Maxine Clayman, her partner, Sharps, and their five-month-old baby boy, Ellis.
Where we went
The Baur au Lac hotel, Zurich, Switzerland.
Why we went
"Zurich may not seem like an obvious place for a getaway with kids but there were lots of reasons why we chose it. The main one being I wanted to go somewhere glamorous on my first-ever family holiday to celebrate my 40th birthday. Embarrassingly my partner and I can’t drive so we needed to find a destination that would be accessible without a car and easy for us to take a pram to. I’d heard Zurich’s public transport system is so good that even bankers prefer to use it over the extortionately priced taxis.
The flight from London City airport to Zurich is only an hour and a half. As this was Ellis’s first time on a plane I was hoping he wouldn’t scream his way through it. Thankfully, for everyone’s sake, he took it all in his stride. On arrival we picked up a couple of Zurich cards at the airport. These can be used on public transport and give you access to a variety of museums and attractions for free. Travelling round Zurich with a baby was pretty straightforward. We got the train into the centre of town in about 12 minutes. From there it was a quick walk to the number 11 tram stop which took us round the corner from our hotel, the Baur au Lac.
In a word, this hotel was 'wow'. I’d wanted glitz, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Steeped in history, Wagner premiered The Valkyrie here and the Nobel Prize was invented in the newly refurbished lobby area, the 170-year-old Baur au Lac is one of the most luxurious places I’ve ever been to. And location wise it’s hard to beat. Overlooking Lake Zurich and the Alps, it’s close to the Bahnhofstrasse, the old town and has its own private park, which in summer hosts an annual art exhibition.
I was a bit nervous about staying at such an exclusive hotel with a baby but I needn’t have worried. Personalised service is at the heart of this five-star hotel and all the stops were pulled out to make us feel at home. Emperors, kings, queens, artists, writers and actors (including Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Morgan Freeman and Daniel Craig) are just a few of the who’s who of its star-studded past guests. We were treated like royalty too.
We were booked into an Art Deco themed riverside suite, one of 18 suites. Its custom-made furniture was a mix of classic and contemporary with lots of gold, black and red hues. I loved the stylish lighting, the polished finish of the minibar and the lavish marble bathroom, complete with a large bathtub and separate shower with three different settings. It was also full of mod cons, including free WiFi and a TV each — one next to the bath, one in the bedroom and a TV discreetly placed in the mirror in the lounge. But the highlight of the room for me was the massive, and super comfy, king-sized bed.
Our gorgeous suite had views of the Schanzengraben river and gave us plenty of space as it was huge, great if you’ve got kids. Ellis was too young for us to be able to take advantage of the hotel’s babysitting service. But once we’d put him to bed we could slide the door closed, sit in the living room, and spend some quality time together, without worrying about waking him up.
To say the Baur au Lac is child-friendly, would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe there were baby toiletries for Ellis, as well as his own bath, a supply of night nappies and a changing mat. The hotel also provides special bedding for little ones and a couple of soft toys had been left for Ellis in his cot.
For children over three years old the hotel has a kid’s delight package. It includes unique after-hours access to Franz Carl Webber, the oldest toyshop in Switzerland, and a CHF500 voucher to spend in-store.
What we did
The Bahnhofstrasse, the swankiest shopping street in Europe, is about a minute’s walk from the Baur au Lac. You’re in the right place if you’re looking to spend some serious cash as it’s lined with luxury designer stores including Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Tiffany & Co. While you’re indulging in some retail therapy you can always make a pit stop for the kids at Franz Carl Webber. When we popped in I was surprised to find it’s actually very modern, reminding me a bit of Hamleys in London.
Wandering through Zurich’s old town it’s easy to see why this compact city often tops the polls for the best place to live in the world. Its relaxed atmosphere is perfect for a family break. We also ventured for a walk along the tree-lined pathways by the lakefront where we came across outdoor swimming baths and pedalos for hire. Our Zurich cards entitled us to a free boat trip on Lake Zurich and Ellis’s first sea voyage was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
I was also keen to check out Europe’s largest indoor water park, Alpamare, as it’s only 30 minutes by train (followed by a short bus ride) from Zurich. We took it in turns to watch Ellis while we went on the slides, my favourite was the Cresta Canyon. Although Alpamare was full of school trips it never felt overly busy and we didn’t have to queue too long which was a bonus.
If you’ve got time to spare before your flight I’d recommend visiting the observation deck at Zurich airport. I’m not sure who was more fascinated, Ellis or his dad, watching the planes as they prepared for take off. There’s also a kids’ playground where budding young pilots can clamber aboard a mini airplane.
What we ate
It goes without saying, chocolate featured highly on the menu on our trip to Zurich. The Baur au Lac creates its own Swiss chocolate in-house called 1844 (named after the year the hotel opened) and we got our daily fix from the minibar. On arrival we were welcomed with a patisserie selection and for kids there’s a cookie, sweets and a sparkling drink. One of the brilliant extras you get with a stay at the Baur au Lac is that the minibar in the rooms is free, yes free, and gets replenished with drinks and snacks on a daily basis.
Breakfast is served at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Pavillon restaurant. You can chose from the buffet and/or order a cooked breakfast from the menu. I was momentarily distracted from the array of food by the impressive purple floral bouquets and the Art Deco chandelier at the far end of the room, reminding me of a scene out of the Great Gatsby. With my focus back on my meal I ordered eggs benedict with salmon. Smothered in creamy hollandaise sauce the yolks oozed when I cut into them. It might be a fine dining restaurant but the Pavillon isn’t stuffy and children are more than welcome any time of day — highchairs, cutlery and a special menu are all available.
One morning we indulged in breakfast in our room, definitely a convenient option for families. Likewise, if the thought of eating out seems daunting then room service could be the solution as there’s a kids’ menu. There’s also plenty to keep them entertained as all the rooms are kitted out with a DVD player, with a selection of kids’ DVDs on request.
Alternatively, the hotel’s Rive Gauche Mediterranean inspired restaurant, where we tucked into dinner, is more casual than the Pavillon. Exquisitely presented starters of poached lobster with apple cucumber sorbet and marinated salmon and tuna tartar on a bed of cucumber carpaccio were delicate and light. Mains were simple but tasty. Wagyu beef tenderloin, with a side order of fries, melted in the mouth, as did the grilled fillet of seabass with artichokes and olives. I’m not quite sure how we found room but somehow we managed to squeeze in dessert of Black Forest cake, sour-cherry sorbet, hot 1844 chocolate sauce and a blackcurrant and exotic fruit cheesecake.
Dining out in Zurich isn’t cheap but if you head to Haus Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, it’s still possible to get a reasonably priced meal. We opted for the self-service buffet, and with over 100 dishes it’s a great place for fussy eaters as they’re bound to find something they’ll like."
Rooms at the Baur au Lac start from £585/ CHF 870 per night for a deluxe double room. For more information see www.bauraulac. To book email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tel.: +41 44 220 50 30. The kid’s delight package is based on two adults and one child over three years old sharing and is subject to availability.