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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

On the move: 10 things I learned from a week at a Swiss spa

A heavy metals test. Rosemary Behan
A heavy metals test. Rosemary Behan

Last year, I took five days’ leave and checked into a famous Swiss spa, Clinique La Prairie on Lake Geneva. The spa had come highly recommended for years, but, since I was mostly fit and healthy throughout my 30s, I was almost waiting for an opportunity to make the most of it. So it was that I braved an overnight economy flight from Abu Dhabi to Geneva, to make sure that I felt the full effect.

I’d booked onto a five-day “Master Detox” programme, the details of which will come in the next issue of The National’s luxury travel magazine, Ultratravel, next month. But there were 10 things which struck me as being immediately pertinent:

1. There’s a reason the Swiss have a reputation for diplomacy. From hotel staffing to medical diagnosis, they had a delightfully light touch compared to spas in France, Germany or Eastern Europe.

2. What is normal to us in the Gulf is unbelievable to Europeans. I’m talking about eating and exercise habits.

3. Restaurant and takeaway food is covered in fat. Until you eat healthily, which you most certainly do at La Prairie, you don’t always notice that most of the food we are served in restaurants and takeaways is literally covered in fat. This has a frighteningly cumulative effect.

4. We are creatures of habit. When you are there with a group of other spa-goers, you don’t want to over-indulge in bad stuff. Often, apparently, you eat the wrong things because your body is lacking something else. When you eat a perfectly balanced healthy meal, you don’t have these cravings.

5. It’s better to find out about the state of your health than worry about it for no reason or leave it too late. If like me you don’t go to the doctor and hate blood tests, the worries start to surface after a while. Go for a full MOT to get a clear picture, so you can focus on what needs changing. I found out I had high cholesterol, but other results were more positive.

6. Take your own pillows. It always surprises me that places can go to so much effort to provide luxury, but fall down on the basics. This spa was no exception, and next time I would take my own pillow.

7. Forty is still young. I was told I was “much too young” for the spa’s most popular programme, which involves cellular therapy. I was almost a decade under the average client age. Satisfying.

8. Cheap really is expensive. Unless you’re very active, eating cheap food is a false economy. It costs from €7,000 (Dh35,000) a week to check-in here.

9. Advanced medical testing is now mostly painless and offers almost immediate results. An electronic heavy metals screening can tell you in seconds if you’ve ingested too much mercury from your fillings, silver or gold from your jewellery or aluminium from tinned food and cheap pots and pans. Most of us have high levels of aluminium: liquid artichoke can help to rid the system of such toxins.

10. Liquid artichoke tastes disgusting.

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