I first spent time in Montreux back in February 1988 when my company took advantage of the out of season rates to run a two week workshop in the Hotel Suisse Majestic. Back then, this once grand Victorian hotel seemed to me to be in decline.
We ran our session in a high-ceilinged ballroom with huge windows looking out over the mist-covered lake. I was less than fully engaged in the workshop and found myself trying to imagine what the room must have been like when it was filled with light and decked out to delight young aristocrats traveling across Europe. I couldn’t quite picture it. I kept finding myself imaging the ballroom scene from “Dance of the Vampires” (also known as “The Fearless Vampire Hunters”) where Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were dancing amongst the living dead.
It seemed to me that the Ballroom was emblematic of Montreux, once grand, now fading and rapidly becoming a seedy parody of itself.
Twelve years later, at the turn of the century, I found myself once more working in Montreux The town had somehow breathed life back into itself. It smelled of wealth but the emphasis was still on building new things rather than restoring old ones. The Hotel Suisse Majestic was still there but it was rather in the shadow of the Montreux Palace or the Eden Au Lac and was comfortable rather than grand
I ended up staying in the region and, twenty-four years after my first visit, I’m happy to say that the town is now full of life and the Hotel Suisse Majestic has been renovated and is now the home of one of my favourite restaurants “45”, which serves great fresh food and has a magnificent view over the lake.
Recently I came across the video below and it seemed to me that it captured how I feel about the hotel: its a nice retro piece, with lots of style and a sense of humour. It also features staff members that I recognise.
I’m very happy to see that this hotel, and this town, have not been allowed to slide into decay, nor have they been trapped in amber as part of the “heritage theme park” ethos that I see so much of in the UK. Instead, it has evolved into a place that recognises its past but is taking joy in its present.
Take a look. It’s a fun piece of film.