Of Water and Ice – Hotel La Reserve, Geneva

Let’s face it – skiing is not for everyone! Well, it might just be when you’re young, but the older you get, the higher your chances get of acquiring more bumps and bruises and lesser skill.

Ice-skating, on the other hand, can be quite exhilarating too and is not half as difficult to master. So if you’re thinking of heading to Switzerland this winter and don’t quite make it to the top of the Alps (the Swiss Alps boast of many good ski resorts), remember there is always ice skating to the rescue. Surprisingly, I found my favourite place to ice-skate in Switzerland in a hotel. And not just any hotel – I’m talking about the grand dame of hotels in Geneva, La Reserve.

This hotel (or rather a resort, given its expanse) sits like an indulgent matriarch, occupying 10 acres of parkland, right on the banks of Lake Geneva, whisking its spiffy guests in its equally swish private Venetian boat across the lake to the heart of the city. Unfortunately, this complimentary boat service runs only through summer and spring.

As you walk in, the gentry give you the feel of being in Hollywood. The interiors, however, give you a different feeling altogether – African reserve. The dark tones, animal prints, life-size baby elephant statues and the quaint multicoloured acrylic birds perched on lights remind you of the hauntingly beautiful Dark Continent.

Back to the ice-skating, Winter Wonderland, as the name suggests, is open during winter (November to mid-March) and is Geneva’s largest private ice skating rink. Constructed over the outdoor pool, fur, crystal and huge heating lamps dominate this cozy indoor space. And in the middle of it all sits the gorgeous mass of white ice. Use of ice skates is complimentary and skating lessons can be booked in advance.

Guests travelling with children will be surprised (very pleasantly, though) to learn of La Petite Reserve (9 am – 6 pm), the kids’ club at the hotel. Stationed conveniently next to the spa, this childfriendly space is equipped with toys, games, puzzles and books as well as areas for little kids. A large outdoor playground, complete with swings and a tree house add to its undeniable appeal to those travelling with kids.

An outdoor pool remains open in the summer months and offers swimming and diving lessons for kids. The gorgeous spa pool, on the other hand, is open round the year. The hotels also houses two tennis courts with year-round tennis classes for children. During school holiday months, the hotel organizes summer camp for kids where they indulge in tennis classes, watersports and other activities.

Like the rest of the hotel, the rooms at La Reserve too are tastefully (I’m talking ‘Jacques Garcia tasteful’) done. The ground level rooms with garden access are definitely worth snagging for those travelling with children. The ultimate indulgence, however, comes in the form of the hotel’s lakefront villa. A private garden, wading pool, two bedrooms, dining room, kitchen and a helper’s room make this a totally different kind of family holiday!

Like everything else at this luxury hotel owned by Michel Reybier, nothing less than Michelin quality would be expected from La Reserve and there too, it does not disappoint. Its Chinese restaurant Le Tse Fung serves fantastic food and deservedly so is Switzerland’s first Michelin- starred Chinese restaurant. The Loti, with a gorgeous tree taking centre stage here, this restaurant is the place to go if you want to see how to cook with truffle – their truffle preparations are fantastic and the portions are more than generous. The spa at La Reserve, apart from being a temple of ultimate indulgence (expect nothing less than La Prairie products), is also the largest in Geneva (it is spread over a whopping 2,000-square-meters) and is definitely worth spending an afternoon at.

It is worth noting that though the hotel sits on the lake and is very accessible, it is not in the town centre but three miles from it. It is also a quick 2 miles from the international airport. But honestly, as you stare at the Alps in the distance, dip a toe into the cool lake and take in the woody smell of the trees around, really, whose counting?

More on luxury family-friendly holidays from our columnist Mandira Rai on www.withmandy.com

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