Gstaad is known as the playground of the superrich. Its famous inhabitants include Bernie Ecclestone, and the Spectator’s own Taki. Julie Andrews recently declared that it is ‘the last paradise in a crazy world’. Unless you’re amongst the super rich and have your own plane, it takes a bit of commitment to get here – it’s several hours by train from Geneva airport but, this makes it feel all the more special: like a tiny, hidden jewel nested in the Alps that you’ve stumbled across and want to keep all to yourself. Even the train journey there is a pleasure – breathtaking scenery while reclining in an exquisitely renovated carriage from a time when everything was just a bit nicer than it is now.
There’s no doubt that Gstaad does luxury well. Le Grand Bellevue takes it to another level though. The hotel in its current form is a new comer to the Gstaad scene. After a change in ownership and an extensive renovation, it opened its doors in 2013 and since then the buzz around it has grown. Traditionally those looking for 5-star indulgence would head to The Gstaad Palace, which is in a prime position at the top of the village. Although it still dominates the skyline of the city, it’s now looking decidedly old and fusty compared to this new upstart. It’s attracting a younger, hipper crowd and but with a nod to the classic opulence that regular visitors to the area would expect.
The hotel is a few minutes stroll into the town although with it’s excellent restaurants (including one with a Michelin star, of course) and bars, there’s no reason to leave unless you really want to. For the more adventurous the hotel will happily organise hiking with the added bonus of a little portable fondue kit to take as a packed lunch. What could be more authentic than eating fondue in the mountains?
Le Grand Spa is, as it’s name would suggest, pretty grand. It’s really the jewel in the hotel’s crown and the reason so many people flock here. It’s also one of the largest spas in the area, making it very popular with day guests too.
As you’d expect, personalised spa programmes are tailored to suit guests needs and certainly this Spy found their every need and whim catered for with faultless grace and enthusiasm from the staff. It’s all effortlessly chic and cool, quirky and fun while undoubtedly and unashamedly luxe.
Long standing back ache. GPs have prescribed various painkillers but to little lasting benefit. Classic ‘hunched-over-a-keyboard’ syndrome but troublesome and frustrating. At times, this Spa Spy can be kept up at night by the ache. Conventional medicine seems to have little to offer, so is up for trying anything.
The Spa offers a wealth of treatments but is particularly strong on those for musculo-skeletal complaints, no doubt because Gstaad is renowned for skiing.
There’s an emphasis on rehabilitation and core strength training. The personalised programme featured yoga daily. Having never done yoga, this Spa sleuth was very nervous about embarking on it in a class full of other people, sweating and groaning. No thank you. As it turned out I needn’t have worried – one to one classes meaning it was perfectly tailored for individual needs and no worries about keeping up with everyone else. There was also massage daily after the yoga and recommendations for saunas – Finnish (85*C to 100*C and relative humidity of 10-30%), Bio sauna (65*C) and the ice grotto which is supposed to be particularly good for stimulating blood flow and tackling skeletal aches and pains.
Daily yoga classes, followed by swimming and aromatherapy massages, sports massages and pilates. The key was to move but to do it gently, gradually increasing mobility and freeing up tense and seized up joints. The sports massage was painful but worked a treat in alleviating the stiffness which made the following day’s yoga surprisingly easy. The yoga teacher even spent a session on how to sit properly – who knew this Spa Spy had been doing it wrong for so long? The cheerful instructor was incredibly attentive and never once rolled her eyes at her rather incompetent and uncoordinated pupil and instead adapted the exercises to what I was able to do. I’m still working on my downward dog.
It worked a treat. The lower and shoulder pain went quickly and now this Spa Spy knows how to sit properly, it hasn’t returned. Mission accomplished. With the confidence the individual, focused lessons gave me, I’ve now started weekly yoga at a studio nearby to maintain the benefits.
The medical view:
Dr Max Pemberton says: ‘Lower back pain is incredibly common and one of the leading causes of consultations in general practice. It can be caused by a number of underlying factors, but most commonly is a result of poor posture. Pilates and yoga and been shown to be beneficial in the long term for lower back pain and shoulder pain associated with poor posture. Research into the benefits of massage are still in it’s infancy, but initial studies suggest that there is robust evidence to support it’s use in alleviating back pain. A study in the Canadian Medical Association compared methods of treating long-standing lower back pain and found that, in terms of reduction in pain and improvements in function, it was the most effective treatment. There is also good evidence to support it’s use in management of anxiety and stress.’
The Feel Good Factor:
Utterly divine. You can’t go wrong at Le Grand Bellevue. It’s playful and fun while being serious about the small details that make staying in a luxury hotel like this so special.
Summer rates at Le Grand Bellevue start from £315 per room based on double occupancy on a B&B basis. Winter rates start from £525 per room based on double occupancy on a half-board basis.
Swiss offers return flights from London to Geneva starting from £96. Untergstaadstrasse 17, 3780 Saanen, Switzerland, Le Grand Bellevue bellevue-gstaad.ch