Once upon a time, in the last century, someone built an 18-floor luxury hotel, InterContinental Genève, just uphill from the United Nations building in Geneva’s Saconnex area, high over the lake. A very-shallow paddling pool in front of the UN is much-loved by kids, as the photo above shows. The year the hotel opened, incidentally, was 1964, and the opening GM was André Hamburger, whose son Jacques Hamburger was much later to make Orient-Express’ hotel in the centre of Carcassonne such a success (then Hamburger Jr left, then Orient-Express left and now Carcassonne has fallen off the map in terms of global luxury, says the gal). But back to Hamburger Sr’s hotel. The InterCon has been a major success story over the years. Herbert Schott ran it for over three decades, and wrote a heavy coffee table book, L’Hotelier, about his experiences.
In his day, and forever, this was and is a United Nations hotel – it only has 333 rooms but 35% of all business is from the UN. Now, at the age of 52, the hotel is run by another highly-experienced hotelier, Jurgen Baumhoff, whom I have seen over the years in Bahrain, Doha, Dubai and other destinations. He is doing marvels here. You always reached the hotel’s outdoor pool via a walkway from the second floor: now that walkway goes past the chef’s working garden, which today has baby tomatoes and lots of herbs ready for cutting. Now, poolside, there is a really popular café, and I love the way you can look at big framed mirrors on its walls and see reflected vignettes of real around-pool life. Not surprisingly, many choose simply to have an evening snack there, out by the pool.
Oh what a far cry from days of yore, when really old people will tell you about the hotel’s rooftop French restaurant, and the upper floor all-day dining. Now the one proper restaurant, and that is what it is, is Woods, on the ground floor off the lobby, and Tony Chi has, in his design, really given it a forest feeling. As you enter, there is an oval, glass topped table that is instantly recognisable for the solid base formed of close-packed cut-throughs of wood trunks. Yes, it is by the same Korean artist who did the tables I saw only a few days ago at Park Hyatt Zurich, and, a while back, at W Seoul (the artist, or should one say wood-cutter, is Jaehyo Lee). Cleverly, Woods’ menu is brief but well chosen, full of such favourites as tuna salad, and sole, cooked as you request.
Most opportunely, Jurgen Baumhoff, and his wife Barbara have just been on a tasting trip around Bordeaux, so we had one of his finds, namely Louis Roederer’s Grand Vin Ch de Pez 2008 St-Estèphe. After that we all went to admire a stunning Houses collage – yes, Barbara Baumhoff is a brilliant artist, with a few hints of Klee. And after that, I went back up to my really agreeable corner suite, 1427, which looks down past the UN to Lac Leman, and also down to the pool. I liked having half a dozen old black-and-white photos of local scenes and beauties displayed in beautiful old frames. And I loved, in the morning, watching the sun come up, and the fact that the gym is 24/7, so helpful for a traveller with a somewhat early departure – and, another sign of a true luxury hotel, at the stated opening time, 6.30 am, breakfast, which was excellent, was 100% ready-and-waiting (you can see it was excellent – WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW).