Jackie: We’d like to talk about Switzerland. It’s all the things we’ve heard and read about: clean, precise, and neat (the Virgo of all countries). Recently, David stayed in one of her most fascinating cities — Berne, the Capital of the country, seat of the Swiss Parliament, and a magically mediaeval place with cobbled streets and flower-bedecked statues and the longest covered arcades in all of Europe. I was there too briefly years ago, but the pristine, unique décor of the city is still with me. David’s turn.
David: My home away, for three days, was the Bellevue Palace. And “palace” is the operative word. One public room more beautiful and ornate than the one before and the one after.
My corner suite overlooked a valley, bridges and the calm, blue-green Aare River. I was treated to a large sitting room with high ceilings and golden chairs and an even larger bedroom leading to a marble and mirrored bath.
When I had coffee in the new bar with the Palace’s Director, Urs Buhrer, I expected a formal experience. Instead, I met a good-looking young man all charm and warmth. Only two years with the hotel and already dedicated to the passion of his job. The building itself is owned by the Swiss government and Urs’ bosses are the country’s Finance Minister on the one hand, and the Victoria-Jungfrau Collection who rent the hotel and run it on the other. As he says, he wears two hats. And I say, he wears both comfortably and handsomely. His first move was to bring new life to this noble house by changing the location of the gorgeous restaurant from downstairs to the ground level where the lights and piano music and crowds brought new energy. Mr. Buhrer is modest when he says the hotel’s business has not suffered from the current global financial crisis. The Palace is the natural meeting place and sometimes residence for high-ranking government officials. And Swiss nationals remain loyal clients when they visit Berne. “It is a little like the Titanic;” he smiles, “outside is stormy, but inside the music plays on.” I played on as well. Feasted on the breakfast buffets, explored the museums and shops in the arcades of old Berne, railroaded my way to Basle and back, (talked to my darling absent wife each evening), and finally: dinner deluxe in the Palace’s beautiful La Terrasse restaurant. Ready or not, here comes my menu, so forks up, folks: First, the Chef’s amusement, a delicious wild garlic and pine nut soup. Then, my amusement – a flute of Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne! Next came a Carpaccio of smoked salmon and yummy paper-thin monkfish. Another Champers? Mai Oui! And Danke Schoene, too. My main course was Mignon of Beef (reconfirming the fact that Swiss beef is the best I have ever tasted. Anywhere.) Perfectly cooked and accompanied by an unusual spring roll of basmati rice and a Wasabi sauce. Also happily accompanied by a lovely Swiss red. Because I’ve been craving greens, I slipped in a great mixed salad. My dessert was a really far-out all-strawberry assortment of several taste treats, including a terrific ice cream and a weird but delish modicum of actual popcorn covered with a strawberry coulis. As I make my way to my suite, I offer you a final wish that one day you too enjoy the luxury of Berne’s best – the Bellevue Palace.
Jackie: I seem to have missed a special visit, but saved a lot of calories. Back to the gym. We’ll travel…