The Good Life

Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
Trip End Sep 17, 2011

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Flag of Switzerland  , Geneva,
Friday, May 20, 2011

Hi All,

I've just returned from my latest adventure in Geneva courtesy of a Fam trip hosted by Lufthansa and Swiss Airlines. I left the office on Friday with some of my colleagues and headed out to Heathrow to meet our hosts for the weekend. Whilst I didn’t get to fly Business class on the way out we were given access to the Business class lounge so I was able to spend the time before the flight relaxing with a drink in one hand and a snack in the other. The nice thing about being part of a group is that you don’t have to worry or think of all the little things, I didn’t need to know what gate we flying from and I didnt even check in for the flight myself there was someone else to do it all for me.

An hour and a half later we landed in Geneva and were greeted by our hosts from Le Richemond Hotel, a 5 star deluxe property. They were there in hand with luggage tags and room keys ready to whisk us back to the hotel and take our belongings straight to our rooms. On the van to the hotel they had water bottles waiting ready for us.

Arriving at the hotel was like entering another world. Ferraris’ were parked outside, with tall glamorous women stepping out of them complete with a Chihuahua in their handbags. Older men with young women on their arms who I couldn’t differentiate from being their wife or their daughter. I came to the conclusion they were probably the bit on the side and the men wore the women with pride in the same way a woman would display a new handbag or diamond necklace.

Whilst our bags were taken straight to our rooms we were wined and dined in the hotel restaurant. Risotto, Carpaccio, Asparagus in Parma Ham, Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse, Tiramisu-it was a foodies heaven. My resolve to be good and not drink soon waned and I very quickly adjusted to the high life. It was only at 230 am that we thought it wise to retreat to our rooms in preparation for our early start the next day. It wasn’t until I reached my room that I regretted not leaving the party earlier to indulge in the luxury of my room.

The room was extravagant and decadent with a bathroom to die for. Once I saw the double rainforest shower head I was immediately in love and wished I had traded that last glass of vino for ten minutes more shower time. The bathroom alone was bigger than my flat and I have to say it was nice to sit on the loo and not be able to touch all 4 walls.

My wakeup call came all too soon and before I knew it daylight had arrived and it was time to head out for our fun filled day. The day began with a leisurely breakfast of cured meat and croissants…mmm. After refuelling our souls we headed out to the lake for a 2 hour cruise out to Yvoire-a small medieval village on the French side of the lake.

The cruise was aboard an old Paddleboat which as I soon learnt Geneva is quite famous for. I had underestimated the strength of the sun and whilst I basked in its rays the wind from the lake disguised its intensity. It wasn’t until later that evening that I discovered I had burnt to a crisp. But you know what? It was so nice just to be out in a T-Shirt and feel the sun on my skin and wind in my hair that the fact I would be in agony for the next few days didn’t matter.

On the cruise we had the chance to view the beautiful fountain that shoots 140m into the air as well as some of the beautiful buildings surrounding the lake. There were some amazing chalets, as well as modern monstrosities. I would say that the UN building falls into the latter description.

On arrival into Yvoire we were greeted with a quaint village. We were lead on a guided tour of Le Jardin de Cinq Sens. This was a tour of the private gardens belonging to the castle that is home to the Yvoire family-founders of the village. It comprised of 5 gardens each with a theme around the five senses. Whilst it was quaint I wasn’t as amazed as I thought I would be. I think the beautifully crafted gardens of England’s stately homes has spoilt me.

Our garden tour over we retreated to a local restaurant where 3 hours were spent pondering the finer things in life over a glass or two of almagnac and yet more food. Meal done we returned via boat back to our hotel to start making preparations for the evenings meals. As I’m sure you have gathered already the theme of the day was good food and even better wine and the minute one meal was over we were already planning the next.

After prettying myself up it was time for cocktails on the penthouse deck overlooking the lake offering the most spectacular views of the town. There was a surprise waiting for us in the form of Elite Rentals-Europe’s leading supplier of luxury cars. They had bought two of their fleet over for us to take turns in test driving…a white Maserati worth a cool GBP150000.00 and the world’s first electric sports car-a Tesla.

Right from the moment we were first given the opportunity to test drive these beauties I was shaking my head saying 'no way’. I’m not the most confident driver and somehow I didn’t think my work insurance would cover  buying a brand new Maserati in the event I crashed it. I opted instead to go as a passenger and for a few brief minutes feel like I’m one of the in crowd with all the people staring at us as we zoomed by. Once we headed out of the city onto some rural roads I found my courage and decided I would give it a go.

It was my first experience at driving on the right side of the road, everything felt backwards with the gearstick and indicators on my wrong side. I quickly got into the groove of it or at least I thought I was however  the hovering hands of the car owner over the steering wheel every time I scraped the car against the bushes on the right hand side of the road  suggested otherwise. It was a once in a lifetime experience and when we arrived back at the hotel I felt elated.

I didn’t think much could have topped the day however an incredible Italian meal at the hotel restaurant was the perfect way to seal the deal. We were advised that once a month the hotel holds a party called the RedZone. They noticed a gap in nightclubs for those in their 30’s so decided to capitalise on this market gap. When they said  they transferred their conference and meeting space into a night club I was envisioning a hall with a few streamers hung around in the style of a school disco.

On arriving I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a club like  I have never been to before and are very likely not going to experience again in my lifetime. I should have known better than to think of a few streamers and balloons when considering the opulence of the hotel and standard of clientele. I bravely decided to look at the drinks menu and was horrified to see bottles of champagne for CHF4900.00 the rough equivalent of GBP3445.00. Our host supplied us with champagne, and by the end of the night our small group of 10 had consumed 6 3l magnums of Moet and Chandon selling for CHF1700.00 or GBP1195.00.

Now with prices like these I expected they wouldn’t sell much, but I had clearly underestimated the wealth of those around me as Champagne was flying off the shelves. With a DJ and a live singer flown from America and the sheer size of the venue with an indoor outside area complete with brought in grass. I cannot put into words how incredible that club was and how far removed from my own life I felt. To put it bluntly the amount of Champagne I drank that night cost more than my month’s rent. All I can say is thank God I wasn’t paying but it was nice to experience how the other half live.

I have to admit I was a party pooper and one of the first to leave. While I know I only had to stumble a few metres to my hotel room I wanted to make the most of the luxury of the room. I left the party at 330 which at the time I thought was a reasonable effort.

The next morning at breakfast I was the first to arrive and I have to admit I found it quite amusing to watch my colleagues all stumble in bleary eyed. The breakfast signalled the end of our stay in Geneva and we were then whisked back to the airport with the same efficiency as that experienced when we arrived.

Whilst I didn’t have much time in Geneva and probably can’t say I have truly got a feel for the city this trip definitely will stick in my mind for years to come. It was the kind of moment that at the time I felt like I was in a fairy world and any minute would wake up.  I can guarantee that when I am 80 this will be one of those stories I tell my Grandchildren that begins with ‘I remember when….’
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