When I was younger, I either wanted to be an actor or an archaeologist (Indiana Jones was regularly watched in my house). But over time that dream changed. Before I had realised I wanted to be a writer, I was fortunate enough to already be doing it professionally. One thing which has stuck with me from my childhood dreams is a love for the back story, for learning about the history of a place, a person or in this case a building, specifically the B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa in Zurich.
Before my arrival, I only knew a little about the Boutique Hotel and Spa, predominantly that the building used to be a brewery. I had chosen to keep myself in the dark; learning about the hotel’s history from my flat in Sydney would have felt like reading the last chapter of a book before having read the first sentence. So, I waited patiently.
After thanking my Uber driver, I was immediately welcomed by the staff at the B2 Hotel, and soon after by Ariane. Ariane took me on a tour of the hotel, telling me about its history in a way that brought it alive for me and gave me an appreciation I would have lost had I learnt about it on my own.
As I am being taken around the hotel, I learn that Albert Hürlimann and the Hürlimann brewery was first established in 1836 and held within the one family for five generations. This struck a chord with me. Five generations of brewing beer. In my family, it was nurses. Many of the women before me, my mother included, went down that path. There was never any pressure for me to be a nurse (my dislike of blood and injections were a big indicator I would never go down that path) but I have always been intrigued by a generational career choice. I like to think that for the Hürlimann family going down the brewery path wouldn’t have just been a legacy but a passion and love for beer. After 130 years of production, the brewery merged with another, the Feldschlösschen brewery. And since it’s merge, the brewery site has been transformed. Now, there is the largest Google office outside of the United States, a thermal bath (which I will come to!) and as of 2012, the B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa.
Just before we continue to my room, Ariane stops to show me where the beer was once brewed. There are still parts of the machines and even a human bomb, which, during the war a man would reside in when needed – even in war, someone had to make sure the beer was brewed. This room is my favourite (well, tied for first with the Wine Library) in the hotel. It’s simple, there really isn’t much to it, but it’s the smell that gets me. Even now I can’t quite put my finger on what it reminds me of. But there is something earthy and comforting about it.
We move on from the old brewery room, to my suite. The design is warm, wooden and open. I notice a large photograph on the wall of the living area, and am told it is a print of what this room used to look like before the redesign.
When Ariane leaves, I decide that a night of wine, beer chips, Swiss chocolate (all free with the mini bar) and a bath are exactly what I need. The bath isn’t found in the open plan bathroom downstairs but instead, it has been placed on the upper level, next to the bed. At first that choice seemed a little odd but after soaking with some bath salts, all I had to do was hop out wrap myself in a delightfully fluffy bathrobe and flop on to the bed. For someone with jetlag, this was my heaven.
The next morning I wake early, it’s spa day after all. But first, to the Wine Library for breakfast. The Wine Library is everything an avid reader and writer dreams of. There are walls of books, a sliding ladder and a buffet of locally sourced produce including my favourite, cheese. As I feasted my way through breakfast, I thought back to what Ariane had told me about the books of the wine library having been owned by a retired bookshop owner. The owner hadn’t wanted to divide them up and sell the individually, so I can only imagine the joy he would have felt knowing they are beloved at the B2 Hotel. There are about 33,000 in the wine library, and a few in each of the suites, and that still isn’t the whole collection. That morning I decided, one day I too would have my own wine library.
I continue to map out my future wine library whilst navigating the hallways and elevators to the Thermalbath and Spa. Despite having travelled extensively, I am notorious for getting lost. Whichdefinitely happens on my way to the spa. When I finally arrive, I’m ready to jump straight into my Sensory Pleasure Package (I promise, it’s not as naughty as it sounds!). But I didn’t read the information correctly and my first treatment won’t begin until 1pm… it’s 11am. I’m told to enjoy the thermal baths, where I can either start on the roof or down on the lower level. Having never really experienced a thermal bath before, I wondered how I could possibly spend two hours hopping between baths. How wrong I was.
I will admit, I love relaxing, or rather I love the idea of relaxing. When I try to put it into practice, I tend to find it a challenge. But there must have been something in the waters because I have never been so at peace in my life. That is, until the spa treatments began. The first, is a peeling massage, which is essentially an exfoliating scrub all over the body. After that, a sauna treatment, where you cover yourself in a clay mask from head to toe and sit in a sauna. There are two other girls in my sauna. I learn very quickly that the Swiss or even just Europeans are very comfortable being naked in front of strangers. While I pretend to be super cool and casual about being in the nude, covered in clay, in a sauna, the girls next to me start giggling at each other. I smile to myself and start to relax and enjoy the treatment. The clay and sauna turned out to be my favourite treatment. The last treatment is a milk massage. Being a writer who formally worked in hospitality and as a nanny, my back is riddled with lots of little knots. And thankfully the masseuse wasn’t delicate (although if you want a lighter massage they cater towards the individual). At the end of my spa day I float back to my room, feeling like a changed woman.
I’m not sure what charmed me the most about the B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa. Was it the library with its thousands of rescued books, the photograph in my room of what the space one was, the pleasant smell of the old brewing room, the Thermalbath and Spa or the attentive service provided by the staff? To be honest, it was one of the most welcoming, unique and relaxing (when I finally figured out how to!) experiences I have had. Truly sublime.
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