Having heard quite a bit about hotel Château d’Ouchy over the years, I’d always wanted to spend a night as a princess in that castle by Lake Geneva with a history that dates to the 12th century. So, what did I find out when I finally made it there? The Château also once did duty as a prison!
A few years ago, when my work involved staging recognition events, a colleague in Lausanne asked my opinion of a venue for a special occasion in Romandy, the French-speaking region of Switzerland. The pictures she sent me were of Château d’Ouchy. Even without ever having been to the hotel myself, I was sure it would be a perfect fit.
A castle far away, with a pretty garden and tall trees on the Lake Geneva shore — what more could anyone ask for? My inner movie even then started playing; it starred me as the princess of the castle and hostess, greeting the guests garbed in gorgeous outfits, sipping their Champagne and savoring the lovely setting’s ambiance.
When Walter recently mentioned a discovery of his, namely the designer bar at the Hotel Château d’Ouchy, I could not resist any longer: I had to finally visit the hotel myself.
By way of Lavaux wine country to Lausanne-Ouchy
Accordingly, on a splendid early summer’s day, we set out on the road to Lausanne and Lake Geneva. As we traveled along the Route du Lac through picturesque Lavaux wine country and past Château de Montagny, nestled picturesquely among the vineyards, it was easy to see what an attraction the road there is in itself. Getting there is half the fun!
When we set out on one of our journeys of discovery, we make it a point to research our intended destination a bit first. Confession: we often do it just before setting out or even shortly before getting there.
Ever primed for adventure, Walter reads to me as we drive what he is finding out about the Château: during the Reformation, it served the occupiers as a prison!
So, you’re telling me we are going to spend the night in a former prison? This was not part of my dream when planning the trip. For a moment, I am suddenly back down on earth, feeling deflated. Just like that, all my princess dreams have been punctured!
But, gradually, I collect myself, not least because Walter reminds me that, ever since our recent visit to Schloss Schauenstein, even spooky castle ghosts cannot faze us.
Surprising Château d’Ouchy
So, never mind, let’s get back to French-speaking Switzerland, where we have arrived at our destination. More curious than perplexed, we enter the castle. What once upon a time was the castle bailey, today is a modern hotel lobby suffused by light under a glassed-in framework that allows a view of the castle’s ancient exterior. This mixture of modern design and historical building help assuage any lingering doubts for us. Nothing here reminiscent of a prison, right? But, hold on, not so fast: we have yet to take possession of our room, after all. What if it used to be the tower dungeon once upon a time?
Feeling a bit queasy once again, we climb the circular stairway to the princess quarters. The sculptures on display in the hotel do not exactly help steady my wobbly knees…
Total relief sets in as we enter our room, however: beguiled by the magnificent view of Lake Geneva and the modern interior, I find that I need to sit down for a bit to fully let the fairy tale-like scene set in.
When I read that only the original castle keep was preserved during the medieval castle’s demolition in 1885, I resolve to let go of the past once and for all and, instead, savor the present moment — or, to put it succinctly, the wonderful room I find myself in with the lovely view before me.
Later, against this as the dreamy background, we promenade through the pretty castle garden and past the pool before sitting down to dinner in the castle’s restaurant, indulging in that Riviera feeling on the Lake Geneva shore.
Not only am I kissed awake by a prince but also by the sun the next morning. Hungry enough to eat a horse, we make our way to “breakfast in paradise.” Invariably, that is the term we apply to breakfast when we are impressed not just by its culinary high notes but by the surroundings they are served in. Who wouldn’t enjoy a lake view with a breakfast fit for a princess?
Prince, princess or peasant, I can highly recommend a getaway to Château d’Ouchy. Not only is the hotel impressive, the surroundings are simply dreamy!
Place du Port