Sitting in the train in Switzerland, headed for the town of Bad Ragaz for the first time (Bad is the German word for Bath and pronounced as Baathe) I was quite apprehensive. I was all alone since my friend who was to accompany me had been taken seriously ill and had to cancel at the last minute, leaving me no other option.
My biggest worry was health a emergency. What if I needed emergency medical attention? The medical insurance would not help me a pip, if there were no emergency medical facilities close by and a Spa Resort, howsoever Grand, might not be equipped with emergency services. Little did I realise that the Grand Resort was safer than anywhere else I have ever stayed at, what with a well-heeled Medical Health Center having multiple in-house facilities for diagnostics, preventive care and rehabilitation at the highest level. The fact that it is known for all forms of cosmetic surgery and has dozens of specialist doctors staying at the Resort, made me relax and enjoy a few of its facilities during the very limited time, the most useful and attractive being the private indoor swimming pool with spring water at the constant temperature of 36.5°C, supplied by a pipeline directly from the Tamina thermal springs.
Situated 110 km from Zurich, the resort is slightly over an hour of fast drive in the Eastern part of Switzerland. The train journey was extremely comfortable with an easily negotiable change at one station. Though the Resort is only about a km from the railway station, every guest gets a Transfer from Bad Ragaz station to the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz and back, on arrival and departure.
Two hotels in One Property
There are two hotels inter-connected from inside but visibly independent from outside. I was staying in the Grand Hotel Quellenhof which also has the Spa Suites. The close by second hotel is the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz with a more modern look and bolder interiors. The lobby is befitting grandeur; you feel you have arrived at a royal palace from a bygone era- the elegant and classic style amplifying the look of extravagant comfort.
You are offered a welcome drink-a glass of any beverage on the bar Menu. From the corner of my eyes I glanced at the Pierre Cardin Rose Brut. It was listed at 22 CHF (€20), a trifle expensive but a gentle reminder not to look at the right side of any Menu and just soak in the luxury. The beautiful blonde bartender Barbara was very helpful and warm as she laid a bunch of bowls with delicious munchies on the table and explained the Wine List to me in detail and with patience.
A tour of the property by my charming guide Andréa Fandiño followed soon after and all my fears were allayed. Grand Resort of Bad Ragaz (GRBR) is not only a Spa but also a full-fledged sports and entertainment center- 2 golf courses, tennis courts, a casino of its own, lovely lawns, a shopping arcade with luxury products, bars in both the hotels, a lavish cigar lounge which livens up at night. She even took me out to visit a nearby winery in the Heidiland of which I shall write in a future edition.
The Spa suites that were opened in Grand Hotel a few years ago are the ultimate in luxury where the Spa is brought right to your room with the same thermal water. The contemporary styled suites include a private spa area with a steam bath, a free-standing whirlpool bath and, in some cases, even a sauna. Thermal water, healthy for drinking, flows from the taps. On the other end of the spectrum was also a public bath and a swimming pool with a side cafe where even outsiders are welcome to use the facilities and spend a relaxing day.
Relaxing massages would be par for the course for any world class resort but the beautiful, ornate indoor thermal pool with spring water at a constant temperature of 36.5°C with Jacuzzi and several water jets at varying pressure, stayed most in my memory. The village having thermal springs was discovered in 1242. Legend has it that people believed and used the thermal water for health treatments even then. I was told by the helpful and knowledgeable staff that an hour a day in the pool is enough though more won’t be harmful. Many women clients believe that they don’t need hair-conditioners after the swim and shampoo. It’s a matter of record that after two days of swimming and being under the water, most of my pains were gone and I felt relaxed, lighter and fitter.
If you feel that after all the sports and swimming you deserve a hearty meal and a high level culinary experience, there are 6 restaurants where one can find Mediterranean, French, Asian, Swiss and international cuisine with wine lists that weigh almost more than a magnum. The variety of wine available is immense and one can have a choice of wines from throughout the world- the top Bordeaux and Burgundy wines getting their due respect and recognition-and the price.
An interesting recent addition has been the opening of Restaurant IGNIV by Chef Alessandro Caminada (3 Michelin stars and 19 Gault Millau points) at the Resort. He has introduced a new concept of international food based on his international travel. Unfortunately, Indian dishes have not yet found a place in the Menu but it is only a matter of time that the Maestro will be seduced by Indian cuisine.
International Medical Center
I was rather surprised to learn that many guests from Europe have been regular clients for years, because of its excellent medical facilities at the renowned Medical Health Center. A byword for diagnostics, preventive care, therapy and rehabilitation of the highest order, it has over 70 doctors and therapists in the specialised fields of Check-up & Diagnostics, Rheumatology, Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, Therapy & Movement, Mental Health, Dermatology, Med Skin Care & Plastic Surgery, Dental Health & Implantology, Gynaecology & Fertility and Complementary Medicine are but a few of the specialties of this center. Officially recognised in 2004 as a Swiss Olympic Medical Center, the sports medicine department at the MHC can be an excellent recuperation center for sports celebrities.
My first, second and the last reaction was that the Resort offers a unique opportunity for our Bollywood stars and industrialist bigwigs to come for a sojourn and go back with cosmetic surgery and positive changes in their physical attributes that could be attributed to the ‘fabulous Swiss environment’. No one would ever come to know the reality because of the privacy of the guests.
Privacy of Guests
A very interesting and special feature of the resort is that complete secrecy is maintained about guests’ identity. There could be billionaires, celebrities or stars walking around incognito. The staff members are forbidden to talk about any of the guests. If it were a playground for the rich and famous, no one would ever hear about it. Apparently, one of the Indian Prime Ministers has stayed here. A well-known Mumbai industrialist has also spent a few days in the company of a friend but the names had a ring of speculation so it’s best not to mention. The proximity of the place to Davos which is 50 kms and about 50 minutes away by car and 70 minutes by train, means that many Indians and other visitors to the annual Mecca for economic and financial deliberations, have stayed here during that period when the 267 rooms and suites resort is completely full.
My one regret as I was being driven in a new Porsche to the railway station of Sargans on departure by a pleasant and cultured chauffer, was that I could not take the complimentary Test drive in their popular Porsche 900 sports car-all I would have had to do would have been put the petrol in the car. I didn’t even know I was an Easy Rider on their Harley-Davidson!
Of course, being alone and very pressed for time, I could not play golf- they own two beautiful golf courses with snow capped mountains on one side and the possibility of playing with a tee-shirt as the temperature of 18-20° C was quite inviting. I did not check out the public spa which is open to outsiders due to paucity of time, the outdoor pool which was not useable as the water was a bit too chilly though one could bask in the sun in good weather. I would have loved to try my luck in the Casino. I don’t believe anyone can win in the Casino- I never have, but since I was told it was the friendliest casino in Europe, I figure I might have had less chance of losing money.
I did not have time to have the Swiss fondue or raclette in one of their restaurants. I would have loved to eat at the new restaurant IGNIV where the 3-star Michelin chef from this area Andreas Caminada has let his imagination flow to curate an interesting Menu and possibly meet the Masterchef personally, although I did meet the young and passionate Executive Chef Silvio Germann who explained to me the concept of the shared dishes (not new for Indians and Chinese and perhaps the East Asians as a matter of culture). I also met the Sommelier and Restaurant Manager Francesco Benvenuto who told me that a substantial number of guests were from town and Sunday lunch was a special family Brunch (unfortunately, I had to leave before lunch to reach Zurich and catch a flight to Barcelona). Their wine list is extremely elaborate with around 600 labels that included top wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. He was also happy to share that their wine sales were more in the premium wine segment, reflecting the affluent and well heeled client profile.
It had been a pleasure to meet the Chef Sommelier Blanco of the hotel, who had been assigned to do a small wine tasting with me as an activity during my dinner at Olives d’Or Restaurant but ended up tasting a dozen wines including many from the local appellation of which there will be another opportunity to write about. We shared many stories and latest happenings of the wine world. He shared news about a big winery in Spain (he is half Spanish) which turned out to be correct.
As I boarded the train from Sargans to Zurich, I realised that I needed to spend a full week to get familiar with and enjoy the facilities at the resort. It’s no wonder Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is considered one of the top Spa and medical health Resorts of Europe and should be able to pull a section of Indian glitterati like a magnet. If you need to discuss with your income tax advisor about how to invest to get the 80 CC benefits to save some taxes, this Resort may not be for you. For the not so affluent, it is a dream resort for special occasions, golf players who love the good life and those who live to eat (and love the gastronomy experience).
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