Bernese Oberland for Gourmands

Jan 6th, 2006, 03:51 AM
  #41  
 
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Hi. I can vouch for the possible "wrong hotel" comment from LLC. I posted a review of a tiny hotel in Ticino with tripadvisor, and their system posted it as a different hotel of the same name in a different town.

Looks like you've narrowed down your search to the area around Gstaad, Saanen, Chateau d'Oex. Great choice. (Though I confess that I have not had the pleasure of visiting the Engadin yet.) I do think that if this is your first visit to Switzerland, then you've selected an area that will match your expectations, as will the lakes and mountains of the Oberland. J.
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Jan 7th, 2006, 04:39 PM
  #42  
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Thanks again everyone for your comments-the Fodor's travel board is an excellent resource. I really enjoy researching trips and am getting lots of invaluable help.
Swandav-thanks so much for telling me about myswitzerland reviews- what about the comments on "kinder" running around after 11p at the Steigenberger? I love kids but now that mine are older, not sure if I want to be inundated with screaming herds of little ones

Ingo- whenever you get some spare moments, would you mind posting a review of the Waldhaus in Sils-Maria, Hotel Margna in Sils-Baselgia, Meissner in Guarda and the town of Celerina? Both Charming Small Hotel Guide and Good Hotel Guide 2005 love the Chesa Rosatsch in Celerina.
The old folks seem to love the Waldhaus but there were some negative comments on myswitzerland by younger guests who thought it was too formal and uptight.
We don't want to dress for dinner especially if we're going to both chilly (mtns) and warm locations (Maggiore)- too much clothing to haul around.
If you don't have time to do a thorough review of each could you just summarize what you liked best and least?
Am I reading correctly that there's a bus station adjacent to Margna? That does not sound ideal.
There are some easy hikes that would be perfect for us that leave from Sils-Maria.
LLC and JMW- I agree tripadvisor occasionally makes location mistakes because I've found mistakes for Europe and the US and asked them to correct to no avail.
If anyone other than Ingo is familiar with these Engadine hotels, I welcome your input. Thank you Fodorites!
calville is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 03:36 AM
  #43  
 
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Hi Again,

Well, I went through some of the reviews again, and I would imagine that bad one who heard the kids at 23.00 had bad luck and got put next to a rowdy bunch. Maybe I'm just so pleased with the hotel that I'm a bit blind -- ?? Maybe you'd be happier at Grand Chalet.

I do have to ask -- what do you mean by saying you don't want to dress for dinner? You don't have to wear a cocktail dress, but you really should consider taking some nice pants. That's part of the experience of a gourmet restaurant, no? Would you be comfortable being the only person in jeans in a nice restaurant?

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Jan 8th, 2006, 08:02 AM
  #44  
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Swandav- we'll definitely bring some dress pants. I've been reading about how chic the Locarno area is with very wealthy Europeans vacationing there (in addition to celebrity filled Gstaad).
We want to look presentable of course but I don't want to pack lots of clothes and worry about our appearance.

Also, categorizing ourselves as gourmets/gourmands was probably wrong since what we really like to eat is a variety of good foods-especially ethnic- all types of Asian for example. I can happily eat any cuisine for 4-5 nights but 10 nights of German cuisine in the past was too much.
Big cities have a lot of dining options but smaller areas are often more limited.
Gstaad sounds perfect for us though- thanks so much for the recommendation!

Have you reviewed any Gstaad restaurants?
Other than the big hill you had to hike up to get to Le Grand Chalet, was there anything else you didn't care for? I see a hot air balloon tour stays at Le Grand. It looks wonderful in photos- I also like the cozy room decor.
The Relais and Chateaux people claim Alpenrose only has double beds (one queen?) available for our dates so I'm waiting to hear back from the hotel itself.
I think we need two twins pushed together to make sure we have enough room. There seem to be many good hotel options in the Gstaad area so I'm not too worried.
Thanks again for all your help.
calville is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 05:56 PM
  #45  
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BYOTamiflu?
Switzerland should be awash in Tamiflu since Roche is based there or should travelers bring their own?
Are free range chickens popular among farmers? I remember reading a wild article in the Wall St Journal a few yrs ago about the new laws in Germany requiring humane animal practices- no vast hen houses, try to pet your cows etc.
During the SARS outbreak I asked insuremytrip.com if insurance would cover SARS and was told no!
calville is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 06:24 PM
  #46  
 
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Calville,
You said in an earlier post that you would like to see cows at least once on your trip. We stayed at a very simple Best Western in eastern Interlaken (by the train station on the east end of the town) and we heard the Swiss cows on the hillside across the stream every morning! It was absolutely delightful!!! They were wearing the bells, and they jingled when the cows moved. We loved it!!!

It isn't the gourmand's or gourmet's delight, but it was certainly one of the most charming places we're tried in our several dozen trips, or more, to Switzerland. You won't hear the cows in Gstaad.
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Jan 11th, 2006, 06:30 PM
  #47  
 
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It depends where you are in Gstaad, you would be surprised where you can hear cowbells in Switzerland. . .I know placesi in Zurich where you can hear them. . . .
Cicerone is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 07:28 PM
  #48  
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Thank you Simpson for the tip since cows are important. I've been reading old posts and thought people prefer Lucerne over Interlaken? Did you like the Interlaken area?
Cicerone- if we go to Gstaad where should we stay? Are you familiar with the hotel Hornberg in Saanenmoser? It is part of the Silent Hotels chain and also recommended in Good Hotel Guides.
I also think the Steigenberger, Grand Chalet and Alpenrose sound good.
I'm still undecided on our itinerary- currently thinking:
3-4 nights Sils Maria
3-4 nights Gstaad area
2-3 nights Ascona, Ronco or Lugano Castagnola
2 nights in Wengen
You seem to favor Saas Fee which also sounds spectacular. Is it a mistake skipping Zermatt and Saas Fee?
How would you break down 10-14 nights in Switzerland for a first time visitor? We prefer smaller, rural locations or possibly a few nights in Lucerne or Zurich near the airport (or should we fly into Milan?)

I'm also intrigued with a June 11, 1989 NY Times article "Where the Swiss take a Break." "Berghotels -alpine guesthouses are a national institution beloved by the Swiss; they can afford the American visitor a chance to catch an intimate glimpse, almost a family view of the Swiss at their most relaxed and joyful. The inns bear no resemblance to Am country inns..many can only be reached on foot, few have hot water or showers...farmers often drop into the hotel for a convivial evening.." etc etc
A night or two at a Berghotel instead of Wengen might be fun.
We prefer not to move around too much.
Cicerone and others- please weigh in on your top 3-4 Swiss bases! Thank you!
calville is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 09:28 PM
  #49  
 
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Calville, you started your original post started because you wanted to avoid having heavy German food for your stay, so someone pointed your toward Gstaad because it is a more expensive resort and they though you (might) find lighter food there.

IMO you are indeed missing some beautiful areas, i.e. Lake Geneva and Zermatt and by thinking that you have to stay in Gstaad because you think you will only find heavy German food in some mountain areas. To me, to pick Gstaad over Zermatt (and with only 2 days in the Interlaken area) is a mistake as Gstaad does not have the beauty or the wow factor of Zermatt or Wengen. It is of course Switzerland so it is beautiful, scenic, green, organized, etc, but would not be at the top 3-4 of my list for a first visit to Switzerland unless it were in winter for skiing and even then it would only be maybe number 4. You need to decide which is more important to you: scenery or the risk that you might be faced with veal Zurich for dinner one night....finally, if you want to do the alp hut thing, believe me you WILL most likely find rosti and cheese for dinner and some cold cuts and sausages for breakfast. You need to make some choices. You may also find the experience much more rustic than you think, even though the article already noted the no hot water bit, they may not have noted that you may be sharing one large bedroom as well, bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper. . . .

In Saas Fee, if you stay at the Fletshchorn Hotel you will NOT be having heavy German food. In the first place, you are in the Valais, which is French influenced, and in the second, the hotel does not typically serve that type of cuisine anyway. In Zermatt, the choice of restaurants in huge, including very good Thai and other Asian restaurants.

You are also missing the Lake Geneva area, which for a foodie, is really where the action is in Switzerland. That is where most of the Michelen starred restaurants are located. It is also spectacularly beautiful, and June is a perfect month there (as it is is most of Swizterland). I would easily give up Gstaad for 3-4 days in Vevey in a heartbeat (in fact I would get on a plane now from Hong Kong to go to Vevey but not to go to Gstaad).

Personally I would pick Guarda over Sila Maria as I think that part of the Engdine valley is more dramatic and of course Guarda is IMO the most beautiful village in Switzerland, but that is really a personal choice.

You may be over thinking yourself a bit. IMO you should pick the PLACES you are interested in, as in my experience you will find good food (and not all heavy German choices exclusively, lots of Swiss are vegetarians too) in all regions. I have wanted to say this all along, but have kept silent as you seemed to be happy with Gstaad and the advice you were getting.

Just a final note to address some of your questions, the Interlaken area is beautiful, however the town of Interlaken itself is no great shakes. I don't see any point in flying into Milan, as all this would do is add a 4 hour train journey to your trip to get you up into Switzerland; I guess if you did the Ascona area first you might fly into Milan, but I don't really know how convenient that is, there may only be bus service. You might look into flying into Zurich and out of Milan, as you could do Ascona last and maybe get down to Milan airport easily, I don't have any personal experinece with this. Also, Zurich is a very nice little town, and has a dozens of excellent restaurants that are not German-based, including vegetarian options.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 05:47 AM
  #50  
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Thanks so much Cicerone for your remarks. You are right that I am confused. I'm in charge of planning a trip for two couples and I'm having a very hard time making up my mind.

Vevey sounds lovely- do you prefer it over Lake Maggiore? Or, we could do both! Please suggest an itinerary for us for 14 nights without being on the move too much.
Everyone seems to think the Bernese Oberland is one of the most beautiful areas so that is the reason I gravitated toward it. Gstaad looks beautiful in Swandav's photos but I'd love to hear your top four bases.

Scenery does take precedence over food.
I would also like to find perfect hotels to accompany the views.

We adored the quiet village of Asolo in Italy and the Albergo al Sole. It was just as described in the Good Hotel Guide "relaxed but attention to detail is paramount."

Where do you like to stay in Guarda?
A relaxed, clean hotel in a beautiful setting is all we require.
I get sick of eating out after about four nights so our hotels don't have to be gourmet temples although the Italian two Michelin starred Hotel Sole in Ranco, Lake Maggiore sounds terrific.

Or instead of Maggiore we could consider a few days at Lake Como or Garda.

You must be eating very well in Hong Kong! I'm envious!!
I'm eagerly awaiting your recommendations Cicerone.
calville is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 06:02 AM
  #51  
 
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Calville,

your itinerary has changed a bit since I had a look at this thread last time.

Just some quick notes:

I'd prefer Sils over Guarda anytime. Guarda is fantastic for a day trip, but it is TINY. Not good for a longer stay. Also, I personally think the scenery around Sils is much more spectacular (lakes, mountains, glaciers).

I personally did not like Saas Fee very much. The mountains were VERY high, steep, towering above the village, almost threatening. The valley is quite deep and it is mostly rocks, dramatic and not lovely like in Gstaad. I found the food in Saas Fee to be heavy and very much German-like. I will admit I did not eat at the Fletschhorn.

Yes, you'll miss Lake Geneva which is one favourite of mine too. But you cannot cover ALL of Switzerland with only two weeks.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 06:12 AM
  #52  
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Thanks so much for your comments Ingo. I love getting lots of opinions and also like to hear pros and cons which helps to narrow things down.

I've noticed you also stayed at Hotel Fex and Margna but Waldhaus is all around better?
How do you like the Gstaad area?

What would be your top three to four bases and would you include a trip to one of the lakes?
Thank you Ingo!!
calville is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 06:24 AM
  #53  
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PS Ingo- thanks for being a good sport about my German food criticisms.
Everything my Oma used to cook was delicious.
calville is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:25 AM
  #54  
 
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tagging for future reading
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Jan 12th, 2006, 02:12 PM
  #55  
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Regarding airfares to Zurich- there aren't ever any sales for travel during the month of June are there? (except maybe departing from NYC).

I'm finding fares in the $1100-1300 range which is part of the reason we decided to extend our trip since it will be costing so much just to get there.

I know there are often big European sales at the end of Feb but am I correct that it's unlikely to see price reductions for June?
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Jan 13th, 2006, 03:53 AM
  #56  
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"Where Heidi Lives" NY Times Apr 5, 1987:

"The locations scouts for the 1978 remake of the film classic Heidi had a hard time finding a remote Alpine hamlet embodying Dorfli, Heidi's little village. After visiting dozens of sites, they finally discovered exactly what they were looking for: Grevasalvas, a rough farming village tucked away in the Alps...Perched at a height of nearly 6,000 ft...and overlooking the Lake of Sils...In late June and early July the Alpine spring, this is truly Heidi country of the eimagination..although only 6 mi SW of St. Moritz... has not succumbed to condo blight...The atmosphere of the (Hotel)Waldhaus reflects the Swiss talent for enjoying luxury against a backdrop of unspoiled nature. Returning each evening from long walks through Heidi's Alpine wilds, it was a pleasure to be pampered in style."

It sounds fabulous doesn't it? I wonder why Ingo is the only Engadine champion around here.

Ingo, did you ever dine at "Pension Murtarol in Plaun-da-Lej on the Lake of Sils and a favorite stopping place for trout fishermen"?
How about Pension Privat in Sils-Maria?.."the chef specializes in Romansch cooking with pastas and cream sauces."
"On the Lake of Sils, early mornings are usually calm- well suited for trout fishing. Windsurfing conditions peak in the afternoon when a brisk breeze, locally referred to as the Malojawind, travels down to the lake from the mtns."
I've seen several references lately to the wind-I hope it doesn't make hiking unpleasant. It would be great in hot weather.
Ingo- where should we base in the Bernese Oberland? Do you like the Gstaad area? Please give me a 12-13 night itinerary.
Cicerone, I can't wait to hear your Dream Itinerary. Thank you Fodorites!!
calville is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 04:51 AM
  #57  
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Waldhaus prices for 2 people incl taxes, service charge and VAT vary from:

US $215/CHF352 small rm, no view, only breakfast to
US $512 best twin rooms with view and half board.
Junior suites range from US $422-550 depending on options/board.
calville is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 05:34 AM
  #58  
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http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...%2fSwitzerland

Here is the Heidi article URL. Older articles are available free of charge.
calville is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 05:42 AM
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Hi calville,

In response to "wonder why Ingo is the only Engadine champion around here."

It has been said that the Berner Oberland doesn't have the best mountains, just the best PR!! Everyone can find a corner of Switzerland to love. The good part is that you can't go wrong -- it's pretty much all good.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Jan 13th, 2006, 06:28 AM
  #60  
 
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Swandav: Couldn't have said it better!
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