Glass explores the luxurious hotels and awe-inspiring vistas of Lake Geneva

Glass explores the luxurious hotels, gastronomic delicacies and awe-inspiring vistas of Lake Geneva

CHEESE, chocolate, wine: Switzerland does so many things so well. Extraordinarily beautiful landscapes is another of its fortes, as we discovered when Glass recently visited Lake Geneva.

It started on the train from the terminal to the storybook city of Lausanne. Industrial airport architecture quickly turned to sweeping views of the tranquil lake – a placid stretch of blue backed by the misty, white-topped outlines of the distant mountains. On a clear day, you can see all the way across, but there was something so delightful about seeing it all behind the lacy, translucent veil of Autumn fog.

Chalet RoyAlp and SpaChalet RoyAlp and Spa, Lake Geneva, outside

Lausanne is marked by its near-800-year-old Cathedral which, with its steep spires and intricate carvings, sits high atop a series of winding, cobbled streets. It was on one of these that we took respite from the crisp, October air to enjoy what might be the best hot chocolate in the world at the now-famous Le Barbare. It was thick and rich, with the sweet, milky hum of proper Swiss chocolate – almost reason itself to visit the city.

Next, we walked down to peruse the Saturday market. A row of cheese stalls sold the ingredients for the very best homemade fondues, for those that way inclined, along with huge rounds of Swiss-speciality vacherin de mont d’or. Another row along, and the warm-butter smell of pastries permeated the air – Lausanne is a French-speaking city after all. Beyond that, the city’s permanent shops trade in even more culinary specialities including, of course, artisanal chocolates.

Bedroom at the Royal SavoyBedroom at the Royal Savoy, Lausanne

Another thing Switzerland does especially well? Public transport. It’s just a few short stop and a matter of minutes between the city’s main interest points, and we were at our hotel – the grand Royal Savoy – a swift 10 after our little market visit. My room was backed by a balcony that overlooked the hotel’s gardens and, behind those, the new building and spa. In the latter I did a few laps of the bright blue pool, which is split via an electric door from its outdoor twin, before enjoying the hot tub and sauna – both of which were entirely deserted. If I hadn’t felt up to a spa visit, the bathroom in my room itself would have sufficed with its Jacuzzi-sized tub, heated floors and waterfall shower.

The Royal Savoy Lausanne GenevaThe Royal Savoy Lausanne, outside

The following day and we were back on a train for the hour-or-so long journey to Villars-sur-Ollon, a charming mountain village with a breath-taking altitude of 1300 metres. On the tram that wound from the train station high into the peaks,we watched as the landscape became more and more inspiring. It was just the Monday of Autumn and the vast, viridescent hills, which undulated into deep, cow-freckled valleys, were becoming umber-tipped in preparation for winter’s deep blanket of snow. Giant evergreens and pebble-filled brooks outnumbered people, who you’d glance on occasion – just far-away specks – walking a trail soon to become a ski slope. We started with a hearty, home-style lunch at a nearby restaurant and then retired to the Chalet RoyAlp Hotel and Spa for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.

The pool at the Royal SavoyThe pool at the Royal Savoy

The hotel was perfect. Lodge-style furnishings – tartan carpets, fur rugs and wood-carved animals – mingled with the heady, appetising smell of bubbling fondue to create the cosiest of welcomes. From my room’s window, I could see across the magical, alpine-themed buildings to the misty mountains beyond. Here too was an impressive spa with pool, sauna and hammam to re-warm those returning from a day traversing the frost-tipped hills. In the evening we dined in the hotel’s Michelin-star-awarded Le Jardin Des Alpes. The tasting menu incorporated plenty of fresh ingredients from across Switzerland and nearby France, including a dish of large Normandy scallops with local-cheese-stuffed ravioli.

The following morning we had a private yoga lesson in the hotel, which was a lovely prelude to one of the best meals of the trip – an early lunch at Alpe Fleurie. It was the main course that really stood out here: each of us received a portion of hay-smoked chicken that was at once gastronomically singular and imbued with the comforting familiarity of home cooking. When we lifted the lid off the rustic pot it was cooked in, the warm, almost sweet smell of fresh smoke filled the air in front of us. A separate bowl of fresh, lightly cooked vegetables came on the side.

From there, we travelled back to the airport – it’s only about two hours away, despite feeling so remote. It was a short break, but with so much to experience in this little corner of Switzerland, Glass left more than satisfied.

By Becky Zanker

The Royal Savoy, Lausanne
Five stars
Rooms start from approx. £260 per night
Chalet RoyAlp and Spa, Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland
Five stars
Rooms start from approx. £350 per night

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Glass Online dining and culture writer

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