Coming from France into Switzerland, there’s a clear contrast. France has a rough patina. Switzerland has paved over its patina with success. I had to remark as we entered Lausanne, our first big Swiss city, “There’s just too much money here.”
While the French are discreet with sex, the Swiss are discreet with money. There are actually unmarked banks — perfect for unmarked deposits. (People come from around the globe to store their black money in Swiss banks…happy to earn negative interest. They actually pay Switzerland to keep it for them — anonymously and with no questions asked.)
The tourist board put us up in one of the finest hotels in the world — the Lausanne Palace and Spa Hotel. When I notice “thread count” under the sheets, you know it’s really top quality. (Ironically, the place is so nice it actually cuts into our productivity.) There’s even an unmarked bank in the hotel.
At breakfast, I was surrounded by people speaking Russian and Arabic. I sat between an old woman talking Russian on a cell phone and a guy in a bowtie who looked like Paul Wolfowitz with nothing to do. Tearing off a bit of my warm-out-of-the-oven mini-croissant, I wondered if it’s worse to blow obscene amounts of money if you are from a poor country or a rich one. (If I were paying for my room, it would run $350.) Where did these people get their money? Cynically, I thought, “They didn’t earn it.”
Starting a new TV episode, I needed to change wardrobe. (It was good to get that Burgundy shirt off my back after five days.) I called room service. Asked if I could get two shirts and a pair of pants ironed. They said sure. Something deep inside screamed, “Ask the price.” I did. They said, “74 Swiss Francs.” I thought, “At $60, I’ll body iron them.” I then did a little laundry in the sink. Rather than succumb to the temptation to hang it on my balcony — with a view of Lake Geneva — I put my heated towel rack to good use. It dried in a jiffy.