THE SUITE LIFE
CHRISTINE CUNANAN books a long weekend at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, one of the worldâ€™s best palace hotels
VOL. 9 - ISSUE 1
TRAVELIFE MAGAZINE “We’d booked a junior suite, which is generally nicer than a regular hotel room but it’s at the bottom of the rung in terms of the hierarchies of suites at grand hotels. But quite frankly, this was among the loveliest junior suites I’d ever stayed in, in a lifetime of checking into the world’s best hotels.”
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE CUNANAN.
e left the spa town of Evian-les-Bains in France on a summer morning so unusually 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. This was our next destination, and it was an easy two-hour drive away, crossing into Switzerland via a sleepy old French border town and then navigating around the lake through some breathtakingly picturesque Swiss towns until 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 this area of Switzerland for three weeks and that day we were headed for a muchanticipted stay at the 18th century Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, 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 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, world leaders and tastemakers 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 this hotel 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 witchhunt for Communist supporters. Mr. Chaplin loved this hotel and this area so much that he eventually chose a large villa nearby as his final home.
AT YOUR SERVICE These days, many guests choose to stay at the Beau-Rivage Palace to experience 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.
The case of a lost sweater One morning, I’d given my sweater to the concierge to hang in the coat closet as I’d returned from outside and it was much too warm in the tea lounge. Proceeding directly to the room from the lounge, I forgot about my sweater and only asked the concierge for it the following morning. He could not find it in the closet. After some sleuthing, he discovered that my sweater had been included in a bundle of jackets that had been handed over to a group of guests who had already checked out and were now in the city of Bern, two hours away. Feeling responsible for this oversight, he promptly got on the train to Bern to retrieve my sweater, and by late afternoon, it was in my suite.
For the latter, however, a long weekend in one of its bright new suites and a massage at its Cinq Mondes spa will certainly go a long way towards easing this.
to be a shortcut to the main entrance of the Olympic Museum. Voila. We arrived just passably late for our lunch at TOM Café and then we spent another hour looking at the 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.
This is the kind of hotel where you can literally leave your problems at the front door—which incidentally is an original wooden revolving one that leads to an elegant marble lobby with a ceiling as tall as the main building itself—and feel like everything in the world will be fine. And this is exactly what we did upon arrival.
A SUITE FOR ALL SEASONS
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.
At the Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne, we’d booked a junior suite, which is 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, this was among the loveliest junior suites I’d ever stayed in, in a lifetime of checking into the world’s best hotels.
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
The 75-square meter room was light, bright and airy – designed to lift anyone’s spirits even on the dreariest of days – with a mirrored breakfast nook and bar that was a tiny room in itself, jutting out of one corner that then opened up to a privte terrace with a view of Lake Geneva.
Breakfast at the Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne
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 this area of Switzerland for three weeks and that day we were headed for a muchanticipted stay at the 18th century Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, one of the grandest palace hotels in Switzerland, if not in the world.
Each guest room was created by French designer Pierre Yves Rochon in slightly varying styles of contemporary, and our suite was modern and colored in white and pale pastels, with 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 The piece de resistance of this suite was a mirrored walk-in closet that was bigger than an average Swiss hotel room – so I can only imagine what the dressing room dimensions were for like for the even more sumptuous suites. This one was certainly massive for our three suitcases and I reveled in the luxury of having enough closet space in Europe. 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 was literally fit for a queen, as was the rest of the room.
BALLROOMS FROM ANOTHER TIME
SOMETHING FOR THE KIDS The Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne is a family-friendly hotel. A special welcome complete with balloons, cakes and juice await young VIP guests, who are also invited to participate in the hotel’s junior concierge program. Young guests are lent proper hotel uniforms complete with the brass concierge pin, and they’re assigned to work with the hotel’s concierge team. Tasks for junior concierge include returning guests’ room keys to their boxes and greeting guests upon arrival. On Sunday brunch, one of the adjoining ballrooms is turned into a playroom for the children.
However, for me, the best feature of this jewel of a palace hotel is its set of woodpaneled ballrooms with ceilings laden with carvings, paintings and chandeliers and with the umistakable aura of centuries of glamour heavy in the air. Every evening there were parties in these same rooms; so on our way back up to our suite after dinners or walks, we passed gentlemen in tuxedoes and ladies in long gowns and diamonds lounging outside the ballrooms on breaks from the dancing. “This must’ve been how aristocratic life was once like,” I said as we passed by one night, admiring the vignettes of life from what seemed like entirely another century around me. Indeed, the Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne—modern as it was, with 21st century technology controlling the lighting and mood of its rooms and a sleek Michelin two-star restaurant serving cutting edge food—was still caught enchantingly in a time warp, feeling so much like Old Europe.
In the daytime, when the ballrooms were usually bare and ready for anything my imagination conjured up, I would open the doors of one and stand right in the middle staring up at the artistry above me for a very long time without tiring. I did this several times, much to the amusement of passersby, surprised perhaps to see an Asian lady in black looking up at a ballroom in Lausanne as if she was viewing Rome’s Sistine Chapel, and still I could not get enough of the Beau-Rivage’s beautiful ballrooms. In fact, I could not get enough of the Beau-Rivage at all. I packed up reluctantly and lingered at check-in; and if I had had my way, I would have stayed here as long as possible. Just like Charlie Chaplin. n
BEAU-RIVAGE PALACE LAUSANNE www.brp.ch