My Switzerland!

Sep 19th, 2009, 02:06 PM
  #1  
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My Switzerland!

Without doubt this was one of our all time favorite trip to Europe, not only for shopping or eating but for the beautiful sights and hiking. The Swiss people were one of the most genuinely friendly and kind people that we have ever met anywhere and it was a great adventure exploring their country and culture.

I like to thanks several people from both Fodors and Tripadvisor for their great recommendations and assistance with the planning of our trip and also to the various people who posted trip reports which we found very useful. We spent a total of 9 nights in Switzerland and split them up evenly with 3 nights in Luzern, 3 nights in Wengen and 3 nights in Zermatt. Out travel dates was from 9/9/09 to 18/9/09.

We flew to Zurich on Thai Airways and had one of the best flight ever on Thai for this trip. I’m usually very critical of Thai Airways but everything was perfect this time. The flight lasted about 11 hours and we touched down in Zurich ahead of time at around 6.15 AM. Navigating the airport was a breeze and we soon ended up at the railway station where bought our 1 month half fare cards and had to show our passports to buy it. This was the only time we were asked for our I.D. in Switzerland for train travel, how trusting! We bought our second class one way train tickets to Luzern and were soon off on the quick introductory trip on the SBB. Second class was very full but we found enough space for our baggage and shared our ride with some very nice locals. I must point out that while we were boarding the train a Swiss man helped us carried our suitcases on board, how nice!

*If you’re interested in our flight and the Thai Airways lounge in Bangkok, here are some pictures: http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/gallery...54222094_jGjn5

Lucerne

We stayed at “The Hotel” (http://www.the-hotel.ch ) in a garden and park loft suite and our room was called “The Matador” after a rather weird Spanish movie. The hotel is in the newer part of town and the location was only a short walk from the train station but we chose to take a cab instead because of our numerous luggage. The fare for the sub 5 minutes taxi ride was CHF 16 – Ouch! Very nice hotel with great service and after you have adjusted to the room’s design, which was rather “different”, it was a great haven to rest up after a long day’s excursion. The A/C was great and yes we did need it to keep the room at the temperature that we wanted and to keep the flies out!

We got some maps of Luzerne from the front desk and with their advice we ventured out for a quick exploration of the old town and the chapel bridge. The weather was quite balmy, around 28 C with very little breeze but the bright sunshine was good for picture taking. The bridge was beautiful but it was sad to see the charred damages from the fire of 93 and I believe that some part of it, the pictures, was left untouched to remind the people of what had happened. The old town of Luzern was very picturesque and great to stroll around the coble streets. Looking at the prices of the items in the shops reminded us why Switzerland is considered one of the most expensive countries in the world. We soon headed back to our hotel as the jet-lagged was catching up to us and took a couple of hours nap.

We made a reservation on our first night at a restaurant we read about from a NY Times article, the “Wirtshaus Galliker” and we thought that this would be a good introduction for Swiss food. What a lovely old restaurant with equally old waitresses! Very cozy - rustic atmosphere and we were seated in a table for six and shared it with a honeymooning couple from Canada and another couple from Germany, great conversation and sharing of tips about Luzern. The food was very good, unpretentious and great tasting. After some recommended appetizers we had the tripe in white wine sauce and the thinly sliced calves' liver sautéed in butter with herbs and served with rösti, both delicious! The bill came to around CHF 100 with a half bottle of Swiss wine and it was one of the least expensive restaurant meal for our trip. A short walk back to our hotel along the river at night was beautiful. The temperature had dropped to a more pleasant 17 – 18 C but one thing that I did noticed was the huge amount of flies by the river and lake, very annoying!

Checking the weather forecast with our laptop we found out that the good sunny weather will only last another day and then it will be overcast and cooler. We decided to head out to Engadin and Mount Titlis as early as possible and after the wonderful breakfast at our hotel we bought an all inclusive (train, lifts etc) tickets with our half fare card at the tourist information center in the train station. Again we bought the 2nd class train tickets and again the trains, both going to and coming back, were full. This was the last time we rode in 2nd class as it was noisy and cramped when the coaches are fully occupied. The train ride itself was very scenic and gave us a good impression of Lake Luzern and the country side. We arrived at Engadin and followed the crowd on a short walk over to the Mount Titlis Rotair cable car station. After 3 changes on the cable cars, from the small 4 seats cable car to the final Titlis rotating cable car, we arrived at the peak. The view was marvelous but the snow was patchy and slushy. Even though we enjoyed our outing to Titlis in hindsight this was the least spectacular of our Alpine mountain excursion.

We snack on some sandwiches which we bought at the Engadin train station kiosk and rode the crowded train back to Luzern. We asked the hotel front desk for a simple and casual restaurant recommendation and we ended up in a rather disappointing local street side place that was supposedly a French restaurant but served everything from Tom Yum Koong to Weiner Schnitzel. We retired to a wonderful night’s rest in the super comfortable bed at The Hotel and decided to take our breakfast for the next morning in our room – great idea!

We woke up to a cloudy day and the temperature had dropped to around 18 – 20 C. After doing some more window shopping at Bucherer (http://www.bucherer.com/), we decided to do the city tour today by using “The City Train” (http://www.citytrain.ch/home_e.html). What a great and quick way to learn about and explore the city. The ride was rather bumpy but the audio guide was good and informative. After the tour we walk over to the “Lion Monument” and had lunch at the very cozy and wonderful “Old Swiss House” (http://www.oldswisshouse.ch/index.php?sid=9). Beautiful interior and the maitre de is the spitting image of Mr. Bean! We had the 3 course business lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the food. Before I forget I noted that the prices for the top end Swiss watches are better in S.E. Asia.

For the afternoon we ventured on one of the ferry that plough the waters of Lake Luzern and explore the beautiful small village of Weggis. That evening I had arranged a special dinner for us at the restaurant Obermatt. I had read about this rather reclusive restaurant from an article in the NY Times and thought that it will be a perfect place for us to go for our last evening in Luzern. This restaurant opens only between April to October and belongs to the Guesthouse Obermatt. It can only be accessed by either a boat or mountain climbing! I asked our hotel earlier to make the reservation for us and they were quite surprised that we know of the place and they coordinated with the restaurant to arrange a speed boat to pick us up from Weggis. The food was very local with lake fish, escargot Swiss style and Älpler Makkaronen, or pasta with apple sauce which was both unique and good. The view and atmosphere was wonderful with local sailing their sailboats and speedboats to the restaurant and all the diners were very lively and cheerful. After dinner the speedboat took us back to Weggis where we caught the last ferry back to Luzern.

The next morning was a Saturday and Luzern by the river was transformed into a fruit, vegetable, flower and my wife’s favorite – a flea market. We spent about 4 hours at the various stalls set up next to the river and I had to make several trips back to our hotel to drop off my wife’s purchases from the flea market. She found great deals for decorative plates and silver wears and had a great time bargaining with the sellers from as far away as Germany. The weather was overcast again but it made the market shopping more pleasant in the cooler weather.

Today is also the day that we traveled from Luzern to Wegen in the Bernese Oberland. I bought two 1st class panorama coach tickets on the Golden Pass train, to enjoy the magnificent views, to Interlaken Ost before changing to the local trains (B.O.B.) for Wengen,. Earlier in the day we sent our luggage ahead of time using the Swiss Rail one day baggage service which made our train ride very relaxing.

*Pictures from our trip to Luzern: http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/Travel/...54275602_rRr4y


To be continue.
Hanuman is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 03:04 PM
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hi hanuman,

quite lovely pics - well done. and a great start to your trip report.

looking forward to more,

regards, ann
annhig is online now  
Sep 19th, 2009, 03:15 PM
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Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing!
Mara is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 04:38 PM
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good reporting hanuman...waiting to hear more in prep for our upcoming B.O. visit next month....thanks...pics are excellent.

Stu T.
tower is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 04:54 PM
  #5  
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Thank you for your compliments! I can't sleep due to the jet-lagged so I just finished the next part of my report. Hope you will like it!

Wengen Part 1

A lovely little village in the Bernese Oberland! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and the numerous excursions available were a great bonus.

We chose the Romantik Hotel Schonegg as our base for the next three nights and opted for the half board, partly due to the great reviews of the food at the Schonegg and also to save money. The hotel restaurant and chef has earned the 13 points GaultMillau rating and the food was quite good and they try quite hard. The owners, René Berthod a former member of the Swiss national ski team, is always there and also acts as the restaurant manager, sommelier, front desk clerk and bar tender as well! Our room had a lovely view of Wengen, the Lauterbrunnen valley and the beautiful Jungfrau Mountain. The hotel kindly arranged to have our luggage, which we had sent ahead earlier in the day from Luzern, pickup from the train station and delivered to our room. On our first evening we had a great dinner at the hotel and retired early after a walk around Wengen at night.

On our arrival the weather was not so good with clouds everywhere and we could hardly see the mountains. I ask Rene for the next day’s weather forecast and he said he could not predict it as the condition changes day to day. Well due to the time differences I got up at 5.00 AM and looked outside our balcony window and behold… I could see the beautiful Jungfrau Mountain glistening in the moon light! Sadly just as the sun was rising a low level cloud appeared and covered up everything again. After breakfast we consulted with Rene again on the weather and he said that from 2,000 meters and above it was sunny and nice. I had printed out the hiking treks of the area and decided that we will do the easy Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg hike (http://www.jungfraubahn.ch/en/Resour...aspx?raid=7582).

We used our half fare cards again to buy from the cable car station a combination cable car ticket from Wengen to Mannlichen and then the train tickets from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch and return to Wengen. The time was around 8.30 AM when we boarded the cable car and it was cloudy outside. As the cable car ascended into the clouds we kept our fingers crossed. We rose above the clouds and it was a magical sight, the beautiful snow covered Alps and a carpet of white fluffy clouds below us. We disembark at the Mannlichen station and took in the views for several minutes starring at the magnificent Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain peaks.

We started our 4.5 KM hike in bright sunlight and according to the brochure it should take around 1.20 hours. Half way through the hike we descended into the clouds and it was quite eerily walking with less than 20 meters visibility. Now and then we could see ghostly figures appearing from the clouds as other hikers passed us by in the other direction. We stop several times to take pictures and my wife love looking at the wild flowers on the hillside. Two and a half hour later we arrived at the Kleine Scheidegg station which was still covered by clouds. There was a four piece Alphorn band there and we listen to them perform while drinking hot chocolates. Our train arrived about 20 minutes later and it was very full with huge tour groups from China, Japan and India.

The train ride up to Jungfraujoch (http://www.jungfraubahn.ch/en/Deskto.../183_read-808/) was very interesting and well plan out and executed operation. There were several flat screen tvs on board showing a multimedia presentation on the history of Jungfraujoch as well as what the current station has to offer and how to navigate the various tunnels once at the peak. Most of the train ride was through a long tunnel, bored into the Alps, as we ascended to the top. The train made 2 five minutes stops at stations inside the tunnel but with lookout points where you could see the outside glacier and mountain. We arrived at the Jungfraujoch station which was also inside a tunnel and manage to find our way to the observation platform at the top of the “Sphink” platform. The weather was changing with intermittent sunshine and clouds and it was very cold, about – 4C. We made our way down to the glacier to play in the freshly fallen powder snow and had a great time riding on a dog sled. We made friends with a German couple who had chartered a helicopter from Interlaken to here and bingo they offered to join them for a quick ride around the Eiger! The 5 minutes ride was wonderful and very scenic but we were soon back on the glacier again.

By now we were hungry and all the cafeterias and restaurants at Jungfraujoch were full and it was after 2.00 PM. We decided to go to the Bollywood lunch buffet instead and alas it was quite empty as the tour group has moved on. The Indian chef and one of the waiter there could speak Thai so we had a nice chat with them. The food was mediocre but plentiful and we found out that they typically served over 600 people a day there. The train ride back to Wengen was not as exciting as the journey going there and most of the passengers, including ourselves, fell asleep.

Pictures from Wengen: http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/Other/S...54331302_PAfGG

To be continue, need sleep now!
Hanuman is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 06:06 PM
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Hello Hanuman

Welcome to the "I Love Switzerland" club! I can tell from your wonderful report that it only took one trip for you to become hooked!

Wow, what a treat to be given the opportunity for the helicopter ride! That must have been absolutely fabulous!!

Love your photos. The clouds covering the valley when you're at Mannlichen are terrific! Did the clouds ever clear up so you could see the valley below?
swisshiker is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 07:17 PM
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Hi Hanuman. Good you're back..

I want to ask about your flight on Thai. Is the flight staff noticeably biased against Thai people, like I've heard so often? I hear many Thais complain that they aren't treated as well as farang.

Btw, how was the food? The wife fears that the food will suck in Switzerland, lmao. (She hated Japan mostly for this reason)

Thanks..
Mango7 is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 07:43 PM
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Hanuman: thanks for sharing your wonderful pix, looks like another fabulous trip!
Shanghainese is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 09:05 PM
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welcome back mr pook....

love the report thanks...

i was unable to see the last two groups of pics....will try again tomorrow as it may be my computer??

look forward to more...
rhkkmk is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 11:04 PM
  #10  
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Thank you all for your kind comments!

Swisshiker,

Yes we're hooked and we have even started planning our next trip already. The clouds never cleared up for us but the next day the cloud cover was above Mannlichen so you could see the valley from there - we didn't go up though.

Just wait for the Zermatt pictures!

Mango7,

Hi mate! No we were treated very well on Thai Airways but we usually fly premium classes. I think what you've heard is partly true but normally Thai passengers don't make as much demand on the FAs compared to the other passengers so it might look like more attention are being paid to them.

Food was OK in Switzerland and quite enjoyable. We did miss Thai food towards the end of the trip but we could not justify paying CHF 4 for a bowl of plain rice!

Bob,

Keep trying!!
Hanuman is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 03:24 AM
  #11  
 
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Excellent trip report.

"That evening I had arranged a special dinner for us at the restaurant Obermatt." Wow. You really did do your homework on Switzerland. I'm impressed. I've been to Obermatt as well and enjoyed the simple dishes as well as the gorgeous view of the lake and mountains. There's always something special about a restaurant that can only be visited by boot or on foot.
kleeblatt is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 04:06 AM
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Lovely report and pictures Hanuman! Makes me want to return. I agree about the helpful people on trains.
Suelynne is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 07:04 AM
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Thanks for writing up this report!! I'm so glad you had a good time, and I really love to read all about your swiss adventures. I appreciate it!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Sep 20th, 2009, 12:40 PM
  #14  
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I am glad that you guys are enjoying my report and thank you for your kind words!

swandav2000,

Thank you for all the help you gave me during the planning stages, both here and on TA.
Hanuman is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 12:46 PM
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Wengen Part 2

Our next day in Wengen began with checking the weather forecast since the sky was quite gloomy and the forecast did not look good for the next couple of days. It did not rain but the clouds were thick and dark so we decided to play it safe and forgo any further hiking. We did our laundry at the very small Laundromat in town with only one operational washing machine and one dryer. Well we only got through with the washing part when all of a sudden there were people lining up to use the dryer but not the washer! Rene rescued us and had the maid dried and iron our clothes for a small fee.

I remembered that Lauterbrunnen is famous for its many waterfalls so we decided to visit them but without the proper guidance we were not sure of where to start. We took the train down to Lauterbrunnen where we found the Tourist Information Center almost directly on the opposite side of the road in front of the train station. There was a small line of people asking what looked like an overwork staff there all sort of questions as this was the type of day that tourist didn’t plan for. The young lady was very efficient and gave very good answers and when it came to our turn she gave us two maps and gave us a quick itinerary of things to do, perfect! Before we left we were warned that Murren had been enveloped in a cloud for the past few days and as of that particular moment we should not visit it.

We took the Post bus and bought return tickets to Stechelberg, the furthest point for the bus in the valley, with our half fare cards. We can jump on and off at any of the stops so for a small fee it was a good idea. We found out that there is something like 72 waterfalls in the area but the one to see is Trümmelbach falls (http://www.truemmelbachfaelle.ch/). After a short ride we got off the bus and paid the entrance fee for Trümmelbach and this was the only time our half fare card was not applicable. The falls was quite interesting and we used a combination of lifts and stairways to explore it. After visiting the falls the clouds had cleared somewhat so we decided to visit the small village of Gimmelwald and Murren. We got on the bus again and rode to the end of the valley to the Stechelberg cable car station and there was another nice waterfall there as well. The cable car staff showed us the web-cam from both villages and it was out of the clouds but overcast and that was good enough for us.

The first stop for the cable car was Gimmelwald and after a quick look we decided to go to Murren. Murren was an alternative destination to Wengen that I had considered during the planning stages and I guess I lucked out choosing Wengen as we would have spent most of our times in thick clouds. Murren is a very small village with a population of around 600, I think, and you can walk through the village in around 5 minutes. The place look deserted but the restaurants and the hotels were all open. One of the restaurants had a big sign saying that it was mentioned in Rick Steves book and another had a sign saying that Rick Steves ate there. I’m not too familiar with Rick Steves so I chose a restaurant that looks cozy and was full of people – Restaurant Stagerstubli. Not a bad palce and their back dining room was very rustic and the food was pretty good. After lunch we explore Murren further before we headed by to Wegen.

To be continue.
Hanuman is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 02:33 PM
  #16  
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Zermatt

Again we forwarded our luggage ahead of time using the same day delivery service and both our hotel in Wengen and Zermatt sent and pick them up for us. Our train journey for this trip had us on 5 different kinds of trains and carriages and we really like the Inter City Express or ICE for the extremely comfortable ride, seats and overall luxury. We arrived in Zermatt after about 3.5 hours of train travel and the weather didn’t look good there either.

We chose the Hotel - Garni Coeur Des Alpes (http://www.coeurdesalpes.ch/) as our base in Zermatt and we stayed in their fabulous Penthouse Suite which was quite a good bargain when compared to the regular rooms at the other 4 or 5 star hotels in Zermatt. From the balcony of our room we had a great view of the Matterhorn but on our first day it was covered in clouds most of the time. We lit the fireplace and spent the rest of day in our room relaxing, watching TV and was glad to have the in room wi-fi where we could Skype or daughter back at home again(the Wi-Fi in Wengen was down). It took a while before we could use the internet as we were verbally told that the wi-fi code was “Swiss” but we did not realize that they spelt it “Suiss”! My wife wanted to eat beef fondue that night and we had a great meal at the Schäferstübli restaurant.

Checking the weather forecast for the next few days proved to be more difficult than I had thought. I used two local weather forecast website www.meteoswiss.ch and www.meteocentrale.ch and both had different forecast for Zermatt! One said rain for the next 3 days and the other predicted that it would clear up from the 2nd day onward. The next day when we woke up it was raining and the sky looked very gloomy. It continues to rain for the whole day into the early evening before the rain stopped. We took the bus back towards the center of town, by the railway station, and walk around in the rain for a while. All the peaks and cable car destinations were covered in clouds so we went to the Matterhorn museum. Interesting but I don’t think it’s worth the entrance fee and on a rainy day it was very full.

My wife could sense my restlessness as I wanted to see the Matterhorn so she suggested that we should roll the dice since the weather in the Swiss Alps changes so often. We decided to go up to Schwarzsee Paradise at around 2 PM and even the ticket agent at the cable car station was surprised that we wanted to do that. The cable car station was deserted but the cars were going up and we ventured up the mountain not knowing what to expect. We changed the cable car at Furi station and from then on most of the ascent was through clouds and we could not see anything. We got to the Schwarzsee Paradise station and it was deserted with very little visibility. My wife sportingly said lets enjoy the ride and pretend it’s a merry go round so we went back down and up again out of boredom! On the next ascent we noticed that there were other people coming up as well so we disembark at Schwarzsee Paradise where the clouds seem to be lifting. We made our way to a restaurant / hotel near the station and found a small group of people there all waiting for the weather to improve. My wife took note that the cable cars stop operating at 4.40 PM so we bought hot chocolate and hang. At around 4.15 PM the Matterhorn started to appear from the clouds and everybody was happy and began taking photos and venturing outside as close as possible to the Matterhorn. An interesting afternoon on a very wet day! We ate in that night and we bought Chinese food from the China Garden restaurant which was not that good and expensive.

www.meteocentrale.ch forecast was accurate and the next day, our last full day in Zermatt and Switzerland, the weather improved and it was perfect! After a quick breakfast we went back to the cable car station and met with the same ticket agent who remembered us. She said with a smile that the weather was good that day and that we will enjoy ourselves. We took the same cable car to Furi but from there we change to a large gondola to Trockner Steg station before taking the final gondola to the very dramatic looking Kleine Matterhorn or Galcier Paradise station at the very peak of the mountain. We knew we were in for a good day as all the other passengers in the gondola were skiers from the national team from various European countries. We could identify from their badges that they were Croatians, Swedish and the Swiss national team in our gondola and we love the Swiss team as they were so friendly. At Trockner Steg station one of the lady skier from the Swiss team noticed that I was having a hard time identifying the various peaks and she came over and pointed them all for us.

Once we arrived at the top station, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise station, the conditions were perfect! The freshly fallen powder snow, bright sunshine and no wind was the perfect example of what a perfect summer ski resort should be. There were professional photographers there and they were shooting promotional shots of the Swiss team for Swisscom. There were a couple of groups that arrived earlier and were setting off on a cross country skiing trek and later on we could see them in the distant and they look like ants walking in a line and it gave scale to how big the mountains are. There were a couple of young men setting up their para-gliders but with no wind they just sat and wait by their gliders. We took a lot of photos and walk around a bit but soon realized that our shoes were not suitable for the relatively deep snow. I used my jacket to sit on as it was quite warm and just relax and watch the professional skiers do their stuff. Oh how I wished I had rented some skis but alas my wife does not ski and I don’t think she would like it if I had left her alone!

At around 1.30 PM we descended from the top and stop at the Furi station where we started our hike down to Zermatt. I had plan for this since I wanted to eat lunch at the wonderful Zum See restaurant that I had read so much about. The trail was nice and it went by several Alpine huts and fields before we ventured into what looked like a small hamlet but it was Zum See restaurant! We sat outside and had a great late lunch before we commenced our hike back to Zermatt.

In order to catch our plane back home we had to be back at Zurich Airport by around 11.00 am and the only suitable train, with just one change, departed at 6.13 AM. We could not send our luggage ahead of time as well and I dreaded about the upcoming train ride since by now we had 2 large suitcases, 2 medium size luggages and one carry on! My wife had slightly sprained her ankle so I was the only one to handle this task. Our last evening was pretty much nondescript as we just ate at the first place we found and spent the night packing and went to bed early. The hotel had arranged for a taxi to meet us at 5.45 AM and right on the minute our electric taxi cab showed up and we were off on the long journey home.

Our Switzerland trip was so much more exciting than I had anticipated. The landscape, the people and the excursions were all incredible and we had so much fun there. We ended up taking over 2,000 photographs, mostly of ourselves which some of you might find annoying, and took over 6 hours of high definition video.

Pictures from Zermatt (I recommend that you view them by clicking on the slideshow button): http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/Other/S...54914012_s8m8s
Hanuman is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 02:46 PM
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Cat food could be appetizing for Rick Steves! I wonder if he travels with his bong..
Mango7 is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 07:06 PM
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WOW, fantastic pics and a really wonderful trip....
we must return to CH, its been many years and then we only spent a day or two....

the trails look inviting and the little buildings so typical.

don't tell me you can yodle too??

i'll try not to look at the earlier pics
rhkkmk is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 07:08 PM
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still no luch with group 2 and group 3 pics..
rhkkmk is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 07:09 PM
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that would be luck
rhkkmk is offline  

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