When it comes to hotels, I obviously LOVE a luxurious environment, but I also like places that have character and personality. Think ACE Hotel, Line and 45 Park Lane.
I recently stayed at Le Grand Bellevue in Gstaad which made it straight into my top five European Happy Places. After a skip and a jump (read: a plane and two trains) from London to Gstaad, I was a little weary. It took as long to get there as it would have taken me to fly to New York. For three days, it may seem a little ambitious, but I can already tell you it was well worth it. Arriving at Le Grand Bellevue is like visiting your favourite relatives in their country home. A country home you know and love. You are greeted warmly, escorted to the lobby – which looks more like a plush living-room – and served a small glass of home made iced tea. Delightful! After a short introduction, it is time to go up to your room, where your luggage awaits. Not sure how they do that, probably teleportation.
Because I travel quite a bit, I like feeling instantly at home, which is why I mostly rent apartments when I’m on holidays, carefully picking properties that perfectly match my personal taste. With hotels, it can be hit and miss but I must say Le Grand Bellevue was totally spot on: with wallpaper from House of Hackney, custom made sofas by George Smith and Soane, upholstery fabrics by Jean-Paul Gaultier and pineapple wall sconces, it looks like a hyped up version of my flat.
This is all due to the wonderful eye of husband and wife duo Daniel and Davia Koetser who took the existing Bellevue Hotel, already a palace, but in serious need of modernisation and turned it into a hip, arty and much more stylish looking property. The service is still what you would expect from a hotel of this calibre, but the decor far exceeds anything I’ve seen before.
The decor in the communal areas of the hotel is perfect (to me) but if it is too much for the more minimalist amongst you, I have good news: the rooms are much more neutral and minimalistic, offering a great visual balance, and an opportunity for guests to make it their own. I really enjoyed that aspect too. Don’t get me wrong, the rooms may be simpler, decor wise, they are nonetheless deliciously cosy.
Now… If you find yourself in Gstaad, one would assume you are either there to ski or to shop. I wasn’t particularly interested in either (I haven’t skied in 20 years and although I would have loved to be able to say “I broke my leg in Gstaad” – how chic – I decided to pass). If you want to ski, Le Grand Bellevue will kit you up and take you to the slopes. They will even carry your gear for you. If you want to shop, just put on your coat, walk out of the hotel and turn left, you will find yourself on the Promenade, Gstaad’s high-street (Prada chalet, anyone?)
As I said, I wasn’t interested in skiing or shopping on this trip, so I indulged in one of my favourite past times instead: eating. Le Grand Bellevue has two (well three) restaurants: Le Petit Chalet for fondues; Leonard, the Michelin star restaurant; and the bar which offers a variety of wholesome snacks. Once I was done eating my way through Switzerland, I wandered down to the Spa and decided to try out all seven saunas and steam rooms. The Salt Grotto, with its Himalayan Salt Crystal light was my favourite and I stayed there a while just zoning out, thinking about ways I could ingest more cheese. I am not sure this qualifies for this mindfulness thing everybody is talking about at the moment, but it sure helped me relax. Add to this a 60mn massage, mixing sports, Swedish and reflexology and you have yourself a merry little robot. I am quite low maintenance, really.
I was staying in a Tower Suite, perfect for a couple – you could even bring the kids!
Blissed out after a trip to the spa and ready for a warm bath.
Details from the bar. They make the best latte macchiato. Don’t miss it.
Hotel lobby and library with a selection of Daniel’s favourite books
The lounge with its House of Hackney wallpaper is where you can enjoy afternoon tea and sip on a hot chocolate from their extensive menu.
Detail from the basement club
Beautiful yoga studio
Mademoiselle Robot was a guest of Le Grand Bellevue
Flights from London to Geneva with SWISS from £99 return (0845 6010956 / www.swiss.com).
Winter rates at Le Grand Bellevue (+41 33 748 00 00 / www.bellevue-gstaad.com ) start from 620 CHF per room based on double occupancy, on a half-board basis