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Our little black book of enchanting places



Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O'Sullivan

Geneva might have inspired the Romantic poets, but I’ve always thought of it as the gateway to the Alps. Or rather, I’ve always thought of its airport as the gateway to the Alps. I’ve never really given the city a second thought. But earlier this year, I found myself with a couple of spare days at the beginning of a ski holiday, and it made sense to stay in Geneva. It made even more sense to stay at the Four Seasons des Bergues. I’m a sucker for a Four Seasons. Built in 1834, this was the city’s first hotel and has always been the place to stay in Geneva. It joined the Four Seasons fold a decade or so ago and was given the Four Seasons ‘Louis-Philippe-palace-meets-luxury-hotel’ signature look. Only here the look is complemented by elements of contemporary design. Some of the rooms are classical French, while others are surprisingly cutting edge. My room, a lovely corner suite, was a clever, luxurious mix of the two. Four Seasons des Bergues certainly has a spectacular location, on the north side of Lake Léman (Lake Geneva). On the opposite bank, reached via a pedestrian bridge, is the rue du Rhône, Geneva’s smartest shopping street. Just to the left of the hotel soars the famous Jet d’Eau. But other than its location, and the fact that it’s a Four Seasons (did I mention how much I love Four Seasons?), there are two reasons for staying here: El Lago restaurant, recently awarded a Michelin star, and Spa Mont Blanc. It took two hours to work my way through the eight-course truffle tasting menu in El Lago, each dish more delicious than the last. Service was exemplary; the waiters friendly and knowledgeable. And dinner would have been the highlight of my stay, had I not spent the following afternoon in Spa Mont Blanc, located on the top three floors of the hotel (on a clear day, you can see Mont Blanc). This spa is Swiss and proud of it: crisp, clean décor in mountain stone, aged oak and regional woods. Treatment products include Swiss Perfection by Clinique La Prairie (Four Seasons is the only hotel in Geneva to offer the latter). Ok, the restaurant here isn’t very Swiss – it offers Japanese fusion ¬– but food is certainly healthy, not to say delicious. And the views of Geneva from the spa’s infinity pool are fabulous.I can’t honestly say I got to know Geneva. I did go out to look for a new pair of ski goggles, but there was quite a chill rolling off the lake, and I was back at the hotel within the hour. But now when I think of Geneva, I think of it not as the gateway to the Alps, but as the gateway to Four Seasons des Bergues. So much nicer than leaping into a hired car at the airport, and heading straight for the mountains.

Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, 33 Quai des Bergues, 1201 Geneva. 0041 (22) 908 70 00; website

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