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12 January to 15 January 2014 – Switzerland Visit

Starting 2014 In Great Style

Style, Service, Snow just add Switzerland and Welcome Swiss  – what a lovely way to start 2014.

GTAssociates first personal Fam of the year included Geneva, Gstaad and Gruyere along with Lausanne and Montreux.

Our thanks to Yann and Dino of Welcome for being brilliant guides/chauffeurs and special thanks to the InterContinental Geneva for hosting us Saturday night and to the Beau Rivage Palace, Lausanne for our two night lakeside stay.

So many impressions and the bonus of a free detox courtesy of Switzerland’s clean fresh air.  We were amazed to find how re-energizing the Swiss air was  – or perhaps it was the pleasure of two days with Welcome Swiss.

Our fantastic Accommodation in Geneva and Lausanne

Saturday night – subtly arty and differently Intercontinental. Unbelievably The Intercontinental Gemeva is celebrating its 50th Intercontinental anniversary without seeming in the least “old”.

A work of art in silver doors greets you at the entrance to the main meeting room. Elsewhere you will find Korean art, hand painted wall murals and Japanese material covering walls.

While the hotel is very definitely an ideal business/conference venue, the atmosphere is elegant and quietly refined so that you do not feel as if you are in a “normal” business hotel. We loved the relaxed lobby and cool clubby library bar. Our thanks to Angel Gonzalez for a Sunday show round and sharing some of his memories of the hotel.

Our contemporary executive room was large and so comfortable. Service was brilliant and it comes as no surprise that this Intercontinental works so well for high level diplomats, politicians and conferences.

A beautifully elegant grand dame on an equally beautiful lake shore was home for our next two nights. Our thanks to The Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne the upgrade to a junior suite – we were spoilt by the huge bathroom and lovely views.

The outside of the Beau Rivage is as wonderfully elegant as you would expect from a building over one hundred and fifty years old. Walking into the refurbished area took our breath away!! Light and elegant making spaces seem even larger – almost a modern contemporary finish but somehow in keeping with the grand traditional style.

We loved the refurbished bar. It manages to be almost trendy and modern but has a distinctive business club edge. And for smokers, preferably cigars, your own club style bar overlooking the lobby.

The Rotonde has also been refurbished. The high domed ceiling repainted in keeping with the original sumptuous belle époque style to create a glorious space for meetings of up to 200 pax theatre and banquets for 200. This is a dinner venue with history and class.

Salle Sandoz is an absolute jewel surpassing even the Rotonde in all bar height – only 7.7 metres against 9.7 metres for the Rotonde. Salle Sandoz can host meetings for up to 400 pax theatre style and banquet up to 350 pax. Small wonder it has hosted the signing of important treaties and celebrity weddings.

Looking as good as the Beau Rivage does has been a monumental exercise and since the early 1990′s has required the cooperation of many specialist artisans and craftsmen, the Swiss Service of Historical Monuments and in excess of 100 million Swiss Francs. And it shows!! The spa, added in 2004, cost over £8 million!!!

But the last word has to be for the service – attentive, professional, friendly but not intrusive. While the hotel breakfast was wonderful the staff who looked after us were even better.

Hotels we visited with Dino of Welcome Swiss

A classy glassy retreat where mountains are mirrored in the lake. Hotel Le Mirador Kempinski, Mont Pellerin, is set high up with views across the lake to 3,000 metre snow capped mountains as well of Montreux.

A hotel of two styles joined by the alpine view. All rooms and terraces showcasing the spectacular and relaxing view.

The Mirador Kempinski’s new wing is a masterpiece in modern contemporary finish with facilities to match while the original building contrasts with its classical style.

Three different restaurants, one with one Michelin star, a great Givenchy spa and modern meeting spaces for up to 130 pax theatre style all add up to make the Mirador a great venue for incentive retreats, incentives with a conference day and smaller meetings.

An ultra modern centenarian set in glamorous Gstaad. High tech meets luxury. Grand Hotel Park Gstaad  received a special 100th birthday present in 2010 – a refurbishment costing circa 50 Million Swiss francs.

This 90 room hotel offers four restaurants – we loved the Marco Polo fusion restaurant – and two bars. The most recent bar is an elegant intimate bar having the feel of a London business club with modern touch. The atmosphere bar is always warm and inviting providing live music n the evening and a great Sushi Bar. Finally, if you really want the atmosphere of a London business club try the cigar lounge – brandy/cognac optional.

All rooms include B&O Flat screens, sound systems and so much more.

Want to improve your golf – try the PGA golf simulator that can replicate major golf courses and provide computer feedback to improve your swing.

And the mountain view – amazing.

If you are looking for a great retreat – for small meetings or incentives there can be few better locations and hotels.

If you want gentle activities, spa, salt water pool or high adrenalin activities all year round then The Grand Hotel Park is an ideal base.

Finally a great lakeside presence in Montreux. The Fairmont Le Montreux Palace has the largest conference space on the lake. The Fairmont offers five spaces able to take over 200 theatre style, the largest individual space seats 550 and there are 7 spaces that seat from 20 to 170 theatre style.

If you need larger the combined space of the Leman rooms provides for 900 theatre style.

Depending on room category rooms are either traditional, modern or contemporary while the reception and main public rooms are elegantly traditional.

We started Sunday with a great breakfast and strolled around the centre of Geneva with Yann from Welcome Swiss as our guide. A little sightseeing before visiting our first venue. A funky mix of Swatch watches over the years, trendy, modern dining spaces/meetings rooms and an art gallery in the heart of Geneva and close to Lake Geneva.

Lunch on the Lake filled our 80 minute journey to Nyon where Yann rejoined us. Our service on this occasion was a scheduled lake cruise – despite this lunch was surprisingly good.

Privatised boats come in many shapes and sizes on Lake Geneva, paddle steamers to modern motor boats. You can transfer by boat to Lausanne and Montreux some twenty minutes after leaving Geneva airport (with welcome drinks, canapes and entertainment), or dine in style and disco at night. Why not add a cigar and brandy experience to your dinner menu.

Vuillerens was our next stop – to see a fabulous converted barn. Porte des Iris was used for storing crops and the conversion still echoes its past while also being a very trendy venue. The venue is a great place to party, hold gala dinners and to hold weddings especially where you want to be creative with lighting and atmosphere.

Of course for weddings the bride’s bouquet could match a locally grown flower – the Iris.

Lausanne and checking in at Beau Rivage Palace followed and then we strolled through the gardens to our next venue.

We decided not to run, and have our time recorded, on the 100 metre track, but did enjoy a fast tour of the new Olympic Museum.

The new museum opened on 21 December 2013 and provides a great insight to, and record of, the Olympic history. It was crowded but event delegates can enjoy a private visit. The top floor houses a meeting/private dining space, as modern as the museum. So post a private tour, cocktails on the terrace with spectacular lake views, you can enjoy a great dinner.

We had just enough time to freshen up before meeting Dino and Michelle for dinner. A classic Swiss Chalet on a Lausanne hillside. The Chalet Suisse was very Swiss, warm and welcoming with classic Swiss dishes. We enjoyed traditional food with some fine Swiss white wine.

On Monday, post two hotel visits, we drove along the lakeside from Montreux. Many centuries ago we would have had to stop and pay a toll to Counts of Savoy, the family who originally ruled the region. Chillon castle must be the largest toll booth we have ever seen. It was built to impress and also held prisoners (not for long though – few prisoners survived a year).

Today Chillon is Switzerland’s most visited monument and it also provides an atmospheric medieval gala dinner venue. Imagine arriving by boat, post cocktails and canapés, to a torch lit castle with matching entertainment!!

Our next stop was above the snow to park and then on up for lunch at Botta, 3,000 metres high.  Botta is the restaurant at Glacier 3000, which can be privatised, and Glacier 3,000 is an “extension” of Gstaad’s ski slopes – albeit a few miles outside the village.

At Glacier 3,000 you can mix skiing, snowboarding, helicopters and much more before dining or lunching at Botta. Each cable car can carry up to 140 pax all the way up to 3,000 metres within 15 minutes.

Post a hotel visit and walk around Gstaad our final venue.

An alien place for dinner!! Sci-Fi and a picture card medieval village – a surprising and unique combination??? Unique, almost certainly; surprising – well Gruyere is the home village of the designer of the monster in The Alien. His village house is now a museum dedicated to the movie.

Gruyere comes complete with a castle and a beautiful “high street” filled with shops, small hotels and restaurants. And a Buddhist museum!!

We dined in the company of Jean Luc Dumas and cannot decide which was best, his company or the fabulous fondue that was our starter. Jean Luc, owner Hotel de Ville, was so entertaining that we think he wins by a narrow margin. Strangely enough neither Gill or I had eaten a fondue before let alone the best fondue in Gruyere. We are sure this is correct as both Dino Jean Luc’s said that Hotel de Ville served the best fondue in Gruyere.

We discovered fondue is a great social dish – add in the village being great for dinearounds and you have a special place for informal dining accompanied by street entertainment.

Our Thoughts

Switzerland’s reputation for service is so well deserved – the consistency of service was outstanding.

Add in the level of investment hotel owners maintain, scenery, clean air, range of activities, standard of cuisine and the pervading presence of luxury and you have a destination to impress even your best achievers or most discerning clients.

Short flight times are an added bonus – for Gill and I – 90 minutes Birmingham to Geneva.

Taking an incentive or conference to Switzerland is not a low cost option. However, if you are looking to reward excellence with an high end incentive, or present excellence at a conference, talk to us about Switzerland.