Bernese Oberland for Gourmands

Dec 18th, 2005, 09:52 AM
  #1  
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Bernese Oberland for Gourmands

Two couples planning a June trip to Switzerland need help deciding on a base for exploring the Bernese Oberland. Murren and Wengen sound beautiful but four nights of meaty dishes might be too much for the vegetarian/fish-only members of our group.

Can anyone recommend a beautiful, small town with excellent dining? Specific hotel?

Also, where should we go for the second part of our trip?
We only want to stay in two locations over 8 nights and have considered the Italian lakes for the second part of our trip because of beauty and better food.
Eight nights of Swiss/Germanic heavy food might be too much.

We will want to split up some during the day so proximity to a town or transportation is essential as we'll only have one car (if that).

None of us have been to Switzerland.

Asolo, Italy was a perfect spot for all of us a few yrs ago if that helps describe our tastes.

We'd prefer not to exceed around US $250-350/night for lodging.

Thank you for any help you can offer!!
calville is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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Hi calville,

Well the town of Gstaad is tailor-made for your gourmet requirements! Though it's small, hosting celebrities and Beautiful People for 50 years has made it an upscale paradise. The local grocery shops are gourmet delights, and local boutiques carry international designers. I ate in two highly-ranked Gault Millau restaurants there and was really floored. There are more GM restaurants there --

The catch is that Gstaad lies at the extreme western edge of the Berner Oberland, where it borders the French-influenced Pays d'Enhaut. It'll take about two hours, for instance, to get to Interlaken from Gstaad.

The town's website is www.gstaad.ch. Here are links to two albums with photos from the area:

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/swanda.../ph//my_photos

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/swanda.../ph//my_photos

Sorry, I can't help much with the Ticino portion of your trip. Do a text search here for Locarno or Lugano to see what other have said --

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Dec 18th, 2005, 11:02 AM
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Thanks so much Swandav- you're a great photographer and I enjoyed your reviews on tripadvisor- particularly the Steigenburger Hotel.
Would that be a better choice than the Alpenrose Hotel which is a little further out in Schonried/Gstaad?
Does everyone else agree on Gstaad for us? There aren't lots of monolithic ski hotels in the town are there?
How does Gstaad differ from St Moritz?

Any suggestions for a gourmand Part Two of our trip- either Swiss Italy, French Switzerland or Italy itself?
We'd like a change of scenery and food.

We're also considering an additional side trip to an old favorite- Eisenberg/Zell outside of Fussen, Germany but I have a fear of too many boiled potatoes and overcooked white asparagus.
calville is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 11:17 AM
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Hostellerie Alpenrose in Schoenried just outside of Gstaad would be perfect. I would stay there rather than in Gstaad. The rooms are beautiful and have lovely balconies off of most rooms. There is also an outdoor dining area with wonderful views, in June it would be a wonderful spot for both breakfast and dinner. The chef/owner and his family are delightful. The food was the best we've had in several trips to Switzerland.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 11:23 AM
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Thanks so much LLC- you wrote as I was composing my response.
I may have also read your tripadvisor review of the Alpenrose- also sounds fantastic.
Why would you stay outside of Gstaad? Is it too big, unattractive?
Did you happen to get a look at the Stiegenburger Hotel?
We really do prefer quiet, rural locations but if the couples want to split up and go into town with only one car how would get there?
Does the Alpenrose have a van into town?
calville is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 12:16 PM
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The Alpenrose is much smaller than the Steigenburger. Maybe ten rooms compared to 100+ at the Steigenburger. That's what we liked so much about it. Being outside of Gstaad,peaceful and quiet in a beautiful setting. We drove around the surrounding area, Rougemont, Saanen, etc. very quaint rustic architecture. Gstaad is nice, but much busier. There is a rail station nearby , I suppose you could take a train into Gstaad, not sure how often they go. By the way, the post on tripadvisor is not mine, I have been meaning to post a review there but haven't done it yet.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 01:03 PM
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calville: you may want to refer to your group as "gourmets" rather than "gourmands". Gourmands are gluttonous people - not a complimentary term - I'm sure that's not your intention.
waggis is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 03:10 PM
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LOL Waggis- we sometimes do pig out but according to the dictionary (American Heritage) definition #1 is a "lover of good food" #2 is "a gluttonous eater."

LLC- thank for additional info- do you recall if breakfast was included in the room rate at the Alpenrose?

Is French the predominant language in Gstaad? Is that also why the food is better?

Could we go to Wengen/Murren on a day trip or would that be too ambitious?

Are others enthusiastic about the Gstaad area as a base?

Anyone really dislike Gstaad? It sounds beautiful in the Karen Brown Guide and looks gorgeous in Swandav's photos.

Swandav- what's your opinion on staying out of town?
calville is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 07:35 PM
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The town of Gstaad has an extremely charming and what you probably would consider typically "Swiss" center, cobblestone streets lined with wooden chalets with window boxes and geraniums. Lots of high-end shopping here as well. The downtown area of Gstaad is very small and not particularly noisy at night, there is no reason to stay outside of town, IMO, my guess is that the posters above prefer particular hotels and being in the actual countryside, as you can access walks from here and it is nice to feel you are in the country. However, you might find it tedious getting into town each day to get to the train station or getting to restaurants at night if that is the focus of your trip rather than the countryside. You might prefer being in town. I don't think the Steigenberger is a great choice, it is one the main road into town and therefore could be noisy, but is not really in the country either. I think you should either be in town or be out in the valley.

St Moritz differs from Gstaad in that in St Mortiz the valley is much much bigger and wider, the mountains are higher, and there are lakes in the area. The town of St Moritz is also much larger and is built into a hillside, as opposed to Gstaad which is built on the valley floor.

If you have a car, a drive up to the top of Janupass is a great drive, if you have time you can go down the other side and into the Gruyere area for the day. You can also go through the valley and up to Château D'oex which is a lovely Alp town. You can also do a portion of the Golden Pass train, take a look at goldenpass.ch.

Swiss-German is the predominant language in the Gstaad valley. The food may be a bit better because the place caters to more well-heeled tourists than other resorts, with the exception of perhaps St Moritz. However, it is hard to find a bad meal in Switzerland IMO, and you will find fish and vegetarian options in many restaurants, but I would agree that it may be harder to find in mountain towns, albeit you can have fondue (again harder to find in summer but in mountain towns in June you can usually still find it). In Wengen, you should definitely take a look at the Hotel Caprice
which is known for its restaurant and which is one of my favourite hotels and restaurants anywhere. Go to http://www.caprice-wengen.ch. You might want to consider staying there and taking most dinners there. The Beausite Park hotel also in Wengen has a good restaurant as well. Go to http://www.parkwengen.ch

The Gstaad valley is quite pretty but does not in any way possess the wow factor of the Jungfrau valley, and does not have the beautiful lakes as you will find in the Interlaken valley. I would definitely make a day trip to the Jungfrau. If you have a car, you can get to the valley in about 1.5 hours, by train the trip will take about 2 hours. In June, it will be light early and stay light until quite late, so you can make an early start and even have dinner in Wengen (i.e. stay for sunset). It is a very easy drive over good roads.

I would definitely say you should consider the Lake Geneva area for the second half of your trip, specifically the Vevey area or other towns. The L'ermitage
hotel is very charming and has a great location on the lake and is known for its restaurant. Other hotels to consider would be:

Hotel des Trois Couronnes at http://www.hoteltroiscouronnes.ch
Le Mirador Kempinski, Lake Geneva

The list of good restaurants in this area is pretty endless, besides the L'ermitage, the Auberge du Raisin is wonderul.

Definitely also consider Saas Fee and staying at the fantastic Fletshchorn Hotel. Really, if you like good food, this is the place to go and stay. I dream of their cheese tray. . . . Take a look at http://www.fletschhorn.ch/english/hotel/hotel.html. You can day trip to Zermatt from here very easily, about an hour by car. The valley is beautiful, the little town is charming and well-off the US tourist path, there is good walking in Saas Fee and in the valley below, and the highest mountain in Switzerland, the Dom, looms over it. You could do 2-3 days here and then continue on to the Lake Geneva area or vice versa. (Don't know where you are flying into and out of.)

The St. Moritz area is another good choice, I particularly like the little town of Guarda, the towns of Celerina, Pontresina and are also nice. St Mortiz is perfectly fine as well, just not really that charming and can get crowded. You will probably find the most restaurants in St Moritz. You can do the wonderful Bernina Express train trip from most of these towns, take a look at rhb.ch.
Of course, what you really should do is get the Michelin guide and plan your trip around that. A day in Zurich for Peterman's then take it from there. . . .

The Italian Lakes are a good idea as well, I don't know if you mean Como in Italy or the Tocino region in Switzerland, either would be a fine choice.
Cicerone is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 08:18 PM
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calville: you'll have a very good chance to pig out while on vacation in Switzerland ;-) Enjoy!
waggis is offline  
Dec 18th, 2005, 10:59 PM
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I neglected to include some websites in my post:

L'emitage is http://www.ermitage-montreux.com
Le Mirador Kempinski is http://www.kempinski.com/en/index.htm
Auberge du Raisin at http://www.relaischateaux.com/raisin

The Auberge and L'emitage have one Michelin star. The Kempinski has restaurant is rated with 16 GM points.

Cicerone is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 02:47 AM
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Hi again,

I had to attend to some business yesterday so I didn't get back to this thread --

What I liked about the Steigenberger were the extremely personable and helpful staff (I was ill when I got there, and they opened up the kitchen to get me some soup & yogurt, then left me alone for 24 hours . . .) and the views from the hotel (which you can see from the photos). It's not terribly convenient to Gstaad -- the walk is about 40 minutes or you can take a bus or train. The hotel is actually in the town of Saanen.

I want to recommend another hotel, the Grand Chalet, where I stayed in Dec 2004. It sits on a hill above town, so it has that remote-country feeling, but it's so close you can walk to town in a few minutes (or take the hotel's van). This is a small hotel too.

I don't know if you found my reviews at Trip Advisor, so here they are:

Gstaad -- Grand Chalet
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...wiss_Alps.html

Saanen/Gstaad -- Steigenberger
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...wiss_Alps.html

I do think that getting to Wengen or Muerren from Gstaad will be too far; remember that it's about two hours just to get to Interlaken. But there really is a lot to do from Gstaad that should keep you busy. The train station in town had good connections to Lake Geneva, Gruyeres, Spiez, Thun, etc. There are smaller mountains nearby, like Eggli, or you can go to Gsteig and the glacier at Les Diablerets. You can check the train schedules & fares at www.rail.ch

In addition to taking train excursions, there are a myriad of walking and biking trails from Gstaad. The town's website will list them for you, with difficulty & duration & start/end points. You can get detailed maps from the tourist office, too, just e-mail them, and they'll put the maps in the mail.

I frequently visit Montreux, so to help you make that decision, here are links to my acitvity reviews at Trip Advisor:

Montreux old town
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...reux_Vaud.html

Lavaux
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...reux_Vaud.html

Promenade Fleuri
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...reux_Vaud.html

Morges
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...rges_Vaud.html

Gruyeres
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR..._Fribourg.html

Of course, I would go to the Lake Geneva area!!

Have fun!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Dec 19th, 2005, 03:03 AM
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Yes breakfast was included at the Alpenrose. I was quite a presentation with lots of breads, cheeses, fruits, and eggs,etc. to order. There is nothing wrong with being in Gstaad, we just think the Alpenrose is a great place with exquisite food. Being out of town did not bother us at all, it's just a short drive out. It is German speaking there, but just a short distance to French-speaking area. Maybe you could break it up and stay there 3 nights and one in Wengen or Murren. The views there are spectacular.
LLC is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 03:44 AM
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Wow!! Thank you thank you Fodorites for all the helpful information. I'll respond more fully later today.
calville is offline  
Dec 20th, 2005, 04:31 AM
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Cicerone- thanks so much for taking the time to post links and so much info.
Saas Fee and the Fletshchorn Hotel look breathtaking. I've been looking back at some older postings and see the remarks about the steep trails in Saas Fee.
One of our goals (in addition to eating lots of good food and seeing beautiful sights) is doing a little hiking. We're in our 50s and developing creaky knees so we've been thinking we'd better do Switzerland before our knees give out completely.
I'm having a lot of trouble narrowing down our choices in Switzerland because all of it sounds so appealing.
Our favorite part of Germany was outside of Fussen and had almost flat meadows with alpine flowers, dotted with little lakes and the snow covered Alps in the background.

If we go with Gstaad do you have a specific hotel in mind? If we had access to restaurants in town, the hotel's restaurant wouldn't have to be the very best.

Swandav- I've been enjoying your past postings. Do you find Gstaad more beautiful than the Engadine? I love the descriptions of its green rolling hills and dairy cows. Is the overall impression of the Engadine more gray because of the gray stone cottages? Is the elevation higher and less green than Gstaad area? I get the impression you are favoring Gstaad now- could you please elaborate on the reasons?

We saw the ads for Hotel Waldhaus in Sils Maria, Engadine in the New Yorker for many yrs and used to fantasize about it when our kids were little because of their "children's nursery."

The other couple we're traveling with live in Colo and have access to high mtns- they are the ones pushing for Switzerland because of Heidi fantasies I imagine Going to the very highest peaks in Switzerland is probably not a priority for them. I find the highest peaks in Colo kind of austere and too gray.

Gault Millau was mentioned in the past. I've only seen a German language edition of it for Switzerland. Is an English version available?

Star ratings of Swiss hotels- are these rated by the govt and fairly accurate or should they only be used very generally?

Martha Python- this cracked me up- I found a Fodor 1999 thread on overrated destinations:
"I think Switzerland is overrated--if you want to hike in a beautiful setting, hit the French or Italian Alps so you can get some decent food at the end of the day, rather than a blob of melted cheese in one of too-few guises."
Is Martha still with us??

I'm glad the rest of you are giving Swiss food a good endorsement because I have a fear it is similar to German food which I find monotonous and sickening after too many days.

LLC- have you also been to the Engadine and do you prefer Gstaad? Thanks for the additional info on the Alpenrose- it sounds fantastic- we might want to stay there rather than in town- still not sure.

When do we have to reserve hotels for a June stay? Right now?

Thanks everyone for all your help! Most appreciated!





calville is offline  
Dec 20th, 2005, 06:46 AM
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Hi Again,

I'll try to answer your questions --

As for comparing the Saanenland to the Engadin, of course, it can't be done. Two separate landscapes and advantages. The Engadin is more dramatic, in my opinion, with narrow valleys and towering peaks, and of course, the lakes around St. Moritz. The buildings are made of stone, yes, but there is colorful sgraffiti (an ancient art) on the outside of most. This is Ingo's favorite area, and Jan, who used to live in Luzern, favored the area as well. Jan and Ingo both comment especially on the cuisine there. Here's a link to another of my albums from my week in Zuoz:

http://community.webshots.com/album/79095617dhIGaT

And here's a link to Ingo's recent report (& photos) from the area:

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/229817/index.html

Now, as for Gstaad, in my opinion, it's more green. The elevation is definitely lower than the Engadin. And there's no accounting for taste --
I simply developed a preference for this area. For some reason, the green, rolling hills are calming to me. It's just a softer landscape, more lush. I also prefer the brown-wood chalets to the old stone houses (sorry, Ingo!). Again, no accounting for taste.

One big advantage to the Engadin is that it's pretty undiscovered by US tourists (outside of St Moritz); you won't find souvenir stores and the like.

I recommend you try to find some pictures of both areas and see which one just speaks to you. Do image searches at webshots.com and at google.com.

Good luck!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Dec 20th, 2005, 06:57 AM
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ps, forgot to post this link to some of hte walks available in Gstaad:

http://www.gstaad.ch/en/gs-sport/gs-...merwandern.htm

There are more pages describing mountain-biking trails, horse-back riding, and lots more.

About Gault-Millau, no I don't know if there is an English-language guide. I just peck around for restaurants and then see if they have any GM points. The one in the Grand Chalet hotel has 18 I think, and that's where I had the Christmas-Eve dinner that floored me. Another restaurant, the Chesery, has 17. You can find the GM & restaurant information on the gstaad.ch pages.

Have fun!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Dec 20th, 2005, 01:06 PM
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Will somebody explain to me the difference between a gourmand and a glutton?

A glutton pigs out at the Outback Steakhouse whereas a gourmand pigs out at the Ritz Carlton?
bob_brown is offline  
Dec 20th, 2005, 01:12 PM
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A glutton pigs out and a gormand samples and tastes.

Which is more beautiful; Gstaad or the Engadin? Yikes! Which of my daughters is prettier?

You will find posters here who's hearts are in each. You'll have to figure out which one holds your's. Otherwise Ingo and Swandav will have to mud wrestle.
Catbert is offline  
Dec 20th, 2005, 01:48 PM
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Because gourmand has two meanings, one of which is one who enjoys food in great quantities or even a gluttonous eater, I was most unsure of the difference.

I think one has to specifiy to be precise.
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