Thursday 18 April 2019

St Moritz: Heidi-hi swish Swiss summer

 

A view of St Moritz from the mountains
A view of St Moritz from the mountains
Suvretta House in St Moritz: how the other half lives

Anne Marie Scanlon

I've been skiing twice in my life and on both occasions it didn't end well. To be truthful, it didn't start well either as I am catastrophically uncoordinated.

They do say though that the third time is a charm. Yeah, right. I'm lucky I didn't come home in a full body cast, or even a body bag, the first couple of times. So the decidedly swish and sophisticated St Moritz had been ruled out as a ski destination.

But, of course, the discerning traveller knows that there is far more to the Swiss Alps than snow and skis. I can't speak for St Moritz in winter but in the summer it's the ideal location for a short break or holiday.

Mind you, my opinion may have been swayed by the fact that I was staying at Suvretta House, the grandest of grand hotels which at first glance looks very like the Grand Budapest Hotel of film fame.

Suvretta House in St Moritz: how the other half lives
Suvretta House in St Moritz: how the other half lives

I've been to some swanky places in my time, places that scream luxury, indulgence and indeed loads of money. But Suvretta House doesn't scream anything. This is old school, low-key luxury where it's all about excellent service and discretion.

For the few days I was there I inhabited a different world - one where I would not have been surprised to see Hercule Poirot stepping out of the lift.

Despite the old world atmosphere, the facilities are bang up to date, and this being Switzerland, extremely efficient.

The train journey from Zurich Airport was exactly the same - modern efficiency but with the feeling of going back in time to an idealised past.

In my real life I avoid trains as much as I can because they're inevitably late, overcrowded and smelly. I could happily live on a Swiss train.

The nostalgia continued when we arrived at St Moritz station where we were met by our transport to the hotel - a vintage 'omnibus' driven by a liveried driver.

Rather unfortunately for us, our arrival at the hotel coincided with rain of biblical proportions which lasted for two days.

Suvretta House provides a whole range of summer activities for guests including tennis, golf, biking and hiking, as well as extensive activities and care for children and teens.

The rain meant that our plans to go boating on one of the nearby lakes had to be cancelled but that meant more time to explore the large spa which on top of the usual range of beauty treatments offers a variety of sauna experiences.

The spa pool overlooks the mountains of Upper Engadine, and after a quick dip I enjoyed an amazing massage that left me so relaxed and happy that not even the torrent of water falling from the sky could dampen my spirits.

Having some time to while away I sat in the vast lobby pretending I was in Poirot. It didn't take much imagination. There were plenty of people enjoying pre-dinner drinks dressed in formal attire, the men making Daniel Craig look like a scruff.

Then I noticed the other men, the ones who were sort of idly loitering. Bodyguards! Several of them. Many attired in the suave black suits which thrillers and spy movies have led us to associate with the trade.

Apparently there was a princess staying - and she had taken an entire floor. Unfortunately, I'm not Miss Marple and couldn't get any further information about the mystery princess - or even a glimpse. Believe me I tried - but like I said earlier, it's all about discretion at Suvretta House.

For dinner that night we donned our finery and went to Grand Restaurant which is very formal but not at all stuffy. The cuisine was simply perfect and most of it sourced locally.

I was up early the next morning eager to burn off the calories so I headed into the village of St Moritz. The hotel has a regular shuttle bus (it's a five-minute journey) but I decided to walk. It was all downhill and took about 20 minutes. Coming back was a different story - the incline was very steep and my lungs felt every cigarette I have ever smoked.

The village of St Moritz has a fairy-tale feel and is a shopper's dream.

Apart from clothing, there's an array of pharmacies (European pharmacies are places of great interest to me), a cute gift shop right beside the shuttle bus stop and one of the most amazing chocolatiers I have ever set foot in - Laderach on Via Serlas (where you will also find Gucci and Louis Vuitton). The array of goodies was endless and honest to God, you'd get fat on the smell alone. Despite trying several samples I left empty-handed because I was overwhelmed by too much choice.

Back at Suvretta House, the rain had stopped and we were able to go on a guided hike.

Having already clambered up from town the hike was a walk in the park - or the fields rather. Our guide took us into the mountains on a rambling route that was much easier on the legs and lungs.

The views. Oh the views! This is the real reason people go to Switzerland - the combination of lakes, mountains and big sky would lift the most miserable of hearts. The fields were full of wild flowers and cows, each with the traditional cow bell. Our guide told us they were on their summer holidays, having come up from the valley to escape the heat.

If, like me, your first introduction to Switzerland was Heidi then you'll be excited to hear that the cabin used in the 1952 film is within walking distance of the hotel (or you can hire an electric bike to get there).

That evening we dined in Chasellas, a mountain restaurant that serves simple lunches and gourmet dinners. While the traditional ski restaurant is just behind the hotel, it is not a climb I wanted to attempt in heels, so the hotel kindly laid on a Tesla to ferry us up. I know little about cars and I didn't really understand the fuss about Teslas. I do now. I've never been on a spaceship but this ride was how I would imagine it. We glided noiselessly up the side of the mountain.

If you're not a fan of cold weather, a Swiss summer break is a great way of experiencing this magnificent place.

Getting  there

* SWISS operates regular flights from Dublin. For more information, visit swiss.com or call  0845 601 0956. 

* The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network. For the ultimate Swiss rail specialist, call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 100 200 30 or visit swisstravelsystem.co.uk.

* Summer rates at Suvretta House cost from CHF410 (€360) per night. Includes half board accommodation (continental breakfast in room or breakfast buffet; and four-course dinner). More information: suvrettahouse.ch/en. More information on Switzerland: myswitzerland.com

Sunday Indo Living

Editors Choice

Also in Life