Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pool with a view: Spa Day in Switzerland

After our brush with death (Okay, Okay…the nude sauna wasn’t that bad, I’m exaggerating a wee bit) we’re ready to cover up. 

We slip on our plush white robes and embroidered spa slippers and follow the steam to the enchanting indoor pool. Though the room is created entirely in a deep slate, the flickering candles lining the indigo rectangle are inviting. The tiny lights reflecting off the still pool water twinkle like constellations even in the midst of the day. Around a sharp corner is a small hot tub which appears ordinary… but this, this is the divine portal

This tiny blue tub is no less than The Wardrobe. It leads to Narnia, plain and simple.

Now bearing bathing suits…not birthday suits, we cast our robes aside as we submerge ourselves into the magical liquid box, dip below a glass window and emerge into a place that can be described only as perfect.

Though we have seen the mountains, dined before them, sipped wine at the foot of them - we have even hiked high into their dense mist…We have never seen them like this. It’s as if we have known them in life and now again in a dream – they are brighter and exude a radiance unlike the times we have met before.

The steam rises around us as we glide through the water, the edge of the pool falls off into the mountainside and the alps rise before us, vivid greens with scattered caps of white, powdery snow. The sound of the rushing spa faucet feeding into the pool pairs with the waterfall in the distance – the marriage of the man-made hardware to the raw nature of this valley is staggering.

As we regard the surreal panorama, mere ants in respect to our surroundings, the trickle from above begins to fall in heavy drops - the soft grey sky is opening up.

It’s been a big day: Hiking in the Alps. Getting naked in public. Crossing over into Narnia...

Having nowhere else to be, we’ll lay back and enjoy the fresh air and the unsurpassed view – rain and all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stark Naked in Switzerland.

After a brisk, (read: FREEZING), sunrise hike in the Bernese Alps we are ready to relax and be rejuvenated - Thankfully the crisp weather isn't the only refreshing thing here in Adelboden. 

The wellness spa welcomes us with warm, open arms (whilst it’s hands are filled with hot herbal tea, mmm!). 

Relatively speaking, we aren’t high maintenance – Here they offer treatments from blackberry wraps to alpine herb massages  - All we want is to warm up…take a dip in the serene, outdoor hot pool all whilst gazing out upon the vast, enchanting mountain range. 

Cool thing is - around here, that isn’t too much to ask!

As we head off to our respective changing rooms, it feels as though the floors, the walls, even the glowing wall sconces have been steeped in lavender and eucalyptus – as if the entire spa were created from an organic matter infused with natural, tranquil scents. 

The calm and quiet spa attendant takes us through the options available to us, recommending that we try the rain shower and the steam bath. She guides us to a beautiful wooden area enclosed by a steamy glass door adorning cautionary labels. She breezes through as if it’s completely commonplace…

“Oh and here, as in all European spas, no clothes are permitted whatsoever….” She goes on to talk about which type of mud-mask she recommends…

In the States, it’s “No shirt. No service.” Up here, we’ve got a sticker on the door of a bra, and one of a pair of men’s shorts…both of which have a “no smoking” style strike through them! Well I’ll be darned - I think I’m Mrs. Adventurous 'til someone says the adventure must be done naked…in a public, co-ed place.

Briefly, I wonder if I’m really just a Midwestern Wallflower after all.

Today, we are proving that ‘Bashful’ is not a part of our vocabularies. I’m not even sure what the intent of a Finnish sauna is, but challenge accepted!    

Off go the robes.    

Right here in the middle of the spa. Folks in the serenity room are in athletic gear, stretching their arms out in yoga-like fashion and those in the rain shower have only left their towels outside and are surely dressed to some degree.

And here we are. Stark naked.

Now, to see your spouse naked is normal and lovely. A perk of the job, one might say. BUT, to see them naked in public is an odd experience. Not good nor bad. Just. Plain. Odd.   

I've impressed even myself with this strange (mis)adventure…and though we are admittedly hoping no one else is within the wooden box as we heedfully inch the door open, we do in fact venture in.

The coast is clear – No nude Europeans frolicking about. Just two crazy Americans.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Swiss Cheese. Swiss Wine. And everything in between.

Busted. Our 6pm request for dinner reservations has surely given away the fact that we are Americans.

As we sit down for dinner we have the entire restaurant all to ourselves! Not until we are served dessert does anyone else join the room to begin their evening. In the mean time, we enjoy the peace and quiet at an unassuming table with an unprecedented view of the snow capped Alps.

This dinner is our big splurge, a gift from my husband’s lovely, wonderful grandparents. Over pasta and wine at their favorite little Italian spot a week before our wedding, they told us the tale of how, at their wedding in 1959, a friend handed them a $50 bill - requesting that they spend it, specifically, on their honeymoon. They told us it made all the difference on their modest trip to Washington DC. Passing on this thoughtful gesture (and then some), they asked us to spend their gift on something special. We promised to pay it forward someday, when we are able to, as well!

We believe they’d appreciate that we have decided to spend it on the experience of a decadent dinner…Swiss cheese, Swiss wine, and any other delightful tastes this town has to offer!

The menu proclaims an array of dishes classified as “New Alpine” cuisine and each beautiful plate is designed around ingredients sourced from within a few miles of the restaurant. Eying the extensive wine list, it is difficult to choose - we decide to take advantage of the sommelier’s vast knowledge; she’ll pair them with our meal choices - which, of course, we cannot decide on either! Too many wonderful options. So, eight different courses for the table it is then. We’ll take a bit of it all!

Wilhelm begins with hors d’oeuvres of duck liver, accented with an apple coriander gel. Meanwhile, I delve into my first, and favorite, dish of the evening; an elegant cauliflower mousse paired with olive oil drizzled, chive covered bread chips. The following two courses include delight in the forms of savory white wine risotto (made with Adelboden Hobel cheese) and light, puff pastry encased vegetables (resting on mushrooms and potato sauce).

Though the accommodating and attentive staff keep the table spotless, and ever-ready for the endless parade of courses, our table still rapidly fills with glasses of pinot noir and chasselas based wines as we move on to our entrees. A rosemary accented veal shoulder and a juicy Irish filet find their way to us and we savor every morsel. Our night concludes with our overindulging (read: ‘stuffing ourselves’) on currant sorbet, berries and a king’s size selection of local cheeses.

Planning out this night we could never have anticipated how this simple restaurant would prove to be the most rewarding culinary experience we have had to date – it has been an absolute highlight of our honeymoon! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Arriving in Adelboden

The train comes to a halt in Spiez, Switzerland and we haven’t the slightest idea what is in store for us…

Not only does the crisp air shock our lungs but the sights surrounding the train station are, quite literally, breath taking. Down the hill we see the mismatched rooftops and perfectly kept back yard gardens of the cottages overlooking the icy blue, sparkling lake below.

I’m fearful the location of our hotel may be a letdown considering the immense beauty that has met us here in Spiez. As the bus rests, releasing a long hot breath as it draws open its heavy door, it expels us onto the street.

We are instantaneously in love with this town.

At an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet, the streets are pristine and charming. We’re surrounded by shops and restaurants, abundant with locally grown goods and produce. The cool air bites at us as we walk; a welcome guest on this leg of our journey!

Entering the Cambrian Hotel we are greeted by an eclectic but warm atmosphere. With rich grey walls and exposed slate, the place gives off a chic vibe…but the cow skin rugs and crackling fireplaces lend a country feel. The people here are just the same - fashionable yet delightfully down to earth.

The view from our room, though northward facing, does not disappoint – When in Switzerland, there is not a bad seat in the house! The sights, though alluring, still can’t keep my mind off of a long, cozy nap and I plunge into the pure white, divine and oh-so-fluffy duvet, snuggle beneath the sumptuous linens of the freshly dressed bed I’m out, like a light.

Refreshed from our long mid-day snooze, my husband drags the modern-yet-comfy love seat up to the open French doors. We watch the sky drizzle lightly on the lush mountains before us. The distinct Swiss flag flips gently back and forth as we discuss our dinner plans in the cool, thin, afternoon air...