It is hard to ignore a place that has been graced by the star-studded type for centuries on end. A place that gave inspiration to the likes of Coco Chanel, Prince, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Audrey Hepburn, and Charlie Chaplin- feeding their minds with the inspiration they needed when creating their next masterpiece.
A place that has also been visited by troves of celebrities on their quest for relaxation and leisure, along with the Russian oligarchs, New York bankers and maharajahs who chose this place to spend their summer vacations.
So, what is it that attracts these fortunate folks to the shores of Lake Geneva, in the Swiss canton of Vaud? Apart from, of course, its fairy-tale backdrop of snow-capped Alps and the ever-serene crystal-clear waters of Lake Geneva, aka Lac Leman to the locals. Having been blessed enough to visit this divine part of the globe, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is all in the quest for one thing, that being, the utter pleasure which always evolves from the pursuit of ‘lakeside leisure’.
Whether it be cruising along crystal waters, enjoying magical views whilst eating the finest of gastronomy, opening French doors to the sounds of rowers stroking the lake’s silky sheath, driving along its shores, or reversing the signs of aging. It is with no doubt that Vaud and her beautiful lake, guarantee a vacation to remember.
A slow travellers paradise, relaxing on-board one of the CGN’s belle époque paddle steamers- an elegant fleet of side-wheel paddleboats built in the earlier part of the 19th century- is quite frankly, slow travel at its finest. Surrounded by polished wood, brass and by-gone glamour, an afternoon can easily be spent whiling away the hours whilst enjoying a five-course meal as you immerse yourself in Vaud’s magical surroundings – sailing from one side of the lake to the other.
The prettiest part is the course from Lausanne to Montreux, where the lakeshore is designated to a UNESCO World Heritage site for one special reason, its vineyard. Known as Lavaux, and dating back to the 11th century, every possible square inch supports cascading terraces of vines, 10,000 to be exact. It’s the perfect backdrop to sail out to Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland’s grandest of castles. It’s also the perfect setting to enjoy one of Vaud’s traditional dishes, fillet de perch. A delicious fish caught straight from the lake you are sailing upon.
Capital of Gastronomy
One thing for sure is that Vaud is the land of pleasurable food and the gastronomy here is, nothing short of, impeccable. In fact, it’s a not to be missed destination for foodies – demonstrated by the record number of restaurants awarded stars, toques, flowers and other marks of quality. Add to this, pristine views of mirrored waters stretching as far as the eye can see and, you could be mistaken for believing this was indeed heaven on earth.
A must experience is the gastronomy from Anne-Sophie Pic, the first woman to be voted chef of the year by the Michelin guide, and who supervises proceedings at the gourmet restaurant of the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel. Furthermore, Edgard Bovier, who serves his food in the sumptuous setting of the Lausanne Palace & Spa, one of Coco Chanel’s old haunts.
Further down the lake in the town, Vevey, La Veranda is the pick. With its terrace overlooking the harbour, the lake and the majestic Swiss and French Alps, this Michelin-starred brasserie has views so impressive you will struggle to concentrate on your food.
Wonderful parties such as Venetian nights, fancy-dress balls, concerts and other grand social occasions were held in the various palace hotels that line the lake’s shores. Guests came from all over the world to spend their summer vacations in the pretty palaces that now hold many a fascinating story.
Highly recommended is a stay in the grand dame of Montreux, The Fairmont Palace Montreux, which opened on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1906. Offering guests, a trip through time along with the usual comforts of fine linens and impeccable silver service, the hotel’s old-fashion glamour has been seducing the biggest names in music since its inauguration including: Quincy Jones, Santana, BB King, David Bowie and Prince to name a few. Offering views of Évian-les-Bains, France, across the water, guests never tire of that Lac Leman high as they relax on their balconies overlooking the various goings-on of aquatic pleasures below.
Grand Tour Road Trip
There is something so very riveting in stepping into your Bond-worthy car, wind in your hair, sun on your back whilst navigating the twists and turns of a gloriously landscaped road. Voted 2017 Favourite Road Trip Destination, Vaud’s vistas of terraced vineyards, Alps and ancient castles all flanked by scenes of a ‘never-ending’ lake, are nothing short of mesmerising to say the least.
What’s a Lakeside Escape, without a visit to one of the world’s best Wellness Clinics?
Any conversation involving the ‘secret to youth’ with the name Dr. Pfulg as part of the sentence and you can be rest assured you are in the right place. Considered one of the top five cosmetic surgeons in the world, there is good reason as to why Vaud’s lakeside town of Montreux has become a surgical tourism hub thanks to Pfulg’s highly regarded reputation at LaClinic Montreux.
Further along the water, Clinique La Prairie, another lakeside fortress, is famed for its treatment, ‘Revitalisation’, a rejuvenation therapy, which claims to reduce cell division and slow down the ageing process. And so, with the finest of medical retreats, majestic alpine surroundings and the finest of slow travel, there is indeed no other place to discover that pursuit of lakeside leisure. Vaud, you pretty gem- you have it all.