Monday, 2 May 2011

Vacation Part 2 - Switzerland to Lille, France

So, in the morning we took the glacial express to Chur.  When we arrived in Chur at around 1, we had a layover until 10 pm where we would take a train ½ hour to a town down the road and board an overnight train to Vienna.  We found a locker and stashed our stuff, and took off to explore the town.  The information place told of several old churches in the historic old part of town.  It was a cute smaller town quite, with the mountains in the background. We found a post office to buy stamps.   After walking for a while, we found a park with a waterwheel to play with and a zip line.  It was a hit with the kids.  In the end we had to wait in the train station for a while after it got cold and dark.  I thought it was a good time to break out the computer movies, but they didn’t work of course, so we played uno and apples to apples to pass the time.  Rachel, unfortunately, twisted her ankle on the stairs, but somehow she made it to the trains we needed.

The night train, was not a sleeper train, we did not have reserved seats, so we were lucky enough to find an empty car for 6.  The three kids, Rachel and I took that.  Mom and Dad had to go off in search of another place to sit.  The seats didn’t  fold down or anything, so we kinda had to sleep sitting up, or laying on each other.  Rachel gave up on the chairs and slept on the floor, that left three seats for Paul and Jacob and three for me and libby.  It wasn’t the best nights sleep ever, but we were glad we got a car, because I think it was literally the last empty one.  Mom and dad found a place where the seats folded down, they had to share, but, at least they got to lie down.  So in a way, we were both blessed. 

We arrived in Vienna the next morning.  We were able to check into the hotel early, so we left our bags and set out for the days adventure.  Rachel’s ankle was swollen and hard to walk on, so we decided to take a bus tour of Vienna.  We found these guys on the streets selling tickets to a concert that night.  We decided to go because Vienna is a city for culture.  So we toured around and found lunch in a cafeteria type place.  We had sausage, and sauerkraut, and  apple strudel.  Jacob got potatoes and goulash.  Paul got spatzel (whatever those noodles are).  I decided I needed to relearn to make goulash (the stuff Jacob had was good).  Eventually we made it back to the hotel, at the hotel, we took a nap, and then got up and got ready for the concert.  The concert was really neat.  They played Mozart and Strauss.  It was a chamber orchestra with some dancing, and opera singing.  It was designed for the uninitiated, so even the opera, was cute and playful.  Of course it was Jacob who said in a loud whisper, “I cant understand a word they are saying”.  At the end he was saying, “it was definitely worth the money” and “can we do this again mom?”  I think one of the opera numbers was from the Marriage of Figaro.  The actors were fighting over whether they would have a boy or a girl, which was pretty funny.  It was a nice cultural evening.  After dinner we found a restaurant and had some good Austrian food.  Paul had noodles and sausage.  Libby had schnitzel with a cream sauce, Jacob had it with cheese and potatoes.  We all like Austrian foods.   

The next morning we got up and went to see the Lippenzaners practicing.  These are famous dancing horses.  It was really neat to watch them practice (and much cheaper than an actual show).  I have always wanted to see the lipensaners since I was a girl, so it was especially neat for me.  After that we took the public transportation out to the famous Hapsberg house and took a tour.  The palace was pretty amazing.  Elizabeth liked it that there was a famous Empress Elisabeth.  It is interesting that the Hapsbergs had such an influence over Europe for many years.  After the tour of the house we went out to the gardens.  They had built some fun hedge mazes and we played there (and in a playground) for most of the afternoon.  About 5 we thought we should start heading back and it was then we realized that the house closed, which would not have been a problem but they made me check my backpack.  I ran around the house to the front, and made it (with 4 minutes to spare) to get my backpack.  That was a scare.

Vienna was really beautiful and we had a very nice time.  I am definitely glad that we added it to our itinerary.  It was a very pretty, cultural city and the food was yummy.

We made it back towards the train station, because that night we took a night train (with couchettes) to Venice.  This time we had beds.  They gave us linens and the saddest pillow.  In the morning we had rolls and (yum) coffee.  I haven’t been able to drink much coffee.  Many times for breakfast we are buying something from a bakery and eating on the run.  So train coffee from Italians was a treat. 

We arrived in Venice mostly refreshed.  We had directions to our hotel.  We had a self-catering apartment this night, and mom and dad had a room at a bed and breakfast.  We had to buy a pass on the boats, which they called buses or water buses.  We took one 45 minutes to a stop in the old part of Venice where our apartment was.  The bed and breakfast building was first built in 15 century.  The apartment wasn’t built until the 1600’s.  It was a nice part of town to stay in because it wasn’t very touristy.  We dropped off the luggage and made it to San Marco Piazza which is the main attraction.  We went to the tourists information center there and decided to go to the glass factory that day.  We took a water bus there and were able to see a demonstration on them blowing glass which the kids enjoyed very much.  Then we mostly walked around looking at all the glass in the stores.  We had bread, sausage and cheese for lunch, it was nearly impossible to find a place that had somewhere we could sit and have lunch.  We had a map and it would have green on it (for green space) we would walk to it and it would be like a tree.  Venice was beautiful, but it had a remarkable lack of green.  They did have lots of flowers growing in every window.  After finally finding a place to sit and eat, we were off again in search of glass treasures (at a good price).  We finally accomplished all this and we were tired so we went back to the hotel.  As we got off the water bus stop at our stop for the apartment there was a nice park (with lots of green and trees).  The kids played there while we went to check in.  After checking in we went to the grocery store to buy stuff for breakfast.  We made it back to the apartment and we watched a replay of the royal wedding while we did laundry.  It was a tiny place, just two beds.  Libby had to sleep with Rachel and Me.  We made a bed for Paul on the floor but I noticed he was in Jacobs bed when I got up in the morning. 

That night we went out for Italian food at the bed and breakfast owners recommendation.  It was delicious.  We had pizza, and ravioli and spaghetti.  It was just a short walk from where we were staying and very local.  The waiter was very helpful with the menu.

Saturday morning we got up and “self catered” our breakfast.  We had eggs, prosciutto and provolone cheese on bread (which I had to toast in the oven).  It was delicious!  I had to try and iron the clothes since they didn’t dry overnight and the apartment only had a washer and not a drier.  Walking around Venice on nearly every street there are clothes hanging.  So, I don’t think they really have driers, and everyone just hangs stuff out, that works ok if you live there, but if you are only there for one night, it isn’t so great.  I tried to iron the clothes but they were mostly still wet, so I wrapped them in raincoats and put them in the suitcase.  We made our way back to the main square (San Marco Piazzo) and toured the cathedral.  We then walked around the streets to the most famous bridge.  The bridge even had shops on it.  It was pretty big.  We stopped at a bakery and got pastries in the morning.  I also had decided not to carry a backpack, so we were all so thirsty.  I bought a liter of water and we had it drank in less than 20 minutes.  From the visitors center, we had a list of sites to walk to (a walking tour) so we followed that most of the morning.  We saw a gondola yard (where they were repairing gondolas) and got a great view of the city.  It is full of canals and tiny streets and lot of churches.  It is a very different town.  We finally decided to end with a Gondola ride for Rachel, me and the kids.  It was very nice and very relaxing.  Mom and Dad had cappuccino by the canal while the waited for us.  Then we made our way back towards the Bed and Breakfast but stopped to have lunch first.  We had some time before the train so we decided to walk back to the oldest church in Venice.  It was a white and bright building so different from many others which were dark, and not well lit.  After the church we decided to get our stuff and head to the train station.  The kids played at the park, well Paul and Elizabeth did, while we got the stuff.  Jacob came with because he had to go to the bathroom.  He ended up going in the place we had lunch.  We were waiting forever, and finally I went in to check.  When I got there, three Italian ladies were yelling at him through the door to turn it to the left.  (Yelling at him in Italian), Somehow Jacob had locked himself in the bathroom.  I arrived, assessed the scene, and looked at the lock, which I was able to move with my fingernail, and unlock the door.  We left.  Poor Jacob.

The day before we had had our gelato by the Bed and Breakfast which was DELICIOUS.  Since we had all our bags etc, we decided to wait till we got to the train station.  It was kind of a mistake because that gelato was not nearly as good as the day before. 

Rachel left us then, and she headed to the airport while we waited at the train station.  We took a train to Milan, which we basically just slept at, and then the next morning we got on a train to Paris.  From there we head to Lille where we will stay the next two weeks. 

Impressions of the Trip
Paul:  One of my favorite parts was going to the glass factory (in Venice) because I had never seen a glass factory and I had only seen one glass sculpture in Indianapolis (children’s museum).  I also liked the pasta and the pizza. 

Jacob:  My favorite part was the gondola ride because you can sit back and relax and the guide told us lots of stuff.  We saw the tomb of Marco Polo.  We rode on lot of boats in the ocean.  We went to a glass factory and saw how they made glass.  Paul got some penguins and I got some glass seals.  Today we are riding on a long train to paris and then lille france.  We went on the glacier express when we went to Switzerland, and Switzerland had lots of mountains.  My favorite food was sausage and the strawberry ice cream tasted better than in the US. 

Elizabeth:  My favorite place in Europe is Zermatt because lots of goats live there and I like goats.  I got a glass kitty cat and a gondola driver hat (in Venice).   I also like Venice because its streets are canals.  My favorite thing about Venice was riding in the Gondola.  I liked the strawberry gelato and the schnitzel with cream sauce.  We are riding on a train to Lille France.  There are lots of mountains out of the window of the train. 

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