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Trip Report Maudies Trip Report - 8 weeks in Europe

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Firstly a huge thank you to everyone who answered my endless questions and those who unknowingly let me absorb all this great information as I lurked on this board and became thoroughly addicted over the past two years of planning and researching our first European holiday.

To set the scene, DH and I are both 51, we live on the West Coast of Australia, about 10 minutes driving time to our capital city of Perth and about 15 minutes to the port of Fremantle and our beautiful white clean beaches. Our son is 22 and putting himself through University, our 19 year old daughter is a TA for Air Mauritius. As a lot of good things begin with a bottle of wine so did the plans for our trip. We were talking about the Norwegian Coastal Voyage with our friends of 30 years, N & R. We then and there decided, in two years time, we would “go for it”. Our younger children were both still in school so we needed to wait until they were a little older and we also needed the time to save, save, save. After lots and lots of researching and throwing all our ideas around we came up with our final itinerary for 8 weeks in Europe. As it takes so long for us to get there and costs just over $2000AUD per person we decided to all take long service leave from our jobs and have the time of our lives. N had spent some months in Europe 30 years before and some time in Denmark in later years where his wife, R, was born.

We booked our flights on Singapore Airlines, for the long hauls, we have flown with them before and always had excellent service and food (yes good airline food!) and our internal flights through SAS – we found their website easy to use, had instant confirmation by email, flight times suited us and also the fact that they use major airports and we didn’t have to waste time and money getting into cities. All our accommodation was booked via the internet, some recommendations from this board others were just “pot luck” as they were in the right price range.

I will try and condense this as much as possible as I am sure you don’t want to hear about very little thing did and saw along the way and many places have been covered endlessly before, however please ask away if there is anything you wish to know or that I can elaborate on.

The best advice I received from this board – pack your sense of humor and be flexible not everything will go as planned.
The worst advice received – do the Ospizio Bernina to Alp Grum walk in Switzerland, it was like a moonscape, we half expected Triffids to come wheezing over the next hill, the view at Alp Grum however made it all worthwhile and we did walk off those extra glasses of wine from the night before.

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    Haarlem area – Netherlands 4 days
    We left Perth on April 25 and landed at Amsterdam early the following morning and picked up our nearly brand new VW Passat hire car. We managed to stow 4 suitcases and backpacks and took off with N driving as it is the wrong side of the road for us and he has driven in Europe before and DH as navigator which took some getting used to for him but after a couple of wrong exits and finding our way back onto the motorway we made it to our first B & B, De Telescope in Spaarndam West. Nice breakfast,,clean, simple accommodation.

    We off- loaded our luggage and set off in the car to explore and ended up in Alkmaar for the afternoon which was very pretty and we were glad we had seen it without the cheese parade that happens on a Friday. Had our first Frites with curry mayo – heavenly. We drove onto the Dijk that connects Noord Holland to Friesland to a look around and a hot chocolate.

    Up early to get to the Aalsmeer flower auction we got lost, took the wrong elevator and ended up being shown around by a retired employee and who took us around the floor where all the carts were whizzing by and shown heaps more than the average tourist gets to see. What a piece of luck. Went to the tulip fields at Hillegom but the weather had been very warm and the tulips were about 4 days past their best but still an amazing site. Ended up in Delft for the afternoon, nice to see but very touristy.

    A wonderful day spent at Keukenhof but again the warm weather had taken its toll on the flowers and the staff were talking about closing some of the displays as they were really past their prime. Managed to spend a couple of hours at Zaanse Schans late in the afternoon.

    We drove to Katwijk Am Zee to take a river cruise but the town was fairly closed up being a Sunday so we drove on to Den Haag and found our way to Scheveningen beach which was just awful – highrise buildings, dark sand, bungy jumping, Bali style shops, we realized how spoilt we are at home with our pristine white sand and clear blue sea and we fight for no highrise, now I know why! A quick look at the International Courts of Justice and back to Katwijk for our 3 hour river trip.
    Saw polders and windmills and hundreds of people enjoying a beautiful Sunday out on their boats, a very pleasant relaxing afternoon.

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    Bruges – 3 days
    Visit to UNESCO site at Kinderdijk on our way to Brugges,then the landscape, houses and state of the roads all became very different and poorly maintained compared to the Netherlands. Fought our way through the masses of people and parked in the underground carpark. N was happy to park the car as there were many one way streets and it was not an easy task to drive or navigate. Stayed at Bruges B&B which was built in 1652 but oh that circular staircase was a killer.
    The owner, Annemie, was a very chic Belgian lady and the style of house mirrored her image, very comfortable rooms, clean and a good breakfast. Spent the rest of the day checking out chocolate shops and all the wonderful old buildings – we really enjoyed Bruges, it was so interesting.

    It’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium and so it was! Up early for a lovely walk before the day trippers took over, so quiet and peaceful, wonderful for photography too. Decided to spend the day at Flanders, it was ANZAC day when we left so this day was our own private day of remembrance. We visited the Diksmuide Trench of Death – so very sad. Paid our respects to our “Diggers” at a small cemetery in the middle of a farmer’s field. This and so many, many more are kept in pristine condition by the Belgian Government and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission I believe. Spent a couple of hours at “In Flanders Fields Museum” in the Cloth Hall which was very well done. We drove to the Tyne Cote Cemetery and left a sprig of wattle (our floral symbol) and back to Ypres for dinner then to the very moving last post ceremony at Menin Gate before driving back to Bruges – daylight saving makes this easy.

    Spent the next day wandering the food market – yum! We then did a bus trip around the city and were able to mark things on our map for exploring later that afternoon. Paid a visit to the Chocolate Museum (of course), spent some money in L’occitane, some time in the Minnewater and some time over a couple of Leffe Blond beers.

    Our final morning was spent on a canal boat ride, very enjoyable to see Bruges from a different perspective but we had the pain of all pains for our boat driver and we couldn’t hear very much of what he said over the noise of the engine. Although he made sure we all heard his hints for a tip – we would have obliged had he not made it so very obvious.
    Packed, we headed into Amsterdam to drop off the car.

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    Amsterdam – 3 days
    Boogaards B&B is fantastic, Peter, the owner, is a very genial host. We had two rooms on the top floor with a shared bathroom and wonderful BIG soft towels. Also access to the utility room which was equipped with a coffee machine, fresh cake daily, fridge that was stocked with juice, beer and soft drinks.
    The rooms were lovely and we had our own private tiny roof terrace to sit out on, made a great spot for a picnic dinner or a quiet beer. Wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again, Peter also made a laptop computer available for us. Found a nice Thai Restaurant for dinner that night.

    An early morning walk to the flower market, I could have purchased every bunch! Then back for Peter’s pancakes. After we waddled out we purchased a Canal bus pass just down the road and spent a couple of lazy hours riding the canals. We ended up at the Van Gogh Museum for a couple of hours then the Diamond Museum . We took the canal bus back into the city centre, I found the area around Dam Square to be very dirty and sleazy, didn’t like it at all. Back to the canal and Anne Frank House but when we got there it was closing early – quite a few very disappointed people. We walked back to the B&B along some lovely canals, I liked this area so much better.

    Tried Anne Frank House again the next morning but the line was huge so we just wandered the canals, DH and I were lucky to stumble upon the local markets and had a wonderful morning sampling the food and talking to people, we even came across a funeral parade complete with horses and an amazing white draped carriage that carried the coffin. Spent the afternoon at the Heineken Experience, which was great fun and included 3 beers in the entrance fee, we couldn’t fit in the last one so we gave our vouchers to a couple of young Aussie backpackers – they of course were ever so grateful.
    Picked up a picnic dinner and dropped in our fridge then finally found the line at Anne Franks was fairly small so we jumped in and waited about ½ an hour, that was a very sobering experience.

    We were sorry to say farewell to the Netherlands, our first European experience but it was time to move on to Denmark. Peter had organized a van to take us to the airport

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    Hello Maudie, what a charming and interesting trip report! I know it will take a lot of time but I hope you will be able to share all of your two months in Europe with us. I love the outdoor markets also and I always want to buy all of the flowers. Best regards.

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    Thanks for the positive reactions, I have never done this before and hope I am not boring you to death but I guess you will stop reading if I am!

    I know 8 weeks is a long time but I am determined to finish and maybe someone might just get one little piece of helpful information.

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    Copenhagen – 2 days
    I had a full on body search by a very butch security person as we were leaving Schipol, she was very rough. I know they have a job to do and they are looking after our safety but I left quite violated standing in full public view while she ran her hands all over me including inside my bra. In fact it was quite creepy, ugh! We had a very nice flight nevertheless, with clear blue skies we could watch all the lovely scenery unfold below us, crops and crops of yellow rapeseed.

    We stayed at the Hotel Nebo in the old red light district which is being cleaned up, it was almost over the road from the railway station so it was in an excellent position for getting around. If only those walls could speak! Our economy room was pretty basic, single beds with a washbasin, desk and wardrobe, shower room and toilets down the hall, it was old but very clean and as we were not spending much time there it suited us and the budget just fine. Nice staff too and it had a lift – bonus. Great breakfast too.

    It did feel a bit like the seamier side of town but walking through the station it was amazing to find ourselves in quite a different part of town. Did a most enjoyable canal tour then we walked the famous shopping street, Stroget, saw H C Andersens statue and some nice buildings until we reached Nyhaven, on a sunny Sunday afternoon it was very much like Fremantle with lots of people at outdoor cafes and families enjoying themselves – we felt right at home here. After a light meal we went to Tivoli and spent a couple of hours enjoying the sights and sounds. We were lucky enough to catch a swing band and symphony orchestra.

    The next day we sent R ahead of us to visit with her family in Svendborg where she grew up. It is one of Denmark’s many islands and is linked to the mainland by the Great Belt Bridge. R’s mother is quite elderly and this maybe her last chance to visit so time spent with her mother was precious.

    We did all the tourist sites, Round Tower, saw the bridge to Sweden, we followed the Guards walking to the Castle to relieve the night watch, and then the changing of the Guards at Amalienborg Castle, no Fred or Mary in sight though as this was only a week or so after the birth of the princess. Though I did see a lovely floral tribute in the shape of a cane pram filled with pink flowers on the harbor outside the castle. We even walked up the aisle of the Church they were married in.

    We visited the wonderful Marble Church, David’s statue, King Neptune, Little Mermaid, we walked miles that day. Even saw the horseguards practicing for some special event, possibly the christening. To rest our aching feet we caught a train up to Kronberg Castle and had a wander around then watched the ferries loading cars and trucks for the crossing to Sweden which was just across the Sound.

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    Svendborg, Denmark – 4 days
    We had booked a hire car and picked up another VW Passat, even newer than the last one, under 100 on the clock and don’t you just love that new car smell? N was happy as he had got used to the other car so it was smooth sailing.

    Our first stop was Roskilde Church, another UNESCO site, where all the Danish royals are buried, it was quite interesting to see how the tombs/coffins etc changed over the years as fashions changed. We then traveled onto the Viking Museum, 5 ships have been raised from a riverbed, they were sunk there countless years ago to block an invasion. The ships were built around 1000AD in Galway, Ireland. A replica has been made of the biggest ship and will make a journey to Galway in July 2007, I believe you can follow its progress on an internet site.

    We arrived in Svendborg and visited R’s mum, we then crossed to another island and found our little cottage at Troense on a Sound looking back at Svendborg. It was so pretty, thatched roof, rounded attic windows and that amazing view. The owners live in one half and the other is rented out. We had our own entrance, decent size bathroom, small but adequate kitchen area with a table then a sitting room with TV. Upstairs a large landing area with two single beds and another room with two single beds. Our only complaint was the quality of the towels, must have been the landladies old ones but we did politely point out to her that new ones would be much nicer!

    There is a great bakery in the village so it was hot Danish to start the day. We dropped R to her mum’s and spent the rest of the day touring around the countryside, and even going across the Middlefart Bridge (don’t you just love that name). We drove through a pretty forest and up to Himmelbjurg , which is the highest point in Denmark – it was freezing so hot chocolate and back in the car with the heater going we moved on to Silkeborg to see the Bogman and Bogwoman at the museum. Vow to wear warmer clothing tomorrow.

    Spent the morning in Svendborg and did some damage to the credit card. The kitchen shops there are just fabulous – plain, simple but oh so stylish Scandanavian designs, just love them. Climbed to the top of Bregninge Church but it was so windy we had to hold onto our glasses and it was impossible to take photo’s of the amazing view. Watched more car ferries load and unload and visited the oldest church in Denmark, walked in beech forests and just had a relaxing day. Drove to our little cottage through Valdemars Slot, which is where the Royals spend some of the summer, amazing to be able to drive right through the middle. We had a wonderful dinner of Smorrebrod at a friend’s house along with too much home made wine!

    Our last day was spent around Svendborg while N & R said goodbye to mum then we walked a final time around our tiny village, pick out the most beautiful yellow thatched cottage with its own lake and stunning garden, lilac trees in bloom everywhere – oh if only we could win Lotto! We even came across a house getting re-thatched and watched for some time, it was really interesting to see.

    We traveled to Odense where the Hans Christian Andersen museum is and had the best hot chocolate of our trip – a glass of hot milk and a huge piece of chocolate on the end of a popsicle stick that you stirred into the milk, I resisted the extra cream they supplied for the top! We enjoyed the museum but found the numbering system hard work as it didn’t seem to flow in a rational pattern.

    Spent another boozy evening at R’s longtime school friend’s house and her dear husband whom we had not met before, it was great though to have a home booked meal. Dessert was an Applecake with a marzipan base - it was to die for. P is a retired sea captain and kept us entertained with his stories for hours. The founder of the shipping line Maersk was born locally so it is a very sea oriented area and there is even a retirement village funded by him for ex-employees.

    Tomorrow we drop the car at Copenhagen Airport and take off for London.

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    London – 5 days
    Just as we entered London airspace the clouds parted and we had the most wonderful view of the city, seeing everything set out before us. Maintenance on the Tube line for the first two stops from Heathrow caused everyone to get bussed to the next station before we could start our journey. We had to walk in the rain to get to the busses which wasn’t a well thought out exercise at all. We got Oystercards and just loaded them up with about 25 quid each, all my reading about this made it all sound so difficult in fact it was so easy and we just put more money on when they ran low. We were staying with a friend near Northfields Tube station and it didn’t take us long at all to figure out the Tube system.

    There were now five of us staying in a Terrace house designed for one but it was free so we couldn’t even complain about sleeping on at mattress on the floor – although my back did. Poor H didn’t seem to mind us invading her home – she was at work most of the time and we were out most evenings. Our first night we caught the tube into London and saw Mary Poppins, we had booked the tickets before we left Australia. It was a fantastic show, even the guys enjoyed it, we were on a high when we left the theatre.

    The next day we did the Monopoly board tour in the drizzling rain and even managed to be in the right place at the right time to see the Horseguards change, although the Queen wasn’t in residence we gave her a wave. We ate our homemade sandwiches by a heating vent outlet on the steps of a well to do Regent Street office building! N and DH went to the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum which they raved over and then complained they didn’t have enough time. The girls wandered Westminster Abbey but couldn’t get in as it was closed to the public that afternoon but we did find a seat around the back and listened to the choral choir and organ music. I couldn’t take my eyes off Big Ben and Parliament house – it’s a fairly spectacular sight. The rain stopped and we wandered over to the Eye as we had also pre-purchased tickets, was ok and I guess it is one of those tourist must do’s but we thought it was pretty much a waste of money – we saw all those wonderful sights from the plane. Dinner that night at our local, a beautifully renovated pub.

    Spent the day with friends that are having a year off work to travel, we decided to meet at Greenwich. DH and I caught the ferry down the Thames and again it was drizzling with rain, but this is London! We went through the Naval Museum, unfortunately the Cutty Sark was under wraps (only to hear a couple of days later it had been burnt), The Painted Hall, we walked up to the Observatory and saw the ball drop at 1pm, then walked back down the other side through a beautiful park full to Rhododendrons in full bloom. We found a lovely pub and some spent a couple of hours catching up on news, then had a great meal at a Turkish Restaurant before taking the DLR and Tube back to Northfields.

    Had wonderful day at Windsor, purchased our daughter a cashmere scarf, did a boat trip, a bus trip then the tour of the Castle itself – just loved that dining table, would have been fabulous to see it set. The staff were very knowledgeable and were happy to have a chat. We walked the Long Walk and tried to get to the Royal Farm for a Devonshire Tea but ran out of time, pity as I was sure there was a scone with a huge dollop of cream there waiting for me.

    DH and I spent the morning walking through Kew Gardens but we were about 3 days too early for the roses, they were in full bud……. but I did manage to find a couple bursting through to sniff. We found a lovely section on our way out with climbing roses and peonies set out like an English cottage garden, I was in seventh heaven. Caught a bus back to Kew Bridge and walked along the Thames to the Bull’s Head pub for lunch. Ended up in Harrods later for a quick look around – so over the top! Got last minute tickets to see Dirty Dancing that evening, we were up in the gods which I think spoilt it for us as you were looking down on it rather that participating in it but it was a nice way to finish our time in London. And it made our daughter so jealous – she loves that movie, pity though it wasn’t Patrick Swayze on the stage!

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    Bergen, Norway and The Norwegian Coastal Voyage – 14 days
    Flew from horrible Heathrow, now I know why everyone complains, to Oslo and finally Bergen. The scenery on the last leg was awesome as we had brilliant blue sky. Used the Flybussen to get into the city, it was their National Day so there were lots of celebrations going on and people walking around in National Dress.

    Our Hotel was Citybox and not too far a walk. The hotel was different in the fact we were given a password to get in the door then we had to check in by using our credit card, we were issued a room pass key. The hotel has minimal staff to cut costs and there was no one on duty but we were given good instructions so had no problems at all.
    Basic, clean, quite a large room with a small bathroom and a small kitchen area, no breakfast provided but there is a café downstairs and also a common room to use. We found a supermarket down the road so stocked up on yoghurt, juice, fruit and rolls. Also there was a laundry on our floor which was fantastic as we found Laundromats and internet cafes very hard to come by in many places during our travels. We fell into bed and next minute there was a huge explosion outside our window, thoughts of terrorists crossed my mind but it was a brilliant fireworks display and we had front row seats – what a nice welcome to Bergen.

    We walked to the Bryggen area and had the most amazing prawn rolls for morning tea and lunch and any other time we were walking past. The shops along the wharf were very interesting, contained some very expensive but beautiful things but the area was much smaller than I had imagined. There was a very cold wind blowing so we wandered back to our hotel to check out and walked our luggage down to the Hurtigruten office to leave there and checked ourselves in for our voyage. It started raining heavily so we waited in the passenger terminal but we were anxious to see more of this very pretty city. We finally got sick of waiting for the rain to stop so got our wet weather gear on and walked back into town and went up the Fliobanan to the lookout. Low cloud prevented us from seeing anything so we had a hot drink and waited. The rain stopped and the clouds parted long enough to see our ship “Finnmarken” had berthed and we had a magical view over the city. We thought it was best to make a dash back to the terminal while we could.

    We left that night on the Hurtigruten cruise at 8pm. We had carefully chosen cabins months before, as the cruise was horribly expensive, we went for “cabins with no or restricted view” but had found two cabins at the very end of the life boats so we didn’t have a full window view but about half. We were not planning to spend too much time in there so we felt the money saved could be put to better use.

    Over the next week we saw some amazing sights, beautiful fjords and scenery, had some spots of bad weather but most of the time it was good. Not used to such cold weather as we headed north, DH and I must have looked like Michelin Men with all our clothing but we were warm! A couple of times I wore thermal underwear, we did spent a lot of time out on deck so I thought I did pretty well but I had to have my gloves, hat and scarf! Our sleeping pattern was hopeless as it is so light we didn’t want to go to bed but didn’t want to sleep in either incase we missed something.

    Gieranger Fjord was just as beautiful as the photo’s we had seen, Alesund, waterfalls, the wonderful old church at Trondheim, Svartisen Glacier, the cable car at Tromso and making a tiny snowman, a midnight sunset, little lighthouses out in the middle of nowhere, cute white reindeer with velvety antlers, Trollfjord at Midnight, stunningly pretty houses miles from anywhere – who lives there, what do they do? So many things to see and take in.

    As I said before we did spend a lot of time on deck but also enjoyed the Panorama Lounge when we got too cold. We were allocated a table for the evening meal and that was ours for the entire cruise and scored one right at the back of the ship next to a huge window, how lucky was that? Breakfast and lunch were a buffet with plenty of choice but most nights a set menu and too bad if you were a fussy eater because there was no choice, we didn’t really have anything that we couldn’t eat but the “Sea Ham” turned out to be whale, hhhmmmm. There was a lot of fish, pickled herrings, baked and smoked salmon and plenty more although we love fish we were “fished out” by the end and found that the smell of cooked fish seemed to invade the ship, even more reason to be out in the fresh air. The staff were all very nice and friendly and we enjoyed talking to them.

    To be continued

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    There were a lot of German’s on board and I am sorry to say we found them cold and unfriendly, at times down right rude. We also had a German TV crew on board that were making a documentary on the Hurtigruten so that was quite interesting to watch as a small boat was often launched and they filmed us coming into ports and into some of the fjords and life aboard in general. We found out when it is going to be shown and our Danish friends are going to tape it for us, so that will be good to see.

    We reached our turn around point at Kirkenes and I came down with a gastro bug which I found out is the Norovirus and is quite prevalent on cruise ships. Not only did I come down with it but so did a lot of people. The virus symptoms last around 24 hours but everyone who had it and their cabin partners were confined to the cabin for 3 days. So much for not spending a lot of time in our cabin with half a view. We were made aware of the fact that a virus was around on our first night at sea but the whole entire episode was handled very badly and I am claiming which our insurance company for two pre-paid excursions that we had to forfeit.

    I do understand the need to keep infection confined but we were not given any assistance what so ever (even though their blurb stated this) and no one rang to ask us how we were or if we needed anything. We had 3 meals a day delivered when we rang and asked for them, no choice given and believe me you do not want fish in a cream sauce when you have spent a couple of hours with your head in the loo and then live with the smell of cooked fish in your cabin for hours! I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt on that 4th day as we broke free of our four walls and straight up on deck.

    I did get a summons to reception later that afternoon, I was asked if I was now feeling ok. Sorry but not good enough and the Hurtigruten Line will be getting a letter from me suggesting some changes they might consider should this happen again. We also found out that the ship ahead of us”Midnatsol” had over 100 ill. I am not trying to scare anyone but just be aware if you are taking this cruise. If anyone is interested here is a link to a newspaper report
    Good news, I did read 2 books and finish a magazine of crosswords that I had carried around, “see” I told DH “I did get use out of them”!

    Our final few days passed and we woke to a beautiful clear blue day as we sailed the last few hours we even shed our layers down to short sleeves, our last lunch on board and we did our usual “Kate and Leonardo” up on the pointy end as we sailed into Bergen Harbor in the sunshine. We were sad to leave in some ways and glad in others but also looking forward to our next adventure.

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    We stayed two nighst at the Skansen Pensjonat on our return, it was in a wonderful position on the hillside above the town but the steps leading up to it beside the Fliobanen were a killer but I guess my thighs will thank me for it. Cars had to take a zigzag road to get up the hill and the pension was only half way up! Again it was neat, basic and clean and we did have a nice breakfast but the worst beds of the entire 8 weeks away.

    The day the cruise concluded we purchased tickets to do the Norway in a Nutshell round trip and also checked out where we had to catch the Flybussen back to the airport. It was very warm by late afternoon so we sat in the front garden of the pension with a cold beer or three and just looked out at the amazing view.

    The Nutshell tour was a great day, all ran like clockwork, so very efficient. We walked to the station and caught the train to Voss, there were buses right at the station clearly marked for Gudvagen so we piled on and off we went to up to Stalheim for a photo stop and down the other side on a zigzag road (we were old hands at this now and it didn’t faze us at all – unlike the first one we did!!!). The driver pulled up right beside the ferry at Gudvagen which then took us on a two hour cruise up Norway’s longest and deepest fjord to Flam. We had time to go on a walk and stretch our legs before boarding the Flamsbana train which took us to Myrdal. A second later the train arrived to take us back to Bergen, this seat was booked and we had to sit in the carriage and seat indicated on our ticket. It was very enjoyable and we thought it was worth the money.

    We were parting company with our dear friends in the morning and as we had to be up at 4am to get the Flybussen at 4.45 we said our farewells that night. N & R were returning to spend 3 more weeks in Svendborg, we were spending our 3 weeks in Switzerland.

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    I'm also sorry to hear about your confinement- not good! Did your husband also get the bug? It seems rather unfair that he would have to be confined to the cabin also, if he wasn't sick. Did they offer to bring you tea and things that a sick person would want? Certainly not fish!!

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    Heloo Maudie, I can't even imagine looking at fish much less smelling it or trying to eat it when being ill as you were. I am sorry, but you sound like a good sport and a great traveller.

    Again, I am so enjoying your beautiful trip is fun to travel along with you via your informative descriptions of where you went and what you did. Thank you!

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    Maudie, I was on the Kong Harald, May 24th departure. There were two couples from Perth on that ship also. I was fully expecting you to be one of them. They also had window seats at the rear of the dining room.

    As for the Norovirus, I believe they are required to follow the procedure of confining you to your room to prevent the spread. We realized that something was going on when we were not permitted to visit other ships when we were in port together. I'm so sorry that you got caught up in it.

    Incidently, I thought the whale tasted like over-cooked calves liver, especially since it was cooked with onions.

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    Thanks for your kind comments, everyone. Yes my husband also had to get confined also. The confinment was a pain in the neck and we were so over that cruise at the end of 3 days but we fully understood the reasons why it had to happen. It was the total lack of any assistance that annoys the hell out of me. We did not get anything other than our 3 meals a day that were delivered by staff dressed in full moon suits. When my hubby went to reception to tell them I was ill they noted it down and told him to get me some apple juice and sparkling mineral water and take it in small doses, he purchased that at our own expense. He went to dinner that night in the dining room and came back with some crackers for me. By the next morning I was fine just a little tired and we actually went on the excursion to the Northcape. We still did not know at the stage we were supposed to be confined, no one said anything. When we arrived back in our cabin there was a note to say we had to be confined signed by the captain. And that was the last we heard from anyone until my call to reception on the 4th day. Not good enough is it? Sorry to have a whinge but the cruise cost a lot of money and I think the management should get their act together.

    I will continue my report later as I have to go to my first day back at work - ho hum!

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    Brienz, Switzerland – 8 days

    After an easy flight through Oslo to Zurich we met up with another couple, J & G, also long term friends. Their trip coincided with ours so we decided to join up and rent a chalet first up and save a bit of money. We had purchased second class Swiss Passes, which I have to say was just fantastic for novices, just hop on and go.

    Arriving at Zurich HB was quite an eye-opener but we did manage to find the right track, and carriage and following advice I received on Fodor’s traveled through the most scenic route, changing in Luzern, up and over the Brunig Pass and onto Brienz. I had printed timetables from the SBB site, it was so easy to follow and as I had been told, the timing was spot on. This was on a warm, sunny day with the bluest of skies – we thought we had arrived in Eden, we were literally hanging out the windows. I half expected Heidi to come bounding over the meadows – or Julie Andrews maybe (yeah I know wrong country but it just had that sort of feel).

    We dragged our suitcases uphill to our chalet and found Irene, who lives next door, she let us in and explained everything. We had one main bedroom with a huge bed, one smaller room that had two singles (we tossed a coin – we won!), bathroom, small well equipped kitchen, table and sitting area and a wonderful balcony that looked right over Lake Brienz and what a beautiful colour that is. Irene told us we must not put our wet towels over the chair backs to dry them as it ruins the paint. “All the Americans do it” says she, well we quickly told her we were not American but as there is only 1 small towel rail in the bathroom I can understand why everyone does it. She does provide an airing rack outside but that was a bit annoying when it was raining and everything felt damp even though it was undercover. The Brienzer Rothorn train goes right past in front of he house, but was never a nuisance.

    That first night we had a wonderful meal at the Steinbock Hotel of Rosti, salad and beer. The Rosti had fried bacon, onion and cheese in it topped with a fried egg – oh it was to die for and a huge serve.

    The next day we came back to earth as it was raining and didn’t stop all day – we had to go to plan B. We took the train all the way to Brig and then up to Bern and had a quick look around and back to our dear little chalet. It turned out be to a fun day as we had a picnic on the train and really figured out the timetables etc so it wasn’t a waste altogether.

    Still cloudy the next day so it was Ballenberg Musuem – spent ages walking around and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Caught a bus back to town then the ferry to Interlaken and a train to Thun. We were pleasantly surprised when we found the Old Town, covered bridges and the Castle. The only money we spent that day was hot choc at the museum, sandwiches for lunch from the Coop along with soup and bread for our dinner – what a bargain.

    We were hanging out to get to the mountains so we were going rain, hail or shine, and shine it did. First to Trummelbach Falls, spectacular, walk up to the Schilthorn cable car station and up and up we went on 4 cable cars. We live on a flat plain so this was a real different experience for us. It was wonderfully clear so we had a great view of all the big ones. We then walked from Murren to the new cable car that took us back to Lauterbrunnen, that was so enjoyable. Had a well deserved beer and walked to the Staubach Falls for a photo.

    The next day we wanted to do the walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Steidegg but it was closed as there had been fresh snow – very disappointed as this was high on my list of “must do’s”. But all was not lost and we ended up at Jungfraujoch with clear blue sky, so lucky, we even walked on the glacier and built a snowman. The worse part of the day – my camera died going up on the cog train, it wouldn’t retract the lense. I think it was suffering altitude sickness. Best part – Opfelstrudel mit Vanillesosse back at K.S.

    Into Luzern the next day and straight to a camera shop and two seconds later and a bit of jiggling all was well again. Had some yummy food from the markets, walked the covered bridges – who was that idiot who set it on fire anyway – but they have done a wonderful job of restoring it. Walked to the Lion then grabbed a superb piece of cheese and onion tart to eat on the way back. Booked the Alpen Tower at Meirengen for breakfast in the morning, rested for a while then walked around to find the “Old Town” of Brienz and a dear old gentleman led us up to a street (no not the garden path) to the prettiest street in Europe – he said it is on the internet, he was so proud and he had every right to be so, it was pretty.

    Had a nice breakfast (just love that Bircher Muesli) at the Tower next morning and had a reasonably clear view and a nice walk. Jagged a rail car going to Aare Gorge so we jumped on and did the fabulous walkway along the gorge, walked to Reichenbach Falls and caught a cable car to the top then the bus back into Meiringen. We decided to take the “Romantic Route” Postbus trip to Schwarzwaldalp then onto Grosse Scheidegg and Grindelwald – if you get the chance this is a great way to spend a couple of hours. And of course there was a train waiting to take us back to Interlaken.

    Schynige Platte was not open so we decided to go up on the Brienzer Rothorn train, we were above the clouds but we did manage to get a glimpse of the lake. We walked back down from Planalp and took the longer walk down past the waterfall. It was very steep in parts but the thought of s Gin and Tonic on our balcony kept us going. Macaroni Cheese with Apple Sauce for a last meal in Brienz.

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    Thank you Suzie, for your kind words. And it was WOW! Been back 5 days and we are already planning to go again......but not sure the bank account can take the pressure.

    I still got the rest of Switzerland to finish off then I am done.


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    Vevey, Switzerland – 2 days
    We caught the Golden Pass to Montreux. At no stage in our travels did we book any tickets, we didn’t feel we missed anything by not being in Panorama cars, many were reserved and filled with tour groups, in fact we enjoyed being able to open the windows at times. We caught the next train onto Vevey and walked to Hotel Des Negociants, we were quite happy with everything but there is a Brassiere downstairs and other eating places very close by so it did get quite noisy in the evenings.

    We walked as far as we could in the Montreux direction then caught the #1 bus to the Castle of Chillon which we really enjoyed, we were too late to get a ferry so we caught the bus back again and headed to the promenade for a cold beer as it was fairly warm.
    Ended a lovely day with a vegetarian lasagna and a wonderful bottle of Pinot Noir just down the road from our hotel.

    Saturday morning is market time in Vevey and did we have fun filling our bag with goodies to nibble on! I even found the wonderful cheese tarts that I had read about here, which we had before breakfast (I must admit I was getting pretty tired of bread and jam by the end of our stay in Switzerland).

    I had read about a “Secret Walk” that another poster put on here so that was a mission for the day. We caught a bus to Chalet St Denis, wandered around then caught another bus to the village of Les Paccots were we walked to the gorge and down to the stream by the tennis courts. It was hot by the time we walked back up so we sought out the T’Sale café that was recommended and had the most fantastic mushrooms cooked in cream and served on toast. It was so good I even took a photo of it! We caught the bus back to Chatel St Denis and the train to Lausanne where we walked down to the ferry terminal and caught a paddle streamer back to Vevey, a very pleasant way to travel. We had all the goodies from the morning market down by the lake for our dinner.

    We were heading to Zermatt later so we checked the timetables and decided to take the 10.34 train to Visp so we had time for one last walk around the lake and to say farewell to this little taste of France.

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    Zermatt, Switzerland – 2 days
    At Visp we boarded the Matterhorn Gotthard train and what a wonderful trip it is, the scenery is so spectacular. At the station there was a directory board listing all the hotels and a free phone to call your hotel to come a collect you, as the town is car free. With so many hotels we soon learnt to watch out for those electric carts zipping around.

    We had to decided pay extra for a room with a view of the Matterhorn, which was well worth it for us because we could look at that beautiful mountain any time we wanted. We had a good sized room with a wonderful big bathroom with a wonderful big bathtub – oh the joy! Breakfast was very nice – we even had Bircher Muesli with a berry sauce if you wished – bliss at last, but of course there was other cereals, bread, meat, cheese,homemade jams etc. We felt the hotel was in an excellent position and we had a bakery just down the road as well as an internet café and a Migros. Zermatt itself was very busy and touristy but still enjoyable.
    We decided as the weather was warm and fine and we still had the afternoon ahead of us we would go up on the Gonergrat, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for Marmots. We had a fantastic trip up, how they make those cog trains work beats me, its pretty amazing how they can go up such steep inclines. We were lucky enough to see some of those furry little critters as well as a steinbock. All around us were these wonderful snow covered mountains that we just sat a stared at. DH had taken up our cooler pack, which we used to pack our lunches in but this time he filled it with fresh snow – why you ask? Well we didn’t have a fridge in our room and all the tonic we purchased was room temperature so we had to have something cold to put in our Gin & Tonics. Smart man my hubby. So there we were sitting enjoying Gin & Tonic slushies that evening on the balcony, the Matterhorn right there in front of us when a huge thunderstorm struck. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

    Next day we walked about a kilometer to the cable car station and after going up and up on 4 different cars we reached the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. As we ascended we had to start layering on the clothes, it was getting pretty cold but by the time we went up the viewing platform at the top it was freezing with an icy wind blowing. We had the same weather in Norway but this was J & G first taste and they weren’t as prepared as us – it was back to our Michelin Man days. We found it hard to breathe and had to walk slowly.
    Unfortunately the weather wasn’t all that kind as the Matterhorn was shrouded in cloud and it just wasn’t moving but we did get a great view of the Breithorn opposite. We went down to the glacier tunnel, really cold now, to see the ice carvings and back for a warming hot chocolate. We decided to try the viewing platform again, just in case the cloud had moved, it hadn’t, but it started to snow tiny weeney little flakes. That may not be a big deal to some of you but it was fun for us as it never snows where we live. Four cold but happy people started on the journey back down, this time we saw a two baby deer.

    We had an interesting hour at the Matterhorn Museum and came across a yummy chocolate shop, I think it was called Makur or something similar, they sell chocolate in thin sheets and just break off the amount you wish to buy – we loved the Florentine and found these shops at a couple of other places and always stocked up but we can’t bring it back into Australia as it is not pre-packaged. Sorry daughter! We also found a couple of streets not far from our hotel that had really old chalets that were kept in good condition, the age of one of them was in the 1400’s.

    When we woke the next morning the top of the Matterhorn was clear but the rest was under cloud which was the exact opposite of what it had been like the whole of our stay so we did get to see all of that beautiful mountain , just not all at once. We said our farewells and headed back to Brig and boarded our train to Domodossola, Italy, this only took about ½ hour and about 99% of it was in a tunnel. From the station Domodossola was a fairly awful looking place, very run down – it was a stark contrast to Swiss towns. The two carriage Centovalli train was very nice with big panorama windows, we had to pay a supplement of 2 francs each but the entire trip was free with our passes. I think if we had an ordinary carriage we wouldn’t have had to pay anything. It was a lovely trip and fun to watch the tiny stations with the Italian flags change to Swiss flags.

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    Thanks Calville, it was a very interesting trip and don't let me put you off, thousands do that trip all the time and are just fine. I just had some bad luck. But hopefully my letter to them might make a small difference and they get their protocol for dealing with illness up to scratch.


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    Locarno, Switzerland – 2 days
    It was about 26/27 degrees with high humidity when we arrived, which was a bit of a shock. It took us a little while to get our bearings but we soon found our hotel, only a very short walk and it turned out to be in a great position. The hotel was old but clean and had pleasant staff. We had requested rooms with a lake view which we got but they were very, very small – only one of us could walk around the bed at a time but we did have French doors to a small balcony, flower boxes filled with red geraniums and a cute yellow and white striped awning that looked very Mediterranean.

    First things first – a yummy gelato (well we were almost in Italy!) then we went up the Funicular to get a view of Lago Maggiore then we walked down through the gardens and church to the bottom. We were very hot so we retired to the balcony for a cold beer then took the advice of Fodor’s and ate at the Manora self service restaurant. It was fine and much cheaper than anywhere else we had seen, DH and I shared a huge plate of salad and freshly cooked pasta, we chose the ingredients and the girl cooked up the sauce for us.

    During the night our friend J had taken G to the hospital with bad lower stomach pains, after 2 nights and 2 days and many tests he found out it was a kidney stone and two weeks on it still hasn’t moved and they are now in Austria. So thank goodness for travel insurance as the account was in the thousands and had to be settled before he left the hospital, so make sure you have a reasonable credit card limit too. You never know!

    After sitting with G so J could go back to the hotel to shower and change (8 minutes walking from the hospital to the hotel and we discovered the lovely “Old Town” in the process) DH and I decided there was nothing more we could do so we took off to Lugano
    for a look around. At the station you either have to walk down or take the funicular as it is very steep – we walked and discovered some cute little streets and squares. A wonderful aroma hit us as we wandered into a small street, it was lunch time and at a stall was this huge slab of pizza, I had to indicate how much I wanted and it was cut and paid for by weight. It was piping hot and so nice – but just then it started drizzling so we ran under a portico and devoured our treat.

    I really wanted to do the Olive Walk and the walk to Morcote but after spending the morning at the hospital it had cut our time short so we decided on the Olive walk. Morcote will have to wait until next time. It was still raining when we caught the bus and we were thinking “do we or don’t we” but when we arrived at Castagnola the rain went and the sun appeared like magic and it became quite humid. We found the signs and set off on our walk to Gandria. There were plenty of signs (with olives on them so we knew we were on the right path) and several different ways to go. At times we left like we were walking through people’s gardens and all the time there was Italy just across the lake. Gandria was incredible, I could have spent hours walking around and poking my head into doors and tiny alleys. But time waits for no man and neither does the ferry so we hopped on board and headed back to Lugano. This time we took the funicular back to the station, I took a look at one of those steep streets and said forget it! A visit to the hospital and we grabbed J and took her out for a meal. G was told the stone was ready to pass but they wanted to keep him in again overnight to see if anything would happen.

    Bellinzona was the plan for today after visiting G, he was waiting to finalize the paper work then he was out of there so we decided to meet up at one of the castles. We walked to the first castle that is basically in the town, although it was interesting to see and walk around we were very disappointed with the museum and had it not been free with our rail pass I would have asked for our money back. We checked our map and found a pathway beside the cathedral in the main square that led up to another castle. We went up quite a few steep sets of stairs (my thighs should be thanking me for this) until we finally made it gasping for breathe. It had a good view over the town and was pleasant enough to spend an hour wandering around, well, to tell the truth it actually was time for us to work up the stamina to walk down.

    We received an sms from G & J, they were waiting for us in the square to have lunch so that was nice. At least he got to see something before we traveled on. DH & I returned to Locarno and just spend a lazy couple of hours walking along the lake and enjoying the view from our balcony. In hindsight I wish we had gone to Lugano and done the Morcote walk that day but I guess you have to leave something for next time. We were going our separate ways the following day so a parting feast was in order however it started raining so we went to the Italian restaurant next door to the hotel and had a very nice meal and some wonderful red wine.

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    Pontresina, Switzerland – 3 days

    Still raining the following day, we said our goodbyes and headed to the station trying to keep our cases as dry as possible. Both couples were heading to Lugano but at different times. DH and I were catching the bus to Tirano and then taking the Bernina route to Pontresina. G & J were going through Milan to Venice, Rome, Austria and up through Germany to Frankfurt before flying home.

    I had my heart set on catching the postbus trip called the Palm Express but can you believe it we were one day early. It did the first run of the season St Moritz-Lugano on the day I wanted to go the other way and the following day it did the reverse. On the postbus site it says the bus starts on June 15 so I just assumed one would go each way but that’s not the case. Twice when I enquired at railway stations I was given incorrect information about it. Oh well there is just another reason to go back.

    The bus was only half full so we were able to sit towards the rear and spread out. The scenery around Lago di Lugano and Lago di Como was very pleasant and quite nail biting at times as the bus squeezed between buildings and along tiny roads that only seemed big enough for one car let alone and bus and a car to pass each other. I did my best to watch out for George Clooney but I have to admit I failed to catch a glimpse. After that we found the scenery at times quite boring through Italy, on our left were mountains with old buildings and lots of vineyards but the right side was factories etc, I actually fell asleep and that was the first time on our trip that I had done so on public transport as I never wanted to miss anything.

    When we arrived at Tirano we had about 40 minutes before a train left so I sat at the station with the luggage and DH went off and found us some lunch. We caught the regular train and it was just great as we were in an empty carriage so we could put the windows down and jump from side to side – depending on which had the best view. We went around our first “pigtail” and I got some great photo’s. Then the rain started and blocked a fair bit of the view which was disappointing. It was still raining when we reached Pontresina and thankfully we found a taxi right outside the station.

    Our hotel, at first glance appeared to be old world charm and the receptionist even refers to us by name, nice touch. We had booked a B/C category room at the Hotel Engadinerhof which meant partly refurbished with a 60’s style bathroom that had been improved with new paintwork, hairdryer and mirror cupboard.
    Our room was very nice with new drapes, carpets and built in wooden furniture and even smelled a tiny bit of fresh paint so it was lovely and clean. When we decided to stay at Pontresina I spent quite a bit of time finding a hotel within our budget and one that had some English on their website and this hotel fell within those needs. We opted for ½ board the first night as it was still raining and at 25CHF per person for a 3 course meal we thought it good value. We did at times find it difficult with menu’s and notice boards/information sheets as we couldn’t read any of it but the ladies in reception were very helpful and we had a good laugh about it. The hotel was mainly filled with older German holiday makers and at times we were the only English speaking people around. We had a bit of a laugh to ourselves and referred to it as Kellerman’s from Dirty Dancing fame. We would stay there again though and they had a wonderful breakfast. But do be aware at Pontresina it is an uphill walk to get to the main part of town where most of the hotels are, though it didn’t bother us at and the hotel van took us back when we left.

    We woke the next morning to stunning clear blue sky with a lovely view over the rooftops to the snow covered mountains. We caught the train to St Moritz and had a walk around the lake and town before heading off to Preda. St Moritz was very pretty and DH commented that the view of the lake was like a picture that he had on the lid of his coloured pencils when he was in school.

    We walked from Preda along an historic rail track to Bergun, it took us about 2 ½ hours with some stops to just take in the scenery and we waited for a train at one of the viaducts so we could sit underneath. We had rushing streams, cows with big bells, cow poo, fields full of wildflowers, little wooden bridges and those wonderful stone viaducts, this was the Switzerland we had come to see. We waited for a train to Filisur and walked to the Landwasser Viaduct where we met a lovely young lady from the USA and exchanged travel stories and took photo’s. I sent up my mini tripod and got some great pictures of the trains going over the viaduct – we felt like ants standing under it. We all walked back to the station and shared chocolate and cold water. We said goodbye at Bergun and we stayed on until Samedan and changed to Pontresina. Half board again that night as we were too tired to go hunting for food.

    Next morning we headed up to Guarda and with the usual Swiss precision there was a postbus waiting when the train arrived to take us up the zig zag road to the village. It was similar to our trip out of Lugano – how the driver managed to fit that bus between some of the buildings is beyond me. This was such a pretty place, we walked around with our mouths open almost. It was like being taken back in time, we could have spent hours there and wish we had had more time. But we wanted to do the walk – Guarda to Ardez which was glorious, Heidi country, just us and the butterflies and perfect weather. It is one of the things we did that sticks in our minds and reminds us of what a beautiful country Switzerland is.

    Back at Pontresina we had a well deserved cold beer then decided to go on the Ospizio Bernina – Alp Grum walk. As I said at the beginning of this long report we didn’t really enjoy it and felt is was rather dreary compared to our walk earlier in the day. But the view from Alp Grum was truly spectacular. We wished we had just got off the train there and had something to eat in the restaurant then caught another train back – oh well never mind it was another experience. On our way back to our hotel we purchased some nut cake from the Hotel Albris that I had read about on here. And let me tell you it was divine.

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    Zurich , Switzerland – 2 days
    Our final breakfast before heading to Zurich, our wonderful eight weeks is soon coming to an end and we have to get our minds around going home. We are not really big city people so we decided to prolong our journey to Zurich by going the long way. That is, we caught the train back to Poschiavo to see all the things we missed in the rain. We dragged our luggage into the town square and sat for a time with a coffee. Back at the station we caught the next train to Pontresina, changed at Samedan for the amazing ride over the Landwasser Viaduct that we had stood under. I still find it hard to understand how you can be looking down a valley on one side, go into a tunnel and when you come out the valley is on the opposite side, amazing train ride that one. Changed again at Chur and slowly the countryside gave way to the city – we wished we could turn around and go back.

    Our first stop in Zurich was at the information office at the train station to get a map and some ferry timetables then off to find our hotel. The Hotel Arlette which I booked through was easy to find and once the lovely girl at reception showed us a short cut we were one street from the river and two from the station so location was brilliant. It is only a small hotel, old, clean and basic with a small breakfast room but it suited us just fine, we also had a fridge and air-conditioning of sorts.

    Our next stop was to a supermarket and there is a big Coop diagonally opposite the station as well as others in the shopping area below the station. We then had a nice picnic in the park by the Limmat River. We were quite amazed at how unkempt the park was seeing as there appears to be very few “green spaces” in the city and how people who were picnicking like ourselves just walked off and left their rubbish. We window shopped along the Bahnhofstrasse and I was most disappointed to see the Sprungli shop and café closed for renovation – how could they do this! I had come all the way from Australia to have a coffee in the café and they go and close it – all I got was a photo of myself with a very sad face by the “closed for renovation” sign. We walked to the end and then back up the other side of the river to our hotel.

    Our last full day of our holiday in Europe and we were woken by a 6.30am phone call from our daughter stating she needed to get glasses (it was her lunch hour) – oh the joys of being a parent. So after sorting out Medibank etc we were off to the information office again to plan our day – Rheinfalls then ferry down to Stein Am Rhein – well the queue was snaking out the door so I quick look at our handful of booklets and maps and plan “B” was a ferry ride to Rapperswil on a ferry that was leaving in 10 minutes from the Burkliplatz. We ran all the way and just make it but we did discover the lovely little walkway along the opposite side of the river in our rush.

    It was very warm but beautiful on the lake and Rapperswil was a delight (thank you Fodor’s) of tiny streets, old buildings, cafes and when we headed up to the church in the centre of town we had the most amazing view over the town, lake and to the Alps. We also found a wonderful rose garden to wander in. After a gelato we went to the station to try and get a connection to Schaffhausen but we had to go back through Zurich then wait for another train which used up some of our precious time and we realized we wouldn’t be able to see the falls and take the ferry trip. As we had seen the beautiful painted houses in Guarda and decided to see the falls. When we arrived it was very hot – over 30 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity – we get much hotter days in Perth but it is a dry heat so we had to slow down and take our time. There was a supermarket at the bus stop so we purchased bread, cheese, tomatoes and more water and walked to the falls. We felt like we were dripping the same amount of water as what was going over the falls but after finding a nice big shady tree we sat down for a picnic before walking over the bridge to the other side and a nice cold beer or two before looking around. The amount of water rushing over the falls is quite staggering and only wished that we had some of it at home. Some parts of Australia are badly affected by drought and we all have had to learn to live with water restrictions in our homes and gardens.

    We left on a hot sticky ride to Winterthur and thankfully our connection to Zurich HB was wonderfully air-conditioned and we felt almost human again. We shopped for chocolate to take home and another couple of cold beers then it was back to our room for a well earned shower. Our last outing was a pleasant trip down the river form the Landsmusuem (which is just near our hotel) into the lake and back again. All of our travels today were free with our Swiss Pass, one trip to the airport tomorrow and we could pension it off.

    We had a good flight to Singapore on one of the brand new planes apart from the crying baby in the seat in front of us who prevented us from sleeping for the entire 12 hours but we did catch up on all the new movies. A spot of duty free shopping and the last leg of 5 hours went in no time as we managed to doze. The kids had done a fairly good job of keeping the house clean and tidy – it was great to see them and good to be home but on the plane we had already started planning the next trip.

    Again thank you to very one who contributes here – we saw and did things that don’t appear in travels books. All those valuable little pieces of information made us feel confident travelers. To PALQ, your knowledge of Swiss trains is amazing, you gave us so many choices and ideas, so for that and your generosity in sharing, I thank you.

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    Maudie - I know this is a log time after your trip but I have just discovered it.
    A very enjoyable read.

    We will be in Switzerland in September and I had thought to purchase 1st class passes mainly for the Bernina Express trip. But now I am reconsidering. So you did not prebook any seats on your trips?

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    Hi Aussie, sorry, just noticed your question. No we did not pre book any seats at all. Didn't take any of the fancy trains, just regional ones but they run on the same tracks and funnily enough the scenery is the same too! We didn't do any first class travel, 2nd was just fine with us. All very clean and we loved being able to take wine and food aboard for a picnic.

    Hope you have a great time, it's such a beautiful country.

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    Just reading this much later. What a great trip and a great report. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Loved your comments on the flowers as I am a gardener (assume you must be, too). Most pictures I take on trips feature flowers!

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