A Travellerspoint blog

Well we are home now but you never got the rest of the story

Switzerland

Internet cafes are now so few and far between that I actually wrote the whole of our Swiss trip in a hostel in Stockholm much much later. Went to publish it and must have been timed out as I lost it. This was after writting 3 days of Switzerland in France and lost that too. So I gave up - OK? I then got various comments that you all were enjoying it to here I am getting back to it on my own reliable computer 1 week after returning home.

Sunday 6th May Zurich to Lucerne Day 18
Up at 5.30am to be taken to the airport in Rome by a mad Italian driver who talked constantly and went through a red light because "It's OK when nothings coming!" Very nice time had in Italy but God has definitely looked after us in Italy.
1 hr 10 mins with Swiss Air finishing with coffee and a yummy swiss chocolate on board. As arranged previously, we met Barbara at the airport. Barbara stayed in our B&B in 2011 and kept her word she would be there for us when we arrived in Zurich. How kind she was too as she then drove us around high above the town to look down on Zurich and point out where she would take us later. She then took us through the beautiful forest, to her 1920's era home set in the forest, with lots of her own artwork, to meet her Husband, Emmanuel, son and 2 daughters aged from 21 - 18. We then had a sumptuous Swiss lunch at their home then off to have a walking tour with Barbara of the old town of Zurich. We also squeezed in a trip on a trolleybus and a canal boat trip before Barbara took us to the train station, where Emmanuel was waiting with our luggage and to say goodbye. Barbara then spoke in Swiss German to the ticket office person and got our rail pass validated then took us to the train and showed us which is the 1st class compartment. Our train journeys through Switzerland were all first class which was very luxurious I might add. She then waved us goodbye and off we went. We were only with Barbara from 11.30am - 5.30pm but she had arranged so much for us and completely orientated us to beautiful Switzerland and its friendly people all in the space of a few hours. What a wonderful lady and thank you Barbara. We are so grateful to you for this wonderful experience.
Our first stop at Arth Goldea where we had to transfer. All this was quite easy with Barbara's orientation to the train stations and Lisa's (our daughter and travel agent) very good directions on our 16 page itinerary. The viewfrom 1st class section is amazing as it had wide windows, comfortable seast and the Swiss not only speak English fluently, but are very friendly too. We arrived at Lucerne for our first night in a 4 star hotel only 3 mins walk away with Lisa's directions very easy to follow too. Kingsized bed with a beautiful balcony in the heart of town. We loved the breakfast the next moring, now able to go to breakfast when we wanted to unlike the tour in Italy ofcourse.
We loved the mountains, lakes, everywhere the green (and I mean lime green) countryside, plenty of animals, fresh air and cleanliness. & days may not be enough we think!. The exactness of everything is wonderful. Trains leave exactly at the time they say they will e.g. 2.06!

Monday 7th May Lucerne to Interlaken. Day 19
Yep we sure like Switerland!! another wonderful breakfast at the hotel after getting up when we wanted too. We left our bags at the hotel saving the cost of leaving them in the strain station. first, we went to the gorgeous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) and then looked arount the Old Town. Next, we used our Euro rail pass for the free bus to the Lion Monument,(Lowendenkmal). So beautiful and so sad, this lion. We noticed some steps leading to a museum beside the Lion Monument and as we didn't know what this was about, we headed us there. WOW WOW WOW that definitely became a highlight of the trip (along with many many others). We asked if our rail pass got us in cheaper and were told it would be free as would any other museum in Switerland with our pass. Well worth it as it was to cost 29 swiss francs each otherwise.
In this museum was the underground cellar which a fellow discovered in the 1800's, while digging out a cellar for his wine to be sold to the tourists who were visiting the Lion Monument. His house was built above it and this is also part of the museum. what he had discovered underneath his diggings was the remains of the ice age from 20 million years ago preserved including a baby mammoth and bears and tools used by cave men. We spent about 2 hours in this amazing and unbelievable place but could have spent the whole day there as it is so cleverly shown. You are actually looking into the ice ponds that are kept maintained by cold to preserve them. You see amazing videos of the discovery and see all through the home and gorgeous garden complete with a hillarious hall of funny mirrors outside in the garden. What a remarkable place. We then cought our FREE bus back to the lake to take a FREE boat trip for 3 hous on Lake Lucerne using our rail pass all the way of course. We were sitting outside on the lower deck enjoying the warmth and blue sky day and looking at Mt Pilatus in the background when the ticket collector came to check our tickets. He looked at them and told us we were sitting in the wrong place .... ooops!
"No these are first class tickets and you should be upstairs on that deck or wherever you want to be upstairs" Oh OK off we went feeling like royalty really. This area was even more comfy and beautiful especially looking down on the plebs downstairs. What a beautiful and all surreel trip that was for us. We still had time to see the Jesuit church although it was closed by then and the Spencer bridge (Spreuerbrucke) which was almost as old as the Chapel Bridge and in better repair as the Chapel Bridge had caught fire in the 19th century and lost half its beautiful paintings in the roof. We then collected our bags from the hotel and headed to the train station in plenty of time for our Golden Pass train trip of 2 hours to our 5 star hotel in Interlaken called Lindner Hotel. What a beautiful trip through the golden pass. Switzerland is amazing. No 7 days is not going to be enough definitely. A wonderful trip through the mountains with snow still on the ground was so fabulous. Again, the train station was just a quick walk away from the hotel thanks again to Lisa for her organization of this. We had dinner in the town in a little French restaurant preparing us for French food on our next trip which was a tour through France. Lovely waitress. So friendly and we are loving the small towns comparing it to busy, dirty, noisy Rome.
Thats enough for today.

Posted by RitchieOE 15:39 Comments (0)

A great time had in Switzerland

A saying that was in one of our hotels:`
Heaven is...`
where the police are British,
the cooks are French,
the Mechanics are German,
the lovers are Italian,
and it is all organised by the Swiss

Hell is...
where the cooks are British,
the mechanics are French,
the lovers are Swiss,
the police are German
and it is all organised by the Italians

Posted by RitchieOE 09:35 Comments (0)

Finally found the internet cafe again sorry

The rest of Italy

Thurs 3rd May Day 15 Pompeii and Sorrento
Such a comfy hotel. Beautiful weather where Mt Vesuvious is completely visible on our trip to Pompeii. Started with a quick to of Naples by bus with Mattia our guide. We got our 3 times to view various beautiful places but felt safer in the bus. 1 hour to Pompeii with a local guide which was for 2 hours. Amazing so much of this town in now uncovered considering the whole town of 7 miles square basically was raized by the eruption in 79AD What a powerful and humbling place. We were blown away by this place. We felt very lucky to be here to see this and understand what life would have been like then.
Off to Sorrento next which was also not too far to travel. Such a clean, bright, well loved, beautiful gardens and azure clear sea town. We had a "fun bus" tour with a weird driver (not our tour company ofcourse). We sang Italian songs as he went high up above the sea around windy narrow streets while he conducted us and held the wheel with his knees - quite scary really but worse when he turned around and did that and was not watching where he was driving! Glad to get back to town in the end and to still be alive!!!!! We then had dinner with Jason and Sonia, a couple on our tour, from Christchurch. Back on the bus after a few hours checking out beautiful Sorrento to see the lights at night on our return journey to Naples. Sorrento was so safe compared to Naples.

Fri 4th May Day 16 Montecassino and Rome
I have realized 3 things today.
1/ Everyday is a WOW day.
2/ Everywhere as the days get warmer, there are more and more wild red poppies coming out in the fields.
3/ Italians don't have road rules or parking rules!
Today we were very happy to say goodbye to dirty Napoli and hear to another highlight of our trip, Montecassino, where my Dad fought during the war. His battalion - the 23rd, was there when the Abby was taken back from the Germans who had occupied it. Our tour guide was very interested and pleased to hear about that from me as he said the Italians were very greatful for that even though the allied forces made some mistakes it all turned out good for the Italians.
Montecassino has been raized to the ground 4 times in its history and the last time was in 1944 with the battle of Montecassino. It is the most amazing monestry high high up in the mountains (you feel like you are in a plane going to it). The Cathedral is full of Bytentine Mosaics and Bottecelli paintings with serene gardens. We places 2 ANZAC poppies in the garden for our families who died in WW2. I felt Dad was with me here proud that I had come to this part of the world he had fought in. We then went back to Rome from here where the rest of the day was ours to check out a bit more of Rome and have dinner at a Cafe and what a wonderful dinner it was after such a wonderful day. Crossing on controlled crossings is the only way to cross the road in Italy and you do it quickly as the Italians do not wait for you even when the light is still red for them.

Sat 17 May Day 17 Rome
An early wake up call to get us to St Peters Square, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, before the crowds. Crowds still there though when we got there at 8am! another local guide, this time the best one, we felt, took us though the whole place. She was really easy to understand, follow and keep up with and was hillarious too. Very informative and we learnt heaps about this monumental place before heading back to have her give us another guided tour this time, of the roman Forum, Pantienne and the collusseam. Our thoughts later on this day - Too much oppulence and we did not feel the presence of God in the Vatican city. Especially with all the tourists and the souvenier sellers. The museum leading up to it all was amazing and it helped us to understand St Peters Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel. We felt sorry for Leonardo da Vinci that he was forced to do all the paintings. We loved his picture in the bottom right hand corner of the fellow who made him do those amazing works. He has a snake running around his body and going up his bottom!!! What an insult but how cool was that! also the fact that all his nudes where later painted over with clothes because it was frowned upon that he painted nudes in the Sisine Chapel! It was an amazing experience but we felt Assisi was better in our view. We are now tired of all the crowds and are looking forward to Switzerland. Dinner at a beautiful restaurant to finish our tour was amazing too. There was a couple singing opera songs to us and, again, the ladies were all given long stemmed red roses and kisses on the cheek. Before dinner, we went to the Pantione bulit in 136AD and Piazzo de Navona (the people's square) where there was lots of fine restuarants and artwork for sale. tour bus home to the hotel took us via St Peter's Bascillica, Square and Collesseum and other beautiful historic buildings all lit up. The Pope's bedroom even had lights on. He never waived at us though even though we had come all the way from St Francis of Assisi in Thames New Zealand to see him. He must have been asleep.

Posted by RitchieOE 01:50 Comments (0)

Finally found the internet cafe again sorry

The rest of Italy

Thurs 3rd May Day 15 Pompeii and Sorrento
Such a comfy hotel. Beautiful weather where Mt Vesuvious is completely visible on our trip to Pompeii. Started with a quick to of Naples by bus with Mattia our guide. We got our 3 times to view various beautiful places but felt safer in the bus. 1 hour to Pompeii with a local guide which was for 2 hours. Amazing so much of this town in now uncovered considering the whole town of 7 miles square basically was raized by the eruption in 79AD What a powerful and humbling place. We were blown away by this place. We felt very lucky to be here to see this and understand what life would have been like then.
Off to Sorrento next which was also not too far to travel. Such a clean, bright, well loved, beautiful gardens and azure clear sea town. We had a "fun bus" tour with a weird driver (not our tour company ofcourse). We sang Italian songs as he went high up above the sea around windy narrow streets while he conducted us and held the wheel with his knees - quite scary really but worse when he turned around and did that and was not watching where he was driving! Glad to get back to town in the end and to still be alive!!!!! We then had dinner with Jason and Sonia, a couple on our tour, from Christchurch. Back on the bus after a few hours checking out beautiful Sorrento to see the lights at night on our return journey to Naples. Sorrento was so safe compared to Naples.

Fri 4th May Day 16 Montecassino and Rome
I have realized 3 things today.
1/ Everyday is a WOW day.
2/ Everywhere as the days get warmer, there are more and more wild red poppies coming out in the fields.
3/ Italians don't have road rules or parking rules!
Today we were very happy to say goodbye to dirty Napoli and hear to another highlight of our trip, Montecassino, where my Dad fought during the war. His battalion - the 23rd, was there when the Abby was taken back from the Germans who had occupied it. Our tour guide was very interested and pleased to hear about that from me as he said the Italians were very greatful for that even though the allied forces made some mistakes it all turned out good for the Italians.
Montecassino has been raized to the ground 4 times in its history and the last time was in 1944 with the battle of Montecassino. It is the most amazing monestry high high up in the mountains (you feel like you are in a plane going to it). The Cathedral is full of Bytentine Mosaics and Bottecelli paintings with serene gardens. We places 2 ANZAC poppies in the garden for our families who died in WW2. I felt Dad was with me here proud that I had come to this part of the world he had fought in. We then went back to Rome from here where the rest of the day was ours to check out a bit more of Rome and have dinner at a Cafe and what a wonderful dinner it was after such a wonderful day. Crossing on controlled crossings is the only way to cross the road in Italy and you do it quickly as the Italians do not wait for you even when the light is still red for them.

Sat 17 May Day 17 Rome
An early wake up call to get us to St Peters Square, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, before the crowds. Crowds still there though when we got there at 8am! another local guide, this time the best one, we felt, took us though the whole place. She was really easy to understand, follow and keep up with and was hillarious too. Very informative and we learnt heaps about this monumental place before heading back to have her give us another guided tour this time, of the roman Forum, Pantienne and the collusseam. Our thoughts later on this day - Too much oppulence and we did not feel the presence of God in the Vatican city. Especially with all the tourists and the souvenier sellers. The museum leading up to it all was amazing and it helped us to understand St Peters Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel. We felt sorry for Leonardo da Vinci that he was forced to do all the paintings. We loved his picture in the bottom right hand corner of the fellow who made him do those amazing works. He has a snake running around his body and going up his bottom!!! What an insult but how cool was that! also the fact that all his nudes where later painted over with clothes because it was frowned upon that he painted nudes in the Sisine Chapel! It was an amazing experience but we felt Assisi was better in our view. We are now tired of all the crowds and are looking forward to Switzerland. Dinner at a beautiful restaurant to finish our tour was amazing too. There was a couple singing opera songs to us and, again, the ladies were all given long stemmed red roses and kisses on the cheek. Before dinner, we went to the Pantione bulit in 136AD and Piazzo de Navona (the people's square) where there was lots of fine restuarants and artwork for sale. tour bus home to the hotel took us via St Peter's Bascillica, Square and Collesseum and other beautiful historic buildings all lit up. The Pope's bedroom even had lights on. He never waived at us though even though we had come all the way from St Francis of Assisi in Thames New Zealand to see him. He must have been asleep.

Posted by RitchieOE 01:50 Comments (0)

Day 13 Tues 1st May

Assisi and Naples

The big day. Assisi was only 40 mins from our hotel so we started our tour at St Francis of Assisi Bacillica with a local guide a little before 9am. There were several Masses going on so we were to be very quiet. His voice over our radios was to loud for the brothers and priests and they told him he had to take us all out of the chuch as he was only allowed to talk after 9am. This tour guide was Italian ofcourse and if you know how loud and volitile they are, you can imagine how we all felt when he started to shout inside this beautiful and holy place. A very important looking Priest was called to dissolve the situation. By then it was 9am so he was able to proceed with our tour. Our thoughts were how awful for those trying to take part in the Masses or just pray in silence. I am so glad our little St Francis of Assisi in Thames doesn't have thousands of tourists just filing past as we enjoy our Mass with our lovely Father Robert. The church, however, was just beautiful and we have photos of us standing outside it whenever I can work out how to post those on here. This is a very sacred church and St Francis's tomb is the most unadorned part of the whole church which is what he wanted when he built the church.

From this lovely little town we then headed on to Naples to our flashest hotel ever on the trip. Unfortunately, it was in a very poor part of Naples and we were too scared to leave our Hotel that night and ordered room service as we had not put our names down for the optional dinner. the filth and graffitti in Naples is the worst we had experienced and we certainly had experienced a lot of that. Our room was beautiful with very plush duvets and pillows and a gorgeous balcony that most others did not have so needless to say, we had several visitors to our room. The hotel is unmarked at the gate and has huge double doors that are locked like a fortress at night. We felt safe inside the fortress but outside in Naples itself, we worried about being robbed, mugged and shot at by the Maffia.

Day 14 Wed 2nd May the Island of Capri

This day was spectacular weather to take a trip to the complete contrast of Naples. 45 mins by boat and so clean and the Island people were so friendly and helpful. we started our day there with a boat trip around the coast checking out the caves with stalegmites and stalegtites and red coral in azure blue waters. We took some of our group back to have lunch at a little cafe we had found earlier. the cafe owner was so lovely, he had noticed Des and I trying to find the Information Centre and told us he had been a tour guide. He gave us a map and circled all the best sites for us to go to. We said we would come back later for lunch so when we turned up with 4 others for lunch, he was very happy with us and even gave me kisses on the cheek. He was very good looking and fairly young, so I felt quite flattered by that. We then took the cable car to the upper Capri shops and monastry from the 1300s and amazing views looking far down to the shore and lower capril. the blue sky and hot day made this trip so memorable and after 8 1-2 hours we were back on the boat back to dirty old Naples and to our haven in our hotel with dinner included this time in our hotel restaurant so no need to venture out into the den of iniquity. Looking forward to our sleep in in the morning as we dont leave until 9am for Pompeii and then on to Sorrento. It is too be a long day with dinner in Sorrento and back to the hotel by 10.30pm. This will be the longest day but a sleep in has been longed for by most of our group of 43.

Posted by RitchieOE 10:21 Comments (2)

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