Dreamily nestled between the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva lies Clinique La Prairie, which has a reputation as one of the most exclusive medi-spa destinations in the world. Established in 1931, it gained worldwide acclaim thanks to the pioneering efforts of Professor Paul Niehans, who came up with the unorthodox method of injecting his patients with tissue cells from lamb foetuses to help stimulate cellular rejuvenation. Now obtained from lamb’s liver, this elixir remains at the heart of Clinique La Prairie’s research and is used in its signature Revitalization programme today.
The spa offers everything from non-invasive skin treatments and weight management to plastic surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology, dentistry and thalassotherapy, and also has a variety of à la carte programmes and treatments that promise to help guests learn how to best look after their health, find the balance necessary for a harmonious life, and preserve their youth. The Revitalization programme includes a four-night stay and everything from chest X-rays to a dental check-up and screenings for skin lesions. It sounds thorough to say the least, combining the expertise of around 60 consulting doctors. The programme is said to be most popular with international clients looking for a health MOT – so popular, in fact, that CLP is currently boasting 70 per cent repeat business. I wonder if it is the power of the liver injections.
I have booked a three-day stay, which allows me ample time for an à la carte experience of the spa: I’ll test the cellular powers of Clinique’s Swiss Perfection products, try Philippe Simonin’s patented “miracle” anti-ageing machine (the ATS-1 System) and enjoy a healthy diet and some fresh mountain air.
After a smooth 45-minute transfer from Geneva airport, I arrive at Clinique La Prairie’s main residence for what the spa terms “hospitalisation”.
I check in and am led to my Alcove room, which is charming: high-ceilinged and luxurious. It has two balconies – as if one might not be enough to take in the awe-inspiring view of the French gardens, lake and Swiss Alps.
I unpack and head to my one-hour consultation with dietician Emmanuelle. She shows me a food pyramid and suggests I eat something from each section at every meal. “Food isn’t just nourishment and fuel, it must also tackle disease and ageing,” she stresses. “We encourage guests to remember the simple joys of eating – it’s not about calorie counting. I don't want you to confuse hunger with simple desire.”
I ask what I should expect from head chef Jean-Bernard Muraro, and she explains that he’s big on enjoying food. “Eating or following a diet shouldn’t be a pressure, it should be enjoyed. The key factors are to eat seasonal ingredients, a variety of colours, a good balance of protein, carbs and fat, and not to overeat – you should never feel full or uncomfortable after a meal.”
I am handed a form with meal options, tick a few boxes for my breakfast (which is served in my room) and make my way down to the main restaurant for lunch. I discover a varied menu of French-, Mediterranean- and Swiss-influenced healthy dishes, including scallop tartare with dried tomato and rocket pesto and warm broccoli mousse with pine nuts and soya cream. I opt for the latter.
My next interview is with medical director Dr Heini, who is rather stern. “So what can we do for you?” he asks. I explain that I suffer from some stress and poor sleep, and would always be happy to loose a couple of kilos. I also ask about the infamous lamb liver injections. “How old are you?” he asks. “We don’t recommend it for anyone under 40.” My feelings of disappointment are tempered by the fact that I am evidently still too young for revitalisation. As my main complaint is simply a slight burn-out from a hectic travel schedule, he suggests I take in some yoga and light sport, as well as a massage – and that I heed the nutritionist’s advice.
The doctor specialises in clinical nutrition, energy metabolism and obesity. We talk briefly about the clinic’s commitment to treating the local community, not only the international guests who flock to the establishment all year round. “We see a large number of patients with wide-ranging ailments and illnesses,” he emphasises.
At dinner I am seated at a table that is allocated as mine for the duration of my stay. Many top-notch medi-spas do this, and I must say I actually enjoy having one less thing to think about. The food is plentiful: I opt for a John Dory fillet with fennel, a carrot juice sauce and salad accompanied by tea.
Admin over, Spa Junkie perks up with the promise of some high-tech age-defying micro-stimulation. Check back on Saturday April 20.