Baur au Lac Hotel, Zurich

The sun was setting as we came into Zurich airport and the air had a hint of early summer warmth. Usually I dread the onward journey from the airport but in Zurich the connection couldn’t be simpler, a 10 minute train ride and a few stops on the tram. I asked the airport information officer for orientation help, explaining I was trying to get to the Baur au Lac hotel. She looked up, eyes alight, ‘the Baur au Lac is amazing, the best hotel in the city’. This reaction was repeated every time I mentioned the hotel and I soon realised the iconic status of this Zurich institution. Most cities have a few top luxury hotels to choose from, in Zurich there is one hotel which impresses locals and tourists alike, and I was staying there for the weekend. Walking through the quiet clean streets to Baur au Lac, I was nervous with anticipation.

Celebrating its 170th birthday this year, Baur au Lac has spent almost two centuries charming visitors to Zurich. Discreet and understated on the exterior but lovely and lavish inside, the property has a sophisticated allure. The hotel enjoys an advantageous position on the edge of the lake overlooking a scene of natural beauty with the Alps dazzling in the distance, but not far from the favourite designer shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse.

Service at Baur au Lac is second to none, every member of staff is alert and caring at every opportunity – it felt so comfortable but so special simultaneously. We were in an elegant second floor double deluxe room, newly refurbished and spacious with an abundance of natural light. The décor is a perfect balance of antique tradition, modern luxury and stylish creativity. I loved the decadent plush red chairs and the expressive Miro print which hung next to the giant bed. The heavy curtains ensure you fall into an immersive sleep until morning. On the desk a selection of delicate and delectable cakes were freshly made for us by the highly accomplished pastry chef.

The bathroom is another world of wonders, extra shiny marble and granite covered surfaces, delicious smelling Baur au Lac toiletries and fluffy towels and bathrobes. A power shower and a big deep bathtub are both on hand for a quick refresh or a longer relaxing soak.

In the morning it is tempting to just lounge around in the bedroom, it seems too beautiful to leave but downstairs breakfast awaits. Served in the immaculate Pavillon dining room, Baur au Lac breakfast is truly fit for a queen. The room is adorned with bouquets of flowers on pastel green tables and looks out onto Baur au Lac’s lush private garden, it is heavenly. An array of Parisian style pastries, fruit, yoghurt, meat and cheese are all available from the buffet. We chose French toast with maple syrup from the a la carte, which arrived covered in crunchy cornflakes and dusted in icing sugar. Accompanied by ruby red strawberries and a dollop of thick cream, it was absolutely divine. Strong cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice completed our morning feast.

There is so much to discover and explore in Zurich but guests who wish to rest, relax and recuperate from their busy lives could not do better than Baur au Lac. Michelin star restaurant Pavillon serves wonderful fine dishes, whilst bar and restaurant Rive Gauche offers a more casual option. Shopping needs can be met within the hotel at the design boutique or at the unique wine cellar and shop, whilst working visitors can use the 24 hour business centre and indoor or outdoor spaces for meetings and receptions.

Quite simply, this place has everything, but best of all this historic, family-owned property has personality and soul ensuring every guest will remember their stay and dream of a return visit to Baur au Lac.

Book a stay at Baur au Lac here:

Many thanks to the Swiss Tourist Office for their help with this trip, more information here.

Things to do in Alicante

Of all the wonderful Spanish cities Alicante is not the most obvious destination for a weekend break, however on a recent girls getaway I discovered delicious food, stunning sights and a heavenly hotel. With 300 days of sunshine a year and very cheap daily flights from London airports, Alicante is sure to suit those in need of a warm minibreak, all year round.

STAY ATAsia Gardens is an oasis of calm and luxury 30 minutes drive from Alicante city centre. This Asian inspired exotic hotel offers indulgent rooms, sparkling pools and a traditional Thai spa. Of the restaurants on site, Koh Samui was my favourite, serving the finest Oriental cuisine.

LOOK ATCoves del Canelobre is known as the largest and deepest cave system in Spain. Millions of years old and glistening with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, it is a magical sight.

EAT ATLa Taberna del Gourmet  won best tapas restaurant in Spain in 2009 and the food still excels. Hams hang from the ceiling, locals chat at the bar and the smell of garlicky alioli tints the air. Charming service and phenomenal traditional tapas make this restaurant a must in Alicante. Very reasonably priced too.

DRINK AT … If you can bear the blare of Benidorm head down to the concrete coastal town to watch a hysterical drag show and enjoy some Sangria.

SHOP AT … Visit a Spanish supermarket and stock up on local delicacies. I left with a bag full of Manchego cheese and Iberico ham! If you are only travelling with hand luggage Alicante airport is a good place to buy a bottle of Rioja to savour once you get home.

More information on things to do in Alicante here.

Four Seasons Milano

The Four Seasons hotel group is unlike any other, with each property drawing upon the history of the building and the city, creating truly inimitable hotels. The Four Seasons Milano is the perfect example of this, housed in a 15th century former convent, the hotel’s immaculate restoration incorporates all the historical detailing into its chic Italian design.

Located in the “rectangle of gold”, it counts Chanel, Prada and Armani as its fashionable neighbours and this hotel emulates the haute couture style with ease and charm. Positioned on the quiet Via Gesu, the entrance is more understated than that of its foreign counterparts. Discreet and delectable, it is the perfect hotel for those wishing to shop till they drop, or for tourists keen to see the main sights.

The open-plan main lobby encourages guests and visitors to stay, sit, chat and enjoy a drink. We sipped coffee whilst admiring the restored granite pillars and the aged fragments of frescoes, beautifully reminiscent of this building’s precious past.

There are 118 guest rooms and suites arranged through three interconnecting buildings. The design is very much dependent on the original features, consequently every room is individual. Our room was refined with classic characteristics and imaginative touches displayed in the thoughtful artwork and furniture choices. It was decorated in shades of green and pale ochre, with Fortuny fabrics, Frette linen and custom-designed sycamore burl and pearwood cabinetry. We enjoyed reading in our cosy sofa seating area which is found in all rooms. From our bed, we had great views of the luscious courtyard.

Our bathroom was rather more dark and moody, Carrera marble clad with heated floors and steam resistant mirrors. I enjoyed the big bath and shower facilities, and especially noticed the quirky lighting that lined the main mirror. Toiletries were disappointingly average, however I did find out that the upper-end rooms have designer products.

All rooms have expansive walk-in wardrobes, which is particularly necessary considering most guests are here to take advantage of this shoppers’ paradise.

With the latest renovation underway, breakfast and other meals were served in the downstairs dining room, while Le Veranda is closed. Despite the big buffet on display, the chef was happy to be completely at our disposal each morning, kindly whipping up our favourite French toast recipe. It was absolutely delicious. On our second day the staff fulfilled our slightly out of the ordinary requirements, providing and setting up an impressive feast very early in the morning.

Our evening meal was a hearty Italian experience, Sergio Mei excelling in the kitchen; the menu was so tempting we couldn’t resist trying the traditional four courses. Highlights included seasonal courgette flowers with soft cheese and fresh tomato sauce, it was subtly seasoned, wonderfully fresh and light. We still fondly remember the indulgent pasta dishes – ravioli with smoked scamorza cheese, and conchiglie pasta with beef ragu and chanterelle mushrooms. It is not often I eat pasta without the need for a large helping of parmesan, however these two recipes were perfectly executed and needed no additional flavouring. The meat dishes were intensely aromatic, the thyme-roasted loin of lamb was a favourite of ours.

Desserts were served from a trolley, not dissimilar to the dim sum restaurants you find in Chinatown! We tried two of the more decorative options, they were rich and very sweet, but nothing special.

In a city where fashion, luxury and style thrive, Four Seasons Milano encapsulates the glamorous culture and lifestyle perfectly. If you manage to book a room (they are very popular), I’m sure you and your shopping bags will feel very much at home here!

More information and book here: