A Surprising Way To Put The Fun Back Into Your Holiday
If you’ve always traveled just to visit a certain place you were curious about – like me – you have probably had good experiences and seen, well…one place at a time. But lately I have started to shape vacations around a theme, and I was surprised at how much more fun I had, and how much more I experienced. Imagine to read this program: “Grand Tour Deluxe – Wellness, Spas and Water”. It was a press trip organised by My Switzerland, ie. Swiss Tourism , and Swiss Deluxe Hotels, 39 five-stars hotels in Switzerland. What happens when you put together wellness and the best hotels in Switzerland?
I joined the trip with 4 more ladies: two journalists (one Russian and one Italian, Ksenia Naumova and Cristina Piccinotti), a photographer (Florence Gross), and the Project Manager from My Switzerland (Michèle Steinegger). We were all nice and ready and perfectly groomed….and a bit shy. Conversation was perfect, but very correct and neutral. We got our STS – first class Swiss Travel Pass – and off we went!
Our first night was in the Philippe Stark designed and newly renovated La Réserve Eden au Lac. No competition here: this imaginary yacht club features the best terrace in Zurich, and the best ceviche too. Back in the equally panoramic room, I decided to take a bath. When I entered I found some welcome cards with photos of myself printed from my Instagram profile, for example of me watching a mountain view, and the suggestion to look at the view from my terrace. My ego was happy! I love that they remembered me from last time I was there, and that they knew my taste.
We went to the Dolder for dinner, got a tour about its amazing modern art collection featuring Andy Warhol, Fernando Botero, Sylvester Stallone and many more, skipped its fabulous spa which I luckily visited twice, and went back to la Réserve for the night.
Three French Speaking Hot Spots
The day after we traveled by train – do I need to mention that first class can be a good deal, with the STP? – to the French part of Switzerland, where we visited three hotels. We had lunch in the first one (Beau rivage Neuchâtel), a massage in the second one (Le Mirador Resort & Spa), and dinner and overnight stay in the third one (Grand Hotel du Lac). Yes, you read it well: we tried three five-stars hotels in one day, and on top of that we saw the Nestlé headquarters, the famous statue of the fork in the lake, we passed the Charlie Chaplin Museum, and got a massage too. It was a rainy day, but my eyes filled up with spectacular views. We started to feel less shy, and very relaxed.
Scenic Drive and Pimp Car
The day after, Michèle rented a fancy car. Electric. Black. Fast. That was fun – one could see she enjoyed driving. We started to wind her up telling her a normal car wouldn’t suit her anymore, now that she was officially a car racer, and the atmosphere became more and more like a school trip. We drove along the Grand Tour of Switzerland with the picturesque backdrop of the Lavaux terraced vineyards, a Unesco heritage site, absolutely stunning, and then visited the village of Gruyère which, after 15 years in Switzerland, I admit I had never seen. We visited its beautiful castle, so well preserved that I would have loved to move in. And then we got a delightful moment: we sat on a wall, watching the sheep and smelling the wet grass, and shared a jar of Meringues with La Gruyère double cream, freshly prepared in a local shop. That got us really giggling, what a decadent treat. Everything was so perfectly Swiss, not even Heidi could have done better, and the cream melted in our mouths…. we thought this was the highlight of the day. But Michèle wasn’t done yet, and had another ace in the hole.
Everything I Never Told You
The romantic village of Gruyère is also the home of an unexpected place for you to visit: the HR Giger Museum.I tell you, that doesn’t look pretty. The artist and a team working with special effects won an Oscar for designing the creatures of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror movie Alien,and one can see them all in the museum. I entered with my telephone stubbornly hid in my pocket, swearing I wouldn’t photograph any of that disgusting art. But never say never. The guide announced an “adult only” dark room at the end of the exhibition, and you can imagine how I jumped! The phone was out again. Everybody was laughing at my sudden conversion and we started winding each other up again. If you want more details about the room, just write to me and ask for what I am not telling you here…that was pretty interesting and detailed!
My Soft Spot
After a scenic drive to Gstaad we arrived at Le Grand Bellevue . I admit I have a soft spot for this fabulous place and I am a bit in love with its GM, Fabian Nusser, who modelled once for me, when I visited the hotel with my family He is doing such an excellent job – the hotel is the very symbol of warm and friendly luxury. I have rarely seen such a cool crew and place, not to mention its Spa and the celebrity guests you might bump into.
After lunch in Gstaad, we had one more panoramic drive (this time to Interlaken) in the fancy car, and by now we were plotting and scheming to shoot a video of ourselves dressed up like rappers, arriving at the next Swiss Deluxe Hotel gangsta style, wearing dark sunglasses, thick jewellery and backward baseball caps. Ok, we were very far from that cool image. But that made us laugh for at least half of the trip.
We left our wild dreams in the car and arrived very quietly and well behaved at Victoria-Jungfrau, one of the most famous hotels in Switzerland and a place so grand, that even its pizzeria looks like a night at the Opera. It features a 5’500 square mt. Nescens spa full of natural light, where the luscious vegetation seems to get in. We had a smoothie and a massage, and when I arrived to my room – that had a delightful terrace washed in the after-the-rain sun – I swear that my face had become 10 years younger, an my back and neck were stronger and lighter.
Grand Finale in Lucern and Vitznau
After the night in Interlaken, another scenic drive brought us to Lucern, where we visited the famous concert hall overlooking the water, the KKL , and had lunch on a traditional boat, the Wilhelm Tell restaurant, that really surprised me for the quality of its food.
The sun came out and we drove to Park Hotel Vitznau , the pearl of lake Lucerne, that always gets me the biggest number of Instagram messages when I post about it. This boutique hotel looks like a castle with modern interior design, boasts an amazing spa with a legendary infinity pool, and features the biggest wine cellar in Switzerland, whose value is about 7 million Swiss Francs.
By now we were not camera shy anymore, and when our photographer, Florence Gross, flew the drone and asked us to be in her videos, we felt like seasoned Hollywood stars. More, more! Where is the rap soundtrack?
Quiz: How Old is the Oldest Wine in the Biggest Wine Cellar in Switzerland?
The last evening was memorable. We had dinner in the kitchen, or better in the wine cellar’s kitchen. If a teetotal like me gets really impressed, it means that the wine cellar really is special. And I did get impressed, especially by the art and by the big wooden tree made of cutlery that stands in front of the wine. But I was trying to be smart, and asked the sommelier if, since the wine is so expensive and one can’t possibly drink or sell it all, the owner was trading part of its collection or selling it to other collectors. He answered with another question:
How old do you think the oldest wine here is?
The sommelier said. I tried to shoot really high and answered. “70 years”. He then opened a cage and slowly produced a bottle dating 1795. My God. That means 226 years old. He told us he actually drank one bottle, it was excellent, and they still have 5 of them left. He then showed us a Château Pétrus that flew to the International Space Station and apparently its value in an auction is about 1 million. Wow. We ladies really were speechless – but only for a moment of course! The dinner then became so warm and lively, that I really felt it was one of the best dinners in my life. We were also joined by Evelyn Gorgos of Swiss Deluxe Hotels, who I hadn’t seen for a long time, so to me this important detail was the perfect end to a splendid trip.
Ciao & A Presto!
I spent the last morning in Vitznau reading the papers while catching some sun, then had a gelato treat and it was time to go home, full of impressions. Being able to compare so many spas and top hotels was a huge privilege. Since I regularly post about them, people often ask me to compare wellness spots and resorts in Switzerland, so I was really happy to learn all this new information. I think the “marriage” between My Switzerland and Swiss Deluxe Hotels really is a good idea, if one is looking for a spectacular holiday in Switzerland. And I sure enjoyed all the massage! Thank you to everybody who organised the trip, and…a presto!