The Montreux Palace - wish you were here...

The view from room 301

Whenever people hear that Stephane is traveling to some exciting location for work, they frequently ask why I'm not going with him. The easy answer is that being in vacation mode while your husband is in work mode isn't conducive to a harmonious trip. Just imagine the reaction that I get when I interrupt Stephane, who is busy answering emails and poring over financial figures, to tell him about all the fun things that I plan to do while we're in X, Y or Z.

Circumstances were different, however, when he invited me to accompany him to Montreux for a conference because it's where we used to live. It's home! Plus, there was the added attraction of spending a couple of nights at the Montreux Palace, a hotel where we wouldn't stay if we were paying for it ourselves. I'm a bargain hunter when it comes to accommodation.

The hotel, which is where Sir Peter Ustinov filmed Lady L starring Sophia Loren and David Niven, also played a major role in my life when I returned to Switzerland after caring for my mother while she was dying from brain cancer. People react to grief in different ways. After months of feeling utterly and completely helpless in the face of death, I lost the joy in being alive. Fortunately, Stephane proposed that we join the health club at the Montreux Palace as a way of bringing me slowly back to myself.

The treadmill - a good spot for reflection

Studying the various shades of grey as clouds passed in front of the ancient mountains surrounding the Lake of Geneva, I used to spend hours contemplating the vagaries of life while walking on the treadmill and practicing yoga. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do the people we love have to leave us? What's the point of it all? Realizing that I would never find the answers to these timeless questions, I vowed to quietly enjoy the rest of my days in Montreux.

As so often happens, life had different plans. Stephane came home from work one day and told me that he had been offered a job in Paris. Now, I'm "Out and About", a phrase that my mother always used to describe her days away from home. In many ways, I think that Paris is a parting gift from her - exploring the city reminds me that life is good. We should enjoy it. I only wish that you were here...

And how is the hotel? Spectacular, particularly room number 301 because it's a corner room with 2 balconies and a veranda. But when we return for another conference in June, I'm bringing my own pillow because I don't like the overstuffed variety.

Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
Grand Rue 100
1820 Montreux
Switzerland

Room 301
The indoor pool, another place where I spent a lot of time searching for answers.

Comments

  1. Hi Mary Kay, this was a beautiful post and one that I know will touch so many people as we all have our person(s) that we want to say, "wish you were here." It looks like a gorgeous place to reflect and rebuild emotional strength. I'm so glad that you're "out and about" and love knowing that title has even more meaning for you. enjoy your stay.

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    1. Thanks, Kristen. Even though this wasn't the post that I started out to write, it was somehow unavoidable. Montreux really is the perfect place for reflection. I hope that you and your family have been able to rebuild your emotional strength after the loss of your grandmother and your mother-in-law. I was very touched by your posts about them.

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  2. Goodness Mary Kay, that really struck home today. Grieving and loss is by far the most difficult emotion for me. I'm so glad you found your way back to living. Beautiful post, beautiful pictures

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    1. I agree - there's something so profound about grief. It's much more consuming than any other emotion that I've experienced. But when I finally managed to reach the other side, I truly understood how precious life is. Not that I didn't know it before, but now that knowledge is deep within me.

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  3. Okay, personal triumphs aside: ask for a different pillow from the hotel. If they are four star or five star (as I expect they are) the must have a pillow selection even if it's not in the room. An Aussie friend stayed at the Trump International here and requested the pillow menu (yes, a menu) and ordered two scented sleep pillows and two varying softness pillows in addition to the four already on her bed. I thought it was hysterical, but of course, it's just a service. Ask.

    Now, about your triumph: "slowly back to myself"--love practiced with patience and support, a gift. And I know you never take it for granted. Well done.

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    1. Asking for smaller pillows is one of the first things that I did after wrestling with the overstuffed pillows all night. Since the hotel (Hotel du Lac) where we stayed last time has a pillow menu with scented pillows, buckwheat pillows, Japanese pillows, etc like the one at the Trump International, I was expecting something similar from the Montreux Palace. Nope. They only offered me smaller pillows that are still larger than the small one that I use at home. Oh, well. It's a minor inconvenience that I'll readily accept in exchange for the view!

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  4. Dear Mary Kay, what a nice and truthful post today! Gives me a lot to think about... specially about all the important matters that often get forgotten in our fast and hectic world. Thanks for that and for reminding me to be thankful for everything and everybody in my life (including you and Stéphane). Beautiful picture of the lake and the mountains - don't you miss the mountains when you are in Paris??

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    1. Dearest Heidi,

      Yes, I miss the mountains!!! You should have seen Stephane and me when we opened the curtains in the morning and admired the Dents de Midi. You would have thought that we had never seen mountains before. But more than the mountains, I miss the lake.

      And as for being thankful, I hope that you realize how thankful I am for all of your support while I was caring for my mother. I'll never forget walking through the vineyards with Paul and you shortly after I returned to Switzerland. Your steady friendship is one of the things that convinced me that life is worth living. Thank you.

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  5. What a lovely and poignant post. And what a fine tribute you've paid your mother!

    I can think of few places that could be more physically inspiring than that region of Switzerland. Is it any wonder that Charlie Chaplin, leaving America behind, chose to spend the rest of his life there?

    Speaking of inspiration: A good friend had long ago suggested I watch Carl Sagan's "Cosmos"; a series available on Netflix which I recently completed. Truly amazing stuff - inspiration for the mind!

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    1. Perfect timing, Peter! Stephane and I were just wondering what to watch so I checked if "Cosmos" is available on iTunes. It is, so I'm downloading it right now. Coincidentally, I remember my mother telling me how much she enjoyed this series when it first came out. Thanks for telling me about it. And thank you for all of your emails while I was caring for my mother. They always seemed to arrive just when I needed them most.

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  6. O.M.G..... - so do I!!!
    You DO lead a sheltered life - no less than the Montreux Palace, my! If you think you can detect the slightest trace of jealousy, you're right, MK! This is just such a totally amazing place - not that I have ever been inside, just staring from the outside... I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THAT GORGEOUS SWIMMING POOL with a view on Lac Léman....
    Sometimes I feel I've mastered the 'art' of suffering without being devastated all the time. I often feel I am particularly blessed when I hear about the suffering of friends and acquaintances. When I think I cannot bear my load a minute longer I just have to think of the manifold happenstances of my dear friends to make me thankful for my lot. Sadly, we all have to take leave of our most beloved ones and it’s a good thing to look after them while we have them. I often speak with my dad and we laugh about things that happened at earlier times when he still was with us. I try to look very well after my mum, blind but happy because I know that at 85 in July, I won’t have her around me (figuratively spoken since she is in Switzerland and I’m in France) for another eternity… Blessed moments.
    I've got to stop here, too much beauty and truth in one post – my love…. I shall cry in a minute and I haven't got my tissues with me...

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    1. Kiki, Having "conversations" with my mom is one of the unexpected blessings after her death - when she was alive, I had to work hard to get a word in edgewise because she was a lively woman with a lot to say. Now I get the chance to talk and she listens! ;) How fortunate that your mother is still alive and happy at 85. I hope that you will have many more years with her.

      The sun setting over Lac Leman is one of the most beautiful sights in the world (as you know), so that's when I usually went swimming. It was so peaceful.

      Big hugs xx

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  7. HI
    What!!! you are not slumming it in Vevey.... LOL
    Have a great time
    Cheers
    Conrad

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    1. Ha! Every once in a while the powers that be at an unnamed company let their employees have a taste of the good life in Montreux! ;)

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  8. Thankyou Mary Kay for your heartfelt and moving post....it meant so much to me!

    My dear Mother passed away this week after suffering many years with Alzheimers Disease. In an attempt to distract my thoughts, I opened your blog to read for the first time in weeks.

    After reading your beautiful words amidst a flood of tears, I am now typing and smiling as I believe my dear Mum sent me a message to be brave and carry on....and to do this not with a burdened heart or a bowed head.

    Thankyou MK

    MR
    Brisbane, Australia

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    1. Dear MR, I'm so very sorry to hear about your mother's death. While it's important to be brave and carry on as your mother would have wanted, please allow yourself the time to mourn. I remember one of the Hospice volunteers telling me that we used to be wiser about death because we used to wear black mourning clothes as a sign that we were fragile and had recently lost a loved one. I thought of her words frequently after my mom's death when I felt raw and overcome with grief but was expected to carry on as if everything was alright. Don't rush yourself - healing takes time.

      Also, please take care of your health. Grief takes a toll on our bodies. If you missed any doctor visits or weren't exercising or whatever because you were caring for your mother, please make your health a priority. It's what your mother would have wanted.

      Please know that you're in my thoughts.

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    2. I'm sending this reply to a friend in Australia who just lost her father and and aunt (at 98! and still doing the crosswords). Very insightful.

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  9. Thank you for a lovely post. You are lucky to have such a thoughtful caring husband, which I am sure you know! When we lose someone we love, the lesson we have to learn is to treasure the loved ones we still have. BM x p.s. That hotel is so gorgeous!

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    1. That should read GM....

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    2. Even though Stephane and I have weathered a lot of storms together, my mother's death made me appreciate him even more. One of my favorite quotations about marriage comes from the movie, "In Good Company".

      Carter Duryea: Dan, you seem to have the perfect marriage. How do you do it?
      Dan Foreman: You just pick the right one to be in the foxhole with, and then when you're outside of the foxhole you keep your @#$% in your pants.
      Carter Duryea: That's poetic.

      I wouldn't want to be in the "foxhole" with anyone but Stephane. He's a good guy.

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  10. I'm so glad you get a chance to go back "home" to reflect and relax. Enjoy that gorgeous hotel room!

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    1. Thanks, I did! But it also feels good to be back in Paris, in spite of the rain!

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  11. That was very touching MK, thanks for sharing. I can't even imagine but I'm glad you found a way to slowly work through it. And that is one hell of a view!

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    1. Yup! I love that view! Stephane kept teasing me because I felt like spending my entire time in the room.

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  12. What a moving and poignant post and what inspiring replies. Thanks to you Mary Kay and to everybody else.

    Not a lot more to add except that sometimes little things trigger off memories of grief and haw we survive those awful days and hopefully come through stronger and more appreciative of the people we love and what is important in life.

    I don't really believe in an afterlife, but I DO believe the spirit of our loved ones lives on in the memories we have of them. I also talk to my late mum, and miss her terribly, but I feel she walks with me every day with her wonderful legacy of the values and example she gave me.

    Denise xx

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  13. I always wondered why you were so reluctant about Paris upon your arrival. Now I get it. That view knocks the one at the Club Med gym in Porte Maillot flat on its back.

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  14. Your post was really moving and those that still have their moms around will consider themselves blessed after reading your story. Thanks for sharing your story and also for the lovely photos of Montereux palace. It is really a beautiful place.

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