Thermal Baths in Switzerland, ahhhhhhh

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May 15th 2010
Published: May 23rd 2010
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at the museum gardens
On this my last weekend in Saint Lupicin, we decided to take a day trip to Switzerland!

Yesterday we piled into two cars and drove the two and half hours up through the Jura mountains and across the Swiss border into the Alps. Martigny, is a small city located in the valley de Valies, a valley that lies nestled in between two lines of Alpatian mountains, and that follows the Rhone. Because of it's unique location, it is actually a micro-climate, and is excellent for growing fruits.

So what's in Martigny, you may ask? There is an excellent museum called Le Fondation Pierre Gianadda AND some world class thermal baths.

We started at the museum and saw and exposition on gallo-romain artifacts found in Martigny, a collection of old cars dating between 1904 and 1933, and drawings and models of inventions by Leonardo Da Vinci. My favorite, however, was an exposition of Russian icon paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries.

We ate at the museum cafe and it was really expensive! My plate of deli meat and cheese was 15 francs swiss, which is about $13! Afterward, we headed to the les Bains de Saillon--thermal baths!

You walk in and pay about $8 US for the whole day. There are changing rooms, and then you must take an obligatory shower before getting into the water. There are two large pools outside and one inside, and that's where we started. The water is about 30 degrees Celsius (86 F), which felt great as a contrast from the chilly temperature in the 50's. There were jets and fountains to stand under, and lots of babies in the indoor pool, paddling around.

Rejane, Delphine, and me then decided to head to the saunas! I'd never done a sauna before, but let's just say I'm hooked now! We started in a low humidity sauna with a temperature high of 113 F. The first thing I noticed when I entered was the heaviness of the air, which literally stole my breath. I closed my eyes and tried to be attentive to the effects of the heat on my body. My lungs inhaled the thick air slowly, and sometimes it felt like I wasn't getting enough air, so I was breathing more frequently than normal. As someone who is used to extreme heat, I was surprised how sweltering I found the sauna. I enjoyed feeling the presence of the heavy air, which hugged my body. After 15 minutes (the recommended time) we left and rinsed off in a cool shower. Next it was time for the sauna that was also limit of 113 F, but that was very high humidity. We walked in, and it was hard to see to the end of the round room, as steam was everywhere. The lights were off, except for a fountain in the middle dripping the water that became the steam, which had an ethereal blue light. On the ceiling also, were little lights which resembled stars. Everyone sat in a circle around the glowing fountain. Rejane and I joked that we all looked like a cult wait for a sacrifice. It was incredibly relaxing to be in this very otherwordly space, sweat forming and ripping steadily off of my skin. Again, after 15 minutes, we exited and rinsed off.

Next was the piece de resistance! The hottest sauna. We entered and it was like being in an oven. The temperature limit was 200 F! I never knew that people could withstand heat that intense, and I certainly never thought that people would subject themselves to that sort of thing. However, it was quite pleasant!

Afterwards, we showered off, piled into the cars and headed back into the mountains. We stopped in a small Swiss village near the border and ate fondue! Joachime, Delphine, and I split a morel mushroom fondue! It was delicious but when the bill came it was 500 swiss francs (about 350 euro, or $500 US!!!) For a dinner for 10 at a jus-ok restaurant! I was shocked. Per person it came out to 35 euro, which was steep.

We cruised through the hairpin turns of the mountains and returned safely to Saint Lupcin when we split off for bed.

The next day I saw Julien and Jonathan because we lunched at Joachim's. It was nice to see them one last time! Then it was back to Besancon to get ready for my last days before my train to Paris!

PS: sorry I have no pictures of the baths! Didn't want to get the camera all steamy...

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