December 23, 2009
Once the turkey’s all eaten, the mince pies demolished and even the last few unwanted Quality Streets in the tin have finally found favour (orange cream anyone?) most fit-to-bursting bodies will be crying out for a detox. Having recently returned from a whistle-stop tour of some of Austria’s finest spa hotels (a pre-emptive strike on my anticipated festive flab), I can think of nothing nicer.
First stop, the Alpenresort Schwarz, a chocolate-box perfect four-star hotel in the Tirol which, like most of the properties in Austria’s Finest Spa Hotels & Resorts programme (www.austria.info/spa), is family-run – this one by the charming Herr & Frau Pirktl. After a massage guaranteed to unknot even the most stressed Eurostar executive, you can take a dip in one of seven pools at the newly-opened Schwarz Water World or simply sink into a relaxation area – my favourite resembled a soft play area for adults, dimly lit and strewn with suspended, womb-like pods where drifting into a sublime deep sleep is only a matter of minutes away.
After a delicious dinner accompanied by an evening of entertainment from the staff of the Schwarz – including Herr Pirktl himself, it was time to move on to our second spa hotel. The five-star Interalpen Hotel Tyrol sits amid spectacular Alpine isolation – imagine the hotel from iconic movie ‘The Shining’, but without Jack Nicholson running amok! Built in traditional Tyrolean style, yet on a scale that wouldn’t look out of place on the Las Vegas Strip, guests approaching the Interalpen by car arrive via an marble-clad underground car park from where it’s an effortless hop to the hotel’s impressive lobby. Clutching a hand-picked rose stem courtesy of the reception staff (I’m a soft touch for a free flower) we were escorted to what the hotel classes as a standard double room whilst, to the rest of us mortals, it comes closer in size to an upper-end central London apartment. And, if two large double beds, a sitting room area, enormous bathroom and walk-in wardrobe (a total dream for Carrie Bradshaw wannabes) isn’t enough, the hotel’s penthouse suite with panoramic mountain-top views provides the perfect bolthole for paparazzi-shy A listers or Europe’s more monied spa-seekers.
And the spa itself? Wow. Over 5,000 square metres of steam rooms, massage and beauty suites await as well as a Tirolean sauna village complete with running stream, water wheel and birdsong. Purely for research purposes (you understand), I tried a Dermalogica facial (superb) and full body massage (amazing), both carried out by friendly and über-professional practitioners in scrupulously-clean treatment rooms, each with its own private view overlooking ubiquitous snow clad pine trees. Equally idyllic for male and female spa enthusiasts, there are mixed and single-sex sauna areas, a delightful chill-out area boasting waterbeds, cosy throws and – in winter – a warming log fire. Husband or boyfriend the type to get bored sitting around in his dressing gown all day? Look no further than the Interalpen’s latest attraction – an indoor putting green and golf simulator that enables sporting types to play a round at some of the world’s best courses…without even leaving the hotel.
Last but certainly not least, the third hotel on this superb spa safari was the five-star Posthotel Resort & Spa. Nestled in the picturesque Alpine village of Achenkirch am Achensee, this is one of two properties owned and run by the Reiter family whose considerable talents extend beyond warm hospitality to interior design (everything you see around the hotel can be purchased in the shopping mall) and even horse husbandry – Herr Reiter’s speciality is Lippizaners, many of which are stabled at the Posthotel and available for guests to ride.
Slightly alarmed to hear that my treatment plan here included cupping (think Gwyneth Paltrow) I am pleased to report that, whilst it’s an odd sensation at first (imagine your skin getting sucked slowly through a small funnel) my epidermis has lived to tell the tale. Add to that a lymph drainage massage for face, neck and décolleté, and the Atrium Spa had certainly done its darnedest to prepare me for the Christmas party season! Karen Carpenter.