Marbella is best known as a party destination, but after my week at the Buchinger Wilhelmi outpost on the Mediterranean, I will forever associate the Spanish city with relaxation and refreshment.
The original Buchinger Wilhelmi spa was founded in Überlingen, Germany in 1953 by Otto Buchinger, the inventor of medical therapeutic fasting. Otto's daughter Maria opened the Spanish outpost in 1973, and it is still run by the family today, with Katharina Rohrer-Zaiser and Victor Wilhelmi taking over in 2017.
A longtime fan of the Überlingen clinic, I finally got the chance to visit the Marbella location this spring. I was feeling rundown after a cold winter, my neck and jaw constantly ached and work had been non-stop - it was time for a reboot.
The diet regime can seem strict - the Buchinger meal plan prescribes tea and a small pot of honey for breakfast, soup and a juice for lunch and soup for supper - but there is flexibility. I am allowed coffee for my blood pressure (and because I'm addicted and would be climbing the walls without it), and there is also the option of calorie-controlled menus using fresh fruit and vegetables from the clinic's personal organic farm.
A team of jolly nurses and charming doctors are always there keeping tabs on patients and ensuring everyone is happy. The stay begins with a round of blood tests to work out what might be ailing and which diet plan would work best, followed by daily check ups to ensure progress is positive. The first two days are a bit tough, adapting to the change of pace and diet, but the hunger pangs soon fade.
I book some additional treatments to sort out individual aches and pains. The shiatsu is wonderfully relaxing, as is the cranial massage which eases out my sore jaw. The underwater massage is a revelation - I'm dunked into a warm bath of seaweed and sprayed with a hot hose from beneath the surface. I walk out feeling euphoric.
Filling the time between meals could not be easier. With its white minimalist architecture and landscaped gardens, the Buchinger Wilhelmi Marbella outpost feels far more like a luxury hotel than a health clinic. Days are spent around the beautiful pool, reading on the loungers draped in chic blue and white striped towels, or strolling through grounds abundant with bougainvillea and palm trees. There are regular water aerobics classes, walks, yoga, visits to the organic farm and the Saturday flea market, a fully equipped gym and a lovely shop.
I arrived at the Marbella clinic raddled and full of aches and pains. I leave 4kg lighter, sleeping well, my body soothed and rested. The combination of an effective fasting regime, excellent medical care, long days in the sun, rest, reading and time away from the frenetic pace of London has reset not just my body but my whole frame of mind, readying me for the busy summer ahead.