Lucerne

After two days trekking through the mountains, a leisurely city day was just what I needed.  Luzern or Lucerne is a gorgeous Swiss city sitting right on a beautiful blue lake.  The star attraction of the city is this 13th century wooden bridge.  Part of it burned down in the 90’s but it has been restored back to its original glory.  It’s decorated with vibrant flowers all the way down both sides and elegant swans swim all around in the water.

Some of the hotels and restaurants from the bridge.
Baby girl and I enjoying the view.

After exhausting our picture possibilities with the bridge, we stopped for a treat from Starbucks and some sandwiches.  Then we walked over to another famous Luzern site, the lion statue.  It was made to honor members of the Swiss guard who were killed in the French Revolution.  It is much bigger than I thought it was going to be.  It would be a very nice, peaceful spot to sit and take a break if it wasn’t for all the tour groups :).  Most tour groups have a guide who speaks quietly into a microphone and all the members of the tour wear headphones in order to hear what the guide is saying.  However, there was one group where the guide was carrying around a speaker broadcasting information for everyone to hear and disrupting the peace…rude!

For scale I had to jump in there 🙂

 Next we tried to make our way to a wall that outlined the city to walk on top of it for some good city views.  We found the wall but also found it wasn’t really accessible with the stroller, so we wandered into a city park instead.

We still found some pretty good views.
Giant clock inside a clock tower.

We continued back down into the main city center, grabbed some snacks at the grocery store and ducked back into our hotel for a little break and regrouping before dinner.  The next morning we were getting back on the road again for a short distance to finish our trip in the Berner Oberland.

Mt. Pilatus

We spent the day after hiking Mt. Rigi back up on a mountain. This time it was Mt. Pilatus.  We drove to a little town called Alpnachstad where we took “the world’s steepest cogwheel train” up to the summit.  The train has a 48% grade, pretty steep.  Makes for a very interesting and dramatic ride.  The summit is almost 7000 feet (about 1000 feet higher than Mt. Rigi).  Unfortunately we didn’t have great weather this day, but the views were still pretty amazing, despite the clouds.

There is a very nice welcome center at the top with restaurants, a gift shop, information, etc.  There is even a hotel you can stay in. We came up by the cogwheel train but you can also take the cable car on the other side of the mountain.

Lines for the cable car.

 There are a few short hikes/walks at the top to get different views out from the mountain.

Hiking up.
Going down.

Imagine going to church here, hard to tell but it’s sitting on a cliff.
View of the train we took up.

Walking through the rock tunnels, there are some old legends about dragons living in the mountain but we didn’t see any.
Afraid of heights.

In his happy place.
Pretty flowers.
A view of those rock tunnels we were in earlier.

After exploring the top for a while and having some lunch, we figured out our grand plan for the rest of the afternoon.  We were going to take the cable car down to the next station so Hubby could do the luge, then hike an “easy” 2 hours down the rest of the way to a little town and take the train back to where our car was parked and be in Luzern (where we were staying the next 2 nights) for dinner.

View from the cable car.
Did I mention I’m scared of heights?
Ready to ride the luge!

And so we began out on the trail.  Now even though it was a downhill hike, it wasn’t as easy as I had pictured.  It was a really steep downhill hike with a lot of roots, rocks, and paths that weren’t always very established.

Huge snail we found on the trail.
We went from hiking in this…
…to this.
Trying to hide my frustration.

There were some points where we thought we had gone off track and were hiking to a different town than we intended.  Sometimes the trails weren’t clearly marked so we weren’t sure if we were going the right way or not.  What was supposed to take 2 hours took us at least 3.

Finally!  The town was in our sights!

After that long hike, I was looking forward to a shower and some dinner.  But there was one more set back, we had left the lights of the car on and our battery was dead!  UGH!  Luckily Hubby was able to flag down a couple nice ladies who didn’t know how to jump a car, but were willing to help us anyway.  Thank goodness because it was about 8 PM and most of the cars in the lot were gone.  We could’ve been sitting there a long time if it weren’t for them.  We ended up having a 10:00 dinner that night but it was really good Italian food, with really good wine! Thank goodness because I needed a glass after that afternoon!

Mt. Rigi

Instead of spending another day in the city, we decided it was time to get out into the mountains and see what Switzerland is all about!  We drove not far from Zurich to Mt. Rigi.  We took a train up to the top of the mountain and hiked part of the way down.

At the summit.
View from the top.
Working on our wildlife photography.
First glimpse of alpine cows.
Alpine sunbathing.
Just casually taking in the view!
I love this sign, you have to decide if you want the young  man’s trail up (steep) or the old man’s trail (easy)
This cat came out of nowhere and ran out from behind us, I about jumped out of my skin!

We stopped for lunch at a small cheese farm on the mountain.

Some of the cheese farm employees.
Hubby couldn’t resist trying the house buttermilk, he said it tasted like “cheese milk”.
Lunch, an array of fresh cheeses from the farm.
Hiking is hard work.
It’s amazing how close you get to the cows, they are literally scattered all along the trails with no fences to separate you!
My friends, the cows.

This was a pretty easy downhill hike.  It was a beautiful day and really peaceful.  We were pretty much the only people on our particular trail most of the day.  It was fun to stop at the farm and try the fresh cheese and to listen to the chorus of cowbells all day.  A great day in the mountains!

Starting Move Preparations

The move prep has begun. We are roughly 6-7 months out. An exact move date has not been set but we know the window. I’ve been researching our next city for a little while. I’m trying to connect with other moms of young children who are currently there or have left recently. One of the big dilemmas I’m having is figuring out a stroller.

I’ve read 2 different lines of thinking in terms of the city. Some recommend a sturdy stroller with big wheels to navigate the less than stellar sidewalks. Some recommend something lightweight and easily folded because there are reportedly a lot of stairs leading to metro stations and underground walkways. So do you see why I’m a little unsure? To me, sturdy big wheeled strollers don’t normally seem very light and easy to fold up!

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Our current stroller, not exactly easy to carry or fold up!

I’m leaning toward the lightweight stroller side. I just can’t imagine carrying my current full sized stroller up and down stairs and controlling my 2 small children at the same time. My daughter would probably be fine, but my little guy will be just over a year at that point, probably not an expert walker.  I’m thinking of trying to find a double McLaren umbrella stroller. My daughter can walk most of the time, but I think having the option of the extra seat will be good on days we’re traveling and out and about all day long.

The other “project” that has been occupying my mind is buying clothes ahead for the kids. I’ve been told that children’s clothing where we’re going is not the quality we’re used to and/or expensive for what it is. So it was suggested to me to try to buy ahead and bring a good amount of clothing with us. I’ve been playing the guessing game with what sizes I think they will each need, and it’s hard!

Since the place we’re going will be very cold in the winter (and will have a long winter) we need warm coats, hats, gloves, snow suits, boots, etc. I have warm coats for just everyday wear but still need to find ones that will be suitable for snow. I have yet to order boots for either one. I’m scouring sale racks, asking friends/family, and watching resale pages to see if I can find any deals.

It seems sort of silly that I’m thinking so much about this. Surely if we don’t have enough clothes, or don’t find an item it can be purchased there. There’s always the option of ordering things once we get there but I have no idea how long it would take for the shipments to arrive. So for now, I’m doing my best to stock up! I debated adding a picture of the stash I’m building but it’s currently a messy pile in a messy closet!

We have completed physicals for everyone to make sure there’s no medical issues that would need special attention. Lucky for us, we seem to be good to go! Next up is passports. Which reminds me I need to check mine to see how many empty pages are left. We’ve been slowly purging and organizing the garage (which still has a LONG way to go). We’re making notes of boxes that are going to storage, and boxes that are coming with us. We have crammed the most essential Christmas items into a Rubbermaid tub. “Christmas in a box” as we’re calling it.

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I read a post that talked about these labels being a lifesaver during a move. Hoping the color coding of boxes and rooms will make things easier.

So that’s where we’re at now. I will try to keep updating on our progress for anyone who’s interested in what goes into an international move. Have you moved abroad before? What are your best tips?

Zurich

We left my friend’s house fairly early the next morning to catch the ferry across the Bodensee to Romanshorn, Switzerland.  From there we would finish the short drive to Zurich.  The ferry was a nice, relaxing way to travel.  We just drove on, had a little breakfast and cappuccino, enjoyed the view, and then we were there!

Daddy and baby girl enjoying the ferry ride
Arriving in Switzerland a little windblown

 Once we arrived in Zurich, we got settled into our hotel and then started out.  First stop was the grocery store to pick up food for a little picnic. We went a little overboard with how much we picked up but it made for a nice afternoon.

The view for lunch.
Our picnic on a bench.

After wandering around the beautiful city a while, we decided to go for a cruise around the lake.

Another boat and beautiful lakeside scenery.
The cruise was very relaxing.

 After the boat cruise we made our way to a famous chocolate and dessert shop.  We sampled some macrons, including a champagne flavored one (our favorite).  Then we continued wandering through the shops and streets.

Figuring out where to go.

 We made our way up to the Lindenhof which is a small park on top of a hill that has great views of Zurich.

Wishing he could get in on this game of chess.

For dinner we found a restaurant that specialized in traditional fondue.  I’ve never had it before, and since it was a local Swiss dish, we had to try it.  It was good, but very heavy…one try was enough.  The restaurant had a funky cheese smell from all the fondue pots but it was all a part of the experience I guess!

Our 4 cheese fondue with bread and potatoes for dipping, and Laron’s 13 CHF beer (AKA a $14 beer!)

We had our fill of the city, so that night we planned out a day trip to get us out of the downtown and into nature!

Seehasenfest

This post was written in 2013 about the beginning of our trip to Switzerland.

A few weeks ago we set out on a 10 day trip down to Switzerland.  On our way we stopped to see a friend of mine from college.  Yes, I know…small world!  A friend who I lived in the dorms with is now living a few hours away from us in Germany!  What are the odds?  She along with her husband and sweet little boy hosted us in their home near the Bodensee or Lake Constance, which borders Switzerland, for two nights.

While we were there Friedrichshafen was having their annual Seehasenfest.  Apparently the”seehasen” is black and white bunny that comes from the lake?  Don’t ask, I don’t know.  The celebration was started after WWII to bring some joy and fun to the children of the area.  Friedrichshafen had been largely bombed and destroyed.  So for all these years there has been a parade in which all the school children from 1st grade up through high school participate in.

1st graders from one of the schools.  See the seehasen in the middle of the hula hoops?

All the 1st graders wear these bunny ears, but each school has them wear different outfits.  Apparently the city keeps all these costumes and hands them out to the schools each year.  The older grades all dress thematically in different costumes as well.

The king of the festival on his tractor-pulled float.
Little blue flowers.
Little bees.

There were also several bands marching in the parade.  This parade was very long and the amount of participation was really surprising.  It seems like people are really invested in the parade.  We thought it was surprising because we don’t normally see the same level of participation in parades back in the states.  I don’t know, maybe we just haven’t gone to enough parades.

All the bands were dressed up too, many of them in “musketeer-esque” outfits.
Reunited after years!
Our families by the lake.
View of Friedrichshafen.

We had so much fun seeing the parade and walking around the festival.  Our night finished off with a delicious dinner overlooking the area.  This area was gorgeous, and it was lovely being by the lake.  We would love to go back again, or to have our friends come up and stay with us!

Chateau Villandry

These pictures were actually from our stay in Caen, but I forgot to post them in that entry…oops!  I had to share though because I’ve never seen anything like this.  We went to eat at an Italian restaurant, and Hubby ordered a pasta dish with some sort of cheese sauce.  When they brought the food out, they brought a whole butler’s cart with the pasta in a pan and a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese.  The chef put some sauce and the pasta right onto the block of cheese and stirred it around on there for 5 minutes or so.  While he was making it the cheese was melting right into the pasta.  It was amazing!

OK, back to our last chateau.  We decided to visit Villandry because it was known for its gardens.  The gardens were my favorite part about Versailles so I thought it would be fun to see this place.  The gardens were pretty impressive, though after you see Versailles, not much can compare to that.  But we had a nice afternoon at Villandry walking around and enjoying the grounds.

That was it for our trip to France!  We had a wonderful time, and our little girl has been such a good traveler so far.  She’s made it very easy on us.  We love being able to bring her with us wherever we go!