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Geneva precious pearl

Elegant, extravagant, and a major international player. Geneva, small and refined, easily keeps up with the big and mighty. This most French of all Swiss cities is a true seductress.

Text:
Daniela Fabian
Photos:
Agi Simoes
L

Let happiness find you here.

Geneva simply has it all: a lake on its doorstep so large that on foggy winter days, you could mistake it for the sea. A backdrop of mountain peaks glistening white with snow even in summer. More than a dozen de luxe hotels with restaurants run by cosmopolitan top chefs competing for Michelin stars. And a prestigious shopping street where flagship stores of the world’s most famous brands are lined up like pearls on a string.

Idyllic Switzerland: with the local landmark Le Salève in the backdrop and the Lac Léman spread before it, the city lies in a spectacular spot. At the heart of it all, the Jet d'Eau, Geneva's emblem, demonstrates energy and strength. The fountain shoots up to 140 metres into the air, bursting with joie de vivre. Careful , it's catching.

The luxury boutiques are engaged in sweet competition with jewellers and chocolatiers – who has the most lavish display? The crooked alleys of the Old Town, too, make for a delightful stroll. However, the main feature of this bustling beauty at the south-western tip of the Lac Léman, as the French-speaking Swiss call Lake Geneva, is its international character. The city – let’s be frank – may be tiny in geographical terms, yet about 150 nationalities and numerous international organisations rub shoulders in this minuscule space. CERN, ICRC, UN, UNHCR, WHO and WTO arebeauty at the south-western tip of the Lac Léman, as the French-speaking Swiss call Lake Geneva, is its international character. The city – let’s be frank – may be tiny in geographical terms, yet about 150 nationalities and numerous international organisations rub shoulders in this minuscule space. CERN, ICRC, UN, UNHCR, WHO and WTO are all gathered here.

A monument against landmines: artist Daniel Berset's "Broken Chair" has dominated the Place des Nations since 1997. The 12-metre-high wooden sculpture, calling the nations to action, was originally intended for three months. Still in place today, it stands for Geneva's humanitarian image.

HAVING A CHAT WITH...FAWAZ GRUOSI

Mr Gruosi, where have you just come back from?

I am just back from New York – one of my favourite and frequent business trip destinations. On my schedule: clients and press meetings, as well as our yearly private de GRISOGONO dinner for our clients in celebration of our New York boutique. Last but not least, I had the pleasure to meet with an eminent GIA (Gemological Institute of America) expert regarding the final polishing of a soon to become historical flawless diamond. I cannot say more at the present time, but you will hear more about it in 2017.

Which is your favourite city?

London for its international crowd, galleries, restaur­ants and my children.

The two most wonderful hotels you have stayed in?

The Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and The Lowell in New York.

Do you remember your very first flight?‍

1961 Beirut to Rome. Extremely frightened. I have always been a little scared ever since!

Please name your favourite restaurants …

In Switzerland, I would say Il Mirtillo and the

Auberge d’Onex in Geneva. Harry’s Bar and Scott’s in London, Cipriani in New York. All for the staff, service, quality and ambience. For me, they are “home away from home”.

Your favourite place for holidays?

With no hesitation, Sardinia. The Hotel Cala di Volpe is where I like to stay when I am not at our family residence; a place that perfectly symbolises the Porto Cervo spirit: majestic and intimate, simple and sophisticated. A place which is a reminder of the origins of the Costa Smeralda, its fishing villages and their picturesque, romantic accents, a place of sculpted architecture.

Your favourite airport in the world?

The SWISS VIP Service at JFK is exceptional.

“Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion,” remarked the great philosopher and educationalist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), one of the city’s most famous sons, along with reformer John Calvin (1509–1564) and Red Cross founder Henry Dunant (1828–1910). Quite true – happiness finds you here. In Geneva, pleasure and joie de vivre are celebrated. A fondue by the waterfront? Mais oui. A glass of good wine served inside century-old walls? Why not? Geneva has everything to offer – servez-vous!

You could also be interested in:
1 Geneva has already won the World Travel Award for Europe’s best City Break Destination twice. Which three highlights are an absolute must?

The lakeside swimming baths Bains des Pâquis. In winter, they serve fantastic fondue. Guests sit in tiny bath houses, heated with wood, by the water’s edge. It’s “très charmant”. The historic town centre with the Place du Bourg-de-Four is impressive, too. Finally, the Plaine de Plainpalais attracts visitors with its vegetable market or – my personal favourite – the Marché aux Puces, the flea market.

2 What well-kept secret have you only just discovered in your city?

The bar with the best drinks: L’Atelier Cocktail Club in the trendy Eaux-Vives district. My gin and tonic made with Hendrick’s  gin and mixed with pepper and turmeric was wonderful – I just had to order a second one!

3 Where do you like to treat your guests to a meal, and where do you lodge them after a long day?

I love the Café de Peney (cafe-de-peney.ch), a delightful bistro right by the River Rhône. And after dinner, Zoé Live Bar is a great place for drinks and live music (zoelivebar.ch). Another good spot for a night-cap is the Leopard Room, a cosy bar at the Hôtel d’Angleterre (dangleterrehotel.com). Finally, my favourite hotel is the Beau-Rivage, one of the last top hotels in Switzerland that is family owned.

4 What local souvenirs or gifts do you take with you when you visit friends abroad?

Chocolates from Chocolatier Du Rhône. The shop has a long tradition: founded in 1875, it is currently experiencing a surge in business thanks to a young investor. Alternatively, I might choose a bottle of wine from the Cave de Genève: a Clémence Chardonnay AOC 2014 or an Infini Assemblage Rouge AOC (cavedegeneve.ch).

5 Which dream destination is missing from SWISS’s route network?

I don’t like the heat, so Edinburgh or Reykjavik would be fantastic.

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