Standing on one of the wrought-iron balconies at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland—with Lake Geneva spread out in front—it's tempting to imagine oneself as a guest a century ago, come to take the mountain air and lakeside constitutionals for some poetic ailment like consumption or nerves. But the Beau-Rivage was never such a place. Built in 1861, the resort has always catered to the luxury-minded rather than the health-conscious. (Coco Chanel and Somerset Maugham stayed in the silk-and-gilt suites.) But in recent years, demand has risen for pampering beyond the foie gras in its Michelin-starred restaurant. And the hotel has heeded, adding a 15,000-square-foot Cinq Mondes spa.
An outpost of the popular Parisian chain, the spa incorporates the parent company's nod to the East—bamboo plants, potted orchids every few feet. Cinq Mondes's greatest achievement, though, is how it marries the hotel's old-world chic with a lean, modern aesthetic: white limestone floors, billowing ivory curtains, a glass-enclosed pool, and floor-to-ceiling windows revealing a frosted Alpine horizon.
Contemporary in appearance, the spa is still rooted in the old European tradition; a revivifying facial, for example, employs Taoist massage, not the latest in photolaser technology. It's also very much a social environment. The hot tub is coed, with the occasional water-winged little one running to and fro.
The signature treatment is the Ritual Sojourn. Ours began with a color-therapy soak in a Japanese cedar tub, followed by a cinnamon scrub, a facial, and a spell in the hammam, which had pinhole lights on the ceiling that changed colors like a discofied night sky. The big finish is the Tropical Rain Promenade, a stone walkway that sprays fragrant water in a variety of pressures and temperatures—a manmade monsoon we couldn't resist running through again and again, like kids through a sprinkler. From $350 to $5,000; treatments, $60–$900. At 17–19 Place du Port; 41-21/613-3333; www.brp.ch.
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