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Hotel des Bergues.

Hotel des Bergues

"Happy is he who can stay long bythese shores,' Lord Byron wrote of Geneva. Today, happy is he who stays for even a few nights at the most aristocratic of Geneva's luxury hotels, the Hotel des Bergues.

Why here, rather than atone of the 15 other five-star hotels in this most international of cities? Because to sign in at the Hotel des Bergues (now a Swiss historic monument) is to join an impressive clientele that dates back more than 150 years.

The hotel's "GoldenBook' reads like a royal register: Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, Empresses Victoria of Germany and Maria of Russia, even Emma, Queen of Hawaii (to name a few), have tucked themselves contentedly between the Bergues's exclusively lines sheets.

And those fortunate to have front-facingsuites at the Bergues are treated to one of Europe's noblest views: on the right, Geneva's Old Town, the Vieille Ville, rises from the banks of the Rhone River to the pinnacle of the 12th-century Cathedral of Saint Peter; on the left, the Jet d'Eau, the world's tallest geyser, sends a plume of shimmering water 478 feet above the blue mirror of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), and in between, on clear days, the highest peak of the Savoy Alps, Mt. Blanc, glistens on the horizon.

Reto Grass (of TrusthouseForte, the Bergues' management company), only the 12th general manager of the hotel since 1834 (the first had been a captain under Napoleon), strives to retain the Bergues' Belle Epoque traditions --linen bedding, for example. It's not very serviceable, but it's oh-so-nice, and the Bergues simply won't shortsheet its modern "aristocrats,' even at the cost of astronomical laundry bills. And fresh air! Only grudgingly has air conditioning been installed in some rooms that face the busy quay, "mainly to keep out the noise,' Grass explains. Other rooms are kept cool by a water-flow system helped out occasionally by good old-fashioned open windows.

Pampering epicureantastebuds is one Hotel des Bergues tradition that continues unhindered in the hotel's Amphitryon restaurant, where guests may choose from such delicacies as "clear duck soup with beet root juice and sour cream,' "terrine of fresh duck liver,' or "marinated crab claws with soya beans and pink grapefruit quarters.' And that's just for starters.

Those concerned about theprice should probably not be staying at the Bergues in the first place. As the owners admit in their sesquicentennial book, "The hotel was never exactly cheap.'

But also consider in the price allyou could do within walking distance of the Hotel des Bergues that costs next to nothing: strolling and sniffing your way through the Roseraie at the Parc La Grange, one of the world's most exquisite rose gardens. Or lunching alfresco on a rich Swiss fondue in the shadow of Geneva's oldest house, circa 12th century. Or descending to inspect Roman mosaic floors only recently uncovered beneath the old cathedral. Or taking a lake cruise past the homes of Byron and Shelley, the castles of the Duke of Savoy and Baron M. de Rothschild, and the villa of Empress Josephine, and much more. You'll discover how right the poet was-- staying by these shores can indeed be a pleasant experience.

Photo: Some topflight Genevan chefs can be found atthe Bergues' haute cuisine restaurants, the Pavillion and the Amphitryon.

Photo: Situated by the shores of Lake Geneva, the Hotel desBergues features rooms with a spectacular view of Geneva's Old Town, the Rhone River, and the distant Savoy Alps.

Photo: In summer, Swiss culture is in full flower at theRoseraie, a brisk 15-minute walk from the Quai des Bergues.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Geneva
Author:Kreitner, Ted
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Hotel Review
Date:Mar 1, 1987
Words:596
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