Sweet on Switzerland – Interlaken & Geneva

In Switzerland, I fondue’d! With Swiss cheese, of course. I also ate Swiss chocolates and drank a few really great local Swiss beers! It was a country that caused me to marvel at not only the food choices, but the peaceful spirit and the beautiful scenery. Switzerland was all kinds of wonderful.

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We only had three nights to spend in the clean air of Switzerland, so we broke it out by two cities with two totally different dynamics. We spent our first two nights tucked away in the mountains of Interlaken and our final night overlooking Lake Geneva in the city of Geneva.

Interlaken

We arrived by train from Paris mid-Monday afternoon. Having to switch trains three times in order to get there. Once we arrived, we walked to our hotel which was located right in the town that sat hugged below the mountains. We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Interlaken (real original, I know…) – not the nicest of places, I must admit. The room somewhat resembled an oversized walk-in closet and there was no air conditioning. There was a big fan provided for the room though, which was….. nice, I suppose. But much like Paris, last minute booking in Switzerland was extremely difficult. So we decided we would take what we could get and made a vow not to spend a whole lot of time in our room. On a positive note, the staff was extremely friendly and the room was really clean! We also had gorgeous views of the mountains, which made the situation a little better!

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The town of Interlaken was adorable! It reminded me a lot of a ski bum community you would find in Colorado. Much like Breckenridge, only on a way smaller scale. The old architecture was so charming and the air was so clean. It was refreshing to take in the serenity of the town and all it’s surroundings.

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The town is known for catering to backpackers – more so than anywhere else in the country! It is famous for being a major Swiss travel destination for travelers on a budget. So if you can imagine, the amounts of youth hostels and dive bars were rather excessive, which didn’t bother me! The town is also a major mecca for adventure seekers and thrill chasers. Activities range from high adrenaline sports such as hang gliding, sky diving, parachuting, winter sports (when the season is right) and water sports – as the town sits right in between two large lakes. Many of these activities, however, are not so cheap. And budget travelers often find their wallets rather light after partaking in such activities. Mike and I went on our own hiking adventure on Tuesday that did not dent our wallets at all. And in my opinion, was so much more fun than the thrill of risking your life in the air 🙂 Personal opinion, of course!

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There is one major road that leads a path directly from the train station as far deep as into the town. Cobbled narrow streets with no vehicle access then spring off of this road. Here you will find family owned restaurants, bars and boutiques. Off the main road there are also restaurants, chocolatiers and a number of timepiece shops, as majority of all watches are proudly made in Switzerland. We explored every nook and cranny of the town, walking along the most beautifully glacier blue water and marveling over the sweetest Swiss made houses. It felt as though we were characters stuck in a perfect fairytale. With deep green grass, crystal blue waters, abundantly bright and colorful wildflowers and mountains so high the top isn’t even visible from below. It was surreal.

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That night we ate a fondue dinner at a traditional restaurant called Restaurant Chalet. Known for authentic Swiss food with a Swiss vibe unlike any place else. Wooden tables, chairs, plates, floors, ceilings and figurines dazzled the interiors, and it made us feel as though we were dining in the kitchen of a sweet Swiss lady’s home. I am typically not a Swiss cheese lover, but when in Switzerland, you have to eat Swiss cheese! And I didn’t hate it! Our dining experience was not cheap, but it was well worth it.

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Interesting observation: Swiss beer vs. Swiss wine – Swiss beer is so much better. Much like Germany, the local beer tastes better than the local wine. If you are a big fan of eating and drinking locally when visiting foreign places, this is an important observation. We actually loved the local beers on tap in Switzerland, but the wine was not great and we were not the biggest fans.

The next day we woke up extra early and set our for a thrilling adventure. A DIY (do it yourself) hike through the Swiss Alps… Led by none other than my tour guide husband. I did not prepare myself for the steep climbs and lack of restroom situation, but at the end of the day, I was alive and it was so worth it!

How we started our journey through the Alps: We made our way to the local train station very early in the morning where we hopped on a regional rail up to Lauterbrunnen. From there we jumped in a scary cable car up to Murren – where we began our hike. While in Murren, we explored the car-free town that literally is the storybook of Switzerland. It was quiet and secluded and high up enough to feel like you are floating on the clouds. The houses were straight out of an old tale where characters that resemble friendly gnomes might live. It was a serene moment where for a short time, life stood still.

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We stopped at a nice lady’s small cafe where we picked up sandwiches, snacks, waters and beers to toss in our backpack for a picnic lunch we would have later on in the day. We then hiked up and down on paths and in whisking meadows to reach a teeny tiny town called Gimmelwald. Why Gimmelwald, you might ask? Easy. Long, long ago an anonymous backpacker jotted down these words in a mountain hostel’s guest book: “If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald”. Heavenly is exactly what it was. After catching our breath once we reached the town where not much was going on other than goats laughing and cows mooing, we were suddenly breathless again. We were one with the mountains and flying on clouds in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was surreal. We found a broken down bench, cracked open our beers and ate our sandwiches over priceless views. It was one of my favorite days. Not only did I get to bond with my husband in one of the most secluded areas, but I got to experience nature and all it’s beauty with such simplicity. I didn’t take for granted once the clean air I was breathing and I thanked Mike a hundred times for guiding me through such an amazing journey. I guess you can say, I was struck by happiness.

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We hiked around the area to experience even more beauty and then made our way back to Murren. Where we rewarded ourselves with beers at a small cafe overlooking the mountains. It was such a wonderful day!

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That night we dined at the most famous restaurant in all of Interlaken, the Golden Anker. It’s the place that locals insist on being the best in town. I beg to differ. Then again, I am not a local and I am not familiar with the other options they have. It was an experience I am glad we got to partake in and the menu was quite vast with dishes ranging from spicy fajitas to ostrich steaks! It was a fun setting to end our visit in Interlaken.

Geneva

Wednesday morning, we boarded a super quick train to the cosmopolitan city of Geneva. It was like night and day going from Interlaken to Geneva. We hopped off the train into a super sleek and ritzy area decked out in all things fancy.

We would only be spending one night in the country’s second largest city, and the hotel rate was far from reasonable. Geneva is easily Europe’s priciest city. We stayed at a beautiful hotel overlooking the lake (Lake Geneva – gorgeous!!) called Hotel de la Paix. To help put things in perspective for you: a tiny room at a hotel on par with one like the Holiday Inn ran at the rate of €400/night when we were searching for hotels. Granted, we were staying over the time a convention was taking place in the city, resulting in the extremely high prices, but that might help give you a gist of just how pricey it can be.

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We spent the day roaming the city streets and trying on glamorous timepieces. When in Geneva, you have to try on ridiculously expensive watches, of course! After some serious convincing to my husband that we are in no situation to be splurging on $15,000 watches, we got cocktails and sulked over the struggles of our really tough life 🙂

That night, we got a casual dinner at a (very expensive) bar and walked along the sparkling lake where we stumbled upon the most vibrant double rainbow we had ever seen! It rained while we we were eating dinner resulting in our walk back to bed magical.

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Thursday morning we boarded the train to Nice, France. A week in the French Riviera is exactly what we needed after long hikes and tiring travels. Stay tuned for beach tales from the stunning south of France! Until then, bon voyage!

Lounging on Lake Como – Bellagio Style

In Bellagio, I ate peacock. I know, it sounds a little strange and inhumane, but I promise I secretly researched it from the restaurant bathroom before ordering it (my dear friend Ashlee, who loves peacocks, whose entire wedding was themed peacocks, please don’t be mad at me!!!). It is not endangered and it is an edible game species, so I was OK. I promised my Dad before I left for Europe that I would try new things. So I thought that trying peacock was a step in the right direction! Aside from the peacock, Lake Como was heavenly and Bellagio was the most perfect little town. It has been one of my favorite stops thus far.

Milan’s train station was the most hectic transportation portal I have been to in a while… Or maybe ever. Mike and I had to closely intertwine our fingers just so that we didn’t lose each other in the hustle and bustle of the crowds (I do really like holding his hand, so I really didn’t mind!). It was a very unexpectedly long travel day for us. While on our way from Cinque Terre to Milan, where we had a train transfer to get us into Como, there had been a tragic event involving a person purposely falling onto the tracks. This caused all trains to be delayed.

While impatiently sitting still on the train in the midst of our journey, we met the coolest, most beautiful couple… and they were from California! They looked to be in their early 30’s and were traveling around Europe for five weeks together… with their two young children! How cool is that? Leslie and Aaron had been planning their trip for a lot longer than Mike and I had, and they were so unbelievably organized (or at least they made it seem like they were!). Their little girl was four years old and little boy was just 10 months. And nobody seemed stressed. They made traveling with kids look fun and easy. I know people who would never think of doing this, but seeing Leslie and Aaron so calm and nonchalant, was so refreshing. Being from California might have helped, but their entire attitude was very chill. They were seriously such a travel inspiration to me! Hearing their stories about their travels and how they handle traveling with two young kids was so interesting. I told Leslie (the young mom) she should blog about it! I think a lot of new mothers would love a blog with tips and tricks on how to handle traveling as a young family.

The more we chatted with this couple, the more notes we took on places or go, things to see, and how Airbnb works – this really cool website that allows you to rent out peoples homes and apartments in different cities. We were telling them how we were really nostalgic for a home cooked meal and movie night together (our favorite Friday night activity since we’ve started dating). Eating out all the time and living out of hotels every night can be exhausting, so they had mentioned this would be the perfect solution. With two young kids, they had been utilizing Airbnb in almost every city visited due to space and practicality. We have obviously heard about it from friends and family, but never really took it too seriously until now. We also realized, while impatiently waiting, that we were all traveling from Cinque Terre to Como…. And get this…. We were all staying at the same hotel in Bellagio! Small world if you ask me. Meeting their family and hanging out with them made the three hour delay go by a lot faster!

When we finally got to the Milan train station, we quickly switched trains to a slower rail that would take us to Como. When arriving in Como, Mike and I ran (literally sprinted) across town in the rain to catch the ferry that would take us across Lake Como to Bellagio – the town that we would be staying in. I can’t say it enough, but because of all of the sprinting and running like chickens, I am so thankful Mike challenged me to pack super light (again though, I am still not thankful when trying to find something to wear out to dinner every night). Needless to say, it had been an extremely tiring day.

When we stepped off the ferry into the town of Bellagio, it was like heaven. The most beautiful, charming little town was awaiting us, and all of the chaos we had been through that day was worth it. Bellagio sits right on Lake Como, the most gorgeous lake in Italy. My husband and I are suckers for pretty lakes. We’re in love with them. It might be because we grew up in Wisconsin and spent our summers on lakes, but we often converse about how we’re proudly lake people as opposed to ocean people. So if you can imagine, we were literally in heaven. The town is small, but quite dense. It sits amongst a hill with fabulous restaurants, boutiques, ritzy shopping and cafés scattered throughout. Unlike Cinque Terre, the hotel options were limitless here. Being a top honeymoon destination (and I can see why – it’s perfect!) the hotel situations were rather luxurious. With a few hotels on the bottom of the hill sitting right on the lake, some on the slopes of the hill in the town where restaurants and shops sit, and some on top of the hill with stunning views overlooking the lake and the Swiss Alps, you really can’t go wrong. Mike and I stayed at a darling luxurious boutique hotel that sat right on top of the hill. We had our own private balcony that overlooked the mountains and the lake, where we would often drink wine, eat cheese and sip espresso. It was perfect.

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After being in Italy for two weeks, it had finally felt like we were on a real, relaxing vacation. I was happy 🙂 On our first night in Bellagio, Mike and I walked down the hill to a hotel him and his family stayed at years and years ago – Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Their family constantly tells stories about their time and experiences there, I just had to see if for myself. After not much thought at all, my husband decided he wanted to splurge (big time) and that we were dressed “nice” enough to eat at the insanely glitzy Michelin Star Chef restaurant inside the hotel. With floor to ceiling windows that looked right onto the water and the Alps, white table cloths, long-stemmed candles that lit up the entire restaurant, multiple servers dressed in white tux’s per table and champagne toasts, I felt like a movie star. A really important movie star (like Meryl Streep or someone cool). This is where I ate peacock. Our wait staff assured us that it was their most delicious dish on the menu. It was a homemade peacock tortellini pasta in a light peacock stock. A little hesitant, I decided to run to the bathroom, turn my cellular data on, and google whether or not it is humane to eat peacock. I love trying new foods and I wanted to order it so badly given it was their most delectable dish, but I couldn’t do it without knowing it was OK. Lucky for me, it’s totally fine. The restaurant has their own peacock farm right up the hill where they respectfully and organically raise over 100 peacocks a year. Mike and I both ordered the dish and it was amazing. The taste of peacock, in certain ways, reminded me of dark turkey – you can’t go wrong with the dark meat of a turkey. After an extremely nice dinner, we made our way up the cobblestone steps of the hill and found ourselves at a really neat wine bar that was tucked away in what looked to be an old cellar. It was called Aperitivo. On our walk there we ran into Leslie, Aaron and family, which was a pleasant surprise! The whole night was just such a treat.

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On Wednesday, we woke up early, had breakfast, and spent the entire day exploring the town of Bellagio. It was close to 80 degrees and the sun felt so strong, we must have gone through an entire tube of sunscreen (Mike and I love sunscreen, we’re avid re-appliers and proudly pale people). We found ourselves in the early afternoon at a local deli that my husband’s grandfather used to love. It was really special. I lurked around the cheese counter, trying just about every cheese they had to offer while my husband picked out a bottle of local wine. As we were walking out of the deli, wine and cheese in hand, my husband took my hand and dragged me into the Missoni boutique we had earlier passed. He ever-so-thoughtfully let me pick out any scarf in the store. He then also picked one out for me. It was my first souvenir of the trip – two gorgeous Missoni scarves. The poor guy has to listen to my constant complaints about having nothing to wear and about having to wear the same outfits over and over again, he thought getting me some scarves to help switch up my wardrobe would lessen the late night pillow talks about my struggles of living out of a suitcase. He was right. 🙂

The town of Bellagio is built up a hill, sort of similar to Cinque Terre. There are five or six staircases made up of old cobblestone steps that lead you from the top of the hill to the bottom. Along all of the steps are really cute restaurants, cafés, and shops. My husband and I wanted to see it all. So we got quite the workout in walking up and down and up and down steps all day long… Having few beers here and there. My husband took me to a really shady hole-in-the-wall sports bar where him and his brother would drink beer and play video games all day long when him and his family visited on vacation years back (please keep in mind my husband was 16 at the time….). Because this is where he spent majority of his time in Bellagio, he had just as much exploring to do as I had. We each had a beer at my husband’s old stomping grounds and walked around some more. Exhausted, we made our way back to our hotel where we sat on our balcony, drank a bottle of wine, ate some cheese, and watched the sun set. That night, me, my husband, and my new Missoni scarf, went to dinner in the town at a place our concierge had highly recommended – Ristorante Bilacus. I had ordered the prawns in a homemade spaghetti. It was delicious! We then found ourselves back at the wine bar we had visited the night before. My husband naturally made friends with the bartender (nothing new), so we had to go back one last time.

Thursday was a sad day. It was our last day of relaxation in Bellagio. We sat by the hotel pool in the heat, walked around the town some more, had lunch right on the lake, and boarded the ferry back to Como, where we caught the fast train to Milan. Our itinerary is packed with a couple big cities all in a row, which can be overwhelming, so we really cherished our time on Lake Como where we got some real vacation time together.

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Until tales from Milan, ciao!