The hour-drive from Lucerne allowed me to play a little with my BMW M850i xDrive, which in Sport mode delivered a seismic degree of thunder roaring for all inside and outside the car. Surprisingly agile for its size, it offers stacks of grip through the tight Alpine corners, a testament to its great chassis and lashings of carbon fibre. With the smoothest of transition between gears and a suspension that flattened bumps out as if I was on a magic carpet, the car swallowed up the miles totally effortlessly, arriving in Bern without a sweat.
With its speed, sophistication and growling soundtrack, it is difficult not to lust after the BMW M850i xDrive, which took me from Bürgenstock to Bern in just one hour.
The Schweizerhof is another classic Hotel & Spa in Switzerland, having been welcoming guests since 1859 and earning its place in our James Bond location saga thanks to the balcony of its room 401, which played a significant role in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the most famous outdoor location for this movie was probably the revolving restaurant “Piz Gloria” at the summit of the Schilthorn, in the Bernese Oberland, what happens in Bern leads Bond to Blofeld’s secret Alpine lair.
On the set of On her Majesty’s Secret Service at Piz Gloria. Left: Telly Savalas (Blofeld) with director Peter R. Hunt. Right: Diana Rigg (Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, later Mrs Bond) and George Lazeby (James Bond).
In the movie, Bond, his fiancée and her father Marc-Ange Draco – head of one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the world – are in Bern, in search of evidence involving Blofeld. For that purpose, Bond breaks into the office of Swiss lawyer Gumbold at lunchtime. He steps onto the balcony … which happens to be the balcony of the Schweizerhof’s room 401. From the huge construction site in on the other side of the street, (at the time the new station was being built), an accomplice places a briefcase containing one of the special Bond gadgets, the “safecracker”, in a crane and sends it up to him, so the agent can open the safe as well as copy the important papers he finds in it. Punctually after one hour, at the chime of the Holy Ghost Church’s bell, the job is completed and Bond can disappear undetected before the lawyer returns. I don’t know about super agents but if I had done all that in just my lunch hour, I’d be good for nothing but a siesta and a visit to the spa in the afternoon, both of which I could do at the Schweizerhof
The balcony of room 401 at the Scweizerhof hotel is where 007 picks up the briefcase delivered by crane from the opposite building, which at the time was in construction. It is now Bern’s main train station. The Holy Ghost Church can be seen at the back.
All of its rooms are fabulous, but the suites are simply amazing. Designed and furnished by Maria Katsarou Vafiadis (MKV Design London), and with 60m2 of living space, this is the kind of place where one feels like a Hollywood star… or James Bond’s wife-to-be for that matter. The Spa has everything your body and mind may need after half a day of spying on the world’s most terrifying baddie: a whirlpool with bubble loungers, massage jets and fountain shower, a Finnish sauna, cold water pool, steam bath, ice fountain, water beds… and, of course, a wide selection of soothing massages and beauty treatments.
The living room of the Presidential Suite at the Schweizerhof hotel in Bern, 120m2 of unparalleled luxury.
Having heard a lot about the hotel’s famous Jack’s Brasserie, I looked no further to have dinner. Its classic menu features seasonal and modern interpreted brasserie dishes using local and regional ingredients whenever possible. Jack’s Wiener Schnitzel is especially popular and according to Gault Millau, the best in Switzerland. The team plays a big role in the popularity of this place. From maître d’ Nicolas to sommelier Soren and our waiters that evening, Bernard and Nail, everyone is attentive, helpful and always with a smile on their faces. You won’t be surprised to hear that famous authors, artists, members of royalty and Hollywood stars, have all eaten here, including Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
Jack’s Brasserie offers a typical fin-de-siècle atmosphere and a contemporary menu with classic touches featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Before bringing the evening to an end, we felt compelled to indulge in a “nightcap” at The Lobby Lounge Bar. During the day, it is the ideal place in the centre of town to drop by and enjoy a coffee or even a cheeky after-work drink. In the evening, the action moves to the bar, where mixologist Antonio can prepare for you any “Bondesque” cocktail you can think of and then a few more.
On a Friday night, you’ll find true “Bondesque” characters at the Lobby Lounge Bar and the cocktail menu is simply brilliant. Definitely worth a visit.
The cigar lounge is a few steps away. As it happens, this is actually the place to hang out. In it you’ll find the most diverse characters you could possibly imagine and meet lots of interesting people, none of whom would be out of place in a 007 story. Trust me when I say that it was the most fun I have had on a Friday evening in Switzerland in a very long time. On a gloomy Saturday morning, it was time for me to stop following in the steps of the world’s most desirable secret agent and return to London to share my findings with Moneypenny and M at the MI6 headquarters, which in three of the Bond movies were located at the Old War Office Building in Whitehall. Watch this space.
Tel. +41 31 326 80 80
Words: Julia Pasarón