Have you heard of the term “Route du Bonheur” before? In case the answer is no, the concept started back in 1954 when a couple of music hall artists came up with the idea. Bringing together hoteliers and chefs of 8 small independent properties throughout France under the slogan La Route du Bonheur – otherwise known as the road of happiness.
With this a lovely road trip was created going from Paris down to Nice. Each of the 8 properties being a lovely stop on the way. This too was the beginning of the Relais & Châteaux Association. Today Relais & Châteaux has grown to include 580 independently owned properties in 65 countries on 5 continents. Most properties are owned & operated by families passionate about their craft and deeply committed to forging warm, lasting relationships with their guests. Every property has an excellent kitchen. Something which is strictly verified before a property is accepted as member of the Relais & Châteaux .
There are currently 146 Routes du Bonheur on offer and a concierge service for creating your own bespoke trip.
Today’s story is about my 4 day press trip adventure doing a bespoke Route du Bonheur through the canton Wallis, Switzerland.
Keep reading for more about: “Adventure, Great Food & Luxury Along This Swiss Route du Bonheur!”
Adventure, Great Food & Luxury Along This Swiss Route du Bonheur!
In 4 days we visited Zermatt, Sass Fee and Verbier. The tour we did is part of an official 5 stop wine inspired Route du Bonheur through the canton Wallis – here the details of that tour.
Come and check out where we stayed and what we got up to…
Day 1. Zermatt
We stayed in the super cute family run and owned Chalet Hotel Schönegg. Of course it is also a Relais & Chateaux member. One of the first things that really knocked me out was the fantastic view of the Matterhorn from my room…
We all compared photos each morning as depending on the exact time we took our Matterhorn photos the colour was always slightly different.
Each room is decorated in cosy mountain style that makes you feel right at home. The suites each have their own private jacuzzi and fireplace. It doesn’t get much more romantic than that!
Our stay started with a delicious lunch of local food and wine on the beautiful infinity terrace. Check out the fabulous Matterhorn view we had whilst dining…
Next it was time to go back direction train station and catch the Gornergrat train to Rotenboden. From there we did the small 3km trek to the pretty Riffelsee. An easy walk which is truly a must do for any trip to Zermatt in my opinion.
One of my favourite pictures of both the lake and the Matterhorn.
It’s still a great spot in general for taking fabulous mountain pictures. On the way back to the train we passed by a French woman who was shepherding her 6 Alsatian dogs up the mountain. The perfect photo models!
Fun fact: There are 400km of well-marked hiking trails in the Matterhorn-Zermatt destination. See here for other great hiking tips.
From there we then got on the Gornergrad train again and went all the way up to the Gornergrat itself at 3’089 metres. A great place to stop and drink some of the 125 year special Matterhorn bier. From the top you see fantastic views of the Matterhorn and another 28 fourthousanders. The train ride from Zermatt to Gornergratt without changing takes you 33 minutes and is possible 365 days a year.
Day 2. The Matterhorn Alpine Crossing
Wow, what an adventure. Starting right from Zermatt village itself we took 8 different gondolas all the way to Cervinia – Italy.
The whole trip takes you 90 minutes with some spectacular views en-route.
Above you see the absolute newest part of the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing. Only just open since July 2023, this is the highest cable car Alpine crossing in Europe. Connecting the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise station at 3’883 metres, with the Testa Grigia station at 3’480 metres height.
Prior to this it was only possible to reach Italy from Zermatt either by ski or on foot.
When doing this trip I can really recommend getting off at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise station and walking up the stairs to the viewing platform at almost 4’000 metres for a truly unforgettable view.
Dressed by Rotauf.
Organic Wine & Local Dried Meat Tasting
Before dinner we had a lovely apero on the terrace of the Chalet Hotel Schönegg where I got to meet local wine producer Thierry Constantin and taste his current wines. It was super interesting hearing all about the way he produces his delicious organic wines.
As a special treat at dinner we were served some of his rarest wines – a real experience.
Local dried meat producer Fabian Molinari also treated us to some of his fabulous dried meats. My absolute favourite was the dried raw ham with truffle – omg I get hungry just writing about this.
Fun fact: perfect for Christmas time, you can order gift boxes online containing a combination of local Wallis wine wine and Fabian Molinari’s dried meat – see here.
Dinner – Restaurant Uncorked
Check out what we ate – all made from local ingredients…
Day 3. Saas Fee
Having never been to Saas Fee before, I was super curious how it would be. After an easy 1.5 hour chauffeur drive we arrived in Sass Fee. Although Saas Fee itself, like Zermatt is car free, you can drive there. You will need to park in the car park outside the village which costs CHF 16. 50 for the first day, and then CHF 12. 50 for each day after that.
Upon arrival I instantly fell in love with the wooden houses by the train station – quite similar to those in Zermatt.
From the train station we took a little electric taxi to our Relais & Chateaux hotel, the 5 star Walliserhof Grand Hotel & Spa:
Fun fact: Did you know the video to the song Last Christmas by George Michael was made in the Walliserhof Grand Hotel & Spa.
Let’s check out my pretty suite:
The hotel has a design reception /common area, 3 restaurants, beautiful spa and super friendly staff. It is located right in the centre of the village so handy for both getting into town or heading up the Mountain both in Summer and Winter.
The world’s friendliest Marmots
Having checked in our next mission was to go and meet the world’s friendliest Marmots. We walked to the “Spielboden”, armed with carrots generously donated by the Walliserhof Grand Hotel & Spa.
Despite the Marmots looking extremely well fed, ready for their Winter sleep, I still managed to feed one. This is now filed under “cutest experience”.
Genussmeile annual fair
Saas Fee is quieter, less crowded and less commercialised than Zermatt. However it has the most interesting traditions that many people don’t know about. We were lucky enough to arrive exactly on the day of their annual “Genussmeile fair”.
This is when the whole Main Street is lined with food stalls from each of the local clubs/hotels/ & restaurants. The concept of the “Genussmeile fair” started 15 years ago. Originally as one long table down the Main Street and has since grown to be many different stands all along the village.
Where there’s a party it would be shame not to join in – right – smile! By the way I am still dreaming of the delicious raclette we had for lunch.
The locals, even hotel managers (the Walliserhof Grand Hotel & Spa GM pictured above), also dress up in traditional costume.
We got to talk to one couple and the woman above (80 years old) is actually responsible for making many of the costumes. She explained to us how her whole outfit is made by hand from local products – including local wool. Imagine if you want to buy a real costume you can expect to set yourself back about CHF 4’000. Not your every day souvenir I would say – smile!
Back at the hotel it was nice to enjoy a little time in the 2’100 sq m spa area before dinner. For me this included a fabulous 30 minute massage followed by a dip in both the spa and main pools.
Next came our wonderful meal especially cooked for us by Chef Michael Wirkes. The menu being especially designed in honour of the Relais & Chateau collaboration with the Slow Food association – more about that here.
See what we ate:
Day 4: Verbier
Verbier was the final stop of our 4 day tour through Wallis with Relais & Chateaux. This time the journey was a little more complicated but still super pretty. Starting with a drive in the Post Bus (my first ever), then short train ride followed by a chauffeur drive up to the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Chalet D’Adrien. The trip took us around 3 hours but you can drive it in just under 2 hours.
Upon arrival the afternoon started with a fun table grill lunch where we got to meet the Hotel Chalet D’Adrien owners, husband and wife, Brigitte de Turkheim & Eric Cachart.
Fun fact: The hotel is named Chalet D’Adrien after Brigitte’s Grandfather, Baron Adrien de Turkheim, an impressive man and fearless driver. He even designed his own series of cars, one model of which was developed with Bugatti. Amongst his travels he fell in love with Verbier and this was also a driving factor for Brigitte to return here.
Both Brigitte and Eric had their own successful careers prior to owning Hotel Chalet D’Adrien. Brigitte in the world of information and consultancy and Eric as a TV star, presenter of the evening news programme on the France 3 channel.
I really enjoyed sitting next to Eric over lunch. Hearing all about how passionate both he and Brigitte are about Hotel Chalet D’Adrien. A story that once again made me realise it’s never to late to make a dream come true – all it takes is passion and determination.
This room, with spectacular mountain views, a walk through wardrobe and separate lounge area, was so beautiful I wished it were my holiday apartment.
The first time I left the room I bumped into Brigitte wanting to also show the room to another friend of hers. She then explained to me how she had done the interior design herself.
I seriously could have happily relaxed here all afternoon, simply soaking up the sunshine and beautiful mountain views.
There is also a fitness room, sauna, jacuzzi as well as pretty treatment rooms.
After 3 days of full on activity and adventure, we were all happy to mostly chill after lunch on our 4th day.
I went for a run into town – have spared you from any sweaty pictures of this – smile.
A huge thank you to Relais & Châteaux and all other partners for making it possible for me to experience:
“Adventure, Great Food & Luxury Along This Swiss Route du Bonheur!”
If you too would like to experience a Route du Bonheur,
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