Day 3: Vanduz, LI and Vrin & Trun, CH

Our first clue…

SMS had wanted to visit Lichtenstein so I booked an overnight there on our drive from Germany to Italy.  We had a delicious breakfast buffet, which we added to our bill.  I am sort of in love with a breakfast of muesli, cheese and whole-grain bread.

I wanted to do more than just pass through Lichtenstein so we decided to do the Prince’s Way Hike.  We drove through Vanduz, with its pretty terraced streets.  We drove up to Gaflei where there was a small paved parking lot and little (clean!) bathroom hut at the start of the trail.

A little chossy…

The views were very beautiful but there was a lot of loose rock.  The trail was well-formed, but there was evidence of prior rock slides.  Some of the trail hugged the cliff with some pretty steep drops.  We were doing pretty well until we came to an area where the path had slid away.  People braver (more fool-hardy) than ourselves picked their way across but we decided to turn back.  SMS and I have done some stupid outdoor adventures in our time but neither one of us felt good about continuing the hike.  SMS didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to have a panic attack halfway across the gravel-strewn “path.”  I guess I didn’t want to die either.

SMS on the trail

So, that was that!  Next up was heading into the Romansch-area of Switzerland.  SMS had wanted to visit last Summer but we were unable to make it, mostly due to an episode called SMS and the Whole Wheel of Raw Cheese, where our valiant hero ate a lot of unpasteurized cheese at a grotto with unexpected (expected?) consequences.

The valley looking up towards Vrin
A Romansch Donkey
Vrin
A Romansch Chicken

Romansch is a language with several dialects across the region that largely developed due to the isolation of these valley towns.  We drove to Vrin, a town where over 85% of people speak Romansch according to SMS’ research.  We went to a coffee shop and had a delicious pastry roll with nut filling (yum!) along with our coffee.  We heard a little bit of Romansch and SMS was a happy man.  We walked around the village and then headed over to Trun, where we would spend the night and have an epic meal at Restaurant Todi.

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The Romansch Museum in Trun- limited hours!
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Casa Tödi, SMS and car

We checked into the Casa Todi, took a nap and then walked around town. Our dinner reservation was at 7:30.  We were one of two couples in the restaurant.  We had an excellent waiter who spoke English with us and German with the other couple.  Amazing.  We ordered wine pairings with our meal based on his recommendations.  It wasn’t a formal pairing but what he suggested by the glass based on what we ordered.

Flowers at the Restaurant
Beef tartare
Our side dish- Potatoes cooked in a salted sourdough bread bowl (the bowl is not meant to be eaten)

Before dinner, we each had a glass of local Riesling and a tiny chick pea chip for amuse bouche.  For an appetizer, SMS had a tradition tattas dish, which were chard wrapped sausage and potato meatballs, for lack of better descriptor.  The chef Manuel Reichenbach, who came out later in the dinner, explained that it was a traditional dish that was developed during wartime to stretch the food supply by adding the cheaper potato to create more of the filling. He said that you could tell a family’s wealth by the sausage to potato ratio. I had the steak tartare, which was absolutely amazing and intriguingly presented on a rectangle serving dish that resembled a shadow box so underneath the food, there were pine needles and small flowers.  Wine for that course was a local Pinot Noir.

Dessert

For dinner, we both got the trout paired with a white wine with a local grape and chardonnay. For dessert, we ordered a dish with a small creme brule, cake and scoop of sorbet.  I ordered some grappa, which was an excellent nightcap.

Grappa

Switzerland Travelogues!

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Hello, faithful reader!  It may seem to have been dead around here but I have been working very hard, I promise!  Over the past two weekends, I have been working on my Switzerland entries from our vacation in July 2016.  I like having my vacations in proper order so rather than having a bunch of #TBT-style entries, I backdated all of them to their proper date in July 2016.  So, you can either search by month over there in the right column or just click below to any day that interests you.  The vacation was amazing but I am fully aware that this may be as boring as a long slideshow so never fear, I’ll have some more current posts soon!

Day 1: Arrival

Day 2: Luzern and Melchsee-Frutt

Day 3: Luzern

Day 4: Bern to Vevey

Day 5: L’Etivaz and Gruyere

Day 6: Vevey to Zermatt

Day 7: Blüemlisalphütte

Day 8: Bundalp – Griesalp – Interlaken- Mürren

Day 9: Via Ferrata (Murren – Gimmelwald)

Day 9 (cont): Gimmelwald – Grindelwald

Day 10: Grindelwald – Luzern – Lucarno

Day 11: Valle Verzasca- Orselina

Day 12: Ascona- Bellinzona- Lugano

Day 13: Lugano

Day 14: Lugano – Zurich

Day 15: Zurich

Day 16: Zurich – Home

Have You Mooo-ved On?

“I was so upset!  I thought you were gone forever!”
I am still here!  It’s been awhile, yes!  Now that I am back, we have so much to talk about.  Since I last wrote, I finished fellowship, traveled to Switzerland, hung out in the Bay Area, drove cross-country and, now, I’m hanging out at my parents’ house in my old bedroom from high school.  In case you’re wondering, it’s redecorated.  No intact shrine to my awkward years, thank goodness.
“I’ve never been awkward.”
When SMS and I traveled to Switzerland, I wanted to be off-line as much as possible so no blogging for me.  But never fear!  I took along a paper journal so I’ll be writing a fair number of July recaps.  I’m really excited to get back to blogging since it’s proven to be a really nice way to use for future reference, whether recalling a favorite restaurant or thinking about a fun past trip.
Switzerland was crazy beautiful.  I would advise not filling up water bottles downstream of grazing cows.
No personal horror stories but really, it just makes sense.

Switzerland, Day 16: Zurich – Home

We woke up and squeezed (sqouze?) in a quick breakfast at Milchbar before heading to the airport.  The flight home was fine and when we got home, our buddies were waiting for us no worse for wear.

It was a great vacation and amazing to explore such a small but incredibly diverse country in regards to language, culture and things to do.  We feel very lucky to have had such an extended trip and we’re looking forward to more travel in the future.

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Switzerland, Day 15: Zurich

SMS was starting to improve.  I felt so badly that he was sick on the vacation.  There were a few silver linings like at least it didn’t happen in the mountains and that he felt better by the time we flew out but, overall, it was a bummer.  I am fairly certain he has sworn off raw cheese for the next several years.

We walked around in the morning, following tips from the “Tastemakers” featured in the Zurich city guide app.  We went to Milchbar for coffee and pastries.

Then we checked out the two famous churches: Grossmünster and Fraumünster, with its famous Chagall stained glass windows.  We stopped in Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren (specialty store), which had delicious-looking items but none that we purchased.  For lunch, we stood in line at Sternen Grill and ordered a very delicious hot dog.

Then we went to West Zurich where I showed SMS the cool sights I had discovered the day prior.  Then we went back to the hotel where SMS rested up while I went down to the lake to check out the Manifesto!

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There was a huge floating wooden dock/structure with outdoor movies playing and multiple places for jumping into the water.  I went swimming in the lake and it felt absolutely amazing.

After my swim, I met up with SMS and we went to Noon for dinner.  It was pretty good. Most importantly, it sounded good to SMS after a few days of being sick.  We walked around afterwards- it was a beautiful evening.  Overall, it was a pretty good last full day in Switzerland and SMS was definitely on the mend.

Switzerland, Day 14: Lugano – Zurich

SMS still felt badly so I went to breakfast by myself, followed by a walk around the lake.  I bought myself a Busker’s Fair tee-shirt, which was bright yellow with a seagull on it.  When I showed it to SMS later, he questioned this purchase (and by implication, my sanity) knowing that I really don’t like seagulls.  Although this reads very boringly, it was a sign that he was coming back to life.  Hooray!

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Lambs say “Muuh” in Swiss-German!
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Google Translate is so helpful in translating graffiti!

We stayed in the hotel until check-out so SMS could rest up.  We had been planning on seeing a town in the Romansch area but that was nixed due to SMS’ malaise.  We took the bus, then the train to Zurich.  We arrived around 4, locked up the suitcase and headed over to the Bellevue section where we met our AirBnB host at Cafe Odeon.

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Once we got to the apartment, SMS laid down and I went over to W. Zurich to walk around.  I got off at the Hardbrücke station and checked out Frau Gerolds Garten, the Freitag store, the Hive with its outside art and an old viaduct with boutique shops and a larger Market Hall.  I walked back to central Zurich through Gewerbeschule, which was a very cool neighborhood.  As I got closer to the apartment, I came upon the dress rehearsal for a kids’ dance school show.  I saw cute little kids in funny animal costumes so it was a great end to the day!

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The penguin and fish “walks” were very funny.

Switzerland, Day 13: Lugano

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View from the second floor of the hotel

Another day, another delicious breakfast.  Now that we were at a hotel, it was a pretty fantastic spread. Unfortunately, my travel partner was starting to look worse for wear.  Although we had the same lunch the day before, SMS had been very Piggly-Wiggly with the raw cheese we ordered and he felt sick.  This got worse as the day went on although he tried to be a trooper until I almost killed him with a bus misadventure.

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BUT!  Let me not jump too far ahead!  After breakfast, SMS went back to bed (I should have realized this was a very bad sign) while I explored the downtown.  I walked along the lake and it was very beautiful.  A Busker’s Fair was going on and there were lots of street performers and art displays being set up.  I went back to the hotel and wanted to go on my own Grotto adventure.  There had been excellent write-ups for a Grotto in the hills above Lugano and their fantastic polenta.  So, SMS rallied and we hopped on the #8 bus.

Unfortunately, the bus route was very confusing with a sort of 3-leaf clover-shaped route over several miles.  We got on and headed in the wrong direction.  When I decided we should get off, the bus driver looked at us questioningly but away we went.  We crossed the street to wait for the bus in the other direction.  While waiting, SMS laid down because he was feeling unwell, which resulted in the cops driving by 5 minutes later checking us out.  It was fairly clear someone had called us in since really, we were in the middle of nowhere and SMS was lying in the street.  Fortunately, the bus came back at that moment so the cops figured out what was going on without needing to talk to us. Embarrassingly, it was the same driver who, this time, just asked us where we wanted to go.  We pointed at the map and he had us sit down and he would tell us where to get off.  We passed our initial boarding stop and then went up the hill to be deposited at the bus stop directly across the street from the restaurant, which had just closed.  Boo hoo!

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Grotto Morchino, closed 😥

Internally, I think SMS was having serious doubts about his (and my) decision-making ability, but he said he was feeling ok (this was later admitted to be a lie) so we walked to Osteria Pazzallo, which was an amazing find!   There was delicious bread, the best salad and tasty limone and parmesan spaghetti. The waitress was very concerned as to why SMS was not eating but I mimicked that he was hungover, which made her very relieved and we laughed about how SMS was “stanco.”  Then he died.

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He looks pretty good for being sick!

Ok, not really, but I was starting to realize that in an effort to be a good sport, he was really wearing himself out and he was pretty sick.  So, we took the bus back to the hotel where he slept for the rest of the afternoon.

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Official Drink of the Trip

I went to the pool, which was delightful.  I read, wrote and drank an Aperol Spritz!  I checked on SMS who was still out for the count, so I walked into Lugano and watched some of the Busker shows.  One acrobat troupe in particular was amazing!

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I went back to the hotel again and then went out for dinner, solo.  I was sad that SMS was so sick and definitely missed him!

 

I took the 431 bus up the hill to the now-open Grotto Morchino!  As a solo diner, there was space outside at a picnic table although it looks like a place where reservations are recommended.  I had the polenta y ossobucco, which was excellent.  The house merlot paired perfectly and I was pretty happy that my grotto sagashimasu had worked out.

Switzerland, Day 12: Ascona – Bellinzona -Lugano

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View from Renata’s apartment

I feel like these entries are getting boring- not because they are all about my awesome vacation (naval-gazing travelogues- not boring!  Right?  *crickets*) but because each day starts out with a variant of, “We started with a delicious breakfast.”  Well, if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right because, yes, we did start out with a delicious breakfast!  I also love Nespresso so I had two espressos to start my day off with a zing!  I may also be typing this after a second cup of coffee so I’m feeling extra fiesty!

After breakfast, Renata drove us to the train station and asked about our plans.  We told her we were off to Belinzona.  She asked if we had seen Ascona yet and when we said no and that we weren’t planning on it, she looked a little sad for us and told us to make sure and see it next time.  She wasn’t pushy about it but it was clear that we were going to miss out if we didn’t see it.  So, at the train station, we decided to lock up the suitcase and take the bus to Ascona for the morning.

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We sat at one of the lawn chairs with umbrellas.  Source

This was a great decision!  Ascona was lovely.  We walked along the Lake Maggiore promenade and ate a second breakfast at the outside lakeside lounge of a very beautiful hotel (Ristorante Marina at Hotel Eden Roc).  I am not completely convinced that non-guests are supposed to just walk in but we did and everything was fine.  We paid for our juice, coffee and croissants and had a very relaxing time looking at the lake.

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Then it was back to our plan.  We walked to St. Pieter’s Square and then took the bus back to Locarno.  We picked up the suitcase and headed to Bellinzona.  SMS and I had both been to Bellinzona in the past so we weren’t planning on going to the three castles.  They are pretty incredible so I highly recommend.  It’s just this stop was focused on going to SMS’ priority- eating lunch at the Ristorante Grotto Bassa just outside of town via bus.  The restaurant was a beautiful shaded spot with old stone tables and benches.  We ordered two cheeses and the tonnato-sauce, which I think was served on top of veal.  SMS had been here right after college and had very fond memories.

While we were waiting for the bus on the way back, SMS bought some Nocino.  Yay!  My new favorite liqueur!  When we got back in town, it was time for…Gelato!  Gelateria Veneta was the best of the trip.  I had the Amarenata, a creamy cherry that is hands-down my new favorite ice cream.  I combined it with Mascarpone, which was also tasty.

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This is a fact.

I really liked the street that the train station was on.  There were some cool shops, including an incredible jewelry shop that was closed both times I went by.  Ah well, better for my wallet at least!  There was also a small Italian store with lots of local staples and a gourmet feel.  I browsed around, not hungry thanks to our recent meal but still taking in all the potential deliciousness!

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Another Aperol Spritz!

We took the train to Lugano, where we had an Aperol Spritz while waiting out a huge thunderstorm.  We took the bus into town where we stayed at my favorite AirBnB find.  It was the tourguide room located in a “secret hallway” of a fancy hotel.  When it’s not used by tourguides for groups staying at this nice hotel, it is open for AirBnB travelers. All the amenities of the hotel are included, it’s just the room is much more Spartan and there is a detached bathroom.  I highly recommend it!

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Lugano, post-storm

We took a late nap and then headed out for dinner.  We went to the “Spaghetti Store” since many casual places were already closed and the fancy places were booked.  It wasn’t the best meal of the trip but it did the job.  A bonus was that we were on the lake and the storm clouds at sunset produced the most spectacular double rainbow.  We felt lucky to be outside and see it!

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Switzerland, Day 11: Valle Verzasca – Orselina

Our AirBnB part of the trip was turning out well.  There was a festival in Locarno when we visited which made hotels near the Piazza Grande more than I wanted to pay.  Also, we were planning on being on the move during our time there so a private room was fine.  We had a great breakfast thanks to Renata.  She told us about the town  and stories from prior guests.

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View from Ponte dei Salti

We walked into town, sat by the lake, walked to the bus/train station and caught the 1020 bus to Valle Verzasca.  The valley has a gorgeous river running through with a parallel hiking trail.  Biking is also popular.  The scenery is breath-taking and there are also a few specific spots that are very cool.  The Ponte dei Salti is a double-arch stone bridge that provides a jumping spot for the brave.  There are also several grottos along the way to stop and eat/drink and really, it is a marvelous place for a day trip.

 

SMS and I took the bus to Brione, a little North of the bridge in Lavertezzo.  We wanted to hike a bit before reaching the bridge.  It was beautiful.  The day was overcast and still, which made all the stone buildings and walls seems as if we were walking back in time.  We reached the river’s edge and since it seemed like it might rain, SMS wanted to go for a swim.  It was so cold!  How was this the man who poo-poo’d the Aare river?  At least that was 17C!  The Verzasca River was 13C.  We only stayed in for a couple of minutes but at least we got another river swim in!

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Ponte dei Salti

We dried off and bought Carmelita ice cream (I guess we warmed up quickly) while waiting for the bus.  We took the bus to Lavertezzo and admired the bridge, the beautiful swimming holes and the scrambling rocks along the shore and extending into the river. We saw one guy jump from the bridge and while I was tempted, I just couldn’t do it.  It was really high and the water was so cold, I figured one of those elements had the capacity to damage me, ha ha.

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Another view. People are always crossing so it is difficult to get a picture without fellow travelers.  At least I know mint green blends in with surroundings.

Right across the bridge (away from the road) is Grotto al Ponte.  We ordered the Platter Ticinese, with dried meat (pork), bread and Alpkase.  We ordered the house red wine. We finished off our meal with a bread pudding tart and Nocino.  It felt very extravagant, not in price but in leisureliness.  We were outside, under a huge tree and next to a beautiful river.

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The water is so beautiful and so cold!

We checked the timetable for the bus and decided to hike a little more along the river to the next bus stop.  We set out from the restaurant, where the hiking path was on the same side of the river.  We had to walk quickly but it was worth it.  We crossed another bridge that overlooked the river and the amazing rock formations.

We made our way back to Locarno and took a nap!  Then it was time for dinner.  We decided to head above the city and check out Orselina.  The funicular was not running frequently so we decided to take the path up the hill (read: small mountain).  I decided to make a questionable decision even worse by convincing SMS to go up the Stations of the Cross path to the Madonna dei Sasso Church even though a sign clearly said there was no access through the gates after-hours.  I somehow thought that might not be true but, please, we’re in Switzerland.  Signs mean what they mean and, as a result, we basically climbed the hill (read: small mountain) twice.  I’m glad SMS loves me!!!

But, Orselina was worth it.  The town is beautiful.  We passed a hotel with two very, very expensive cars out front.  The restaurants were a little pricy but we decided to bite the bullet and were rewarded with the best dinner of our trip!  We ate at Ristorante al Gusto da Christen, which was phenomenal.  There was a mind-blowing tomato soup, an excellent risotto and the most exquisitely thin, delicious circle-shaped ravioli.  I highly recommend it!  Our waitress spoke Italian and German, so we got by in a little bit of both plus some Spanish.  Eh, a little hodge-podge but it worked!

We headed  back down the hill/mountain (so many steps!) and went to bed.  I accidentally locked our landlady out by keeping the key in the lock but we hadn’t been asleep for long so the doorbell woke us up fairly quickly.  Ooops!

Switzerland, Day 10: Grindelwald-Luzern-Lucarno

The next morning, we set out for Luzern to pick up SMS’ jacket.  Sigh.  Luzern was not good for remembering things- my bag and his jacket.  Fortunately, we got both things back!  I wasn’t so lucky with my pants at Blüemlisalphütte- how do you lose a pair of pants when you only have a small backpack full of stuff?  I don’t know either!

Anyway, we went back to Gisele and Kathy’s house to pick up the jacket, which went very smoothly.  They had gone to the US so one of the US softball women left it in the mailbox- it worked out perfectly!  To make the Luzern trip a little more than just a jacket retrieval mission, we went to the Rosengart Collection for just under an hour.  I really liked the Paul Klee works.  Then we picked up a pepitas pretzel from Pretzel King and hopped on the train to Ticino.

Both of us were really excited about this part of the trip.  I had been with my siblings when Brady lived in Zurich.  SMS had traveled there right after college with a friend of his.  We were excited to see old-new places together.

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We had connected through Bellinzona and arrived in Locarno around 5.  We had an Aperol Spritz while we waited for our AirBnB host.  Renata was kind enough to pick us up from the station- when we met up with her, a huge thunderstorm started so we had another Aperol Spritz while we waited.  Yay!

Locarno, Piazza Grande
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We settled in at Renata’s and then went to Bar Piazza in the Grande Piazza. We had a pizza dinner that was tasty and finished up with nocino and gelato to finish.  Yum!