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.

What this is all about

fromfriendsforfriends.ch is an invitation to discover unique hotels and get-aways as I have discovered myself and would recommend for my friends. 

What you will find on my page are hand-selected destinations, rather small, boutique size hotels, where the personal touch is what matters.  Whether you are looking for a short trip within Europe, or a little dream of a piece of paradise in the ocean, fromfriendsforfriends.ch helps you with personal recommendations, honest feedback and facts to find a unique little place to spend your time while traveling.

If you have questions, need advise for trips to locations that are not listed in my directory, don’t hesitate to get in touch, I might have something to share…

And if you have been to places, hotels or restaurants which you really liked and would recommend, I’m always happy about new ideas and inputs.

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/

Lots of love from the …liebes Rot-Flüh

The …liebes Rot-Flüh 5-star hotel, not even 3 hours away from Zürich, located by the small Haldensee, offers plenty for a romantic, relaxing weekend get-away. The wellness and spa area of the …liebes Rot-Flüh is 3000m², including different sauna, Turkish steam bath, outdoor swimming pool, relaxation area with waterbeds, Ayurveda temples, as well as an indoor pool provides enough variety for a whole weekend.

Shut the world out for some time…

The 101 rooms and suites are either very traditional Tyrolese with floor carpets, wood and colourful curtains, kitschy but high quality decoration or modern, wooden floor rooms, glass walls and classy arrangements. The rooms ranging from double comfort, double bio, comfort suite, nobel and rural suite, Cinderella junior or luxury suite, Spa luxury and Penthouse suite are either in the main house or in the attached houses, some of them offering space for up to 12 people. You will find bathrobes, slippers and even a spa bag for your things to back when going to the wellness area. You can also test Samina beds and accessories in certain rooms. When asked for Samina pillows, they were provided at no additional costs. Great service.

The spa is one of my favorite spots in the …liebes Rot Flüh. With an area over 700 m² and a wonderful water garden, the offer of massages, beauty treatments, and Hawaiian or Ayurveda rituals you will have a though choice to make. Definitely a different style than the opulent exterior and interior of the hotel, with clear lines, water, slate stone, canopy beds and water wall…

The 4 restaurants offering traditional and international cuisine are all worth visiting. The breakfast is served in the panoramic breakfast room, overlooking the Haldensee and the surrounding mountains. The oldest son of the family Huber, Christoph heads the restaurants and bars and will always make sure you have everything you need. Breakfast is incredible, fresh fruit, local cheeses, breads you can only dream of, eggs, pancakes, sausages, cold cuts, muesli… anything your heart longs for. The coffee is not ideal, but the Cappuccino at the Loch Ness Restaurant in the house will definitely make up for it. You will not want to eat any lunch after the delicious and wonderfully prepared breakfast. Even though you might skip lunch at the Loch Ness (so strange but actually pretty nice, you can have lunch in your bath robe), which includes either a soup, salad buffet or a fantastic roast beef, the Austrian afternoon coffee culture and the choices of fantastically looking cakes won’t help walking away from it.

Dinner is served at either of the three restaurants Via Mala, La Cascata Nobile or the Loch Ness. The La Cascata is rather classy, the food exceptionally good, and the selection of wines is vast. The Via Mala invites you to dive into tradition and past, a main room, beer garden like, small cosy side rooms, all in their special, lovely decorated style. It feels like you are walking into a small Tyrolese village. Also here, the food is exceptional, the Wiener Schnitzel probably even better than the one at Figlmüller in Vienna.

…the Wiener Schnitzel probably even better than the one at Figlmüller in Vienna

You will find yourself sitting at dinner, when all of a sudden the room darkens, lightning and thunderstorm noise fills the air, the waterfall from the first floor turns into a wild river… it is really something you need to experience.

After dinner the cigar and whiskey lounge invites for a smooth fade out of the day, the only downside of it is though, that the doors to the cigar lounge are open, which means the smoke doesn’t stop from going into other rooms as well.

Last but not least… you might be a little shocked by the pink outside of the hotel, amazed by the kitsch and old, and not at all shabby feel (walls painted, colors, decoration) but it is definitely very special and it will grow on you by the time you experienced everything.

Highlights: Service and friendliness or staff and Huber sons Christoph and Alexander, nails done by Rita, massage by Denis, food in all restaurants, surrounding and location for great cross country skiing, skiing and walks…

Dreaming in Antigua

Nestled into a cliff overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, this rustic but charming Antigua resort features 26 individual wooden Caribbean style cottages, each offering a private balcony with spectacular views and showers opening to the sea.  You will definitely find peace, an opportunity to decelerate and a place for your soul to relax.  What you won’t find is a boutique environment (by European standards), but rather a charismatically rustic, simple hotel, with very friendly staff, moderate and sometimes outstanding food, and a wonderful beach with powder white sand.

cocos_beach_viewWe landed in St. John’s, happy for the warm weather and the sunshine. Our pre-booked chauffeur, John, awaited us at the airport with a name card and pleasant smile. The ride to the hotel took approx. 25 minutes and I appreciated John’s calm driving style, especially after seeing the driving style of other locals.


The staff welcomed us in a very friendly manner giving us a positive first impression of the resort. Check in took longer than expected (approximately 40 minutes) and concluded with the delivery of a letter containing information on restaurant hours, and an offer for a complimentary massage of 30 minutes. Hasani, a young employee walked us up to our cottage via a steep concrete ramp that was not really adapted to people with walking issues.  The entrance to our cottage was down a set of really steep stairs made of both stone and wood with several landings.

All cottages are build in a traditional Caribbean chattel style with natural dark wooden floors and private balconies as well as outdoors showers.

The view from the room overlooking the ocean is spectacular.

The ocean looks like a postcard and faces west towards the setting sun.  The room itself however, does not make the same first impression. The outdoor shower is as advertised with a sea view, very open, but still very private.

Due to problems with our air conditioning, the manager gave us the option to relocate to another room.  This is a cottage we can definitely recommend (room no. 5).  Although smaller than the Premium Plus we left, our new room left us with a completely different experience.  Entering the room, our first impression was that the room was tidy, cozy, and had a romantic feel (this was in large part due to the “towel swans” on the bed and in the bathroom, which also contained a small arrangement of Bougainvillea flowers.  The porch wraps around the room in an “L” shape and is only half covered, the other portion open to the sky leaving you with a panoramic ocean view that covers two sides of the room.  There is a small plunge pool, two deck chairs, and two loungers that provide a nice alternative and more privacy than the beach.  The cottage is rated a premium, although in my opinion it easily could pass for a premium plus.

cocos_beach_view

If you do not mind sleeping during a green tree frog concert (in a room like ours that had problems with the air-conditioning), but with the gentle sound of the ocean, you’ll enjoy the experience. The sunset and sunrise are spectacular and waking up to a view of turquoise water and endless sea is truly special.

Dinner is served on a covered deck with an ocean view on two sides.  Consistent with our experience at the reception, the staff is very friendly and attentive, quickly responding to almost all requests.  The menu is simple with three choices for the main dish (fish, meat, and pasta) as well as a series of appetizers.   Complimentary drinks include water, mixed drinks, beer, and house wine. The house red is a Merlot or Cabernet and it not of the Bodegas Forjas del Salnes and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Three champagnes round out the menu including a Bollinger Special Cuvee, Prosecco Brut Sartori and a Nicolas Feuillate Special Cuvee. The food is good, and uses local fish with small to moderate sized portions. The desert choice is good, with at least three items to choose from.

The beach is beautiful, the water clean, and there are enough loungers available for the guests, although not all of them have their own umbrella.

It is important to set your expectations correctly before you arrive in order to fully enjoy your stay at the Cocos Hotel.  If you are looking for a romantic and rustic get-away, are willing to adapt to the Carib easy going ways and do not need permanent pampering – this is the place you want to be at. You will definitely have the chance to step out of your everyday life and relax as much as you are able.  You will find yourself welcomed by friendly staff including the security.  You can choose to accept things as they are or voice any complaints to the hotel’s staff that will do their best to set things right.

Lisbon is like Fado…

It has multiple souls. One is serious, straightforward and dramatic like the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the discoverers, artists and monarchs, following Henry the Navigator. Another soul is light, colorful and international like the different districts of Alfama, Baixa or Bairro Alto. And there is the sad, in pain but powerful one, like the fado singers, clenching their fists against their chests, with their eyes shut, singing out their pain.

The best location to fly out and experience all these different souls of Lisbon is the historical downtown Baixa-Chiado district. This is also where our reviewed hotel is located, in the heart of Lisbon, within walking distance of Santa Justa Elevator and Rossio Square, and in decent strolling distance from Bairro Alto, the Castle of Sao Jorge or the Lisbon Cathedral.

Browns’ has decided to focus on providing a hip environment with 36 individually decorated rooms, combining simplicity, elegance, comfort and Hi-Tech featuring Mac computers with working stations, LCD TV, docking stations for Apple products and free Wi-Fi access. All rooms have kitchenettes with fridge, kettle and coffee maker and some have balconies, overlooking the Rua dos Sapateiros.
While the hotel does not offer dining amenities, there are some excellent cafès and restaurants nearby where you can experience Portuguese culture and cuisine. The staff at the front desk will be happy to recommend somewhere or help with any query you may have while at Brown’s DownTown.

7th Heaven in Venice – Settimo Cielo

Spend a couple of days in Venice, dive into the streams of people wandering the streets, but then retreat to the wonderfully refined boutique B&B located just a short walking distance away from major attractions like Saint Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, Palazzo Grassi, Accademia Galleries.

Hidden on the second and third floor of a private palazzo that dates back to the 13th century, two B&Bs share the same service, style of accommodation and a communal breakfast area as well as a delightful roof terrace with spectacular views across the rooftops of Venice.

delightful roof terrace with spectacular views across the rooftops of Venice

The lower floors belong to Settimo Cielo’s,  owner Paolo Battistetti, while the upper floors belong to Bloom’s, owned by Alessandra Vazzoler. The two business partners worked with a local architect to design the B&Bs tastefully, merging old with new.

At Settimo Cielo, the B&B selected, rooms are all styled differently, each featuring elegantly original and successful mix of classical Venetian style and modern design, from rich reds and purple brocades to more calming beiges and creams.

While there’s no in-house restaurant, there are lovely areas where you eat breakfast, and, best of all, the breathtaking roof terrace with great views over piazza Santo Stefano. The rooftop is accessed via a cosy lounge, whose fridge stores complimentary bottles of Prosecco – perfect accompaniment to the sunset over Venice.

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.

personal and unique travel