Traveling through "the front door" of Switzerland we've been staying in the finest 5* hotels, but it's not just about the luxe, it's literally a window into the history, the landscape and the finest people who love to share their beautiful country. For 10 days we have ventured from the French speaking Geneva region, into the German-Swiss Berner Oberland and Valais regions of the Alps, then south to the warmer Mediterranean climes of Italian speaking Ticino province.
You get an idea of just how spectacular the Swiss landscape is from the views of our rooms at the amazing hotels we've been staying in and the scenic trains from region to region (with our Swiss passes, of course).
The pics in this blog are all taken of the hotels, or from the inside of our rooms looking out! Like anywhere in the world, careful choice of accommodations and rooms can be an integral part of the experience of any place; and here in Switzerland our hotels have been not just well located but they are palaces and villas of the old world restored with the finest amenities.
The Geneva Kempenski Hotel is right on the waterfront overlooking the highest fountain in the world just a short boat ride across from great walks through the old town. (Next time we'll be sure to plan time for the Patek Phillipe Watch Museum.) Our Swiss pass took us by rail along the lake to Lausanne where we hopped on a bus one block away from the Lausanne Palace and Spa, a classic building up on a hilltop at the edge of the old town where we walked and dined on cobblestone pedestrian streets, after sipping wine on our terrace overlooking the Berner Oberland Alps where we would soon be headed. Our last top in the Geneva Lake region was the other end of the lake in the well-known small city of Montreux where we stayed in the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, in this case where our view of the lake and mountains is highlighted by a bottle of local wine on our small terrace.
On to Interlaken, the adventure capital of Switzerland located between lakes Thunersee and Brienzersee, we were hosted in the Jungfrau-Victoria Grand Hotel and Spa, two classic hotels restored as one replete with grand stair cases, Versailles ballroom and dining room, and the most grand of all was our view looking out at the Jungfrau--highest mountain in Europe on a clear 70 degree day! One evening we were invited to join the hotel's inaugural opening party of the new ground level terrace at the front of the hotel designed to bring the hotel and it's guests together as one with the local community. Never before have I found myself with processco in hand talking business with the GM of such a world-class grand hotel with paragliders flying all around in the sky over his head! Here I had the best deep tissue massage ever by "Magda" in their most beautiful of spas.
We then traveled by boat along Lake Brienzersee to the Brienz and a little further up the valley where we stayed in the 4* historic Parkhotel du Sauvage, a classic Art Nouveau hotel built in 1880 situated in the small tradition town of Meiringen further into the upper valley of Haslital, a lovely more offbeat part of the Bernese Oberland, and in this case our room overlooked the town rooftops to a wonderful view of a church steeple and waterfall lit for a few hours after dark.
A half day’s journey and four train changes later we arrived on the south side of the Alps in the Valais, a region more in the know among Swiss and other Europeans than Americans or other outsiders. The Landhaus Hotel is a more typical 3* Swiss mountain lodge without a large bathroom or too much space in the room but the warmth of the wooden building, our gracious host, the delicious fondue, and of course the mountain views of fresh late snowfall was all charming. More on the activities here in another blog entry, because this is the kind of off-beat, traditional culture and less-known hiking area that is the traditional natural and cultural landscape of Switzerland we seek to discover.
Another fun day of train travel with 5 change of trains, including the slow scenic “Tren Panoramico Vigezzo Vison” over the rugged passes of the southern Alps through wooded valleys leading us into the canton of Ticino. Hemmed in by the Alps to the north and bordered on almost all sides by Italy, Ticino is geographically, culturally and linguistically separate entity. Here our hotel, Villa Principe Leopoldo Hotel and Spa, located at the very top of the ’Collina d'Oro’ dominates Lugano and its lake, owes its name to Federico Leopoldo, who inhabited the property at the end of the 19th century as the family’s summer residence. Before being turned into a hotel, (1986), the princely abode witnessed one hundred years of history: illustrious figures coming from the nobility of half of Europe were welcomed here either as residents or as guests.