At Leisure

World Travel Magazine - - Contents - WORDS BY CINDY-LOU DALE

Drive Switzer­land Alpine de­lights, epic scenery and the most beau­ti­ful driv­ing roads in Europe calls for a grand tour and serious wheels.

THERE’S NO BET­TER EX­CUSE FOR GET­TING BE­HIND THE WHEEL OF A LUX­URY CAR THAN A ROAD TRIP; ES­PE­CIALLY WHEN THE DES­TI­NA­TION IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST BREATH-TAK­ING LO­CA­TIONS.

As far as coun­try’s go Switzer­land is pe­tite. The words ‘size doesn’t mat­ter’ couldn’t be truer as Switzer­land is packed with Alpine de­lights, four lan­guages and the world’s top­most pro­duc­ers of time. The sights are of an epic scale but dis­tances be­tween them short. Thus, against a back­drop of im­mense forested moun­tains, lush mead­ows, azure lakes and cobalt-blue skies, I trav­elled across just a small part of the im­mac­u­late alpine passes and ravines and saw Switzer­land as it’s meant to be seen – from the road driv­ing a Porsche 911 Car­rera 4 GTS.

As time is short I need to fo­cus on the sights I most want to ex­pe­ri­ence and plan my Grand Tour road trip ac­cord­ingly - cre­at­ing a driv­ing nir­vana through Switzer­land’s south-east cor­ner, trav­el­ling just 650km in four days.

Within an hour of leav­ing Zurich I find my­self get­ting up close and per­sonal with some of the most spec­tac­u­lar eye-candy on the planet. All my petrol-head ex­pec­ta­tions are sur­passed and re­placed by the stuff of mo­tor­ing dreams driv­ing on twist­ing as­phalt, cob­bled streets and snow-cov­ered moun­tain tracks.

My first Grand Tour night is spent in Bad Ragaz where I check into the multi-award win­ning Ho­tel Quel­len­hof (ac­claimed as one of the world’s lead­ing spas, com­plete with a pri­vate hos­pi­tal) who’s 124-acres of land­scaped gar­dens have been trans­formed by art.

Mak­ing a slow start to Davos, the high­est town in Europe, I take a short di­ver­sion to savour the views from the el­e­gant ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece of the Sal­gi­na­to­bel Bridge. En­route I drive through vil­lages of tim­ber-clad homes cov­ered in larch tiles – all with their grain stores on stilts. A fur­ther de­tour de­liv­ered me to the Walser­huus Ser­tig, a tra­di­tional chalet restau­rant with a panoramic moun­tain view and a lo­cal spe­cial­ity of smoked ba­con and pearl bar­ley soup served by tra­di­tion­ally dressed wait­resses adorned in time-hon­oured cos­tumes.

Be­fore head­ing to my de­signer Grischa Ho­tel in Davos, once an iso­lated moun­tain-farm­ing vil­lage turned win­ter tourist re­sort, I stop at Biervi­sion in Mon­stein, the high­est al­ti­tude mi­cro-brew­ery in Europe. Fol­low­ing a guided tour, I take to their base­ment bar, Gam­bri­nus, where I sam­ple their po­tent whisky, eggnog and cured meats.

Leav­ing Davos, I set the GPS for St Moritz, mak­ing a de­tour via a cou­ple of moun­tain passes. Reach­ing an el­e­va­tion of 2383m, the Flüela Pass goes al­most un­no­ticed in the pan­theon of Europe’s great driv­ing roads and iron­i­cally, I drove it en-route to the most lauded, the Stelvio pass. From Davos the Flüela runs for the best part of 28kms, mix­ing tempt­ing straights, gor­geous curves and 37 long, sweep­ing bends. The road climb al­most im­me­di­ately, at first gen­tly and then more pre­cip­i­tously to­wards the peak. The 911 eats the first few kilo­me­tres with dis­dain, yet the en­gine note barely rises above a snarl. At this point, and in the ab­sence of any real test­ing cor­ners, it oc­curred to me that I had ne­glected to en­gage ‘Sports Mode’ - which changed ev­ery­thing.

I pointed the 911’s nose to north­ern Italy and the Stelvio Pass, the as­cent of which of­fers 75 vig­or­ous full lock hair­pin bends, de­mand­ing serious driv­ing know-how. Shortly be­fore reach­ing the sum­mit the scenery changes from pic­ture­post­card to a breath-tak­ing snow­line vista. To­wards the top, it is near im­pos­si­ble to get the speed up as the bends are very close to­gether. A few fi­nal, dra­matic hair­pins had me at the sum­mit and into a small park­ing area where I stopped to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the view and ver­ti­cal drop-offs. I took my­self off to my fi­nal stop - the cham­pagne cli­mate and se­duc­tive shops of St Moritz.

Peace and tran­quil­lity were on my wish-list, thus I in­dulged in the ver­ti­cal min­eral spa in nearby Samedan. The Samedan Min­eral Baths & Spa, tacked onto the back of a baroque church in the town square, is spread over five floors, each en­cap­su­lat­ing an am­bi­ent light water theme. Pro­gress­ing from the locker room with its cowhide ot­toman’s I took in the aroma cham­bers, Jacuzzi and herbal steam room. Pleas­antly par­boiled I pro­ceeded to the mas­sage area where masseuse de­liv­ered a no-frills, all busi­ness mas­sage, help­ing me dis­cover new mus­cle groups I didn’t know I had. For what seems like an eter­nity but in re­al­ity, is only 15-min­utes, my body is vig­or­ously pressed and kneaded, by the end of which I felt cer­tain I would be rolled up like a ball of pastry and folded into a crois­sant. The re­cov­ery room is on the rooftop

- an open-air bath with views of win­ter sun­shine across the stun­ningly beau­ti­ful snow-capped moun­tains of the En­gadin.

Later, I stopped for a cheese mak­ing de­mon­stra­tion at the Alpine Cheese Dairy Morter­atsch, did a guided tour of St Moritz where I dis­cov­ered the En­gadin nut­cake, Hate­cke’s tri­an­gu­lar cured veni­son sausage which is dis­played like jewellery in bot­tom-lit cab­i­nets, and found a mini cho­co­late fac­tory in the base­ment of the Con­fis­erie Hauser. Frac­tion­ally fat­ter, I put my feet up at the Grand Ho­tel Kro­nen­hof’s fab­u­lous bar, tak­ing in an ex­pertly blended Black Rus­sian.

Head­ing back to Zurich, I passed sev­eral pic­ture-book vil­lages and more than once stopped to mar­vel at this diminu­tive coun­try’s un­par­al­leled beauty. Switzer­land is truly the land of su­perla­tives – with the tasti­est of roads. An­other moun­tain pass came into view and I im­me­di­ately en­gaged ‘Sport Mode’ - all fluffy thoughts of beau­ti­ful visas and pretty vil­lages evap­o­rat­ing.

AC­COM­MO­DA­TIONS

Bad Ragaz: Ho­tel Quel­len­hof, with its 267-rooms, is one of the best medi-spas in Europe and is in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised for its Med­i­cal Health Cen­tre in di­ag­nos­tics, pre­ven­ta­tive care and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion – which I can per­son­ally at­test to as I ar­rived with aches and pains which were swiftly dealt with by an on­site phys­io­ther­a­pist who vig­or­ously pressed and kneaded me un­til I could be rolled up like a ball of pastry and re­shaped into a bagel. The Quel­len­hof also have a casino and two golf courses – one of which is an 18-hole PGA course (the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship is held there ev­ery year); a Porsche and a Har­ley David­son are made avail­able to guests for a day loan (in­cluded in room rates); and they have six culi­nary di­verse restau­rants; for light, eas­ily di­gestible and freshly pre­pared Thai and Chi­nese spe­cial­i­ties be sure to dine in Na­mun. Room rates start at CHF490. re­sor­tragaz.ch Bed-in-a-bar­rel: There’s a quirky ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tion not far from Bad Ragaz - con­verted wine bar­rel stays on a vine­yard. CHF150 buys a bar­rel for two, a fon­due din­ner, a bot­tle of re­gional wine, linen and a farmer’s break­fast. schlaf-fass.ch

Davos: The Grischa Ho­tel is a chic 93-room mod­ern de­signer ho­tel, dressed in sul­try colours and draped in mood light­ing. De­spite all the trendi­ness, it’s prac­ti­cal and com­fort­able. The so­phis­ti­cated Pulsa Bar, with its leather fur­nish­ings and fur throws, makes for cosy and exclusive pre-din­ner drinks. The five restau­rants have turned this ho­tel into a sen­sa­tional gourmet des­ti­na­tion. Rates start at CHF115. hotel­grischa.ch

St. Mor­tiz/pon­tresina: The el­e­gant Grand Ho­tel Kro­nen­hof, just 6km from St. Moritz, pro­vides the best of both worlds, pro­vid­ing the glitz of St. Moritz whilst soak­ing up the peace of a moun­tain vil­lage. Dis­cern­ing trav­ellers will en­joy this his­toric ho­tel’s re­cep­tion areas which are all heavy draped in floor-to-ceil­ing silk cur­tains. The pièce de ré­sis­tance is din­ing in the gourmet ‘Grand Restau­rant’, a mag­nif­i­cent neo-baroque ban­quet­ing hall, com­plete with a ro­coco ceil­ing. My bed­room, one of 112, is lo­cated in the Kro­nen­hof’s new and con­tem­po­rary Spa wing with a bal­cony over­look­ing the River Flaz and the im­pos­ing St. Moritz moun­tains. Rates start at CHF465. kro­nen­hof.com

LUNCH STOPS

Walser­huus Ser­tig in Davos-ser­tig has a great se­lec­tion of re­gional dishes – be sure to sam­ple their potato rosti. Just a short walk from the restau­rant is a spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­fall and hik­ing route be­yond. walser­huus.ch

Ho­tel Meisser in Guarda is on a hill­side lo­ca­tion with breath-tak­ing views. Be sure to ask for a win­dow seat in their din­ing room where you’ll be look­ing out across some of the most beau­ti­ful moun­tain scenery in the world. The salmon, smoked with wood from lo­cal vines, served on a dill sauce is de­li­cious. ho­tel-meisser.ch

GET­TING THERE

SWISS Air, part of Star Al­liance, flies from Sin­ga­pore to Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Lugano and Sion (just un­der 13 hours). Out of ski sea­son re­turn prices av­er­age around SG$1198. At break­fast, a Con­ti­nen­tal break­fast and cof­fee make their way around econ­omy; busi­ness class is of­fered some­thing more sub­stan­tial; but every­one cheers up when in­dul­gent lit­tle Swiss choco­lates are handed out. swiss.com

Care hire: Europe Lux­ury Cars have a tasty se­lec­tion of su­per­cars to hire eu­ro­pelux­u­rycars.com.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Grand Tour myswitzer­land.com. see

“ST.

MORITZ, EUROPE’S WIN­TER GLAM CAP­I­TAL, WHERE FURS PRE­DOM­I­NATE AND CAVIAR IS SOLD IN SU­PER­MAR­KETS AND SNOWCHAINED BENTLEY’S JOCKEY WITH FERRARI’S FOR PARK­ING.

Clock­wise from top, Bad Ragaz town­ship; the mixol­o­gist at Ho­tel Quel­len­hof, pre­pares a cock­tail; a farm­house kitchen near Bad Ragaz

The fa­mous Stelvio pass road in Italy - an ul­ti­mate driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with hair­pin turns and scenic moun­tain views

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Clock­wise from top left,you can’t get more unique than sleep­ing in a wine bar­rel; check out their cheese stash at Alpine Cheese Dairy Morter­atsch; driv­ing through snowy moun­tain ranges ; ask for a cock­tail in Switzer­land and you’re given a glass of...

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