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Rich Rewards on the Shore of Lake Geneva

Dinner with a view of glacier-­covered Mont Blanc, a bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, and suites that are easy to get lost in. Even young guests enjoy ­magical ­moments at ­Hotel Beau-­Rivage Genève.

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Being adult sometimes means having a different perspective on things. Literally. I became aware of this the moment I looked down at my son and daughter. Both looked stunned. They gazed silently, their eyes wide with wonderment. We had only just ­entered the lobby of the Hotel Beau-­Rivage Genève, a landmark edifice steeped in tradition. While the fountain unhurriedly turned its tricks in the courtyard, cocktails were being served in the lobby bar, and we were welcomed by several members of staff of this iconic five-star hotel. «Why do they know our names,» my five-year-old daughter whispered in my ear. Her slightly older brother in the meantime managed to ­timidly pronounce a ­«bonjour». We had practiced the greeting on our trip here from ­Zurich. As soon as the kids had ­decided that the surrounding ladies and gentlemen were not a threat (the welcome gift in the shape of a furry toy dog must have played a decisive role in putting them at ease), their initial reserve and shyness gave way to a spirit of adventure which was clearly noticeable and definitely audible. Time to find our hotel room!

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Although «room» is a ­colossal understatement. Our suite, one of the newest in the 155-year-old ­historic building, is named after Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. While entering the room I hardly had time to explain to my children that the suite was named after the author of «The Little Prince» before I lost sight of them. Their mission was to immediately explore every nook and cranny of this elegant room. The curved staircase ­leading up to the enormous king-size bed, the immense chandelier and the ­television set hidden ­behind a ­mirror in the living space were ­undeniably impressive. Let’s not forget the view. I can hear my son calling ­excitedly, «Daddy, I can see the shadow through the open ­window»! Obviously, he had a ­better ­command of the En-glish ­language than of French. Of course, he was referring to the Jet d’Eau, to my son’s ears pronounced like ­«shadow», the ­famous water ­fountain.

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«Why don’t you have a swimming pool»? My son’s question didn’t catch Lars Wagner, the ­General Manager of the hotel, by surprise when we met him downstairs. The father of four ­children, he knew very well how to deal with this young man’s question. He ­replied, «Instead, we have an enormous pool right in front of our ­hotel». Later, after a dip in the lake at the Bains des Pâquis in close proximity to the hotel, no one missed a heated indoor pool. The following day began early. The kids insisted on sleeping in the king-size bed and daddy forgot to close the elongated skylight. Actually, the intent was to provide adult guests in the «étage céleste» with a view of the stars as they drifted off to sleep. In our case, however, the sun’s morning rays woke the children earlier than expected. Oh well, we took advantage of the time until room service brought breakfast by taking an extended bath in the Jacuzzi tub. A little later we walked through the Parc Mon Repos and Parc la Grange, visited the botanical garden, payed a visit to St. Peter’s Cathedral and took ­another dip in the lake. My children loved the boat trip back in a «mouette», a charming little water taxi.

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Swimming and sightseeing generated a hearty appetite for one and all. A view behind the culinary scenes of the hotel kitchen turned out to be truly mouth-watering. The sous chef let us taste the crustacean sauce and the head pastry chef, Yohan Coiffard, passed around a sweet treat. Dinner outside on the «Terrasse by Dauminique Gauthier» turned out to be the highlight of our visit. This was true not only for the food created by the 18-point chef. Upon arrival of the blue hour, my daughter looked in the direction of the mountains as if she was hypnotised, even the white slopes of Mont Blanc were recognisable on this lovely summer evening. «Daddy, the view is so beautiful, I can’t eat.» I understood very well what she meant because I also found it ­difficult to split my attention equally between the spectacular scenery and the home-made sepia-tinted pasta with the Brittany lobster. At that moment I knew what had magnetically attracted such illustrious guests as Angelina Jolie, Charles de Gaulle, Kofi Annan and Empress Sisi to this hotel.

 “Daddy, the view is so beautiful,
I can’t eat.”

Sisi, of course, was a ­topic of conversation during our ­rendezvous in the bar with Lars ­Wagner. ­During her last stay at the Beau-Rivage in 1898, she was assassinated with a rasp by an ­Italian anarchist in front of the ­Brunswick Monument directly next to the ­hotel. Sisi succumbed to her ­injuries and died in her suite in the arms of Fanny Mayer, the owner's wife at the time. ­Fortunately, Lars Wagner omitted this fatal detail from her biography when he recounted the story to my children. He also tends to skip this part in business meetings with travel operators from Asian countries, whom Lars Wagner regularly lures to Geneva with similar anecdotes. After a second, restful night (this time daddy reclaimed the king-size bed) the three of us had to say good-bye. But not before the kids threw a golden five-cent coin from our fifth floor balustrade into the courtyard fountain. Smiling, they both closed their eyes and made a wish, as if there was anything left to wish for after such a glorious weekend.

Words Oliver Schmuki

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