Interview with Susan Vandendam, Away by TTI Travel Advisor
What was the purpose of your trip?
Having been selected, among travel advisors worldwide, to attend The Private Leisure Forum in Interlaken, Switzerland, I seized the opportunity to connect with luxury hoteliers and travel providers from around the globe. Added bonus: this travel trade show would take place in a lovely Swiss mountain spa town! My objective was to build relationships that would provide me with first-hand insight and exclusivity to share with my clients.
Tell us about your itinerary.
I spent a pre-Forum night in Bern at the Schweizerhof Hotel, a historic property with a warm modern style, conveniently located across from the central rail station. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, it’s a gorgeous hotel that is well-situated for enjoying this low key, authentic and charming UNESCO city. Medieval buildings sit in harmony with world-class contemporary design, adding character to Bern’s cityscape.
Then followed four days at the travel show in Interlaken, staying at the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel. Mornings were packed with meetings and afternoons with selected sightseeing activities. The hotel is like a grand old dame grown more graceful and stately with time. Staying in such a place—walking its halls, sipping champagne on the terrace, dining in the grand ballroom—makes one feel privileged and thankful to enjoy such fine living. Oh, and did I mention the spa?
Interlaken has grown somewhat touristic with brand name, airport-type shops now lining its streets. But the mountains watching over the town cut through that tourist feeling and tempt you to get up there and enjoy the view that Jungfrau Mountain has of the landscape and its namesake hotel. One afternoon I rode the 122 year-old Schynige Platte mountain railway up into the hills. An impressive and varied topography unfolds on the journey, including forests, wildflower gardens, alpine pastures and the Bernese Oberland.
Before leaving Switzerland I stayed one night at the lovely and surprising Small Luxury Hotel, The Ambassador à l’Opera, in Zurich. The service was impeccable. The room was small but extremely well designed, spotless, and well maintained and the beautiful breakfast room included a fresh and satisfying range of options. All this in a 4 star, fair priced, well located, boutique hotel. It’s the perfect choice for a stopover in Zurich.
What was your most memorable moment?
The Gala Dinner in La Salle de Versailles ballroom at the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel unforgettable. The elegance the surroundings—vaulted ceilings painted with heavenly images, sparkling chandeliers, elaborate silk window and table coverings—combined with decadent food and continuously replenished wine glasses conjured images of the era of the Grand Ball.
What surprised you the most?
My biggest surprise was learning about the Tree Hotel in Sweden. The hotel is a collection of separate cabins, each unique in design, but sharing the common trait of hanging suspended among the trees in a northern Swedish forest. Owners Kent and Britta, together with an architect friend, came up with an idea to these build self-contained and well-equipped suites, each one with a different theme. They don’t advertise because they don’t have to. Those in the know have found them. And it’s still a bit of a secret.
Photos Courtesy of Susan Vandendam and Tree Hotel