Surprising as it seems, the three star Hotel les Cygnes is the only hotel situated on the Lake Geneva waterfront in the French resort of Evian les Bains. Of course the town is famous for its bottled water of the same name, but the hotel has its own spring and was once the bottling plant for the rival Graziella brand.
This was a bid by Vittel to compete with Evian and flourished for around twenty years from 1907. The present hotel was built in what they call “English Cottage Style” in 1926 and has enchanting views across the lake to Lausanne.
You can swim here as it has its own beach and you can even moor your boat on their private pontoon.
There are just 36 rooms and I get one on the second floor with a lake view from its balcony. There’s no lift and I climb the stairs past old photographs chronicling the hotel’s history. It’s one of those places with knick knacks scattered everywhere and seems a mite old fashioned.
Fortunately everything in my room is bang up to date, a result of recent refurbishment, but they’ve still managed to preserve that French old world charm.
Evian itself, around a kilometre’s walk away, still has its thermal baths, funicular, theatre and casino, although the passenger steamers on the lake have been replaced by fast modern ferries.
It’s a lively place, built on various levels and crammed with bars and restaurants and you can visit the famous spring.
The story goes that the Marquis of Lessert drank the water here in 1789 and it cured his kidney and liver problems. The landowner started selling the water and the first “Evian Baths” appeared in 1824, with bottled water following a few years later.
Back at the hotel, I make use of most of the facilities although I’ve no appetite for mini-golf and the swimming pool is rather tiny. Instead I take a number of refreshing dips in the lake and sunbathe on the terrace, watching the boats go by.
They also offer thalassotherapy and thermal cures but I’m content with the lake water.
There are two restaurants here, the simpler “bistro” and the more refined “gastronomique”, which has sunset views over the lake. It’s a beautiful evening so I sit outside, and enjoy the gastronomy of Chef Teddy Hélard.
Crayfish with asparagus mousse, fillets of perch fresh from the lake, and a tasty cheeseboard make for an excellent meal. I must give a special mention to the French fries which are the best chips I’ve had in a long time. Service is attentive but not fussy, and the wine list is extensive.
One feature which is worth mentioning is their copious breakfast buffet, with a wide variety of cured meat and fish and a selection of cheeses, as well as the usual bread and patisseries. And just in case you haven’t had enough of the lake view, you can sit outside and eat far too much.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT HOTEL LES CYGNES
8, Avenue Grande Rive
33 (0)4 50 75 01 01
Rooms from £81.
Hotel Les Cygnes belongs to the Logis Hotels network-