Grand Hotel du Lac, Vevey, Switzerland
THE BACKSTORY: Start with a storybook setting. The Grand Hotel du Lac is an 1868 hotel set along the shores of Lake Geneva in the quiet Swiss city of Vevey. Across the lake are the snow capped Dents du Midi, the most noteworthy peaks in this part of the French Alps. By day, sailboats tack and forth between countries, while at night, you can see the lights of Evian in the distance. You can imagine exiled royals encamped for months in this hotel, back in the days when royals did such things. Deeply atmospheric, it was the setting for Anita Brookner’s novel, Hotel du Lac. When I slept here nearly a decade ago, it was all faded charm, yet still a delight. But last weekend, a stay here was of a higher order of pleasure. The hotel has undergone a radical refurbishment, a makeover that rightfully restores the "grand" to its name. The lounges are posh, plush and suitably clubby, the chandeliers sparkle, and the staff exudes the quiet calm of people who know what they are doing. The look is courtesy of Pierre Yves-Rochon, the decorator who did the interiors of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris. The results are nothing short of stunning, and have earned the property membership in Relais & Chateaux. It is a grand hotel reborn.
THE ROOMS: Subdued, smart, and elegant in a way that doesn’t call attention to itself. The fabrics, wallpaper and linens are of the finest quality, the bathrooms marble enclaves. You want to touch everything because every surface has been upgraded to a fine standard. They took advantage of the fact that the hotel had great bones, with high ceilings and French doors onto balconies overlooking the lake. The designer managed to mix modern touches with classical references, and it all works.
MORE REASONS TO STAY: Vevey itself. Set on Lake Geneva with a jaw dropping view of the French Alps, and a backdrop of vineyards, Vevey is one of those places that are usually overlooked as we rush somewhere else ( in this case, Lausanne or Montreux, which bookend the city). Vevey has a slightly elegant, decidedly civilized, rather 19th century feel, with a great Saturday morning market on the Place du Marche next to the lake. Here you’ll find antique dealers, Moroccan spice sellers, cheese mongers and a gaggle of children lining up for a turn on the 19th century merry-go-round. That much maligned word, "charming," describes the town well.
WHAT’S THE DEAL: Rates from about $300 per night.
INSIDER TIP: While there’s nothing wrong with a view of Vevey, the lakeside view of Lake Geneva and the French Alps is so compelling that a water view room is a must.
CAVEAT: Apart from the fact that I had to check out, nothing comes to mind.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: The view from the hotel is hypnotic, but step outside and you’re on the lakeside promenade. A 15 minute stroll, which goes past the statue of Charlie Chaplin (he spent his final years here), brings you to Place du Marche, the heart of the city.
THE DETAILS: Grand Hotel du Lac, 1, rue d’Italie 1800 Vevey, Switzerland