SWISS BLISS

IT ’S OFFICIAL – THE SWISS ARE GOOD AT EVERY TH ING. WE SENT PIPPA PARK TO ONE OF EUROPE’S FINEST MEDICAL SPAS TO DISCOVER THE ART OF RELAXATION…

Sometimes you just need to run away and recharge your batteries. Ideally somewhere pretty, indulgent, quiet and with a bit of class, right? Well there’s no better place to treat yourself than the land synonymous with quality.

Switzerland’s tag of excellence is well known the world over. Chocolate, watches, banks, cheese – heck, even penknives – if you want something done well you give it to the Swiss. The precedence of my stay is set mere moments after landing, when I purchase a gold embossed train ticket printed on smart card. I’ve received actual wedding invitations that were less fancy. It’s even laminated and presented in a pouch, complete with a map of the area. Pay attention Southern Rail, this is how it’s done. Of course there are no late trains either and we set off punctually from Zurich.

Zurich is pretty much the most desirable (and wealthiest) city in Europe and packs in high end shopping, luxury lodging and first-rate cuisine, so a stop off here is highly recommended if you have time. My final destination lies in eastern Switzerland, so I head off with my nose pressed against the train window.

Jaw dropping scenery unfolds on my hour-long journey, with rambling green woodland giving way to enormous lakes that bounce the afternoon sunlight like a glorious, glistening mirror. Mountains rise up around me to create a backdrop worthy of The Sound of Music and presently we arrive in what is affectionately known as the Heidiland’ region, for reasons relating to the novel by Johanna Spyri.

Here is where you’ll find the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Europe’s leading medical resort and spa. Tall trees initially shield it from my view and continue to flank the long drive, which only serves to add to the impressions of grandeur.
There are two reasons that Bad Ragaz is so wonderfully private. The first is that, given its stately appeal, the hotel attracts high profi le guests who prefer to go unnoticed. Expect famous faces and a rich clientele.
The second is down to the fact that there’s a medical centre at the hotel, offering everything from dental work and facelifts to Botox and knee operations. Naturally, guests are keen to hide away from prying eyes until such time as they have fully healed, and wish to recover and relax in ultimate luxury. This makes ‘guess the operation’ a great game to play at breakfast.

Wellbeing is something of a  time-honoured tradition in this area, as just 15 minutes from the hotel lies the mysterious Tamina Gorge, where warm healing waters bubble up from inside the mountain. As far back as the 13th century, pilgrims would travel to the Abbey of Pfäfers to bathe in the thermal waters and in 1535 the doctor and philosopher Paracelsus testifi ed to the healing powers of the springs, and so began the age of spa tourism. Today the water is channelled to Bad Ragaz, where you can swim in the 36.5°C thermae pool.

An escape for mind, body and soul, the resort encompasses everything from a public thermal bath (presented in a ‘temple’ style setting), casino, 18-hole golf course, 267 luxury rooms ranging from ultra modern suites to traditional classics, a highly advanced medical centre and an impressive hotel spa complete with a La Prairie boutique shop. A dizzying selection of restaurants is at hand, from the culinary art at exclusive Michelin-Starred IGNIV and the light fare provided in Olives d’Or, to traditional Swiss cuisine at Zollstube and Asian sharing food and cocktails at Namun.

Attention to detail was apparent throughout my time here, from the three water sommeliers (yep you read that right – three) who would choose which variant of H20 would best suit your daily needs, to the positive affi rmations that appeared nightly on my pillow and the complimentary ‘sweetie buffet’ of homemade confectionery that you could take away in a goodie bag.

A huge draw of Switzerland is that, unlike its European counterparts, it offers year-round appeal. Come in the summer for hiking, lake sports and sunbathing or embrace the wintry months and enjoy spas, skiing and hot tubs in the fresh mountain air. If you follow the mountainous road to Pfafers you’ll  find Hotel Schloss Wartenstein, a fantastic terrace restaurant with the most spectacular views of the Alps. We must have taken 100 photos here, the scenery is simply unbeatable and friendly manager Anna puts on quite a spread.

From Bad Ragaz there are numerous excursions into Heidiland, as well as the Pizol ski region where a winter sports school operates, as well as 40km of off piste slopes and an exhilarating seven-kilometer toboggan run. But in honesty you could happily spend your entire trip at this classy resort, where white fluffy robes rule and the alpine landscape steals your attention at every turn.

After a leisurely swim in the outside thermae pool, a sunbathe in the luscious green grounds while gazing dreamily over the distant, snow tipped mountains and a deep tissue massage, before enjoying a crisp white wine and lunch alfresco on the terrace, where birds chirp around you in the sunshine, I defy anyone not to feel relaxed, recuperated and ready to return to society.

Bad Ragaz operates under the premise that life is precious, and you deserve to take time out from your busy life to focus on your health and wellbeing. Who are we to argue with the professionals? They seem to be on to something, too. The hills here might not be alive but after a long weekend nestled in them, I most certainly am!

With special thanks to www.resortragaz.ch and www.schloss-wartenstein.ch