On the train - Interlaken to Lucerne
The Train Tour
September 26 - 27: Lugano
It's a drab and dreary morning in Zurich, but the forecast for southern Switzerland seems more optimistic, so we decide we'll head south.
The hotel's breakfast is in line with the overall quality of the hotel - basic, bus your own table, and scrambled eggs are 4 francs. At least they have a computer with free internet access.
In the daylight, we discover that we were within walking distance of the train station, so in short order we've secured tickets for a Lugano-bound train departing in a matter of minutes (what timing!).
We head south, the 3-hour trip taking us along the shores of Lake Zurich, then back through the Alps via Zug. The sun comes out and the scenery is spectacular - mountains, waterfalls, and more cows. Jayne vows to get a cow bell as a souvenir.
By 1 pm, we're in Lugano. Of course, the information office at the station that handles hotel reservations doesn't open until 2, but there is another information office down in the city. The train station in Lugano is on a hillside above the city, and we hike down to the lakeshore to find the tourist office. The Hotel Pestalozzi has a room available, so after another short hike, we're settled into our room overlooking the casino, city hall, and a small square (which will be undergoing repair - with jackhammers) - during our stay.
Lugano follows a layout like virtually all of the lakeshore towns - a promenade along the lake where the excursion boats depart, bordered by open air restaurants (mostly featuring pizza), and the city laid out on the hills rising from the shore. Unlike some other towns we've visited, Lugano is more businesslike, with many more men in suits running around with a briefcase in one hand and a cell phone in the other.
A light lunch on the main square is followed by a nap, then a walking exploration of the city. In addition to the requisite promenade, there's a high end shopping street with all the haute couture and jewelry you'd ever need. Dinner is at a nice restaurant along the promenade, where Jayne gets to meet a French bulldog that looks a lot like Bella.
The next morning we buy a day pass on the lake tour boats and take an excursion around the lake, with a lunch stop in a small village. The weather is perfect and the lake is beautiful. Though we had planned to take an afternoon cruise to Italy, ennui wins out and we spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our hotel, to the lulling of the jackhammers. Dinner is in the local equivalent of Luby's - a cafeteria with stations where you can pick up a salad or freshly made pasta, pizza, or grilled meat dish. Tasty, and much less expensive than dining in a restaurant. As we stroll around town before dinner, we find a steel drum group performing in the main square..
September 28-29: Lucerne
Another 2 hour train trip takes us back across the Alps to Lucerne, another lake town. Since it's a larger town than Lugano, and closer to major agricultural areas, Jayne steps up her quest for cow bells. After hitting a number of antique shops, she's successful, scoring two antique bronze bells with the original straps (which still retain the unique aroma de cow).
Lucerne features several small squares fronted with painted buildings. We have another fondue lunch, then walk around seeing the sights. The city is bisected by a river that is crossed by two covered wooden bridges. There are painted panels in the eaves of the bridges that depict allegorical scenes featuring Death, much like we see in Mexico. Of course, we have to tour at least one church, too.
On advice of Ed, the next day we take a day trip to Interlaken. The train trip takes a couple of hours and traverses another section of the Alps. In Interlaken, we rent bikes at the train station and do a short tour around part of the lake (and are reminded why we like the comfort of our recumbent bikes). Though we've almost hit sensory overload, Interlaken is beautiful, though we do refrain from taking another scenic boat ride. Apparently, Interlaken is a hotbed for paragliding, and we see the colorful canopies spiraling down from the mountains to land in a field near the city center. The return to Lucerne gives us another great set of mountain vistas...
September 30: Back to Zurich and to Home
It's a short walk to the train station, and again, our timing is perfect - the train to Zurich is departing 5 minutes after we complete the ticket purchase.
Back in Zurich, we collect the bike and duffel bag. Jayne takes the luggage and grabs a cab, while I drag the trike over to our hotel. Thanks to Marriott points, tonight we'll be pampered in a luxurious room on the concierge floor. Our bike box is waiting, so I attend to disassembly and packing the trike while Jayne arranges the rest of the baggage.
We spend the afternoon exploring Zurich, and even try a bit of Mexican food (the nachos are actually not too bad), before retiring to our room. Luckily, we're right across the hall from the concierge lounge, with it's complimentary snacks and drinks, so we spend the evening resting in preparation for tomorrow's long flight home.
Up a 4 am, off to the airport for the 7 am to Amsterdam. The rest is pretty much a blur - long layovers in Amsterdam and Newark, but we finally make it home by 10:30 pm on Oct 1.