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Gstaad – A Fairytale Village

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Gstaad – A Fariytale Village

 

By Brad Beaty

Gstaad, pronounced by the locals, “Sh-tah-d” (keep practicing!) is a fairytale village hidden deep in the Swiss alps. The town itself is as understated at its location. But, peeling back the surface, one finds this quaint and seemingly quiet town is really a center of culture, sophistication, wealth and tradition. Perched in a position as if it is overseeing the town is a really a center of culture, sophistication, wealth and tradition. Perched in a position as if it is overseeing the town’s activities is the world famous Gstaad Palace, one of The Leading Hotels of the World since the inception of this great organization, and a definer of Swiss Hospitality.

The culture of Gstaad is platformed by the locals who live there year-round and whose jobs are vary from farming to sales associates at the Hermes boutique, cheese makers and chocolatiers, to farmers to a butler at the most luxurious hotel in the country. This is what keeps Gstaad grounded in its roots. They live a simplistic way serving and mingle with the world’s rich and famous.

On top of this lies the seasonal residents and high-end tourists both appearing during two very different seasons. First, and what they are foremost known for, the ski crowd that doesn’t really ski….much, but are very fashionable in not doing so. After the “mud season” closure, the resort town lives again during the summer season, which is perhaps less fashionable, but there the scenery is definitely more colorful.

Whether a semi-resident, tourist our guest of the Gstaad palace, one will find themselves in the “living room” of the town having warm beverage or cool cocktail, depending on the season, and checking out who’s who on any given day. For example, you may be rubbing elbows with the CEO of a global fashion brand, hedge fund, or as we heard while we were there, Justin Timberlake who we heard was seen in town! As the “founder” of the destination this resort is a must, and by far the most elegant in town, while still brushing off the stuffiness associated with the word “Palace”. Guests are tastefully casual and relaxed.

My favorite things about the hotel: One, the views…on the main floor, there are open views to the stunning scenery of the Alps, nature, the village…the openness to the nature is something unique amongst hotel in Gstaad. Second, the spa. I am not huge spa person, but the spa at the Palace was beyond expectations in both it’s expansive areas and its range of staff and services. Third, the staff…one would have a perception of a Palace being a bit stiff. One of the things that can create this is the team at the hotel, but at this Palace, the team is as friendly as they are professional, down to earth as they are well-trained to anticipate your every need. Other things include, an in any order, the food and choice of restaurants and cuisine, the very comfortable and spacious rooms and amazing appointed suites, Gringo Night Club with the “over pool dance floor”!

Favorite activities in Gstaad…eating chocolate and cheese, by far, visiting the Glacier 3000 (although not a fan of heights, I pushed on and crossed highest the peak to peak suspension bridge in the world, and it was well worth it, and dining at the Walig Hut, the Palace’s very rustic “cabin” up on the mountainside surrounded by the cows, nature, and views that you will find nowhere else in the world.

Who to send to Gstaad Palace….? Families! They have an amazing array of activities that will ensure that those of any age are never looking for something more to do, both winter and summer. They take amazing care of young kids, teens, and adults, alike. From skiing, tennis, swimming, hiking, a replica of the palace “bouncy castle”, spa, shopping, all types of classes for traditional paper cutting, cooking, etc. You seriously cannot go wrong with families!

Tuscan Escape

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Tuscan Escape on the Arno

by Joe Decker

For as long as I have known my wife, and throughout our travels around the globe these past 5 years – Italy has always been our “next trip”. But as always, life gets in the way, and we continued to say….next time. Well as with most things in life, sometimes you just need a bit of a push to make a dream come true. Luckily, my wife is a good sport, and when that push came in the way of a European Tour by my favorite band…. next time quickly had a time and place.

When you are in Florence you find yourself instantly transported to a time of elegance and refinement. Surrounded by culture, history, iconic art, and the towering presence of the Duomo. A beacon of splendor, the Duomo fills the sky from every vantage point, positioning itself as the very center of Florence. After spending two days in the heart of Florence we left the crowded streets behind to the private retreat on the banks of the Arno River.

My wife and I decided to take the complimentary shuttle conveniently located by the Ponte Vecchio for our short journey to Villa La Massa. As soon, as we entered the gates, we found ourselves instantly transported to a sanctuary of peace and serenity. It was hard to believe we were only 15 minutes from the bustling tourist center of Florence.

Entering the grand lobby, my first thoughts were elegance and sophistication – a throwback to its origins as a 16th century Medici estate. Comprised of four buildings, all with their own unique touches, the 41 rooms and suites are decorated in an elegant Tuscan style perfectly encapsulating a noble country estate.

The tranquil grounds give you ample space to relax and rejuvenate – whether its lounging by the pool, or taking a walk through the large gardens surrounding the resort, your main companion will be the cascading sounds of the river and the chirping of birds.

Sadly, our time here was short, and as we journeyed to our next location in Italy, my wife shared a simple thought on Villa La Massa. “I can’t wait to take my parents here.” We quickly began to plan just that and couldn’t stop talking about how that would be an everlasting memory for our entire family.

Reflecting on my first time to Villa La Massa, I can’t help but get excited about my eventual return, which luckily for me is in a few short weeks. I look forward to sharing with you all more impressions upon my return from the Soul of Florence.

Parisian Inspiration

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Parisian Inspiration

by Brad Beaty

Twice in our lives, Giuseppe and I found ourselves in Paris, both there on business, both being separate hotels, thus having what was the opportunity burden of luxury being within blocks of each other but staying at competing hotels.  That having removed the romantic aspect out of Paris for us ultimately inspired us begin thinking that there had to be another way to live and work together!  Move forward several years, and viola…we are in Paris together with a small group of awesome travel advisors and enjoying every moment of this famed and favorite city of many as we are finally under the same work umbrella and roof!  Finally, we checked in the same hotels together!

After a wonderful weekend in Normandie, also hosted by the Barrier Group, we arrived in Paris at Le Fouquet’s.  It is a hotel I had known by name since it opened, but other than a quick peek of the lobby several years ago, it was all new to me.

Who wouldn’t want to stay at the city’s most notable address at the corner of the Champs Elysee and Avenue George V?  Location factor…. check!

Who would not want to dine at the famous Fouquet’s Brasserie where the who’s who that have ever visited or are native to Paris have sat and enjoyed the people watching along the world’s most renowned avenue, and of course all the while gorging on French classic cuisine?  Food and drink…check,.check.

Rooms?  I was very curious to see the “new” Fouquet’s after having been one of the most recent hotels to completely close for a full renovation.  The junior suite we were assigned was modern, elegant, and spacious.  It felt much like our own room at home with “quiet” décor, well organized large walk-in closets, large bathrooms and all the most modern amenities one could expect.  Accommodations….check, check, check!!

The hotel’s other facilities, such as the outdoor courtyard restaurant, the rooftop bar, the amazing “art” space spa (you must see it to understand), and the service all met and exceeded expectations.

So, having been to Paris several times, I was looking for our hosts to wow us outside of their home.  They indeed surprised even the most seasoned of us with tickets to the Kempt Exhibit, which humbled all.  This very “hipster” location was a warehouse room which once the program began, turned into “tattooed” walls, floors and ceilings from one of the world’s most famous artist through various phases of his creative live.  Thinking back only a few weeks ago, I don’t even remember if there was any music or sound accompanying the changes and movement, but in my head, it was complete silence as I felt personally blanketed in this exhibit.

Next day were met in front of the hotel by several vintage Citroen cars with driver guides for each.  This was like a throwback to cruising through narrow streets as if in the 1960’s!  Our drivers were fun, knowledgeable, and knew how to entertain while sharing secrets of the city.

The tour ended at the Batou, where we had a lovely luncheon this luxury dining ship famous for cruising the Seine.

After saying good-bye to our friends who were mostly returning home, Giuseppe and I headed to check in at our second hotel, Le Roch Hotel & Spa for a night, where we also me our auntie from London.  What I love about this hotel:

  • The entrance and lobby…. it’s like an open concept home when you walk in. You see the reception/lobby, bar, dining room, bar and library all in the same large, but cozy and warm, tasteful space.  I dare to compare it to a very luxurious “We Work” space, but with many more comforts and services.
  • The attention to detail….at the entrance of our suite, there was a photo of Giuseppe and I taken just days before in Normandie framed as a gift. Loved it!
  • The staff…while they are there for your every need, they are very real. You feel that you could sit down and become fast friends with all of them given the time….and I wanted to do just that.
  • The food, I expected to be casual and simple being that the dining was in the open concept area. Instead, this brilliant young chef completely surpassed what I expected with each dish.  The food was creative, awakened the senses, without being too contrived.
  • The location is a completely different Paris than the famed Champs Elysee we had just left, but just as interesting and convenient to a host of landmarks within blocks, such as the Palais Royal, Louvre museum, etc.
  • The pool in the lower level…. it’s just simply cool, and where else do you find such a great surprise in a 37-room hotel in Paris?

Although we did not have time to spend as typical tourists, we still enjoyed Paris together, and with two opposite hotels, but both with styles to attract the right clients, we will be back to share these with many more of you…. soon!

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