The sweet life in Lausanne

Travelife Magazine Publisher Christine Cunanan

One beautiful summer day in Europe, before the COVID19 pandemic hit the world, we left the spa town of Evian-les-Bains in France, where we’d just been on a spa holiday, on a morning so bright that I had to stop the car by the ridge for a look at Lausanne in Switzerland, clear across Lake Geneva on a day so fine.

The Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland

It was an easy two-hour drive away, crossing into Switzerland via a sleepy old French border town and then navigating around the lake. Along the way, we passed through some breathtakingly picturesque Swiss towns. Finally we reached Ouchy, a suburb of Lausanne and also the most picturesque part of it.

Following the well-trodden route of English aristocrats and Russian nobility on their respective Grand Tours of Switzerland over a hundred years ago, we were in Lausanne for three weeks and we were headed for a much-anticipated stay at the 18th century Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, one of the grandest palace hotels in Switzerland, if not in the world.

The Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland

The Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne had long been on my travel bucket list (or should I say hotel bucket list?) and finally we found ourselves in this institution of a hotel blessed with fine architectural features, four hectares of spacious manicured grounds and an enviable frontage on Lake Geneva with views of the French Alps in the distance.

HOME FOR HISTORY

For 150 years, the Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne has hosted kings and queens and world leaders seeking a home away from their own luxurious homes. The hotel’s ground floor corridor, which is not a pathway many guests will notice unless they decide to take a narrow winding staircase from the lobby down to the coffee shop or to the lake, is where all the evidence quietly is. It’s lined with signed black and white photographs of many of the good and the great who have laid their heads down here – literally a long walk through history.

Since the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne (not to be confused with the Beau Rivage Palace in Geneva) opened its doors in 1861, everyone who has been anyone has stayed here when passing through Lausanne including Victor Hugo, Coco Chanel and Nelson Mandela.

Perhaps the most interesting of its innumerable distinguished guests was also one of its longest: the legendary actor and producer Charlie Chaplin set up temporary lodgings at the Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne upon his arrival in Switzerland with his family after a high-profile departure from the United States in connection with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt for Communist supporters. Charlie Chaplin loved the Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne and this area so much that he eventually chose a large villa nearby as his final home.

AT YOUR SERVICE IN LAUSANNE

These days, many guests choose to stay at the Beau Rivage Palace for its legendary hospitality, which is always exemplary and yet never intrusive. Indeed, the Beau Rivage Palace staff observe everything and see nothing, and the front desk and concierge team impressed me as having a solution for practically any distress, save perhaps for a broken heart.

 

This is the kind of hotel where you can literally leave your problems at the front door — which is exactly what we did upon arrival. Incidentally the hotel’s entrance is an original wooden revolving door that leads to an elegant marble lobby with a ceiling as tall as the main building itself. Entering this threshold, you feel that somehow everything in the world will be fine.

Al fresco breakfast in Vevey, Switzerland

Having tarried over a breakfast with a view in the lakeside town of Vevey and then detoured through the UNESCO World Heritage vineyards of Lavaux along the way, we’d ended up potentially late for a lunch date with friends at the TOM Café of the Olympics Museum in Lausanne and with no idea on entrances or parking.

 

So instead we drove straight to the Beau Rivage Palace where we took all of 30 seconds to hand our car keys to the doorman, give our names, and explain our lunch dilemma. Without missing a beat, he pointed us towards a lovely garden path past the hotel tennis courts that turned out to be a shortcut to the main entrance of the Olympics Museum.

The TOM Cafe at the Olympics Museum
in Lausanne, Switzerland

Voila. We arrived just passably late for our lunch at TOM Café and then we spent another hour looking at the Olympic Games displays. When we walked back to our hotel along the same route, letting ourselves in via the backdoor and through the garden, our suite and luggage had been sorted out.

A BEAUTIFUL SUITE DESIGNED BY YVES ROCHON

The Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland

We’d booked a junior suite in the Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne, which is generally nicer than a regular hotel room. Nevertheless a junior suite is at the bottom of the rung in terms of the hierarchies of suites at grand hotels. But quite frankly, this was among the best junior suites I’d ever stayed in, in a lifetime of checking into the world’s best hotels.

The 75-square meter room was light, bright and airy. It was designed to lift anyone’s spirits even on the dreariest of days. I especially loved the mirrored breakfast nook and bar that was a tiny room in itself, jutting out of one corner that then opened up to a private terrace with a view of Lake Geneva.

Breakfast at the Beau Rivage Palace

Each guest room was created by French designer Pierre Yves Rochon in slightly varying styles of contemporary. Our suite was modern and colored in white and pale pastels. For an interesting balance, it had a fireplace on one side and an ultra-modern workstation on the other.

The workstation in white wood and glass was refreshed daily with flowers and above it was a shelf filled with interesting books on Swiss architecture and the cuisine of Anne Sophie Pic, who incidentally runs the hotel’s flagship formal dining restaurant.

THE ROOM WITHIN A ROOM
AT THE BEAU RIVAGE PALACE IN LAUSANNE

The mirrored walk-in closet

The piece de resistance of this suite was a mirrored walk-in closet that was bigger than an average Swiss hotel room. As this was really spacious, I could only imagine what the dressing room dimensions were for like for the even more sumptuous suites.

This one was certainly had enough space for our three suitcases and a dance floor. I reveled in the luxury of having enough closet space in the center of Europe — not to mention one of the most expensive destinations in Europe.

The Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland

With four large cabinets, luggage tables at the end and a proper mirrored dressing table, it had enough places for everything so that I could actually hang everything I’d brought, arrange shoes neatly in pullout glass drawers at the bottom and place my summer hats on the top shelf. Yes, this junior suite was literally fit for a queen, as was the rest of the room.