We've been back home for a full week. Time to get these posts done.
As I was saying in my Paris post, for the first time in a loooong time we didn't spend our family vacation in North America, and it's not even Mr T's fault. I'm not complaining, though. During the two weeks we were travelling it was raining a total of two days. Granted, those were ugly downpour kind of rainy days, but we managed to keep busy indoors.
During our trip throughout the Southern and Western part of Switzerland, I kept sending pictures to our family chat (my parents and my brother) and he commented "I'm confused. Are you sightseeing or watching hockey?"
All of the above, of course. And I blogged about the hockey part over here. Now in order to be true to the title of this post, let's have a look at our itinerary. Without being aware of it we did parts of the Grand Tour of Switzerland:
The first highlight was that we decided not to use the Gotthard tunnel (a terribly congested route basically all summer and fall long) but actually the original pass route.
It was a super nice, yet chilly day, especially as we got higher. High as in 6,800 feet. One popular photo stop still on the Northern side of the pass is the Schöllenen's gorge and devil's bridge.
The main goal of every Gotthard traveler is, however to get to Ticino or Italy. We stopped at Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino = Italian part of Switzerland. It is famous for its medieval castles, but we wanted a contemporary dinner by the time we made it into the city.
The next day we went to a place that every kid loves; the Swissminiatur. I know I loved it as a kid. It didn't change a bit. Sadly it hasn't been maintained well, and even though I think they're trying to catch up now, it looks somewhat worn down and is brutally outdated (on its miniature airport they display Swissair planes - the company, Switzerland's sacred cow, went bankrupt in 2002)
Can't go wrong with the medieval castles - they still look the same. This one, Hallwyl, is very close to where we live.
On to the "real" world, even though it looks too gorgeous to be real, right? It is Lake Lugano with Monte Brè in the background.
In order to do justice to this beautiful part of our country you should spend a couple of days and explore, but we were on a schedule. We traversed another Swiss Alps pass, the Nufenen (German name), la Novena in Italian. It was super scenic. They should build hotels there. Just kidding. Part of the beauty is that there are absolutely no buildings.
Except on the summit. The restaurant was closed, though. Summer season was over.
From Ticino we had come to the canton of Valais. Loyal readers my recognise the next location as I spent some time in August. What a difference two months make, though! The village is called Zermatt.
Why do people go to Zermatt? To see the Matterhorn! If you have a little time and money (OK, a somewhat large-ish amount of money) you take the Gornergrat cog railroad that takes you up to 10,285 feet.
The view is so worth the trip! Look at them mountains!
I took a panoramic picture to display the Gorner Glacier
Back in Zermatt hubby decided it was not time for happy hour yet.
Colin and I disagreed and proceeded to have a good time (and free wifi) at PapperlaPub. I made a strategic mistake though.
See, we didn't have lunch, so my stomach was completely empty by the time we made it back to the village. And of course the entire reason for me to go to the pub was to enjoy some bubbly. Because I am, however, a somewhat responsible Mom, I ordered some bread.
Which I wished I didn't when it got time for dinner... Enough said, right?
On our way to the French part of Switzerland we stopped at one of the most scenic spots at Lake Geneva: Château de Chillon.
We stayed in Lausanne for one night, but we basically watched a hockey game and moved on so it is only covered over here, at the hockey blog post.
Next stop: Geneva. It was in early 2005 that Jacques (District Manager) and I layed the foundation of what was going to become the French speaking market for Starbucks Switzerland. At this time we only had stores in German speaking cities like Zurich, Lucerne, Zug, Bern and Basel.
Having worked for other companies that had branches in the French speaking market I was predestined to hire and look after these people, but was I gonna succeed in transferring the enthusiasm and cultural aspects?
In a hotel conference room that was very poorly heated we held our first interviews. None of the candidates have been to a Starbucks. Ever. Most of them were a bit reserved when it came to "American culture" even though we assured them it was multi cultural at best.
To cut the long story (and hard, hard work) short, right next to said hotel we were thoroughly enjoying our coffee in one of the Geneva stores. Back then we had no idea there was going to be the "Rue du Montblanc" location literally next to that hotel!
I always loved to come to Geneva for work even though it was a long journey, and doing everything in French (especially trainings) is exhausting, but being in Geneva as a tourist is definitely more relaxing. Very much so on a sunny and warm day!
Hubby and I remembered our last visit as a family. Colin was not even four years old back then. We had turned our backs for a minute, and he was gone. Wandered off, so we thought. He claimed we had wandered off, and he wanted to look for us. Either way, we were frantically looking for him at the English Garden right at Lake Geneva. As in lake. As in our toddler couldn't swim.
We found him only minutes later, he was crying and talking to two ladies (who, fortunately spoke German), and we were all super relieved and happy.
This time around he made fun of us and hid behind every tree or souvenir booth. When he got tired of running off he posed underneath the Jet d'Eau's double rainbow.
We knew we had to soak up the sun. Weather forecasts were looking grim for the next day. Indeed. This is how we left the city.
We were headed to Fribourg. Hubby had the perfect rainy day planned.
He had heard of a miniature train exhibition "Kaeserberg" he wanted to visit. And that's what we did. For three hours. I was very patient for the first two. I even achieved my personal goal of spotting "Wally" among the thousands of tiny characters displayed. I was glad we ended up leaving, though. There's only so many trains a girl can take!
The rain had done a fantastic job. Look at how the city of Fribourg presented itself the next day. Absolutely stunning. We climbed up a hill for this view. Totally worth it.
The river that flows through Fribourg, the Saronne, is meandering through the city, so to get places, people built bridges. Beautiful ones at that, old and new.
I was delighted!
Upon researching for my other post, I found out that this neighborhood was exactly where the first Fribourg hockey club was founded in 1937 by a bunch of teenagers. We visited a historic place of the other kind without knowing.
Time was flying, and we had to move on. Next stop: Biel / Bienne. To my naive knowledge this was a bilingual city just the same as Fribourg. However, in Fribourg we mainly met French speaking people. Biel was much more mixed.
So much so that at the Swatch drive thru they employ a French speaking salesperson and a Swiss German speaking salesperson.
Wait a minute, at what drive thru?
You heard right, Swatch. As in Swiss watches. Brands like Tissot, Rado, Omega and Longines are being manufactured and / or sold by Swatch group. Plus the reasonably priced Swatch.
My husband, who never wears a watch, wanted to do this, just for the fun ot it.
This is how it works: you pull up to the speaker / microphone and place your order. For your orientation they placed menu boards on your left and right.
You drive to the cash register window, pay and receive your brown bag that contains your Swatch box.
Unbox and wear, voilà!
We had some time to kill before heading to the game, and we spent it at the Bielersee's boat launch. Very scenic and peaceful.
Last destination (and our family's native place, as in where our family name originates from, nobody of our immediate relatives have actually lived there as far as we know.) - Langnau im Emmental. They have a hockey team, that was Colin's reason to visit.
A short drive away, in a remote village called Trubschachen, was another very good reason to visit this area: the cookie place! Kambly is probably the best known and most popular cookie manufacturor in Switzerland.
A few years ago they set up a factory outlet store where they sell slightly damaged cookies or just bulk quantities. People go crazy about this place. They purchase a month's worth of cookies, and let me tell you those were some large bags!!!
There is also a museum part that tells the corporate story and displays old equipment like original waffle makers they used for their Bretzeli.
That was our trip! I hope you liked following us around. What part did you like best?