Geneva’s Hotel d’Angleterre
By Richard West
The perfect day in Geneva doesn’t break. Far too messy for this ridiculously bijou city, cozily nestled between the Swiss Juras and French Alps and neatly stretched along the edges of Lac Leman and the Rhone River. No, it unfolds, it rises, spreads like a stain, suffusing the sky slowly with bluish and white light.
If luck holds, you’re watching this display in one of the 45 rooms of the Hotel d’Angleterre, the city’s premier lakeside 142-year-old hotel, part of the Red Carnation Collection of top-shelf places to bunk around the world. If luckier than loaded dice, you awake in one of the nine lakeside rooms, say, No. 426, so that the morning view out the bedroom window perfectly frames the lake’s Jet d’Eau, Europe’s tallest fountain, spouting 130 gallons of water a second 390 feet up, backgrounded by snow-topped Mont Blanc, the European Union’s highest peak (15,781’). And there you stare awed and Saturdazed after a hard week’s work.
Geneva: Switzerland’s second-largest city (187,470 pop.); the European base of the UN (8500 employees) as well as 250+ other international bodies; the world’s first mass tourist destination thanks to Thomas Cook’s first conducted Swiss tour in 1863; the watch selling capital of the universe.
Irony Dept.: John Calvin and his Calvinists prohibited the wearing of jewelry in Geneva, thus creating an opportunity for Swiss watchmakers and sellers. Human bling-need, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Today, 30 million Swiss watches are exported yearly. The Geneva Challenge: find a central-city block not offering five-figure watches. And it’s true, most watches displayed are set at 10:10 so the brand name isn’t obscured.
You’ll verify this looking at watches in the d’Angleterre’s lobby while sipping the welcoming glass of Ruinart Champagne and making dinner reservations at the hotel’s Windows Restaurant. If Room 426 is booked, why not Room 126 and sleep with Picasso…or at least with his original work above the bed. If a Pop Art fan, of course Room 224. Paranoid? By all means, the legendary Presidential Suite with its bullet proof glass.
Of course d’Angleterre runs with a Stratavarian hum, continuing the tradition of Swiss hotels being among the world’s best. After all, they were the first to have electric lights, lifts, central heating, and indoor toilets.
The hotel’s centrally located to Geneva’s most popular sites: a short walk east along the lake to the lovely botanical garden, stopping at the charming La Perle Du Lac for a glass of white; continuing on Avenue de France to the Palais des Nations fronted by the huge 12-meter-high Broken Chair monument; back to d’Angleterre for tea in the Observatory before strolling around the lake and up into Old Town’s narrow streets centered around the looming St. Pierre Cathedral.
After a rest, I suggest a pre-prandial glass of Bouchard Finlayson’s Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa in the hotel’s cozy Leopard Bar that features live music Mondays to Saturdays. Then up to dinner at Windows.
For my Saturday night feast, a remarkable all-white-truffle menu, beginning with a creamy pumpkin soup a la truffe blanche and ending with crème glacee a la truffe. Indeed a perfect day that ends back in your room, the pillowed chocolate pastry, lit bathroom candle, and a last look at the illuminated fountain and mountains beyond.
Hotel d’Angleterre, 17 Quai du Mont-Blanc, Geneva
Telephone: 0041 (0)22 906 55 55