Although its been snowing up in the Alps (making it the perfect time to give skiing a second try), we forewent skiing this past Saturday and chose a warmer aquatic experience at Migros’s Vitam’ Parc. Migros is one of the largest supermarket chains in Switzerland (or Geneva at least – along with others like Coop and Denner), so I was a bit surprised to learn about this seemingly unrelated business venture.
After about 15 minutes of driving (direction France), we ended up at a shopping center next to the infamous Macumba (allegedly the “largest club in Europe”; I’m not sure that necessarily means the best – I guess I’ll have to see for myself one of these days). An opaque, centipede-like edifice towered over the othersin the area , topped with an enormous smoke stack pumping out smoke by the tons; steam rose from the ground all around it, too.
The entrance to the park is located inside the shopping center and opposite from the entrance, past all of the other stores (what a not-so-subtle marketing ploy!). It was actually really convenient because F forgot his flip-flops and we didn’t have any beach towels so we just got some at – you guessed it – Migros.
When you first arrive, you can buy a ticket to the water park (17 CHF for four hours; there’s also a full day option) or the spa on site (or both), and even get a ski-water park pass for just a bit over 30 CHF (not too shabby). Once you grab your ticket, you’re able to go put on your swim gear in the changing area, leave your belongings in a locker, and head through the showers and into the water park – quite the labyrinth. In the summer, the tubes and water slides outside are open but in the winter, only the slides and swimming areas inside the large white “centipede” are open to the public.
The highlight of the day for me was the Balnéo – a pool that starts inside and flows outside, always heated to 33°C (about 91°F). To go out into the Balnéo you have to briefly submerge yourself and swim underwater to pass under a plastic curtain and into the side of the pool that’s out in the open. When you come out of the water, the cool, winter air hits your face, giving you an instant fresh feeling although your body remains warm in the water. Because the difference in temperature between the pool and outside air is so great, steam rolls off of the surface of the pool and evaporates into the atmosphere (the steam I saw when we first pulled up to the shopping center was coming from the Balnéo).
The best part about the pool is not only that it’s so incredibly warm, as warm as the water would be at the beach in Miami in mid-July (a girl can dream), but also that there were designated areas to relax and take it all in. In the center, irons bars were set up underwater in the shape of a double-sided couch, allowing people to sit while keeping their heads just above the water. When you sit, a motion sensor of sorts is also set off and water jets start to pump water up against your back and legs; really lovely. Similar iron structures can be found off to the side, but instead those are shaped like reclining beach chairs, so you can lay in the water, kick back and truly unwind. Finally, on the edge of the pool closest to the “centipede”, there are three huge, faucet-like structures that shoot out water so hard and so fast that when you place yourself directly under them, it gives you the impression that someone is standing behind you, massaging you – karate-chopping you into oblivion.
As we were leaving, I noticed a public bus from Geneva parked outside – the D bus. It turns out that if you take the D bus, direction Neydens-Vitam’ Parc, and get off at the stop by the same name (the last one), you’ll find yourself right outside of Vitam’ Parc. It couldn’t be more convenient.