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Trip Report April in the Alps: A Swiss Walkabout

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It’s 2:30 am, and I’m jetlagged beyond belief, so figured this is as good a time as any to start my trip report on Switzerland.

WARNING: I’m one of those annoying detailed types. I don’t wax poetic about food and cow bells, but I do tend to provide details others might find irritating. I’ll try to control myself.

The travelers:

Bill and Mel, a couple of semi-old fahrt American expatriates currently living in Perth, Australia. We love Switzerland, and have visited several times, the last of which was in 2004 when we lived in Indonesia. At that point we decided the time and energy needed to get to Europe from our remote location was just too daunting, so we shelved future trips to Switzerland…until now.

Our grand plan this time was to combine a visit to Switzerland and the United States over a six week period; a trip that included a vacation, a home leave and a few weeks of business.

So back in December we began plotting our course, and decided to book RTW tickets on Star Alliance partners. Unwilling to fly a gazillion miles crammed into cattle class, we bit the bullet and purchased Business Class tickets. Ouch.

Our routing:

PER-SIN
SIN-FRA
FRA-ZRH
ZRH-LAX
LAX-LAS
LAS-PHX
PHX-COS
COS-DEN
DEN-LAX
LAX-AKL
AKL-PER

We’d exhaustively researched which routes, airlines and flights offered the most bang for our buck in those coveted Business Class seats. We’d hoped to take Singapore Airlines as much as possible, but as they apply a $500 per ticket surcharge on their SIN-ZRH flights and a $900 per ticket surcharge on their LAX-SIN flights, we thought better of it.

Our Swiss Itinerary:

Kandersteg – three nights
Zermatt – four nights
Lauterbrunnen – seven nights
Zurich – one night

We’re low season, cold weather travelers, so April seemed like the perfect time to visit Switzerland. It also coincided with Good Friday and Easter Monday, two holidays here in Australia, giving us two more vacation days to work with.

April 10, 2009: The trip begins…..

We’d arranged a private transfer to the Perth airport though a limo service, the best option we found after much research. We were collected at 5 am, at the airport by 5:30 and sipping chai lattes in the Singapore Air Lounge by 6 am. The Perth airport enforces a 14 kg carry on limit for Business Class, less for Economy. Bags are weighed as you enter Immigration.

We’d booked two aisle seats, but were talked into accepting two seats in the middle section with the promise that the middle seat would be blocked off (it was). Only 18 of the 30 Business Class seats were full, so that world class SIA service was even more attentive than usual. It was a good flight; short and sweet at 4.5 hours, good service, huge screens for movie viewing, edible food, etc.

The later flight we’d originally wanted to take was booked, so we had to cool our heels in Changi Airport for 10 hours before our connecting flight to Frankfurt. But if you’ve got to spend 10 hours in an airport, Changi is the place to do it.

We arrived in Terminal 2 and immediately went to the Silver Kris Lounge for a snack before checking into the Transit Hotel, where we’d booked a room for the next eight hours (S$107). We were re-directed to the Transit Hotel in Terminal 3, as renovations were in progress and we were told it might be noisy. We’ve been through Changi countless times, but I’ve never seen it so empty. We took a nap, poked around the airport, went back to the lounge for a snack and to use the Internet, then back to the room to shower, then back to the lounge to await our 23:10 flight.

Our 12+ hour SIA flight to Frankfurt was on the upper deck of a 747. It was a good flight, despite three solid hours of bone jarring turbulence. I’d requested vegetarian meals on all our flights and I was already beginning to regret it. The two Asian Vegetarian meals on SIA were good, but I was rapidly tiring of carbs; naan, dahl, rice, saag paneer, naan, potato dosa, more naan. The flight attendants were efficient to the point of annoyance, taking our food and drinks away before we’d finished.

The Silver Kris Sling and carb overload eventually kicked in and we both managed to get about 4-5 hours of sleep. The seats were comfortable; I felt as if I were in a cocoon. When the seat was fully reclined I slid downwards, but I found a comfortable sleeping position by lowering the seat and raising the knee support a bit. The entertainment system was extensive and the screens were huge.

We arrived in Frankfurt (C gates) around 6:30 am, and were greeted with 50 degree temps, a welcome change after a long hot Perth summer. We went through passport control and back through security to reach the A gates for our connecting Lufthansa flight to Zurich. I have a love-hate relationship with the Frankfurt Airport. I hate the industrial, rabbit warren feel of the place, but I love the duty free shopping (chocolate!).

We had a few hours to kill before our connecting flight, so we spent it in the Senator’s Lounge trying to revive ourselves with caffeine, cheese and bread. It seemed as if we’d been eating non stop since we left Perth; at this rate I’d explode before we reached our destination.

The Senator’s lounge was busy and there was no shortage of alcohol. Beer on tap, vodka on ice, spirits galore. Tempting, but a wee bit early for me.

Our flight to Zurich was on an Airbus 321, in what Bill refers to as ‘fake business class’; three seats on each side with the middle seat blocked off and used as a drink and food tray. It was only a 45 minute flight, but they still managed to serve a light breakfast.

April 11, 9:30 am, finally, we’d arrived in Switzerland.

Next up: Working off some calories in Kandersteg

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