Au, What a Pair

EVIAN, France Have you ever wondered whether Evian water really percolates down from Alpine glaciers for as long as 35 years, then bubbles up out of the ground, pure enough to drink? Indeed it does.

By: Anne Z. Cook

EVIAN, France Have you ever wondered whether Evian water really percolates down from Alpine glaciers for as long as 35 years, then bubbles up out of the ground, pure enough to drink? Indeed it does.

A highlight of my trip to Evian, a sleepy village in the foothills of the Alps on the south shore of Lake Geneva, was a visit to the centuries-old fountain where the water pours forth at 53 degrees. You can drink your fill or cart away as many gallons as you can lift.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead, send your clients to the Royal Parc Evian resort to savor the bracing country air, 1,650-foot elevation and lakeside views. A 42-acre vacation retreat near Evian’s famous springs, the resort has two recently remodeled luxury hotels, lush gardens and a world-class golf course.

During my five-day stay, divided among two hotels the Ermitage and the Hotel Royal guests included parents with toddlers, fashion mavens in Chanel suits, hikers in jeans, Americans on tour, tennis players in shorts and business travelers attending a BMW sales conference.

Treatments and meals at the spa and the Better Living Institute are priced separately.

The resort also offers such activities as golf, archery, sailing, paragliding, mountain biking, skiing and horseback riding. On-property activities, including five indoor and outdoor pools, a children’s center, tennis and squash courts and a climbing wall are free to guests. The redesigned Evian Masters golf course has 18 holes, par 72, a clubhouse, a lavish golf shop, a restaurant and a driving range.

The Children’s Club has a play yard with sports equipment. Indoors, there’s a crafts corner packed with art materials, a reading room, a science center, a stage and a costume room equipped with gowns, feathers, clown suits, pirate coats and princess dresses.

The Fun Club, for teenagers, offers rollerblading, volleyball, basketball, tennis, pingpong, computers and music. Contrasting Styles

Both hotels share romantic hillside settings above Lake Geneva, with views of the twinkling lights of Lausanne. They also have 24-hour room service, televisions, minibars, electronic safes, telephones with dataports and bath amenities. Each has an elevator to the first-floor spa, allowing guests to bypass the lobby.

The 91-room Ermitage Hotel is more modest, with a manor house ambience: plush furniture upholstered in reds and blues and a sporty billiard room. Some of the bedrooms are very small.

However, the Ermitage has better views of the church steeple below and of the pool and acres of lush gardens.

The Hotel Royal is palatial. Built to receive England’s King Edward VII, no expense was spared.

The interior is a symphony of Beaux-Arts shapes and designs. Soaring, vaulted neo-Gothic ceilings bloom with sylvan scenes and floral scrolling; arched doorways and windows invite the eye.

Spacious bedrooms and suites feature doors and closets disguised as framed matching mirrors, textured walls, window fabrics hung in great loops and gathered with silk tiebacks and honey-colored inlaid furniture.

Le Cafe Royal, one of eight restaurants on the property, has a one-star Michelin rating. Travel agents earn 10% commission.

Rates: Ermitage $115 to $355; the Hotel Royal, $195 to $420.

Contacts: 800-223-6800; www.royalparcevian.com; reservation@royalparcevian.com.

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