ALPINE ADVENTURE, SWITZERLAND
Le Grand Bellevue
En route to Gstaad in the Swiss Alps, winding through chocolate-box-picture-perfect villages where even the local burger joints are quaint, it’s hard to imagine a hotel majestic enough to match its surroundings. However, on arriving at Le Grand Bellevue – my partner Nicks’ and my new home (and office) for the next few days, “grand” seemed like a major understatement.
The hotel is steeped in history and has seen many special guests between its sheets over the past century including Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, and Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. Although Le Grand Bellevue has changed hands a number of times since opening its doors in 1912, its most recent and most exciting transformation is down to husband and wife team Daniel and Davia Koetser.
Once a palatial beast of a building, Le Grand Bellevue now somehow manages to be elegant, cosy, quirky and luxurious all at once. It’s a place where a giant upholstered camel named Leonard greets you at the entrance to a Michelin starred restaurant and a 17 metre bespoke chesterfield and super cool House Of Hackney wall paper fit right in.
The jewel in the crown for me however (sorry Leonard), is Le Grand Spa. The thermal oasis offers 17 different heat treatment experiences including a Himalayan salt room, Turkish bath, ice grotto and Finnish Sauna. A combination of the latter two appealed to Nick’s hardcore endurance levels but my personal favourite was the infrared sauna, complete with twin thrones and ergonomic back supports where we both sat like King and Queen of a small, red glowing hot box! This was closely followed by a hay steam which is amazing for stimulating your metabolism and improving circulation.
To be honest, I’m pretty glad that it wasn’t ski season during our stay as I’m not sure how I would have felt about leaving the spa behind for the slopes. From the textured pebbles underfoot outside, the swinging egg chairs in the lobby and the so-relaxing-I-might-have-fallen-asleep waterbeds, the entire Le Grand Spa experience is designed to inspire a sense of wellbeing.
The dining experience at Le Grand Bellevue is very much like the spa in that there is so much on offer. In addition to the Michelin starred restaurant there is also a sushi bar, rotisserie and even a fondue chalet. After sampling some of the hearty, regional specialties on the first evening, a bowl of ara jiru (a brothy, buttery, salmon soup) served up by the resident masterchef at the sushi bar was the perfect way to round off day 2.
Despite the intense levels of relaxation at play, we eventually decided to trade the therapeutic effects of herbal steam and aromatherapy oils for some mountain air, and took the ski lift up Wispile for a 3-hour hike. Equipped with our Bellevue Swiss army backpack filled with picnic goodies (I hear you can even have a DIY fondue kit packed for you), we visited mountain farms making their own cheese along the way, accompanied only by the sounds of cow bells and birds.
Coming back to our very inviting room to spend a bit of time working on my new book, we were met with the sounds of the local women’s tennis tournament taking place in the distance. For a moment, it was mildly tempting to head into the village and explore, but we decided quickly, that that would be madness. That’s the thing about Le Grand Bellevue, there are very few reasons to ever want to leave.