July 7 – 17, 2018
Back at the beginning of the year, my wife, mother-in-law and I decided to visit Switzerland. None of us had ever been, and we were excited to go some place new. We thought this would be a fun way to spend our 10th trip to Europe. Our typical trips involve lots of cities, museums and churches, so Switzerland was a nice change of pace.
Since we had used miles to book our flights, we didn’t have the best itinerary. We had early flights out of both Las Vegas and Zurich, long layovers in San Francisco and Newark and two layovers on the return trip. However, we were ready for the inconveniences since we were flying for free.
We left very early on Saturday July 7, 2018 and arrived in SFO in time for breakfast. Since we had a seven-hour layover, we decided to take an Uber into the city. Breakfast at La Boulangerie, a walk through the Ferry Building’s market and a tour of the Cable Car Museum filled our time quite nicely. After an Uber ride back to SFO we were ready to get on with our trip.
We arrived in Zurich on Sunday morning, and stopped by the airport train station to get tickets to Lucerne and our 8-day Swiss Travel Passes. The Zurich airport and the train station made a nice first impression on us – clean, friendly, efficient, and easy.
Now a quick primer on my highly scientific rating system:
10/10 – don’t miss
9/10 – definitely recommend
8/10 – recommended
7/10 – solid but not necessarily a recommendation
6/10 – inconsistent experience, but OK
5/10 – forgettable
4/10 to 1/10 – mistake to disaster
Our hotel in Lucerne was the Waldstaetterhof Swiss Quality Hotel – 8/10. I chose it because it was very close to the train station and had solid reviews. The staff was friendly, the breakfast was excellent, the rooms were clean and generally good enough, but lacked air conditioning (which we expected). Since we were so exhausted the only night we spent there, I can’t speak to the noisiness or anything else after 7pm.
After checking in, we had lunch at the Rathaus Brauerei – 7/10. We had sausages, chicken salad, a pretzel sandwich and beer. Following lunch we did a modified reversed version of Rick Steves’ Reuss River Stroll. We’ve done Rick’s walks in many cities, but I always seem to forget that they all don’t work as well in reverse. That was the case with this one.
Since we had a late lunch and were quickly fading, we opted to skip our dinner at Made in Sud and pick up some prepared salads at the Coop. Sadly, I somehow managed to spill THE ENTIRE THING all over the bedsheets. This was definitely a low-point in the trip. On the bright side, I woke up the next day smelling like pasta salad.
We woke up on Monday and had breakfast at the hotel. The original plan was to visit the famed Lion Monument and the Bourbaki Panorama; however, we weren’t really “feeling” those sights. Instead, we opted to take the hour-long “Panorama Yacht” cruise around the lake. This was a great decision as it gave us some history of the area and set the pace for the rest of the trip – 9/10.
After some more wandering of Lucerne, we headed for the Berner Oberland where we would stay at the Pension Gimmelwald – 9/10. The Pension has a spectacular location, good service, clean rooms, and is very family-friendly. The bar and lounge was quite lively in the evenings, but the World Cup was airing, so I’m not sure how bustling it is otherwise. The downsides are less a criticism and more a reality of staying in a village such as Gimmelwald. There are shared bathrooms and showers on each floor, and the flies are very prevalent during the day and especially breakfast. Staying in Gimmelwald definitely requires a little extra effort and a willing attitude, but I can see the appeal. It’s a unique experience, and fortunately, we’re not high-maintenance travelers.