“Home to some of the world’s most highly lauded spas, natural spring waters sourced from the inner elements of the earth and the finest of gastronomy. Vaud is heaven on earth and the land of wellness.”
It is hard to ignore a place that has been graced by the star-studded type for centuries on end. A place that gave inspiration to the likes of Coco Chanel, Prince, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin and the like. Feeding their minds with the inspiration they needed when creating their next masterpiece.
A place that has also been visited by troves of celebrities on their quest for ever-lasting youth and beauty along with the Russian oligarchs, New York bankers and maharajahs who chose this place to spend their summer vacations.
So what is it that attracts these fortunate folk to the shores of Lake Geneva, in the Swiss canton of Vaud? Apart from, of course, its fairy-tale backdrop of snow-capped Alps and the ever-serene crystal-clear waters of Lake Geneva.
Having been blessed enough to visit, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is all in the quest of one quality, that being ‘the pursuit of wellness’.
Wellness, according to the dictionary, is the state of being healthy in the body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. It is true that many places dotted around the globe offer wellness in body or wellness in mind, but indeed it is rare to find a land that offers both.
Home to some of the world’s most highly lauded spas, renowned for holding the secrets to ever-lasting beauty, natural spring waters sourced from the inner elements of the earth and the finest of gastronomy. Indeed, Vaud is heaven on earth and the land of wellness.
“Beauty of the land is not restricted to Vaud’s lakeside. The mountains and their quaint Hansel and Gretel style villages offer an entirely different perspective.”
Secret to ever-lasting beauty
Any conversation involving the ‘secret to youth’ with the name Dr Pfulg as part of the sentence and you can be rest assured you are in the right place. Considered one of the top five cosmetic surgeons in the world, there is good reason as to why Montreux, one of Vaud’s scenic lakeside towns, has become a surgical tourism hub thanks to Pfulg’s highly regarded reputation at Laclinic Montreux (laclinic.ch).
Further along the lake, Clinique La Prairie (laprairie.ch), a lakeside fortress is famed for its treatment, ‘Revitalisation’, a rejuvenation therapy, which originally involved injections of live cells extracted from lamb foetuses. Having claimed to reduce cell division and slow down the ageing process, CLP Extract is now taken from the livers, instead of the foetuses of black lambs. How considerate…
However, rest assured it’s not all looks and body image in this game of wellness in the Canton of Vaud. Rather, the palace hotels tucked along the lake certainly help to lift the mood, especially when opening the French doors of your suite to your lakeside view.
One place to try is Les Trois Couronnes, (hoteltroiscouronnes.ch) the first and only hotel in the world to offer skin treatments from renowned biologist and dermatologist to many of Paris’ chic set, Joëlle Ciocco. Famed for her Sculpture Massage, this ‘magician of the skin’ performs a technique often likened to skin gymnastics, which involves stretching the mask of muscle over the face.
Alternatively, stay at the Beau Rivage Palace (brp.ch) and enjoy its luxurious spa – a favourite haunt for Queen Rania of Jordan. Need I say more?
Slow travel – take time to ponder
Wellness is not all about body, rather the health of the mind is just as important. Fortunately, there is a ‘grassroots wellness movement’ that has quietly emerged as a solution to tourist burnout, that being slow travel. And Vaud has mastered it to a fine art. Slow travel is about taking in one’s surroundings to come to know a destination more intimately—more thoughtfully and with all five senses. This might involve taking a leisurely walking tour, a bike ride across the countryside or traveling by train to enjoy the landscape. Even a visit to the Olympic Museum which rests upon the shores of the calming lake.
For ‘Vaudites’ this style of travel has become their everyday life. Morning times are welcomed by locals running along the lakeside shores. The smiles on their faces making you wonder whether the phrase ‘skip in their step’ originated from here. Corporate folk, robed in their finest suits, whiz by on their scooters as they skate to work with a merry ‘bonjour’ as they pass. Cyclists too, seem to be revelling in an inner joy.
As a tourist, you can choose to do all of the above, plus board one of Vaud’s two belle époque style of transports, the famed train or paddle-steamer.
A slow travellers’ paradise, relaxing on-board one of the belle époque paddle steamers (cgn.ch); an elegant fleet of side-wheel paddleboats built in the earlier part of the 19th century, is quite frankly, slow travel at its finest. Surrounded by polished wood, brass and by-gone glamour, an afternoon can easily be spent whiling away the hours whilst enjoying a five-course meal as you immerse yourself in Vaud’s magical surroundings – sailing from one side of the lake to the other. From chic Lausanne to the sources of Evian a little further afield.
The prettiest part of the lake is the trip from Lausanne to Montreux, where the lakeshore is designated to a UNESCO World Heritage site for one special reason, its vineyard. Known as Lavaux, and dating back to the 11th century, every possible square inch supports cascading terraces of vines, 10,000 to be exact. It’s the perfect backdrop to sail out to Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland’s grandest of castles. It’s also the perfect setting to enjoy one of Vaud’s traditional dishes, fillet de perch. A delicious fish caught straight from the lake you are sailing upon.
Beauty of the land is not concentrated to Vaud’s lakeside pursuits. Rather the mountains and their quaint Hansel and Gretel style villages offer an entirely different perspective. The best way to access these picturesque mountain villages is onboard one of the belle époque replica trains (goldenpass.ch), which depart from Montreux – a delight for railway nostalgia enthusiasts or quite frankly anyone who enjoys a spectacular view.
Active pursuits – a winter playground
Whilst venturing into the mountains it is hard to ignore the plethora of active wellness pursuits on offer. One place to visit is Glacier 3000 (glacier3000.ch), an alpine playground of all things fun. Winter adventurers love swooping down the ski and snowboard runs, bumping along the toboggan paths or posing for the ultimate selfie whilst walking across the Tissot Peak Walk, a unique suspension bridge connecting two mountain peaks.
Capital of Gastronomy
‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’, Hippocrates.
Now, there are a few angles one can take on this quote by the ancient Greek physician. Eating for health, yes. Eating for pleasure, I guess that depends on just how ‘pleasurable’ (and as a result wicked) the food is.
One thing for sure is that Vaud is the land of pleasurable food and the gastronomy here is, nothing short of, impeccable. In fact, it is an unmissable destination for foodies, demonstrated by the record number of restaurants awarded stars, toques, and flowers.
A must-have experience is the gastronomy of three Michelin-starred Anne-Sophie Pic, and the first woman to be voted chef of the year by the Michelin too, who supervises proceedings at the gourmet restaurant of the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel. Furthermore, Edgard Bovier, who serves his food in the opulent setting of the Lausanne Palace & Spa, one of Coco Chanel’s old haunts.
Further down the lake in the town, Vevey, host to the fascinating Chaplin’s World – a museum set up in the late actor’s lakeside mansion. The town is the birthplace of milk chocolate and a chocolate lover’s paradise, offering chocolate workshops, tastings and all things associated with that delicious russet hued powder.
They say music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. That was certainly the case for Prince and Freddie Mercury who were known to reside for months on end in Vaud whilst recording some of their greatest tracks.
It is here, where the famous Montreux Jazz Festival fills the streets and hotels with fine harmonies and worldly classics that entertain the knowledgeable crowds, each summer. No wonder, hotels such as Le Fairmont Montreux Palace (fairmont.com/montreux), famously named their most elite suites after Jazz legends, and why many private jam sessions continue until after dark on its private terraces and in the bar. A must is to join one of the dine and music cruises. Several times during the Festival, crazily animated boats weigh anchor in the afternoon to get the public swaying and dancing on the lake to live salsa, jazz, blues, or samba – a unique way to dive even deeper into the idyllic wellness of Vaud’s setting.
And so with music to the ears, the finest of medical retreats to nip and tuck, majestic alpine surroundings and the finest of slow travel, there is indeed no other place to discover for that pursuit of wellness. Vaud, you pretty gem – you have it all. lake-geneva-region.ch
WORDS: LAURA SNOOK