For more than a century, a fairytale palace on the shore of Lake Geneva has drawn the world’s royal families and their admirers to the old town of Lausanne. The King of Thailand was a regular guest and the exiled Spanish royal family even took up residence.
Now, after an £80m refurbishment, the grand old art-nouveau chateau of the Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa has a touch of contemporary flare to invigorate its old-school glamour.
The first impression is of extraordinary grandeur. One wall of the lobby is given over to a gilt-framed art gallery, while a magnificent violet chandelier and azure velvet seating represent a modern twist on the days when guests arrived aboard the Orient Express.
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My room, in the historic building, is equally modern - with wooden floors, a luxurious king-sized bed and a flat-screen TV. The marble bathroom features a rain shower, spacious bathtub and Bulgari toiletries, a perfect restorative after the days travels, as were the macaroons and Swiss chocolates which awaited me.
A more extensive programme of R&R is available in the 1,500 square metre spa, in a brand new wing added during the refurbishment. A haven of wellbeing, it features a connecting indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam rooms, vitality pools, jacuzzis and a 24/7 gym.
I enjoyed my time in the ladies-only spa, which has its own steam room, sauna and the most delightful waterbeds. Hours spent here feel like minutes - and suddenly it was 5pm and time for my treatment. I decides to try the 50-minute Caviar Essence Uniqueness facial, which promised to “stimulate and rejuvenate” the skin. I left the spa feeling relaxed, re-energised and relishing my skin’s new-found glow.
Dinner followed in the hotel’s Sky Lounge. From the top floor of the hotel, I was presented with the most breathtaking views of the lake, the mountains, the city and the local vineyards - all against the backdrop of a dramatic Swiss sunset. The food was served as small dishes to share, my favourite being the red tuna with wasabi. Grilled scallops were a close second. The wine recommended to accompany the meal was a deliciously oaky local chardonnay.
I learnt more about Swiss wine the next day, on a tasting session at the Unesco-listed Lavaux vineyard along the lake shore. I was particularly impressed by the speciality of the area, a white wine from the chasselas grape, which nicely complemented the traditional fondue which accompanied it. A pairing of pinot noir and chocolate at the end of the tour more than met my high expectations.
The ancient cobbled streets of Lausanne’s old town are the perfect place to walk off any over-indulgence. Climb to the hilltop Cathedral, with stunning views inside and out, then shop in charming boutiques, bookshops and chocolatiers, or browse the bustling market, a century-old tradition, on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Having worked up an appetite, I returned to the hotel to be spoilt with yet more food and drink, this time in the Brasserie du Royal. The “corridor of senses”, a showcase of local produce including wine, cheeses and cuts of meat, is a good introduction to a menu inspired by local and homegrown ingredients, put together by three Michelin-starred chef Marc Haeberlin.
I chose The Perfect Egg to start, a signature dish which changes with the seasons. In late summer it consisted of a poached egg immersed in a pea puree, a simple but delightful combination. It was followed by seared tuna and then a candied peach with pistachio ice cream, paired with a local cider. A feast of high-quality food and wine, along with unrivalled service, made for a truly memorable evening - and a fitting conclusion to a world-class spa weekend.
The Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa, Lausanne, from about £230 per night, including breakfast. SWISS flies from a range of UK airports to Geneva, a 50min rail journey from Lausanne. Tickets start at £55 each way. For more information on Switzerland visit MySwitzerland.com
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