The hotel is located on a promontory overlooking Lausanne’s medieval city center. Guests cross busy Rue Grand Chêne and walk down the narrow pedestrian streets into upscale shopping areas lined with outdoor cafes. On the Wednesday and Saturday farmers market days, the streets are further narrowed by local purveyors selling fresh produce, cheese, sausages, organic meat and poultry, charcuterie and fruit.
From my balcony at the hotel, I looked out over blocks of buildings built up against one another without an inch of breathing space between them. The lines of buildings curve and meander as they follow the contour of ancient hills that have not seen the light of day since the Romans began constructing this French-speaking city on the northern shore of Lake Geneva.
Balancing tradition with a modern sensibility
The Swiss admire thoughtful tradition and so it is with the Lausanne Palace. Catering to a local clientele, the rooms are decorated in a manner popular with Swiss travelers. The furnishings are comfortable, with a warm color palette.
That traditional look has been preserved in the public spaces as well. The elegance of the hotel is defined by extra wide hallways, wood paneled walls and doors, plush cushions on overstuffed couches, polished marble columns and a spacious lobby with an open bar facing the hotel’s main entrance.
In the rooms, guests can choose between traditional and contemporary designs. Swiss travelers prefer rooms furnished with a cozy simplicity. A selection of rooms have been redecorated with a more modern look.
The 106 rooms and 30 suites have Victor Moritz designed mattresses, Nordic duvets, indirect lighting and individual high-intensity reading lights on both sides of the bed. All the bathrooms have been updated with contemporary fixtures, spacious showers and baths and towel-warming racks. State of the art electronics give guests wifi and amenities like fingertip, bedside control of lights. Large louvered windows open for fresh air and an unobstructed view of the city.
To get the most out of a visit to Lausanne, the hotel’s Gold Key concierge desk can help find restaurants, shops and activities to suit a guest’s interests. The concierge desk can arrange guided excursions into the old city, wine-tasting tours of local vineyards and steamship rides on Lake Geneva.
More elaborate programs can be requested either during the online reservation process or after arrival through the concierge desk.
I had been traveling for several weeks on a tightly scheduled trip in the Lake Geneva region touring wineries and smaller towns like Vevey and Cully. In Lausanne I had planned a weeklong visit.
Staying at the Lausanne Palace gave me the ideal starting point to explore the city. The hotel is a short tram ride down to the Ouchy district that runs along Lake Geneva with dozens of outdoor cafes. And right across the street from the hotel is the old town, one of Switzerland’s best preserved medieval centers.
I took a relaxed approach for my visit. Instead of making lists and keeping to a schedule, I left every day open. That casualness allowed me to embrace mistakes that otherwise would have been crazy-making.
Taking the tram from Ouchy one day I got off at the wrong stop. Since I wasn’t in a hurry, I walked around the tree-lined streets in the suburb of Gancy and discovered Le Romantica (Boulevard de Grancy 24, Lausanne). The tea room had half a dozen tables on the sidewalk and another dozen tables in the cozy dining room. I picked out several canapés and a chocolate éclair from a display case and sat outside at one of the wrought-iron tables. Lausanne has many pleasures, not the least of which is enjoying a leisurely lunch on a sunny afternoon.
On Saturday I walked around the old city. From the Lausanne Palace, I crossed Rue Grand Chêne and followed a crush of people walking among the farmers market stalls. The market runs up and down the streets that cross at the Place de la Palud and in the large plaza called Place la Riponne where vendors sell their wares from caravans. Shoppers picked from displays of charcuterie, meat, fish, poultry, cheese, fruit and vegetables.
On the far side of Place la Riponne, the Natural History and Zoological Museum is a destination for visitors and local residents, as cherished in Lausanne as the Museum of Natural History is in New York City. The football field sized floors are packed with display cases that tell the story of planet earth’s amazing diversity of flora and fauna.
During the rest of the week, I wandered up and down the streets of the old town, stopping at fountains where musicians gathered to play. I walked up the steep hill overlooking the city and visited the 12th century Cathedral Notre Dame of Lausanne.
Not having a kitchen where I could cook, my daily routine was to go to the Manor and Globus Department stores. Both have prepared food areas with baked goods, ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads, cheeses from Switzerland, France and England, French style pâtés, German style sausages and local wines along with eau du vies, the wonderfully flavorful spirits distilled from fruit, a specialty of the region and served as digestives. My favorite digestive was the Abricontine by Morand, a distillery in Martigny, in the nearby canton of Valais.
One day it rained. That was enough reason to say inside the hotel to enjoy my comfortable room and happily read a novel. For lunch I ate a bowl of French onion soup in the Brasserie facing Rue Grand Chêne. While the people outside braved the cold rain and dodged trams as they crossed the wide boulevard, I enjoyed my hot soup, sweet with caramelized onions and melted cheese.
That rainy day was also the perfect time to enjoy the hotel’s spa.
The CBE Concept Spa
The recommended routine at the spa was a work out, a massage, followed by a shower, then a swim in the indoor pool, a Jacuzzi, another shower, the hammam or steam bath, another shower and finally a retreat to a quiet room to relax, read or take a nap.
Usually I like to set my own routines, but here, I followed the recommendation and was very happy. The emphasis in the CBE Concept Spa is on wellness, natural medicines and restorative massage.
I especially enjoyed the hammam with its hot, moist air and sweetly intoxicating Eucalyptus oil. Of the three relaxation rooms, all furnished with comfortable terry cloth covered chaise lounges, my choice was the room with a view that looked out over the Lausanne skyline. Flocks of birds flew across the darkened sky and swooped down to glide across the slanted roofs of the old city as I watched and enjoyed a cup of hot herbal tea.
Natural History and Zoological Museum
Museums and Art
A small city by population (under 125,000), Lausanne has an outsized appreciation of history and art. Having spent days walking around the city, I took a bus up into the hills so I could visit the Foundation de l’Hermitage. The large bus twisted and turned up a switch-back road so narrow the bus had to back up twice in order to make the turns.
The museum is a short walk up a gravel path under massive trees. What was once the estate of the 19th century banker Charles-Juste Bugnion is now a home for treasured art works by some of the world’s master artists like Bocion, Degas, Magritte, Oudot and Plazzotta.
On the day I visited, works by Miró were the featured exhibit. The rooms of the estate are not large which makes the museum experience very intimate. Standing in front of a Miró painting in a room which was once the family’s dining room, I felt closer to the art of a master than I ever could in a large museum.
La Table D'Edgard
For my last evening at the hotel, I ate at La Table d’Edgard. The dinning room has the attention to detail expected of a Michelin-stared restaurant. Great care has been taken to create a relaxed atmosphere. Working in an open kitchen, Chef Edgard Bouvier prepares a Mediterranean-inspired cuisine using olive oil instead of butter and cream.
The influence of the Spa is felt in chef Bouvier’s cuisine. He emphasizes fresh farm-to-table ingredients that focus on what is in season.
The wine-paired meal featured wineries in the Lake Geneva region. The dishes were prepared in the French tradition, exquisitely plated and accompanied by complex sauces. Bouvier has a light touch. A single shrimp was presented lightly cooked as an appetizer that mixed sweetness with a lemon scented, savory cream of coco beans.
A favorite dish was the souffléed zucchini blossom stuffed with a fish mousse made with the local lake perch. Sharing the plate were crispy Dublin bay prawns resting in a pool of Menton lemon-caper foam. What distinguished the dish was the “roof” of kadafi pasta, thin vermicelli-like strands that had been deep-fried into an effervescence of crispness.
The meal was completed with an Abricontine digestive, a selection of cheeses and an assortment of sweets that included a chocolate tartlet, a square of dark chocolate studded with nuts and orange peel, one plump pineapple macaroon and a choux pastry round filled with salted caramel.
In the morning before I left the Lausanne Palace to continue my travels, I went for a swim in the indoor pool, lost myself in the Eucalyptus steam of the hammam and read the newspaper in the quiet room overlooking the city. I was refreshed and relaxed. I couldn’t ask for anything more from a pied-à-terre.
Lausanne Palace, Grand Chêne 7-9, CH-1002, Lausanne, Switzerland, firstname.lastname@example.org (+41 (0) 21 331 3131, fax: +41 (0) 21 323 2571)
Visit website: http://www.lausanne-palace.com/uk/index.php