Your Holiday Personally Complete

By Jo Phillips

What is a holiday for you? Maybe you are the lay-by-the-pool type under a streaming sun or you prefer to ramble or perhaps what you desire most ferociously is food glorious food.  If that doesn’t suit you then, what about an active holiday think skiing, hiking in beautiful scenery or pedalling on a lake or you may love more extreme waterway sports like rafting or even high-in-the-sky paragliding.  But what if you could cover all of that in one trip? What if one destination has everything on offer for you to pick and choose from? All wrapped up in a personalised signature to boot? Find out more about Your Holiday Personally Complete here

For some, a holiday is not a holiday unless it involves a pool and sunshine, yet for others, the holiday experience can be as varied as it is to each’s personal tastes. A loan traveller, a group of friends or even a family travelling all with multiple interests so the destination becomes often more important than many may initially consider. But where to base? And how do you cover everyone’s needs?

The latest collection of hotels from Accor group comes under the heading of Handwritten, a selection of boutique-style small hotels dotted around the world offering multiple options for many that cover any varied tastes, wrapped up in a personal signature and a location that speaks volumes, each unique and one-of-a-kind.

Handwritten Collection’s ambition is to offer a tailor-made customer experience, driven by the passion of a committed host. Within each of the destinations, the specific hotelier invites guests to stay in a charming and sophisticated; home away from home.

Designed to meet the needs of independent hotel owners looking to boost their international visibility and appeal to a wider audience, while preserving the identity, tastes and passion of their hotel.

From city breaks to out-of-the-way locations, the hotels and what they offer are as important as the locations that have been chosen to host the buildings.

Now it’s taken a lot out of most of us, the covid break, that called a halt to our travels. No longer able to visit our favourite places, except those within our own shores. But in a way that has left a deeper scar than we all realise.

Being at home, whether on a staycation or somewhere in our own country that we are familiar with has changed the way so may now approach our treasured break time. No longer of such great importance is the flash hotel the big sparkling events and spaces. No more, that wish for big, flash, non-personal one-size-fits-all style retreats.

There is something very comforting about a less showy approach, a touch of home comforts alongside some elegant luxury. A gentle yet approachable one that feels more intimate, more personal, and more emotive.

Now we all want to feel ‘invited and invested’ in where we stay during our holidays. We want more intimacy, more one-off experiences but most of all we want connectedness. Elegant nothingness is not good taste or even good for the soul: Personal touches are not driven by a non-entity of corporate bodies but with the signature of actual people. We are ready to truly feel our way through our holiday period.

Starting in the East of France in the region of the département of Haute-Savoie sits a small town even a village if you like. Saint Gervais Les Bains is in the department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and may well be known to the native French but most people outside of the country may well never of hear of it.

A beautiful green lush traditional French market and spa town, not, thankfully, a purpose-built resort, and so has a significant year-round population, rather than just seasonal influx it is full of charming historical buildings alongside fresh clean Alp’s air. Known initially as a ski destination it is also a delicate peaceful all-year holiday destination lesser known and so not commercial.

Beyond postcard pretty the town is dotted with buildings that are a meeting of its location, the area sitting very close to both Switzerland and Italy means an infusion of styles each borrowing a little from each country, yet so very French at its heart.

Independent small chalet-style lets that are operated in the majority by owner-operators. Now comes a beautiful small elegant hotel The Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa from the Handwritten Collection on the site of a former private home that has been lovingly and sympathetically extended. The historic original house blends seamlessly into a new extension.

This historic 4-star location houses 75 rooms alongside many options more akin to a higher-starred hotel. Punching above its weight, it sits snugly on the corner of the village, the views of the mountains and valleys (seen from all the bedroom balconies) offer a clear vista that simply refreshes the mind, body and soul.

The airy spacious bedroom range from rooms to suites, in sizes from superior with a double bed to suites suitable for families, and one room with accessible options. All have bath or shower options, balcony, coffee and tea facilities makeup mirrors, free wifi and mineral water. Telephones cable TV and air conditioning are all installed alongside many standards expected n a modern hotel. The hotel also offers meeting rooms so would be a perfect host for small business conferences

White-washed walls with grey highlights and latticework also in grey lend an air of relaxed calming elegance. Bedrooms are calming and spacious all with balconies, think softest lighting, soft sheets, pillows, and bath towels. However, as well as elegant bedrooms also find a spa area, with treatment rooms, a plunge jacuzzi, an inside and outside pool plus a sauna. The intimate outside and inside area allows for those that prefer pure relaxation to have many options here. Maybe one family member stays and rests, sunbathes gets treatments and relaxes at the hotel whilst another goes walking in the summer mountains.

Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa – Saint Gervais Les Bains © Arnaud Laplanche

Then there is the food, which punches way above its weight. The restaurant, Avanti offers breakfast, with a very generous selection, lunch and dinner options with a good wine list and a magnificent bar with a terrace at the side of the hotel.

Food comes in an Italian style hospitality with a proper built-in Italian pizza oven (bought over from Italy) find homemade pasta dishes like truffle with homemade pasta, alongside classics like Veal Milanese with vegetarian fish and meat offerings. Plates on offer such as carpaccio with truffle oil, Tagliatelle Carbonara and Ratatouille plus seasonal desserts, fulfil the gourmand amongst the guests

Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa – Saint Gervais Les Bains © Arnaud Laplanche

Located in the historic part of the Le Saint Gervais hotel, find the cocktail bar, Le Marie Paradis. Spent a quiet relaxing summer evening on the terrace looking out to the village and be served, not just signature drinks, but liaising with the mixologist and he will create a cocktail for you, with a big smile to boot.

Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa – Saint Gervais Les Bains © Arnaud Laplanche

The service, amenities and ambience give a home-from-home feeling yet one wrapped in silk. The elegance and touches of detail give an experience most unexpected but very purposeful. And this is core to the very fundamentals of this hotel and others in a new group on part independent part big group collection known as the Handwritten Collection by Accor hotel group.

Understanding where we are all wishing to go with our rare time off, the group has come up with a simple yet clever concept. Work with independent hoteliers to create bespoke hotels that have the backing of a large respected established group.

Each hotel in the Handwritten Collection has been edited with a handwritten signature, that of the independent hotelier. They are asked, what are you passionate about? and it’s this passion that is infused into each boutique space.

Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa – Saint Gervais Les Bains © Arnaud Laplanche

So what is the passion of the hotelier at St Gervais les Bains? His deep love is the country of Turkey and its traditions; so find it infused with touches throughout the hotel. Plenty of nods to the Ottoman culture, like plates, images and also when arriving guests are offered a splash of cologne to refresh with, very much an Eastern tradition. Raki (a national drink in Turkey) plays a part in the food and cocktails to give a taste too. For example on the evening menus find grilled Seabream with a Raki perfume or for another Eastern touch lokma (deep-fried dough balls, soaked in syrup or honey) is served with coffee.

But there is one more key element in understanding the very core importance of each of the handwritten hotels; the location.

This particular space seated on a postcard beautiful town has so much in activities on offer. Literally across from the hotel is the tram that takes even the least intrepid explores up the mountain.

A kind of funicular railway-style transport, the gentle climb really shows off the magnificence of the region its snowy mountain tops its elegant spiralling trees and springtime vegetation of wildflowers and stony walkways. Available all year round it allows for those to wander or bike ride trails with spectacular scenery. Dotted up the side find the odd bar or motel to stop and relax and breathe in the atmosphere and clean mountain air.

The village itself is less than five minutes walk from the hotel and offers plenty of bars restaurants and general activities with a lookout point to sit, rest and enjoy the views.

As the area is central to the whole region it’s also a perfect meeting point for those wanting to discover the location and use the hotel as a central hub with local thermal spas and other small towns worth a visit in the surrounding hills and valleys.

If it is more of a city vibe that piques the interest, travel an hour by car away to the historic town of Annecy.  It is in the prefecture and largest city of the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France. Annecy has a lake and mountains views as well as a historical town area so is a fascinating and varied destination.

Lying on the northern tip of the turquoise glacial waters of  Lake Annecy, this town known, as the ‘Venice of the Alps’, is truly startlingly beautiful and is a bustling alive historic location. Initially part of the Savoyard state it was ruled by the family as a territorial area that existed independently from 1416 until 1860 and was a possession of the House of Savoy. The annexation of Savoy’s merger with France didn’t happen until 1860. And so before then it was an independent entity with its own flag.

This idyllic almost chocolate-box picturesque area with rivers running through the streets comes from the three canals and the Thiou River, which runs through the old part of this city.

The key and central view of this area is the infamous Lake Annecy. Formed about 18,000 years ago, at the time the large alpine glaciers melted it is thought to be Europe’s cleanest natural water lake, and so it is a popular destination known for its swimming and water sports. Spread around the perimeter find mini beaches where locals and holidaymakers go to dip into the cool waters.

Several great restaurants sit by the water’s edge like Le Bleu 1801 where fresh food is served. Located on the shores of Lake Annecy in an idyllic setting where shades of blue merge, with indoor and outdoor seating and an open-air kitchen, with quality and seasonal products. Somewhat akin to the Cote d’Azur in feeling, with summer sunshine and stripped wooden floorboards with direct road access as well as a jetty to take your boat straight on the lake.

Hire a water taxi and spend a couple of hours or even a day gently motoring around the lake enjoying the multiple exquisite houses dotted around the edge. Even spot (or have a guide) a tiny cave which, in former years, was a ‘hidy-hole’ for local smugglers to store their ill-gotten gains.

As for the city, it is made up of two parts; the modern and historical. And it is the historical parts that draw many visitors and locals alike. Paved streets are intersected by rivers and tributaries that give a real feeling of Venice to the walkways all spotted with the idyllic architecture of the old town. Straight pathways, that turn with mini bridging streets that interweave them.

See The Palais de l’Isle is a 12th-century castle on a tiny island in the river, that served as a three-story prison. Alongside shops and restaurants see plenty of homes sitting directly by the water.

Artist Paul Cézanne even painted the lake in his 1896 artwork Le lac bleu. Annecy has hosted the Annecy International Animated Film Festival since 1960 and also played host to Stage 18 of the Tour de France, as the start/finish point for an individual time trial around Lake Annecy.

So where do you stay when in such a historic town? What about a historic hotel? Le Splendid Hotel Lac d’Annecy  is just that. Period wise it is slightly more modern than the 12th-century prison coming in at the early 20th century; the hotel stands in the area in the city with several Deco pieces of architecture, as is the style of the original building.

Once upon a time when the hotel was first built a young boy would look adoringly at this monument in the city whilst with his father both of whom looked longingly towards its grand structure. The boy grew up to be a hotelier so when he had the chance to own The Splendid himself he jumped at the chance and even bought his granddaughter to work with him.

And so the present owner’s personal touch is very much in honour of its Deco past. Its Art Deco style façade invites you into the heart of the 1930s and encases a modern city hotel with an all-day bar area, where guests can discover a selection of carefully selected wines and beers and taste the gourmet treasures of Haute-Savoie as well as take breakfast from a vast array of food choices.

In the bar notice, Art Deco rounded edges, arches and mirror, and a geometric tiled floor. The monochrome colour palette offset by sunny golden tones, makes it more than welcoming.

Elegantly designed by renowned French designer Thierry D’Istria, the hotel’s interior is adorned with eclectic works of art, sculptures and vintage objets d’art appropriate to its Deco heart including Graphic Flock Wall paper and curved padded headboards in the bedrooms.

Also find a colour palette sympathetic to the time period, many a curved wall echoing the styling of the time which has been lovingly recreated, whilst the original Deco brass and back staircase still is in working use but worry not there are lifts too.

With 67 rooms that include Chromecast TV, courtesy tray, mini-bar, safe, and Nespresso coffee machine. The Executive rooms and Suite with balconies or terraces face the Vassé Canal and the mountains. All rooms are equipped with a shower or bathtub. Again here there are superior rooms all the way to suits, some of which have wrap-around balconies with majestic views of the lake.

Notice quirky touches of the tiny statue of Adonis (the Greek God ) quietly sitting on the headboard in each room. Views from some rooms from their balconies are the image of the majestic sparkling lake.

Ideally located in the heart of the city, opposite the lake and a stone’s throw from shops and tours of the old city, this is another Handwritten signature that eludes the charm and personality yet intimacy the brand is looking to evoke.

Here at the Splendid feel the love and passion bought back into a building that has been stripped and now encases the love felt by the owner who always loved it from afar, and has bought to it that passion for each and every guest to wade in

With time being the one commodity we all seem to be short of, our spare time is more important than ever, and holiday breaks need to encase all we need in way of rest, recuperation, excitement and joyous experiences, alongside emotive personal touches to ensure we feel invited and included. The handwritten seem to have found this balance of place and location heart and soul.

Handwritten Collection of hotels have locations in France China Australia find out more here

To Book The Handwritten Collection St Gervais Des bains Please click here

To Book The Handwritten CollectionHotel Splendid Lac D’Annecy please click here

If you enjoyed reading Your Holiday Personally Complete why not read Hard With A soft Heart here

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