A perfectly gorgeous debut to my 30s

"So, what does it feel like to be 30?" Tim asks, perhaps expecting me to start complaining of groaning bones and rapidly spreading wrinkles. I stretch my legs out in the water and ponder. I don't think I've ever felt any better. That certainly has in part to do with our location: Tim has surprised me with a weekend in the Tyrol in Austria, one of my favourite places, at the magnificent Posthotel Achenkirch, a child-free wellness resort close to the mountain lake Achensee that markets itself as a playground for adults.

It's like a palatial chalet - all sloping rooftops, turrets and trailing vines arranged around a stepped series of heated outdoor pools. There's a stables across the way, where the hotel breeds its own Lipizzaners, and you can see across the buildings to the meadows where it sources a lot of its produce. We receive a room upgrade as a treat for my birthday, so benefit from a huge corner bathtub. From the natural-toned interior, with just slightly disturbing artwork (see below), views extend to the billowing mountains studded with pine trees.

The peace is an instant tonic - no roaring traffic or rumbling aeroplanes, just the neighbour's TV - but nowhere's perfect. The room's so comfortable that I would happily while away the weekend there reading, but the spa is an impossible lure. It's huge, comprising numerous heated indoor and outdoor pools in a temple-esque landscape; whirlpools; superb saunas (though would be better if nakedness weren't enforced - there are just some things one shouldn't have to see!) and steam rooms - including a sauna with sun-bed-style lounge chairs and a chamomile-scented steam room; a 'sunken temple' with a relaxation room of water beds and soothing music; and a host of quiet areas for retreating from the world. Tim has treated us to a couple's treatment, which involves a massage and an aromatherapy bath enjoyed over chocolate-dipped fruit, and we emerge with baby-soft skin.

Another day dawns fine, and we hike into the mountains, passing Annakirchl, a quintessential Tyrolian church on a hillock, where there is a panoramic swinging bench basking in sunlight, and trawl up through flower-dappled woodland to Brundlalm. From here, we can take in the true extent of the setting: the deep turquoise-toned Achensee shimmers like a satin bedspread between raging, snow-topped mountains.

The rest of the weekend is rainy, so we make the most of the fitness programme and enjoy fascia and coordination training, and a lovely yoga class, in a wood-beamed space that has the hearty smell of a barn (it must be close to the stables). Mealtimes are also a considerable treat: all are buffet-style, and a huge threat to the waistline. Breakfast features more fruit than a greengrocer's, as well as a menu of breads - from rye to pumpernickel, an excellent selection of nuts, seeds and granolas, and a juicer for making your own vegetable juices. Mercifully, lunch is a lighter affair - salad and soup, and a soupçon of cake (the stracciatella and plum is divine) - before the five-course dinner hits with its creative concoctions of local produce. I opt for the vegan menu, which features celeriac steaks and aubergine burgers.

There's a lovely treat awaiting on my birthday - the table set with bowlfuls of roses, handshakes from all the staff, and a beautiful birthday cake. It's a good job we're doing lots of swimming. Though just now we're basking in the last of the day's light in the warm water of the salt pool. So what does it feel like to be 30? I look up at the mountains, feel the water lap around my limbs, and think if this is the way my new decade feels, bring it on.
And some lovely birthday gifts ...

One March week in Switzerland

Spend much time in the Alps and it's easy to think the wow effect of the mountains will wear off. Not so, in my experience. Here we were in the Swiss Alps for the gazillionth time - and the view was like none I'd ever seen before. Piercing a sparkly blue sky, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau presented a magnificent mountainous trio in a never-ending sea of rippling snowy summits. Alpine choughs flew past at our altitude; the air was crisp and the sun, warm. I looked down, but the view wasn't quite so dreamy: beneath the glass walkway, the ground tumbled away in a raging torrent of rocky outcrop. Yikes.

Mum and Nigel had come to visit, and we were braving the Skyline Walk, a steel grill and glass walkway suspended off the Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland. Vertigo aside, it offers perhaps the best views of the famous trio you could hope for. We clambered off the walkway and continued via cable car towards Piz Gloria at the top of the mountain - at almost 10,000 feet above sea level. It is perhaps most famous for its appearance in the James Bond film 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', but it also offers a more cost-effective and less-touristy way of seeing the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau than the Jungfrau railway.

We enjoyed lunch in the rotating restaurant at the summit, where we watched, mesmerised, as the landscape unfolded around us: the lowlands rose in geological formation into the Alps; the North Face of the Eiger glowered menacingly. It seemed almost crass to be munching away in the warmth admiring a mountain that has claimed so many lives.

The dramatic scenery was quite different to other places we had seen during the week, including Einsiedeln, an awe-inspiring Benedictine monastery dominating hillocky green countryside, which also breeds the oldest horse breed in Europe, and Bollingen at the southern end of Lake Zurich, where we went looking for Carl Jung's Bollingen Tower. Here, the scenery was rolling and almost coastal, with reeds rustling in the choppy water.

One-and-a-half rotations around and it was almost time to depart. A weather front was moving in over the Alpine ocean and threatening to engulf the mountains; the blue and cream landscape now silver and steel. Outside, the wind howling around the summit was like ice. No, the wow effect of the mountains will never wear off. Their beauty remains but their moods are ephemeral, lending them a new outfit and personality from one moment to the next.
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