October 24, 2010 in SWITZERLAND | Comments (0)

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La Reserve – pool in October sunshine

A resort hotel with a cool and playful difference from other five star hotels in Geneva. La Reserve lies in a park with its own jetty on Lake Geneva, only 5 minutes taxi ride from Geneva Airport, 10 minutes from Cornavin Station – and a 15 minute boat ride from the quay in the city centre.

I took the boat – an option from March to October. It is a pleasant walk from Cornavin station down Rue Mt Blanc … and along the waterfront past the grand traditional hotels of Richemond, Beau Rivage and D’Angleterre to the mooring in front of Grand Hotel Kempinski.

The October sunshine brought a holiday feel to the waterfront, and turquoise brilliance to shallows in the lake. The miraculous sight of Mt Blanc seemed to float like a gigantic meringue behind the foothills.  It seemed all very personal. It was only me to catch a ride, and someone had swiped La Reserve’s mooring. We had to somehow keep the boat still, and get my luggage on board. And then away, speeding over the sparkling blue.

Throughout the boat ride to La Reserve, Mt Blanc seemed to float along with us, far off in the French Alps. While the wake of the speedboat rose in high ridges, dwarfing the distant St Peter’s cathedral on the hill of the old city.

We moored at the hotel’s own little bit of lake frontage. The boatman (a modern individual) pointed at a tunnel I should navigate to reach the hotel (under the road to Lausanne)…but seeing my dismay, called someone to help me with my luggage up the stairs.

It was 3.45 when walked into the “park” of La Reserve. Someone was by the pool sunbathing in the warm late afternoon.

I had less than 24 hours to enjoy my stay – but would be pampered to perfection.


La Reserve lies in a grassy park with formally clipped hedges and some giant leafy trees, with partial views of the lake and the magic of Mt Blanc.

The first thing you feel is the relaxed atmosphere, far from uptight or stuffy. Geneva is a centre of international diplomacy and huge organizations so as a city it expects quite a lot of formality – which enfolds you in some richly traditional hotels on Geneva waterfront. Though a five star design hotel, La Reserve is in no way “posh”, perhaps because of the young clientele, resort setting and playful and somewhat extrovert decor.

In the evening the hotel comes into its own right, and a magnet for Geneva’s young “Le beau monde”. For one thing there is plenty of parking for all the gleaming cars, for another it is reputed to have Geneva’s best Chinese restaurant, along with a gourmet restaurant, a DJ in the comfortable lounge and (in the summer) a safari restaurant in the park.

The lounges spill out to wide terraces facing the pool, lake and mountains. In the daytime the extrovert individuality of the public areas emerges with leather and velvet, reds and purples, gold leaf and shining studs. Elephant sculptures here and there, and glass parrots hanging from lamps, are among the quirks of the safari design theme. But in the evenings the lamps come on, bathing all in sunset glow. The deep comfy leather chairs are filled with the beautiful young Swiss speaking lively French.

La Reserve is proud to call itself a resort, a destination spa, a city hotel, and an airport hotel. It is all those to one degree or another though it has more rightful competitors to the title city hotel.

With a sizeable 2000 sqm spa area, this is the place for a really mind-escaping massage. The spa features 17 treatment rooms, indoor pool, gym with 6 trainers, and health restaurant. Oh indeed – and a hairdresser and beauty specialist too, but the main thrust is health care using signature treatments under the guidance of a physiotherapist and medical doctor with additional homeopathy diploma. At the moment they are offering 4-day, 7-day and 14-day courses of treatment. The health restaurant true to the hotel’s eye catching design combines white leather chairs with a striking striped mat that seems to be heading straight through. A nice touch is a table full of mystical glass containers holding different concoctions for different health purposes. One tasted very medicinal.

On the sporty side, adding to the profile as Geneva’s only city resort, there are two tennis courts and two instructors. Child care is provided and a children’s supervised play area with roomy tree house, right by the outdoor pool. In the summer there are water activities too.

The hotel building has on the internet been criticized as having “motel structure”. No doubt many motels have thought of the idea of spread out low-rise buildings, but have surely not laid claim to the design. There are two wings at La Reserve, so the one has garden view, and the other has both garden and lake view. Altogether 85 rooms (30-40 sqm) and 17 suites (50-130 sqm), most with terraces or balconies.

I was shown a deluxe room with a terrace. Nice feel, a little less extroverted than my suite. Superior rooms and Executive rooms cost less and have park views.

I had the good fortune to be upgraded to a suite that stretched across the end of the front wing (number 216), with separate lounge opening onto a French balcony with lake view, and bedroom opening onto a roomy balcony with park view. The lounge was on the sunrise side, and the bedroom and balcony on the sunset side – a good place to eat one of the rosy apples they had placed in the lounge.

View from suite 216 (above), bedroom below.

My next good fortune was to be smoothly massaged and kneaded into forgetfulness at the spa (forgetting all the heavy luggage I had hauled around this sunny October).

That was followed by further good fortune: a meal in The Loti fine dining restaurant. I was told that this was not a gourmet restaurant, but given to good food from fresh produce. However, the good looking, radiantly healthy chef produced creative masterpiece after masterpiece, not fazed by my sudden announcement I did not eat meat. First course included a crème made from fennel with a delicious decoration of vegetables. Then followed pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin shell, with truffles waiting on the pumpkin bottom to surprise me.

That was followed by truffle risotto. Then came a choice of three gleaming raw fish for me to choose from. The chef settled on my behalf for John Dory (a sole-shaped saltwater fish)…needless to say, grilled to perfection, served with a side vegetable of Swiss chard stalks in Swiss chard crème. By the time I got to course three I was not able to eat more than half, and kept honestly assuring my host that I really loved it all. Nor could I get through so much wine as was so thoughtfully poured into my glass. We tried the wine produced by La Reserve´s owner at both his French wine estate and his Hungarian (3 different bottles).

The bed in my suite was superbly comfortable, and the thick lavish curtains kept me in the peaceful dark. In the morning I admired but forgot to photograph the black granite bathroom, with bidet and loo just out of sight, but snapped the morning sun glancing over the lake. Opening the salon doors and standing there I realized there was a hiss of traffic from behind the hedge – morning rush hour going in to Geneva, with the lake beyond. Lucky the room is soundproof.

Breakfast was adequate though not extravagant, with a lot of eggy things in silver dishes, muesli, fruit salad, bread, cold meat, cheese, and not lavishly buttery croissants.

Tried to do some work in my spacious suite – sitting on the red velvet armchair over the wave-patterned red and white carpet, but couldn’t get the wi-fi to work. I thought how one could seat at least 8 people comfortably in that private lounge. Noted the bookshelves needed more books. Noted some marks on the carpet and decided someone on short-term contract at one of the international agencies in Geneva had stayed here for a few months and lived it up.

Before I left, the concierge gave me some tips for Geneva visitors.

Dine in the park by the lake at Perle du Lac (north of Quai du Mont Blanc)

Take a boat over the water from Quai du Mont Blanc to the pier of the famous fountain (Jet d’eau) squirting high out of the lake

Walk or take a taxi to the beautiful old town on the hill. Get the taxi to drop you off at Place-de-Bourg-de-Four – a popular square high at the “back” of the hill. Dine in a restaurant of that name. Then walk back towards the water, through the quaint narrow streets – a downhill walk.

Visit St Peter’s cathedral at the crown of the hill and see the archaeological findings underneath it.

I can add one few more. My favourite place in Geneva area is the little jazz club Le Chat Noir in Carouge.

And oh yes – back at Mont Blanc Pier you can hop on a boat, to cruise on that radiantly green and blue inland sea. Old medieval towns: Yvoire, with castle and absurdly pretty streets and restaurants, Lausanne, Montreux and Evian – where I have just been. Now I am heading home… 

And they were right. It WAS only 5 minutes drive to the airport…

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