31 January 2012

Travelday - Where I let the photos talk

The next two days of our holiday were lovely, beautiful, peaceful and quite - so no interesting stories to tell but the photos are certainly worth sharing, I hope you agree.
Our last morning in Zurich was spent searching out some Swiss chocolate and buying ourselves mini macarons and sub-standard coffee for our train ride to ...

Como, Italy

The train ride was uneventful with scenery that was beautiful but impossible to capture. Como was very hot when we arrived and it unfortunately took us a little longer to walk from the train station to the funicular station than expected which made for a slightly unpleasant start to our stay. That said, it didn't take us long to check in and then turn around and come straight back down to wander the town.

somehow it didn't take long for night to fall

the view from our room at night
and in the morning

Our one full day was spent taking a boat ride on Lake Como to Bellagio ...

apparently the one and only photo taken from the boat that made it through the mass cull
first bite of real Italian pizza - he'll kill me for putting this photo in ...

fair's fair - and I did crop myself out of the pizza photo

so many ...

... quaint little ...


Once again, moving away from the crowds proved to be very rewarding

not exactly sure where this fits in but it's in the Lake Como area somewhere ...

Apparently not satisfied with all the walking we'd already done, The Sparky insisted on climbing to the top of the hill when we returned from Bellagio

not a brilliant photo but it gives an idea of how high we were

the lighthouse we came in search of
this smog/fog was our constant companion through the trip
We took the funicular many,


many times in our two days here.
beautiful church building near where we stayed
view of Como out the funicular window on our last trip down the hill before leaving

25 January 2012

Travelday - Where we walk inside a Glacier

Our third full day in Zurich saw us rise early once again and head downstairs to wait to be collected by the tour company. This time we were heading from Zurich to Mt Titlis via Lucerne.

Despite how well our day turned out the day before, I will admit that I was a little nervous when waiting for the bus to pick us up. You see our tour was with the same company and I knew from my pre-holiday researching that it would be much more difficult to get ourselves back to Zurich if we were left behind at Mt Titlis. Getting back from Lucerne was not so much of a concern but if we were left behind there then we would have missed out on the mountain which was the whole reason for the trip.

We were collected on time by a really nice fellow who turned out to be our driver for the day (the one the day before was just taking us to the central meeting point). At some stage we noticed that we were heading in a different direction than expected but then realised that this time around we weren't the only pick up being made. At the next hotel we collected eight more fellow travellers, all of whom were very nice a chatty but none of whom would be joining us on the trip up the mountain. The lovely bus driver with his broken English then started to get a little worried, counted people, marked off their room numbers on his list and then marched off into the hotel ... long story short (because this is likely to get long anyway) we waited for OVER HALF AN HOUR for a group of six early-twenty somethings to finally stroll down and load themselves into the bus WITH A BOX OF PIZZA in hand. Now, I don't want to dwell on these inconsiderate beings for too long but 1 - they must have still been in bed when we got there, 2 - the bus driver had to ask them about three times to not eat on the bus before finally walking back and yelling at them that his bus was not a restaurant, 3 - despite repeated reminders later from our tour guide that we weren't to eat on the bus the bus driver still had to clean the back of the bus when we stopped at Lucerne, 4 - we had to wait for them again in Lucerne, 5 - we were reminded again not to eat on the bus and yet the bus driver then had to spend the whole time we were up the mountain cleaning the back of the bus out again and 6 - we had to wait for them before we left the mountain as well! We were astounded that people could have so little regard for others. Okay, now that I've got that off my chest, let's get on with the nice side of the day ...

Despite the wait we still got to the meeting point in good time. Because the bus we were in was the one we were staying on I stayed with our bags while The Sparky went to present our voucher and get our stickers and other bits and pieces. I was watching him out the window and the lady he was talking too started waiving her hands up and down and getting reasonably intense ... she didn't look angry but I did get a little concerned given the attitude I'd received over the phone the day before. Turns out my concerns were completely unfounded - she was apologising profusely! It seems that what the tour guide from the day before didn't know is that the buses have an electronic tracker so that the company can keep an eye on what's happening and when they checked our tour they found that the bus had left five minutes early, despite having a policy requiring them to wait at least fifteen minutes after the due departure time. So we got an apology and a refund on the cost of our train tickets! The scathing review I had drafted in my mind got thrown in the trash.

The bus ride from Zurich to Lucerne was windy, long and beautiful, as was Lucerne itself - beautiful that is, not windy and long. Because I've done a lot of talking to this point I think I'll let the photos take over for a while -

 We could actually hear the cow bells in the valley below as we went up in the various gondolas

Inside the glacier!

If you ever get a chance to give these bike-things a go, do it.
Even my uncoordinated, chicken of a self managed to come away unharmed and had a lot of fun too.

Please excuse the mugs in the foreground - concentrate instead on the view.
The gondola behind us is the first one you get on going up and the one that we didn't take down.

Yes, that's speed blur you see there. No, my right hand is not riding the break!

"Vierwaldstättersee" - Lake Lucerne as seen from the bus on our way home.

23 January 2012

Megan Washington

at the zoo

on a beautiful, warm Melbourne evening

absolutely fantastic fun

and a group of artists who obviously enjoy what they're doing

20 January 2012

TWS - Week Eight

Yes, this post should have gone up yesterday. No, I'm not going to apologise. The end.

First up how Week Seven went:

Health and Wellbeing - Plantation was/is awesome! The staff are friendly and know what they're talking about and the coffee is great. I remembered to get off at Melbourne Central every day and I'm sure that the combination of the good coffee and the walk really did have a good effect on my days. Will I continue going there every day? No, but only because there are also places like this to check out.

Organisation - Best decision ever! Well, that may be a little extreme but it really has been great getting the thoughts out of my head as they occur and writing lists of things to do. It's also meant I've done more than just stare at the computer screen reading for most of the lunch break.

To Do - Done!

Just for Fun - Also done, except for Saturday but I was at home by myself for the whole day and didn't really see the point. I have to say though for something that was supposed to be just for the fun of it, it really was quite annoying and I will probably be going back to not wearing makeup.

And now to Week Eight's plans:

Health and Wellbeing - This week, starting today (which I've already done), I will be making myself get up and leave the office for at least fifteen minutes at lunch time every day.

Organisation - Start drafting blog posts early instead of typing and posting after they're due to go up.

To Do - Finish the photo book I've been doing of my in-laws' holiday. I will have the house to myself again as The Sparky will be working so there's really no excuse.

Just for Fun - Once the photo book is finished I'm going to file and paint my nails. My nails are normally not long enough to worry about as I prefer to cut them very short so I can type properly. This week though they are just long enough to file without being so long that I need to cut them so I'm going to give them a little TLC. Like makeup this is a once in a blue moon thing so we'll see how I go ...

aaaaand, that's it for another week.

18 January 2012

I'd blame my phone but ...

... I think perhaps I was simply asking too much of it.

My attempts to capture the events of last weekend ended up rather blurry -

First up was a short walk Friday lunch time to La Belle Miette to pick up some presents.

this may or may not be the extra pack I bought for us

Friday night saw us out to dinner for my in-laws' 40th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, as promised, I cleaned out my wardrobe.



I was actually surprised at how little ended up in the op-shop pile this year although about four or five pairs of shoes ended up in the bin as they were beyond use.

Maybe it's time to start looking like a goose with the real camera around my neck ...

17 January 2012

Travelday - Where we get left behind

For most of our holiday I avoided tour guides and groups. Our preference was to not overly plan or get caught up in the regimented timing and movement of someone else telling us what to do and where to go.

As I was planning things though it became apparent that there were two trips we wanted to do where we would benefit from being part of a group. My reasoning was this - both of the locations were a long way from Zurich and public transport was going to both take longer than the tour bus and cost more than the tour bus. On top of that, neither location appeared to be fully accessible by public transport so logistically it was simply more than I cared to deal with, particularly given that neither of us knew how we'd cope with jet lag in the first few days - being picked up from our hotel door step and taken where we wanted to go would make things so much easier if we were tired or unwell.

The first of these trips was to Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe (but if you've been to Niagara Falls you'll be disappointed - no really, the number of times I heard or read that I was left with the impression that it was the official tourism tag line for the falls!). The bus ride up was longer than expected but with the beautiful scenery, quaint little towns and tour guide's commentary it finished before it began to feel too long.

Left - boat ride out to the rock in the middle. Centre - pulling into the foot of the rock. Right - view of the river from the boat.

Views from the top of the rock.

"A portion of the cataract arches over the lowest platform, and the spray fell thickly on us, as standing on it and looking up,we saw wave, and rock, and cloud, and the clear heavens through its glittering ever-moving veil. This was a new sight, exceeding anything I had ever before seen; however, not to be wet through, I was obliged quickly to tear myself away." Mary Shelley

Remember what I was saying before about regimented timing? When we got off the bus we were all asked to be back by 11:30 and to please make sure that we weren't late as a fellow traveller had a train to catch upon our return - this despite the fact that said fellow traveller and his friends had caused the bus to leave Zurich late, meaning we were getting less time at the falls than we should have.

The photo below, or rather the properly edited version that's on my computer at home, is one of my favourites from the holiday (and not just because it's one of the few self portraits that I don't have a double chin in). You see, this photo here documents the exact time where this day could potentially have fallen apart but instead turned into one of the best days of our holiday.

Once the scenic self portraits were taken we hiked our way back up to the car park feeling very happy with ourselves and our timing - by our calculation we still had a few minutes to spare - only to find that neither our tour bus nor any fellow travellers were there. For a few short moments we thought maybe we were the first to arrive, after all it wasn't even 11:30 yet. A bit of a walk around the two car parks and a conversation with another couple from our bus later we came to the conclusion that we had been left behind!

The other couple had a phone on them and I had contact details for the tour operator so we gave them a call and were advised that the bus had waited five minutes for us and that the tour guide had signatures from everyone on the bus to confirm this - now, the couple that were with us had arrived at the car park before us and we were there before 11:30 so we knew the waiting part at least was a lie but I didn't feel comfortable taking that argument up with her while on someone else's phone. I assured her I would be calling again to discuss the matter further when we were back in Zurich.

Getting back to Zurich however was easier said than done. Following a short discussion with the people at the Information Centre it was clear that our options were limited - we could wait an hour for the next bus to Schaffhausen, walk to Schaffhausen or call a taxi. Any which way we chose, the young couple with us were told in no uncertain terms that there was no way to get back to Zurich in time for their 1:00 tour (side note - unexpected delays were exactly why I had left our afternoon free, I was feeling pretty good about that decision right about now). Feeling a little sorry for the young couple (I should stop calling them that, they were actually brother and sister) but not able to help in any way, The Sparky and I decided to start walking as there was a lot to the area that we hadn't yet seen.

Left - the rock and falls from the walking track. Centre - rail bridge and walking track. Right - view from the bridge.

The area is just beautiful and, despite the initial stress of the situation, I am so very glad that we had the time to take a proper look around. The river, the falls, the castle, so many things we wouldn't have seen if we were on the bus heading back to Zurich.

Left - looking back towards the boathouse. Centre - a real life working water wheel. Right - Schloss Worth Castle.

At this stage there was still nearly half an hour until the bus left so we decided to continue along the riverside footpath and make our own way to Schaffhausen. As we walked, talked and took in the sights we decided to simply make the most of the situation and enjoy. A hot but scenic five kilometres later we found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful Swiss town.

We lunched, we wandered, we enjoyed ...

Left - view over the town. Centre - moss and climbers. Right - medieval castle.

The castle had deer living in the moat!

After the climb up the hill to see the castle and then back down again we decided it was time for a coffee and ice cream. After finding ourselves some delicious ice cream and a barista that almost knew what she was doing (yes, we're coffee snobs but honestly the coffees we had in Switzerland were so bad we ended up not having any for two days) we found ourselves a bench on which to sit, eat and people watch.

Cobbled streets!

Fortunately I looked up at one point or we would have missed this -

Unbelievably intricate architecture.

Eventually we made our way up to the train station, worked out which train to take, purchased our tickets and headed 'home'. As we travelled through yet more beautiful country side we decided that things had turned out better than we could have planned - our afternoon had been free, no other plans were missed or sights left unseen, the town we had spent our afternoon in was nicer than anywhere we could have easily got to from Zurich and the train tickets were probably no more expensive than what we would have spent on the afternoon's travels anyway.

All in all it ended up being the best of both worlds - someone who knew what they were doing and where they were going got us there but we ended up with the time to see it all (and then some!) at our own pace and in our own time.