Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gstaad's Grand Old Lady Is Alive and Well

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gstaad's Grand Old Lady Is Alive and Well

Article excerpt

HOTEL REVIEW HOTEL GRAND BELLEVUE Gstaad, Switzerland phoebe luckhurst APPROACHING Gstaad by train is extraordinary. Doubtless, the millionaires who work and play there are likely to prefer the back seats of polished cars, or even the aerial perspective from a private jet. But money can't buy everything; the GoldenPass line ascends from Montreux into the mountains, carriages climbing near vertical tracks, presenting passengers with a panorama of Lake Geneva as you climb out of the valley. The route nudges through tiny towns, each with a few chalets apiece; in meadows, nonplussed cows swing cowbells from their necks. It is a romantic living postcard.

When you arrive, Alpine idyll takes on a golden sheen, and you're reminded of the millionaires again. Everywhere in Switzerland is clean, manicured and expensive -- a beer and a glass of wine for the journey cost us around PS20 -- but Gstaad is famously flashy. Notably, we were picked up in a 1962 Bentley that, as the chauffeur explains, used to belong to Roger Moore; moreover, the lift from the station to our hotel can't have been longer than a 300-metre walk.

But this was done with a wink; the Hotel Grand Bellevue buys into the town's wealth with knowing irreverence. One of the oldest hotels in Gstaad, it reopened under new ownership in 2013. In its new, modern iteration, the feel is still five star, but it isn't soulless international luxury; more a cosier, more characterful extravagance.

The bar is full of electric blue velvet sofas, walls are papered in stripes printed with plumed birds and some ceilings are etched with bright red, Haring-esque swirls. Moreover, the personality runs past skin-deep: the weekend we were there, the hotel was also hosting a literary salon.

There is, of course, the requisite Michelin-starred restaurant, Leonard's, and a spa which opened this summer and, at 3,000 square metres, is one of the most extensive in the area. …

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