I have to confess to a fleeting Heidi moment while contemplating the sloping lawn that edges the side of Mount Bürgenstock and the deep waters of Lake Lucerne. Above me, the Hotel Villa Honegg sits etched against the late-morning sky, while just below, a herd of peaceful-looking dairy cows nibble their way across the sweet green expanse. Each movement of their heads causes the bells around their necks to tinkle and clink in a concert that resonates gently within the prevailing tranquility.
The sweeping views of lake and mountains, coupled with the soothing music of the multitude of bells, set the perfect tone for my arrival at Villa Honegg. An exploration of the 5-star hotel and its wide grounds reveals a stately façade built in 1905, with an elegant, newly renovated interior revealed with the property’s May 2011 relaunch.
After unpacking in my airy, wood-floored suite and opening the skylight just above the bed in preparation for a night of stargazing, it’s time to explore the water options at the spa. The entrance is tucked discreetly away beyond the private cinema and cozy cigar room, emphasizing the sense of privacy pervading the entire property. My room key provides access, and I find a robe, slippers and towel awaiting me in my spa locker.
A session in the sauna cabin followed by an ice bath and a lengthy sojourn in the herb-scented steam chamber clear away travel cobwebs, and by the time I enter the water in the glassed-in pool, I’m completely relaxed. It’s when I swim through the connecting portal to the outdoor infinity pool that my experience reaches a completely new dimension.
It’s difficult to determine whether it’s the revitalizing alpine air or the humbling views of snow-clad peaks and shimmering lake that steal my breath, but the effect is startling and complete. While water tumbles over the pool’s edge — perhaps searching for a channel to join the lake below — I make myself comfortable on a long, built-in bench above a surge of water jets, then slip beneath a cascading torrent that works the kinks from my shoulders and back.
When I head out the next morning for a hike, the immediate world is enveloped in a thick, swirling cloud caught between the heavens and the surface of the lake. I set out on a path that begins at the hotel’s doorstep and watch the vapor patches dissipate as the sun climbs higher.
Later, invigorated by the steep paths and crisp air, I sink into a comfortable chair at an outdoor table on the spacious stone terrace to enjoy breakfast, served each day until 2 p.m. Every chair is draped with a soft blanket, and while I arrange the blanket across my legs, a smiling member of the dining team serves a pot of freshly brewed tea and offers a choice of chilled waters infused with ginger, lemon or a blend of elderberry and peppermint.
As the first sip of tea slips past my lips, a tiered serving dish appears, each level filled with something delightful: cheeses and cured meats, fruits and berries and locally made butter and jams. There’s a small pot of just-made plum and strawberry jam that proves to be a delicious complement to a medley of warm breads, and it’s not long before the arrival of perfectly poached eggs served with Switzerland’s delicious grated potato rösti.
The only thing that tears me away from the table and the views is an appointment in the spa. When initially making my treatment selection, I was surprised to see a Lomi Lomi Nui Temple Massage on the menu. Because I find the long, deep strokes of this particular form of Hawai’ian therapy particularly relaxing — and because I’m charmed it’s offered — the decision was easy to make.
While the seductive notes of Hawai’ian music play softly in the background, my therapist leads me into the quiet treatment space, where an enormous orchid rests upon the massage bed. The massage is delivered with warm, lightly scented oil and lasts 90 minutes, including a heavenly, oil-free scalp and face massage. Afterward, I’m left to rest for several minutes before my therapist returns with a cup of warm, rich broth.
When I’ve finished sipping, she helps me to the relaxation room — essential, as my newly loosened leg muscles are resisting the idea of holding me up on their own. The relaxation room is furnished with waterbeds that possess chromatherapy features, and I spend the better part of an hour enjoying the sensation of floating among multihued lights as they slowly arc through a rainbow of colors.
The combination of restorative massage, a long hike and fresh night air wafting through the skylight above my pillows results in a deep, restful sleep. In the morning, I explore a path that leads through the cow-dotted meadows to a clearing high on a green slope, then return to the breakfast terrace for another splendid meal. This morning, there’s freshly made yogurt with honey from Villa Honegg’s own apiary and a bowl of sweet berries to accompany.
Back at the spa, I spend an hour moving through the circuit of sauna, cold plunge and steam bath. Inside the steamy, stonewalled chamber, a constellation of tiny lights embedded in the ceiling twinkles through the thick mist. Unlike many steam chambers I’ve nearly fallen asleep in, this one is fitted with stone footrests facing the tiled benches, making it especially easy to get comfortable.
The reward for all the miles I’ve hiked and climbed during my stay is another swim in the infinity pool and a reflexology session. My therapist addresses each acupressure point in turn, and then delivers a deep sole massage. The treatment lasts 45 minutes and leaves me ready to tackle the stairs on the way to the dining room for dinner.
Polished wood parquet floors, designed in a beautiful chevron pattern, flow throughout the earth-toned dining space. I sit at a small table next to floor-to-ceiling windows dressed with long panels of a diaphanous fabric the same color as the belled slopes beyond Villa Honegg’s walls. Tomorrow I leave, but there’s still the promise of stars above my bed tonight and a long swim in the morning with a view as powerful and healing as the therapies offered within the serene confines of the villa’s spa.
Hotel Villa Honegg
Honegg – 6373 Ennetbürgen
tel 41 41 618 32 00
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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