I’ve been a Paris-based travel writer and blogger since 2006 and have traveled extensively throughout France and Europe, including visits to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Norway, Czech Republic, England, and Ireland. I’ve also stayed in all categories of hotels, from suites in five-star luxury hotels to quaint B&Bs and specialized boutique hotels. Most of them have been great experiences, but occasionally, there’s a hotel where the experience is unforgettable.
Beau Rivage Palace Hotel
I was recently invited for a 2-night stay at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. I arrived at the Lausanne train station, and a hotel employee dressed in a suit and tie was waiting at the platform for me with a sign with my name on it. We proceeded to walk to his car and once I was inside, the five-star experience had already started. The sleek, shiny black Mercedes with tan leather seats glided effortlessly and almost silently through the hilly streets of Lausanne, while the courteous driver pointed out various spots of interest in the city. A few minutes later we arrived at the Art Nouveau entrance to the hotel with a curved glass awning, green iron, and touches of gold architectural accents. It was seasonally embellished with scattered pumpkins and gourds along with seasonal flowerpots.
I was warmly welcomed to the hotel and Lausanne by the head concierge Sylvie Gonin and the communications director Maxine Willens. While my room was being prepared, Sylvie gave me an extended and informative tour of the hotel.
Beau Rivage Palace was originally built in 1861, and this year there are many special events to celebrate the 160th anniversary. Another major wing was added in 1908, incorporating the then-popular architecture movement of the time, Art Nouveau. The two structures were connected by a gigantic dining rotunda with hand-painted wall frescoes. Sylvie showed me the private salons and special event rooms on the main floor and shared about some of the historic meetings and conferences that had been held at the hotel over the past three centuries, including the signing of the agreement to end the war between Italy and Turkey in 1912 and the treaty of Lausanne in 1923. A hallway leading to one of the restaurants was lined with photos of celebrated guests from past years including kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, movie stars, singers, and writers. I spotted everyone from Liza Minelli to French President Macron and Charlie Chaplin to Coco Chanel.
As we stepped outside, Sylvie explained that the hotel directly overlooks the majestic Lake Lausanne, and the grounds and outdoor areas revolve around the views of the lake. The large, heated swimming pool looks so inviting, I almost dived in. We toured the sprawling, multi-tiered gardens covering 10 acres of lakefront property, which were beautifully landscaped with tall trees with fall foliage, manicured lawns, a tennis court, and flowerbeds with delicate flowers. The outdoor café and seating area has an oversized sized chess set on the lawn and amusing fruit sculptures by Brazilian sculptor Lisa Pappon.
Inside My Suite
It was already late afternoon when I checked into my room. The beautifully appointed junior suite on the second floor is decorated in a neutral palette of soft beige, taupe, gray, and pale white. In front of the king-size bed with a leather, tufted headboard, were two plush club chairs, one with a cushy ottoman, and a couch. On a glass table a bottle of local Swiss white wine, a house-made lemon coffee cake, and an appetizing fruit plate awaited me, courtesy of the management. My favorite feature of my suite was the tiny, outdoor balcony with two white wrought iron chairs. I spent the next few hours taking in the magnificent views of the lake and the French Alps beyond them on the terrace while sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the treats from the hotel.
The lavish bathroom has a full marble bath, almost the size of my bedroom in Paris, with a free-standing bathtub that purposely faces the lake, a colored mosaic tiled floor, and a shower room with a bench and rain shower head. The toilet was in a separate room, which is usually the norm in most European countries. Next to the toilet on the wall was a remote, and I wasn’t sure what it was for. Curious to know, I pushed one of the buttons, and suddenly, a stream of water started shooting upwards, unexpectedly irrigating a certain body part.
The hotel made a reservation that evening for dinner at their haute cuisine restaurant, Ann Sophie Pic Lausanne. Pic is the only female chef in France to receive three Michelin stars, and the hotel restaurant was quickly awarded two after it opened in 2009. The elegant restaurant with views of the lake has plush banquettes and tables set comfortably apart for more intimate dining. The wow factor is the artful presentation where dishes are adorned with imaginative garnishes and the sculpted china plates and bowls have unusual shapes. I asked the waiter for advice on which dishes to select, and she recommended the chef’s signature dishes. A starter of delicate raviolis stuffed with girolle and a selection of other seasonal mushrooms in a broth infused with Japanese whisky and tonka beans was sensational. The main course of lamb, which are raised in the nearby Alpstein mountains, with roasted figs and fig leaves, was tender and flavorful, and the dessert of white millefeuille in the shape of a square with white clouds of soft meringue surrounding has a light Tahitian vanilla cream and a touch of Jasmin jelly. Another standout was the delectable amuse bouches that were served before and in between courses.
On December 2, 2021, to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the hotel, Ann Sophie Pic is recreating a five-course menu from 1861 with matching wine pairings, limited to 120 guests.
Since I was pampered and so well fed, the next day I wanted to just relax and luxuriate in all the amenities and attractions at the hotel. However, the hotel arranged a tour of the city with a private guide, so there went the chance to be a lazy sloth. The tour was a wonderful introduction to the city, and we scaled the narrow, hilly streets of the old quarter with ancient buildings from the 1300s and 1400s.
Most impressive was the Lausanne Cathedral, a masterpiece of gothic architecture with a grand organ with 7,000 pipes, which took 150,000 hours to build. We also stopped at a quaint bakery café for a coffee and a sweet treat next to the old city hall.
Cinq Mondes Spa
After my tour, I headed back to the hotel for a treatment at the Cinq Mondes Spa, a leading chain of luxury spas in Europe. I had a brief consultation with the masseuse before the treatment to go over any health or well-being concerns and to choose the appropriate massage for my current state of health. The Tonifying Indian Ayurvedic massage was relaxing, and the masseuse kneaded my tight and sore muscles (I walked miles through Zurich for 2 days before I arrived in Lausanne). Feeling great but a little drained after the massage, I curled up on a cushy chaise lounge by the indoor pool in a thick, terry bathrobe and finally got around to reading a long-neglected book I picked up months ago.
On my final morning before returning to Paris, I went to the Olympic Museum, which is located directly next door to the hotel. Lausanne is home to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. The interactive museum, on three levels, is a fascinating overview of the ancient and modern history of the games, the spirit and competition, and the important role the Olympics play on a world scale, extenuating political issues.
Pro Tip: Check out the gift and clothing shop on the lobby floor, which has neat T-shirts, gadgets, and souvenirs from past Olympics.