Day Tripping In Switzerland

Switzerland is such a cool place to visit. We’ve been twice before (here and here), and we always see something different. This last time was a little different because I decided to be brave and go adventuring without my husband, who was working in Amsterdam during the week. He generally plans all of our outings whenever we travel, so I was very nervous having to do it without him. However, with the help of my brother-in-law, and my sisters-in-law, we managed to squeeze in two different day trips while we were visiting in February.

Our first trip was to the Chateau de Chillon in Montreux, Switzerland. We got to go with Essie’s Uncle, and his puppy George, so naturally she was thrilled. She made lots of friends on the train ride over, making sure to say ‘hi’ to every single person she passed, (something that was repeated with every trip we made to the bathroom, and back again).

The weather that day was spectacular. I mean, we were there in the middle of winter, and that day we almost didn’t even need our coats. It was so nice that we decided to walk from the train station to the castle instead of taking the bus. It was only a 20-30 minute walk any how, so we didn’t mind in the least. Especially as the walk was this pretty little path that bordered Lake Geneva the whole way there.

I knew that Montreux is considered the French side of Switzerland, but I was still surprised by how much the city reminded me of France. It was still very Swiss…pristine turquoise water, beautiful homes, well-kept, clean streets (there is seriously not a single piece of litter anywhere), but the style and the colors of the homes that we saw were all very French. Even the language had changed! In Zurich, where we were staying, everyone speaks Swiss German. In Montreux, everyone speaks French. It was such an interesting experience because as you are riding on the train, at a certain point, the overhead automated voice literally changes languages from German to French.

Side note- the mountains in the picture above are actually where Evian water comes from! You can look up Evian-les-Bains on Google maps, and see how close we were to them. I thought that was very cool to see.

Not surprisingly, once there Esmé could have cared less about seeing the castle. All she wanted to do was climb on the bike rack and find really cool sticks to play with that were not to share with George, but Georgie ended up stealing anyway.

We didn’t get a chance to go inside as we were short on time, but we still got to see quite a bit of the castle from the outside. Then that was it for our first trip! We walked back to the train station, hopped on our train and headed back to Zurich. All in all it went pretty smoothly, for traveling without the husband. We only had two hangups:

First- I was nearly eaten up by the escalator at the train station. I was standing too close to the stroller going down, and kind of fell backwards on the step behind me. With my backpack on and the stroller right in front of me, almost on top of me, I couldn’t get back up again. Fortunately Emile’s brother was standing behind me, and helped me get out from under the stroller before the escalator ended.

Second- Esmé decided to a back dive onto the cement. In the picture that is second from the top of this post, you can see her sitting next to some pretty flowers. Well, she decided to pick said flowers which happened to grow, very securely, on a sturdy stem. She pulled so hard to pick it that the momentum carried her backwards off the platform, where her head met the sidewalk behind her. Fortunately, the hood of her jacket was very poofy, so it cushioned the blow, and the only thing hurt was her pride.

Our second trip was to Lugano, the Italian side of Switzerland, and it was every bit as beautiful as the French side.

The weather was, obviously, more winter-y than when we were in Montreux, but I actually think we enjoyed this trip a little bit more.

Because the train ride to Lugano wasn’t as long as the one to Montreux, we actually had time to let Esmé run around enjoy herself a bit more.

And run we did… we had races in between the trees, climbed all over statues and benches, and fed the swans half our cereal.

I will say that Italian swans seem to be much nicer than any other that I’ve met. At least from what we’ve experienced, swans are actually very aggressive, mean birds. But these guys were super chill to have a toddler in their midst. Even Esmé seemed to like them a lot more than the others. She actually said as we were leaving “Bye my swans! Bye!” It was quite cute.

What I loved most about Lugano was how close the mountains were to you. Even with all the morning mist covering the tops, I still had this feeling of being so small, surrounded by these great looming giants all crowding around the lake.

After we finished exploring, we sat and had ourselves some pizza by the lake for lunch (when in the Italian side of Switzerland!). Then we headed back home to Zurich, where our cranky, territorial, Swiss German swans awaited us.

Both of these places were so spectacular in their own right that I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Montreux is the perfect combination of French and Swiss…charming and practically perfect. Lugano is this gorgeous, pastel-colored city that is folded into the hills surrounding the lake. Honestly, I just feel lucky to have seen both while we were there.

Switzerland

IMG_3628If Switzerland were a person, upon introduction, she would appear to be perfect in every way. Her hair would be styled tastefully with not a strand out of place. No super-long, boho, beachy, messy waves, just hair that is smooth, shiny, clean, and perfectly cut. Makeup would be applied only to enhance her natural beauty. Her clothes and accessories would exude wealth, but not in the Beverly Hills way of being covered head-to-toe in logos. It would be in the impeccable tailoring and quality fabrics that say: I wear 1500 dollar suits to work every day. She would be confident, educated, well-spoken, reserved, and punctual. She would always follow the rules. For leisure she would enjoy swimming, biking, and running during the warmer months, and of course would also be an excellent skier during the winter months.

In short you would discover that you were wrong about your initial assessment. She doesn’t appear to be perfect, she is perfect. I realize that my analogy may be as bad as Julia Roberts’ analogy of creme brulee and jello in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ but that is seriously what popped into my head as soon as we saw the city.

IMG_3630For starters, the water there is crystal clear. Even near the docks and bridges, where, at least in the States, it’s a bit muddy or murkier, you can see straight to the bottom. Most of the lakes and rivers, as you can see in the pictures above are also a bright turquoise color. Whenever I saw them in pictures, I always thought that they must have adjusted the colors to make it appear brighter, but the water is truly a vibrant shade of turquoise. It’s absolutely amazing!

FullSizeRender (3)The houses and cafes that line the cobbled streets of Old Town Zurich are all painted in soft pastel colors, with colorful flags that hang cheerfully near the windows.

IMG_3627The streets are spotless. Seriously! There was not a single piece of garbage, or cigarette butt to be found. There are also many, many clocks. Clocks on old buildings (seen above, below, and there were two in the picture that was second from the top), clocks on all the churches…they are everywhere, and they are all beautiful.

IMG_3622As beautiful and pristine a city as Zurich was, I have to say that I still prefer the streets of the Gothic quarter in Barcelona, or the tiny winding streets of Sitges. There are brighter colors, and they just seem to have so much more character than the perfect, polished streets of Zurich.

Having said that, I would happily live in the mountains of Switzerland over any city in the world, any day. I have found, having lived in Barcelona for almost two months now, that I am not a city person. There are a million and one things to do and see, and it is very convenient having all these shops and grocery stores within walking distance, but I miss my open spaces.

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Talk about open spaces! How green is that valley?! That was taken on our way to see Berggasthaus Aescher…

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which as you can see is this wonderful restaurant that is built into the side of a mountain. You can actually hike up there from the bottom, but we have a toddler. She ain’t got time for that. She has places to see, people to meet,

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ok make that animals to meet. She and Mrs. Dairy Cow had themselves a stare down. Obviously Mrs. Dairy Cow won. And yes I’m aware that our child looks like an eccentric refugee, but it was very windy, and very cold, so we made do with what we had.

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We also got to see the Swiss Alps while we were there! We took a tram with our Swiss Aunties and their little doggie up to ‘The Top of Europe,’ where you are able to see the three peaks: Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger.

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It was spectacular. Really, no words, or pictures can do it justice. You just have to see it in person to understand the beauty of this place, and how huge these mountains are. It is blissfully quiet. The air is cool and clean, and you hear the jingling of cow bells, bouncing off of hills from cows that graze all over the valley.

IMG_3636Unfortunately I didn’t get a good close up of the charming houses that are nestled down in the valley, but they are like little gingerbread houses. They are little wooden houses that have flowers spilling out of multiple containers by windows and doors. Some of the houses even had lace curtains that framed all the windows. I bet in the wintertime they look just like a dream.

IMG_3602While my favorite part might have been the mountains and crystal clear lakes. Esmé’s favorite part was spending time with ‘Chuckle,’ her Aunties’ dog. They held hands on the tram ride back down the mountains…

IMG_3554 they took naps together in the car after long days exploring multiple countries…

IMG_3556 and every morning we woke up to the sounds of ‘ah! ah! ah! ah!’ (which is Esmé speak for what a doggie says) because she had found the dog, and was barking at her and waving to her.

Switzerland was such a gorgeous place to see, but for me the best part was being able to see it with family. I think that’s what I will treasure the most when we look back on this trip…coming home after long days packed with activities, to good food, and even better company.