Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel in Puerto Vallarta offers 65 percent discount

Boutique hotel Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel, located in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica, is offering 65% discounts on their standard rates, valid on any future reservation for bookings through April 30.

Dates are 100% flexible, meaning if you book a specific travel date but need to change it, there will be no issue. Dates can be changed as many times as needed with no penalty.

To book, visit their website and use the promo code PVLOVERS.

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Visitation revenue up in Hawaii prior to pandemic lockdown

New data released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority shows visitors to Hawaii in February and visitor revenue both increased in comparison to February 2019. 

While travel had started to slow due to the spread of Covid-19, Hawaii did not implement strict measures to resist the spread of the disease until mid-March, and tourism continued much as usual through February.

Spending by Hawaii visitors in February totaled $1.46 billion, a nearly 5% increase compared to a year prior. Even with the extra day in February 2020 compared to February 2019, the average spend per day rose 1%.

There were an average of 250,052 visitors on the Islands on any given day in February, a half-percentage point higher than the average daily census for February 2019. Visitation from the U.S. West and U.S East were up 10% and 8% respectively, while visitation and total spend from Japan, Canada and all other international markets declined.

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Health and wellbeing in Provence – looking to the future – A Luxury Travel Blog

Under normal circumstances, many of us would choose to visit a beautiful place like Provence to enjoy some rest and rejuvenation in order to improve our Health & Wellbeing. In the midst of today’s Coronavirus pandemic, health concerns are an order of magnitude more serious. Whilst travel plans for the immediate future have been put on hold, it’s important that we stay positive and look forward to the coming months when hopefully the Coronavirus epidemic will be behind us. Perhaps one positive to come out of this crisis will be that people take more time to look after what is really important… their health. And there is no reason why health and travel have to be separated.

Even prior to the Coronavirus outbreak authentic and wholesome experiences were replacing traditional holiday getaways. ABTA reported that more people than ever are seeking new ways to alleviate stress, reduce illness and boost wellbeing. We’re even acknowledging men’s mental health. Women are striving to be strong, not skinny. Now nourishing, not starving. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that more and more are taking advantage of the wellness preferences across Provence. From healthy hikes to serene spas and wholesome cafes, the global wellness market is now worth more than double general tourism. Best of all, France is far more accessible than heading to the Himalayas to douse ourselves in holy potions.

Provence sees health, not as a trend, but something that is passed down through generations and this is sure to continue in the future. Yet even traditional, elegant and understated Aix sees transformation stirring. Social media has energized the town. For instance, you can now easily find a yoga instructor, through Instagram. Guests of Provence often seek experiences to rejuvenate, heal and gain self-confidence; as well as wanting to totally disconnect from the hectic pace of life at home and work. Often with a digital detox.

Eating according to the seasons is obligatory in Provence as everything comes from either the garden or the market. The French always treat their meals as sit-down affairs. You will never see anyone eating on the run. Yet in contrast to the purist discipline of wellness, the Provence way is all about moderation rather than abstaining. The French are firm believers that less is more.

So, when the world returns to some semblance of normality, we hope you are able to find the time to take an extremely well deserved holiday and one that fully refreshes both your body and mind. Hope is incredibly important in times like these and to help give you something to daydream about I’ve listed just a few wellness activities you could choose to enjoy in the future here in Provence. But of course, these activities are not limited to Provence and perhaps will give you some ideas on ways you can look after yourself even during these testing times.

Hiking in Provence

Trekking up the positive Provençal trails is the preferred alternative to standard gym workouts. The combination of physical exercise and mental relaxation is exhilarating.

Take a picnic or simply just meander to smell the wonderful wild herbs. Marching up the limestone mountain ridge of Montagne Sainte-Victoire from the hamlet Saint Antonin is a popular trail. As if you needed any more persuasion, this mountain was a source of inspiration for both Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso.

We’re all being advised to limit our contact with others, but in most countries there has been a recognition that some exercise is important. Well, a walk around your local park might not quite be like hiking in the Calanques but none-the-less it offers a welcome change of scenery, some fresh air and hopefully a burst of sunlight.

Fresh-pressed juice

Juice bars are increasingly squeezing up against the traditional pavement cafés. Juice Lab on Rue Nazareth, Aix-en-Provence are known to discontinue certain blends if they cannot serve them perfectly fresh.

They have post-workout wake-up juices, and their avocado toast is a firm favourite for a quick bite. In typical Provencal style, they alter their menu according to which fruit and vegetables are available. At the moment, fresh fruit and veg may be in short supply or perhaps you have stockpiled some that are now looking a bit past their best… well juicing or blending them is the ideal way of using these up. It’s a delicious way to enjoy fruit and vegetables whilst also giving you a great hit of vitamins.

Rosé at sunset

It is criminal to visit Provence without savouring their distinctly world class wine. And it tastes best being sipped at sunset and al fresco.

Casual, light and easy is the manner in which it is served, together with how it should be enjoyed. But why wait until you get to Provence? If possible, keep a couple of bottles of Rosé in the fridge to enjoy at home. Even without the sunset, Rosé can make you feel like you’re on holiday regardless!

Relaxing baths

Baths are the best remedy to relax and detox as they create a moment to slow down our hectic routines. Infuse your bath with muscle relaxing salts from the Camargue region or bath oils with sweet soothing orange blossom. The French will often then immerse into icy waters in antique tin tubs. Incredibly anti-inflammatory, and definitely relaxing!

And at times like these why skimp… put the hot water on and run yourself a deep luxurious bath to enjoy at home.

Spa treatments

Local spas house aestheticians who blend local essential and plant-based oils. These ingredients will be freshly mixed and immersed into your skin through calming facials that are like no other. Here are a few suggestions for you to try:

27, Rue Mazarine

This is a city spa, so there are no landscaped gardens or outside pools. Utterly divine, it retains a heavenly cosy atmosphere as it’s entirely underground. Centrally located in Aix, it has a beautiful pool and several massage rooms, as well as a sauna. Furthermore, it’s one of the few places in the region that you’ll find key make up brands (such as Laura Mercier). It’s where the ladies that lunch congregate before lunch. The ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle.

Thermes Sextius

The Thermes Sextius in the centre of Aix en Provence is built on the site of the old Roman Baths. It enjoys its own unique water source down to 80 metres in depth which is naturally kept at 33°C. Now a major hydrotherapy centre, it is established as a celebrated place to unwind on holiday. A blissful place to submerge in the baths or float away during a massage.

Les Lodges Health Spa

Les Lodges is a relatively new spa to the area having been built in the last few years. Found situated on the beautiful winding road that runs under the Sainte Victoire mountain, in between Aix en Provence and the charming village of Le Tholonet. It has one indoor and one outdoor pool, and a series of treatment rooms. The atmosphere is cool, calm and completely marvellous.

And whilst a trip to the Spa is off the cards at the moment, a pampering session at home always lifts the spirits. Now is the time to use the lotions and potions that get given as gifts that many of us store carefully away but never have time to use!

Previously, those seeking ‘well-being’ were people with a lot of free time. However, today most wellness consumers are decision-makers, with very limited time. Time has become much more valuable than money. Happiness is essentially the secret ingredient to health and wellness. Nowadays, as the majority of holidaymakers value their mental and physical health more, they invest more in holidays that work with their bodies and minds, rather than against them. As opposed to ‘escaping’ life, today’s tourists are looking for a beautiful environment with delicious nourishing food, healthy activities and sparkling sea views to increase their happiness.

I’m sure we all yearn for a return to times where we can freely travel and this epidemic is a distant memory. Until then, do take the best possible care of yourself.

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President Trump confident in cruise ship cleanliness

President Trump said he has confidence in the cleanliness of
cruise ships that have been offered by Carnival Corp. to serve as hospitals for
non-coronavirus patients.  

His comments came during a White House press briefing on Friday
after a reporter asked if he worried that cruise ships have frequently
contacted surfaces that could carry the virus. 

“I can tell you they’re very clean and also those surfaces,
the germs, you know, the virus disappears over a period of time,” he said. “And
the ships are very clean. They’ve been kept very clean. They’ve been gone

Carnival said on Thursday that it would make available
select ships from its brands — including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America
Line, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia — to be used as temporary
hospitals for non-coronavirus patients to free up space for land-based
hospitals to treat those with the virus. 

Trump has already ordered two Navy hospital ships to be
deployed, one to New York and one somewhere on the West Coast. 

Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison personally
extended the offer, Trump said. 

“He said If we need ships for helping people, that Carnival
would be absolutely willing to help us in Los Angeles, in New York, wherever it
may be, in Miami where they are very big,” Trump said. “If we needed something,
they would be willing to. So far, we haven’t need to.” 

The reputation of the cruise industry has come under attack
as a few ships have had passengers or crew members test positive for
coronavirus. In many instances, those ships were left to drift at sea as ports
turned them away for fear of taking in infected people. Some cruise ships, many
of them without any coronavirus-infected people, are still searching for ports
to disembark. These ships were already at sea when the industry agreed last
week to pause operations for 30 days.

Cruise industry executives have said they follow strict
protocols to clean and sanitize ships during and after every sailing.

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Airlines Ponder Moves in Wake of European Travel Ban

Airlines are scrambling this morning in the wake of President Trump’s announcement Wednesday night enacting a 30-day travel ban on flights from 26 European countries to the U.S. to stem the growth of the COVID-19 virus.

Delta Air Lines was the first to react, announcing it will waive change fees for passengers traveling to, from or through Europe and the United Kingdom – which was not one of the countries included in the ban – through May 31.

The ban begins Friday, March 13 at midnight.

American citizens are able to fly to the U.S. from Europe but must pass a screening.

Delta said additional details are available on its website.

“The safety and health of our customers and employees is always our highest priority. Delta has and will continue to quickly make adjustments to service, as needed, in response to government travel directives. Details will be shared this week,” the company said in a statement.

As for United and American, Fast Company is reporting that neither had concrete details as of Thursday morning.

A spokesperson for United said, “At this point, all we can say is that we will comply with the administration’s announcement.”

Reached for comment, an American Airlines spokesperson referred the magazine to an announcement on its website stating new entry requirements that will go into effect on March 13, 2020, after 11:59 p.m. ET.

“Any U.S. citizen or lawful U.S. permanent resident returning to the United States who has traveled to one of the Schengen Area countries within the previous 14 days must enter the United States through an approved airport. American Airlines customers will be rebooked, if necessary, to one of those approved airports by our Reservations and Airport teams.”

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Three TSA employees in California test positive for coronavirus

Three employees with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in California tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency confirmed Tuesday.

a close up of a person in a blue shirt: Three TSA employees in California test positive for coronavirus

The employees, who work at Mineta San Jose International Airport in Santa Clara County, and all other workers they came in contact with over the past two weeks are quarantined at home.

“Screening checkpoints remain open and the agency is working with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], as well as the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to monitor the situation as well as the health and safety of our employees and the traveling public. We will update as more information becomes available,” TSA said in a statement.

JUST IN: Three TSA officers at #SanJose Int’l Airport have tested positive for #coronavirus. TSA: “all TSA employees they have come in contact with (them) over the past 14 days are quarantined at home.” #SJC #airtravel.

Full statement:

Santa Clara County has 45 confirmed coronavirus cases, including one death, according to NBC’s Bay Area affiliate.

Along with Washington and New York, California has borne the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak, which has also spread to a litany of other states.

The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassed 1,000 Tuesday. Thirty-one people in the U.S. have died thus far from the virus.

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Top 10 things to see and do in Easter Island – A Luxury Travel Blog

This Chile-governed island, 2,200 miles from mainland South America is arguably the most remote inhabited place in the world and its fascinating history and culture reflects its isolated nature. Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is accessible via a few flights a week from Santiago, Chile and one from Papeete, Tahiti.

The island is most famous for its collection of moai – massive, stone, humanoid megaliths – and around 1000 can be found dotted about the lands and along the coast. The statues were built to represent tribal chiefs or prominent figures when they died. They each have unique features, designed to mimic the appearance of their living counterpart and they sit upon an ‘Ahu’ which is the tomb.

It is thought that eventually the Rapa Nui people moved on from a culture of deified ancestors and looked to a new spiritual direction – a belief in a singular creator god, Make Make. With few reptiles and mammals on such a remote island, the people turned to seabirds for their divine connection and so began the birdman competition, another fascinating piece of history and culture awaiting discovery by curious travellers.

Alongside these intriguing traditions, the island boasts beautiful volcanic landscapes, charming beaches, excellent scuba diving, delicious seafood and boutique resorts.
This enigmatic island has no shortage of things to do and discover, so here’s our top 10:

• Ahu Tongariki
• Anakena Beach
• Rano Kau
• Rano Raraku
• Sebastian Englert Museum
• Tangata Manu
• Traditional Dance Show
• Sunset at Hanga Roa Harbour
• Moai Passport Stamp
• Pukaos at Puna Pau

Ahu Tongariki

An ‘Ahu’ is a sacred ceremonial site where several moai stand and the word can also be used to describe the flat stone that they stand upon. The largest, and probably most popular, Ahu is Ahu Tongariki, a site where you can find 15 of the best-restored moai on the island. In the 20th century, they were swept away by a tsunami. Since then, they have been re-erected to their original positions and they stand proudly before the mountains once more.

Although beautiful at any time of day, we recommend getting there early and watching the sunrise gently between the statues and cast long, striped shadows across the floor. Stick around once the sun comes up to have the place to yourself and some excellent photo opportunities.

Anakena Beach

Within Rapa Nui National Park lies Anakena Beach, a picturesque white coral sand cove home to two Ahus – Ature Huki and Nau Nau. Ahu Ature Huki
Ahu Ature Huki is a single moai which was knocked down in a battle between rival tribes but has now been restored to its original position, overlooking the beach.

Ahu Nau Nau is made up of seven moais who have tattoos carved on their backs. The tattoos remain visible thanks to the moai being buried in sand for around 900 years and the patterns of the tattoos signify tribal allegiances and beliefs.

As well as the Ahus, the beach also has warm, calm waters which are perfect for swimming and many optional activities such as horseback riding, scuba diving and nearby hikes.

Rano Kau

Easter Island’s unique ecosystem and landscapes were formed by its three volcanoes but the most naturally impressive one to visit is Rano Kau. This volcano sits right on the edge of the coast and is the largest volcano on the island. There is a walking path that takes you around the rim of the crater and passes the Rano Kau viewpoint where you can cast your eyes across the crater lagoon, over the towering volcanic walls and out to sea.

From the viewpoint, you can also take a lesser-used path to Vai Atare, a 3-kilometre trail that leads to different viewing angles as well as the crater ‘bite’ – a dip in the crater wall – from which you can see the three Motu inlets and the cliffs where the Birdman Competition was historically held.

Rano Raraku

The draw of Rano Raraku is its incredible archaeological significance, as it is here that the moai found all across the island were made. A unique type of rock, called Lapilli tuff, makes up the volcano and it is this raw material that was used by sculptors to carve the iconic statues and turned the crater into a quarry.

Visitors to Rano Raraku will find 397 finished and unfinished figures dotting the foot of the volcano and lining the south-west slopes of the crater walls. These statues account for almost 40% of the total number of moai on Easter Island.

Sebastian Englert Museum

The only museum on Easter Island is named after German missionary Father Sebastian Englert who spent 30 years extensively documenting the island’s culture, language and legends. Within the museum, there are many preserved artefacts such as obsidian stone tools called matā, the face of a moai with a coral eye and the only female moai.

None of the 27 original Rongo Rongo tablets can be found on the island, as they are all in museums in other parts of the world. However, the Sebastian Englert museum does house some replicas.

The William Mulloy library is also part of the museum and features books, articles, photographs, maps, field notes and more relating to the history, geology and archaeology of Easter Island.

Tangata Manu

Birds had an important role in early Easter Island culture and religion, as it was believed that they had a mystical relationship with the gods and were able to unite the earth, sea and sky. Born from these beliefs, was the Tangata Manu (Birdman) cult.

An annual ritual, in the form of a competition to collect the first manutara (sooty tern) egg of the season would decide who would lead the Rapa Nui people for the coming year. Elders would make a bid for leadership and then select a champion to represent them in the competition.

The chosen champions would then dive down the cliffs of Orongo village, swim over to the Moto Nui inlet and await the season’s first egg. Once an egg was obtained, they had to swim back to the main island, whilst keeping the egg safely strapped to their foreheads and ascend the cliffs back to the village. It is thought that they would also shave their heads and grow their nails to achieve a more bird0-like appearance.

Unsurprisingly, many contestants died during the arduous race, whether it be from shark attack, an unexpected fall or a battle with a rival.

Traditional dance show

Spend an evening engrossed in the lively, cultural throws of a traditional dance show. Music and dancing are an important part of life on Easter Island and the shows give visitors an authentic insight and help to preserve ancient culture.

Dances typically depict scenes of everyday life, both of love and war, and last for around 90 minutes. The performers often get the crowd involved in the dancing, so it’s guaranteed to be a fun and energetic night.

There are several dance groups across the island so there is usually at least one show available each day.

Sunset at Hanga Roa Harbour

Head to Hanga Roa harbour for a great sunset spot. The nearby beach is the perfect place to snorkel in the day, particularly as sea turtles can often be spotted in the waters. As the sun begins to set, adjacent La Kaleta restaurant provides a lovely setting to relax as the sky ignites with colour and offers a fantastic menu filled with delicious Polynesian food.

If you can’t get enough of the moai then head to Ahu Tahai for sunset. A short walk from Hanga Roa harbour, you can watch the sun dip below the horizon behind the shadowed silhouettes of the famous figures.

Get your passport stamped with a moai

Anyone flying into Easter Island from Chile will miss out on the customs passport stamp, as the island politically belongs to Chile. However, you can navigate this omission by visiting the post office in Hanga Roa (opposite Hotel O’tai).

Here, you can get a completely legal passport stamp featuring the iconic moai! It’s certainly one of the most unique and interesting passport stamps you will find.

Pukaos at Puna Pau

Although almost all the moai were sculpted in Rano Raraku, the large redhead accessories, called pukaos or topknots, that can be seen on some of them were carved out of red scoria found at the Puna Pau quarry. Often mistaken for hats, these headpieces are actually topknot hairstyles of the people the statues represent.

Here, you can see the remnants of the quarry and the pukaos that never quite made it to their respective moai.

Hopefully, these highlights of Easter Island will entice you to visit this magical island. These 10 things are just the tip of the iceberg – I left the island feeling that I had barely scratched the surface of understanding the culture and history.

Matt Rushbrooke is Director of Touring & Tailormade at Rainbow Tours.

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Aqua Nera to make debut in October

Aqua Expeditions said it will launch its new Amazon ship in

The Aqua Nera, the company’s second ship on the Peruvian
Amazon, will operate  three-, four- and
seven-night sailings from Iquitos. 

The luxury ship will have 20 cabins, a restaurant, lounge, plunge
pool and gym.

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7 days to fall in love with Auvergne – secret France for soul searchers – A Luxury Travel Blog

Who has not visited and loved at least part of the home-country of Victor Hugo?
You may have travelled Paris or driven through the blue lavender fields of Provence… maybe got excited opening the doors of the Loire Chateaux while (re)discovering the historic time of the great Kings. You may also have descended the slopes of an alpine resort or opened eyes of a child by browsing through the Christmas markets in Alsace. In the end, France has no more secrets for you as an old tourist country.

Listen! There is another France, authentic, volcanic, secret… like a new world. Another France where slowsophy is a lifestyle for contemplation, reading, starlit skies, mountain hiking, wilderness wellness, volcano and bird watching, cheese and good fresh food, wine… as well as secrets of life!

Imagine the vitality and resources of the earth of Auvergne just as secrets whispered exclusively for you! As powerful as lessons of life through this luxury escape, as luxury as essential.

With its winding roads offering an excellent quality road surfacing, magnificent landscapes and a warm welcome, the Auvergne – Secret France – is yours to discover on a vintage road trip. Pure nature to enjoy, possibly from a vintage car that you can rent at the Clermont-Ferrand airport.

Day 1: Enjoy Clermont-Ferrand through its old town and Puy de Dôme, a volcano which is to Auvergne what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Its 1,465 meter high-summit looks out over the Chaîne des Puys (lately listed in the UNESCO World Heritage) and the 365° view from up there is simply breathtaking.

Secret number 1: Auvergne is a (non) destination where you can reconnect with pure emotions.

Day 2: Discover Volvic and get to know how the stone is used in Auvergne. Then enjoy Chateaugay and its vineyards. Wine is also among the great surprises the region will you provide you with, unexpectedly.

Day 3: Orcival is among the most prestigious Romanesque churches in Auvergne… rough country designed for the Roman intimate expression. Murol, known for its school of painters and its castle is another Must-stop on the road down to Cantal, as well as is Saint-Nectaire, the land where the famous cheese comes from.

Looked over by its no less famous Romanesque church, Saint-Nectaire is also well-known for the volcanic waters that pour through its galleries while its underground caves are also worth visiting. A stroll through the small town of Besse is among these simple pleasures of life. You will love its little alleyways, which are almost intact reminders of what used to go on here during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Driving through the Cézallier plateau at sunset is to remain unforgettable. Montgreleix, La Godivelle… in a secret and unharnessed natural environment, Cézallier is among these powerful names that invoke the spirit of roaming and freedom, as Lapland, Patagonia or the Atlas do… a land of wide open spaces of incredible beauty, nestled far off in the Massif Central, the green heart of France. Here and there, Salers red cows with their long horns add a Far West flavour to the postcard.

Secret number 2: Here is a land where you can re-establish those bio-links with the Earth and sky.

Day 4: Bird-watching is on the programme today from the birds observatory by Lac du Pêcher (a mountain poetic lake in the Pinatelle forest, that is a corridor for migrating birds). Contemplation is at its best in Spring and Autumn.

Secret number 3: Contemplation is a way to replenish with eternity.

Day 5: On the road again… today will offer you certainly the best viewpoint of the Auvergne you may get from your road trip. Pas de Peyrol, on the way to Puy Mary, is definitely a place for a long break, whether it should be for a meal at the summit restaurant – unless you stop on the road at a “buron” (one of these old mountain pasture farms where Salers cheese used to be produced – a few of them still remain). Then, you may wish to opt for a bit of sport with a climb up to the Puy Mary or rather feel like spending a bit of time contemplating from the Route des Crêtes. Because contemplation is part of Auvergne philosophy – as you’ve probably understood through its slowsophy.

Col de Néronne offers other impressive and vertiginous images. Note that when discovering Puy Mary and its valleys from the top, you will get to know a totally different type, much more ancient, of volcanism from Puy de Dôme.

Medieval Salers, ranked among “France’s most beautiful villages”, is one of the true wonders of Auvergne and an un-missable step on the way down to Aurillac.

Day 6: Discover Aurillac, lying on the banks of the Jordanne river. Capital town of the Cantal department, it is full of small colourful quarters, welcoming terraces and courtyards… so far away from its reputation of coldest town in France.

Day 7: On the way back to Clermont-Ferrand, you may wish to stop at Murat, Blesle or
Montpeyroux, three charming towns on the Via Arverna, ancient track to Santiago de Compostella. Issoire with its impressive Abbatiale Saint-Austremoine is another possible stop on the road.

Secret number 4: This is an area where you can feel the silence and get connected with your higher self.

Ready to have Auvergne on your radar in 2020? Away from the destinations that are saturated under the pretext that they are to be visited; off the beaten track, the land of Auvergne is a (non) destination that touches the soul and reveals your deep essence of human. A territory to live more than see or “do”, “travel”, into action.

Laurence Costa is Co-founder of “instants d’Absolu” Ecolodge & Spa. “instants d’Absolu” Ecolodge & Spa is a secret luxury retreat in the Auvergne wilderness of France.

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