Category Archives: Switzerland

Alpes et Caetera – the magic in the Valais

The Alpes et caetera opened shortly before Christmas in 2012, only 8 months after starting the construction and bringing home a newborn baby boy. It was a dear friend who actually recommended this 
little jewel to me and I am so very grateful for the tip. 



The Alpes et caetera in short:
She – Solveig, an interior designer with experience in communications and events.
He – Nicolas Reymondin, an architect who worked in events.
And then, their two little boys adding to the young men, who also call Nicolas their father.

Together they decided to combine forces and managed to create something, which can only be described as UNIQUE.
Located at the end of a small pathway in the mountain village of Vercorin on a private estate, the Alpes et caetera cabins are allotted around the main chalet, a renovated sheep barn. 
The large terrace overlooking the valley and presenting a magnificent view of the surrounding Alps is a perfect place to enjoy a glass of local wine after a day of hiking. The view from the outdoor Jacuzzi is quite spectacular as well, while a small sauna cabin (can be booked and is for private use only) is perfect to stretch sore muscles or just enjoy. Massages can also be booked via Solveig with local therapists.

High quality in every detail!

That is what best describes Nicolas & Solveig’s little paradise. 
Starting from the composition of the rooms, the pathways between the Mazots (chalets), 
the table settings for dinner and breakfast, the food bits served on slate platters, 
the fireplace in the main house, the music in the background, basically everything Solveig and Nicolas put together – is “magique”.
This place is perfect for a get-away from the noise, no matter if in your home , at work or simply in your head.
Some very original things complement your stay at the Alpes et Caetera. The key to your Mazot is an iPhone, including apps for newspapers, radio and TV, as well as a flashlight for evening walks. The sky above Vercorin during a clear night is just breath-taking, so I was very happy that cold, white street lamps didn’t ruin that. Families who bring along their
children but would like to enjoy a peaceful dinner for two at the main house, can do so by using the provided babyphone included in the room iPhone.
Also a nice idea, Solveig and Nicolas put their own music compilations on the Mazot iPhones including 
Apéro et caetera, Blues et caetera, Classique et caetera, Jazz and Lounge et caetera. Each Mazot has a little music box which can be connected via bluetooth to the iPhone.

The mazots all have their own story and are called:

  • Le CH – the CH (dedicated to the Helvetic Confédératon (CH) with all its characteristics, objects and products)
.
  • Le e La – him and her – inspired by the Vaudoise writer Ella Maillart and dedicated to the Vaudoise literature.
  • Le BD – the comic (dedicated to the Swiss comic artist Cosey (Bernard Cosendai)
  • Le bis – the bis (bisses = historic irrigation channels of the Valais, delivering priceless water from mountain streams)
  • Le rouge et le verre – the red and the glass (as Solveig and Nicolas put it: The Valais and its wines are inseparable. This chalet is dedicated to the local produce, born from the earth, stone and hard work, and drenched in Valais sun)
  • Le pic – the peak  (Dedicated to the surrounding mountains and those who climb them)
  • Le roi – the king (The cows of the surrounding mountain areas, the Hérens are a very special race. They are known for their combative temperament and each year during a fight the winning cow is crowned queen.
this Mazot is therefore dedicated to this special cow race from the Val d’Hérens and it’s queens)
  • L’Etablis – The workshop (This Mazot has long been part of the estate and it is known that the former owner had turned it into his workshop while many of his tools still have their place there)

I can fully recommend all of them, the workshop though is quite special and sui generis in its set-up. 
The original Mazot is from the 1500 and the additional “younger” one from the 1900. With a lot of hard work and care 
the younger chalet ha been dismantled and build back into place close to the original Mazot. Quite an impressive job! The most impressive idea is however to attach the two Mazots via a bridge. The bridge out of wood, closed with glass and decorated with elegant curtains connects the old Mazot (the bedroom) to the new one (the bathroom).

The Alpes et caetera is not only a wonderful place to decelerate, but also perfect if you are looking for some quality and creative time, e.g. working on a new strategy with your team, celebrating your round birthdays etc.

For more info and wonderful support for any event you would like to have organized in Vercorin, Solveig is your person!

http://www.alpesetc.ch/en/

[BMo_scrollGallery id=37 sG_thumbPosition=bottom sG_images=1 duration=slow gallery_width=600 gallery_height=400 thumbs_width=100 thumbs_height=100 sG_caption=0 sG_start=0 sG_loop=1 sG_loopThumbs=1 sG_clickable=1 sG_opacity=40 sG_area=200 sG_scrollSpeed=2 sG_autoScroll=0 sG_aS_stopOnOver=1 sG_diashowDelay=0 sG_followImages=1 sG_responsive=1 ]

Ever had a burger in a former streetcar station? Get it at the Helvti Diner

Burgers are their business. And their business provides a quality and taste I haven’t encountered elsewhere, even in the USA.
The Helvti Diner, open since October 2011, is definitely the best burger place I’ve ever put foot in.

A diner you say? Well, this may not be the diner that comes to mind when thinking of an American movie or what you may have experienced in real life. This diner does not have greasy tables, cold tile floors, or booths’ that you don’t want to touch because they look filthy. No, this diner is, as my husband would say, the luxury Swiss version of an American diner.

Every time I visit the Helvti I receive a friendly greeting, especially from the general manager Armon. The authentic music they play makes the wait for a table pass quickly (times can vary depending on the day and time). Be warned that on the weekends you have almost no chance to quickly get a table as a walk in so reserve in advance if possible. If you do have to wait, rest assured that when your table is free the experience is worth every minute.

The Helvti doesn’t pretend to be a “serve all types of food” place, which I like a lot. Their slogan “Burgers are our Business” pretty much says it all. You will not find any “foo foo” or “wannabe” dishes on the menu. What you will find are burgers, fries, side salads, milkshakes, and deserts. There are a few options for vegetarians, but really, you come for the meat not the greens.

With luxury burgers also come luxury prices. But once you taste this special burger developed by Françoise Wicki (chef of the Restaurant Helvetia across the road) you will find that it is worth every Rappen (Swiss cent). The Swiss Prime Burger is declared to be 100% Swiss Veal. The classic burger is 100% Swiss Angus Beef, while the Helvti Diner special is made of 100% Wagyu Beef. The Wagyu is supposed to have a more aromatic taste, although I am not sure I would be able to tell the difference. The meat mixtures do not contain any further additives, as often used in other burger places, such as pork meat, eggs or simply fat. A quarter pounder (170g) burger costs between 17.50 CHF (Swiss Prime Burger) and 32.50 CHF (Wagyu Burger) each served with coleslaw, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. If you feel very adventurous, you can even go for the double quarter pounder (2x170g). Just keep in mind that the double is a lot of meat to eat. I once shared a table with three guys who ordered the doubles only to watch them go pale when they were served (which made me laugh to no end).

The burgers come with a homemade sauce of chili, spicy BBQ, cocktail, hot’n’spicy tomato, curry or garlic mayonnaise. I prefer the garlic mayonnaise over the others, especially the hot’n’spicy which was too sweet for my taste buds. You can further “pimp your burger” with cheese (choice of original cheddar, Swiss alpine, and blue), Swiss bacon, fried egg or my personal favorite “holy moly! guacamole” for an extra change between 2.50 and 4.00 CHF. I often order more than I can actually eat. My usual is the Swiss Prime or the Classic Burger with a side of French Fries (extra 4.50 CHF) topped with cheddar, bacon and the holy moly! guacamole. Add a nice cold Amboss blond draft and I am as happy as can be!

The atmosphere at the Helvti Diner is quite pleasant despite the high turn over of guests. The seating is narrow and the tables a bit small so it may not be the best place to go for a long evening. Unless of course you like to hang out at the bar, drink some beers, listen to nice music and watch people come in, go out and go by. As someone described it before: “You never sit at the Helvti Diner longer than on an extended tram ride.”

The people working at the Helvti Diner are extremely friendly and attentive, the burgers are cooked as you’d like them and have always been served exactly how we ordered them. Even when the place is over crowded, Armon and his staff have always been super calm and managed to accommodate all their guests as well as possible.

Tips:

  • Always make a reservation, no matter if lunch or dinner time
  • Ask for a booth in the back of the diner
  • Watch out: Closed on Sundays

Helvti Diner
Kasernenstr. 2
8004 Zürich
Tel.: 043 322 04 24
http://www.helvti-diner.ch

White Turfing in St. Moritz

My first exposure to St. Moritz was extra special due to an annual event started in 1907: the White Turf.  While St. Moritz is well know for skiing, bobsleds, shopping and celebrities it also hosts a unique, exclusive, top-class (with lots of fur and jewels) event with exciting horse-racing, gourmet catering, live music, and exhibitions all of which takes place on a frozen lake surrounded by stunningly beautiful, snow-capped mountains.

The best location to stay if you want to experience all of within walking distance (no taxi needed) is the La Margna Hotel. A traditional superior hotel with excellent views of the mountains and the lake, the La Margna is well-managed by the young and attentive manager, Nina Stockburger, and offers a uniquely pleasant and peaceful environment, despite the proximity to the main train station on the south-facing slope of the hotel.

The La Margna was built in 1907 (the same year that the White Turf started) in typical Graubünden style and has preserved its charm to this day. The nostalgia is especially felt in the heart of the building, the unchanged hotel lobby in the Jugendstil, with its original cast-iron chandeliers.

Some might find the room furnishing quite old, the bathrooms rather simple and antique, but it is very clean and the room service provided a really touching surprise.  As part of the turn down service, the towels were exchanged, a little chocolate placed on the pillows, and the foot towel put in front of the bed (with a nighttime wish and morning greeting).  But the touching surprise was the lovely set-up of the pajamas on the bed that was simple, thoughtful and heartwarming.
Highlights:

  • The staff, including manager Nina Stockburger were attentive, very friendly and extremely professional.
  • The original Hotel Lobby and Bar was delightful with impressive arched ceiling and granite pillars, original chandeliers and forged iron fireplace
  • The proximity was close to the lake, St. Moritz town, and train station
  • Dinner at the in house Stüvetta restaurant, offering traditional Engadin specialties, fondue and Mediterranean dishes
  • Breakfast choices including Gipfeli that were better than an original French croissant

The only downside is that the La Margna will be closed at the end of the 13/14 season and will reopen in 2015 as the Grace St. Moritz. On completion of renovations the hotel will comprise 36 rooms and suites plus several serviced apartments. It will have three restaurants – the premier restaurant being an all-new internationally branded fine dining experience. There will also be a classic Swiss restaurant specializing in local cuisine and a more casual restaurant offering all-day dining, plus a new martini and cigar bar.

We can only hope that the future hotel manager and staff will be as good as the current ones.

High-end design and Swiss authenticity for desk-huggers

It is ironic to think that Switzerland needs three Welshman to bring out the Swissness of the Cambrian Hotel on the noble grounds of Adelboden. Hotelliers Chris Nott, Grant and Craig Maunder managed to create a strikingly trendy hotel with the help of Designer Peter Silling in 2007, when they renovated the historic establishment from the last century.

big_157Set amid the breathtaking scenery of Adelboden’s Alps, the Cambrian combines sleek, modern design with innovative uses of natural, local materials and the Welsh touch of contemporary original paintings.

We stayed at the Cambrian during a rather special point in time, the first weekend in June, right after their spring break re-opening. It did feel a little bit like the staff hadn’t arrived yet mentally, but it only made the place more likable and less stiff. I wondered how cool and stiff the Cambrian would actually get during mid season considering the regular prices for the rooms and suites. But I do believe, that the unique mix of wooden materials and the coziness of the lounge, restaurant and rooms will bring out the harmony in most people.

The Cambrian offers 71 rooms divided into North and South facing views, with the more magnificent views to the South. The rooms and suites are stylishly furnished, combining steel, leather and wood, with white and red bed sheets, state of the art technology flat screen TVs, as well as Wi-Fi-access. The bathrooms are modern with only one downside – no ventilation system. As a consequence, we needed to vent the room using the balcony door in order to remove the steam and extra moisture. thecambrian_library1

The lounge area features a fireplace and pool table where you can take your Cambrian afternoon tea. Scott’s Bar offers a wide range of drinks and snacks and comes with the same beautiful Southern view. As a last result in case of boredom, you can always try the playroom with both a Play Station and Wii console.

The restaurant, headed by 26-year–old Austrian chef Martin Wagner offers a decent variety of dishes, combining local meats (from Simmental), and regional greens. The meat I tasted was delicious; the accompanying wine made for a great dinner experience. What I really liked about the menu is the fact that it describes the provenance of the products, most of which are local. The Cambrian is truly proud of their metric for “zero food miles”.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant, overlooking the outdoor pool and the surrounding mountains. The choice and variety is great. Options include freshly prepared eggs, fruits, marmalades, muesli, and fantastic breads. If you don’t find what you want just ask the sous chef who will try to make your wishes come true, even if it means leaving the buffet to prepare something special.

thecambrian_indoorpoolThe luxurious Spa facilities of 750m2 include a sauna, steam bath, experience shower, Kneipp pool, indoor and outdoor heated pools and relaxation area. Yoga treatments, massages, facials, and anything else you can think of in terms of beauty treatments you can get.

My personal highlights include the outdoors infinity pool and the stars on the indoor pool ceiling. You really need to experience that one for yourself.

The only thing left to wish for when staying at the Cambrian is good weather for the views.

Axalp – runaway from the city

If you manage to survive the ride up from Brienz to Axalp, without knocking yourself out in one of the hairpin curves and hitting a cow or a hiker, you will be greeted by an open view of beautiful scenery.

The Chalet Alphüsli is setback from the main road leading up to the ski lifts. In winter, the house is basically on the slopes themselves. The owner, Sven Sonderegger from Basel is offering a newly built wooden chalet, ideal for families or friends wanting to spend some quiet time skiing (it is a small resort, one chairlift and three t-bow lifts, ideal for beginners and families) or hiking along the Schnitzerlweg to the Hinterburgseeli.

The chalet is modern, combining steel and wood, open and light. It is not overloaded, which makes the rather small inside comfortable. It offers 6 beds in two rooms on the second floor (one double room and a room furnished with a 4 person bunk bed) with the only drawback being space enough for luggage.

The living area and kitchen are open and surrounded by windows on three sides. There is a Swedish stove with a glass window including wood for your use and a door that opens to a stone patio and bbq area. In the corner a circular staircase leads directly from the living room upstairs to the bedrooms and the bathroom. The bathroom has a bathtub and a nice simple washing stand made out of wood. In the small entrance area, you can hang clothes, place boots and there is the door to a second separate little toilette.

The kitchen is equipped with all the basics (cups, plates, pans, etc.) and even includes a dishwasher, Nespresso coffee machine, Fondue and Raclette tools. Make sure you bring your own dishwashing liquid, sponge and kitchen towels with you.

For the evenings or rainy days you will find games, Sat-TV, WiFi access, Mac Mini, Blu-ray Player and some DVDs to watch.

One word of caution if you want to relax in the fall is to be sure that the Swiss Air Force is not conducting their annual air force live fire event in October. If so, you may be in for some loud training runs. Between 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:30 you will be surrounded by the ear battering noise of F/A-18s and Tiger Jets, that make you feel that the end of the world is near, especially when caught right in the rear-fired boiler at the lake Hinterburgseeli. Luckily for those seeking silence, the Swiss Air force is celebrating its centennial in 2014 and the live fire event will be held in Payerne on 30.-31.08. and 6.-7.09. So, in case you planned to go close to Payerne, cancel that, and go to Axalp.

Meet little Max in Winterthur

Visit Max’ Bistro and if you are lucky you might even meet the little fella in person on Fridays.  His grandparents Zuzana and Urs Böni named the Bistro after 4-year-old Max, and managed to make guests feel like they are sitting in a living room, comfortable and cozy, surrounded by the good smell of freshly cooked meals and coffee.

Max might still be a little one at 4 years old, but in Winterthur he’s actually quite big.  Especially since his grandparents named their new bistro after him!

In October 2013 the bistro Max opened its doors to the public. The place, where 4 tables and a bar occupy the room, used to be Urs Böni’s landscape architecture office. You can feel Zuzana and Urs attention to detail in the bright, lovely colors decorating the Bistro, the low music playing in the background, and the fresh flowers sitting on the bar.  You will feel very welcome, comfortable, and cozy, but not only because of the environment.

Don’t be surprised when you find Urs sitting next to you presenting the dishes from the menus as well as the daily specials. Made from local or regional ingredients, the choices include stews, fish or vegetarian dishes and funky specials like green potato soup that for sure won’t leave you hungry. The sizes of the meals are rather overwhelming, but no less delicious.

Since January 2014 you can even have a regular dinner, a birthday party or a romantic tete-a-tete at the newly refurbished little cottage, sitting in the garden behind the building. A wood oven heats up the room and the little windows make you feel like you are in a fairy tale.

Max is open Monday to Wednesday from 7:00-18:30, Thursday and Friday from 7:00-23:00 and on Saturday from 9:00-17:00.

You can rent the Max for private parties, Apéros or cooking classes.  And in case you are having a late dinner and feel you won’t make it home, there are 2 b&b rooms upstairs.

http://www.bistro-max.ch/

Romantic get-away in the water castle Hagenwil

If you are into castles, history and romantic sleep overs, then you might like the Water Castle Hagenwil, one of Switzerland’s best-preserved water castles.

The castle is bedded into a landscape with rolling hills in the village of Hagenwil close to Amriswil and Arbon as well as Lake Constance. It is indeed very well preserved, some of the castle parts over 800 years old, offering the possibility to spend a romantic night, visit the castle festival showing Romeo+Juliette, getting married or just have dinner at the restaurant.

The a la Carte menu includes unconventional dishes, mostly regional and seasonal, and wine from the own win yards. If you book a romantic overnight, you will be served a candle light dinner at the grandma’s parlor, all private and beautifully decorated with fresh roses petals right next to your room, with a four-poster bed and a modern bathroom attached.

Breakfast is served at the Biedermeier-parlor of the castle restaurant until 12:00 o’clock, so lots of time to sleep in; except in case you don’t get woken up by the ducks and birds in the water ditch around the castle.

The lady and lord of the castle live in it and also run it and will pay great attention to details to accommodate their guests. The service is lovely, very attentive and discrete, not even bothered by all the steps they need to walk from the restaurant to the private quarters during the candle light dinner. The area is lovely, animals and birds are being kept around the castle, the pheasant is also a specialty on the menu. You will always remember the castle, once you’ve stayed there, promise.