The Small Pleasures of Geneva
Recently, I had the chance to experience a small slice of life in Geneva, a stately city in a spectacular setting, where the River Rhone meets Lake Geneva at the foot of Mont Blanc.
After a long drive through the rain, my friend and I arrived late and tired into the heart of Geneva. Pulling up to Le Richemond hotel, we were greeted by an extremely helpful team who immediately took charge of our bags and the car. What a relief!
Given it would be a short stay, I felt fortunate to be ensconced in an iconic property in the heart of town. Prestigious and refined, Le Richemond is located on the picturesque shores of Lake Geneva. Founded in 1875 by the Armleder family, the hotel is celebrating its 140th anniversary as an icon of peerless comfort and elegance. For more than a century, it has been the choice of dignitaries and celebrities, welcoming guests that have included Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Sophia Loren, Marc Chagall and many more.
Our large, spacious room was decorated in contemporary furnishings featuring soft earth tones and intricate wood paneling. French doors opened onto a compact balcony with views to the lake and mountains. To be in the heart of a city and at the same time surrounded by such natural beauty, was a wonderful combination. I sat on the balcony and enjoyed the view, then went in to fill the fantastically deep marble bath and soak away the stresses of the day.
The next morning, fully refreshed by a wonderful sleep, we went to the hotel’s dining room, Le Jardin, for breakfast. It was apparent that Le Richemond is a favorite place for business meetings. I got the sense that people had come from all parts of the globe to conclude important negotiations or enter into serious agreements. Seated among the other guests, I listened to the hushed sounds of commerce mingled with classical music. We partook of the breakfast buffet and enjoyed a typically Swiss selection – dark grainy breads, plump slices of smoked salmon, a robust meusli with fruits and nuts, and fantastic coffee with steamed milk.
Fortified by a hearty breakfast, we struck out on foot to explore the immediate neighborhood. Just a few blocks from the hotel, we came into Geneva ’s Old Town, an ancient maze of narrow and sloped cobblestone streets. In this picturesque section of town, we found lovely cafes, boutiques, chocolate shops and historic sites. Rising above the Old Town is the spire of St. Pierre Cathedral, once the adopted home of John Calvin, a leader of the Protestant Reformation movement. Bourg-de-Four, located on the site of an ancient Roman marketplace, is Geneva’s oldest public square and still a popular meeting place.
We returned in time for my appointment at the Sisley Spa, located in the lower level of Le Richemond. Upon entering the spa, I was greeted by Arunya, who would be my guide to the facility as well as my massage therapist. Le Spa is designed to help you relax in every way. Low lights, warm bamboo-lined walls, quiet music, and the most beautiful smells create a luxurious oasis of calm.
After changing into a spa robe, I rested in the gorgeous lounge and then entered the steam room – known as a “hammam.” I sat against the wall and leaned my sore back against the warm tiles, breathing deeply of the humid air. I felt the relaxing effects of the steam and heat on my muscles and thought there could be no better way to prepare for a massage.
Arunya retrieved me from the hammam and we went into one of the beautiful treatment rooms. From a choice of aromas I selected the scent of lavender mixed with essential oils. Sisley’s renowned face and body treatments are based on aromacology – the science of relaxing the body and mind through the use of fragrance – and I felt the benefits almost immediately. Arunya’s relaxation massage lived up to its name. Her expert hands relieved travel-tired muscles, loosened knots in the upper back and released tension throughout the body. After the massage, I returned to the lounge to sip lemon water, nibble on fresh berries and revel in the deep state of relaxation.
The remainder of our brief time in Geneva was spent strolling beautiful streets and enjoying this sophisticated and cultured European city, with its splendid blend of natural beauty, historic significance and modern elegance.
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