The absence of travel abroad during the corona crisis has made me rediscover my own country and Switzerland’s praised train system, having retired my beloved vintage Audi TT given it’s carbon output and my conscious decision to reduce driving to a minimum. The ride on the MOB historic train from Montreux is the most nostalgic and romantic way to go to Gstaad. I was lucky to have the entire belle époque wagon to myself, as it rattled and swayed through the dramatic Alpine landscape.
Upon arrival in Gstaad, I was picked by an impeccably attired and masked Ricardo with The Alpina Gstaad sign on hand, waiting by the tracks to help me to a white Tesla X. A 5 minute drive up to Oberbort and the tunnel entry to The Alpina Gstaad appeared like a scene from a James Bond movie.
Benjamin, the Head Concierge, welcomed me back warmly, and like so many others, he has been with The Alpina Gstaad since the opening. The room was spotless under the watchful eye of the delightful Daniella, the Head Housekeeper, and everything can be activated with a light touch of a button. The bed was a dream with the fluffiest pillows I have ever slept on and I was told that it even had three covers for protection! Discreetly and efficiently, the covid-19 measures have been put to practice everywhere: all staff are wearing masks and social distancing is easy in the generous spaces of the hotel.
I had an early start with breakfast on my balcony overlooking the spectacular alpine meadows, with Müesli, fresh berries, assorted freshly baked breads and honey from the garden. Water from a nearby spring was served in a glass bottle with “TASTE A CLEAN PLANET” engraved on it, setting the tone for the day. The pool in the early morning had a special attraction to me and I swam my laps all by myself. A labyrinth of curved corridors at the lavish Six Senses Spa lead to indoor pools, salt baths, massage and steam rooms and all sorts of spaces for holistic and recreational therapies. Even sound healing can be added to a deep tissue massage by Antonis, the mindful therapist supervisor and trainer since the opening of the spa. Tetsujiro Ogata-san, the Sushi Chef of the celebrated Megu Restaurant has serenely prepared his Japanese delicacies in the afternoon since day one and this has made Megu a favorite among the residents in the valley and abroad. My dinner of the finest assorted sashimis and Wagyu steak on hot stone was deliciously impressive, even to me who lived in Japan for some time.
The hotel will be 8 years this coming winter and I remember my first visit to photograph the place before the opening and in its first year. It was built by local craftsmen using local hand-chiselled stone and recycled wood from old farmhouses in the region, local river rocks surround the fireplace and the waterfall in the entrance driveway, and efficiency technologies ensure that luxury need not be wasteful of energy, water and waste. Authenticity meets Swiss luxury describes The Alpina brand and it was beautifully brought to life in the décor’s unique modern touches from the embossed leather clad pillars and elevators, to the raw crystals in the lighting fixture and lamps, the embroidered leather with Swiss cow bell collar motif in the room entrance, the Swiss bell-shaped bedside lights, the carpet motif inspired by Swiss papercutting called scherenschnitt, and the exquisite Stubli Restaurant. Catering to an international clientele, the hotel also offers a gourmet Sommet Restaurant and a Japanese restaurant named Megu, both with Gault Millau and Michelin Star recognitions. The hotel’s in-room dining and restaurant menus offer extensive health options using herbs from the garden, honey from their beehives, locally sourced dairy, local meat and produce when available and sustainably sourced fish and ingredients. A private art collection from leading artists of the 21st century, some with purpose to support charities, stimulates cultural exchange and can be viewed throughout the hotel and grounds. Their fleet of electric marvels includes Teslas and a Fiat 500 with a thought-provoking art motif of polar bears on ice which disappear as temperature gets too warm.
In everything that they do, the hotel’s team has redefined luxury with their deep commitment to sustainability with accountability and transparency, and support of the Global Goals. Wellbeing, thoughtfulness, health and great respect for communities and nature are the inspiring theme at The Alpina Gstaad and it was delivered with heart and the warmest hospitality to ensure that I had the most amazing retreat experience.
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