Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Auf Wiedersehen Switzerland...Ciao Venice

Next stop...Venice. I've been several times but this is Julie's first visit. First thing you have to learn and embrace about Venice will most definitely get lost! If you don't accept this and go with the flow, your time in this city will not be as enjoyable.  Oh and while streets may appear to be straight on the maps...they are not.  When all else fails...Google Maps is your friend.

When you arrive at Marco Polo Airport in Venice, you have two options for getting to town.  You can take the valparreto (city bus) or a private water taxi.  The valparreto is much cheaper but can be very crowded and it drops you off at San Marco Piazza in the midst of all the tourists and you then have to find your way to your hotel. If you arrive during flooding, this can be even more challening. We opted for the water taxi as you are dropped off right at your hotel's boat arrival.

Our hotel, Boscolo Venezia, is a little off the beaten path and away from all the craziness of San Marco Piazzo. It is a charming hotel with a great history.  In the 16th century, the Patarol family constructed the building and the Rizzo family inherited it before becoming extinct in 1833 (must find out what happened to them).  Before becoming a hotel, it was a monestary and embassies for France and Savoy.  It is full of beautiful furnishings, Murano glass chandiliers and fixtures and paintings.  The service is wonderful and Pablo at the front desk was so very helpful.  

The hotel offers a shuttle (aka boat) to San Marco Piazza.  So after getting settled into our room, we took the shuttle to La Piazza.  The hotel recommended a spot for dinner that would be on the way back to the theory (remember what I said about getting lost).  

Our first stop was the bell tower (San Marcos' Campanile) as we arrived just a few minutes before closing and the sun was setting.  The cost is approximately $10 to take the lift up the 97 meters (~320 feet...can't say we were disappointed we didn't get to climb to the top).  I've been to Venice three times and this was the first time the tower was not under construction and open.  The views from the top are amazing and sunset just added to the beauty.


After a little stroll around La Piazza, we attempted to find the restaurant the hotel recommended...finally after many wrong turns, we ended up there only to discover they were not open until 7pm.  For those of you not familiar with Italian meal times, dinner usually begins around 9pm at the earliest.  For these two Americans that had not eaten since breakfast, dinner tonight needed to be at 6pm so we found another spot just doors down and it was delicous.  I had the spaghetti bolognese and Julie had the spaghetti carbonara after we started with a caprese salad and melon with proscuitto.  What a wonderful first dinner in Italy...followed by limoncello and biscotti compliments of the house.

After dinner, the adventure began as we wandered the calles (streets), alleys, campos (squares) and bridges of Venice to find our way back to the hotel.  When we left the hotel, they said it was a 30 minute walk to San Marco so in theory it should have been a 30 minute walk back. was close to an hour and we didn't even start at La Piazza.  But that is okay because part of the fun of being in Venice is getting lost and finding interesting things along the way.  Of course one of the best things about Italy in general is you can't go 3 meters (~10 feet) without a gelateria!  So we took a little respite to enjoy our first taste of gelato in Italy before eventually finding our way thanks to our new BFF..Google Maps.

Buona Notte

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Friends and Schaffhausen

After our little sojourn to Liechtenstein, we headed to see my friends Katia and Carlos at their home in Schaffhausen.  Katia gave us a great tour of the town and we made our way down to the Rhine for hot chocoate and good conversation...and of course more goodness.

Katia and Carlos moved to Schaffhausen almost one year ago and it was so nice to spend some time with them in their new home.  Katia is a wonderful cook and made a delicious dinner and Carlos kept us entertained (as usual) and our glasses full...thank goodness we were taking a train back to Zurich!

Apparently there were some urban legends about a some kind of unusual river shark being in the Rhine but have no fear, they do not least that is what this sign would have you believe.

Three Hours For A Passport Stamp

Today we took a trip to one of the smallest principalities in the world...Liechtenstein.  The get a stamp in our passport.  Since I took 9th grade geography, I've wanted to go to Liechtenstein to get my passport stamped.

It takes two modes of transportation to get to Liechtenstein from Zurich.  We took a train from Zurich to Sargans, Switzerland for an hour and ten minutes. Next we took a bus from Sargans into Vaduz, Liechtenstein for 20 minutes.  Because taxes are very low in Liechtenstein, there are a lot of businesses based there so most of Vaduz was commerical and not very much to see or do.  The Vaduz Castle, home of the Liechtenstien prince, overlooks the town but unfortunately is not open to the public.  So after a stop at tourist info to get our passports stamped and a fun pic with a paper crown, we hopped back on the bus to Sargans and then back to the Zurich via train.

Liechtenstien is landlocked and located between Austria and Switzerland.  The country is only 62 square miles and contains 11 villages.  After WWII, Liechtenstein entered into an economic union with Switzerland and thus their currency is the Swiss Franc and German is their official language.  It wasn't until 1984 when women were given the right to vote...can you image?

A little history lesson:  the Liechtenstien family was very close with the Habsburgs (HRE...Holy Roman Empire) who granted the area principality status in 1718.  It was not until the 20th century did the Liechtenstien family actually take up a permanent residence in the country.  Having one's own country was more of a status symbol apparently.

Some pictures from our journey to Liechtenstien...