During a week in which I am overwhelmed by the strains of city-life (an urban war involving my preferred method of transport; my Eurostar cancelled as the tunnel is set on fire by Ferry strikers; a 37-degree+ heatwave with no means of cooling off), I find it appropriate to pretend I am back in the Swiss Alpes.
This would be my first time in Switzerland. Despite my French-speaking origins and an absurd persistance to date bankers (we are working on that), I was a Swiss virgin. Never had I ever travelled to the most expensive country on the Big Mac Index. At age 27, it was about time I popped the cherry.
No junk food on the menu, mind you, as I would be travelling with my friends over at The Leading Hotels of the World, whom, as you know, cater to those with a disposition for the deluxe (no McDonalds pun intended). We were out to seek the ‘remarkably uncommon’. Somewhere well worth skipping that umpteenth trip to Ibiza for, but that, for reasons unbeknown to sun-seeking holidayers, may have fallen off the top destinations of the year grid.
STAY: The Chedi Andermatt
AMBIANCE: Andermatt is a prime skiing spot, the hotel feels a little like an oversized, ridiculously well-designed chalet–making it a really cosy place to relax, even during the warmer months of the year. I lost count of how many pools there were, so let’s just say enough to keep you happy, combining rigorous aquatic workouts (both indoor or out) with unwinding in one of the warm-water pools.
After establishing that I would not need to “invest” in exorbitant on-trend skiwear (if there is one thing that I fail at miserably, it’s looking chic sur les pistes), I started to feel really excited at the prospect of spending five days breathing clean mountain air under the alpine sun. A few of my friends had been in the summer, and promised that June really suit the place.
But never did I ever expect to fall in love with it so.
What made it so special? Well, though the natural beauty of our surroundings played a vital role, I have to admit feeling so spoiled and well-received by the two hotels on our itinerary, that I actually told myself they had set the bar too high. Will I ever be able to return without staying with them again? You don’t have to answer that, but do read on to find out what made them both exceptional.
Our first point of stop was the 1450 meter-high village of Andermatt. Wonderfully located at the foot of the valley, we travelled up from the airport via train (by far the easiest, and incidentally most picturesque mode of transport). Here a strew of maitre d’ came to help us with our luggage.
DO: London has turned me into the laziest person alive. Unfortunately for both my bank account (directly linked to the app), and my general level of fitness, I have developed a rather expensive über habit. It’s like I have forgotten that god gave me a rather good and sturdy pair of legs. I blame Apple. Fun fact: I am a mountain baby, born in the French Pyrenees, and walking was always one of my favourite activities when growing up. The lot of us managed to scrap together semi-acceptable outfits of denim cutoffs and Superga – but if you are serious about making your heart sing Von Trapp and pretend Steve Jobs never changed the world, then you will want to bring suitable walking gear. The Chedi hotel recommended a guide who took us up the mountain, while giving us a history of the land as well as a taste of it. We foraged and found a bunch of edible flowers and herbs, opening our appetite for what was to come next (see: EAT). Once you are high on mountain air, you can wander back down and spend the afternoon relaxing in one of the steam rooms and treating yourself to a revitalising massage.
EAT: Two words. Gastro picnic. Now this might sound like an oxymoron to well-rehearsed al fresco dinners; something only a city girl would ever think cool. I beg to differ. We’ve already established that I have serious mountain credentials, so I feel confortable recommending this. As it was, the Chedi set up the most decadent picnic in the history of picnicking, with all the tastiest local products, from meats, to cheese, to salads, and vegetables, next to an open fire where everything was grilled and cooked while we sampled the wine. It was the perfect end to that draw-dropping hike. And unquestionably the highlight of our stay.
Also to be noted, the hotel itself has a rather unforgettable five-meter high walk-in cheese cellar. If my own room wasn’t so pleasing (it had a tube that could fit two of me), I would have asked to switch.
Then it was time to go. The remarkably uncommon, waiting for us at out next stay. To be continued..