W Verbier’s Urban Beat in the Alpine Peaks and Beyond

Photographs on the windows of the W Verbier reinterpret Swiss legends

Photographs on the windows of the W Verbier reinterpret Swiss legends

Following a few days satisfying my city-girl fix in cosmopolitan Geneva, Switzerland’s second-most populous city at 1,353 feet above sea level, I was eager to bring down the pace a few notches but on higher ground in the southwestern mountain resort of Verbier just two hours away by train in the neighboring canton of Valais. The ascent was the perfect wind-down as tracks weaved through the breathless beauty of the Swiss Alps until finally reaching the ski village famous for sun-kissed slopes in one of Europe’s largest ski areas. With more than 400 skiable acres, it is considered one of the best off-piste resorts in the world.

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Pays-d’Enhaut, Switzerland: Rebirth of a Mountain Cheese and a Valley

View overlooking the village of Chateau-d’Oex in the Pays-d’Enhaut valley, 3,143 feet above sea level

View overlooking the village of Chateau-d’Oex in the Pays-d’Enhaut valley, 3,143 feet above sea level

Three villages. Cheese making. Paper cut art. Roots. In a few words, this is Pays-d’Enhaut, the tranquil mountain region nestled in the pre-Alps of Switzerland’s canton Vaud. The region is north of Lake Geneva’s chic lakeside resorts, and its name is French for “the land up above.” A one-hour train ride from posh Montreux at the lake, life here is a world away where time, well, takes its time.

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The Allure of Montreux, Switzerland

Hillside landscape of Montreux, Lake Geneva, and island Castle of Chillon in the far distance

Hillside landscape of Montreux, Lake Geneva, and island Castle of Chillon in the far distance

Some places simply inspire. Montreux in French-speaking Switzerland is one of them. If only we could wake up to it every day.

Some of the most prolific before us did, from composers and musicians to writers, poets, actors, and politicians. Through the centuries, on the banks of Lake Geneva, they sipped their coffee at sunrise, communed at the weekly marketplace, drank wine from the ancient vineyards of Lavaux, and contemplated. The glistening lake and grandeur of the Alps provided the muse.

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Genève, a Dream of Mankind

A view from Hotel Le Richemond

A view from Hotel Le Richemond

Genève, Switzerland, a rather small city of 186,000 inhabitants, is the world center for diplomacy, the birthplace of the Red Cross and Geneva Conventions, and home to the United Nations and numerous international humanitarian organizations. Located on the bank of Lac Léman—the largest lake in Europe—and surrounded by the Alps and Jura Mountains, Geneva is green, architecturally beautiful, and pedestrian-friendly. Geneva residents are well educated and open-minded, speak three or four languages, and hold important jobs with the 171 diplomatic missions, 35 international organizations linked to the UN, or 250 non-governmental organizations. Their quality of life is higher than in some of the richest European capitals.

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A View From the Top: Refocusing From the Swiss Alps

The Matterhorn is the topographic icon of Switzerland

The Matterhorn is the topographic icon of Switzerland

Perhaps as a nod to its successful “neutral nation” bit, Switzerland isn’t really one big country so much as it’s a handful of small countries under one flag. There’s no one language (varietals of German, French, Italian, and the increasingly rare Rumantsch are grouped throughout the nation), and there’s certainly no homogeneous culture. And though my travels have been isolated to western Switzerland, the diversity of a country only twice the size of Massachusetts is evident even between its cities—starting with Geneva.

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