Two days at the spa town of Yverdon-les-Bains

Spoiler alert – those two days were many years apart.

During my gap year, before I realised I was a spa person, I was dragged down the lake from my university hometown of Neuchâtel to Yverdon-les-Bains at the other end of the lake. Almost all southbound trains from Neuchâtel stop at Yverdon so that was nice and easy. More difficult was getting from the station to the spa – I’d like to think that these days I’d spend a couple of minutes researching the journey before I go but the evidence of my return trip in 2014 is that I wouldn’t. It’s about a mile, through town, so it’s not easy or obvious but we got there.

We paid an extortionate amount to get in – I don’t know what it cost in winter 2005/06 but it’s currently €19 for three hours. This was my first ever spa experience and while I wasn’t particularly keen to go outside in the snow, it was absolutely magical to sit in hot blue water surrounded by snow. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about that day but the hot water and the snow stick in my memory.

Fast forward to the summer of 2014. I was on a Girlguiding trip with a group of much older leaders and Trefoil Guild members and we had a free day. Most of our group had opted for the Jungfraujoch but I didn’t want to – it’s insanely expensive, 85% of the journey is inside the mountain in the dark, you have to start at about 5am, there will probably be a cloud blocking you from seeing the view when you get up to the top and a lot of people get altitude sickness. No thank you. I hopped on the train and made a quick trip into Neuchâtel (which had changed a lot: all my old haunts had closed down and vanished) and then went to Yverdon because by then I was definitely a spa person.

Yes, I messed up figuring out how to get there again. I got the bus most of the way and then strode Amazon-style up and down the street trying to figure out the fine details. I can’t remember exactly what the problem was but there were difficulties getting in – in hindsight, I should have checked opening times and that it was in fact open that day before I even set out – but I got in eventually. I think the problem was that one of the pools was closed and so they were limiting people coming in.

The outside pools were cold! This wasn’t the delightful hot water I remembered. I pottered around for a while but eventually decided to retreat to the inside pool which was warmer and didn’t carry quite as much risk of sunburn. Iceland genuinely does spoil you for hot water. But then Iceland’s geothermal spa water comes straight from the ground and the temperature varies according to the whim of the earth but it’s generally pretty hot. At Yverdon, although it’s also natural spa water, it’s heated to specific temperatures and in summer, they lower the temperature of the outdoor pools. I daresay it’s nice and cooling on a hot day but I wasn’t pay €19 to go into a thermal spa to cool down and 32° is far too cool.

The indoor pool is pleasant enough but there were so many children and as a child-hater, it’s not my opinion that children should be allowed in spas. This isn’t supposed to be a place for splashing and shrieking – take them to the local leisure pool for that.

Would I return to the Yverdon spa? I… probably wouldn’t. It’s just not hot enough or spa enough for my tastes and anyway, there’s so much of Switzerland I need to return to – and so many places I still haven’t actually been to. I hear there are good spas in other corners of the country so I’ll be heading in their direction one day.

PS – I can’t believe in two trips, the only photos I took of the entire town are of a traditional-style train arriving at the station.