The Hotel, Lucerne, a groovy place in staid Switzerland

Sexy, that’s probably the best, albeit, a most unusual description for any hotel but it works for The Hotel in Lucerne Switzerland. Who would have thunk it? Here in this small conservative city with a population of about 60,000 and a history that dates back to 1178 ( but with a longer history), is one of the most ultra modern, ultra cool, hip hotel this side of Ian Schragger. The Hotel, which opened in 2000, is in a lush park area and has the feel of a resort yet it’s within walking distance of the famed covered wooden Chapel Bridge on Lake Lucerne, originally built in the 1300s, still Lucerne’s greatest tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the bridge and most of the original paintings under the roofing, from the 17th century, were destroyed in a fire in 1993. But the restoration and renovations are as close to reproducing the former beauty as possible.

The Hotel’s former persona, was an old town house but these days, the conversion is to a modern, timeless design. The designer Jean Nouvel, considered the French ‘star architect’ renowned in Europe, has accomplished an astonishing feat in this boutique hotel with only 25 rooms. Simplicity and elegance abound. Every table, chair, desk and bed has his hallmark since he designed all. The Hotel is also nearby another of Nouvel’s architectural triumph, the Lucerne Culture and Convention Centre.

Cross over the entrance threshold and Nouvel’s trademark is immediately noted with his warm toned wood and cold chrome steel. The interplay of these materials are fascinating since all vertical panels are made of wood representing nature and all horizontal panels are of stainless steel stating today’s technology.

Perhaps, it’s not until you get into one of the hotel rooms, each different, that the real creative imagination is obvious. Jean Nouvel’s favourite film scenes from 25 movies are featured on the ceilings. Two tall stainless steel turnable rectangles are closet space and units to hold TV, safe, mini bar and other necessities. The room sizzle with unexpected décor and colours. At night, the side tables when turned on, have a red hue.

As to be expected, the working area is utilized in the best way. Even the bathrooms are ‘sexy’, with mirrors above the square molded washbasins which gives way to a very clear view of the room’s own enclosed personal patio garden. Natural lighting works here as it does in the downstairs restaurant.Bam Bou,

The Hotel’s stylish restaurant, Bam Bou, was awarded Gault Millau status which is another great kudo for this property. The fusion meals, French and Asian cuisine, are a natural melding for this unique complex. Here too, the décor follows through- sleek with chrome and grey. But it’s the lighting that is so innovative with the brilliant use of tilted mirrors at the windows which reflect the natural light in this below ground level space.

The Hotel attracts the young, trendy, jet setters although, as it is with most haute hotels, no one is giving out names. But after visiting this high tech splendour of a building, top music mavens, pop stars, wannabees and inquisitive types, would choose to stop over here for a few days. Many probably appear on stage at the sleek Cultural Centre.

From the Frette towels, fine linens, amenities that haven’t been tested on animals, fax hook-up, portable computers, mobile phones and fax machines on request, data port connections for modems, two telephones with direct numbers, this is a hotel to insert in your Palm Pilot.

Other bonuses include its location in the heart of this ‘City of Lights’ (not Light, as Paris is known) as Lucerne is referred to. This moniker goes back to the first settlers who saw a light and built a chapel in honour of St. Niklaus, the patron saint of fishers and sailors

If there’s one thing to say about Lucerne, (once a fishing village) is that its picturesque location is famous as it sits among the foothills of the Alps, and lies at the end of Lake Lucerne which has been eternalized by poets and composers

Things to do
A ‘must’ is a visit to the Rosengart Collection which opened in 2002. It’s a private collection with two prime renowned artists, Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso but also includes works by Joan Miro, Modigliani, Cézanne, Matisse, Georges, Braque, Leger and Kandinsky. The 200 paintings are now permanently housed in an old Swiss National Bank building built in 1922, about 5 minutes walk from The Hotel. What makes this an easy visit, is that the paintings are hung in chronological order beginning with a series of representative works from the late 19th century. The walls are white, ceiling extremely high in these airy rooms. You’ll often see Angela Rosengart, the collector and founder, greeting visitors. She with her father, the art dealer Siegfried, collected these incredible canvases over many decades and became friendly with of the artists.

Admission CHF 14, senior citizens and students CHF 9

The Saturday Open Air Market is a visual delight with merchants who have taken hours to display and polish their produce. Also the craft area of the market has only top quality merchandise from interesting jewelry to hand made baby wear. Get there as early in the morning as you can and see the preparation that goes into making this one of the a most colourful event. And the merchants are friendly.

Located around the lake, on both sides.

The Baroque beauty of the Jesuit Church, built between 1666-1673, may look as though it’s built entirely from marble but in fact, a major feat was the stucco work which needed 10 polishing processes. The end result is faux marble of which you’ve never seen before. The altar resembles red marble and only when you touch it do you learn that, in fact, it’s stucco. Out of the 8 chapels there is only one that is Rococo while the others are Baroque. Truly a major architectural accomplishment.