Tag Archives: hotel

Hotel Alex Zermatt

Routine and familiarity are comforting. I’ve been going to the same hotel, the Hotel Alex, in the Swiss Alps for 15 years. Same room, same friends, same everything. It’s a great place!

There is an order to the week. There are the owners that know us and greet us daily.  There is the bar and the dinners all set out every night. It is a fixed menu that is beautifully crafted by a fabulous chef. There are special dinner nights like fish night when there is a fabulous array of smoked delicacies (Eel is my favorite. All of my childhood years of jellied eels created this addiction).  Then there is cured meat night – a gourmands dream and as many types of mountain animals that your cholesterol can take! There’s raclette night when the owner of the hotel sweats over a raclette machine and serves grilled Swiss mountain cheese with potatoes and pickled onions. As much as you want. And these are just the appetizers! There’s always salad and always a fabulous dessert. Breakfasts are part of the extravaganza too. Yep, it’s a calorific buster off week. The skiing keeps the damage down but who is counting really?!

Apart from the food there’s this level of anticipation. Everyone looks at the map denoting ski runs open and weather reports from the top of the mountain. “What piste should I take today?” “Is Italy open?” They are always the same conversations. Reassuring. Then there’s the in-between time at the hotel. The spa and a swim before the dinner make it just a perfect week.

The people who work at the hotel are super nice. They get it. We’re all there to have a good time and escape. They smile and become part of the week.

The Hotel Alex is near to the main cog railway that takes you up the mountain and right by the main station that connects everyone to the real world down in the valley. It’s a bit like Brigadoon. For a week at least it works for me. More info on the Alex can be found on their website: Hotel Alex Zermatt. It is a surprisingly great deal and a fabulous four star hotel. Best in town. Best in show.

Update on Cuba

We have a lot of surge in Cuba for business for 2016 and 2017.  Everyone got hot on Cuba at the same time.  Now, Cuba is turning into a high-demand, little supply destination.  Hotel rooms are sold out months in advance.  With talk of more restrictions being phased out, the 36% increase in American tourists will grow and grow.

But where to?

Here’s a brief update on Cuba:

Over 2 million people traveled to Cuba in the first part of this year alone.  There are about 61,000 hotel rooms in Cuba and many are booked 18 months in advance.  Americans still have to travel under a People-to-People status so it is difficult to sneak in and sneak out for a quick weekend in Havana.  Bottom line is that tour operators are starting to turn people to other destinations which is a drag but understandable given the lack of infrastructure and available bednights.  With places like the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica waiting in the wings, Cuba has better get its act together or there will be plenty of hotel beds and not much demand.
Update on Cuba Pietro Place Peter Jones Update on Cuba Pietro Place Peter Jones

Intercontinental David Pietro Place

The Hotel Intercontinental David

The hotel staff at the Intercontinental David were nice but not overly friendly – like they didn’t quite trust us.  The service was decent, but not brilliant, as if they had other things on their mind.  And obviously they do!  Everything was spotless and clean but there was an edge and you always had this feeling that you were an outsider.  And we were.

The guides went out of their way to put their point of view across and everyone had the same point of view.  It was logical and understandable but sometimes it formed a gulf as if they suspected that you were probably too sympathetic to the Palestinians.  But in spite of all of this, I started to like the place. The buzz of Tel Aviv got to me.  I liked the mix and the history and the California feel to the beachfront.  I liked the scene at night and unashamedly, the Bauhaus architecture.  The tension became part of the vibe and I was getting the hang of the place.

Merano and the Sud Tyrol

It is one of those wonderful Italian moments that you pick up in Northern Italy.

You are driving along the Autostrade, stopping at an auto grill here or an auto grill there, the bathrooms are okay but not brilliant, but the further north that you go, you start to see the signage change.

If you trace the River Adige to its source high up in the Alps, you suddenly uncover a different Italy — Austrian Italy. The signs are in German, the bathrooms are perfectly spotless, and everything is organized. Plus you even get a few Alps thrown into the scene so you know that you are close to Switzerland.

At Bolzano, which is home to the now famous 5,000 year old man, named Ötzi, I chose to take the Autostrade to Merano situated in the Italian Alps and specifically not in the Dolomites which are on the other side of the ridge near Bressanone and Ortisei.

What an incredible place Merano is. First of all, it is the apple capital of Europe. I have never seen so many apples in my life. There are fantastic wines around here as well, notably the white wines. Because of the thermal springs in the area, it has become a world-famous spa resort made famous by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria during the great Hapsburg reign. Nowadays there is a large, modern spa (not offensive) near the center of town on the Passer River. It is great fun with the kids or on a rainy day as there are a series of huge hot baths both indoor and outdoor.

Everything is terribly well organized as it would be in the Sud Tyrol. From the baths, you can stroll through the lanes along the river front to the castle. There are also the most famous botanical gardens in all of Europe just outside of town.
The town itself boasts several fabulous restaurants. Scattered in the hills around the town are standout resorts – some of them with Michelin-starred chefs. My hotel, the Castel Fragsburg, had amazing food, a brilliant chef, and I could not resist the spremuta of apples and celery with olive oil for breakfast in the morning.

About a 10 minute drive from the hotel is where you can pick up the cable car called the Merano 2000. It takes you up to around 10,000 feet and from there you can bike or hike with views across the Alps and the Dolomites in the distance.

This place is amazing. It is an hour and a half from Innsbruck, Austria and three hours from Munich, Germany. You can visit Ötzi in Bolzano or discover the Dolomites on the other side of the valley. It takes an easy three hours from Venice. All you do is take the Autostrade all the way to Verona and then head north.

For my two cents, during the heat of an Italian summer, you cannot beat the diversity and openness of the Italian Alps and Dolomites. There is plenty of sunshine, clean air, fabulous food, and everything works. The Italy of dreams, Merano and the Sud Tyrol!