When hubby and I decided to treat ourselves to a joint B’day trip in advance, we had fewer options because of the weather. Vacationing during off-season has worked well for us in the past but Switzerland in winters??? After several debates and frequent changing of our minds, we zeroed in on traveling to Switzerland and Paris in November, deciding to just go for it. We picked up the week which showed considerably good weather and set off!
Our first stop was Lucerne, a small city in the north-central part of Switzerland in a predominantly German-speaking area of the country. It has giant alps guarding it from different directions and deep blue lake Lucerne which is home to a lot of friendly white swans. Lucerne is charming, charismatic and is loaded with swiss history and a feeling of medieval city life. It’s narrow streets, passages and murals on the buildings are truly delightful!
Fortunately, the weather was on our side. Sure, we had to be dressed in layers but there was no sign of rain or snow and there was still bright sunshine during the daytime. We took plenty of long walks, visited two gorgeous mountain tops on clear, sunny days and marvelled in taking in the scenery from our train windows whenever we took day trips to the nearby places.
As is common knowledge, Switzerland is home to some of the world’s greatest natural beauty. The scenery is literally breath-taking! The Mediterranean landscape of remote farms, picturesque hamlets in an alpine, soothing greenery, cows clinging their bells as they roam around the hills (I loooove that sound and have brought back a ceremonial bell for our home as well!) and of course the majestic Alps..You want to pinch yourself several times to believe that what you are seeing before yourself really exists. We were thoroughly captivated throughout our stay and having witnessed it with my own eyes, I whole-heartedly agree with the quote-
“If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me to Switzerland”
This land is not merely about the Cows, Cuckoos and the Clichés. Switzerland’s allure lies in its cuisine, culture and history. Between eating chocolate, delicious breads and cheese (the cuisine here is mainly known for its cheese dishes, specially Fondue, which none of us were brave enough to try), we soaked it all up and spent leisure-filled four days in the lap of the magnificent Swiss beauty.
The tourism and the facilities are absolutely outstanding! The title of the “Best transportation system in the world” is well-deserved. The lovely double-decker trains with gigantic windows, the frequent buses which silently sneak up behind you and you don’t notice as there’s hardly any sound and the bicycles offered to you free of charge by every hotel give you plenty of choice to explore your surroundings in the most convenient way possible. The locals are extremely polite, helpful and friendly. A language barrier is not always the mammoth roadblock. We delighted at the cultural difference and the people riding in the bus generously reached out to us and shared their customs and enthusiastically wanted to know about ours. Our understanding of the world broadened and we embraced the leisurely swiss lifestyle for some days sans the stress and chaos of our regular lives. I now firmly believe – “There’s hospitality and then, there’s Swiss hospitality!”
If you are stuck choosing between two destinations for your vacation and one of them is Switzerland, choose it for the sheer convenience factor it offers. It will sweep you off your feet and will leave you thoroughly amazed. We wish to return to this beautiful country again someday to explore more of its splendour which we missed during our short stay this time!
We arrived in Paris after spending four glorious days in Switzerland. Maybe that greatly contributed to the jolt we received on witnessing it at first glimpse. It was late afternoon when we reached and the skies were grey and gloomy. The streets were noisy, people- very loud and after a quiet time spend by us during the past days, this was a little off-putting. We were tired, unsure, apprehensive after seeing the “beware of the pickpockets” sign several times and probably a bit homesick at that point of time. We chose to doze off till evening and made a vague plan to explore the city after that. We were sure that Paris was going to disappoint and were on verge of grumbling about it to each other when….the dusk fell and the city lit up!
Paris or the smoldering “City of lights” as it is rightly called, is simply an exquisite sight to behold at night! Fiery sunsets, the beautiful ornate buildings, cute little cafes which line up most of the streets, the energy and the abundance of pastry and macaroons on the window-displays are all wonderful to see. It was Disneyland right there for my photography-loving husband to be able to capture the vibrant hues of night and he got great shots on the first night itself. It made him resolve to visit Eiffel tower every night of our stay with his precious camera. We have a particularly funny memory of one night when we just had 7-8 minutes till the twinkling lights on Eiffel got started (it happens every hour for 5 minutes). Where other couples were romantically gazing at each other or honeymooners were waiting for their moment of love, hubby all of a sudden began running farther and farther away from the tower, full speed with a camera and a tripod in each hand to get his perfect shot. I kept chasing him as fast as I could, laden with rest of our stuff (my handbag, 2 run-sacks and his jacket) , shrieking at top of my voice for him to stop lest we get separated in heavy crowd. He got an earful when it all ended and we laugh about it now.
Paris had enticed us with its enigma in a wink and we couldn’t wait to get started with our visit.
Next three days passed in a blur of activity- sightseeing, photography, long walks, history & art beckoning us from every nook and corner , fashion oozing out of the streets and from the locals (I can bet I never saw a single person wearing shorts during our entire stay) and throwing all caloric caution to the wind- the scrumptious food! Mmmm….
We visited the magnificent Louvre and even though we spent a whole day there, we could cover only a tiny portion (Monalisa is quite smaller in size than one would expect but still it was awe-inspiring to stand in front of the original), Notradame Cathedral (we were fortunate to be there during the evening mass and it was an extremely serene and an enchanting experience ), Arc de Triomphe, the buzzing street markets specially the ones selling the most gorgeous art-work and yes, the Eiffel tower numerous times, both during the days and nights! Also, it was enjoyable to see all the high-end showrooms such as Tiffany’s and Hermes and hotels like the Ritz and Four Seasons of Paris which are frequently mentioned in so many books which we have been reading since childhood.
Paris has a timeless familiarity for its visitors because of its looming architectural treasures, chic boutiques and fine cuisine. It drips in ancient elegance and yet rules in modern sensibilities. It may be an old favorite for many but that doesn’t take away its charm as it has such diversity to offer always.
Both our holiday spots were very different from each other but we enjoyed each of them to the fullest and basked in the beauty of what they offer best- the culture, the love and the intensity of their flamboyance. It really is fabulous to explore the world and to stretch your mind with new experiences which await you in your short life.
We will have wonderful memories of this trip all our lives and until the next adventure- Au Revoir!