I’m sure I won’t be the first to admit that I usually find the journey from airport tarmac to alpine vista fairly arduous. As your friend in high places, I’m here to be honest with you and find your perfect luxury chalet holiday. Zermatt can sometimes be dismissed, based on the three-hour plus transfer to resort. However, I am delighted to say that my recent trip to Zermatt has changed my perception and I hope you can trust me on this. Take the short walk from baggage reclaim to your seat on the InterRegio train from Geneva (or Zurich). Maybe aided by Swiss punctuality and friendliness, it really could not have been a smoother welcome to Switzerland.
From Geneva airport you are whisked past Lake Geneva, with tantalizing glimpses of the mountains to come. You change at Visp but it was incredibly easy and the best is yet to come. Climb aboard the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn and watch the mountain peaks loom above you as you climb the 1000m up to Zermatt. I can only begin to imagine how magical it would look in winter.
From the train station in Zermatt, you are just five minutes in an electric taxi from Petite Village and Chalet Grace. Before I knew it, my shoes had been replaced with slippers and I was on the terrace with a glass of Perrier Jouët. Zermatt lay out in front of me and the Matterhorn put on its best performance - cloud free and with the afternoon sun dancing off of its peak.
A banquet of afternoon tea was served on the coffee table in front of the fireplace, in all of the living area’s vaulted 500m2 glory. A platter of exotic fruits, a choice of sweet or savory tarts and a selection of the finest teas, all perfectly framed by the floor to ceiling windows. Grace’s pastel beams and pale cream walls set the perfect stage for an uninterrupted view of the Matterhorn. It was safe to say my afternoon tea and I weren’t going anywhere.
Chalet Grace has this charm where you instantly feel like you’ve arrived home even though you are staying in one of the Alps’ finest luxurious chalets. I felt a sense of calm and of letting go as soon as I stepped inside.
A walk around Petite Village and the sound of canapés and another glass of bubbles made sure there was room for a mind-blowing supper.
After canapés of delicate caviar and smoked trout bruschetta, I could hear the candle lit dinning table gently calling my name. I might have let out a little squeal of excitement when we were asked to move to the dining room. Smoked salmon mince with strawberry pickle and a lavender jelly, halibut with a dramatic green pea puree, melt in the mouth slow cooked beef, a martini glass of vivid watermelon and mint gazpacho and the creamiest of strawberry panna cottas. Could I just go back to the amuse bouche and repeat that meal again please? Sensations blown, sinking into the sofa with a slice of cheese and glass of port seemed the only polite way to continue from such a meal.
When you’re staying somewhere as outstanding as Chalet Grace, knowing you have to call it a night is actually rather appealing. I knew that my en suite bedroom with super king sized bed was waiting. Forgetting about the turndown service, my room caught my breath when I walked back in. Lighting dimmed, duvet folded back, throws neatly at the foot of the bed, curtains drawn and a little scroll with “a brief history of Zermatt” laid next to a sprig of lavender. It’s those little touches that just make you happy. Needless to say, I don’t remember falling asleep.
Waking up is not a chore when you know that behind the curtains, is your own private viewing of sunrise over the Matterhorn. The air might have been crisp at that time of morning but standing under the rain shower with the window open was a must. You just can’t help needing to have another glimpse of that view.
Going by yesterday’s afternoon tea and supper, I had to try my hardest not to bound up the stairs to breakfast but rather act professionally and sweep slightly more gracefully upstairs. Amy knew a cup of tea was the first order of the day and she was there, subtly poised asking what she could get me. Now, all thoughts of trying to remain calm and dignified slightly went out of the window (the same one where you can view the Matterhorn from) when I saw the treats that were laid out on the breakfast table. Swirls, rounds and hunks of cheese, bowls bursting with berries, slates of salmon and cold charcuterie and baskets of pastries. That was before the option of pancakes came into the equation and how would I like my eggs. I have two tips for you to start your day. Firstly, don’t even try to resist temptation, you know you want to try everything on the table. Secondly, sit on the far side of the dining table because there is a triangular window above you, where you dine under the gaze of the Matterhorn.
Whether you are going for ski boots or hiking boots, I would recommend one last cup of tea and then head for the Matterhorn Glacier. We made the stunning journey to Klein Matterhorn via Furi, Schwarzee and Trockener Steg. With bated breath, we emerged to 360o views of glaciers, mountain peaks and vast ice fields. The journey up to Klein Matterhorn is beyond worth it. In winter, warm yourself up with a rum hot chocolate on the way back done. I know it’s summer but sometimes you just have to try these things to be able to recommend them.
Coming back down, we rested for lunch at Zum See. For over 30 years the family behind this beautiful mountain restaurant have offered the freshest traditional cuisine. It’s the perfect place to refuel on rosti, mouth-watering pasta dishes and when I was there, a menu of venison specialties. The dessert menu was very tempting but I did have to remind myself that afternoon tea was waiting.
On returning home the mood had been created with soft music, flickering candles and indeed afternoon tea was there for us. As with everything at Chalet Grace, nothing is too much for the staff. Their attention to detail in the most subtle unobtrusive ways are what make you feel so relaxed and at ease.
The only appropriate way to continue after fresh glacier air interspersed with tasting my way through the day, was to head down to the large glass fronted wellness area. The rest of the afternoon just naturally flowed and from the sauna I found myself face down in the massage room, trying to beat off heavy eyelids whilst my shoulders and the backs of my legs were given some much needed TLC. I probably would have felt a little more like I had deserved that incredible massage (and the quantity of cake beforehand) if I had spent the day skiing. However, regardless of skiing or no skiing, it was a given that the hot tub on the terrace needed to be tested. With commanding views across Zermatt and to the Matterhorn beyond, it was hard to tear myself away. However, rumour was spreading that a band was playing at tonight’s BBQ on the terrace.
Dusk was falling onto Zermatt and Chalet Grace was at her finest. The terrace was softly lit with flickering candles, sheepskin rugs adorned the outdoor furniture and Grace’s vaulted ceiling was illuminated in a manner that reflected her status in Petite Village. A band was indeed playing as trays of champagne and canapés of scallops were offered around, all as the moon rose next to the silhouette of the Matterhorn.
As the evening mountain air chilled, I found myself snuggled under a throw, feet tucked up under me, glass of champagne in hand with Spencer serenading us. Looking out across the valley, all I could think was that this is how you find complete and utter peace.