The Chenot – life and light in Azerbaijan

    2 January 2019

    It’s that time of year again. Waistlines are stretching to sizes hitherto unknown. Livers are quivering. Purses are empty. The New Year looms.

    The best – in fact, the only – cure is sobriety. Abstinence. Early evenings etc. I don’t know about you, but I find such a concept fairly unappealing: watching the clock tick slowly into February. Where to go? What to do? The answer is simple: look no further than the Chenot Palace Health Wellness Hotel in Gabala, Azerbaijan.

    The Chenot is undoubtedly riding the crest of the wave of famous health and wellness retreats that have started cropping up across the globe: first in Austria, then Thailand, India, Spain and Bali. Named after biontologist (strictly speaking, this is the study of ‘life’ and ‘light’) Henri Chenot, the hotel overlooks the Nohur Lake in the north of the country. Rumour has it that Mr Chenot was flying in his helicopter over the mountainous landscape when he caught sight of the plot of land, and decided to plonk his Wellness Hotel in the middle of the view.

    The hotel itself is quite something: it resembles a vast ski chalet, and at its foot lies a 007 infinity pool. In fact, everything about The Chenot Hotel would give Bond a run for his money: from the bullet-proof shutters to the private villas with coach houses for security. There is, quite literally, no aspect of your physical comfort that hasn’t been considered: in fact, a visit to the Chenot will smack you with surprising discoveries about aspects of your lifestyle that you didn’t realise required attention – a remarkable feat in the deepest darkest corners of Azerbaijan.

    Aside from the fluffy towels, the Moroccan spas, the ‘non-intrusive surgery’ available and the personalised room temperatures, the Chenot is based on science. The word ‘holistic’ is overused, and I wasn’t convinced it really meant anything, but this is the approach proudly adopted by the directors of the Chenot. The idea, in simple terms, is as follows: the Chenot does not treat illness or cure disease. Instead, it adopts the ‘Chenot method’ which dictates that there are four aspects of life that we can monitor, to optimise our health and wellbeing: environmental, financial, physical and emotional. Dr George Gaitanos, managing director, tells me that according to the Chenot method, ‘there is no reason why someone aged 70 cannot play football as well as someone aged 17.’ (He also informs me that the same can be said for sexual performance and I’m not sure if this is encouragement or a warning.)

    So how do you go about this? Detox, nourish and re-energise. And what does this mean? Detox – we know about. Nourish is, I found, the most interesting. Medical professionals at The Chenot will tell you that your body performs certain functions at certain times of day. For example, at night, your body regenerates. The restricted calorie diet is designed according to the body’s natural processes: for example, at night, you are fed a protein-only meal to encourage regeneration. Menu choices include broccoli burger on parsley root puree and aioli sauce, or spelt lasagne with pumpkin and mushroom for lunch, both of which sound much heartier than they appear. Meals, I’m told, are based around negative PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load) to protect cells and structural proteins from acid and oxidative stress, and are designed to stimulate metabolic efficiency, which they certainly do: I succeed in losing 1lb a day during my stay.

    Daily treatments include mud baths, hydrotherapy and massage: all of which are very welcome and brilliantly executed. The hotel staff are absolutely fantastic, but, it emerges, are accustomed to looking after the oligarchs, presidents, and James Bonds of this world. All in all, a stay at the Chenot comes highly recommended: the science is at times confusing, but you undoubtedly leave feeling rested and rejuvenated. Much like Dr Gaitanos explains: ‘imagine a piano, and each key is a gene. Here at The Chenot we are trying to tune the genes so they play a nice melody.’ And indeed, I leave, ready for Handel.