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Just back from Brunnen Trip

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Back less than 36 hrs ago from a 9-day, 8 night trip to Brunnen, Switzerland.
We stayed in a Ferienwohnung directly on the lake with two balconies :-)).
Unfortunately, we had rain 4 out of the 8 days, though we still were able to visit most "must-sees". Temp mostly in the 60's.

Hiked Rigi Scheidegg to Kaltbad in beautiful, sunny weather. Breathtaking!
Visited Pilatus in wonderful weather. Even climbed to the top of Esel (with my fear of heights and all!)
Explored Treib-Seelisberg, and had close encounters of the cow kind (pleasant!).
Spent 3+ hours at Goldau Tierpark in the rain...most of the animals didn't mind! Bold deer and rams when you're carrying zoo food!
Loved Luzern Herbstmesse, even in the rain, but wished I could have ridden the ferris wheel too.
Re-visited my base town of Rapperswil during an all day "Castle Day Race"...poor drenched runners!
Never had a bad (or cheap!) cup of coffee--mmmm, Bachman!
Restocked my chocolate supplies and
re-energized my soul until the next time......

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    Well, I HAD hoped to get back to this sooner, but...life intervened!
    Hopefully, pictures to enliven things will be available next week.
    Got a decent airfare ($870)PIT-->ZRH...its been greater than $1023 since.
    Wanted to stay in a smallish town close to Luzern, and after much investigation, came up with lakeside Brunnen for its good rail and boat connections in addtion to decent assortment of cafes and restaurants. It was a good choice.

    Our FeWo was right on the Vierwaldstaettersee, with marvelous
    views of the lake and pier with mountain peaks across. We ran around taking 'first-day photos' in the warm sunshine. Crowds sat in the outdoor cafes soaking up the ambience.

    We decided to take a boat to Vitznau to check it out (it had been a distant second choice for home base). Green rolling hills, dotted with chalets. One hour boat ride was nicely relaxing after the long plane trip.
    The town itself was QUITE small, so we strolled a quick loop and picked up sandwiches to eat on an outdoor bench. My travel partner had sticker shock (better get used to it!)
    We opted for a bus back to Brunnen, rather than a very slow boat ride.

    Did our grocery shopping at a nice Coop midway betwen our apt and the RR. Stowed our provisions back 'home'. We have CNN in english! Low kwy and local day planned for tomorrow---I need sleep!

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    Sat Oct 6-
    Okay, so I learned that my colleague snores...loudly.
    TG I packed earplugs for the plane :-)).
    Hard to get out of bed in the a.m.!

    L. was out thedoor early and saw alphorn players on the boatdock just 50 yards from our door! (I heard them, but thought that the TV was on!)
    Another beautiful, sunny day. Roll/butter/jam and yogurt for breakfast and out for the day!

    Caught the boat for our 6 minute ride to Treib, then the steep funicular up to Seelisberg (50% reduction with town guestcard= 9 CHF).
    Beautifulviews over the huge lake. Cows and more cows on the road to Oberdorf. Scenic mountain church with pasture.
    Seelisberg is a town built
    on Yogi/relaxation practices/Aruveda spas and meditation. Few souls around. Sat on arough wooden bench high above the lake for a picnic lunch of beer (Volg blond-new to me), fig pastry and an apple.
    Stopped to check out a Schaukaeserei (cheese-making demonstration), but because it was so tiny and entirely in german (my travel mate cannot speak it), we returned to the funicular.
    Just missing it ;-)), we settled on an outdoor terrace in the bright sun and I had an Eichhof 'Pony' beer...mmmm!

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    Sure, swandav!
    We stayed in Alpicana mit Seeblick, floor #3- which can be found in the following list.

    http://www.brunnentourismus.ch/de/unterkunft/ferienwohnungen/ferienwohnungsliste

    After the delightful Pony beer under an outdoor umbrella,glorious sunshining, we caught the next Bergbahn down to Treib and recrossed the lake.

    Our next target was Brunnen's own Luftseilbahn Urmiberg.
    We caught a bus and travelled 3 minutes to the base station.
    There, you ring the upper station, climb into the 6 person cabin and wail a couple of minutes for the 7 minute ascent to the top--excellent! Paid at the top station (20% reduction with the town guestcard = 15 CHF RT).

    Inviting Restaurant Timpfel at the top, but we walked a bit in the opposite direction for views along a rocky Bergweg.
    We had passed cows and goats on the way up, now FAR below us!
    I decided to wait at a scenic point as L continued on the 'path' to a huge boulder-cliff topped with a swiss flag (little fear of open heights and all ;-) ).
    I sat on a wooden bench and just enjoyed the cool fresh mountain air until L returned about 20 minutes later, proud that she had made it to the boulder base.

    We climbed back uphill toward Restaurant Timpfel where I enjoyed a Rivella and L had a lemon sorbet on a outdoor wooden terrace with fabulous views.
    Even the downstairs WC had entertainment-- a calendar of half-naked male models! What a good idea 'for your viewing pleasure!'
    I know that there are MANY more hikes from Urmiberg, but we were still acclimating, and had gotten a rather late start, so we descended and took the bus back to town at 5 PM.

    Shopped a bit for non-fancy chocolate bars, gummi bears and !dog treats at the Coop, then called home to the US. A 20CHF 'Flash' prepaid calling card lasted the whole trip...

    We strolled Bahnhofstrasse, looking for a dinner selection before deciding on the Gasthaus Ochsen, a beautifully-kept half-timbered house with green shutter and !purple flowerboxes from 1400. Sat indoors as they were starting to clear the patio tables (dusk). We learned that they specialized in !!fried chicken and chicken wings!! Not what we expected from such a traditional/historical-looking place!
    And it was jammed! We both ended up ordering penne pasta with chicken in a curry with carrots sauce (mmmm) and split a large Mineralwasser (55.20 CHF for both).

    Learned a back way 'home' and strolled in the comfortably cool air. Planning Rigi tomorrow, weather-permitting!

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    Sunday October 7--the big local product Market on Mt. Rigi day!
    And Rain, Fog, Complete Whiteout showing on the Rigi-cam station...booo! No hiking on Rigi today.:-((
    Quick scramble for alternatives. L doesn't 'care for" museums.

    Okay, revisit Rapperswil in the rain.
    Arrived at my home base of October 2010 to find the annual Schloss-Race (castle races) just underway.
    Many pedestrian road barriers made getting around rough.
    Walked the wood bridge (Holzsteg), but the views of the town castle and church were underwhelming in the poor weather.
    So..we went to the TI and emailed home and looked at the kitschy souvenirs for a while, then had lunch indoors at Cafe Rosenstaedter (crowded!)
    Seated with an older couple who had settled in to read a series of newspapers. They were from nearby Zurich and asked many questions about the upcoming Presidential elections in the US. Happily, they favored my choice as well! I have found frequently in Switzerland that perfect strangers wish to discuss US politial affairs!
    Ate delicious (but oh so heavy) Aeplermagronen and a Mineral (20 CHF), while L had Roesti, Wurst and Zwiebelsoss.

    Afterwards, we worked our way up in the relentless rain to the castle and deer park for the soggy views.
    Climbing back down near the monastery, we saw that the rose gardens were still in full bloom...and then...the rain stopped (at least temporarily). We were able to examine a great variety of beautiful roses in oh so many colors before catching a train to the Stadelhofen stop (southern end of town).

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    At Stadelhofen stop we detrained and revisited the Grossmuenster/Fraumeunster/Altstadt and Teddys Souvenir Shop of Zurich (I had been in Nov 2010, but my friend was last here 30 years ago!)
    Walked along Niederdorfstrasse to Bierhalle Wolf where we sat at an outdoor table and I enjoyed a local Wheat beer in the waning afternoon...dark at 7 pm already! Back to the apartment via yet another found shortcut for fried wurst and my yummy Cailler hot chocolate.
    Rigi for sure tomorrow as 3 separate forecasts bode well!

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    Monday October 8:
    Slept wonderfully last night with the balcony door open, allowing me to snuggle uder the Federdecke...sweet!
    Had my ususal breakfast of fruit-and-nut-studded bakery roll, yogurt and hot chocolate.
    Caught the 9:21 to Arth-Goldau where we search for the signs/underground passage and a nearly 10 minute walk leading to the RigiBahn base station...set up in a trailer-like office. A large crowd slowly gathers...

    We planned to deviate from the "usual" excursion by getting out at Rigi Kraebel, taking a cable car to Rigi Scheidegg, then walking on to Kaltbad. The Kraebel Luftseilbahn cost 11 CHF one way. At the top station there was a sweet female doggie that served as the mascot greeting visitors. After a quick belly tickle (universal pet language), we oohed and aahed at the panorama before us. Only two other hikers had disembarked here, so NO crowds! Up above a layer of fluffy white clouds, we began our trek downhill on a wide gravel path
    with multiple switchbacks.

    A nun in her white habit and her friend maintained their brisk pace a good bit ahead of us, giving us clues as to the path's direction. That lady could MOVE!
    Such a nice, sunny day.
    A cool, short water-dripping unused train tunnel to pass through. Occasional rustic wooden benches under twisted old trees invite us to pause and just appreciate the clear weather. The Rigi tower in the distance grows slowly closer.

    The overhead bridge at Unterstetten was a little underwhelming (AND threw off our direction for a few minutes),
    but a british couple that I questioned 'auf Deutsch'---they looked at me blankly and answered ,"sorry but we're from Britain!" got us pointed to Rigi Kaltbad again.

    Okay, now the need for a WC arises! This is the first time that I see the back of L. on any of our hikes ;-)).
    At Rigi First we make good use of the restaurant and its amenities. We sit on the large outdoor terrace, eating Kaesespaetzle and Quellwasser for me (22CHF) and grilled Leberkaese topped with a Spiegelei + a coke for L (mmmmm).
    A large group of Italian tourists arrived via the gondola and are herded by their leader inside for their prearranged fondue luncheon.
    A thick fog rolls in, whiting out ALL views, but then rolls by completely in just ten minutes.

    Another 20-30 minutes' walk brings us to Rigi Kaltbad. SO much construction since I was here last in 2003! A Spa-Hotel with mineral baths now mars the area :-((.
    So many felled trees lay awaiting removal for more "progress."

    Finally we catch the 14:35 cogtrain up to Rigi Kulm. GREAT views (again) and WHIPPING ICY WINDS, yet no snow (yet).
    I take the easier "old man's route" via a gentler switchback to the top, instead of the direct steps. Alone, while L. climbs the metal tower, I ask a passing Japanese tourist to take my kitschy photo in the Gretel cutout!
    We meet up in the self-service restaurant where I have a refreshing Rivella and a large regional swiss cookie flavored with anise and filled with nuts (?name).

    On the way back down by steep cogwheel, we miss the announcement to change trains if decending to Arth-Goldau, (okay I was chatting with the owner/family of an oh-so-well-behaved german shepherd), so we ended up going back down to Vitznau.
    No matter, we knew that we could get back to Bunnen by slow boat or bus (we chose the 90 minute-boat ride).

    Back in town, a quick grocery shop at Coop. CHRISTMAS candy displays are up already! (Wow this beats the US). What to do but buy a bag or two of solid chocolate pinecones wrapped in festive holiday print?
    We are planning a 'local', ie: cheap, 'no pass' day tomorrow as it is the only uncovered day between our two (BOGO) 4-day swisspasses....maybe Altdorf?

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    Tuesday, October 9~~
    Woke to rain again this morning.
    L. has what sounds like nasty bronchitis, but prefers not to take any meds "just yet."
    Used the Brunnen TI to email home and work (1 Hr=6CHF).
    Ran some local errands while L called her BF, and was cheerier after this contact.
    Shopped Dosenbach-a discount short and sport store-and bought a pair of blue felt Blenzo clogs for happy feet in the apartment (15 CHF!)

    Tried the big Migros market at the Bahnhof, but learned that it was closed until November for construction.
    Discovered a small discount grocer (Denner) in the same complex and picked up a few sundries and two cervelat sausages and canned veges to cook up some evening (one CAN dine cheaply in Switzerland, if cooking IN!)
    Returned home, scoping out connecting passageways for shortcuts.
    Stopped at a tiny Conditorei (only a little Ecke, with 3 stools in a bay window), for a vermicelli-Torte and a delish coffee. Raining all the while :-((.

    Caught the 1:30 train to Altdorf (12.80 CHF on this only non- railpass day).
    Quite a long walk from the station to the Zentrum, where large crowds and tour buses clogged the little streets.
    Main square has a large colorful memorial dedicated to the Wilhelm Tell legend.
    There were a number of cafes and eateries, but lunchtime was nearly over and L. took too long deciding, so finally NO resturant was still serving. Many little towns still adhere to Kein durchgehende Kuchen(no continuously served meals, or, strictly adhered-to serving times).

    We went into a little Stube, where I had a Stange Bier and L. had a cola, we split Paprika Chips and shared the ambience with two older gentlemen of the town! They allowed me to take their photo--the elder of the two with his jaunty quill-feather hunting cap!
    Next, we mandered over to St. Martins chuch and graveyard and respectfully checked out some very moving sculptures.

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    On the way back to the train station, we walked WAY too far along the edge of town and happened upon an ALDI discount grocer store and a Burger King, before getting turned back into the right direction. Burger King has a big, somewhat pornographic-appearing billboard, touting a "Long One" chicken sandwich gazed at adoringly by a willowy blonde with streaming tresses!

    Passed the Kantonalhospital smack-dab in the middle of a residential district (how refreshing!) I work in an urban hospital.
    Growing colder with intermittent drizzle.

    Back in Brunnen, we scoped out dinner choices.
    L. preferred Chinese, but I just couldn't squander a precious meal "out" on anything less than Swiss.
    To Stauffachers for Buurabratwurst mit Roesti, Mineralwasser und Kaffee for me (25 CHF).
    An older couple at another table were clearly regulars. They were catered to much of the evening. The man became tipsy after a few glasses of wine and entertained many of the patrons! (His wife was a bit less than amused).

    Pouring rain as we walked back home for the night. A dubbed Ben Stiller movie was on.
    Thinking about Arth-Goldau Zoo for tomorrow....

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    Wednesday~~
    Decided to take the 9:54 to Arth-Goldau Tierpark...in the...drenching....rain.
    I don't think it has EVER rained so many days during any of my previous trips to Switzerland OR Germany (?11?12). Gets a little old after a while, but we tried to forge on regardless. Just wish I had had a rain poncho and not an umbrella and a 'water-REPELLANT' (read NOT water-PROOF) backpack!

    Luckily, big painted pawprints on the cement led the way from the station to the animal park (wish every day's excursion was so clearly marked ;-)) ).
    Emtrance 16 CHF with guestcard (just 2 CHF shaved off).

    The animal park was built against the natural setting of a huge avalanche, which occured more than 100 years ago, destroying the town which had then been on-site. There are great moss-covered boulders strewn about the grounds.
    The park is quite expansive, but if I hadn't know about it in advance, I don't think I would ever have noticed the entrance while casually walking about the town!

    It was a challenge to follow the map in the relentless rain, so we focussed on a few "must-sees" each and wended our way through over the course of about 3 hours!
    The zoo is heavy on many birds and waterfowl, then a preponderance of gentle deer, ibex, rams and mountain goats, which can be fed like a petting zoo from cartons puchased in vending machines throughout the grounds!

    Many of the animals have lost their fear of humans from the daily contact. Other animals viewed included otters, wild boar, bison, dwarf goats, hares red deer, owls, raccoon(which I learned are NOT endemic in Europe) and chickens/roosters. No action in the joint bear and wolf enclosure though, and only fleeting darts of the lynx seen.
    Funny enough, there were still a large number of other zoo visitors in the rain as well!

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    Before we left the zoo, we ate a small picnic snack inside a covered patio area with some spiky-headed punk chickens! I shared my mini-stollen with the beggars.

    On the way back to the train station, there was a nice Migros (but no restaurant alas). Purchased a bit of cheese and a nice pretzel roll. Broad selection of breads and rolls..mmmm. Weather was too foul to hike on to Seebodenalp.

    At the Luzern station, I went inside the TI to verify our Golden Roundtrip Pilatus plans for tomorrow, while L. scoped out the inside of the Burger King?!

    As it was just drizzling now, we decided to follow and climb the old city walls and open towers. Of course, we had to cross the Chapel Bridge, still bedecked with flowering geraniums... Wow! for L. who was here just once 30 years ago!

    We climbed the Schirmer-, Zyt- and Maennlituerme, and walked a short connection above the city as well, for fabulous views.
    The clock tower of 1535 was especially interesting.
    The tall ferris wheel of the Luzern Festival down below made for great photos! (One of our still-unsatisfied targets).
    There were huge ?Texas-steerhorn-appearing cattle grazing in the pasture below the Museggmauer (rampart walls built 1386)~~what a juxtaposition!

    Back into Luzern proper, we meandered the cobbled pedestrian lanes until we came across a Manor Department store. Naturally, the restaurant on the top floor had just stopped serving hot foods (4:45 PM, in anticipation of the 6 PM store closure)!
    We were able to help ourselves to soup, salad and desserts though. Large salad plate = 8.50 CHF--yummy!
    Still time to visit the chocolate/souvenir department in the basement! Yeah! Cailler and Villars choices!
    At Baeckerei Hug, I bought nice pumpkin-seed-studded rolls for tomorrow.
    At the very nearby train station, I splurged on small, delicious Bachman coffee and a tiny, 4-pc selection of Luxemburgli candies....not a bad day after all!

    Tomorrow (weather-permitting) is our planned Pilatus trip.
    There are only TWO ships to Alpnachstad at this time of the year---9:40 and 10:40 am!!!

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    Thursday October 11~~
    A wonderful, fast-tempo day in the mountains!
    L. decided to put makeup on at the last minute, so that we had to practically run for the 8:21 train!
    We got to the Bahnhof only to learn from the signage that there was a 15...now 20...now 21 minute Verstaetung (delay) due to technical problems! We would miss the 9:40 boat to Alpnachstad regardless :-((.
    TG that I had printed out the boat schedule --there was a 10:40 boat, none later!
    Caught the late train and now had time to leisurely stop in the Luzer TI to purchase our Goldene Rundfahrt tickets-supplement of 34 CHF for the 'uncovered' mountain part of the trip.

    I got another delicious Bachman coffee and met L. at McD. She had purchased cheeseburgers at bothe Burger King and McD to taste-compare in Switzerland! I purchased a mildly sweet Kaesekuchen (cheesecake slice)@ McD for takeout to the mountain (a very nice pastry counter, separate from the grill counter).

    Caught the very crowded ship, later moved to a less windy seat outside to eat my sandwich lunch, while L. enjoyed her swiss burgers?!
    Caught the 12:20 cogwheel to Pilatus, sitting in a cabin with two autistic adults and their caregivers. Impressively steep 30-minute ascent!
    The train disgorged its many excited passengers at the top, where everyone engaged in a frenzy of photo-taking.
    A VERY LARGE viewing platform with maps and ascents to three different peaks--the Esel being the most rustic Bergsteig (and least chosen for the masses!)

    L and I separated to pursue our own interests for a while. Two Alphorn players at different sites played haunting, echoing melodies...wait...is that "Amazing Grace" I hear playing at this elevation...in Switzerland! (It was)

    L. and I met up again. She was climbing up to the Esel peak, did I want to join her?
    I looked at the rough, rocky, steep, zig-zag path with occasional wet/icy puddles and old(?) rickety wooden rails separating me from a plunging fall to death over the very steep mountainside....hmmm? (A little fear of THIS kind of height).
    After hesitating (I can't have come ALL this way and NOT do it) and then SLOWLY climbing up, up, up, eyes looking ahesd---do NOT look down....I MADE IT TO THE TOP (and I have photos to PROVE it--okay I will never be a professional mountain-climber!).Sure, once I was on solid ground at the top, I could enjoy the spectacular views. For those of you who have done this ascent and think "piece of cake"---this peak was a major deal for me!!!

    The path back DOWN took was accomplished in mere SECONDS (look at feet, look at feet)!
    Celebrate at the sel-service resto with Gerstensuppe, Brot, Rivella and Kaffee (20.20 CHF)--very filling!

    We headed to Fraekmuentegg by aerial cablecar at 3:30PM (a 40 person cabin, but only 8-9 passengers at this time).
    Changed to a 4 person aerial gondola and got off at Kreinseregg (3369 ft) for the Rundweg walk. After a false path, we decided to just sit in the sun on a bench overlooking a very large, and busy children's playground for a while. Headed down to Kriens in a cabin with two older swiss gents.
    Once in Kriens, we erred again following the Blue and White signs directing visitors to the Linde/Pilatus stop (hint, don't overthink it). After asking a gent in the-now residential neighborhood, we walked in the correct direction and caught the bus back to Luzern (about 10-15 minute ride).

    Train home to Brunnen via Arth-Goldau 18:18--> 19:03 (what form of transportation did we NOT take today!!!?)
    Elevation stats:
    Pilatus = 7000 ft
    Fraekmuentegg = 4649 ft
    Krienseregg = 3369 ft
    Kriens = 1694 ft
    Alpnachstad = 1431 ft
    Luzern = 1428 ft.

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    Back in Brunnen, we went out for a beer just across the street from our apt--Badhuesli--their outdoor garden decorated by MANY gnomes.
    I had an Erdinger wheat.
    Walked along the lake for a bit, then back 'home', where I watched 'Bauer, Ledig sucht..' the same series that I had watched two years earlier while in Rapperswil. A dating show, where a single farmer goes out with 2 or 3 different women and chooses one to make a ?commitment with (like The Bachelor).

    Rain is forecast for tomorrow, our last day in Switzerland
    :-((. We are planning to visit the Luzerner Herbstmesse-Luzern Fall Fair. The ferris wheel has been teasing/beckoning us every time we pass through the town!
    Research on the Internet noted that 350,000 people visit this fair over the 10-12 days each year! We leave early on Saturday, so tomorrow is intended as a leisurely, low stress day.

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    Friday, October 12~~
    Leisurely start to our last day.
    I visited the nearby Bundeskapelle (chapel). Few minutes of peace, with traffic audible just beyond the door.
    Visited a new bakery and bought yummy raisin rolls.
    Checked email at the TI.

    Back at the apt had chocolate yogurt and roll.
    Then... the rain started.

    Caught a mid-morning train to Luzern and strolled the very large Messe (fair) area just off the train station and along the lake. Crepes! Wurst! Fishing games for kids! Rides--some quite wild for a temporary set-up! Whack-a-mole!
    I wish it would stop raining so that I can go on the Ferris Wheel--pictures from up above would be awesome!

    Bought a ground hazelnut-filled wedge of spice cookie (4CHF)-delish.
    Strolled the many booths hawking all kinds of wares--tea, jewelry, scarves, microwaveable/bean-filled heating pads, toys, knives, wooden bowls, cotton candy(Zuckerwatte)/roasted chestnuts,pizza....

    Ate Bratwurst mit Broetchen and Senf (mustard) and tried to eat while juggling an umbrella...why do the Swiss not put the sausage in/on the bread? Instead, everyone held the roll in one hand and the sausage in the other, alternating bites..?
    Found a couple seats in a covered Italian Cafe booth and ordered what I thought was a large beer--turned out to be hard cider! Loosened L.'s tongue a bit!

    After meandering a bit more, we promised ourselves crepes at "Oma's" booth.
    I had a soul-fulfilling banana-Nutella (9 CHF)crepe with a tiny cup of coffee (3.50CHF). Luckily there were a few tiny wooden stools in the back of the booth/out of the rain to enjoy our sweets.
    Reluctantly left the busy Messe mid-afternoon for 'home.' The cider and gloomy day demanded a nap of me! How delightful!
    Walked along the shore later in the evening, feeding the swans the last of our leftover bread slices. The rain had stopped and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset!

    Back at the apt, L. cooked our final dinner in Switzerland of the cervelat sausages on pretzel rolls, with potato salad and canned veges. We finished the last of our beers with Rhubarbtorte. Sadly packing our heavy-with-souvenirs luggage.

    Up early to catch the 5:51 to the airport. Uneventful trip home via Atlanta with a long layover. A long day!
    Already aching for my next trip!

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