Time for home…

I’m writing this sitting up in Business Class on SingaporeAir. We left Zurich at 11:45am and it’s now 7:20pm in Switzerland and 1:20am in Singapore. We are somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed my glass of champagne before take-off and another when we were airborne. We had a delicious lunch served on board: Singapore Chicken Satay, followed by Marinated Shrimp with Pickled Melon. For the main course I had Gaeng Kiew Waan Talay (Thai style green curry seafood with vegetables and rice) and then for dessert, Apricot Tart with Balsamic Mousse. I hope it reads as good as it tasted.

Now we are meant to be sleeping and I’ve had two tries but my mind just says that I don’t sleep in the afternoon so I’ve watched Where the Crawdads Sing. I really loved the book and I enjoyed the movie. I’m also half way through Elvis and am enjoying that too. We missed them both at the theatre. I brought a book to read but when I started it, I realised that I’d already read it. Now that’s frustrating. I have plenty of books on my iPad so I could be reading them but it’s not the same.

This is such a long flight. It’s not much fun here but I can’t imagine what it’s like in economy. We still have another four hours to go. Ugh! Were the 30 days we had in Europe worth the pain of the flights? Of course they were!

I hear you asking what were the highlights. Without a doubt, the best part was the week we spent in Wiltshire with my cousin, Kay, my niece George and our patient men who gladly came along and participated in our family history quest. Then we had that wonderful day in Swindon when we caught up with cousin Wendy and our wonderful genealogical friend, Fran and met cousin Christine and many other cousins. I still haven’t sorted out in my mind who is whom in some cases. I’ll have to ask Wendy and Christine to put a name to all the people in the photos for me.

We visited all those beautiful places where our ancestors lived- Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Lacock…. It was wonderful and now I’ve got lots to do to record it all on my family tree.

The Swiss Mountain scenery was everything I hoped it would be and riding the trains through that scenery was great. It even snowed for us in St Moritz – the first snow of the season. I loved all of that. Every bit of it. It was stunning.

However, we were very disappointed with the Travel Marvel Alpine Train Tour. It was not run by Travel Marvel. They have an arrangement with Great Rail Tours who actually organise the tour. Our itinerary stated that Travel Marvel promise luxury travel of the highest standard and premium accommodation. Some of our hotels did not provide premium accommodation and the organisation of the tour left much to be desired. It was not luxury travel.

In the past, we’ve organised our own travel. In 2015, we travelled around Spain by train staying in appartments for six weeks and we had a great time. Managing your own luggage is difficult when you’re getting off on on trains, some with three steps and limited luggage storage aboard. We could do it then. But we are older now and have a few issues we didn’t have then. We were worried whether we could manage. So we booked a luxury tour with full porterage, thinking we’d pay someone to do the hard work for us. Except it wasn’t luxury travel and a lot of the time we had to manage our own luggage. It was very difficult for us. Other guests on the tour were very helpful and took care of us but we weren’t their responsibility.

We had thought that we might do a similar trip on the trains of New Zealand but we won’t be doing another Travel Marvel tour anywhere.

And off we go to Zurich…

Yesterday we left our very comfortable apartment in Bern and caught the Intercity train direct to Zurich. The journey seemed to be similar to the one between the Gold Coast and Brisbane- built up nearly all the way so it wasn’t as pretty as our other train trips here but it took only 52 minutes.

It’s wet and chilly here in Zurich. After we checked into the Hotel Bristol, we wandered off in the rain to find lunch. The cafe we chose looked just like a coffee shop but turned out to be a Sri Lankan Restaurant. David was not impressed but the lovely waitress took special care of him and he had samosa, rice and vegetables and was very happy. I had a madras curry so I was also happy.

We went wandering through the streets after lunch. It was wet and miserable but we did find another amazing chocolate shop where we treated ourselves to a couple of delicious Swiss chocolates.

The River Limmat in Zurich

After a nap (sorely needed as we have head colds – not Covid) we went looking for dinner but it was so cold and wet we went into the first place we came to. We had kebabs, quite tasty too. We can’t really complain about the weather as it was kind to us in the mountains – even giving us some snow.

Really starting to think about home now. We are ready and keen to get home to the family, including our lovely little dog, Snoopy.

Sitting on Top of the World…..

Yesterday evening we wandered down to the station at Interlaken Ost to buy our tickets for Bern and then Zurich so we are organised now for our remaining eight days in Switzerland. On the way back we went into a Chinese restaurant called Bamboo. It was very busy and we enjoyed our prawn dishes.

Today we decided to go for a wander through the shops in the old town and, of course, we stopped for ☕️ and 🍰 at the famous pastry maker, Schuh’s.

Beautiful & fragrant roses all over town.

We then caught the funicular up to Harder Kulm which is 1323 m above sea level. It took about eight minutes to reach the top and seemed to go straight up. We had a perfect day for it! Actually the weather has been wonderful the entire time. We had lunch at the restaurant there – a burger for David and fish and chips for me – both true to form. Both very nice.

The view of Jungfrau from there was incredible and I loved it .

Paragliding is very popular here and you can see many hanging about in the sky at any time. That’s definitely not for me!
Many people took photos beside these characters beside the walk from the funicular to the viewing platform.

Being someone who finds going down on an escalator scary, I was worried about coming down in the funicular. I didn’t get a seat but I gripped the railing very hard and even managed to look down as we slowly moved back to ground level. I was very brave!

We crossed the River Aare by bridge to reach the funicular. There are beautiful flowers everywhere here. It’s very pretty.

I let David go on ahead and went to spend a few minutes of calm in the Japanese garden next to our hotel. It is lovely and if we open our window we can hear the waterfall.

Rest time now before our final dinner with our friends on the tour.

A full day riding the train to Interlaken

Yesterday we left the hotel early and boarded our train. It was a spectacular journey. We were served our lunch of chicken stroganoff and apple pie at our seats as we tootled along. David is not enjoying being served chicken all the time so somehow managed to get himself a salad and a frozen yoghurt.

We changed trains a few times which was no problem since our luggage had gone separately. We went through a 15km tunnel through the mountains. Building that would have been interesting! David was impressed.

This is a remnant of the ice ages.

When we arrived in Interlaken, we walked the 500m to our hotel and then organised ourselves for the three nights here before going down to dinner at 8. The tomato soup starter was better than Heinz Big Red and it was followed by a piece of pork served with mashed potato and green beans. We didn’t wait for dessert as we were too tired. We were all weary but all we’d done all day was sit on the train. It was a long 10 hour day!

I was very distressed last night to learn that I wouldn’t be able to go on today’s excursion- the train to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station as there are no toilets on the train. Our tickets meant that we all had to travel as a group. There were two changes of train and toilets on the station but each stop was only five minutes. So that situation was unsuitable for me. David decided to stay with me in Interlaken. A few others also decided not to go.

Last night we cancelled our lovely five days in Montreux on Lake Geneva which also upset me but we are way too tired to manage our luggage on the three little trains we would need to use to get there. There’s no luggage storage areas on the train. We tried to organise a transfer by car but it would have been well over$1000 to get to Montreux and back to Zurich to fly home. Instead we have booked a place in Bern from the 22nd to explore there for five days. There’s just one train and then one to get to Zurich so we think we will be able to manage.

This morning was wash day so after a very leisurely breakfast, we set off to the laundromat which I’d found. Google Maps sent us astray ( it wasn’t my fault at all) and after a few hours of waiting around, the washing was done and we followed Apple Maps back to the hotel

Our lovely depot for coffee whilst we waited.

I definitely think it’s time for a rest before we go to buy our train tickets for the last part of our travels.

Free day on tour AKA Rest day for us!

Today we took it very easy. Slept in until after seven, enjoyed a relaxed breakfast with time to ask the chef to make me an omelet and then came back to the room to read the paper.

Before lunch we had a relaxed stroll around the town. There was still some snow lingering on the mountain tops but by mid afternoon it was all gone as the sun shone brightly. Many places were closed until the winter season on the first of December. A few were open but we just window shopped.

Prices here are very expensive but we enjoyed both our lunch sitting outside in the sunshine and dinner in the restaurant across from the hotel at Hauser. There are some pretty views from town and here are a few.

David having a few minutes rest during our walk about town.
You can still see the snow in this one.

Wonderful ride on the Bernina Express

We had a great day yesterday. We’ve been so lucky with the weather. I hoped we’d see snow and we did! The sun shone brightly as well! What more could you ask?

The Bernina Express is a very comfortable tourist train and we just had to walk down the hill in light snow to catch it. On the way we were given a glass of Swiss bubbly , a miniature replica of the train filled with Swiss chocolates and a poppa of iced tea. The journey takes about 2hrs and 45 minutes and ends in Tirano in Italy where we had three hours to fill.

We did some shopping as we needed to replace my travel bag which had broken and David’s bubble coat which had sprung a leak. We managed to do that before the shops closed for their afternoon siesta. Then we had some difficulty finding a cafe which was open but when we did we enjoyed our lunch of pizza and ravioli. I had to have a gelato as you can’t go to Italy and not have a gelato. It was so creamy.

Our return train was just an ordinary train and not so luxurious but it was OK. The train before ours broke down so the unfortunate passengers had to come onto our train and stand for the remaining hour of the journey. We felt for them but were very relieved that our train hadn’t broken down. They were French people on a four day travel through the Alps so I had fun trying to understand their chatter but, of course, they spoke much too quickly for me.

The scenery was stunning and I took heaps of pictures. Here’s just a few of them:

We had dinner in our hotel, Schweizerhof. We’ve had to choose early each day what we would like for dinner, usually pork or chicken, pork or fish but last night we could have goulash which was very popular. The hotel is very nice but there are a couple of ‘different’ things about it. You have to pay for the tea or coffee you make in your room with the kettle or coffee machine provided. Both are 4.5 Swiss franks or about six Aussie dollars. In every bathroom there are a set of scales. We all agreed that we are on holidays so we do not intend to weigh ourselves. Interesting!

Today, Sunday is a free day. You can ride a fenicular or a chairlift or go hiking etc but we are going to take it easy. Tomorrow we are off to Interlaken, our next stop, but our luggage is going separately. Thank goodness.

Chaos and Stunning Beauty

Yesterday morning we could have had a guided tour of the Innsbruck Old Town but since David had done so much walking and I had wandered the Old Town already, we decided to give it a miss and leisurely pack up ready to move to St Moritz.

The move was a debacle. We all had to get our luggage down and then Sara organised us into taxis with our luggage. It was Chaos! Why couldn’t a bus pick us up and take us to the station? Then we had to get all of us and our luggage into a carriage. More Chaos! There wasn’t enough luggage storage. The others helped us a lot so we were ok. After a couple of hours, we arrived at Sargans where Sara had managed to organise a vehicle to take our luggage. There was no lift so we had to push our luggage up two steep slopes to the vehicle but it was such a relief to be rid of it. We had to change trains again at Chur.

We travelled through absolutely stunning countryside. This is what we came for – to travel through the Swiss mountains on a train. Everyone agreed over dinner. They came for this – not for huge walking expeditions. Here’s some pics to enjoy:

Before arriving in St Moritz, we travelled through very steep mountains. It was amazing and is a UNESCO World Heritage Railway. My photos out of the train window don’t seem to do it justice. When we arrived here, we walked across the road, through a building onto three long steep elevators which brought us up to the town and our Hotel Schweizerhof which is lovely. We had time to unpack and shower before a delicious dinner in the hotel. We’re here for three nights. It’s a bit cool here: it’s 3.8 degrees now at 6:30am.

The view out of our hotel window.

Today we ride the Bernini Express to Tirano in Italy. Really looking forward to that!