Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Patek Philippe factory Tour Day 2

For history buffs the Beau Rivage Geneva had several famous guests in the 1800’s. Empress Sissi of Austria spent her final days here before being assassinated as she was boarding a boat to Montreux. Her body was returned to the hotel before being taken back to Austria.  In 1918 documents were signed in the Masaryk Salon creating Czechoslovakia. Other famous guests have included composer Richard Wagner, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, drummer/singer Phil Collins, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jean Cocteau, King Farouk of Egypt and many more.  Since 1987 it has also been the Geneva location for Sotheby’s auctions, of which the most spectacular must be the auction of the Duchess of Windsor’s collection of jewels.
Waking up early I headed down for breakfast on the terrace. An elegant enclosed space overlooks the lake and provides a perfect backdrop for enjoying a relaxing breakfast.
Like the Beau Rivage in Neuchatel, the buffet isn’t large but offers a great selection of local produce. Freshly baked breads were delicious and there were several types each day.
After breakfast it was back up to the room to get ready for our first full day of the trip which required full suit and tie. Quite a formal day as we would be having lunch with Mr Thierry Stern.

A quick bus trip found our group at Plan Les Ouates, an industrial area on the southern side of Geneva. I know what you are thinking, luxury watches in an industrial area? Plan Les Ouates is no ordinary industrial area. Locals give it the nickname Plan Les Watches as it is home to many Swiss watch brands (Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Piaget, amongst others). It is also home to several Swiss beauty/cosmetic brands like Clarins

Upon arriving we had a quick coffee, met our guides and then headed in to the lecture room auditorium for a presentation about the Patek Philippe brand.  After the presentation we were broken in to two smaller groups to begin our tour of the factory. Sadly we were not able to take photos inside the factory areas, but it was fascinating to see how the parts are manufactured and machined.
After the tour it was time for lunch which was in the private dining salon. Mr. Philippe Stern was our host for lunch. What a lunch it was! Prepared by a chef poached from a Michelin star restaurant, we were informed that he also prepared the meus for the 2 staff cafeterias.

Lasagne style Zita pasta # 18, eggplant confit,poultry and Pata Negra ham.
Brittany lobster, cauliflower and curry foam.
Lemon cheese cake, thin vanilla crepes.
Coffee and chocolates ended our meal.
After our fabulous lunch it was back on the bus for the short journey back in to Geneva central for our tour of the Patek Philippe Watch Museum. WOW what a museum! The Patek Philippe Watch museum houses thousands of watches and pocket watches, and has examples of  clock and watch making from the 1500’s right up to the year 2000. Mr Henry Stern has built up a fabulous collection and continues to add to it. The museum is broken in to two sections, Antique watches 1500’s to 1800’s and the Patek Philippe collection 1839 to present. There is so much to see that I will definitely be going back for another visit, you could spend a whole day looking at these masterpieces of horlogerie.

After a wonderful short tour of this fascinating museum it was back to the Beau Rivage for a quick freshen up and then to dinner at L’Observatoire Restaurant. We knew it was close to our hotel but didn’t realise it was in the hotel next to ours, Hotel D’Angleterre. The hotel is very old school British in style, very elegant and sophisticated. They even have a classic wood lined cigar room, lots of wood polished silver and leather. A good selection of whiskeys were stocked too.

I love a unique butter presentation!
Crispy mille-feuille of crispy potatoes, vegetable puree flavoured with truffles and crispy chips.
Veal medallion Gamay jus, stuffed vegetables and mushroom filled potatoes.
Caramel pear, pink praline custard and orchid ice cream.
After our second three course meal of the day our group was very glad it wasn’t too far back to our hotel and another good night of sleep.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Late September saw me jetting to Geneva, Switzerland for a tour of the Patek Philippe factory. I was  invited by LK Boutique and Patek Philippe to visit the Patek Philippe factories and see behind the scenes of watch making. Unfortunately I was not able to take photos while in the factory but let me say it was a truly amazing experience.

I flew to Geneva on Emirates with a stopover in Dubai. Previous trips to Europe have  been after a week in New York so it was a rarity for me to fly westward from Sydney. The flight is of course LOOOONNGGGGG, nearly 14 hours to Dubai with 2 ½ hour layover then a further 7 hours to Geneva. Of course First class lounges help.
The first meal of the trip was dinner in the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney. A glass of rose Champagne got the trip of to a nice start. I ordered minute steak with chips and salsa verde.
For dessert I ordered the cheese selection and a fig, toasted hazelnut and honey tart with rosemary infused cream, housemade ricotta whey sorbet. Great cheeses and the tart was delicious and light.
Flying First Class is a rare experience and when you can upgrade you really enjoy the treat.

I arrived in Dubai early in the morning and after going through all the barriers, I stumbled along to Emirates First Class lounge. I had been here earlier in the year so it was nice to return for the break between flights.The lounge is quite impressive in terms of the size and fit out, water features, plenty of lounging areas, dining room, spa, business desks. The service was impeccable and the lounge very relaxing.
Freshly squeezed juice and bakers basket.
The only thing missing from breakfast was some bacon but it is a small thing. The sausages that were served (veal or chicken) with the scrambled eggs were sensational.

Scrambled eggs, veal sausages, roesti and baked beans.
After nearly 2 hours on the ground it was time to head back to the plane for the second leg of the trip which flew across Iran, then Turkey and the Balkans before crossing the northern parts of Italy, over the majestic Alps and then in to Geneva airport.
After landing I headed to my hotel for the week, The Beau Rivage Geneva. Located across the road from Lake Geneva, it offers an old world touch of luxury that was very welcome.
My room was one of several that had a balcony facing the lake and the Jet d’Eau, with views to the city centre, the Alps and Mont Blanc in the distance.
After settling in I had a little time to myself and decided to take advantage of the sunshine to explore a little. Our group was given public transport vouchers for the duration of the stay. I decided to use mine to take one of the Mouettes Genevoise across the lake. The Mouettes Genevoise are wooden boats that have a long history on Lake Geneva. There are three routes to choose from and I took the one that goes directly across the lake and offers good views of the Jet d’Eau fountain. 
From the drop off wharf I walked back to the city centre, a walk of around 10 minutes. Naturally, I had to find some watch boutiques. I was also successful in finding M.A.D. Gallery, where I was to catch up with Max Busser later in the week.
Walking through the old town I also found the carousel/merry go round located in the street leading up to the cathedral.
A bit more walking found me at the Quai de l’Ile, historic headquarters of Vacheron Constantin. This building (in the centre of photo below) is now home to a Vacheron Constantin boutique as well as home to their heritage department.
At this point, Lake Geneva starts to narrow again and become the mighty Rhone River. I had never realized that the Rhone River starts its 812 kilometer journey down  to the Mediterranean Ocean from the Lepontine Alps in the canton of Valais. You can see the water starting to flow quite quickly in the photos above and below.
Of course it was impossible to miss the famous flower clock.
Peak hour traffic was a nightmare! I thought Sydney was bad, but the traffic in Geneva shocked me a bit. Although I was later told that the road in front of the Hotel is the main one people use to go around the bottom of Lake Geneva and there is only the one vehicular bridge at that point.
Back at the hotel there was enough time for a quick freshen up before meeting the other members of the group at a welcome cocktail party. Only a few shots of the food but as it was dinner there was plenty of food and all delicious.
Tiredness was starting to catch up with me so I headed back to my room where I had this stunning view out the window.