Monday, November 9, 2015

All Around the World: Switzerland

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
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Switzerland - one of my all time favorite places that never fails to impress me. From the clean streets, to the always on time everything, Switzerland appeals to the OCD maniac that I am. Trams are super-duper easy to understand and use, people are friendly, the shopping is good, and the scenery never lets you down. As there are quite a few options of things you can do while there, I've put together a list of all the things I've tried and which ones I think are the absolute best.
#1 reason you should go to Switzerland: This view.
If you've only got 4ish days in Switzerland and want to maximize the heck out them, I would highly recommend the following: Stay in Zurich. Spend one day exploring this city, spend one day going to Lucerne, spend one day going to Mount Pilatus, and spend one day in Bern. It's a lot of activity, but it's worth it.

If you have more time to devote to this beautiful country, extend your time in Bern and Lucerne, take a tour to Appenzell, and rent a car to drive out of Zurich and into the country. You'll see postcard perfect scenery everywhere you go. If you're up for a longer day you could also visit Jungfroujoch the top of Europe.

Getting from the airport to Zurich city center is easy. There's a train you hop on right at the airport and in about 20ish minutes, you're there. My favorite hotel (admittedly, the only one I've ever stayed at because I enjoy it so much) is Plattenhof. All you have to do is hop on a tram from the train station, get off on the Plattenstrasse stop, and walk a wee bit to the hotel. The reason I love this hotel and am forever devoted to it, outside of the normal good service/soft beds/great place reasons, is due to its location. It's just outside the city and perfect walking distance to the Old Town and Lake Zurich. Plus, they have the best - I kid you not - iced tea ever. They also have a gluten free restaurant attached to the hotel, so they get extra bonus points for that.

To help you plan your trip, here's a little more detail on each place and why they should be a part of your vacation plans.

Zurich
I like Zurich for many reasons. I love all the walking I can do, to and from the Old Town, the lake, the everything. I like that the trams are easy to understand and use, even though everything is in a different language. I like that when I'm there I feel like I just got home. I love that there are three different parks to visit: one right by the lake, one overlooking the city (Lindenhofplatz), and one by the train station. And I love how there seems to be swans just about everywhere you go.
Park by the train station
Lindenhofplatz
The view from Lindenhofplatz park
Park by the lake
There is one thing I don't like about Zurich and the main reason I haven't moved there (outside of, you know, normal reasons) - Spider Alley. I don't know what's up with this city and their spiders, but they are everywhere and they are gigantic. This walkway (when you're coming out the hotel from the backside to get to the Old Town) is FULL of spiders. I mean it, people. There are dozens of beastly, gigantic, kill-you-in-a-horror-movie-kind-of-way spiders. Avoid this walkway at all costs!!!

I'm fine, I'm fine. *deep breaths*

Ahem...

The only "real" problem I've run into in this beautiful place, and country as a whole, is eating inexpensively as a gluten free person. There are restaurants that cater to GF needs, however, because Switzerland is quite expensive it makes dining out for GF food, in particular, costly. "Normal" people can eat at the many, many food stands located in the Old Town and even at the CO-OP grocery story, where they have hot and cold food readily available. However, for a GF person, it will cost you one arm and 3/4 of a leg to eat. Unless, of course, you want to live off of bland salads and bananas your whole time there. Since that won't work for my taste buds, these are my favorite restaurants that I recommend you try.

Molino
This Italian restaurant absolutely blew me away. I had the GF penne salmon pasta dish that left me craving it the entire rest of the time there. I also had another pasta dish there one night that was quite good, but the salmon...mmm...the salmon.

Au Gratin
Not only do you have the option of sitting outside on a beautiful balcony, but you have a pretty wide variety of GF dishes to choose from. I had the pork rib dish, which was absolutely fantastic.

Sento
This one is a favorite for two very distinct reasons: the iced tea and the fact that it's attached to my favorite hotel, as mentioned above, making dining easy and convenient. The tea, you guys, the tea! They have a top secret homemade iced tea recipe that is to die for. I never thought I'd feel so strongly about a cold beverage, but I do. I drank at least two gallons on the last night, just trying to savor every moment I had with this fruity, flavorful, crisp drink. I don't want to get anyone in trouble here, but The Fiance was able to talk them into giving him the recipe, thinking MAYBE we could whip something similar up at home. Alas, this will never happen. There are about 15 ingredients, with 15 different measurements, and not a single one that makes sense in English.

Anyway, here are a few more pictures of lovely, lovely Zurich.





Mount Pilatus and Lucerne
If you really want to immerse yourself in the green goodness that is Switzerland, take a day trip to Mount Pilatus. My recommendation to get there: Viator Tours. I have used them in multiple countries with great service and you can earn airline miles if you spend over a certain dollar amount. That alone is worth booking with them. (I'm not affiliated with them, I just really like them a lot)

Viator offers a variety of day trips. The great part about the Mount Pilatus tour is that you also get a little smidgen of time in Lucerne. It's not enough, but it's a good starter if you're trying to squeeze a lot into a little amount of time. This tour is great for a lot of reasons: You get to ride in an aerial car to the mountain, take a cog wheel train (woo!) and go on a nice boat ride, all with some free time in-between in each of the places. The best part? The views. Oh, the views. I kid you not, this still ranks as one of my most favorite and memorable days ever.

Lucerne has some key sites that pretty much every tour book recommends for good reason: The Chapel Bridge, Lake Lucerne, the Lion Monument. My favorite is the bridge, full of history and unique in the way that there are beautiful paintings under the arches for you to admire as you walk on it. One thing I do recommend is checking to see if they have any fairs going on. Going to a craft/art/food fair in Lucerne is pretty doggone awesome.

Cog-wheel train ride down the mountain
Boat ride to Lucerne
Lucerne
Bern
Bern is my new favorite place in Switzerland and I'm pretty sure it will be yours, too. This old city brims with beauty at every turn. There's something for everyone here: shopping, eating, taking in the views, and learning the history of weird things, like the statue of the man eating babies. See? Something for everyone.

Friends, this place is absolutely breathtaking. What you'll see below is just a small fraction of Bern. There's much more to this magical place for you to explore, for instance, I'm told right outside the city are excellent opportunities for hiking with gorgeous views of mountains and valleys. Definitely schedule yourself some time in the wonderful place.

The main street leading to the bridge



Here are a few more pictures of one of my most favorite places in this wonderful world of ours.

Switzerland countryside...this is why you want to rent a car. Trust me.
This cute little town.
This weird/awesome art.
All the cog-wheel train rides you could ever hope for.
That mountain - Jungfroujoch.
These nerds...er, I mean us.
The top of Europe.

P.S. If you like the pictures, most of them can be found on my Society6 page. More coming soon!


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