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!
“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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!