Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Arrival at the 7132 Hotel.

What does it feel like to come to Vals in the evening after a day’s work and enjoy the 7132 Thermal Baths at night? Let us take you on a trip that starts in Ilanz and ends with a deep sleep in a king-size bed at the 7132 Hotel.

Our journey started somewhere in Switzerland. As always, the motorway was busy at the end of the working day, as was the main road through the Grisons uplands. It snowed all day, but the roads had been cleared – up to this point. A white road stretches ahead of us, overhung left and right by mighty fir trees. We’ve just taken the turn-off for Vals at Ilanz. As the last street lamps shimmer in the rear-view mirror, nature seems to be saying: you’re now leaving civilisation. Now and again a village sign with an exotic-sounding name flashes past in the light of the headlamps – a few houses, two oncoming cars and a PostBus. Otherwise nothing. Silhouettes in the distance suggest the rugged outline of Vals Valley. Is this really the right way? Yes – ‘Vals 10 kilometres’ it says on the sign as we come out of Tersnaus. On we go until we finally arrive in Vals. As we go up the driveway, we encounter the splendid entrance area designed by star architect Thom Mayne – a sight to thrill, and not just for purists and devotees of architecture. All of a sudden we’re in a different world. Having just come through a wilderness, here we are basking in the welcoming warmth of the hotel entrance.

We step into the deliberately darkened lobby, where we’re greeted by piano music and a friendly receptionist. The car’s parked by the valet and our luggage is taken up to the room. We’ve booked an Ando room in the House of Architects by 7132. One of the three penthouse suites with helicopter transfer from anywhere in Switzerland sounded like an attractive option, too, but they were fully booked.

On entering the room, we stop for a moment to take in the aesthetics of the design. It suddenly seems bigger. We try out the various light settings, opt for number three and stow away our bags in the invisible cupboard. Thankfully the television doesn’t immediately come on, as you might find in a conventional hotel room. We leave the radio switched off. The bed is so comfortable, you feel you just want to stay there. Then we notice the absolute quiet.

We’re already starting to unwind, but the journey has made us hungry. We have a choice between the 7132 Red Restaurant and the DaPapà Pizzeria. We haven’t reserved for the 7132 Silver Restaurant, and it's not a place to quickly pop by and grab something to eat.

We opt for the DaPapà. Down we go in the lift, then it’s a two-minute walk along the cleared path and Cesare welcomes us. Here the television is on, in typical Italian style – the Rai 1 news. Ham, salami and mortadella as a starter followed by a pizza – what could be better?

Back at the hotel, we make our way to the 7132 Blue Bar in the lobby. Cool jazz and a Campari and Orange – and before we know it, it's already turned half past eleven: the 7132 Thermal Baths opened exclusively for hotel guests thirty minutes ago. Back we go to the room to change into our swimming things and bath robe, then it’s off to the sixth floor and directly through the connecting corridor to the thermal baths reception. Towels are ready and waiting.

The main pool shimmers in light azure-blue between slabs of Vals quartzite. We almost run down the stairs before plunging into the water. If it weren't for our curiosity, we’d stay here, but as it is we’re keen to explore every part of the facility – petal bath, spring grotto, drinking stone, quiet rooms. Peter Zumthor has made it all so fascinating, it takes a little time to relax. Then we go to the outdoor pool. With snowflakes on our shoulders, we feel the winter night and forget the water temperature of 36 degrees. The steam means you can barely see your hand in front of your face, but if you look up at the edge of the pool you can make out the dancing snowflakes. We stay here for a while, and now a sense of intense wellbeing comes over us. Back inside, we return for another dip in the melodic pool and the blossom pool. The relaxation is perfect. A dip in the cold bath? Let's save that one for tomorrow – perhaps.

Back to the room, light number 3 on, one more admiring look at Ando, then it’s lights off and we fall asleep.

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