“Fill your life with experiences and have stories to tell…”
It dawned on me while on-route to our family holiday with the teenagers, that our very first travel adventure as a family squad was when they were 8 and 6. I used to refer to them as ‘little people.’ Fast forward to today, the not so ‘little people’ are 18 and 16. We even have an an addition to the travel squad and he’s 9.
Through the years we’ve been blessed to see the world, experience different cultures and have endless stories to tell from our travel adventures.
Our most recent and unfortunate tale has to be from our visit to Gstaad in Switzerland. When we arrived at this charming pristine alpine village for our ski holiday, the weather was warm with sporadic rain, the grass was green and no snow. There was a definite change in weather.
We had read reports about the lack of snow across the Alps, but seeing it and experiencing it, was a different story. The difference in weather from January 2020 to January 2023 was so visibly alarming. We were witnessing the impact that Global Warming was having on the winter season in Europe.
Snow was forecast during our stay in Gstaad, we just had to wait for it and hope for the best.
Julie Andrews once described Gstaad as ‘the last paradise in a crazy world’ – this swiss village is special, with its picturesque chalets, snow-covered mountains, world-class shopping, an abundance of outdoor sports activities and discreet understated luxury.
With our limited time on the slopes, we managed to find a perfect blend of activities and still had splendid time in Gstaad.
What we got up to
When one thinks of Switzerland, one imagines alluring lakes, picture perfect snow covered skiing resorts, cheese and the world renowned swiss chocolate. It made sense for one of our activities to be a visit to a chocolate factory.
We started with The Chocolate Experience for Family, where you get to create your own 3D Cailler chocolate animal. You can either do the sheep of the fish. (For some strange reason, we kept on referring to the sheep as the cow, which was not well received by the Master Chocolatier, who swiftly corrected our faux pas) The activity really makes one appreciate what goes into making these 3D chocolates, so many layers and attention to detail is key.
We also got to visit the museum and learnt the history of how the Swiss became so famous for their chocolatiers, how chocolate came to Europe, and how the Swiss people refined the product. The tour also gives insights on how cocoa is sourced, farmed, used for chocolates and sold.
A fun place to bond with family, away from the cold weather.
2. Glacier 3000 – Home to the world’s first suspension bridge that spans the top of two mountain peaks, breathtaking scenery and an array of activities is what makes a visit to the Glacier memorable.
We did the dog sled activity and my 9 year old nephew, ‘in his honest opinion’, felt the experience did not live up to his expectations. (Such a funny character that one) Our overall experience on the Glacier was remarkable but jeepers was it cold.
The thing about being on a glacier is that the weather can change without any warning. When the sun begins to set and the wind starts to blow, its a whole other story. The type of cold that freezes your face and makes it feel slightly numb. By this stage, we had all started to lose our personalities.
3. Gstaad New Year’s Music Festival 2022/23 – an international classical music festival in Switzerland which took place in beautiful locations in the Pays-d’Enhaut and Saanenland regions.
We got to watch the Dreams music concert by Pretty Yende with Vanessa García. It’s always such a treat when you visit a country and get to watch a fellow South African doing remarkable things on a global stage. Pretty has a unique gift and amazing talent.
We were scheduled to visit the Iglu-Dorf, but due to some family members missing the brief on what to wear, it turned out to be a bad idea. As we arrived at Saanersloch Gondola base to take a Gondola to Iglu-Dorf that sits 2,000m above sea level, it became visibly obvious that some family members were not dressed warm enough.
The whole entire situation was awkwardly funny. We were ‘those people’ and yes we did stick out as a family. It was not our finest moment but funny as hell…a story we will forever tell…
The ride to the top of the mountain did not go to waste, we did manage to take some family pictures.
Where we ate
On the nights we went out as a family for dinner, we had a few delightful experiences and one that was a complete miss.
1. Cappuccino Grand Cafe – A chic, casual and cosmopolitan café, housed in a traditional chalet on the Promenade. A perfect spot for a cup of coffee or cocktail or a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner, the menu has a variety of options. I had one of the best Almond Matcha Lattes.
Only criticism is that the service is at a snail pace – staff have different functions and this causes confusion when you need to place an order. This also leads to unnecessary delays from when you order to when you receive your drinks and food.
2. LEONARD’s at Le Grand Bellevue Hotel was by far our best dining experience, great ambience and attentive service.
Some menu items have a 30 minute preparation time, but they were all worth the wait. The Le Grand Spaghettone and the Whole Roasted Chicken “Le Patte Noire” from Gruyères, were the winning meal.
The spaghetti was al dente and one of the best tomato base pastas I’ve eaten. I believe the chicken was also cooked to perfection and beautifully plated, a hit with the meat eaters. It’s not often we ALL have a great food experience.
3. Chubut – An Argentinian restaurant at the Park Gstaad hotel. For meat lovers, this place has amazing options. Sadly for Vegetarians, the limited selection available was not the best. But overall great dining experience for the family.
4. Bar Park Gstaad – a cozy bar that also has live entertainment. The menu is substantial with something for everyone. We had a lovely dinner and lunch at the bar. Their sushi was lovely.
5. The Lobby Bar at Gstaad Palace is an elegantly decorated Lobby bar. It has gorgeous views of the mountain. The food was a bit of a disappointment, my lentil salad was blend and missing flavours. I believe the chicken salad ordered by my sister was also not the best. The lobby has a vibe to it with very interesting characters.
Where we stayed
Park Gstaad is situated right in the heart of Gstaad, close to the famous town Promenade. The hotel enjoys uninterrupted views over the majestic mountains of the Swiss Alps.
The hotel offers chalet style cosy rooms with a modern touches. All rooms have balconies – half facing the mountains and half the forest and are suitable for families, couples and solo travellers.
The hotel has several restaurants and bars:-
a. Avenue Montagne and Lounge – Delivers contemporary cuisine in a cozy and contemporary setting.
b. Chubut Food & Fire – the Argentinian restaurant that ‘delicately seasoned meats and deliciously fragrant spices’
c. Bar – a cozy bar that offers the finest sushi and live entertainment.
d. Chalet Waldhuus – a cozy wooden chalet with delicious local specialties, a wide selection of fondues and raclettes are available.
e. The Cigar Lounge offers the finest Cuban cigars and cognacs.
f. The Caveau offers fresh oysters, caviar and champagne, alongside an extensive cocktail menu.
Plenty of options for everyone.
The hotel has a fitness centre and spa that offers an array of treatments. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi area, sauna, steam room.
Park Gstaad is also home to its very own indoor golf simulator and a games room for kids.
The staff at the hotel are attentive, helpful and really warm people.
What I love about being in Gstaad is the natural beauty. While roaming through the town one feels like they are on a set of a holiday movie.
Being back here was magical, the snow eventually fell but sadly it was on our last day.
A Splendid Experience!