Travel

By Daniel Geiger

A couple’s adventure through Switzerland continues from last month:

For you really rugged couples interested in soaking up a less manicured, shall we say, “hardcore” version of the Alps, use your Swiss Pass to head south to the town of Zermatt, a town at the center of the Pennine Alps, a section that holds the most dramatic scenery, while offering its own set of charms you and your fellow traveler will surely find enchanting. Higher in altitude, Zermatt is not as green as Jungfrau and certainly not as fanciful. Much of its hiking winds through arid, lunar-like highland, strewn with boulders and scree (broken rock fragments) and cutting over strenuous routes.

For those in search of the Alps’s biggest spectacle, Zermatt is an essential destination as it is home to the Matterhorn. Hanging above the town, the Matterhorn is another of the Alps’s six great north faces and its most recognizable. Shaped like a pyramid, the mountain looms so impossibly-large over Zermatt and is so dramatic to behold, no picture can properly convey the jaw-dropping presence it burns on the naked eye. And nowhere is better to indulge nightly on this view than at the aptly named Hotel Matterhorn Focus (http://www.matterhornfocus.ch), a boutique hotel on the edge of town closest to the mountain. Don’t worry that the hotel is a bit of a walk from the train station; it will give you an excuse to dial for one of the hotel’s cute electric cars, which chauffeurs you to your destination. Slightly larger than golf carts, these electric vehicles are all that populate Zermatt’s car-free roads. You will see them whirring by with the quiet electric motors in a near constant procession, ferrying visitors around town and to their hotels.

The Matterhorn Focus’s rooms don’t feel as much like a hotel as upscale apartments decorated by Heinz Julen, a designer with a modernist flare. Its edgier design matches the town’s wilder character, but it has amenities, such as a swimming pool, hot tub, spa, bar and lounge, that provide guests with a comfortable and posh setting to hang out after hours, or “après ski” – we had to say it. The Matterhorn Focus is also right next door to one of the town’s main cable lift stations, which provides access to some of the area’s best hiking and skiing, including Glacier Grotto, where skiers can hit the slopes year round. Before a day enjoying the outdoors, try the hotel’s buffet breakfast, where it serves some of the best muesli in Switzerland.

Now that you are simply hiked-out – your joints aching, your muscles wailing at your for massage, you and your partner ready for some metropolitan living – it’s time to head to your final destination, from where you’ll board a plane back to the states. Geneva holds one of Switzerland’s largest airports, and since you’ll be flying from there, it’s worth a short stay – though not much more. Its winding streets are confusing to say the least and its tramways not much easier. But a walk along Lake Geneva and a glance at the Jet d’Eau fountain, is worth the extra day. Stay one night in the city at the trendy and mod gallery/hotel La Cours des Augustins whose design is conceived by Philippe Cramer, a Swiss product designer ala Karim Rashid.

When you’ve tired of walking the city’s haphazard map, stay a final night at La Réserve on Lake Geneva, designed by the infamous Jacques Garcia. Its proximity the airport will be beneficial to you on the day you leave as you’ll be too tired to take any sort of extended drive to a faraway tarmac. Plus, La Réserve’s private speedboat will pick you up from the city and jet you over the choppy waters to the hotel. Spend the last afternoon and evening taking advantage of La Réserve’s world class spa and its signature treatments like the “Better Aging” body or face massage. Have your last formal meal of the trip at the hotel’s signature – get this – Chinese restaurant. Yes, we are advising you to break from Swiss cuisine (in our opinion, it’s not all that great anyhow) and indulge at Le Tse Fung where you’ll have literally the best meal of the trip. And don’t be afraid to indulge in EVERY course; after a week of train-hopping, hiking, and canoodling – you deserve it.

Originally published March 2010
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