Luxury, Calm and Voluptuous Pleasure
Do you know the famous poetry by Charles Baudelaire Invitation to the Voyage? It came immediately to my mind when I entered the gate of the Hotel Royal Evian. A scenic drive through the centennial park, adorned with majestic fantasy statues made of wood, opened up to the glorious views of Lake Geneva (note: for the French speaking, this is Lac Léman) and made me go “wow” already in the first minute. Luxury, calm and voluptuous pleasure, I thought. The poet was spot on. Then the world famous Evian logo appeared.
It’s really like the one written on the water bottle!
I told my husband, jumping out of the car and photographing it. I don’t know why I was so fascinated – maybe because I heard so much about this place. Then I turned around and saw the opulent cream façade of the recently renovated French palazzo, scattered with chocolate brown terraces. Impressive.
What You Really Can Do, Under The Olive And Pine Trees
Before my arrival, I had studied the hotel offers for a while, because they were so many. I came up with a really busy program (my weakness: I get easily bored, otherwise) of full relax and revitalisation. It started with lunch at the poolside summer market buffet, under the olive and pine trees. There I had my first surprise. A lot of cool people. A lot of young people. A lot of well dressed people. Informal waiters speaking all possible languages (of course I found a fun Italian one who gave me some tips about the place). You know it too: five stars hotels can be really formal and stuffy, and this place, after all, became so famous for its healing water. But forget about that typical image of thermal resorts – here you can rub shoulders with A-listers cool while eating grilled fruit and crème chantilly...and be very active too.
A Little Tour For the Curious
It was time for a tour of Evian Resort, that includes the five-stars Hotel Royal Evian, the four stars Hotel Ermitage, the Evian Resort Golf Club and the Grange au Lac Concert Hall. What did I find out?
That there is a herbs and vegetables garden in the middle of the park, for the real zero-km menu. That one of the restaurants, Les Fresques, has a Michelin star. That there are 2 spas, 4 tennis courts, golf and wellness treatments for kids and adults alike, a climbing wall, a piano-shaped infinity pool, a Sport & Culture department which apparently sells activities like mad and draws clients back every year, and that the ponds in the park draw my dog, Simba, like magic (I almost fell in it twice, because he was pulling me).
Great! It was time to start with my schedule, that kicked off the weekend with a beauty treatment.
The Enchanting Power of Revitalisation
While my husband went to play golf in the jaw dropping golf course overlooking the mountains and lake, I had a little walk in the 47 acres park to reach Hotel Ermitage and try their signature facial treatment. At the end, my therapist gave me a mirror to look at my face, with no make-up, after the procedure. I swear I thought they had done a witchery to me, because I looked really fresh. I drank an herbal infusion, soaked some sun at the pool, waited for my husband to come back, and went off to a lovely dinner.
The Wild Force of a Calm Source
The day after we had a glorious in-room breakfast at sunrise. My poor dog Simba had to resist the delicious smells of croissants, freshly baked breads, salmon and other delicacies, and watch us finishing every single crumb and cleaning our plates off. The sky was on fire – what a spectacular view, once more. After that, we did the Source of Revitalisation ritual: a visit to the Cachat Spring – the natural source of the Evian water, running all year at a constant temperature of 11.6 – whose therapeutic qualities were discovered by an aristocrat from Auvergne who stayed in Evian in 1790, drank the water all day and saw his kidney stones disappear. A pastel coloured mosaic and neo classical pillars make this fountain very cute and Instagrammable, by the way…
If the visit at the original source of the Evian water wasn’t enough for me to glow, I also hit the Evian spa for more. I did a private yoga session in a scenic room filled with orchids and natural light, followed by a foot massage by Eric (go and try his skills and wellness tips: he’s worth the trip almost more than the spectacular views), and then went for a real “out-of-comfort-zone” experience that was the cherry on the cake of my weekend program. My husband looked at me and told me I was really glowing.
Grand Finale: The Badass Afternoon
A late check-out was organised, for us to be able to enjoy the whole afternoon with something new: the rafting experience with the Sport & Culture Team. I went to their office feeling quite nervous, because I am a total zero at anything regarding boats, and the water level of the river, after many days of rain, seemed quite high and wild to me. On top of that, I wanted to take some videos and pictures, so I asked if I could bring the phone. Patrice, the captain (who is also a skipper and Kayac instructor), was totally chilled. He told me that he goes rafting with kids, that the day was simply perfect concerning water and temperature , and that everything would be perfect…provided I really listen and paddle (I think it was clear I was trying to chicken out and make the men work while taking photos).
He then wrapped my phone up, and drove to the rafting centre. There he had a laugh with his colleagues and flirted with the girls in the office – one could see he was totally in his element, and that he loved his job. So I gave a deep breath and thought ok, today I really need to paddle, not just to just pretend for the Insta shot.
We wore our gear, got briefed and hit the waves.
Patric screamed. Being just three in the boat and having a fast day due to the high water, I really had to use all the strength I had. I am sure I looked very entertaining. The sensation of flying on waves was fabulous. More, more!
Patric screamed. I changed direction as fast as I could and started to really sweat under the wet suit. My God, this was fun!!
And now we stop at the rock and jump
Wait a minute, that is high. And the water is rough. And cold. And my heartbeat is fast. All ll right then. Jump!
I swam back to the boat (or so I thought….really I was like a lifeless object transported by the stream) all proud, and Patric caught me by the life jacket and told my husband he had caught a big fish. We basically either paddled like mad or laughed, admired the wild nature and the canyon surrounding us, and had a fantastic experience that felt like a real adventure (my mum saw the videos and almost came to France to rescue me).
All in all, a really revitalising weekend that felt like a full holiday, and makes me want to go for more.
As you can see from the long description of my rafting experience, my highlight was trying something new. But if I think better, what I really appreciated, together with the incredible offer of calm and fast activities in the idyllic setting surrounded by mountains and lake views, was the people. From the funny Italian bar manager (I don’t drink, but I talk a lot!), to the massage therapists, to the spa staff, to the captain of the boat, what really made me feel like home was the Royal Evian crew. A final note on house keeping: our dog Simba barked at a lady who came in to check the room, and scared her, but she acted like he was the best dog in the world. Great service is in the small things, that make you feel welcome even when you’re not behaving perfectly. Thank you Hotel Royal Evian guys, I will be back!