Switzerland Travel Diary

Another 2.5 week trip out to Switzerland has been and gone in a flash – feels shorter and shorter each time but a such a great trip for both the change of scenery and to catch up with friends.

Flight out: Good. Went via Hong Kong this time to get a shorter transit. New HK airport all good – free Wi-Fi and good toast. Lots of long walks to shops so we were able to keep moving to keep ourselves awake. Arrived in Paris at night and according to our hotel hosts arrived in the centre of Paris in record time from the airport (sure felt like it).

Day 1: Paris. Great day-long walk in big loop around Paris centre taking in main corridor of sights from Eiffel Tower up through Champs-Elysees through Tulleries Gardens to Louvre and back along east side of Seine. Found chicken and mash and champagne at local cafe for dinner.

Day 2: Paris. Shopped at the street stalls on rue Cler in the morning for picnic supplies for that night then spent the day wandering around the high-end stores and rested in the Luxembourg Gardens in the afternoon watching kids with sail boats. Lovely picnic in Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower that night watching the tower light up with many other groups doing the same thing.

Eiffel Tower picnic at dusk

A couple of observations about Paris: women there can make a pair of jeans and a shirt look *very* glamorous; there’s a certain air of sophistication about the place – even during the rugby world cup we didn’t see hoards of drunk and stoned teenagers and other unsavoury characters like any Friday night in Wellington.

Day 3: Train. TGV at 350 mph from Paris to Basel. Almost didn’t feel like a train as it glided rather than clickety-clacked at that speed. Only took 3.5 hours! Our friends picked us up and we headed straight up to a village in Germany for their wine festival. Lots of local food, wine and entertainment although began to feel quite foreign after a couple of hours of German drinking songs and the trumpet player attempting to zoom-slide down our trestle table in his underwear leaving the Mister and I wearing our local wine!

Day 4: Basel. Hung around our friend’s apartment and neighbourhood and made friends with the German front-loader with the help of the dictionary.

Day 5: Driving. First day of cold and rain and the Mister plucked up the courage to drive – so off we set in the pouring rain with our Google Maps directions on the rushing autobahn in a car with the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road to a small town about an hour away to look around the shops then back to Basel via Ikea (yes, got the mother load of orange serviettes again!). I was sworn to silence in the passenger seat and I have to say I thought I did pretty well. You’ll have to ask the Mister if he agrees!

Day 6: Basel. Trammed into Basel, ate lunch on the Rhine, had wonderful Rosti at home for dinner.

Lunch by the Rhine

Day 7: Zurich. New-found driving freedom took us into Zurich and our marriage survived unexpected roadwork and detours on the city’s outskirts which meant I had to re-route us using a Zurich ‘city map’ at the back of the big book of Swiss maps from the back seat of the car! Had lunch by the river, climbed the Munster spire, sauntered down Zurich’s Rodeo Drive of glitzy

Day 7: Basel. More hanging around the apartment and shops, eating strawberry and custard tarts and that night were introduced to Zurich’s specialty luxemburgeli – little explosions of coffee (& other)-flavoured rich meringue and cream in your mouth – YUM.

Little Luxemburgelis

Day 8: Lake Neuchatel. Drove with our friends (after a breakfast feast of zopf) to Lake Neuchatel about a hour from Basel in the French part of Switzerland. Picnicked on the side of the lake in La Neuveville and wandered around the town and castle in Neuchatel. Called into the supermarket in Germany on the way home to pick up NZ lamb for dinner.

Day 9: Luzern. Stopped in Luzern on our way to Lugano to picnic by the lake with everyone else out enjoying their Sunday. First time we encountered bunches of tourists esp Americans. Found our apartment in Gandria (just out of Lugano) – tiny and *extremely* quiet pedestrian-only village clinging to the side of the hilly lake shore. Ate in a local restaurant that was barely open at 9.30pm on a veranda hanging over the lake. God the food was good – now in the Italian part of Switzerland so not surprising.


Day 10: Lugano. Clanging Ave Maria bells on the church next to our apartment woke us at 7.30am and after finding NO signs of life, not even a pastry shop in Gandria, we downed half a cup of filter coffee that the apartment owner had left us and walked the 4km olive path along the lake into Lugano. Caught the ferry back and were again stumped by no restaurants being open at 8.15pm – luckily the one from the night before was so they welcomed us with opened arms and kisses and free treats from the chef! Spinach and ricotta tortellini in burnt butter sauce DEVINE.

Lake Lugano from Gandria

Day 11: Como. Took the scenic route into Como by driving to the end of Lake Lugano and across. Stopped in Menaggio for the long awaiting Italian coffee – YUM. Pootled down the lake to Como via a quick stalker’s drive-by of George Clooney’s house in Laglio which offered no parking, no decent view and no George – as expected! After a quick conk-out of the car in Como’s rush hour, on a hill, where an Italian man u-turned fearlessly in 4 lanes of traffic to jump-start us we made it into Como for a gelato and wander around the shops. While out in Lugano for dinner that night got caught in thunder, lightning and downpour which made running through the pedestrian-only village back to our apartment rather soggy!

Day 12: Mendrisio: Freezing, raining. Nothing else for it – shops.

A couple of observations about Switzerland: every public toilet, regardless of where it is or what time it is has toilet paper, soap and hand towels; food prices vary and at times seem quite unexpected e.g. potato chips – very expensive (& in Paris as well) at around NZ$7 per packet, lattes – very expensive at around NZ$8, Grana Padano parmesan – very cheap at around NZ$5 per block (we’d pay about NZ$14 for the same size here).

Day 13: Milan. Wet. Very wet. And very styley – Milan fashion week was in swing. Lots of tourists, lots of money, lots of skinny pouty models, lots of Japanese business men taking photos of the high fashion store front windows. Fantastic coffee and food.

Milan duomo

An observation about Italy: even in the equivalent of an Eketahuna !Challenge service station there is fantastic coffee, pastry and deli goods. Staggering. Best coffee of the trip was in a pretty old Italian border station.

Flight home: Good. Harder than the trip out because it was over. Had to say bye to our friend. The longer wait in Hong Kong was pretty tiring but thanks to the Mister’s foresight to download episodes of a new TV series Dexter, we watched that in between cans of coke to keep ourselves awake.

Sigh. Where to next? And when? 🙂

1 comment so far ↓

#1 French macaroons — OrangeBlog on 08.07.09 at 7:25 pm

[…] look to me so much like the Luxemburgelis we ate in Basel on our last trip. And I tasted a lemon one today and they taste pretty similar too. Can’t believe she makes […]

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