I had arrived at the historic Beau-Rivage Palace in the Swiss city of Lausanne, around 40 minutes from the capital, Geneva. Built in 1861, it is a welcoming oasis of unashamed luxury, the roll call of former guests including Nelson Mandela and Noel Coward.
The moment I walked through the door of my suite I knew I would struggle to leave it behind at the end of my stay: at around 65 square metres, spacious didn’t begin to cover it. Among the highlights was a menu offering me a choice of pillows, and I was also able to plug my iPod into the television and listen to music in all areas of the living space – including in the bathroom.
As well as being able to control the lighting, a hand-held panel beside my bed allowed me to operate a set of blackout blinds and the awnings over the suite’s two balconies.
Every detail was taken care of, which served to fulfil the hotel’s boast that guests feel at home the moment they arrive at Beau-Rivage Palace. Having settled in to my surroundings, it was time to eat. And, clearly, our hosts had decided we should start with the best: namely the hotel’s signature restaurant, the two Michelin-starred Anne-Sophie Pic, which opened in 2009.
We enjoyed six courses, including fish sourced from the neighbouring lake to start, roasted farm pigeon for our main and a cheese course with more than 50 kinds to choose from.
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast in the impressive setting of the hotel’s La Terrasse restaurant, the first full day of my trip was to be spent in the ski resort of Villars, an hour’s drive from Lausanne. As a non-skier, I eschewed the chance to try it for the first time in favour of exploring the slopes in snow shoes with the help of a guide.
We reached heights of around 1,800 metres and the volume of snow was excellent for this late in the season. Despite our vertiginous location, I spent the morning in short sleeves as glorious sunshine enhanced the day – and my tan. Villars is on a natural balcony in the heart of the Vaud Alps and has more than 70 ski lifts, making it an ideal location for skiers of all standards.
In what seemed to me to be the middle of nowhere, we arrived at a large wooden chalet where the aroma of cooking would draw in even the most focused skier. I took my guide’s advice and ordered the traditional croute au fromage, which is one of the simplest and most popular Swiss recipes, featuring melted Alpine cheese over toasted bread with garlic and an egg perched on top. Suitably fed, it was a quick snowmobile dash to catch a train down the mountains and then the journey back to the hotel.
The second full day of my trip was to be a lazier affair, giving me the chance to soak up the hotel’s historic atmosphere. First-up was my appointment at the Spa Cinq Mondes. I was booked in for a Sublime Ritual from Polynesia – a 50-minute full-body massage – which felt heavenly.
I spent the rest of the morning enjoying the Jacuzzi and the cleverly designed swimming pool that is part- indoor, part-outdoor. But I was eager to make the most of my suite and returned to spend the afternoon on my balcony in the sunshine with a book.
This setting made it difficult to drag myself away for our valedictory meal in the hotel’s traditional brasserie, Café Beau-Rivage. I opted for the steak tartare, which had a real kick to it. Better still, my dinner companions were not as greedy as I am, so I was able to sample the lobster and lamb shank as well. The agony of choice is the only cause for concern here.
With yet another full belly I retired to bed safe in the knowledge that I had enjoyed that all-too-rare experience – the perfect holiday.
THE FACTS EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) flies from Edinburgh to Geneva from £24.99 each way. A standard room at the Beau-Rivage Palace costs from 520 Swiss francs per night, based on two people sharing. A junior suite starts at 1,050 Swiss francs per night, also based on two sharing. Tel: +41 21 613 33 33, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.brp.ch