The awakening comes not from the polite chime of a hotel alarm but the guttural roar of a Ferrari engine, its call and answer echoing off the centuries-old walls of the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. Perched elegantly on the Geneva lakeshore, this architectural grand dame was to be the springboard for my journey, the opening act of a meticulously organized driving experience courtesy of the Four Seasons.
The week's itinerary teased a tantalizing promise: an insider's journey, an intimate pilgrimage through the heart of the Alpine region, navigated through the torque and thrill of supercars. This wasn't just a road trip. It was an invitation to an elite quartet of auto rallies, curated excursions weaving through the dramatic landscapes of the Alps, a trifecta of countries unfurling beneath our wheels—all punctuated, of course, by luxuriant stays at the plushest properties. The pulse of city life would be tempered with the serene cadence of the countryside. There would be adrenaline, not just from the purr of finely tuned engines, but also from the crescendo of culinary delights that awaited us at each destination.
In the sphere of luxury travel, the rules of the game continue to metamorphose. Just as high-flying couture clients are no longer simply whisked away on flashy shopping trips but on transformative journeys, the standard-bearers of ultra-high-end travel hospitality have also, over the last decade, leaned into the realm of intrepid experiences. Belmond rules the locomotive with its chi-chi choo-choo rides that cut through the Andes, the Scottish Highlands, and as of 2022, from London to Venice on the fabled Orient Express. The Ritz-Carlton, meanwhile, has charted new waters with its Yacht Collection, an expanding fleet that "marries a spacious, residential feel with the innovative design of the world's most stylish yacht interiors." Then there’s Exclusive Resorts, a members-only travel club that offers immersive "once-in-a-lifetime journeys," such as a private jet hopscotch across nine countries in three weeks. Naturally, Four Seasons, a symbol of unabashed indulgence, was overdue to throw its own hat into the ring—actually, three hats—offering trips on yachts, private jets, and as I had the privilege of experiencing, in supercar rallies for luxury auto aficionados.
This was a logical progression, explains Marc Speichert, Executive Vice President of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The brand unveiled the Drive concept in Tuscany's undulating landscape in 2022, and in 2023 it continues to preserve its exclusivity with two journeys on offer: the summertime sprint I undertook in the Alps, and an upcoming October trip in Napa. "A crucial component is to provide guests access to an itinerary they couldn't find elsewhere: bespoke routes, top guides, and private access to historic sites, wineries, chateaus, and restaurants," Speichert notes. “The program has seen great success with a number of repeat guests from the inaugural drive which speaks to their desire for tailored experiences.”
I would be accompanied by an eclectic and intergenerational mix of fellow travelers, among them a German founder of a European fashion house and his girlfriend (they jetted in fashionably on their private plane and opted to drive a vintage Porsche from their personal collection); a Greek oil magnate and his wife (sadly, they left their three yachts behind); divorced Texans who still travel together; a Canadian power couple. At 28, Gia Kim, a Korean-American fashion entrepreneur based in L.A. was the youngest on the roster. But she was also the most seasoned: Gia had attended the Tuscany drive with her parents and sister—an experience so seamlessly executed, she tells me over a cheese-tasting pitstop in Gruyère, it teased the family to switch loyalties from their former go-to hotel, which will remain nameless. (It doesn’t hurt that everyone leaves a Drive experience with invite-only Four Seasons Elite status for life, reaping perks from room upgrades to spend credits and even a dedicated customer service line.) When we spoke a few weeks later, Gia likened this drive to a "bougie summer camp.”
I wasn't at odds with the sentiment. A Fours Seasons Drive teems with unscripted anthropology (what unfolds when a coterie of well-traveled, well-heeled strangers are tossed on a trip together?), coupled with an undercurrent of learning and skill-sharing set against the cultural tapestry of the region. We slipped into the backstage of haute horological titan Roger Dubuis' manufacture on the outskirts of Geneva, swapping resort-wear for lab coats to wrestle with twenty-odd components of a watch face during an interactive exercise, using tools as precise as dental picks. Mirroring camp once more, we embarked on a nautical adventure across Lac Leman—albeit aboard a trifecta of yachts lashed together for a multi-course dinner orchestrated by the maestro behind Michelin-starred Il Lago at the Hotel des Bergues. At the Four Seasons Megève, we tipped our hats to the resort's centennial, a dream actualized by the Rothschilds in 1923, with a delightfully dipsomaniac Prohibition-themed soirée. But despite it all, the opulence was unexpectedly understated throughout, while the camaraderie was pronounced.
"As newcomers to the group, we entered with a sense of curiosity and uncertainty," concedes Doug Fuller, president of a Napa-based property management firm, who was joined by his wife, Angie, and her parents. “We were a bit apprehensive about how we'd fit in with everyone. But, honestly, from the moment we got there, it was like we were part of a family. The varying ages from twenties to seventies, the diverse backgrounds—it all melted away after discovering our shared interests in cars.” As homeowners of Four Seasons’ Napa Valley Luxury Residences, the Fullers are stalwart advocates of the brand—and equally so, of Ferraris. Among the squadron of sumptuous automobiles curated by Four Seasons' on-the-ground logistical partner, Milan's Canossa Events, Fuller spied the long-anticipated Ferrari SF90 Stradale. After languishing on the waiting list for over a year and a half, securing it for his alpine escapade was akin to a triumphant victory lap. He reveled in the opportunity to maneuver it across serpentine Swiss switchbacks—a pulse-racing test drive while his personal version stood in pre-delivery suspense for more than 18 months.
"It was as if this trip was handcrafted for Angie and me," Fuller muses, reflecting on the tailor-made aspect of the entire experience. “But what truly exceeded our expectations was the breathtaking beauty of the landscape and the ability to explore multiple countries in a single day: waking up in France to enjoy a delightful breakfast, then driving to Switzerland for a refreshing cup of coffee and some pastries, followed by a drive to Italy for a delicious lunch, and finally returning to France for a luxurious five-star dinner, all within a span of less than six hours.” The couple needed little cajoling to sign up for the upcoming drive in Napa, which, like this one, costs around $50,000 per couple. How could they not when the route zips through their own backyard?
Four Seasons Drive Experience: Napa Valley will take place from October 29 to November 4, 2023. To book, visit fourseasons.com
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