It has taken nearly a century to evolve from a quirky alternative health centre to a full-service spa where you no longer have to give blood before you get beautified.
But Clinique La Prairie is also a world-class medical centre where you can get a full-scale diagnostic overhaul and, should you so wish, the services of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, dentists, cardiologists and a whole range of other specialists.
In fact, this establishment on the shores of Lake Geneva defined the medical spa when it decided to add beauty services to its clinical offerings more than 20 years ago. How odd it felt then to have my blood pressure taken every day before being released for facials and other treatments, some delivering beneficial services like lymph drainage which were then unknown outside the medical world.
Back then, in the late 80s, the property was a typical Swiss chalet most famous for its “sheep shots” – injected extracts from lamb foetuses. Scores of the rich and famous, including local resident Charlie Chaplin as well as other Hollywood stars and international heads of state, sought out the shots for their reputed potential for rejuvenation.
By the turn of the millennium, a multi-storey medical centre had added a full raft of diagnostics to the mix. My visit in 2001 started a little unexpectedly with blood tests at dawn, followed by an ECG, ultrasound and numerous other investigations reassuring me I was in good health.
My husband learned he had a compromised liver and an immune deficiency of the thyroid system a decade before those weaknesses showed up to the extent the NHS considered treatable. Meanwhile he got valuable notice he should temper his drinking, and the sheep shots kept him going until he was finally prescribed thyroxin.
In 2005 a ritzy spa was added, while MRI scanners and mammography machines have been added to the medical suite. But you don’t have to be remotely sick to come here and enjoy the spa offerings, no longer overseen by nurses. Treatments include Lomi-Lomi, a Polynesian healing massage, and Sat Asanas, in which you’re stretched into different yoga positions. A proper Thai massage bed and a real Thai practitioner are invaluable additions to the mix of western and eastern therapies. There’s also a foot rub using clarified butter and metal alloys to reduce insomnia and anxiety, and another invoking hot rice pudding ingredients to induce a sweat and cure joint pain. Facial treatments include microdermabrasion and acupuncture using many tiny gold needles to stimulate muscles.
When not in treatments, it’s sublime to swim in the large, warm indoor pool which, like guest rooms, has panoramic views of the mountains and lake. And although the gym and daily exercise classes could keep you on the property all day, the most delightful execise available is the 25 minute lakeside stroll into the resort of Montreux. Clinique La Prairie might also have invented spa cuisine, so delicious and inventive is even the light-diet food. There is wine for those who want it, and a separate bar in the reception area.
Calorie-counters may be interested in a new weight management programme which harnesses the services of a psychologist/hypnotherapist to assess any behavioural causes, as the place just continues to evolve. Those who don’t want to know they are in a clinic may prefer rooms in the chateau building, with its silk drapes and chandeliers. For me, the light, bright, minimal and, yes, slightly clinical, rooms of the original chalet are unbeatable, and you certainly can’t beat the view.
Programme prices on application, but expect to spend at least £3000 for a week, including treatments.
Chemin de la Prairie 2, Clarens, Switzerland
tel: + 41 21 989 3311