfly Collection, the name of Garance’s contemporary art collection, is exhibited throughout the Domain, alongside rotating exhibitions throughout the year featuring a wide range of artists and practices from Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Keifer, Olga de Amaral, Yves Klein, to name but a few.
And while art does nourish the soul, at Les Etangs our stomachs are also taken care of in the Michelin-starred kitchen where local produce and regional delicacies become the stars of every dish.
While art lovers might find it difficult to move too far from the gallery, the activities at the Domaine are too tempting to pass up. I see myself taking a tour of the farm and the vegetable garden before lunch and after a well-deserved nap in my beautiful suite, I take a quick swim in the pool before it’s time for my carefully selected wine tasting and dinner.
If I haven’t convinced you already, here’s the pièce de résistance: for the retail lovers and shopaholics, the Domain also has a curated selection of products from the region and exquisite objects of desire from ceramics, cognacs, crockery, to clothing and stationery so you can take a piece of this bit of paradise home and make the spell last just a little longer.
Like all imaginary trips, this one doesn’t need to end, but rather materialise. Until then, a glass of cognac or two in the beautiful glasses I’m about to purchase, will have to suffice.
An enchanted world of its own, I bet you also can’t wait to get lost in this heavenly paradise hoping you’ll never want to leave.
Oh the places we’ll go – Summary:
Domaine des Etangs is for you if:
1) Have a love for nature, comfort, but also can’t be too far away from contemporary art
2) Dream of living in an 11th century chateau
3) Wonder what it would be like to be pampered and massaged in an old flour mill
4) Want space to unwind, and taking a boat out on the pond
5) Wine, al fresco eating, and world-class dinners are a requirement of life
About the writer:
Leslie Ramos is an art historian and founder of ArtEater, an independent consultancy for philanthropists, not-for-profits, and artists. Based in London, she has built effective philanthropic fundraising strategies, as well as strong development planning, for clients around the world. Leslie is also completing her Doctorate in Contemporary Latin American Art at the University of Cambridge and is passionate about art, food and travelling… in no particular order.