Weekend Getaways: Leysin Part II Hôtel Central Résidence

We all love a vacation, right? But I am sure that I am not the only one out there that stresses over the actual planning of it.  Picking a hotel turns into a checklist of dread: family-friendly, quiet, free wi-fi, parking, pool, proximity to restaurants/activities/event, cost, cleanliness…the list goes on and on. Thankfully, for the most part, I have always had great success in choosing a place. There was a one-off in France that was so bad we checked out at 5am but that remains a sole blip on an otherwise clean record of location-choosing. Yet, because of that blip, I panic whenever we check-in somewhere new. Without a doubt, I can say that our recent getaway to Leysin was made even sweeter by the location of our stay.

After pouring over places, I finally booked us a family room at Hôtel Central Rèsidence. I gathered from the research I had done that Leysin was going to be a bit of a hilly experience. As I was travelling with an 8 and 5 year old, I chose to find us a place close to the télécabine/gondola departure. Upon arrival, I was very happy with that decision! To say Leysin is ‘hilly’ understates it by a LOT!

Hôtel Central Résidence

A 3 star hotel, Central Résidence is well-situated in sunny Leysin, located approximately 300m from the ticketing and télécabine/gondola departure area. This makes it incredibly convenient for anyone hoping to hit the slopes for a fun day of skiing or snowboarding.

First Impressions and Check-In:
I knew from photos online that Central Résidence looked a touch ‘retro’ from the outside. I am not someone particularly fussed about that but I did want to mention it for the high flyers who might find their trip affected by aesthetics 😉

Check-in was a breeze and took roughly 2 minutes. You are given a proper, old school key that you MUST leave with the front desk staff when you leave the premises. Imagine how many keys have been lost out in the mountains and you might see the reasoning behind this. There is outdoor parking but next time I would definitely call ahead and book an underground spot (over 2m in height) for the extra few Francs per day. There was plenty of parking available outside but to say everyone who was there knows how to fit a car into one spot would be a lie. This makes it tight if you are an SUV family like us. My husband did manage to park the car and we did not use it the entire weekend except when we left as it wasn’t necessary for us.

The Room:
We booked into a family room and were pleasantly surprised by the space (ski accommodations can often be TIGHT). I made the rookie mistake of forgetting my Canon on this trip so you will have to see the hotel through the lens of my iPhone. Apologies.

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King Size bed for us and bunkbeds for the juniors

The room was clean, warm and spacious. We had LOTS of closet and shelf space for our things and the bathroom was both large in size and clean. There was a random flower on the ceiling in our bedroom and I’m not sure what that was about but the kids loved it! We had two very peaceful night’s rest here. The rooms are definitely quiet and although the beds were a bit soft for my liking, my tired post-skiing body didn’t seem to mind!

I know that television in another country can be a concern for foreign travellers but it needn’t be here. The TV came with a channel list that was colour-coded based language. How very organised and how very Swiss!

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Plenty of choices on TV!

The Restaurant:
We did not partake in the half-board option for the hotel. My only reasoning is that I tend to avoid half-boards for places I don’t know. It’s a personal thing and I have nothing negative to say about the half-board on offer having seen it now, I just have a little quirk on this one!  That said, we were able to purchase breakfast and have dinner at the restaurant nightly. Our children loved the breakfast buffet (a mix of hot and cold items) as well as the night buffet (Saturday was raclette night!). My husband and I opted to order à la carte and try the famous ‘charbonnade’. Charbonnade is a dinner of meats (or meats and fish) served and cooked at your table on a hot copper grill. Served with six sauces, a side of grilled vegetables and super crispy shoestring fries, it is one LARGE but hearty mountain meal!

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The hot fire heating up the individual carbonnade grills (you can see above each table is a copper vent to diffuse the smoke from grilling at the table)
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la charbonnade

Amenities and Features:
For a 3 star hotel, we were pretty impressed at the amount of amenities offered to guests. From the pool with the most amazing view to the ski lockers, the weekend was both fun and functional.

  • Access to skiing 300m from lobby
  • Heated ski lockers (either rental private lockers or one large room with ski storage – at your own risk)
  • Pool
  • Jacuzzi
  • Sauna
  • Gym
  • Hammam
  • Massages
  • Games room (baby foot, video games)
  • Billiards table
  • Reception area bar
  • Fireplace
  • Vending machines
  • Coffee machine in lobby available any hour of the day
  • Multilingual staff
  • Private function rooms (a wedding was happening while we were there!)
  • Library
  • Elevators big enough for baby strollers 😉
  • Apartments on-site for rent for longer stays
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Heated ski lockers (we rented one and it was definitely big enough for all 4 sets of boots, poles and skis)
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Pool area
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Chilled out by the fireplace

While this wasn’t a luxury weekend away for us, we were definitely happy with our choice. Hôtel Central Résidence definitely made our weekend a hit by being such a surprisingly charming alpine hotel. The kids were disappointed when it came time to check-out and I will admit that even though I was telling them it was OK, I felt the same. We would definitely return.

Thank you et merci to the staff at Hôtel Central Résidence. We had a great weekend and will definitely return!  For information on Leysin in general, please click here to read my review of the ski area and town.

Photo credits: Jennifer Hart, Hôtel Central Résidence

“A Table!” Lessons in Expat Cooking – La Domaine de la Ville de Morges: Part I

Ever wonder why the classic Swiss Army Knives such as this Victorinox model have a wine corkscrew on them? You might think, “It’s Switzerland, right? A fondue fork or a cowbell make more sense than a corkscrew!!” Well my friends, before moving here I would have agreed with you. Then we became locals and learned: The Swiss Make Amazing Wine.

Read that again and let it sink in.

Swiss wine? Is that a joke? No, it isn’t and not only is it not a joke, it is one of their best-kept secrets! Swiss wines are ‘out of this world’ good. So good, in fact, that they have been trumping my other classic favourites from France, Italy and Spain as of late when choosing what to buy or drink with dinner. I have a newfound love and respect for what makes Swiss wines so great and why you should go straight to your local wine shop and ask if they have any Swiss wines for you to try, too. To be clear, this will not be a typical A Table! post where I recipe share for all of you. I have decided to celebrate the local award-winning wines and share what I have learned since moving here: never underestimate a Swiss wine!

First, I must admit that finding information on Swiss wines to share with an English audience has been difficult and somewhat limited. These local award-winning wines are promoted and celebrated locally, which means international press and articles are difficult to come by. Also, and let’s be honest, the Swiss are modest people. So modest, in fact, that we didn’t know that by moving to Morges we were relocating to one of the biggest powerhouses in Swiss wine production: the region known as La Côte. The area where we live has been producing wine since the 1200s and in 1547, the township of Morges became the proprietors of Domaine de la Ville de Morges. That’s right, our community owns a vineyard that it is seriously worth taking notice of!

With a space of over 50ha, the Domaine de la Ville produces 13 different wines including red, white and rosé varietals. Included on this list:
La Grand’Rue Chasselas Reserve
-2015 World Champion Chasselas
-Médaille D’Argent au Grand Prix du Vin Suisse 2015
-Lauriers d’Or Terravin 2015
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Also produced by the Domaine de la Ville: Les Guérites with the Millésime 2013 recently winning the Médaille D’Or au Grand Prix du Vin Suisse 2015. The Millésime 2013 will be available for sale in December this year and also received the distinction of being nominated in the category of meilleur vin d’assemblage rouge.

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A shout out of congratulations must also be given to Domaine de la Ville de Morges for recently winning 5 medals at the 2015 Swiss Wine Grand Prix (3 silver and two gold). Not bad for a local vineyard!

So it only stands to reason that I must now follow this post with a second one in the coming weeks including a visit to the vineyard, samplings and suggested food pairings. I suffer for my writing but it is worth it for the sake of education 😉 !
Any takers on paying a visit to the Domaine with me?

For now I will continue to enjoy my glass of Le Protagoniste at night!

To the winemakers at Domaine de la Ville, I hope to see you soon. Continue to strive for excellence and just know that your fan base is growing!

Photo credits: Fotolia, Domaine de la Ville de Morges

“A Table!” Lessons in Expat Cooking – Perfecting Cheese Fondue

Cheese. Where do I even begin to explain my love for cheese!? At this point in my life, I think I would give up almost all other foods if I could live on cheese and not look like big old Brie! So, it should come as no surprise that life in Paris was pretty chock-full of cheese samples. I discovered new and amazing ones that I had never heard of before like Vacherin Mont d’Or. I also discovered some that even I couldn’t wrap my cheese-loving taste buds around (sorry to my beloved Kiwi and the ‘farm cheese’ she introduced me to). Then we relocated to Switzerland and the cheese boat I was cruising along got a welcome shake up. New names, new textures and new tastes…oh my!

So here we are. Knee deep into our new life in Switzerland where the nights are getting colder, the fireplace has been on a few times already and in this part of the world, the cheese sections at the markets and grocery stores have quadrupled in size.  I kid you not, on the first of October every store turned into an enabler for cheese-addicts everywhere. Fondue pots. Raclette machines. Recipes.  Samples. Pre-mixed cheese blends. Offers to discover for free ‘your perfect fondue blend’ screaming at me. MY PERFECT BLEND??? I couldn’t live another day without knowing what that meant! I NEEDED to know what my perfect blend was! Thus, I didn’t just dabble into this new Swiss world of fondue, I leapt. Head first. With a crusty baguette and fork in hand!

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Fondue pots on sale at the local post office!

I can now say after much consideration that I am a classic “moitié-moitié” person – half Gruyère AOP and half Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP. BLISS!

Such the fan that I have become, I have been perfecting making fondue moitié-moitié at home. The juniors and Mr H have not complained once 😉 Quelle surprise!  Thus I give you my person, and my perfect version, of moitié-moitié.

Setting up for a 9 person fondue party chez nous!
Setting up for a 9 person fondue party chez nous!

Cheese Fondue moitié-moitié

Serves 4

  • 400 grams of Gruyère AOP, grated
  • 400 grams of Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 300- 400 ml dry white wine (or you can use vegetable stock, alcohol-free wine, water or a mix of wine and other depending on your preferences)
  • 15g/1tbsp fécule (potato flour)
  • nutmeg
  • pepper
  • kirsch, optional (I prefer cherry)
  • day old baguette

Rub your fondue pot all over with the garlic clove. This seasons the pot lightly and is a step heaped in tradition which is considered crucial here in Switzerland. What you do with the clove after is up to you. You can either finely mince it up with a knife or a garlic press and use it in your fondue or leave it out. I use it. Life without garlic makes zero sense to me.

Next, mix your cheese and potato flour together in the pot. Add 300ml of the wine/stock and garlic, if using, and heat over a medium temperature (save the extra liquid to thin out your mixture if it is too thick). STIR CONSTANTLY. This doesn’t mean leave it for 10 mins and stir it. It means constantly. It doesn’t take long to melt down so don’t worry about hours spent slaving over the hob. Once the cheese has started to melt, I add pepper and nutmeg to taste. When all the ingredients have come together to form an amazing pot of melted bliss, add the shot of kirsch, stir and serve.

Now, fondue isn’t just dip bread and eat. You must know that you will have to stir constantly with a spatula throughout your meal. There are some social taboos on this, the one we have seen most consistently is to stir in a figure 8 pattern. NEVER stir when someone has their bread dipped, this is considered rude. One person dips at a time and doesn’t eat off of the long for but rather, slides their gooey cheesy bread onto their plate and eats with their own fork. Don’t double-dip. Ever.

Can you taste it?
Can you taste it?

Some household rules we have adopted include:

  • giving a kiss to someone at the table if you drop your bread into the pot
  • le coup du milieu which is basically a shot of kirsch taken at the midpoint (yes, a shot) to help aid the digestion of the cheese
  • the egg – before the fondue has melted all the way down to the bottom of the pot, crack in an egg and stir. It thins out the mixture, extends the life a bit and gives a new flavour boost to the mixture
  • la religieuse – I feel like my life wasn’t complete until I discovered la religieuse (translated into nun in English but let’s ignore that). At the end of the meal, 99% of the time when you have finished all the amazing fondue you are left with a golden brown crust. DO NOT THROW THIS OUT or pour water all over to soak it off. Instead, carefully, using just a normal butter knife or something similar, try to pry this off the bottom of the pan. You are left with a salty, crispy treat that ends the meal in a perfect way! YUM!
  • I serve with pickles/gherkins (not the sweet kind), a VERY large salad with vinaigrette and my family likes a plate of charcuterie such as salami, cured hams, etc. I don’t partake in that but to each their own!

So, that’s it. It isn’t complicated but it IS delicious!! Feel free to adapt and play with the recipe. That’s part of the fun here! Remember, though, this is a very heavy meal. It is rarely finished with dessert other than some fresh fruit or something else very light. Please, no chocolate fondue to finish the night off. Swiss heads would roll!

Photo credits: Jennifer Hart, Fotolia