“The Incas would spend hours looking up at the stars. Astronomy was a hugely important part of their civilisation and religion. Nowadays, in our modern world, we hardly spend any time appreciating our sky. We are so busy with our daily lives and our gadgets and distractions.”
He was right, our guide in Cusco, Peru, just six weeks ago, as he shared his passion for the subject on a stargazing experience that we had booked onto. The accuracy of his simple observation struck me. I delved into the memory archives to recall the last time I had paused to admire the night sky. It was true, I had gushed praise for many a molten sunset over the years and more than one plump moon had followed me along my voyage from angsty teenager to life-loving career woman; but when was the last time I proactively decided to extend my neck and gaze upwards?
I was stumped. Cocooned in our man made bubbles, we so rarely pause to absorb the magnitude of the galaxies that surround us and in a city like my own, the smog and the pollutants that we generate are sure to cloud them anyway.
Only a fortnight later, however, I would find myself in an entirely different bubble. I would finally fix my gaze above, resting supine on lime green, marshmallow-like cushions, staring in a 180 degree arc from left to right through a transparent sphere in the French countryside.
A Tinggly Ultimate Collection Gift Experience
Nestled away in a forested area close to the small town of Allauch in Southern France, lurk five bubbles. Five bubbles and a handful of tree houses to be precise but it was the Zen Bubble that was home to my best friend and I, as we arrived at Attrap Reves to sample one of the Tinggly ultimate collection gift experience packages. 13 years after we had last travelled abroad together (a statistic that neither one of us is proud of,) we arrived at our bubble, bringing the last of the Marseilles daylight with us. We were greeted firstly by a delightful host, who helped to get us settled in and secondly, by a Buddha who waited at the entrance to our cosy, round capsule.
Our host felt more like an old friend than a member of staff, grabbing us some mineral water after our journey, whilst reminding us to revel in these precious tranquil moments to catch up properly and enjoy the best of Mother Nature’s offerings. Possibly the best advert of all for the place was when she declared “first a guest and now my job.” Truly inspired by her own stay at the bubble “hotel”, she soon left the less personable chain hotel roles to work in this family run setting – “much more personal and charming” she declared.
No arguments from us.
Attrap Reves Bubble Capsule Hotel
I call it a hotel in a loose sense of the world for in actual fact, this is a glamping experience in the woods – but glamping at its most magical. Flying into Marseilles and driving to Attrap Reves is no doubt the most straightforward mode of arrival but keen to avoid the bother of a car, we had a very straightforward public transport journey from Marseilles with a brief Metro ride from the centre of the city, followed by a short Uber journey at the other end.
We were promised seclusion and it was delivered. Each bubble is tucked away somewhere remote – there are no clear signs highlighting the whereabouts of each one so unless you intentionally set out to spy on fellow guests (which would be more than a little creepy,) there should be no reason why your privacy would be compromised. With those fears alleviated, my next princess apprehension was about the bathroom situation.
I am all for quirky accommodation but a private bathroom is my first world vice and once again, this was delivered at Attrap Reves with each bubble allocated its own private bathroom, complete with hot showers, flushing toilets and shampoo. (Do bring your own soap though, as this was the one lacking amenity that I would have liked to have seen.)
Naturally, within the confines of a see-through bubble, a bathroom is hardly practical but just behind the communal dining and check in cabin, lie the dedicated private bathrooms for which guests are given the key for the duration of the stay.
After our welcome tour of Attrap Reves was complete, it was time to enter the bubble but not before we took a few dozen photographs (from a few dozen angles.) It turns out that hanging around outside being snap happy whilst sporting bare legs in a forest at dusk isn’t the best plan; 12 insect bites later, I realised this.
Thankfully, they have thought of everything here and there were 2 cans of bug spray in the cabin waiting for us. Rule number one (and arguably the most important rule of all) is never to unzip the inner part of the bubble until you’ve fully closed up the outer zip. Something to do with pressures and physics that goes well above my head but let’s just say that if you get this wrong, you will deflate your abode! I needed reminding many a time 😊
With a couple of hours to spare before dinner, we crept into the bubble, perched on our miniature chairs, lazed around on our low-lying bed and marvelled at our surroundings. The coral glow of the early evening illuminated our pod with layers of towering foliage overarching. We thought back to the 5 star hotels we have previously experienced, the big name properties and the painful price tags that so often accompany them. The comparisons were inevitable.
Somehow, we had found ourselves surrounded by lush greenery at a property that lent panoramic views through a globe; our evening agenda consisted entirely of dinner in a rustic cabin, a private outdoor hot tub in the woods and a night of stargazing from our “hotel room.” People travel thousands of miles and fork out thousands of pounds for cherished experiences like this and we had found it just a couple of hours away from home with a far more affordable price tag. Stellar example of how money can’t buy magic, stellar both literally and metaphorically since our entire evening would be spent gazing at starry constellations.
Aware that a stay at the bubble hotel isn’t flush with additional activities, we had loaded our Kindles but these barely got a second look because for the first time in an years, we finally had an open forum, in which to talk and I mean, really sincerely talk. The bestie and I see each other quite often at home but two-hour dinners snuck in between childcare, meetings or clinics barely give us a moment to chat about anything beyond weekend plans and work rants. I treasure these meet ups, don’t get me wrong, but that quality time to really connect, to talk for hours, to reminisce and to admit our fears and joys, is a luxury incompatible with the busy lives we lead at home. Here, in this open woodland, however, we lived it and breathed it.
With their double beds, romantic elusive qualities and on site private jacuzzi, these bubbles were made for canoodling couples. It’s the stuff of honeymoons and proposals and when we first booked this trip, we had a big chuckle about just that. But in truth, the two of us have been chatting and travelling with each other long before we ever did with the men in our lives and so, escaping to this rural retreat was just as much in order for two old friends in need of a time out from real life.
Dinner at Attrap Reves
Once the sun finally went down for the night, we made our way over to dinner. Those coming with a car may wish to head to a restaurant in Allauch but if you are only staying one night, I highly recommend eating at Attrap Reves itself. The meals need to be pre-ordered and are made in advance ready to be heated up whenever you want them, since there is no restaurant on site.
Upon arrival, your dinner boxes are shown to you in the fridge, each stored in a sweet wooden box with the name of your bubble (“bulle”) attached. We chose from an array of meal options, which included 2 or 3 courses and even a cheese course. ust let them know in advance regarding dietary requirements. Unfortunately, they have rules about not bringing your own dinner into the property, which I found strange considering that their on site dinner is optional not compulsory but in truth, once the evening chill kicked in, it proved quite comforting to have a hot meal in the cabin.
If you have a penchant for a glass of wine or bubbles with your vacation dining, you needn’t lose out here with a fridge stocked full of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages that guests simply help themselves to and sign out for to be charged at check out. Similarly, if you do get peckish in the early hours and can brave the mosquitoes between your bubble and the kitchen, an array of snacks are available to grab at any time of day.
Fully aware that the meal was pre-made, we weren’t expecting Michelin cuisine but with that in mind, the main course did the job without complaints and the chocolate dessert was so decadent that neither one of us could finish it.
A Jacuzzi in the Woods
Our package came with a private jacuzzi experience and guests can sign up to a time of their choosing upon arrival. The hot tub operates by night and we were given a coin token to use the jacuzzi during our slot. No other guests are signed up during that slot, again ensuring total privacy and an utterly unique, special experience. Although the cabin is in the middle of a forest, the jacuzzi itself is sheltered and in the cold of night, being shrouded in a blanket of warm, massaging bubbles was nothing short of blissful. I live life in the pursuit of pinch-me moments and this, I was sure, was one of them.
It might sound obvious but do not forget your swimsuit! I say this not to patronise you but because one of us did and one of us almost did! It pays to pack light for a visit to the bubble and you certainly don’t need to fret about dress codes here but dont pack light at the expense of your swimsuit. The property also has a pool and sun loungers, although we didn’t see this in use during our stay.
Stargazing at Attrap Reves
With our appetites satiated in the dining cabin, our aches and pains soothed in the hot tub, all that remained was a visual feast for the eyes in the form of the ultimate evening entertainment. In a star-studded Saturday night display that would involve lights, camera and action, we got into our pyjamas and stared at the stars for almost two hours.
Shooting stars crossed my vision for the first time in my life, my heart leaping as they danced past me, disappearing in an instant, forcing me to question my own imagination. The sky was a black canvas, utterly blasted with shimmering constellations. I tried hard to recognise the patterns we had been taught on the stargazing experience in Cusco. Lambasted by the thousands of stars surrounding me, I struggled to identify them. My camera soon retired for the night.
Astronomy photography is a genius kind of skill, not one that I could educate you on and some of nature’s best visual feasts are best left to the biological eye. At least that was how we chose to enjoy it, particularly after the two of us seemed incapable of working the telescope. All guests are given a telescope per bubble to use for the duration of the stay with a demonstration of how to use it and despite this seeming relatively straightforward, it was the one moment I wished Pumpkin could have been there, not just to rescue me from my telescope tardiness (!) but also because I know how much he relished the close up view of the moon he had seen through telescopes in Cusco, Peru a mere fortnight earlier.
“Good night” we wished each other, as my BFF rolled over and fell into a slumber. I lay awake refusing to remove my glasses, an action I knew would instantaneously transform the sharp-edged stars into a blurry mess of dust in my eyes. Another hour later, I finally shut those eager eyes, mostly feeling grateful but secretly wishing on one last shooting star.
Accustomed to city lives, we had set our alarms to have us ready for our daily dose of French croissants but our phone alarmd were made redundant once morning had broken, filling our capsules with a crisp dawn light. We were unsure how well we would sleep in our eccentric, fully transparent home but neither one of us stirred (not knowingly anyway,) which was testament to how much the peace of this place had sunk into our hearts and our bones.
A Delightful Breakfast at the Bubble
Whilst dinner is taken in the main cabin and in-house rules prohibit guests from dining in their bubbles, breakfasts can happily be taken on the private patio outside each bubble and we decided to make the most of our final morning at the bubble by doing just that. We had already been asked at check in the approximate time that we wanted breakfast and our choice between tea and coffee.
The breakfast hampers arrived ready in the dining cabin with a punctuality that put us to shame, each one again, labelled clearly with individual bubble names. Cutlery, crockery and all the food and drink were tucked inside the hamper, a beautiful traditional wicker basket, filled with buttery French croissants (when in France right?), yoghurts, a bread basket and – well – literally jam packed with errr…jam; two utterly divine homemade jams in fact, which I will admit, without exaggeration, were the best I have ever tasted with moreish flavours like fig /nut as well as mango /coconut.
Unlike many self catered properties, there is no expectation for guests to clean up after meals. We were simply asked to put our plates and utensils back in the boxes and drop them back to the kitchen. The experience truly encompassed the joyous allure of camping with the creature comforts and luxuries of hotel living. We were so mesmerised by our stay in the bubble hotel that we vowed to return again with our other friends and our partners.
I thought back to our astronomy guide in Peru.
Maybe, in truth, we never will look up at the sky the way the Incas did. But perhaps that just makes the few precious moments that we do all the more memorable.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Tinggly. All views (opinion-wise) are entirely my own. (Night sky views, however, I suspect, are shared by others too)