Hotel inspections are a part of life for travel writers. Despite the fact that we are staying in a hotel, it is almost certain that we’ll be required to “inspect” parts of the hotel we might not see as a guest: other styles of rooms, function and conference rooms, even kitchens.
So we dutifully trail around behind a hotel staff member, looking at everything the hotel has to offer, regardless of whether we will write about it or not.
When I checked in at Hotel Krafft Basel on my first day in Switzerland, the receptionist told me an inspection with the general manager had been arranged for 5pm. By then, the rest of the group of 10 international journalists I’d be travelling with would have arrived.
When we gathered, general manager and part-owner Franz-Xaver Leonhardt had a surprise in store. No inspection, he declared, because we would see the hotel for ourselves over the next two days. Instead, we would do a short walking tour to some of his favourite places in the city.
Without any delay, we were crossing Basel’s Middle Rhine Bridge – just a minute’s walk from the hotel – and soon we were pushing through the door of a deliciously aromatic bakery.
This is the Konditorei-Confiserie Gilgen, on Spalenberg, where Franz-Xaver comes every Sunday morning with his young son. Inside, we are in for a treat, as we are given a tour of the kitchen, where champagne is poured and sweet treats are laid out on trays waiting for us. The family-run bakery has been in this spot since 1937, has no website and was not listed in any of the tourist brochures I picked up in Basel. Word of mouth has done it’s job, and I can see why!
Replete, we wandered through the streets where Basel’s citizens were gathering in the early evening to eat, drink and talk. Cafes were bursting and the trams were delivering more people to their meeting points.
We needed to walk off some of the goodies, and a good stretch of the legs brought us to Munsterplatz, home of Basel’s beautiful red brick cathedral. This is certainly no secret, but it was a great time of day to be there; I’d come earlier, and missed the lovely evening light and the after-work life of Basel. Now, groups of men were playing boules, bands were playing and everyone was letting off steam after a day at the office. All from on high with a view of the Rhine below us. It was quite a different scene altogether.
From Munsterplatz, we descended to the river bank to jump aboard a small ferry to cross the Rhine. Now back on the same side as our hotel, we ended the evening walking along the promenade towards our waiting dinner and beds. But first, another quick stop. Franz-Xaver tells us that later he’ll be attending celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Ueli Bier at a party at Fischerstube on Rheingasse, just a few doors away from the hotel. Ueli beers are brewed on the premises, and you can have a look at the brewery too.
It’s been a long day, and I’m ready for my pillow. What a delight to find a small sweet gift waiting on it, courtesy of the hotel and Gilgen. Franz-Xaver is certainly my kind of hotel general manager!