people chilling in nature looking at the camera

Pioneering entrepreneur and philanthropist Nachson Mimran has a show of his black and white photography at the Leica Gallery in London’s Mayfair. Compelling for many reasons, says LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

A Native American with a feather har holding his fist up in a black and white photo

Manari Ushigua – leader of the Sápara Nation, in Naku in the Ecuadorian Amazon; photograph by Nachson Mimran in March 2018

Through my years of commissioning photographers, across art, fashion, travel and portraiture, for LUX and Condé Nast, it has become evident that photography is a two-way lens. The image a photographer (or image-maker, as some prefer) captures is of them, as much as it is of their subject. Send two photographers on a similar mission, and you will see very different results.

Little girl in front of wire mesh in dress

A street art project in Libreville, Gabon; photograph by Nachson Mimran, November 2018

This becomes very apparent on viewing the images in Nachson Mimran’s debut show, Photographs from the decade that changed my life, at the Leica Gallery in London. Nachson, a contemporary renaissance man who is part creative, part philanthropist, part social entrepreneur, part philosopher and part tycoon, was not commissioned by anyone to create these images: they are a selection of photographs he took on his travels over ten years.

With his Leica Monochrom cameras (distinctive, niche, digital rangefinders) Mimran chronicled people and life everywhere from Bangladesh and Uganda to the Swiss Alps and West Africa, where he grew up.

trees behind a tribesman in Kenya looking at the camera

Tribesmen from Turkana, Kenya; photograph by Nachson Mimran, November 2022

Mimran is best known for his stewardship of to.org, a philanthropic, creative and entrepreneurial ecosystem making real change. (He is also one of the owners of the hyper-chic Alpina hotel in Gstaad.) The red thread throughout is Mimran’s empathy and humanity: those who know him might suggest he is a modern-day humanist, above everything else. Particularly striking, because, as this is a personal chronicle, Mimran never intended to create anything for public exhibition.

A father and daughter looking at the camera

Self-portrait of Nachson Mimran and his daughter in Gstaad, Switzerland; October 2022

A compelling show, and a window into the mind of someone who, in his own way, is changing the world.

Nachson Mimran: Photographs From The Decade That Changed My Life is on show at Leica Gallery, Mayfair, London until 11 February

leica-camera.com

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red classic car by a lake
A palace in the mountains with trees around it

Gstaad Palace

Maarten Ten Holder, Managing Director of Bonhams Motoring, tells LUX his top picks for The Gstaad Sale in Switzerland ahead of the sale on 3rd July 2022. The sale features cars being sold up to £1,900,000

When you handle some of the world’s rarest, most exotic and most valuable collector cars, it makes sense to sell them in the most beautiful locations. Bonhams is fortunate to have salerooms at the Grand Palais in Paris, overlooking the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco and on the lawns of the world-famous Monterey Car Week. To this glittering roster, we have added the chic Alpine resort of Gstaad where we will be hosting our eponymous sale on Sunday 3 July.

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The venue for this boutique sale is the Gstaad Palace, celebrity haunt for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Roger Moore, and the perfect backdrop for the automotive art we will be presenting – what is more, the general manager is a classic car enthusiast, so we will be in good company!

silver 2010 Lamborghini Reventon Roadster 6 with a pile of orange stones behind it and mountains in the background

2010 Lamborghini Reventon Roadster

Rather fittingly for our jet-set audience, our sale is led by a jet-inspired hypercar – a 2010 Lamborghini Reventon supercar (estimate CHF 1,850,000-2,200,000). This was the most extreme Lamborghini to date when unveiled in the late Noughties. Its aeronautic styling is matched by blistering performance thanks to its 6.5-litre V12 engine. It has a top speed of 205mph and accelerates from 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and even has a G-force meter for that ‘Top Gun’ moment. This Reventon is as new, having had only two owners, the second, the vendor, never having driven it!

A red 1991 Ferrari F40 on a track with grass

1991 Ferrari F40

Lamborghini’s great rival, Ferrari, also features in this sale, with no less than six supercars and grand tourers offered. Looming in the Reventon’s rear-view mirror is a 1991 Ferrari F40 (estimate CHF 1,600,000 – 2,000,000), considered one of the last great ‘analogue’ supercars.

Red Ferrari on a road with stones by it

1972 Ferrari 365 GTB:4 ‘Daytona’ Berlinetta

Introduced to celebrate Enzo Ferrari’s 40 years as a motor manufacturer, the F40 was the last model to be personally overseen by ‘the old man’ before he died in 1988. A thinly disguised racing car, with its panels of carbon fibre and that unmistakable high rear aerofoil, the F40 was the first production passenger car to have a top speed of more than 200 mph. It’s no wonder that F40s have been owned by the great and the good from Formula 1 champions such as Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost to Il Maestro, Luciano Pavarotti.

Black and white 2020 Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport with green mountains and clouds in the background

2020 Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport

Another racing-derived car is a 2020 Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, (estimate CHF 390,000 – 500,000). The high-performance version of the evergreen 911 was produced to meet the regulations for GT2 sports car racing. Th even more powerful RS version set a new lap record at the infamous Nürburgring last year.

This one-owner example has covered fewer than 300 kms and has never been raced, although it is fully-equipped for motorsport with its ‘Clubsport’ package including FIA rollcage, Recaro racing seat and racing dampers.

Read more: Switzerland, our top pick for summer

Classic models from the motoring world’s most prestigious marques, such as Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce and Bentley, will also be gracing the Gstaad Palace this weekend.

A black Monteverdi 1969 in front of a green garage

1969 Monteverdi 375S Coupe

However also lining up is a less familiar name: Monteverdi, a Swiss marque of the 1960s and 1970s – the brainchild of BMW dealer Peter Monteverdi. Wanting to produce a Swiss rival to Ferrari, he matched American power with European styling and luxurious interiors. Two of these rarities will be offered, including the 1969 Geneva Salon show car, a 1969 575S Coupé.

red classic car by a lake

1956 Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint Barchetta

And there are more Swiss-made cars. The country may be more famous for watchmaking but has had a thriving coachbuilding industry in the 20th century, Representing its golden age is a 1956 Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint Barchetta (CHF 300,000 – 400,000), its Ghia Aigle coachwork designed along the lines of a Riva speedboat with wraparound windscreen. Apparently, the Ghia was ‘banished’ into storage for 30 years by its first owner’s wife when she discovered the car had been bought for his mistress.

A black Renault 1981 on a pavement

1981 Renault 5 Turbo

My final highlight is a seemingly humbler car – a 1981 Renault 5, at one point France’s best-selling model and the first car for many. However, this special and increasingly sought-after high performance Turbo version has had only one owner from new, Catherine Larson, widow of Formula 1 driver Didier Pironi. The 5 has an estimate of CHF 130,000 – 150,000, making it one of the most valuable to be offered but surely one of the most perfect for tackling the twisting mountain roads!

The preview for the Gstaad Sale will be held at the Gstaad Palace Hotel from 1 to 3 July, with the sale from 15.00 on Sunday 1 July.

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mountains and an alpine lodge on the grass
mountains and an alpine lodge on the grass

Photograph of the Zermatt valley by Sheherazade Photography

The yacht’s being refurbished, you’ve done Ibiza too many times, the Hamptons are too cliquey and Bodrum is so 2021. So where to head this summer? Allow LUX to offer you some recommendations from one of our absolute favourite summer destinations (and no, this is not paid-for content): Switzerland

Switzerland in summer: panoramic views, (mostly) blue skylines, clean air, no crowds, teeming wildlife, one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, some of the best hotels in the world, and activities from kitesurfing and kayakking to glacier skiing and wine tasting. What more could you want? Perhaps, just a little guidance through the options, to get the very best out of your Helvetian experience.

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1.Zermatt
Zermatt is, in effect, the epicentre of the Alps, in a valley surrounded by more than 30 of the highest peaks in Europe, which glow white with permanent snow even on a hot summer’s day. And it’s usually warm and sunny here: the resort is on the border with Italy and if you take a telescope to the top of its highest peak, Monte Rosa, you can see the spire of Milan cathedral.

Every type of mountain activity is available, including summer skiing at the top of a Swarovski crystal-encrusted cable car. It is also a paradise for mountain dining, with more fine dining spots than St Tropez, better views, and fewer crowds. Try the Findlerhof for its beautiful local farmers’ meat and cheese platter, and epic Matterhorn views; and Restaurant Zum See for an idyllic gourmet experience in a meadow at the foot of the peaks. In the village, we had a highly memorable meal at the restaurant in the hotel Omnia, all pared-back boutique chic and astonishingly vibrant flavours.

A bathroom with a view of the Matterhorn

The view from a bathroom at The Cervo Hotel

Stay at: The Cervo is Zermatt’s eco-resort, and its owner, Daniel Lauber, is a passionate and thoughtful sustainability pioneer. One of the most thoughtful sustainable hospitality experiences, from the biodegradable slippers to the renewable energy heating system – tough, at 1600m altitude. The food, all sourced locally, is both hearty and magnificent and the staff have risen impeccably to the challenge of finding excellent wines and cocktail ingredients with a local remit.

2.Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz

A brown grand hotel exterior with a garden in front of it

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, St Moritz

Badrutt’s is St Moritz, or so you will probably think after staying there. The hotel dominates the valley and lake like a citadel. The service became legendary even before the former Shah of Iran flew its staff out to serve a banquet marking 2500 years of the Persian Empire at the palace of, near Shiraz, in 1972. It’s the kind of hotel where the staff know what you’re thinking, before you do.

Read more: A Tasting At One Of The World’s Great Champagne Houses

The facilities make it, effectively, a holiday in one property: huge indoor pool with picture window, lawns and gardens (in the middle of St Moritz!), fine dining in a formal banquet hall which makes you feel like Audrey Hepburn (whoever you are), and across the road, its own pizzeria at Chesa Veglia – in reality a top social spot in its own right. And the views across to the mountains are inspiring.

3.Gstaad Palace

A large palace style hotel with a pool in front of it

The piscine at Gstaad Palace

The Palace is a hotel that will whisk you into the jazz era even by thinking about it. This is a place where generations of European aristocrats have visited to stay and dine at; or to play tennis on its impeccable clay courts, or dance at its Greengo nightclub (in summer, it incorporates the indoor pool as a bar and terrace). It’s a perfect base for walking tours, or for strolls around Gstaad’s chi-chi high street, or just to exist in and take the air and dream of eternal youth.

4.The Alpina Gstaad

A palace and a garden

The Alpina Gstaad

Two luxury hotels in one place? Mais oui; the Palace and the Alpina are like Meursault and Margaux, we couldn’t live without either of them. The Alpina has contemporary style and vibrancy within the envelope of Alpine glamour (unlike some new luxury hotels in the Alps, it’s not pretending to be in Brooklyn), an outdoor pool with heart-melting views over the mountains, an equally gorgeous indoor pool and spa, and one of our favourite Japanese restaurants outside Japan.

5.Dinner at the Nira Alpina

a wooden restaurant with a panoramic view of the mountains

Nira Alpina Stars Restaurant

The Nira Alpina is a hotel and restaurant resort on the edge of the high Engadine valley, between Lake Sils, inspiration for poets and artists, and buzzy St Moritz. Its rooftop restaurant, Stars, has a dramatic view across the valley and lakes where daytime kitesurfing gives way to reflections of the moon by night, and over to the jagged mountains on the other side. It’s at the foot of the Corvatsch mountain, which makes for energetic hiking in summer; at the end of a long walk down from the Fuorcola Surlej pass, we love indulging in a glass of Franciacorta here, followed by a bottle of vibrant Chardonnay from the nearby Bündner Herrschaft wine region, accompanied by its delicate, locally-sourced mountain food, big on herbs and vegetables from the nearby high valleys. We haven’t stayed at the hotel, but the restaurant is an experience in itself.

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luxury alpine hotel

The Alpina Gstaad’s main building and gardens, which opened in 2012. © The Alpina Gstaad

Artistic, playful and utterly spoiling, The Alpina Gstaad may just be the best hotel anywhere in Europe. So why don’t you know about it?

A contemporary jazz duo is singing and playing its heart out. Your champagne bottle is emptying steadily as you look out from your sofa at the array of contemporary art around you, and the rolling mountains in the distance. It’s time for Japanese, and you and your companions wander over, just a few metres, into a different world into Megu. This is Switzerland’s highest-rated Asian restaurant, a Michelin-starred area decorated by blonde Alpine wood, antique kimonos and slatted wooden partitions.

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The vibe is lively but not raucous, stylish but not gaudy, expensive but not stuffy. Everywhere at the Alpina has a contemporary mountain chic laced with a global sensibility, a generosity of spirit and space, and a sense of future.

contemporary sculpture

Dritte Tier by Thomas Schütte, part of the hotel’s extensive collection of contemporary art. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina in, or to be precise, above Gstaad, is the one example of a European resort hotel that surpasses its surroundings. Some of the great legacy hotels of Europe have been defined by the locations they sit in and need to live with the legacy. Others feel as if they might have been transported from any exotic location in the world.

asian restaurant interiors

The hotel’s Japanese restaurant Megu. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina does something else: it redefines the location it is in. Given that Gstaad is the hub for some of the world’s wealthiest and most discerning people, that is quite an ask. Yet breeze in amid the local granite and reclaimed wood, walk up the sweeping staircase to the bar, lounge and outside terrace, enjoy the light and the art collection, and you know you’re in a place which is writing its own story.

Read more: Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele on versatile jewellery design

There is nothing particularly Swiss about a salt room, a cavernous underground lounge and juice bar, or a huge indoor pool and hydrotherapy area in a grotto. Or about a Japanese restaurant with 16 Gault Millau points and a ‘gastronomic’ yet contemporary informal restaurant, or Sommet, also with a Michelin star and 18 Gault Millau points. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the Alpina is, and it isn’t. Maybe it’s the owners: one is a local Swiss, one is decidedly international, together they give the Alpina its confidence.

views from a jacuzzi

luxurious hotel interiors

The duplex Panorama Suite with its outdoor jacuzzi. © The Alpina Gstaad

But this is not a place where comfort is sacrificed on the altar of credibility. The rooms have a gorgeous mix of local wood (much reclaimed from barns), stone, contemporary art and giant glass-cowbell light fittings – with perfect sheets and massive bathrooms. And huge balconies; whatever side of the building you are on you have peace, a sense of place and a magnificent view.

Gstaad is moving to its own tune, there is something of a real-estate boom in the area right now. Among the most fortunate are those who bought one of the residences within the hotel building: these are effectively buildings within the building, to match the most opulent chalets anywhere in Switzerland. Unfortunately, they have all sold, but if you know the right people, you may be able to persuade them to rent them to you or, who knows, even sell them to you, one day. Meanwhile, just check in.

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: thealpinagstaad.ch

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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black and white portrait man and woman
woman by swimming pool

‘Faye Dunaway, Morning After Winning Oscar’, 1976. Photograph by Terry O’Neill, Iconic Images courtesy of Maddox Gallery

Over the course of his 60 year career, Terry O’Neill photographed the world’s most famous celebrities, but the true power of his images comes from the intimacy of his lens, his ability to see beyond the glamour to reveal the true spirit of the individual.

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Audrey Hepburn

‘Audrey Hepburn, Plays Cricket’, South of France, 1966. Photograph by Terry O’Neill, Iconic Images courtesy of Maddox Gallery

portrait of men laughing

‘Peter Sellers and Roger Moore’, Beverly Hills, 1970s. Photograph by Terry O’Neill, Iconic Images courtesy of Maddox Gallery

Born in Romford, Essex, O’Neill’s family intended him to join the Catholic priesthood, but he ended up leaving school at 15 to play drums in a band, which eventually led him to photography. He trailed behind bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and walked onto film sets in Europe and Hollywood, quickly befriending many of the stars which allowed him access to their private lives and resulted in long-lasting relationships. He photographed David Bowie over a twenty year period, capturing his artistic evolution from Space Oddity singer to Ziggy Stardust to Thin White Duke, Muhammad Ali relaxing in an arm chair reading a paper, Richard Burton wearing a shower cap in the bath, Brigitte Bardot posing with a cigar between her teeth and Audrey Hepburn playing cricket on the lawn in the South of France amongst many others.

Read more: 3 fine dining recipes by Le Clarence head chef Christophe Pelé

woman smoking cigar

‘Brigitte Bardot’, Spain, 1971. Photograph by Terry O’Neill, Iconic Images courtesy of Maddox Gallery

black and white portrait man and woman

‘Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp,’ London, 1964. Photograph by Terry O’Neill, Iconic Images courtesy of Maddox Gallery

The first retrospective of the British photographer’s work (he died in 2019) Every Picture Tells a Story at Maddox Gallery in Gstaad brings together a collection of these candid, photojournalistic portraits, revealing both how O’Neill pioneered the concept of behind-the-scenes reportage and captured the essence of a bygone era.

‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ runs until 29 August at Maddox Gallery, Gstaad, Switzerland. For more information visit: maddoxgallery.co.uk

 

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interiors of lounge
Luxury country estate house

The grand exterior and park of the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden

Our editor-in-chief reflects on travels to some of the world’s great hotels, old and new, across Europe and Asia

Brenners Park, Baden-Baden

Swing open the balcony door at the Brenners, and you are in a fairytale land of luscious trees and deep lawns, with a stream running along the end of the garden in front of you. Locals and tourists stroll along the path beyond, kids run in the flower-bedecked meadow.

Not that long ago, Baden-Baden in Germany was pretty much the place in the world to come to get away from it all. In the days before jets, the view from the Brenners Park, overlooking the gardens, with the tops of the hills of the Black Forest immediately beyond, and the opera house just down at the end of the park, was as good as it could possibly get.

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It feels pretty good right now. I ease myself into one of the balcony chairs, listening to the birdsong, reflecting that we are in the heart of Europe, a tiny distance from my home, somewhere unencumbered by the over-commercialisation of modern tourist destinations, and without hurricanes, typhoons or sweltering heat.

The hotel is in a little valley which itself is the centre of the spa town of Baden-Baden. Walk out through the grounds, over a little bridge, turn right and you are in a Baroque town centre within around four minutes’ walk. The park itself feels like the hotel’s back garden. Arriving at the grand entrance, you are aware of drawing up at an institution that has attracted the world’s great and good since 1872. Emperors from Germany to Persia stayed here. The reception area has the feel of the ground country house, rather than a city hotel, and a short climb up an oak-panelled staircase (or in a cute vintage lift) took us to a grand corridor with our suite at one end, and the connection to the adjoining villa containing the hotel’s famous wellness and spa area.

True to its history, the Villa Stéphanie is a health, medicine and recuperation centre in its own right. Sure, you can swim lengths in the conservatory pool and chillax on wooden sun loungers inside facing the park, or outside in the park in summer. You can also have a treatment and a tour of the wet facilities in the 5,000sq m spa, with its pool areas overlooking the gardens. You can also get proper medical consultations and physiotherapy along with everything else – the medical centre is housed in yet another building, adjacent to Villa Stéphanie.

Interiors of restaurant

The subtly modernised Fritz & Felix restaurant

I settled for an excellent analysis and treatment session of physiotherapy regarding my tennis elbow (conclusion: too much phone use, and too little actual tennis) after which a refreshing 50-length swim gave me an appetite. We wandered down for dinner at Fritz & Felix, an art-deco styled but distinctly contemporary culinary concept, a restaurant/ bar/kitchen. It was a refreshing contrast to our expectations of a historic German hotel. The menu, all in lower case, featured a delicious looking selection of high-quality but simple dishes: sole with capers, parsley, lemon and olive oil; local pike perch with lentils, balsamic, thyme and olives; fillet of beef with chimichurri and broccoli. The rack of lamb with chick peas, raisins and cumin went down particularly well.

The Brenners Park is part of the same group as the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France and the Bristol in Paris, and you can tell with every flutter of perfect service. Pure class.

Book your stay: oetkercollection.com

Rooftop Swimming pool

Mandarin Oriental Singapore’s swimming pools with views across Marina Bay

Mandarin Oriental Singapore

It was late when I arrived at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. The transfer from the airport was quick, only 15 minutes. But the flight had been delayed, we had circled during a storm, and I had missed my dinner arrangement, so was feeling rather irritable.

I explained this all to the pleasant young lady who met me at reception and took me to my room (in-room check-in is such a slam dunk for a luxury hotel that they should all be required to do it to retain their five-star status) and she sympathised and, in that luxury Asian hotel way, immediately came up with a solution. Why didn’t I go to the poolside lounge bar, Bay@5, still open, for a glass of wine and a bite to eat?

Read more: Back to school with Van Cleef & Arpels

There aren’t many city hotels in the world where the swimming pool bar will be open, let alone tempting, at 11 o’clock at night, but this Mandarin, it turns out, was very much one of them. On exiting onto the pool terrace, I was greeted with a night-time-hued blue pool and surrounding tropical foliage and, across the waters of Marina Bay, an archipelago of black liquid and skyscrapers that is one of the most intimate yet dramatic night-time cityscapes in the world. Being on the fifth floor, we were just raised above the streetscape of the bay area.

The storm had passed over, the sky was starry with a warm breeze. The terrace of the bar area had a few couples and a small group sipping wine, and 80s music playing. I sipped on a beer so cold the condensation poured and reformed and poured again onto my lap, and instantly I felt much improved.

Contemporary interiors of a bar

The bar at Mandarin Oriental Singapore

The food was exactly what you might want after a long and jet-lagged journey: I had a vegetarian pizza with San Marzano tomatoes and grilled vegetables, and a hamachi ceviche with coriander. There was a selection of cocktails from Mandarin Oriental bars across the world, some fine Australian wines, and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne, but the draft beer suited me fine that evening – I was the last to leave, and back in my room I was half tempted to leave the curtains open so the harbour lights lulled me to sleep, although in the morning I would have been woken by the tropical sun.

I had a morning in my room before meetings in the afternoon, which was nothing if not invigorating. The decor was contemporary Asian luxury: lots of greys and taupes, some piano blacks, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Fortunately, Mandarin Oriental has not yet fallen for the trend of assuming everyone works lying down propped up on pillows in their beds, and there was a proper office chair and desk, which I shunted around to face the view. On my final morning I had an hour spare, and went back to the pool deck, this time to do some lengths of the huge pool and spend 10 minutes lying under the overhead sun. With a view directly across the harbour and out of the sea, it felt like we were on a tropical island, and in a sense we were. Pretty impressive for a city-centre hotel, and I can’t think of anywhere that beats it for a resort in a city of glamour.

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com

Grand country house

The Four Seasons Hampshire brings a modern style to its 18th-century English manor house and park

Four Seasons Hampshire

The clouds were dramatic as we headed up the drive towards the brick manor house that is the Four Seasons hotel in Hampshire. The hotel is on a slight hill above open fields of English countryside, and on a sunny day, puffs of white and slabs of grey fought each other for places in the Atlantic-washed sky. Arrival was made even more atmospheric at the sight of three fawn-coloured horses, their riders gently leading them across a lawn to the stable block.

The feeling here is of space and light; you (or your kids) are free to roam down the slope leading around the hotel to the restaurant, café and eventually the shooting field at the back. Inside the building, a covered passageway in the conservatory leads to a spa block with a big indoor pool with a glass roof, and outdoor Jacuzzi and sunbathing area, completely private on an Italianate terrace.

interiors of lounge

The lounge are of the Wild Carrot restaurant at Four Seasons Hampshire

Our room was a blend of traditional English coloured cushions – pinks, dark pastels, and burnt orange – a combination of leatherwork, ornate wallpapers, with windows looking over the open fields. Less than 40 minutes from Heathrow, you are plunged into a serious English country house experience.

Read more: High altitude luxury at Riffelalp Resort 2222m, Zermatt

We were expecting a slightly formalised English dining experience, but fortunately the management had more sense than that. Wild Carrot, the main restaurant, has been reborn as a kind of grand Parisian bistro. There were leather banquettes, bare wooden floors and no tablecloths, and a menu featuring lots of raw and local ingredients. Typical was the very welcome lightly torched house-cured mackerel with pickled radish and hollandaise, and a main of Somerset salt-marsh lamb rack with roasted cucumber, Greek yoghurt, tomato chutney and mint. All the vegetables are locally grown.

Luxurious indoor swimming pool

The hotel’s pool is attached to the converted stables

Unlike some traditional English country house hotels, signs proclaim children and dogs are welcome, and there are plenty of activities for both. The riding stables offered us a trek across the fields and around the lakes and hacking around the woodland on horses which had been perfectly matched to our height, weight and experience. There is also a high-wire adventure park, which involves zip wires, ladders and perilous bridges to clamber across, all with highly professional instructors.

There is also tennis, clay pigeon shooting, cycling, croquet and an immensely satisfying spa. The grounds are vast – a walk down to and around the lake and back is enough to work up a full day’s appetite. Altogether, it’s impossible to think of another English country house hotel which offers such a complete range of experiences in such luxury, let alone one so near Heathrow Airport and the capital.

Book your stay: fourseasons.com

Grand palace in snowy setting

The Gstaad Palace was once called, for good reason, the ‘Winter- Palace’

Gstaad Palace

A memory of a place is first recalled by rapid-fire still or moving image (or maybe now a GIF?) in your brain. A few weeks after my visit, my instant memory of the Gstaad Palace was our table at Le Grill restaurant. Wood-panelled walls and ceilings and a thick Alpine carpet, and veneered wooden chairs and occasional tables gave it a mountain chic. Formally dressed waiters bustled around, chatting with guests they have known evidently for years or decades.

They were no less courteous to us, to their credit, although of course we had no common anecdotes to share with them. With Alpine flowers on the thick tablecloths, and cuisine rich and local ingredients, including flambéed dishes prepared at the table by the waiters like a glorious piece of 1970s revival, it was an evening experience unlike almost any other.

Read more: The Thinking Traveller’s Founders Huw & Rossella Beaugié on nurturing quality

There was a fantastic Hungarian traditional string band playing in adjacent bar, alternating with a soulful jazz band. The house Burgundy, poured from magnums, accompanied everything extremely well. You could choose Le Grill to propose to your other half, for a family get-together, or a casual dinner for one – it’s that versatile.

When we drew back the thick red curtains of our suite in the morning, we were greeted by the Alps as drawn by Laurent de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the Elephant. Big, forested round hills dropped into a broad bowl, above which jagged rocky peaks loomed. The Palace is the cornerstone of Gstaad, the reason the village has become one of the epicentres of wealth in Europe. In winter, after dinner at Le Grill or one of the other restaurants, you would roll down to the GreenGo nightclub, with James Bond and Pussy Galore sitting on corner sofas sipping two olive martinis as Julio Iglesias rocks the dance floor.

cosy lounge area with open fire

Today, the hotel’s modern spa adds a warmer kind of seclusion from the outside world

In summer, when we went, the nightclub is a swimming pool, connected to the spa (open year round) and looking out onto a garden with a cute kids’ playground, and lined by the hotel’s famous clay tennis courts. Here, you can play as if you were born with a pro living in your garden house (as many guests likely were) with a 270-degree view of the mountain bowl of the Bernese Oberland. If you need something bigger than the hotel’s internal pool, wander up to the Olympic-sized pool the hotel shares with the village (it has its own sun-lounger area, and this is a very posh village). We loved our simple, abundant mountain-food lunch at the pool bar.

The Palace is the kind of place which makes you feel very welcome, but at which it is always evident that there are layers of society into which money simply won’t buy. In its lavish lounge and bar area, just behind reception, old families from Germany, Switzerland and Italy, whose forebears have been coming here for generations, chat easily about art, girls and boys, and schools. The windows in the corridor leading down to the restaurant contain watches and jewellery, from famous brands, that simply might not be available to you unless you know them personally.

The service, however, is sublime for everyone – there was not a flicker of an eyebrow when we booked a tennis court, arrived on the court, and realised we didn’t have any rackets or balls. They were served up in an instant. I just enjoyed sitting on the terrace at breakfast, picking out a gluten-free croissant, looking out over the view, and catching snippets of cultured conversation in several European languages. Perhaps we will be coming back here for generations also.

Book your stay: palace.ch

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Artist working in his studio vintage photograph
Artist working in his studio vintage photograph

Picasso and ceramic (owl) by David Douglas Duncan (Spring 1957), Villa La Californie, Cannes © David Douglas Duncan © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2019. Courtesy the estate David Douglas Duncan

For a special exhibition at Vieux Chalet in Gstaad, Hauser & Wirth brings together ceramics and paintings by Picasso alongside a series of portrait photographs by David Duncan Douglas to provide a fascinating exploration of creativity, intimacy and space.

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Duncan himself was a renowned war photographer and photojournalist, who first encountered Picasso in 1956 when he  infamously rang the doorbell of La Californie, the artist’s home in Cannes. At the time, Picasso was in the bathtub and allowed Duncan to photograph him right then and there, leading onto a lasting friendship which granted the photographer unprecedented access into the artist’s creative processes. Over the course of seventeen years, Duncan took approximately 25,000 images of Picasso, documenting not just Picasso himself, but also his family and friends.

Father and son playing wrestling

Battle between Claude and his father wearing Gary Cooper’s cowboy hat by David Douglas Duncan, July 1957, Villa La Californie, Cannes © David Douglas Duncan © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2019. Courtesy the estate David Douglas Duncan

Painter and a painted portrait of a woman

Pablo Picasso with the portrait Jacqueline à l’écharpe noire (1954) by David Douglas Duncan, 1957, Villa La Californie, Cannes © David Douglas Duncan © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2019. Courtesy the estate David Douglas Duncan

Duncan’s photographs and Picasso’s artworks are displayed side by side throughout the domestic spaces of the chalet, emphasising the intimacy of the photographic perspective as well as the connection between the two distinct artistic mediums. In some of the images, Picasso is seen actively engaging with the lens whilst others are more candid, showing the artist amongst his easels, books, brushes and paints.

Read more: How Galerie Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar aims to inspire change

Ceramic vase painted with man's bearded head

Bearded man’s head (1948) by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2019Courtesy Succession Picasso

The artist’s ceramics are amongst the most captivating works on display, as everyday objects such as bowls and vases are transformed into animal-like creatures through warped swollen shapes and dynamic painted lines. Seen alongside Duncan’s photographs, Picasso’s creative energy becomes even more palpable as does the friendship between the two artists caught in subtle gestures and glances.

‘Picasso Through the Lens of David Douglas Duncan’ runs until 28 February 2020 at Le Vieux Chalet in Gstaad. For more information visit: hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/26682-pablo-picasso-lens-david-douglas-duncan

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Two young men in their rooms

You’ll bump into The Gstaad Guy at the yacht club, the art fair and on the slopes; if you don’t know him already, you’re clearly in the wrong milieu. Here, the Instagram legend’s two alter egos, super-wealthy Eurotrash Constance and his nouveau New York cousin Colton, take our questionnaire. Interview and photographs by Maryam Eisler

Constance

Your favourite brand?
Loro Loro, Piana Piana of course! They just know! And the vicuña, the best of the best.

Your favourite music?
Whatever you can dance to holding a glass of wine! Bocelli at the top. And then you drop
some Julio [Iglesias] and Dalida into the mix and you get perfection! And, of course, my very own ‘Commercial Flight’.

Your favourite car?
A Jaguar E-Type, no doubt. Pure class.

Who do you like hanging out with the most?
My dearest Prince Will. Prince William. Sometime Bill [Gates] and Jeff [Bezos] join us, too.

Your favourite artist?
Picasso. He just knows.

Your favourite resort?
Cheval Blanc, because it’s the Cheval Blanc. And I don’t count the Gstaad Palace as a resort, as it’s my second home. My pied-à-terre.

Your favourite restaurant/favourite dish?
Cipriani. Tuna tartare and artichoke salad to start, and a veal farfalle for main.

Colton

Your favourite brand?
Chrome Hearts – fo sho.

Your favourite music?
Travis. He’s savage! 21. Lil Pump. You know, the classics.

Your favourite car?
LAMBO TRUCK.

Who do you like hanging out with the most?
Cousin Constance.

Your favourite artist?
Alec Monopoly! He’s just crashing it and cashing it!

Your favourite resort?
Amangiri fo sho. Do it for the gram!

Your favourite restaurant/favourite dish?
Cipriani, plain penne. And in LA, Omakase at Matsu[hisa]. Can’t beat it!

Find out more: gstaadguy.com
Follow Constance & Colton on Instagram: @gstaadguy

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Panoramic image of alpine scene
Panoramic image of alpine scene

Crans-Montana sits on a high shelf above the Rhône valley with panoramic views of the Alpine peaks. Image by Denis Emery

Looking for the perfect early-season ski break? Crans-Montana has it all, from sunny slopes to spectacular views across the Swiss Alps – and an epicure’s delight of a Christmas market as LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai discovers

Matterhorn; Mont Blanc; Weisshorn; Dent Blanche: for Alpinists these are among the superstar peaks of Europe, rising 4500m or higher above sea level. When you go skiing, you are usually tied to a vista of one or two of these celebrity peaks: think Zermatt and the Matterhorn, or Chamonix and Mont Blanc.

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In this Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, though, you are treated to a panorama of all of them, at once. The resort sits on a high, sunny, tree-lined shelf above the deep Rhône valley which runs from Lake Geneva towards central Switzerland. From the top lift station, Plaine Morte, you have in front of you a vista that encompasses the peaks of every ski resort from Saas-Fee, in the east, via Zermatt and Verbier, to Chamonix, in the west. Even the view from the village itself is exceptional, sweeping across the vineyards of the Rhône valley far below and over towards Italy.

Picturesque snowy alpine village

The ski resort is split into two main villages, Crans and Montana.

The view in itself would be a reason to visit this most established of Swiss resorts, but right now there are numerous others. The resort is split into two main villages, Crans and Montana, a kilometre or so apart on the high shelf. We visited last week when Crans had just opened its annual Etoile Bella Lui festival on its high street. Stemming from a local myth, the festival features more than a dozen restaurateurs (some of them Michelin-starred) setting up shop in wooden huts along the high street, selling one food dish each – ranging from venison burgers to foie gras, via the most delicious fillet steak/balsamic glaze/garlic chip and truffle brochettes we have ever had.

Christmas food stalls in Alpine village

Alpine festival with food stalls

The Etoile Bella Lui festival in Crans sees restaurateurs set up shop with wooden huts along the high-street

The stalls each also sell a pair of local wines by the glass. And you can dismiss your memories of gauche Alpine vino right now: the vineyards in the valley below Sion make some of Europe’s most celebrated “small producer” wines, from white grapes such as Petite Arvine and Heida, and rounded Pinot Noir based reds. Our favourite is Cornalin, a Swiss red grape variety; we were served an example suffused with spicy, plummy zinginess at one of the stalls and couldn’t bear to leave. These are wines to match the Michelin-starred food huts.

Read more: Galerie Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar opens in Monte-Carlo

Glowing ferris wheel in Alpine setting

Rides on the Ferris wheel boast 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape

Below the high street is the Lantern walk, an enchanting night-lit path illuminating the story of they local legend, and a Christmas market with a Ferris wheel with a difference: ride to the top, and you have an enhanced 360 degree view of the valley below, mountains beyond, the lakes around Crans, and the ski pistes above.

Skiier on a slope down into the valley

One of the resort’s spectacular red runs: the 4500m high Weisshorn is the razor-edge peak directly under the sun

Ah, and the skiing. The snow fell big last week, with more (hopefully) scheduled for next week. Crans-Montana is one of Switzerland’s most established ski areas, although it is better known among the Swiss and French than the international crowd that visits nearby resorts like Verbier or Gstaad. The runs are mainly a mixture of reds and blacks, and they are a delight: long, winding, interesting, starting at nearly 3000m and dropping down to resort level at 1500m, through a variety of landscapes from glacial rockscapes where mountain goats balance precariously on rock towers above you, to wide, sunny runs through the woods. The whole mountain is south facing, making ideal for now, when any sun is a welcome respite from winter temperatures. And everywhere, you have the views: from the top station you can see the three highest mountains wholly inside Switzerland (Dom, Taschhorn and Weisshorn, since you asked), the highest mountain in Europe (Mont Blanc) and the most famous (Matterhorn), all towering across distant valleys. From the village the view is hardly any worse, and there is a feeling of light and space and panorama everywhere you go.

The perfect resort for an early-season ski trip? We think so, and we are going back.

The Etoile Bella Lui festival runs until January 5. For more information visit: crans-montana.ch

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Polo players mid match with sticks raised
Polo pitch with mountains in the background
This weekend Hublot’s high altitude polo tournament returns to the Swiss resort of Gstaad

Gstaad annually plays host to the world’s ‘highest’ polo tournament, Hublot’s prestigious Polo Gold Cup in which four world-class teams battle it out for the winning prize of Hublot’s Big Bang Steel Ceramic watches. This year will see Clinique La Prairie, Gstaad Palace and Hublot‘s teams try to overthrow last year’s victorious captain Cédric Schweri (the Swiss restaurateur) and his Banque Eric Sturdza team who have been unbeatable since 2017.

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Meanwhile, spectators will celebrate in style sipping at glasses of champagne or bottles of bottom-fermented Swiss beer against the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps. For VIPs, there’s the Gala Night dinner, and exclusive closing lunch, followed by the finale and an afternoon prize-giving ceremony hosted by LVMH watches CEO (and LUX columnist) Jean-Claude Biver.

All photography by Kathrin Gralla at the 2018 tournament

The Hublot Polo Gold Cup runs from 22 -25 August 2019. For more information visit: polo-gstaad.ch

Two polo ponies being held by a groom

 

Two polo players in conversation on their ponies

Polo players mid match with sticks raised

Polo player with his hat raised

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City of zermatt with the matterhorn mountain in the distance
City of zermatt with the matterhorn mountain in the distance

Zermatt in summer with the Matterhorn in the distance. Image by Lorenzo Riva. Courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

Summertime in the Alps is exhilarating and inspiring. The sun (usually) shines, the air is clear, temperatures aren’t too sweltering and you are surrounded by lush pastures and high peaks. The cuisine is varied and uses an array of local ingredients: Alpine herbs, vegetables and fruit, local meats and cheeses. Here, we select six of the best places to enjoy mountain cuisine and sweeping vistas

1. Restaurant Findlerhof, Zermatt

Findeln is an ancient hamlet of dark wooden huts, on a mountainside high above the resort of Zermatt, just above the treeline. On the extensive terrace of the Findlerhof, you have a view across the forests to the magnificent Matterhorn, and you are surrounded by the sounds (grasshoppers, bees), sights (butterflies, wild flowers) and smells of the Alpine high pasture in summer.

Must try: All the food is high-class, simple Alpine quality, but the chocolate fondant is worth the journey in itself.

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2. Hotel Walther, Pontresina

This grand hotel at the end of the pretty high street in Pontresina, across the valley from St Moritz, has a grand dining room that is both grandiose and fun. A modern take on a traditional Alpine palace, it has an engaging holiday dinner ambience and superb wine list.

Must try: the traditional Swiss speciality of veal cooked sous-vide with roesti potatoes and local vegetables.

Interiors of a grand restaurant

Hotel Walther, Pontresina

Plate of food with lettuce garnish

Swiss speciality of roesti, potatoes cooked with bacon and herbs

3. Berghaus Wispile, Gstaad

Wispile is the big, forested green hill that rises above Gstaad, and in summer the restaurant at the top is transformed from a ski lodge to a family-friendly casual diner and farm with petting zoo, with beautiful views over the surrounding region. Kids can be taken on personalised goat petting tours by the local farmer in the neighbouring pasture; some regular human kid visitors have grown up with the kid goat residents over the years.

Must try: the special of the day, often local sausages with a rich gravy and vegetables

Chalet style restaurant pictured in the alps at summertime

Berghaus Wispile in Gstaad

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on the influence of top-earning millennials

4. Avenue Montaigne, Hotel Park Gstaad

Contemporary Swiss chic abounds at the Montaigne, which brings a touch of Paris to Gstaad. This is a place for a long, relaxed dinner, followed by a cigar in the cigar lounge, over cocktails, blending city sophistication with Alpine feel.

Must try: The Swiss quinoa tabbouleh, combining parsley, goji berries, tomato and avocado.

luxury rustic interiors of an alpine restaurant with an open fire

Avenue Montaigne at Hotel Park Gstaad

5. Fuorcla Surlej, St Moritz

The wildest type of mountain hut, Fuorcla Surlej sits atop a mountain pass accessible only by foot, above St Moritz. To one side is a lake and a view over the glaciers, to the other is the deep valley of the Engadine. Hardy mountain food is served here, amid stunning views, on a basic terrace.

Must try: Whatever’s on offer that day – the kitchen makes it up according to the ingredients they can get.

Couple eating by the mountainside

Fuorcla Surlej in St Moritz. Image by Christof Sonderegger. Courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

6. Hornli Hut, Zermatt

Matterhorn mountain

Matterhorn viewed from the Hörnli hut. Image by Isabella Sanai

The Hörnli hut is the base camp for the Matterhorn; climbers arrive the afternoon before their climb, are subject to a strict curfew, and awaken well before dawn to start an ascent that some never return from. Ordinary people can also visit for lunch: it involves a rather vertiginous two-hour climb from the top lift station at Schwarzsee, but no actual climbing. After lunch, walk five minutes up from the hut to the point at which the wall of the Matterhorn starts: a vertical piece of rock with fixed ropes. The views are literally breathtaking. Not a place for the fainthearted.

Must try: The surprisingly excellent (for a place accessible only on foot) pasta al ragu, with rich local ingredients.

Discover more: myswitzerland.com

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Reading time: 3 min
A landscape scene of summer in the Swiss alps
Summer in the swiss alps, green mountains

Panorama of summertime in St. Mortiz

A short blast in a vintage Ferrari from the crowds of the Côte d’Azur, the two most prestigious villages in the Alps offer glamour, sunshine, fine dining and more than enough space. Darius Sanai would go nowhere else in summer

Walking through the grand dining room of Le Restaurant at the Badrutt’s Palace, I felt two dozen pairs of eyes glance up at me. Our table, a good one, was a little beyond the centre of the room, meaning a decent double catwalk’s length stretched between the landing at the bottom of the staircase leading from the lobby hall, to the sanctuary of the table. The glances – Badrutt’s Palace clientèle is far too well brought up to stare – varied between the mildly interested and the appraising. The Palace has a claim to be the grandest legacy hotel of the Alps, the epitome of old money in St Moritz, the resort which personifies Europe’s inherited and regenerated wealth. Its regular guests wanted to know who was joining them.

After a couple of days, we got to know the Badrutt’s regulars, at their tables. The lady in the Chanel glasses, immaculate in white Dior trousers and a vintage Dior jacket, sitting and nursing her green tea and water, reading the Süddeutsche Zeitung. A ringer for Greta Garbo, she could have been one of a number of German movie stars from the sixties. The young couple with a little boy who conversed with them in French, English and Italian, seemingly at will, and who had befriended all the waiters. The jolly English family, extending from a baby via teenage girls on Instagram to a paterfamilias who looked like he had enjoyed as many bottles of First Growths as he had bought and sold enterprises. After three days, we started to feel at home.

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Badrutt’s is the hotel of St Moritz; if you want to get in to its New Year’s Eve gala dinner, you had better get in your time machine and ensure your great-great-grandmother marries a significant German count. We were there in summer, when it’s easier to book a room; in fact, the occupancy ratio was perfect, with enough people around to create a buzz, but enough space not to feel remotely crowded.

If Le Restaurant, with its etiquette and dress code, suggests the formal holiday experiences of the past, around 50m diagonally below it, cut into the rocks, is the holiday experience of today. A 25m pool, with picture windows facing the mountainsides across the valley and an extensive spa and wet area. The pool is bordered on one side by a 5m-high rock formation, which serves as diving board, waterfall and, underneath, a cave. Outside on the great lawn are swings, slides and a trampoline, all with a dramatic view.

Grand suite bedroom at the five star hotel in St. Mortiz, Badrutt's Palace

The Hans Badrutt Suite

Our rooms had the same view, albeit from a slightly higher vantage point; creams and floral curtains, subtle wood panelling and mahogany furniture suggest the tastes of the European aristocracy who form the heart of the hotel’s clientèle.

One of the most charming, and certainly the most surprising, element of the hotel is a little chalet that sits on the hillside across the road from the main building. Chesa Veglia is an ancient chalet that now belongs to the hotel, housing three restaurants, including a casual-chic rustic pizzeria, where the super-rich can eat with their hands and pretend to be normal people. We sat at a table on a first floor balcony, watching informal St Moritz in action; one of our party was invited down to make pizzas with the chefs in the open kitchen. The pizzas, Napoli-style, were picture perfect.

Read next: CEO & President of Acqua di Parma Laura Burdese on the unique beauty of craftsmanship

Outdoor swimming pool at five star hotel in the Swiss Alps

Badrutt’s outdoor swimming pool

It would have been easy to chill out in Badrutt’s for five days, perhaps stepping outside for a little jewellery shopping, before sliding into the limo and slipping away across Europe. I get the idea a lot of people do; while it’s 1800m up in a high Alpine valley, unlike many villages in the Alps, St Mo is not exactly crawling with people who look like they clamber up rock faces for fun.

But the mountains either side of the broad, high, light Engadine valley are far too tempting for anyone with a little mountain blood in them to ignore. On the second day, we took a funicular train through a steep forest, emerging at an Art Deco-inspired hotel called Muottas Muragl. High on a ledge just above the tree line, the hotel’s restaurant terrace floated over the Engadine, with the valley’s lakes set as blue splashes against the deep meadows; and also over another valley branching out immediately below, which rose to a wall of high peaks thickly covered in snow and ice. In this surreal setting, on a warm, sunny summer’s day, we sat on the terrace, and chose from a short menu strong on local ingredients and with a dash of panache. Perhaps it was the clear mountain air which augmented the senses (although a lack of oxygen is supposed to suppress taste buds) but the beef tartar with cognac tasted more vivid, more limpid, than its famed counterpart at the Cipriani; and a ‘Pork steak gratinated with tomato and mountain cheese on red wine sauce with pappardelle and vegetables’ had clearly delineated flavours, unlike some mountain food. The Muottas Muragl terrace was as memorable as its name, and we lingered until the view started to fade in the late afternoon light, before staggering down the mountain through a forest.

Chalet style hotel the Alpina Gstaad in the summertime

The Alpina is built on a knoll just above the village of Gstaad, facing off against the Palace, on its neighbouring knoll.

Apart from St Moritz, Switzerland, the country where the world’s wealthy have stored their money and visited for sport for the past century or more, has a few mountain village destinations that are known to the high net worth A-list. Zermatt, Crans-Montana, Verbier, Wengen, Arosa; all have their bijou appeal, their private bank branches, and are witness to a parade of furs in winter. But perhaps nowhere epitomises what Henry James called “the happy few” (the reference was ironic, but is now not always used as such) as Gstaad. And if the Palace Hotel has been the embodiment of old money at play for more than a century, its new rival, The Alpina Gstaad, tries to take everything to a new high.

The Alpina is built on a knoll just above the village of Gstaad, facing off against the Palace, on its neighbouring knoll. For breakfast here, we were ushered through a room combining ancient Alpine timbers and contemporary art and colour, onto a granite-lined terrace next to a flowerbed and a few metres from an outdoor pool. Beyond the pool, a lawn and more flowers, and then an uninterrupted view across a broad valley to round, forested hillsides, with rocky peaks splashed with snow beyond.

It was August when we visited the Alpina. Gstaad is one of the lower Alpine resorts, at 1000m lying roughly halfway between the high-Alpine vibe of the likes of St Moritz or Courchevel, and sea level. The sunshine was hot, tempered only by a hint of glacial cool. It wasn’t a great leap to imagine the crowds on the Côte d’Azur and people leaping off yacht diving boards, a few hours’ drive in the Ferrari, to the south. But, unlike the Med, the terrace at the Alpina was both sun-splashed and tranquil. After breakfast we walked the few metres to the pool’s sun loungers and spent the day sipping Margaritas and occasionally taking a dip, being careful not to get burned in the (semi) mountain sun. We had a few other people for company, but it all felt as private as having your own villa.

In the evening, we strolled down to the village; there were no teeming hordes here, either. Just enough people, from families to retired residents and the occasional romantic couple; just enough vibe.

Gstaad may be a gentler location, but it is still very much in the Alps; on the next day we took a cable car to Wispile, at the top of the small mountain overlooking the village. From the terrace here there is a 360-degree vista, towards high, glacial peaks to the south; across spiky, meadow-lined foot-peaks to the east and west; and to the northernmost ridge of the Alps to the north, with a glimpse of the hazy lowlands of Switzerland beyond. We walked along a series of meadows, past forests and farmsteads, through herds of curious cattle, and were ourselves herded onto a rock by an Appenzell cattle dog, until its smiling farmer owner emerged from a barn to tell us she was harmless.

Read next: The world’s most exclusive polo tournament in Gstaad

A steep, zigzag path dropped down through a forest, so dark we only had snapshots of the precipitous fall beneath us; after almost disappearing through a muddy field, the path emerged again and led us to a hotel on the edge of a little village, Lauenen, where we had a refreshing beer and called a taxi to take us back to dinner in another picture-postcard village, Schoenried. This is on a little plateau above Gstaad, and at its gourmet restaurant, Azalée, we felt we had no choice but to try the Simmental beef – acclaimed throughout the Alps, and from the valley we were in. The Azalée, with its vista across the Gstaad valley, was a gentle, spiritual place to be as summer evening turned into night.

Switzerland is the home of haute-hotellerie; nowhere has a higher concentration of five star hotels in small towns and villages. These hotels have faced a challenge as a new generation of wealthy guests arrives, brought up on the casual chic of the likes of Ian Schrager’s creations and the Soho House group. How much do they bend to cater for the new guard? In some cases, new hotels have sprung up which feel a little out of place, Greenwich Village in the Alps. In the case of the Alpina, which was created in 2012 on the site of an old hotel of the same name, the balance is exemplary. The building feels local through its extensive use of timber rescued from abandoned Alpine buildings and huts, and through the local stone on display throughout. It feels contemporary through the openness of its internal architecture, its colour, light and the museum-quality art displayed throughout, courtesy of its owners. None of that would matter if the quality of offerings didn’t stack up.

Attic room at the Alpina Gstaad, a five star hotel in the swiss alps

Chalet style interiors of one of the bedrooms at the Alpina

Sommet, the main restaurant, has a Michelin star, the highest Gault-Millau rating in the area, and a wall sculpture composed entirely of cutlery, under which we were seated. Expecting fine but rich Alpine fare, we were surprised: then executive chef Marcus Lindner’s tasting menu is 100% vegetarian, with carnivores catered to on request (Lindner has since been replaced by Martin Göschel). Redolent of the aromas of Alpine meadows, the succession of dishes proved that meat is far from essential to a signature evening: as one example, the artichoke with truffles from Perigord, sweet chestnut and brussels sprout was as savoury and protein-balanced as you could hope. It would be hard to match such an experience – in such a refreshingly light ambience – let alone to do so in the same establishment.

 

Interiors shot of Japanese restaurant at five star

Megu is the Alpina’s Japanese restaurant, bringing the flavours of Tokyo to the Swiss alps

Megu is a Japanese restaurant, overseen by chefs who have come over from the homeland expressly to create a slice of finest Tokyo in the Alpine hills. Toro tartare with ponzu sauce, fresh water shrimp and Oscietra caviar was a study in subtle contrasts. We developed a serious yearning for the crispy asparagus crumbed with Japanese rice crackers, chilli and lemon – more, please, every day. It’s fine dining with a slice of wit, and a thorough and reasonably priced Swiss wine list – pinot noirs from Malans, Cornalin from Valais, local white grapes from the edge of Lake Geneva, all wines you just can’t find outside Switzerland.

Megu–sleep–pool terrace–repeat. What’s not to love about August in the Alps?

Our thanks to the Switzerland Travel Centre for organising first-class transportation on Switzerland’s beautifully efficient train network: switzerlandtravelcentre.co.uk

badruttspalace.com, thealpinagstaad.ch

 

 

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Reading time: 10 min

Polo tournaments don’t exactly suffer from a downmarket reputation, but there is polo and there is the Hublot Polo in Gstaad. On arriving in your car, you are confronted with a unique kind of triage: Ferrari Parking is signposted next to the field and stands, while all other marques have to park a little further away and walk. The indignity. (Ferrari’s local dealership is actually a sponsor).

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This year’s tournament went swimmingly in Mediterranean temperatures under an aquamarine mountain sky. The final was hosted by Hublot panjandrum and LVMH watches CEO (and LUX columnist) Jean-Claude Biver, who had cycled to the venue up the Saanenland Alps from his home by Lake Geneva. The teams battled it out on the field while in the VIP zone, champagne was sipped and deals were sealed, not least via the sponsors – we suspect Ferrari, Hublot and Riva sold a few choice items. (Our choice? An 812 Superfast, a Big Bang Automatic Unico Chronograph, and a 44 foot Rivarama Super.)

Read next: Brazilian artist, Mayra Sérgio’s coffee sculptures for Gaggenau

But it was also a tournament for all the people; entry was free, whether you arrived in a Ferrari or a Fiat, and perhaps the best location of all was not the VIP zone but the Feldschlosschen beer tent at the entrance, serving ice-cold draft, at a spot where you could spot and be spotted by everyone. LUX prefers a cold, well-served, bottom-fermented Swiss beer with a three centimetre head to a lukewarm champagne on a summer’s day, and that’s where we had some of our best conversations.

Darius Sanai

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The Alps are at their most sublime when the sun is warm, the snow has given way to meadows, and the crowds are far away, says Darius Sanai. Here we focus on two legendary resorts which really come alive in the summer

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 22.35.04

Postcard Perfect: The Matterhorn towers over Zermatt’s green summer slopes

Zermatt: The high peak paradise

Mention a luxury chalet in Zermatt to anyone with an ounce of snow in their blood, and they will immediately start to fantasize about the glorious off-piste of the Hohtälli, the vertiginous black runs down from Schwarzsee, the myriad routes down the back of the Rothorn. For chalets and Zermatt mean the ultimate in he-man (and she-woman) ski holidays on the highest runs in the Alps, for groups who can then relax in a super- luxe communal chalet and share stories.

There is, however, another and very different experience to be had in a chalet in Zermatt. Mine started with sitting outside on a broad balcony in a polo shirt, gazing up at the green foothills and rocky high peaks, birds and butterflies drifting past. The summer sun is strong here, but in the mountains the air is dry and there is always a hint of the glaciers in the breeze, so you never feel like you are sweltering.

Zermatt is a glorious place in the summer, as its soaring peaks – it is surrounded by 30 mountains of over 4,000m in height, more than any other village in the Alps – are less frozen, less forbidding, more open to being explored than in the ski season. And while the village is the number one Alpine destination for summer holidays, it is still less crowded than in winter, when the entire populations of Moscow and Mayfair flock to the village under the Matterhorn.

Peak Season: The village of Zermatt wears a cloak of green throughout the summer months, but the jagged Matterhorn retains its mantle of snow and ice

Peak Season:
The village of Zermatt wears a cloak of green throughout the summer months, but the jagged Matterhorn retains its mantle of snow and ice

Chalet Helion, run by uber-swish chalet company Mountain Exposure, is one of the ultimate incarnations of its breed. Technically, although it’s a wood-panelled, chalet-style building, it’s not actually a chalet; rather it is an extensive lateral apartment running across the breadth and length of the construction. You get there via a three-minute taxi ride or five-minute walk from the main train station. Cross the rushing green Zermatt river, walk past the art nouveau-style Parkhotel Beau Site on a little knoll, and there it is.

On walking into the apartment, turn left into a vast, open-plan living room/dining room/kitchen area, with space to seat a party of 20. It sleeps eight people and is well organized for entertaining, as the living quarters can be closed off from the dining and chilling space, where there is also a cosy study.

Draw back the curtains and, beyond the broad balcony terrace, is the most magnificent view in Europe: an uninterrupted vista of the Matterhorn. It rises above the end of the valley like some supernatural thing, a giant, quasi- pyramidical, almost vertical rock formation, covered in thick snow and ice, surrounded by glaciers, standing above other mountains that are green with friendly summer pasture. It looks down with disdain, mocking us mere humans with our pathetic summer activities.

It is also mesmerizing. From the balcony at dawn, it glows rose like a Laurent-Perrier champagne; in the middle of the day, its least forbidding time, it is all silvers and whites; at dusk, it takes on its most frightening aspect, its darkness making you think of all the climbers who have fallen thousands of metres to their deaths on it. My father climbed the Matterhorn when he was young and made me promise I would not do it; he can rest assured from his own place in the skies that there is no danger of that.

The Matterhorn is Zermatt’s brand, adorning every poster, postcard, sticker and banner. But development means it has become harder and harder to find a room with a view of the mountain itself rather than a view of the newest building. And this is what makes Chalet Helion so special, as its vista, from a gentle slope above the village centre, is uninterrupted.

But the mountain isn’t the sole reason to go to Zermatt. There’s only a certain amount of time you can stare at the almighty, after all. Just down from Chalet Helion is the lift system that takes you up to the Sunnegga-Rothorn mountain. A train tunnel bores through the bare granite and, three minutes later, you emerge into a wonderland.

Sunnegga, the first stop, is above the treeline and at the top of the steep foothills that border one side of the village. From here, unlike down in the valley, you see that the Matterhorn is just one of dozens of massive, icy, knife-edged peaks above the resort. Directly in front of you rise four 4,000m-peaks, culminating in the Weisshorn, shaped like a gigantic shark’s fin and, at 4,512 metres, even higher than the Matterhorn. To the left, snowy pinnacles hint at even higher summits. To see those, we climbed into the
cable car to the very top of this lift system, the 3,100-metre high Unter Rothorn (recently rebranded as just Rothorn, but as there are three variations on Rothorn around here, I prefer to stick to its original name). We stepped out into eye-watering sunshine and crunched onto a patch of snow left over from winter: 3,100 metres is high indeed. The peeking peaks from the previous stop now revealed themselves as six huge mountains layered in unimaginably thick snow and ice, rising above the Gornergrat ridge in between us.

The highest of these, Monte Rosa, looked like a giant’s meringue, massive but without the character or shape of the others. At 4,634 metres, it makes up in heft what it lacks in shapeliness: you can make out the other face of Monte Rosa quite clearly when standing on the roof of Milan’s cathedral, more than 100 miles away. (As a comparison, Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is 1,343 metres, and Germany’s highest, the Zugspitze, is 2,963 metres.)

Zermatt is famed for its mountain restaurants, but that morning I had gone shopping at the local Coop (which in Switzerland means amazing fresh, local ingredients, from radishes to mountain cheese), and we picnicked instead, sat on a rock by the side of a pewter-coloured lake, in which the Matterhorn was perfectly reflected. Here, at Stelisee, you are at peace with the mountains above and the valleys below. The sun bakes you, apart from an occasional wisp of wind which wafts down from the glacier like nature’s own cooling mist spray. Butterflies, bees and millions of grasshoppers play among the fields of wildflowers all around. Even the Matterhorn from here looks less dark, more pretty. Never has an air-dried beef sandwich with freshly grated horseradish tasted more perfect.

Chalet Chic: Chalet Helion occupies the entire top floor of this traditional, pretty chalet building

Chalet Chic:
Chalet Helion occupies the entire top floor of this traditional, pretty chalet building

Walking down, we came across another lake, Leisee, deep green in colour. Fittingly, amid the sea of wildflowers surrounding this one, was a confederacy of tiny green frogs. Not much bigger than an adult fingernail, you had to be careful not to tread on them as you walked along the path.

Dinner in Zermatt comes with reservations in both sense of the word: you need to book, as the place is heaving in season; and you always feel slightly annoyed that the restaurants, however well deserved their culinary reputation, have no Matterhorn view, as they are clustered in the village centre.

This was a further joy of Chalet Helion. On most nights we cooked, and ate and drank local Valais wine (vibrant Fendant whites, deep Cornalin reds) on our balcony or at the dining table with our private, picture window view of the mountain fading to grey. After which, a Havana on the balcony: one clear night we could make out the helmet lights of the night climbers on the sheer rockface of the mountain.

On one evening, Mountain Exposure’s charismatic owner, Donald Scott, a British snow- phile who came to Zermatt and never left, brought one of the company’s chefs to create us a fabulous, complex Swiss mountain meal. Our dining area was transformed into a restaurant, an option open to any guest who pays.

We will certainly be back, for the view from Chalet Helion, and its entire experience, is as eternal as it is wondrous.

Chalet Helion is available summer and winter from Mountain Exposure, mountainexposure.com. For general information, see zermatt.ch

SPA AT MONT CERVIN PALACE

For decades Mont Cervin Palace has been the byword for glamour for all visitors to Zermatt. A well-kept secret is that this five-star hotel in the heart of the village has a beautiful, 25-metre indoor pool, and an outdoor spa pool and garden as part of its hidden annexe. The garden and outdoor pool (which is open year-round) have a dramatic view of the mountains from the village centre, and the indoor pool and hydrotherapy area are the best places in the valley to retreat to when the weather closes in – or if you want some cross-training exercise after a day’s skiing and hiking. The best news? They are open to non-residents, for a fee. montcervinpalace.ch

Gstaad: Alpine chic with a twist

Gstaad has a reputation as a gentle place, perhaps more suited to high net worth retirees wanting a peaceful and safe place close to their money (in Swiss bank accounts) in which to holiday. But that reputation vanished before my eyes as soon as I set foot into the garden of The Alpina hotel.

The Hills are Alive: Wildflowers fill the alpine meadows around Gstaad during the summer months

The Hills are Alive:
Wildflowers fill the alpine meadows around Gstaad during the summer months

Before me, a long outdoor pool, lined by teak decking and a few (not too many – this is Gstaad) sunloungers. Around it was a garden in full bloom; beyond that the rooves of this traditional village (The Alpina is on a small plateau above the centre), all framed by an amphitheatre of forest, meadow and mountain. Far away were high rocky peaks and glaciers. It was hot in the sun, and a first morning spent in and by the pool, accompanied by the occasional cocktail, was bliss due to true exclusivity. At that moment, in any number of luxury Mediterranean hotels, super- wealthy guests would be jostling for space by the poolside in neat rows, trying to attract the attention of overstressed serving staff, waiting far too long for their drinks to arrive.

We, on the other hand, had the attention of numerous waiters (there were a few other guests, but more than enough staff to deal with them) and sufficient space to have a conversation about my tax affairs on my phone with no danger of anyone overhearing (not that I would be so vulgar).

Mountain Highs: Gstaad rewards summertime visitors with verdant valleys framed by snow-capped peaks

Mountain Highs: Gstaad rewards summertime
visitors with verdant valleys framed by snow-capped peaks

Suite Dreams: Swiss artisans have created the interiors at The Alpina, using local stone and period woodwork

Suite Dreams:
Swiss artisans have created the interiors at The Alpina, using local stone and period woodwork

Wandering inside a neat little chalet, we found stairs to take us down to a cavernous and exquisitely finished spa area. One corridor led to a salt room, where even the walls were seemingly made of salt, another to the treatment rooms, and another to a quiet cafe area lined with photographic books and jugs containing various herb-flavoured waters.

Beyond that, another pool, inside the cavern, some 25 metres long, bookended by spa pools and crowned by a glass cupola looking into the garden above. If the weather ever failed, this would be the place to spend the day, as we discovered the next day when a thunderstorm swept in. The Alps form the border of the hot Mediterranean climate zone and rainy northern Europe, and you can feel the battle between one and the other, day by day.

When the sun reappeared we headed up the round, green mountain facing us – more a fairytale hill than a dramatic Alp – in a gondola and found a large chalet restaurant, Wispile, serving fondues made with cheese from the chalet’s own cows, clearly visible in the pasture above. The view was over the village and the wooded foothills and forests beyond, out towards Lake Geneva. Wispile also has a menagerie of animals, from llamas to pigs and goats, which families can help to feed.

If Wispile is all that you expect from a Swiss Alpine hut, the evening offering at The Alpina is something else entirely. The owners of this new uber-luxe hotel, which was clearly built to compete with, if not actually outdo, the celebrated Palace hotel down the road, wanted the best of world cuisine in a village not renowned for its cosmopolitan food offerings.

For MEGU, a Japanese restaurant in the heart of the hotel that is an outpost of the celebrated New York establishment of the same name, they enticed and employed master chefs from Japan. It shows: the sushi was magnificent. A taste that I will try and remember for the rest of my life is the signature crispy asparagus with crumbed Japanese rice crackers, chilli and lemon. The Oriental salad (various Chinese vegetables, nuts, seeds, sashimi of Dover sole and sesame oil) was also unique and memorable. Stone-grilled wagyu chateaubriand with a fresh (not powdered) wasabi soy reduction was also fabulously vibrant. I’d take MEGU over Nobu and Zuma, if only it were in London.

There was also Sommet, the hotel’s other signature restaurant, which holds two Michelin stars. It is hard to tell which is more important. Sommet has the better location, a big contemporary dining room with a view of pool and mountains, and seating on the broad terrace; MEGU is the cosy space behind the bar at the heart of the hotel. Sommet has 18/20 from the Gault et Millau guide and is refreshingly fuss- free. The seabass with artichokes, hazelnuts and spinach had simple, highly defined flavours, and the organic salmon steak with tomato and olive risotto was cooked with great attention to detail. Sommet’s chef has the confidence to let his quality ingredients, combinations and technique speak for themselves, and this is contemporary fine dining of the most appealing kind.

These were two of my most notable meals of the year, anywhere in the world, to the extent that I would make a journey to the hotel just to eat there, even if I couldn’t stay there. But for overall experience, they can’t quite match that of sitting by the outdoor pool, looking at the glowing green of the Alps, under the deep blue of the mountain sky, in utter peace, while sipping a perfectly made margarita, served by an unhassled staff member who knows exactly when to ask whether I’d like another one. That may not have been the first line of the owners’ business plan when they opened The Alpina, but they have succeeded in making Gstaad a true summer holiday destination beyond, I suspect, even their wildest dreams.

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DARIUS SANAI’S Luxury travel views Where our Editor-in-Chief ponders culinary conundrums from his sojourns around the world

Not so long ago, to experience the best of the world’s cuisine, you had to travel to their origins. Interested in exploring Escoffier’s legacy? Fly to Paris, Burgundy or Lyon. Want to know what the greatest sashimi tastes like? Try the stalls at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. To taste the best Shanghainese seafood, you’d need to be looking at the Yellow River.

Now, everything has changed. Now there’s no question about being inauthentic if you taste Tuscan food in Vegas, or sample Joel Rebouchon in London, or Nobu in, well, anywhere. The greatest ingredients, and the greatest chefs, are where they are.

Which makes Miami such an interesting conundrum. The only food the city can really, authentically claim as its own is Cuban, imported by the hordes fleeing Fidel Castro from the 1960s onwards. That, and the ubiquitous stone crab, served by the pile, a food to eat with fries and a big Sonoma Chardonnay and to grow fat on.

But Miami is also South Beach, host of America’s biggest annual food festival, home to some of the most glamorous restaurants and hotels in America outside Vegas; the place where Russian oligarchs and New York tycoons gather under the sun to talk art, women, wine and song on megayachts and in megaresidences.

And I was intrigued by what my megahotel in SoBe, the Fountainebleau, would have to offer. On the culinary side, that is. As a resort hotel, its offering is pretty evident to anyone arriving up its driveway crowded with limos and Lambos: about 10,000 rooms in various buildings, Art Deco and mock; a properly mega swimming pool which I estimated as around 60m curved end to end, which would have been perfect for lengths, had it not been overoccupied by smooching couples taking advantage of its uniform shallowness; a private shopping mall; a stretch of private beach with uniformed staff shifting sunloungers to the evermoving gaps in the afternoon sunlight as the sun set beneath the giant structures of the hotel itself.

The Fountainebleau is not short of celebrated options, with Hakkasan and Scarpetta operating there. Just to be different I chose to entertain my guests at the hotel’s nouveau-Japanese restaurant Blade, which registers there as one of the ‘casual’ dining options. ‘Casual’ meaning informal service and a lack of tablecloths, rather than low prices.

It was eye-opening. The straight sashimi and nigiri – yellowtail, sea bream toro – was as good as sashimi can be, flown in from Tsukiji as it is in any fine sushi restaurant. A mark of standards and craft, but nothing else.

It was the speciality rolls that would make or break Blade. These were ambitious: the Geisha, with yellowtail, ooba leaf, orange, asparagus wrapped in soy paper with a yuzu miso glaze. The Chateau with spicy snow crab, spring onions, cucumbers, and spicy tuna. The Dragon, with deep-fried shrimp, asparagus, avocado, barbecue eel, miso wasabi and aioli. And what about the Ronin: salmon, mozzarella, tomato, cilantro, Serrano ham, chilli, and crispy onion – about as derivative as you can get and still claim Japanese roots, sort of.

We tried all these rolls and more, and my conclusion on Blade reflects the conclusion on cuisine in general, which in turn reflects a contemporary worldview. They were on the whole beautifully made, with ingredients that had plainly been sourced from the very best possible sources, and hewn together by a chef who understood the intricacies of the human palate. I entertained at Blade every time I could during my sojurn; even ate there by myself once.

But the fact that I was eating at a soi-disant Japanese in a corner of the United States was irrelevant: this is the new food, inspired by everywhere, with certain splashes of somewhere more prominent than others, meticulously made, perfectly served. Just as the model in the corner was a mix of Chinese, Persian, Russian and German, from everywhere and nowhere, so was Blade’s food. Once that meant the worst: international cuisine. Now it is the trademark of a new contemporary quality.

Many hotels thrive these days by attaching luxury brand chefs’ names to their restaurants: these bring in visitors who otherwise would not be seen dining at a hotel restaurant, for fear of appearing like tourists. One of my favourite hotels in the world, though, has another take. The Parkhuus restaurant, in the Park Hyatt Zurich, is as cool, and spectacular in its internal architecture, and as imaginative in its menu, as any high-concept chef ’s: but the restaurant is entirely the hotel’s own.

A sweeping open kitchen dominates the room; ceilings are high, as are windows; tables lack formal dressing, instead bedecked in contemporary architecture. The menu effortlessly combines the casual and the formal, the haute and the bas: you can simply choose ‘Chop, Wood Roasted, 400g’; or go for the Swiss ‘pike-perch fillet, pan fried, herb crust, herb salad, tomato jam’ accompanied by the wood-roasted seasonal vegetables. Both were sublime in their delicacy with the signature of the Parkhuus wood oven.

The menu at Parkhuus is brutally seasonal, in the best possible way: there are no signature dishes, only seasonal dishes, so if you go in autumn you would be crazy not to try the products of shoots in nearby Burgundy, for example. As befits one of the very best restaurants in the city that serves as the capital of Europe’s wealth management business, the wine cellar is breathtaking in its breadth, although I have recently favoured the local draft beer, served swiftly and ice-cool, its hoppy bitterness a welcome counterpoint to the slight caramel sweetness that arises in some of the woodroast dishes.

Parkhuus is an interesting room in that it runs counter to what I normally admire about restaurants. It is a big space, with big windows, and a view technically of nothing but the other side of a quiet Zurich street. Yet it feels sexy, alive, because of the lighting, the attitude, the décor, the service, the style. You feel this is a destination for locals, not because of the name of a chef above the door, but because of the sheer quality.

Around 1000 miles north of Zurich, on a very different kind of lake, is the Scottish Highland hotel of Cameron House. Cameron House is on Loch Lomond, a long lake that stretches like a finger into the Highlands, and you can’t quite imagine the barren beauty that unfolds before you as you stand on the lochside of the hotel, without having been there. On one of Scotland’s most famous lochs, this is the perfect location.

The hotel’s main restaurant has fine views over the water, but on my latest visit I stopped in on the Boat House, the more casual option, on the water’s edge. You feel as though you are floating on this untamed loch, and the casual atmosphere is enhanced by the engagingly informal staff – and the crowds, for this is a popular place.

The menu is created by the Loch Fyne people, they of seafood bars across the UK, and that guaranteed a level of quality: excellent selection of salmon of various smokes, mussels that were well cooked in white wine and parsley; spectacularly presented oysters. Good quality for a seafood lover, if nothing too ambitious, but the view of a snowstorm whitening the head of Ben Lomond across the water (this can happen at any time of year) was ambitious enough.

In the course of my annual travels I stay in quite a number of luxury hotels, and those that disappoint usually outnumber those that excel. So it is a delight when a hotel that was supposed to do nothing other than perform solidly, does so with flair and a panache of proper hotellerie, like a mid-division football team suddenly matching Barcelona at their own game.

That was my experience, shortly after Cameron House, with the Hilton Central in Glasgow. Hilton has been demeaned as a brand over the past years, the sometimes glorious towers of Hilton International now replaced by business lodges stamped with the brand. Some exceptions remain, for me in the U.S., and London’s Park Lane: but Glasgow’s Hilton is evidently in a category of its own. The service was not only attentive but intuitive; the rooms well-arranged, a sort of cookiecutter- plus, for road warriors who want to know where everything is but also have high standards. It was the food that surprised, a sequence of room services arriving swiftly and with pride, steaming hot, sea bass cooked a point, a perfectly herbed soup: the kinds of things you wish room service would do around the world, but it so rarely does. And with staff that took pride: they were neither overtrained, nor obsequious, nor over-aware, nor over-cool: just spot on. Hilton Glasgow, you outdo many of your more glamorous five-star rivals.

Back very much closer to home, I am delighted at the reopening, after a few months’ refurbishment, of my favourite part of one of my favourite restaurant/food shops, Villandry, in London’s NoHo. Villandry is part café, part food hall, part restaurant, and the latter two have just reopened, accompanied by a fine wine theme and a bank of those fine Enomatic machines at which you can taste fine wine by the small pour. Redecorated in exquisite taste by Claire Sheppard and her team, it retains that light, airiness so rare in central London venues, as well as fine ingredients cooked simply, whether for breakfast, lunch or a prix-fixe dinner. Bon appétit.

Darius Sanai is Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Contract Publishing

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The Matterhorn put Zermatt on the map

The Matterhorn put Zermatt on the map

DEEP BLUE SKIES, PERFECT TEMPERATURES, NO TEEMING CROWDS, EXCELLENT CUISINE, CLEAN AIR, ENVELOPED BY NATURAL BEAUTY: WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THE SWISS ALPS IN THE SUMMERTIME, ASKS Darius Sanai

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Beau Rivage Palace overlooking Lac Leman

The deep midwinter is when residents of the western hemisphere traditionally make their plans for the summer holidays, and the world’s travel industry has long been shaped around these rhythms. Things are changing, as a rapidly increasing number of travellers from countries where ‘summer’ is a far less clearly defined concept (think Singapore, Hong Kong, Brazil, India) make their presence felt. And even among those for whom seasons are clearly demarcated, the tendency towards last-minute travel means booking in July, for July, is more than a temporary trend.

But still: you’ll be reading this in the traditional Western winter, and you won’t have missed the flood of television and magazine advertisements enticing you towards your next grand trip. You may well hear the howling of a winter gale outside, and you might have gritted the drive this morning ahead of the forecast snow.

All of this might go some way to explaining why a quite perfect summer holiday destination for anyone with an active family, a love of luxury, culture, cuisine and the great outdoors, rarely appears at the top of people’s list. Switzerland is associated with many great things, but intense heat and sunshine are not among them, which is a great shame because I and the family picked up the most lasting tan in years during the couple of weeks we spent touring some of this country’s most interesting Alpine destinations last summer.  Switzerland may be mountainous, but the southern half of the country is also Mediterranean – it borders Italy, makes wine, serves antipasti and pizza, and some of it even speaks Italian – so sunshine is coupled with clean air and moderate temperatures. The latter is a boon as anyone who has ever tried to take small children to Sicily in August as we did the previous year may know. Forty degrees is OK for sipping rose in the shade, but not for actually doing anything much. In the mountains, strong sun combines with temperatures in the 20s to make for perfect days.

Before I continue, a note: this article has been strung together below from a series of visits at different dates to the destinations below. However, there is no reason at all why someone might not combine some or all of them in one trip, as Switzerland is as compact as it is mountainous.

By The Shores of Leman: The Beau Rivage Palace, Ouchy

Anyone who knows Lac Leman, or Lake Geneva, from its reference in TS Eliot’s rather depressing Wasteland poem might be expecting a rather gloomy place, but arriving in Ouchy, a bijou port village appended to the city of Lausanne, the feeling is just the opposite. The streets – formerly vineyards, which still surround the village – slope steeply down to the lakeside, the pastel coloured buildings speak of Romantic architecture, and the lake itself stretches thick and blue and still, some 10km across to the spectacular mountains on the French side, and as far as the eye can see both left and right. It’s a south facing location, not so much bathed as drowned in delicious southern sunlight: the point at which northern Europe becomes southern Europe. From here, all rivers flow south, to the Mediterranean, and the North European Plain is left behind.

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Beau Rivage Palace overlooking Lac Leman

The location deserves a great hotel, and it has one, courtesy of the Belle Epoque travellers who flocked here in search of sunshine and clean air. It pays to be wary of 100 year old palace hotels in Europe, as some of them have fallen into disrepair as travellers take their money away by jet; but I was delighted to see that it was precisely the opposite with the Beau Rivage. The ceilings are high, the corridors palatial and the ballroom is a wonder, but everything has been refurbished to top global standard at what must be an absolutely eyewatering cost to the private owners. Our rooms had two balconies looking out over manicured lawns, a wood, tennis courts, a large outdoor pool and a considerable terrace area – the hotel seemed to stretch in every direction, a great relief after the cramped conditions one encounters even in the very best Mediterranean hotels. The view stretched to the Mont Blanc massif, looming opposite over the lake (Mont Blanc itself is hidden behind its siblings), and to the Upper Rhone valley to the left.

The pool turned out to be two pools, indoor and out, with diversions to tennis, table tennis, giant chess and simply meandering through the grounds as appropriate. The surrounding area is home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants, but, frankly, why bother? We started in the hotel’s bar, which has been remodelled with advice from some extremely cool Londonbased consultants in a super-contemporary style that is somehow still in keeping with the location – plenty of greys and dark woods, not too many urban whites. Mojitos, alcoholic and otherwise, provided a good counterpoint to the day’s heat, and I can’t imagine there are many other places in Switzerland where you can get a Mojito as good as at Claridge’s Bar.

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Gstaad Palace’s New Lounge

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Private spa suite at Gstaad Palace

The oriental-style bar snacks were spot on, but for dinner on our first night we revisited the same spot we had lunch, where I couldn’t resist revisiting a salad of rocket, artichoke, pine nut and parmesan, whose texture still lingers delightfully in the memory. The organic salmon nigiri with yuzu lemon and oyster espuma was a sort of aristocratic sushi that makes one wonder why more Japanese restaurants in Europe are not more adventurous with their nigiri variations. The menu is constantly changing, so you will likely not have what I did, but the conceptualising and cooking were pinpoint sharp. As was the wine list: a Crozes Hermitage from Jaboulet, from the excellent 2009 vintage, accompanied beautifully (although I was later to regret not having tried one of the excellent selection of Swiss wines).

The Cafe Beau Rivage is somewhere you could eat every meal of every day, but the hotel also owns a highly popular Italian trattoria/pizzeria in the neighbouring building whose terrace is the meeting point of the young cool set of the area, and a highly regarded traditional Japanese restaurant, Miyako, in the main building.

We left feeling rather guilty that we hadn’t indulged in a private boat trip on the lake, or visits to neighbouring vineyards, but it is always best to leave something for next time. The Beau Rivage palace is that rare example of a contemporary classic that makes its destination what it is: without it, Ouchy (pronounced Ooshy) would be a pretty lakeside village like many others in Switzerland and Italy (and it does have an Italianate feel).

Gstaad and the Palace

Ouchy may have views of high mountains, but in Swiss terms it is a lowland destination, on a large lake at a mere 375 metres altitude. From now, our trip would take us ever higher into the Alps. A little way down the lake from Lausanne is the town of Montreux, known for its globally-celebrated jazz festival but a slightly humdrum place otherwise. Montreux’s railway station is the starting point of the Goldenpass, one of the Alps’ most famed train rides. The train, with a special panoramic viewing roof, makes its way not along the lake, like the main train line, but up the mountainside abutting the lake. It climbs quickly to 1000 metres, over a pass, and then descends gently into a wonderland of deep green Alpine meadow, woodland, lush valleys, streams, and chalets.  The children kept a lookout for Heidi, and I kept wondering if it was all a projection by the Switzerland Tourism, the sophisticated national tourist authority, but no: it was real. The air was cooler but still warm, the sunlight tempered by dark forest, the slopes rising to snow patches below rocky peaks.

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Train arriving in Gstaad from Montreux

Gstaad is at the end of this expanse of Alpine perfection, a little town in a bowl of big hills and small mountains, with an open view in every direction. And the Palace in Gstaad sits atop the town like a fairytale castle, with its own tennis courts, spa hewn into the rock, and permanent residence (or so it seems) of clients who have either just arrived or are just about to leave in their private jets from the nearby airstrip. The rockfaces of the mountains turn gold in the dusk sunlight as the conversations on the terrace turn to what the next generation will do with the wealth amassed by this one. Not having to worry unduly about such things, we sipped our aperitifs every evening and spent daytimes split between the hotel’s own spa and exploring the mountains.

The spa feels very Swiss, hewn out of the rockface under the hotel, with a granite-lined pool that stretches in an Lshape to a glass wall that opens fully on summer days. The treatments are perfectly thorough and correct as you would expect, my massage unclicking a joint that had been frozen for months; and the adults-only hydrotherapy pools are a fine place to spend a while amid the view. It was here that I noted another key advantage over traditional summer destinations: you are not overwhelmed by other people’s children; in fact, they are a mere footnote to the rather discerning adult clientele. The Palace is a lively place in winter with its louche nightclub Greengo, but in summer it is altogether more chilled out.

Gstaad’s mountains are not toweringly high by Swiss standards, but it’s an excellent place to start: we took a lift up to a restaurant atop one of the mid-size mountains from where the view stretched to the next range behind, and after a rustic lunch of veal (adults) and veal sausages (children) the offspring spent an enjoyable hour or two amusing themselves by seeing if there was anything in the meadow the restaurant owner’s pet goats would not eat. Branches, dandelions, weeds and wildflowers alike were consumed by the goats-with-a-view.

The people, like the goats, traditionally ate what was available locally here, which explains the surfeit of excellent veal which, being local, comes with fewer animal rights worries. And then there are the products, notably the local Gstaad cheese and the considerably more famous Gruyere from just down the valley. These combine most notably in a fondue, and on the recommendation of the local tourist office one evening we took a twenty-minute journey to Gsteig, the next village in the valley, for a fondue at Baren Gsteig.  Amid low beams and cowbells, we settled down to the freshest fondue I have experienced. It may sound odd to call a cheese fondue fresh, but I suspect the fact that all the cheese used

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Edward Whymper was the first to climb the Matterhorn

was unpasteurised hard cheese made a significant difference to both the bite and the minerality of the dish. The bread was just right too, slightly stale (one day old, we were told) crusty local sourdough – if it’s too fresh, it flops into the melted cheese. The fondue also contained a dose of the local brandy, adding more bite and fruit freshness.

Another evening we went to the oldest restaurant in Gstaad proper, at the Hotel Post, on the bijou little high street, where the steak (local, again) had a combination of metallic earthiness and butter-tenderness I haven’t encountered elsewhere.

The Palace is a most civilised place to return after such rustic outings: the lobby and bar have a chalet-like feel, but the view is all around. On our last evening, the moon lit up the glacier at the side of the far peak up the valley. We were due to visit the glacier, accessible by cable car, but this was not to be this time. Again, something for another time.

To Zermatt

If there is one place in Switzerland, or indeed the Alps, that can claim to be as important in summer as it is in winter, it is Zermatt. Skiers may know the resort for its challenging black runs, excellent apres-ski, and cosy haute-cuisine mountain dining. But Zermatt is that rare resort, where visitors and global celebrity predated going down mountains with two planks tied to your feet. Like many chi-chi Alpine villages, it was for centuries a remote and impoverished farming hamlet, but its transformation came in the 19th century when Victorian-era Britons, bent on surmounting every challenge the world held, came to conquer its iconic mountain, the Matterhorn.

In the 1860s, successive climbing parties arrived in Zermatt bent on scaling the Matterhorn (now known to anyone who eats chocolates or buys Caran d’Ache pencils) and other peaks in the amphitheatre that surrounds the valley: along with Chamonix, the French

village at the foot of Mont Blanc, Zermatt can lay claim to being the home of Alpinism, of mountaineering as we know it.

Even 150 years later, with the arrival of the big-money skiing parties and the accessibility of higher and more challenging mountain ranges in Asia and South America, Zermatt still attracts the Alpinists in summer. The Matterhorn’s most accessible ridge, first climbed by the Englishman Edward Whymper in 1865 in a tragic expedition that involved the death of four of its members and which cemented the mountain’s ominous reputation, is now more accessible. With the help of fixed ropes, a carefully mapped route, and modern equipment,

hundreds of people climb it every year. But its other aspects, and in particular its vertical North Face, remain a monumental challenge, as do a number of the 30 other 4000 metre high peaks that surround Zermatt.  Oddly, none of these other peaks, the largest collection of 4000 metre mountains in the Alps, are available as the train ascends the valley to Zermatt.

The village still bans cars, so train is the only way to arrive. Alight at the train station, in a mini urban sprawl, and you may wonder what the fuss is all about. But take a few paces over towards the river, look up, and there is the Matterhorn, as otherworldly as it ever was, rising to 4478 metres above Switzerland and Italy.

For me there was only one place to stay in Zermatt. The Monte Rosa hotel is the village’s original hotel, built in the 19th century to house those climbing parties, and gently renovated since. Its heart and soul are in Alpinism: the walls are festooned with souvenirs from climbing parties, letters of good wishes from the likes of Winston Churchill to resident climbers, some of them triumphant, some doomed.

The bar is cosy, low-ceilinged, a place to exchange stories about the day’s adventures, although today’s climbers are no longer all gentlemen of the aristocracy and many of them stay in the town’s youth hostel instead. The restaurant is a classic white tablecloth hotel dining room where you dine on the set menu and choose from the array of Swiss wines on the list, including some very interesting Pinot Noirs from the east of the country, and, my personal favourites, some rich, spicy satisfying single vineyard wines made with the local Cornalin grape in the sunny Swiss Rhone valley nearby.

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Monte Rosa, the home of Alpinism

The Monte Rosa still occupies its original site in the very heart of the village on the square, and the hotel itself attracts carefully limited numbers of tourists come to visit the original home of the Alpinists. Its sister hotel, the Mont Cervin, a couple of hundred metres away, has a large pool, spa and garden that guests can use. The view from our suite was directly to the Matterhorn’s north face, with the village church beside us. And Zermatt, you rapidly learn when you arrive there, is not about lounging about in your hotel: it is about activity. There is a cog railway station opposite the main railway station in the village, and here we boarded a narrow gauge train that inched its way through the village and up through the thick forest on the steep valley sides. So far, Zermatt had remained an enigma, the Matterhorn towering over it, but the vast amphitheatre of mountains that accompany it remaining hidden behind the steep valley sides.

As the Gornergrat train climbed, peaks started to reveal themselves on the opposite side of the valley. Like an animal revealing its sharp teeth, they emerged, pyramidal rock faces rising above the glacier and pricking the sky, and within minutes we were faced with a panorama of jagged edged 4000 metre mountains, from the Weisshorn to Dent Blanche, that climbers the world over come to conquer.

The train’s track rose above the treeline and still we carried on climbing. Another towering series of jagged peaks emerged on our side of the valley, plunging down into scree, valley, and forest. The Gornergrat mountain we were ascending flattened out, the train climbed over a ridge, and suddenly the most spectacular view of all confronted us, a huge series of snowy giants looming at us from directly across the long tongue of a glacier. This was the Monte Rosa, the highest mountain in Switzerland, and its associated peaks.

Emerging, blinking, onto the rock and summer snow patches of Gornergrat, 3100 metres up, we climbed to a rocky viewing point. There was a 360 degree view of peaks higher than 4000 metres, and very little sign of human civilisation.  Below us on one side a near vertical slope dropped to the glacier, where we could just pick out the figures of some climbers tramping their way back from an expedition.

Walking down a little from Gornergrat, trying not to get vertigo, we passed a heavenly mountain lake, surrounded on all sides by wild flowers, in which a rockpool of tadpoles swam, and where an elegant green frog sat sunning itself on a grass patch. The path picked its way through more high meadows of wildflowers, around the ridge, and to the Riffelberg train stop, where we boarded the train home.

On another day we took a lift up the neighbouring mountain, past a little green lake, and strolled down to Findeln, a little hamlet in a sainted position facing the Matterhorn across the valley. We sat on the terrace at the Findlerhof restaurant and enjoyed astonishing food: sashimi with a lime dip; beautifully cooked sea bass; veal in a gentle white wine sauce. The terrace was spacious, wooden and rustic with an astonishing view; the food was perfect urban sophistication. Apparently there are dozens of restaurants like that on Zermatt’s mountains, something the original climbing parties plainly missed.

Pontresina and the Engadine

There is a train that connects Switzerland’s two most famous resorts, Zermatt and St Moritz, directly. The Glacier Express runs several times a day in summer, and while it neither goes through a glacier (although you see plenty) or goes very fast (rather the opposite), the seven hour journey was a great way to kick back, relax and watch central Switzerland proceed slowly past.

Our destination was not St Moritz itself but its chic neighbouring resort of Pontresina, and its flagship hotel, the Kronenhof. Pontresina is a tiny Italian-feeling village on a ledge above the high Engadine valley that cuts through the mountains of eastern Switzerland, near the Austrian and Italian borders. The Kronenhof has a grand courtyard on the village’s main street and a dramatic view across the valley and up towards the glaciers of the Piz Buin.

It was remarkable and rather wonderful to find a hotel of such sophistication so deep in the mountains. The huge indoor pool has been built onto the valley side of the hotel and, surrounded by glass, gives a feeling of flying, with mountains all around. Our suite’s balcony looked down onto forest and up onto glacier, and the jazz bar, again with dramatic views, felt very F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Pontresina’s flagship hotel, the Kronenhof

The Kronenhof is a big hotel with a panoply of distractions, including one of the region’s finest restaurants (which we have saved for next time), an extremely spacious and throrough kids club, replete with a proper children’s library, and a spa, attached to the pool, so good that it attracts the glitterati from nearby St Moritz all winter. Our room was decked in contemporary Alpine cool, plenty of blond wood, stone and grey, with generous panorama areas to look at the views, and a bathroom squarely aimed at the demanding international traveller.

One morning, leaving the hotel, we took the quaint, twoseater chairlift up through the forest to Alp Languard, a restaurant on a ridge overlooking Pontresina’s valley and the Engadine; another high mountain lunch of extraordinary quality ensued, and a hike up towards the high ridge at the top, which, eventually, defeated us. We took the chairlift down through the forest, amid the scent of pine and wildflowers.  Tea at the Kronenhof involved the magnificent sight of the mountains turning rose, as the sky at this high altitude (the village is at 1800m) turned pink then midnight blue.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of our stay was the evening we made our way down the 10 minute walk to the bottom of the valley, to be met by a coach and two – two horses pulling an open carriage. The children were thrilled, and the horses made their way up the secret Val Roseg. It is secret because it is a nature reserve, with no cars or even mountain bikes allowed – only horses and hikers. At the end of the high valley loomed a great white dome of a mountain, above the Roseg Glacier, and it was to the edge of this glacier that we made our way, up the enchanted valley, along a river, past a family of marmots, the most elusive of Alpine creatures, who stood to attention as we rode past.

Dinner was at Alp Roseg, another spectacular mountain restaurant with a vast wine list and haute-rustic cuisine, where steak in cafe de paris sauce was consumed with so much gusto you might have thought we, and not the horses, had done the climbing. The journey back in the starlight was equally memorable.

The Waldhaus at Flims

Flims is a resort that has become something of a legend among the snowboarding community. It sits on a very sunny, south facing shelf above the Rhine valley, in eastern Switzerland, halfway between Pontresina and Zurich.  On the forested plateau adjoining Flims, in its own generous grounds, sits the Waldhaus resort, a Victorian-era grand hotel that has been developed and brought up to date.  The grounds are generous enough to incorporate forest, copious lawns, an adventure playground, and a large petting zoo where the children spent amounts of time befriending donkeys, goats and chickens – the animals were so well fed by the hotel that their attempts to feed them usually ended in failure.

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The Waldhaus resort in Flims

The hotel has a glass-encased indoor pool and interconnected outdoor pool, and, next to it, a natural swimming pool where you can swim in non-chlorinated water among frogs and small fish.

We enjoyed a memorable cocktail and canapes on the terrace of the pavillion one evening as the sun set over the mountains opposite, and a very sophisticated meal at one of the hotel’s fine dining restaurants, Rotonde, with its floor to ceiling windows looking onto the forest; those in search of even higher cuisine can venture to Epoca, which has 17 Gault Millau points.

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A trip on a chairlift took us to the Berghaus Naraus, a restaurant on a south-facing ledge with sweeping views and an excellent line in barley soup and air-dried beef – and yet another quite astonishing wine list, which we resisted, it being lunchtime. Instead

we saved ourselves for dinner at the Arena Kitchen Flims, a cool, urban bar,

club and restaurant that could have been in Vermont or Colorado, in the city centre. It was quiet in summer, but you could imagine the teeming hordes in the ski season.

And that, I think, is the way I like it: clean sunshine, pure air, astonishing views, focussed cuisine, excellent service, Europe’s best hotels, and no teeming hordes. I’ll be back to Switzerland in summer.

Beau Rivage Palace: brp.ch

Gstaad Palace: palace.ch

Monte Rosa: monterosazermatt.ch

Grand Hotel Kronenhof: kronenhof.com

Waldhaus Flims: waldhaus-flims.ch

The best way to travel around Switzerland is by train. See swissrailways.com for details

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