Friday 2nd April
Saturday 3rd April
Sunday 4th April
Monday 5th April
Tuesday 6th April
Wednesday 7th April
Thursday 8th April
Friday 9th April
|You're viewing currahee's journal|
Create a Dreamwidth Account Learn More
It was still snowing a bit when we woke this morning, but it was nothing like as heavy as it had been last night. The clouds had lifted slightly though and so we had a bit of a better view of St Moritz from our balcony before we set off, after breakfast.
Whereas yesterday the roads had been clear, this morning they were covered with snow, and Michele drove very carefully down to the train station, where he dropped us off. The plan had been that we would all go on the Bernina Express down to Tirano, and Michele would drive through a pass and then meet us there, but because of the amount of snow which had fallen yesterday the pass was closed and he had to drive the long way around. I was still impressed to see him in Tirano to meet us on time, though!
The train journey was amazing. We started in St Moritz and the line winds its way through the mountains before reaching the southern part of the Swiss Alps, where it descends into the valley and terminates at Tirano in Italy. The carriages are heated and the windows open so it's possible to get some really good photographs as it goes along, without having to worry about glare from the windows. To say that the scenery was breathtaking is doing it a bit of an injustice really, but I genuinely can't think of any other word to describe it. There were feet upon feet of snow, massive icicles, buried buildings... I've just never seen anything like it. The further south we went the more the skies cleared as well, so we had some stunning views of the mountains and glaciers. It made us realise just what we must have missed yesterday with the low cloud, but we decided in the end that having the chance to see the snow falling made it a decent trade off because we had such good views today.
We reached Tirano in time for lunch, which we had in a little restaurant near to the train station. I had a gorgeous home-made lasagne and some garlic bread - delicious! We then just had time to have a quick walk around (it being Easter Monday most things were closed) and then it was time to get back onto the coach, heading for Lake Como. Lake Como is massive, but it's not the largest of the Italian lakes (although it is the deepest). I can't even begin to imagine how big the largest one must be! We drove along the shore for a while and then had a stop at a really pretty town on the lake called Menaggio, where I had a massive chocolate ice cream which was almost as good as the stuff from Langage Farm. Almost, but not quite...
From Menaggio we headed along the ludicrously narrow road that runs along the western shore of Lake Como and then crossed the border back into Switzerland, heading for Lugano. The hotel we're in tonight is something of an oddity, in that it has a funicular railway running through the middle of it! The trains were running until quite late and then started just after 5.00am, so it was a bit noisy but other than that it was comfortable.
We found out when we arrived at the hotel that Pedro off of Pedro and Marina isn't actually called Pedro at all, but is instead called Fernando. This was discovered because Flo always finds out what rooms we're in and then comes back onto the coach and calls our names and then tells us which room number we have, and she called his name as Fernando Alvarez. Heaven only knows why we thought he was called Pedro, hehe!
This evening we had an excursion, which was a boat trip on the lake and then a meal in a restaurant right on the lake shore. I had a broccoli soup and then there was lots of grilled meat, sausages and fish, with risotto rice. It was absolutely delicious! We sat with a couple from Wolverhampton called Glenys and George, who were cracking company, and it was such a good night. After we'd left the restaurant we had another short trip across the lake, including seeing a really attractive church on the shore which was all lit up, and the casino at Campione, which is massive! Once we got back to Lugano we had just a short walk back up to the hotel, where we headed straight to bed, in the hope that the funicular wouldn't disturb us too much!
( Lots and lots of photos today! )
Yesterday, the weather forecast for Zurich was for heavy rain. Today, the weather forecast for St Moritz was for heavy snow. Yesterday, the forecasters got it wrong and we had a really nice day. Today, I think it's fair to say they got it right. I have never in my life seen snow like I saw today. It was just amazing. When we arrived at St Moritz, there were already several feet of snow piled up, and we watched as another couple of inches (at least) came down in the space of just half an hour. Mental stuff!
But more about St Moritz later. First of all, I need to tell you how we got here!
We had an early breakfast this morning, which Flo had told us would be the best one we'd get all week. It was really good, actually. Not just the continental stuff, but actual sausages and other stuff as well. Very impressive indeed! After breakfast, we finished getting ready to leave and then settled our bar bill before getting onto the coach. A lot of the seats towards the front were taken so we decided to be the naughty kids and went and sat at the back. We won't be there all week, though. Flo runs a strict "rotation system", which means that everyone moves either three rows forwards or three rows back each day. That way, everyone gets a chance to sit in different places and on different sides of the coach, so there are different views to be had. It's quite a good idea, actually. I'm more used to having set seats, and being frowned at if we dare to deviate from them, so this will make a refreshing change!
The weather was rather inclement from the start today. It was raining as we left Zurich, and so the visibility (and hence the views) wasn't as good as it might have been, which was a shame. But Flo told us that the weather was meant to be better for the rest of the week, so we didn't mind too much really.
Our first stop today was the town of Appenzell, which is apparently where Appenzeller cheese comes from. We had about 45 minutes to explore this little town, which was really beautiful, even in the rain. It was also very deserted - with it being Easter Sunday the majority of the shops were shut, and judging from the number of umbrellas that were stacked in the rack outside, most of the population had headed to church. We walked up from the Landsgemeindeplatz along the main street to the church and did some window shopping along the way, as well as admiring the pretty buildings. We then had a very brief look around the graveyard (even that was attractive) before making our way back towards the coach.
We nipped into the public washroom before setting off again - the coach does have a toilet but apparently Swiss law decrees that you can't use a toilet in a coach when it's moving, and so it's for use in emergencies only unfortunately. According to Flo, the Swiss have lots of rules by which they have to abide (too many, she said), including one which states that you must have curtains up in your house at all times. Bless!
After we all got back onto the coach Michele drove us towards the principality of Liechtenstein, and we crossed the border and had a stop in Vaduz, which is the capital city. As with Appenzell it was very attractive even in the rain (although it did actually stop while we were there), but also as with Appenzell, it was mostly closed. I got my passport stamped (geeky, but I couldn't resist it) and we had a brief look around one of the gift shops, but there wasn't really much more to do there, unfortunately.
After getting back onto the coach in Vaduz it was time to go to a place called Heidiland for lunch. Heidiland is named after the charater in the Johanna Spiri novel 'Heidi', and for some reason I'd envisaged lunch in a traditional Swiss place with goats milling about and yodelling and stuff. Actually, it was a kind of service station (although Heidiland itself is obviously more than just this one stopping place), but it wasn't like any service station I've ever seen before. It was a bit higgledy piggledy, but you could get pretty much anything you wanted there (apart from a beer, which was a shame - I'm guessing though that the Swiss have a rule about no boozes being sold in service stations). There was freshly squeezed fruit juice to drink, or pop, or coffee, tea, alcohol free beer, smoothies, etc etc. And the food choice was amazing! In the end I just had a ham and cheese baguette but I could have had a grilled steak, grilled fish, omelette, quiche, cooked meats, potato rosti, vegetables... Just so much choice, honestly! And the hot food was all cooked fresh as it was ordered, plus our baguettes were made in front of our eyes. I wish we had places like that in England - I loved it!
The rain had stopped completely by the time we left Heidiland, and I'd pretty much convinced myself that we wouldn't see any proper snow, and was a bit disappointed, really. I'd been looking forward to it in a strange way! But as the coach started to head up into the mountains the weather closed in again, and first of all it was raining, then it was sleeting, and as we climbed a bit higher, the sleet turned into actual proper snow! There was no snow on the road and Flo had checked and found that the pass we were due to drive through was open, so even though there was white stuff all over the ground, conditions on the road were fine and it wasn't a bit scary. We had a brief stop partway up at a frozen reservoir, where we could get off to take photos if we wanted to brave the driving snow, and then we continued up to the top of the Julier Pass, which is a height of some 2,284 metres (7,493 feet), where we stopped again, this time for a hot drink and for another quick photo or two.
After leaving the Julier Pass we wound our way back down towards St Moritz, and finally arrived at the hotel at around 4.30pm. We quickly settled in and mum unpacked, and then I decided that I'd like to go for a short walk, as I'd noticed when the coach pulled up outside that the Cresta Run was just opposite and I wanted to get a photo or two of the building with the name on it, just to show I'd been. Mum decided against the exercise, and so I set off on my own. I got my photos of the building (which I think is at the end of the run), and then I decided to follow a little path downhill, just to see where it went. It was snowing heavily at this point and for some reason I quite fancied the idea of walking in a snow storm. I followed the path down for quite a while, until it came out at a bridge over the road, and I decided I ought to start heading back because the snow was getting worse. So I set off at a rate of knots, completely forgetting the fact that I was 1,822m (5,978 feet) up above sea level. 30 seconds or so later, I was KNACKERED and had to stop to catch my breath! I know I'm unfit, but seriously, doing any kind of exercise at altitude is bloody hard work - heaven only knows how people manage to ski up mountains! They must be mega fit, is all I can say! I took my time climbing back up the rest of the path and then went back into the hotel to chill out for a short time before we decided to go downstairs for a beer before dinner. As we walked into the lobby we were trying to work out where the bar was, because the layout of the hotel is a tad higgledy-piggledy. And then suddenly this American guy appeared as it from nowhere, and without us even having to tell him what we were looking for, he told us that if we wanted a beer, it was in on the left and it was good stuff and was also very cheap. I can't remember the exact cost, but he was right about the quality - it was very good stuff!
This bloke turned out to be called Dominic de Santis and he joined us for first a beer and then for dinner. He is originally from Philadelphia but now lives near to Atlanta, something I managed to remember because I had to learn it a few nights later when another guy called George decided to test my level of sobriety by giving me a fact and then asking me to repeat it the following morning. Dominic is a bit of a music dude - he teaches guitar and plays in a band as well, so we spent the night chatting away about music and trying to educate him about some good British bands that he might not know.
Dinner was pretty good - the hotel had laid on a set menu for those of us on the trip, but went a la carte and I had chicken and mushrooms in a sauce with rice, and then some ice cream, all washed down by a few beers. Very nice indeed. We did think about another beer in the hotel bar after dinner, but then decided to be sensible and instead got ourselves a bit of an early night because it's another early start tomorrow.
( Here be photos... )
In hindsight, I realised when I woke at 3.30am this morning, that second Tanqueray and tonic last night was a spectacularly bad idea. Getting up in the middle of the night to queue for check in with the hordes when you’re feeling tired and hungover is really rather unpleasant! I hope to remember this fact when we’re at the Holiday Inn at Bristol Airport in July!
Yes, it wasn’t easy, but we managed to get ourselves up and checked in by 4.30am this morning, and then after clearing security we went for a much needed coffee before mooching around the shops for half an hour and then walking down to our gate. We hadn’t been able to get speedy boarding so we had to wait while those people went through, and then of course the people with children went next, because of course they rule the world [/sarcasm], and then it was time for us second class citizens to board. It wasn’t a problem to get a seat together with one by the window, though. I’ll be glad to have the speedy boarding for Mallorca, I must say. It’s one less thing to worry about!
The flight was fine – the pilot had warned us that there may be a bit of turbulence because he was having to fly at a slightly lower altitude than normal due to the short duration of the flight, but actually it was really smooth! We landed into Zurich, got our cases and then we had to get a funny little underground train thing from the terminal, which at one point showed a flickering picture on the walls of the tunnel, which reminded me of those ghostly photos from the London Underground, and then there was the sound of a cow mooing. Most bizarre!
Our Tour Director (I’m sure they just used to call them Reps) met us in arrivals – she’s from the Italian part of Switzerland and she’s called Fiorenza, but we’re to call her Flo, apparently. Also there was Michele, who’s from Sicily and is to be our driver for the week. On the way into Zurich, Flo gave us maps of the city and pointed out various places of interest, as well as telling us how to get into the city centre from our hotel, and what the plan was for this evening. She also gave us the idea of going to the local supermarket (Migros) to get things like mineral water rather than getting them from the mini bar – top tip, that!!
When we got to the hotel we were able to go straight to our room, which was brilliant. Mum unpacked, and I nipped over to Migros and brought back some chewy sweets to have on the coach as well as some tea bags and some water.
Once mum had finished unpacking we headed out and made our way to the tram stop, where we quickly picked up a train heading into actual Zurich. We got off at the main railway station and found the Tourist Information Office, and booked ourselves onto the next Trolley excursion, which was leaving shortly. We found the trolley and got on, and spent the next couple of hours being shown around the main sights of the city.
It’s a really pretty city – fairly compact so it was easy to get to see most things from the trolley. And the weather was lovely – we’d looked at the forecast and it had said rain for today so we were very happy to find it not only dry but actually very mild and partly sunny!
Once we’d finished the tour, we walked along the main shopping street, the Bahnhofstrasse, and found a little café up a side street, where we had a lovely ham and cheese sandwich and a huge beer for lunch. We then mooched around the shops for a while but didn’t really see anything we couldn’t have got at home, so we decided to head back to the hotel and just chill for a while, before this evening’s welcome meeting/dinner.
I managed to have a little doze back at the hotel and then got showered and changed and we went down to the bar and had a beer before the welcome meeting started. During this, Flo outlined the itinerary for the week ahead (it’s going to be so busy!) and we also had to say our names and where we were from. I’d expected everyone to be English, but that’s not the case. There’s one more English couple, a single English woman, and also a Welsh couple, but then it’s like the United Nations – people from America, Australia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, The Philippines, Thailand and India!
Dinner tonight was one of the two which is included in our holiday, and it was a set menu but was very nice – salad to start, followed by pork in a cream and mushroom sauce on a bed of rice, and then a sorbet to finish. We sat with a couple who now live in Houston, but he’s originally from Spain and she’s originally from Peru. She’s definitely called Marina and I think his name is Pedro. Pedro has a very strong accent and a moustache that sticks out from his upper lip at a 90 degree angle. Marina has an equally strong accent, but no moustache.
After dinner we decided to head straight to bed because it’s been a long day, and we have to get up early again tomorrow to head off to St Moritz. The weather forecast is for snow – we shall see.
( Today's photos )
I got myself up early this morning and nipped into town for a few things – including a jacket and how embarrassing was it that I needed a man’s XL one??? Diet starts when we get home, seriously!
When I got home, it was time to pack quickly and then we set off for Plymouth Airport. As we were checking in we were told that due to earlier technical difficulties and adverse weather at Gatwick, we were going to be delayed for 90 minutes. We did make some joke about nipping home, but the check in guy said it’s best not to, just in case. Just as well we didn’t… We got ourselves a toastie and a beer and were in the middle of that when there was an announcement to say that we were going on time after all! I think what they’d done was they’d turned around an inbound Guernsey/Jersey flight and used that one instead of waiting for the other one to come back from Gatwick.
But we took off bang on time and we had a quick stop at Newquay before going on to Gatwick, where we also landed on time. Result! After getting our cases we found the hotel, which was right on the North Terminal and so very handy. It was very smart as well – the advertised room rate was £200 but we paid just £83 from Expedia – good stuff!
We got to our room and despite the fact that we were only there for one night mum unpacked (this was to be a recurring theme, as you will see), and then we went down into the bar for a couple of beers before going back up and getting ready for dinner. We decided to eat in the Chinese there (the hotel has a few restaurants) and apart from a screaming child in the place, it was a nice evening. We then thought we’d round it off by having a Tanqueray and tonic in the bar – actually, we ended up having two. We also needed some mineral water for the room as I can’t stand the tap water in the south east, and our bar bill came to a whopping £41 – almost as much as our food! We were laughing – we just couldn’t believe it!
Anyway, that was the day – I took a few photos but I need to explain something before I post them. I took "pets" away on holiday with me - Dogly, who's the little stuffed toy that sits on my desk at work, and Craig and Adam, the two little dog things that Chen and I bought when we were in the Lake District recently. I took them with me with the intent of taking photos of them on the trip, so if you're wondering why there are muppets in a few of my photos, that's why!
( So, enough of the explanations, here are the photos! )