One lovely summer morning to head for the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne. We were in the spa town of Evian-les-Bains in France, just across Lake Geneva. It was so unusually bright that day that I had to stop the car by the ridge for a look at Lausanne in Switzerland, directly across the lake.
Lausanne was an easy two hour drive away, along. The route is magnificent as you have the lake on one side and the mountains on the other. In between, you drive through some of the prettiest towns in Europe.
GRAND TOUR OF SWITZERLAND
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 doing a three week road trip around Switzerland. One of the highlights of this trip was a long weekend in Lausanne, at the 18th century Beau Rivage Palace. This is one of the grandest palace hotels in Switzerland, if not in the world.
This had long been on my travel bucket list and finally we found ourselves at the entrance. This institution of a hotel is blessed with fine architectural features. It also has four hectares of spacious manicured grounds and an enviable frontage on Lake Geneva with views of the French Alps in the distance.
HOME TO HISTORY
For 150 years the Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne has hosted kings and queens, world leaders and tastemakers seeking a home away from their own luxurious homes.
The hotel’s ground floor corridor is where all the evidence quietly is. Unfortunately, it 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.
However we did exactly this one evening. And this is how we discovered the hotel’s Hall of Fame. It’s lined with signed black and white photographs of many of the good and the great who have laid their heads down here. It’s literally a long walk through history.
Since this hotel opened its doors in 1861, everyone who has been anyone has stayed here when passing through Lausanne. These include 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.
This was after a high-profile departure from the United States in connection with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witchhunt for Communist supporters. Mr. Chaplin ended up loving this hotel and this area so much that he eventually chose a large villa nearby as his final home.
These days, many guests choose to stay at the Beau Rivage Palace to experience its legendary hospitality. This is always exemplary and yet never intrusive. Indeed, the Beau Rivage Palace staff observe everything and see nothing. More importantly, the front desk and concierge team so impressed me as having a solution for practically any distress — save perhaps for a broken heart.
For the latter, however, a long weekend in one of the bright new suites facing Lake Geneva will certainly go a long way towards easing a heartbreak. This is the kind of hotel where you can literally leave your problems at the front door and feel like everything in the world will be fine. Or solved for you.
A SUITE FOR ALL SEASONS
We booked a junior suite for our stay. This is of course generally nicer than a regular hotel room. Nevertheless it’s at the bottom of the rung in terms of the hierarchies of suites at grand hotels. But quite frankly, it left me breathless as soon as I entered. This was among the loveliest 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 could certainly lift anyone’s spirits even on the dreariest of days. It had a mirrored breakfast nook and bar that was a tiny room in itself. This room, unique to the junior suite on the second floor, jutted out of one corner. It had glass doors that opened up to a private terrace with a view of Lake Geneva.
DESIGNED BY PIERRE YVES ROCHON
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. 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. Above it was a shelf filled with interesting books on Swiss architecture. There was also a book on Anne Sophie Pic, who incidentally runs the hotel’s flagship formal dining restaurant.
The piece de resistance of this suite was a mirrored walk-in closet. It was bigger than an average Swiss hotel room and I loved it. It was massive, even for our large suitcases and an assortment of smaller ones. I reveled in the luxury of having enough closet space in Europe.
In fact, with four large cabinets, luggage tables at the end and a proper mirrored dressing table, it had enough places for everything. I could actually hang all the clothes I’d brought, arrange shoes neatly in pull- out glass drawers at the bottom and place my summer hats on the top shelf. Yes, this dressing room was literally fit for a queen. As was the rest of the room.