The Woodward in Geneva: This is how you live in what is probably the most expensive hotel in Switzerland
nafter the evening stroll along Lake Geneva, I stand in front of the hotel, admire the freshly blasted facade, take a few cell phone photos. The porter speaks to me and proudly explains his place of work: This is a brand new hotel in Geneva, he says, très beau, only a few rooms, very exquisite. Can he call me a taxi? No i live here. What, oh, pardon, pardon, Madame, may I show you to the hotel, do you have any other wishes?
Don’t, gracious. Because to be honest, I’m pretty happy right now. Which, admittedly, is really not difficult in this place. With a bit of a pandemic delay, The Woodward opened in September, located directly on Quai Wilson, and you can watch sailors and water skiers on the lake from every room. A new luxury address in a city that, with 13 five-star hotels, actually had enough comfortable accommodation to offer.
However, shortly after opening, The Woodward was already claiming its reputation as the city’s hotspot. This is due to a few superlatives that the hotel has to offer: the longest hotel pool in the city (21 meters), the tightest number of suites in the city (only 26), the most hyped chef in the city (Olivier Jean, protégé of the late French national chef Joël Robuchon) .
The exclusive nimbus is also fueled by rumors that it is the most expensive hotel in Switzerland – which is also due to the fact that. The responsible interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon does not describe the hotel as such, but as a “representative residence” – which is probably the more appropriate Description is when even the simplest room category is separated and the toilet lid lifts automatically when entering the white marble bathroom.
Now there are many hotels that are dying with the attributes bigger, more expensive, more noble and cherish their reputation. And no offense, but it is usually much more interesting who actually dismounts in such a place. Nun. There is the businessman traveling alone who never takes the Airpods out of his ears. There is the elderly lady who stacked Hermès bracelets like Wolfgang Petry once did his friendship bracelets. There is the couple, she in high heels, he in Gucci sneakers, the man who would love to know what they are talking about over dinner.
The hotel will definitely appeal to international guests. European families who need a temporary home when they hand over children to the Swiss boarding schools. Guests from Great Britain, the USA or the Middle East who make a stopover in Geneva on their journey to Courchevel in winter (the legendary Alpine Hotel L’Apogée there, like The Woodward, is part of the Oetker Collection). Swiss who are looking for a change from the old-established addresses on a city trip.
And then there are the “real” Genevans who make themselves comfortable in the garden restaurant Le Jardinier or in the Atelier Robuchon. Die ladies cliques, die rich boys, the understatement gangs. Olivier Jean is in charge of the restaurants and, he explains, the pressure of having to be the great gastronomic sensation in Geneva is overcome with short naps in the afternoon and ginseng tablets. The reward for the stress of the opening weeks: the restaurant tables have already been booked for months, in the studio with its iconic, dark red noughties interior and the very French Robuchon specialties (lobster, foie gras, veal fillet) you only have the chance to open at lunchtime a place. But after what seemed like endless months of the pandemic, Genevans are apparently so hot to go out that even on the brightest day in September they love to meet up in the Unteross restaurant for a five-course lunch.
That The Woodward will not only be a place that “locals” also like to visit becomes clear in the evening when an art gallery throws a party on the terrace. The hotel represents Geneva quality of life, which is characterized by more than by tourists who leave this city as soon as possible. And especially now that fast business trips have lost their meaning anyway (what is Zoom for?), The people of Geneva are unexpectedly relaxed and cheerful. In the morning they go jogging around the lake, but at noon they get their first glass of rosé. People are queuing in front of Rolex and Chanel. In the evening it is the greatest pleasure to have got hold of a table in the hippest restaurant in town. Raise your cups, you only live once.
Actually, it is exactly what many city hotels with big names want to achieve: that the locals also feel connected to “their” hotel. Maybe it’s just the allure of the new immediately forgiven after opening. There is only one overnight stay in a hotel for the full one experienceUnfortunately, it costs from 1000 euros upwards (including the airport transport, the filling of the pantry kitchen and a cupboard from which the employees pick up ironing clothes in the hallway and hang back smoothly and neatly as if by magic – at least).
When a hotel is opened with so much fuss, you naturally ask yourself: What does that mean now? What do you learn from this about the likes of a travel clientele who have already seen and participated in everything? Isn’t so much luxury contrary to the zeitgeist trend of wanting to somehow democratize every life experience, to make it “accessible”?
In the evening I sit at the bar with a bespoke cocktail and think about these questions. I can’t find any answers, just a simple thought that it’s probably just deeply human to enjoy life when the chance presents itself, ideally together with loved ones. And that it is wonderful and terribly easy at the same time to increase your personal enjoyment level.
The drink that was prepared for me according to my wishes (a little fruity, a little bitter, not too heavy) tastes exactly the way I feel as a guest at The Woodward: lively and focused on the light sides of life. And if you take a closer look, that’s actually enough to escape from everyday life – that is, to just sit in peace and, as one would say in mindfulness slang, concentrate completely on the here and now. But of course it’s easier to do in a luxury hotel. Private, professional and social worries suddenly die far away. Even if I then of course puff up the stairs to my room on the fourth floor under the FFP2 mask and the ole pandemic sentence “We are all in the same boat” is true for a moment even at The Woodward.
My God, I think to myself when I get on the overcrowded Easyjet plane back to Berlin the next day: You can make life nice for yourself. But how does it go in the old saying by Francis Bacon? “Not the lucky ones are grateful. It is the grateful who are happy. “
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