28 September 2014

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 September 28, 2014
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My goal in life is to continue to prove that a diagnosis of celiac disease or a food allergy does not mean that you need to compromise and live any less of a life than you did before. Yes, these can be shocking when they initially happen (believe me, I had never even heard of celiac disease before my diagnosis) and when I became hyper-allergic to shellfish in my twenties it was definitely a scare but neither ever made me waiver on my love of travel. My latest trip last month was my annual return to the Swiss Riviera — a trip that I have now been making for seven years now and still provides lots of gluten-free surprises.

Le Mirador Kempinski is situated in Mont Pèlerin high above Vevey offering the most stunning views of Lake Geneva. Its location is typically reached by a funicular that climbs the mountain and is always a treat to ride on. However on this trip it was closed for major track repairs so it was only accessible by private car or a replacement bus (or helicopter). It is truly like another world with absolute silence offering the perfect setting for true relaxation. The hotel is self-contained and offers a variety of dining options — unfortunately when we were there the Michelin starred restaurant was closed for renovation but there was no shortage of fine dining options.

This was our first time staying at Le Mirador Kempinski having previously visited to enjoy cocktails on their lovely terrace. We spend time every year along the Swiss Riviera and this last trip decided to spend a couple of nights at the Kempinski before heading to Montreux.

We had organized a transfer with the hotel from the Vevey train station as we were arriving from Zürich but because one of our trains had a technical issue we missed the connection and ended up taking a taxi from the station. Not a big deal and honestly we should have just planned on that originally because trying to adjust the pick-up time with the hotel while on the train was more of a hassle than it needed to be.

Upon arrival at the hotel we were warmly welcomed and our bags were taken care of as we made our way to the check-in area. The hotel itself offers absolutely stunning views of Lake Geneva and the lobby takes advantage of this view with large windows. Check-in is handled at individual desks which is always a nice touch. We were offered champagne or juice while we were checked-in.

We had arrived about an hour or so before “official” check-in time so there was some question as to whether the room was actually ready. We decided to sit on the terrace and have a drink while waiting for news and enjoy the view. I thought this was a bit strange as we sat there for a good thirty minutes before being told our room was indeed ready. Not a big deal but just seemed to make the check-in experience feel a bit unpolished (despite an excellent staff member who was responsible for us). We were then shown to our room and since it was our first time at the hotel some of the services were explained.

We had arranged for an upgrade to a junior suite prior to our arrival and the room was quite lovely. All of the modern rooms are located on the floors below reception so basically on the side of the mountain offering stunning views. Our suite had a very large terrace (though the awning was not working so we had a large umbrella in its place).

The room has a small entryway that leads to a wet bar, a large walk-in closet, and then the main living/sleeping area. There was ample seating including a work desk along with a king bed. The bathroom was quite large and featured a large soaking tub in the main area along with double sinks, a separate rain shower stall, and separate WC. The bathroom was stocked with everything you could possibly ask for and there was an extensive Molton Brown toiletries selection. It did take about 45 minutes for our luggage to arrive but you soon learn that the service here is what I would call “laidback luxury”. Everyone one is extremely professional, helpful, and friendly but there is never a sense of any real urgency.


 
We dined at two of the hotel’s restaurants and had room service one morning. I will post a separate review for the Au Chalet restaurant (which was outstanding) but room service was extremely well-prepared and presented – served on the terrace of our room so we could enjoy the view.

The hotel was simply outstanding in handling guests with celiac disease. From breakfast to dinner, there was never a single issue or a lack of options. The hotel actually makes some of their gluten-free bread selections in-house which was an unexpected treat. Every meal we had at the hotel was flawless and very well prepared.

The terrace bar also serves food and when I mentioned I would like a BLT for lunch one afternoon but needed to have gluten-free bread, the bar manager (who was extremely helpful throughout our stay and was always busy ensuring guests were well looked after) got on the phone with the kitchen and made it happen. I was presented with four stunning mini-sandwiches which were such a treat and simply delicious. Evening cocktails never disappointed and you could not ask for a better view or service at the terrace bar.

Breakfast at the Horizon restaurant offered a comprehensive mix of options (including gluten-free) and it was nice to see so many of the items were made in-house – the orange preserves are not to be missed. There is truly something for every preference included in this buffet which also features made to order eggs.


 
We peeked into the Givenchy Spa and indoor pool but ended-up going down to Vevey one afternoon rather than spending time at the spa or going for a swim. The facilities did look quite nice and were very well-equipped – we’ll have to partake next time.


 
All in all we had a very enjoyable stay and we look forward to making the Kempinski a regular stop on our annual visit to the area.

Stay tuned for my latest review of Le Montreux Palace, quite a few new dining locales along the Swiss Riviera, and a look at Brussels Airlines Business Class service coming very soon. If you haven’t yet read my review of United Airlines BusinessFirst service that kicked-off this trip why not read it now? It’s a big and beautiful gluten-free world out there — get out there and live your gluten-free life to the max.


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