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Helen Wallimann – Living in Hotels book presentation

25 April 2023 @ 19:00 - 22:00
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Helen Wallimann – Living in Hotels


Helen Wallimann, the daughter of a Swiss hotelier from Alpnach, was born in Wales, survived the War in London and then lived in Cheltenham (at her father’s hotel, the Savoy). After her MA from Edinburgh University, she worked in publishing in Munich, Paris and London. From 1973 until 2001 she was employed as a teacher of French and English at the Kantonsschule Solothurn, Switzerland. Helen Wallimann taught English at Chinese universities for two years (1989-90 and 2002-03).


Later, she taught English didactics to Chinese schoolteachers in Gansu Province. She attended various courses and seminars on Chinese language and literature at Zurich University. Besides translating three novels by her husband, Erhard von Büren, and a collection of Swiss folk tales from German, she has translated from Chinese articles on contemporary Chinese art, and poems by various modern Chinese poets. An illustrated account of her 2003 stay among the cave-dwellers in northern China (A Visit to Gansu Province for the Chinese New Year) was published as an ebook in 2020. Living in Hotels was published by Hobnob Press in 2022.



Brown’s in London The Savoy in Cheltenham

A MEMOIR by Helen Wallimann

1929-1942,  a  Swiss  country  boy, trained  as  a  banker,  works  his  way up  in  the  hotel  business  at  Brown’s Hotel,  London.  He  saves  the  Prince of  Wales  Hotel  from  bankruptcy and  survives  the  Blitz  with  wife  and two  children.  He  becomes  the manager of Brown’s Hotel. 

1942-45,  childhood  memories  of Brown’s  Hotel:  sirens  and  a  luxury air  raid shelter;  a  princess;  pelicans  and  tramps  in  Green  Park;  bonfire smoke and gas masks; V for Victory. 

1945,  relatives  and  chewing  gum  in  Lucerne.  The  Wallimans buy  the  Savoy  Hotel  in  Cheltenham.  A  history  and  a  tour  of the building. 

1945-1950s,  memories  of beetles  in  the  basement,  of attics  full  of  Christmas decorations  and  trunks  with exotic  stickers,  of  cellars  filled with  furniture,  giant  jars  of eggs  in  lime  water,  the  statue of  a  naked  woman.  Six  children  trying  not  to  be  noisy, making  themselves  useful  in  hotel  and  garden,  in quarantine  with  measles  and  other  diseases.  Nannies. Welcome  visitors  from  abroad.  Ordinary  guests  and celebrities.  Long-stay  residents:  the  Lively  Lady  with Intellectual  Aspirations,  the  Prince  of  Chess,  the Archdeacon’s  Widow,  the  Gentleman  who  bought Racehorses,  the  Colonial  Colonel  and  his  Artistic  Wife, etc.  Employees  and  their  work:  housekeepers,  linen  keepers,  office  staff,  chambermaids, porters, waiters and waitresses, dishwashers, gardeners. 

1952, the family moves to a house in the garden, the hotel gets a bar and a grill room.  

1960s, addition of a lift and further bedrooms.  

1970s, the second generation takes over.  

1985, the hotel is sold.  


The book introduction will be followed by wine and cheese tasting from Switzerland. We have selected unique cheeses for the evening, one of which received a Gold Medal at World Cheese Awards 2022!

Date: 25 April 2023
Time: 19:00 - 22:00
Cost: £6.13
Venue Name: Embassy of Switzerland
Address: 16-18 Montagu Place
London, W1H 2BQ United Kingdom

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Organizer Name: New Helvetic Society

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