08 September 2014

From Zurich to Atlanta

Our last morning in Switzerland, Monday September 2, started early.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30am, and the airlines recommends arriving 3 hours befor departure.  So with us having to be there at 8:30 I thought it was safest for us to wake up at 7am, leaving the hotel by 7:45am.  Since we do not check bags during our travels I figured we could arrive at the airport by 8:45-9 without pushing our luck.

We woke up, quickly dressed in the clothes I laid out the night before.  We took our bags with us to breakfast so we could check out immediately and head to then hauptbahnhof (train station).  After eating we said our goodbyes tonthenrecwption Ladina and she was gracious enough to let me take a picture with her and a picture of her looooong beautiful dreadlocks.





Once again we opted to walk to the hauptbahnhof instead of taking the bus.  On our walk the boys said good bye to their favorite German word, einfahrt, that we saw everyday on the McDonald's sign.  I'm pretty sure it means drive-thru but the kids could care less they loves that the word ended in "fahrt".  What am I going to do with these kids?!



Zane also insisted that intake pictures of he giant slugs scattered all over the sidewalk.  Unlike anything he's seen in Atlanta, they totally creeped him out and he spend mostbofbthebwalk hopping from foot to foot in an attempt to avoid stepping on them.





With the help of some kind strangers I bought our train tickets from the machine.  I was hoping that on the last day I would be able to do it independently but even with the instructions in English I couldn't find the option to buy a ticket to the flughafen (airport) from winterthur.  Once in the train we stared out the window for our last glimpses of beautiful Switzerland and took usies.


As planned we arrived very early to the flughafen.  As soon as I arrived I found the airport post office and sent off postcards to loved ones in the US. Our postcards took 2 months to arrive to the US from Guatemala so I wonder how long it will take get to us from Swtizerland?  How long do you think?  

Once don't with the postcards, we didn't check bags but had to through two layers of security, and take a train in order to get to the terminal.  In Switzerland before boarding the plane you must have a face-to-face exit interview.  This is something is never experienced before with international travel.  This questioning happens with the adjacent gate at a booth with an airport agent.  Her questions included: did anybody give you anything here in the airport? Who used your electronic devices while in Switzerland? Are you carrying anything that can be used as a weapon?  Once I was answered all the questions the agent places stickers on or passports and we were allowed to board. Non-coincidentally our return seats were the exact seats we sat in on our way to Zurich.  
It was the perfect weekend getaway and I look forward tonreturninng to switzerland in the future hopefully to Geneva, on the French side. 







01 September 2014

A rainy day in Zurich

Despite rain in the weather forecast we woke up happy and ready to see Zurich. We headed down to the hotel dining room at 8am and we had a European style self-served breakfast.  The food selection included yogurt, croissants, 3 varieties of cereals (corn flakes, chocolate puffs, or granola).  There was also sliced bread you could toast, a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, and jams, hot drinks, and apple or orange juice.  The boys chose cereal but didn't like it served with the room temperature milk.  Since I didn't want them to start off the day hungry I made then grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate, that seemed to please them.  I on the other hand ate a croissant & strawberry yogurt.  The other guests in the cafeteria were from all over, judging by language and appearances there were from UK, Spain, India, west Africa, and china.   After breakfast we returned to the room for to rest for another hour. 
Today instead of take the $15 bus for 3 blocks, we decided to walk.  The walk was easy and cool and the street were Sunday-morning calm.  





We walked to the winterthur train station and I somehow figured out how to purchase the train pass to zurich's main train station. We were on the platform and within minutes were on the train to Zurich.  The ride lasted about 15 minutes.  We passed neighborhoods, farms, and warehouses.  
The main train station in Zurich was big and busy.  



At first we were turned around unsure of where to go.  Finally I remembered the Zurich city map Ladina (the hotel receptionist) gave me the previous day.  We sat down at a cafe for a while to use the WCs (bathrooms) and to look at the map.  Thankfully everything was in walking distance from where we were.  The only thing I was sure I wanted to do was a boat tour of lake Zurich.  


As soon as we left the cafe we headed to a park near the national museum and saw people waiting at a boat stop.  We decided to get in line too.  While waiting we saw this cool car and took pix with the museum ads.  The boat ride was free because it was included in the train pass.  From what I could tell, you purchase tickets for permission to pass through zones.  The passage includes all
Means for public transportation, including boat, but is only valid for 2-3 hours unless you buy a day pass.  





The boat ride lasted 50 minutes and was quick enjoyable.  The boat was very flat perhaps only 2 feet above the waters surface.  We passed under very low bridges that impossible to fit under dude was convinced that we were really in a submarine.





Once we got off the low-boat we walked to the old town in the drizzling rain.  It was getting cold and the rain was coming down harder by the minute.  I was definitely looking for a way for us to continue or exploration through the city without get wet.  We quickly hurried back to the main train station and as soon as we walked in I saw the tourist info station.  If anyone could point me in the right direction they could.  Before speaking to an agent I picked up post cards, SWISS chocolate, and a cute Swiss Army knife for me!  The tourist agent recommended that we take the #3 bus to the doldenhaus station, then get onto the doldenbahn train to dolden grand where we could look over Zurich and take pretty pictures.  So that is exactly what we did.  The tour continues but instead of walking we were in the city electric bus.
Zurich is truly swiss.  I didn't know what that mean until I had the chance to see it for myself.  In my travels around the world I often meet people from Switzerland, I often ask them "eres swiss aleman or swiss francais?" (Are you German swiss or French swiss, referring to the region and language that they are from in Switzerland).  From what I see that question, although relevant is not defining enough because Switzerland seems like the love child of a French mom and German dad.  I see the same order and calmness of Germany here, but the passion and affection of the French.  I sweet combo for a sweet land and culture.  I look forward to going to the French side someday to even further observe and reflect on their culture and customs. 









Once we got to the look -out point the rain was coming down hard.  The lookout was not as clear as I hoped it would be, perhaps because of the dreary weather and fog.  After exploring the area we followed signs that led us to a very upscale hotel. Yikes!  Unsure if we were guest or not the concierge offered us umbrellas and pointed in the direction of another over look.  This one was a little nicer but not mind blowing enough to stay in the rain! We returned the umbrella, returned to the main Zurich train station and headed back to winterthur. In
Winterthur the rain was coming down even harder.  I bought an umbrella for our walk home $16 CHF!!!  Please remind me to pack ponchos for our next trip. 
We walked home and hung out in the hotel watching Cartoon Network in German. 
Our last stop for the night was dinner at a nearby dinner, a stop at the gas station to buy snacks and lego cars, then back to bed early so we could wake up at 7am to catch our flight back home. 




Here are video clips of our rainy day in Zurich. 















30 August 2014

Our first 24 in Winterthur

Our 1 hour nap turned into a much needed 2 hour nap.  I woke up from my cozy sleep and had to shake the boys back to life. "Vamonos, vamonos!"   There was so much to see and do I didn't want to waste anothe hour.  We quickly got ourselves together and headed out.  Ladina was at the receptionist counter with her same beautiful smile and wished us luck as we exited Ibis Hotel.  I'm hand I had the maps she'd given us and 79 CHP (Swiss francs) in my back pocket.  Immediately outside of our hotel is a mcdonalds and a gas station.  Dude was dying for food and was trying to lure me toward McDonald's with hopes that there would also be a play ground.  Their menu was the most Americanize Mickie D's menu ever.  An LA bacon burger, BBQ fries (or pommes frites as many europe'a call them).  These options were even too American for Americans!  I filmed a little biting the menu but after a few seconds the cashier started yelling "nein fotos, nein fotos" who the hell knows why I couldn't take pix of their menu, but I put the camera away anyway.   Once our food was served up we sat near a birthday party how had an actually Ronald McDonald clown as a magician.  I haven't see a Ronald McDonald in the US since the '80s!!! He was kind enough to give a dude a balloon and I got about 7 seconds of him speaking German to a parent in their party.  
After Mickie D's we followed LaDina's map to the bus stop our 4 minute ride cost $9CHP!! Yoooooo, wassup with Switzerland and these outrageous travel cost?!  We got off and walked around the downtown/ old town of winterthur.  Tomorrow we will head to the same area (waking for FREE, though) to catch the train into Zurich where we will spent the day.  
The old town was quaint and charming.  I felt like was walking around in a Suiss play set.   We window shopped and strolled for hours. Many people have small and medium sized dogs here.  It is common for the dogs to enter and walk around the store on a lease with their owner.  There is plenty of diversity here. Immigrants of African and Asian descent, Latinos, Muslims, East Asian Muslims... People are peaceful and patient, just like in many other parts of the world.
One of the main stores in the area is named co-op city, just like the well-known condo complex in the Bronx , NY where I grew up.  I made sure we went in there to honor the sign that we were on the right path.  Next to that was a store called city trends, just like the Atlanta urban clothing store around the corner from my house, we will check that out tomorrow.  Here are some pix if what our day had to offer us. 















Marijuana is legal here



Electric bus system


Postkartes for our peeps



Once we were done in downtown winterthur, we got back on the bus to go back to the hotel.  We decided on pizza for dinner before going home.  At a quick stop at the gas station for water and late night snacks the boys were gifted lego car packets by the cashier. Dude was so excited "Mommy, we have friends everywhere!!"  "Yes Dude, we do"

Here is a quick video of our Winterthur exploration: