I GOT IT FROM MY MAMA
Updated: Oct 10, 2018
2018 marks the year my mom turns 60. In Korean culture, sixty years of age (also known as Hwangap) notes a big milestone, as just a few decades ago, the average Korean life expectancy was only around 50 or 60. Although that's not the norm anymore and the 80s seem to be the new 60s, it still calls for a big celebration and I knew I wanted to go over the top for the person who helped shape me into who I am today.
I actually owe my love for hotels and travel to my mom. When I was young, I have fond memories of her taking my sister and I to fancy hotels for special occasions. I recall being told that there were eyes everywhere and yes, the waiters could sense our every move if we played with our food. Her intention was to instill good mannerisms at a young age, and I'd like to think it's also led me to become self-aware as I've become older.
So, where could I celebrate with the person that's given me everything and more? Well, it was fate when earlier this year, I won the grand prize at The Leading Hotels of the World showcase. They represent a collection of authentic and uncommon luxury hotels throughout the world and they were giving away a five nights stay in Switzerland (along with two Business class tickets on Delta!) to highlight the newly built Burgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa overlooking Lake Lucerne and the Alps. We had never been to Switzerland and was all for the lakes, mountains and chocolates that their known for. (sadly, I'm not a huge fan of cheese.) Here are some highlights that made #mamatai60th a memorable one.
Access to Pierre Herme's macarons at the Delta Sky Club at JFK (their so fluffy!)
In-flight menu curated by Union Square Hospitality Group (you know I'm obsessed with anything by Danny Meyer.)
Attentive service and spacious seats, more so appreciated considering I injured my toe right before the trip (why me?)
A foreign movie always sets the mood and this romantic comedy, Tout le Monde Debout, gave me all the feels
If you have time for only one museum, go to Kunsthaus (admission is free on Wednesdays.)
Rest your head at Zurich's landmark hotel, Baur au Luc (nothing beats their location!)
Speaking of, the hotel is only steps away from Lake Zurich & Bahnhofstrasse - Zurich's Shopping Boulevard
Walk further out into the trendy district where Im Viadukt offers a market hall and interesting boutiques
Overall, my time was short in Zurich (one night) but it gave us a good sense of what the city has to offer. I don't think you'd need anymore than two nights to experience Zurich.
Burgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa has officially topped my list for offering the best arrival experience AND views. (check out my instagram story) We were blown away by the views, not so much on service. That's always the con of newly opened hotels.
You could easily spend all your days at the resort. We even had a private cinema viewing of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, where I had another good cry.
Frankly, we only spent half a day in the city and wanted to rush back to our resort to retreat back to the spa.
Lucerne was magical, and more so because of our stay at the Burgenstock Hotel. It comes at a high price tag, but I think once they fine tune their service level, it would totally be worth a trip. A downside was that it seems their restaurants can get easily booked up by events, so it was disappointing that I wasn't able to try Sharq, one of their signature restaurants. (make reservations in advance!)
BERN & GSTAAD
Considering how Bern is the capital of Switzerland, it's a small town that feels homey and has old school charm.
Did you know that Bern was where Einstein developed his famous Theory of Relativity? My in-laws (both physics major) named my husband after Einstein so it ended up being a special city to visit.
We stayed at the sister property of Burgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & The Spa. The location was so convenient for us as it was just steps away from the train station. We found the staff to be far friendlier here. The only downside is that we didn't make it to their rooftop (with 360 views) due to the weather.
I also knew I wanted to take a day trip to somewhere from Bern and thanks to a dear friend who used to work in Switzerland, he recommended his old stomping grounds Gstaad.
I could see how his heart lies with The Alpina. It perfectly blends the modern and local traditions throughout. Not to mention, the community of Gstaad was very much involved in the making of this hotel.
You can also find all the high-end boutiques here, including Hermès. (We saved that for Paris.) But I also discovered one of my now new favorite teas, Newby. This is actually their first European boutique storefront and oozes elegance. Could have easily spent all day shopping, but we had a train to catch back to Bern. (two hours away)
By the way, in regards to trains, I had to admit I was intimidated prior to my trip but realized how easy and efficient the trains are in Switzerland. We purchased the Swiss Travel Pass and it was extremely easy to get around, plus they leave on time just like clockwork.
We couldn't complete a trip to Europe without visiting Paris, especially since my mom had never been before. (Bern to Paris is only 4 hours away on train.)
There's a lot of buzz on the newly restored Hotel Lutetia on the left bank, and rightfully so. They've kept some of the original pieces (the stained glass!) and yet still elegantly preserves the history their known for. A true gem and conveniently located next door to one of my all time favorite department store, Le Bon Marche. (and Conran!)
Highlight of our trip was definitely our customized private tour for my mom to showcase the best of Paris! Nonetheless on an authentic sidecar that allowed us to easily cruise through the narrow streets (and crowds) followed by a guide who made us laugh throughout the whole day. (A true travel expert will always match you with the tour guide right for you!)
We also just loved walking around on our own and the convenience of staying at the Ritz Paris on the right bank, allowed us to hit many of the major sights. (perfect for those who want the traditional Palace experience.) It's almost like your not in Paris unless you get a picture at Palais Royal, second to the Eiffel Tower.
I always reference Eater for restaurant recommendations whenever I travel, but unfortunately reservations at Septime were so hard to secure, especially as they were closed for most of August. I ironically ended up having the best meals that were NOT French, but Italian and Japanese. Our mouths water every time we think of our truffle pasta at Ober Mamma as well as the noodles from Sanukiya.
We dedicated a full day to shopping and most of the damage was done on Rue St.-Honoré. Although, I had no idea what we were in for with Hermès. (yes, you need to secure appointments to even meet with an associate and yes they purposely make it tough to find their products, as said here and here.) It took us three tries to secure her dream bag and we had the best luck at the lesser known location on George V. (I'd only do this for my mom.) While my mom did most of her shopping on Rue St.-Honoré, I prefer exploring the boutiques in Le Marais. I always find the best gifts at Merci and the Supreme store in Paris has no lines, unlike New York! Also discovered a new favorite boutique, MO&Co.
The immersive exhibition at the Atelier des Lumières featuring Gustav Klimt took our breath away.
As our time was limited, I also hired a private Korean tour guide to make the most out of our 3 hours at the Louvre. Not only did she provide the history and the context, but she also helped navigate the crowds as well as tips on where to take the best pictures.
Thanks to Flytographer we also have pictures that we'll cherish forever. I always recommend this to our clients because they truly make the best souvenirs. And as much as we all like to think we're "professional" photographers, let's leave it to the experts. Also, since Flytographer's are usually locals, they also share their favorite places to go. Mine raved about La Pâtisserie de Cédric Grolet au Meurice where the chef has recently been named the World's best pastry chef. We were short on time, but will definitely plan on visiting when I'm next in town. (If you're interested, you can either receive a $25 credit via this link for your next trip or you can book through our travel agency to secure 20% more photos with a free print.)
I plan trips often, but this one will forever remain close to my heart. It's not often I get to show appreciation to my parents as they reside in Korea. As they fueled my love for travel, it's uplifting to be able to repay the favor by curating these trips to express my gratitude.