Wishful thinking

Another hot and humid day is looming, summer is definitely making her presence felt after several years of wet summers and lower temperatures. In an effort to cool down I am thinking of colder climates and wishing I could click my heels and transport myself and the doggies to the beautiful Lucerne in Switzerland. We were in Lucerne prior to Easter in 2011, the days were lovely and mild allowing us to fully enjoy all the delights that the old town had to offer.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Circles and Curves

This week Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge focuses on circles and curves and instead of selecting all the photos from my archive of images I decided to seek out some circles and curves and take new photographs. My selection contains a mix of the old and new, some travel photos and some taken in our backyard or in someone else’s backyard.

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge

Lucerne and Mt Pilatus

I want to share a few of my photos taken during our short stay in Lucerne, Switzerland during Spring 2011. All of my photographs can be found on my smugmug gallery but not everyone can be bothered looking through hundreds of images.

One of the most photographed sites in Lucerne (or Luzern) and possibly Switzerland, is the old wooden Chapel Bridge, a covered wooden footbridge across the Reuss River.

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne
Chapel Bridge with Mt Pilatus in background, Lucerne

The markets are a real treat to see on a sunny day, the river is lined with market stalls and at Easter time there are many stalls selling gifts and decorations to celebrate the upcoming event.

The markets, Lucerne
The markets, Lucerne
Chocolate Easter Eggs
Chocolate Easter Eggs
Tulips on market day
Tulips on market day

In addition to wandering around Lucerne’s old town, we took a trip up to Mt Pilatus via the bus and cable car, the views are spectacular on a clear day or so I am told, it was cloudy most of the time with temperatures of minus 3 and 4 degrees Celsius.

Cable Cars to Mt Pilatus
Cable Cars to Mt Pilatus
Church on mountain top
Church on mountain top

Every now and then the sun would come out, blue skies would appear and the temperature would rise making our day on the mountain even more spectacular.

Hotel on Mt Pilatus
Hotel on Mt Pilatus
View from Pilatus
View from Pilatus

At night the city was just as beautiful, the streets were crowded with people looking for somewhere to eat and tourists with cameras took prime position on the bridges to capture the reflection of the lights on the river and lake.

Chapel Bridge at night
Chapel Bridge at night

Lucerne, Switzerland

Frescoes
Frescoes

The sun decided to shine on us in Switzerland, beautiful warm days and not a rain cloud in sight. Mt Pilatus had a few hanging around which had me thinking that I would again find myself on top of the mountain and not able to see anything but fog or cloud. Switzerland is expensive, they don’t have the euro either so you have to be happy with getting Swiss Francs back for change or use plastic, we used a combination of both for the few days we were there and managed to leave with only a couple of francs in change.

Supermarket shopping in Lucerne was our best option for cheap, healthy meals and for picking up a couple of bottles of wine and beer. For a couple of days we dined on salad, sausage, cheese and chocolate plus some yummy bagel crisps and crackers. Our biggest dining splurge was had here and not because it was fabulous ala carte food, it was because we had 3 courses and a few glasses of wine which came to a total of 120 euro, still it was an enjoyable meal and the wine was very nice.

Beautiful Lake Lucerne
Beautiful Lake Lucerne
Flowers for sale at the markets
Flowers for sale at the markets
The Dying Lion Monument
The Dying Lion Monument

From the ground Mt Pilatus looked reasonably clear of cloud when we decided to make the journey, it was about 140 euro for the tickets to the top and that covered all of our transport by bus and cable car, the scenic railway was inoperable due to heavy snow. The trip takes over an hour in each direction and you can definitely feel the temperature drop as you get higher and the attendant tells us that it is about minus 3 degrees celsius. Travel to the halfway point, about 1000m up is in a small four person cable car, there aren’t many people travelling up to the summit today perhaps that is because of the weather or it could be because it is early spring. At the halfway point there is a good view of the mountains and there is also a playground for families and barbecue area, we wait for the larger cable car to provide transport for the rest of the journey, about half a dozen people hop in with us and a big slab of concrete pipe. As we near our final destination there is cloud and more cloud, the attendant identifies us as Australians and chats to us about his recent travels in Australia, the cloud is supposed to clear he says, sadly that didn’t happen. The facilities on Mt Pilatus are undergoing reconstruction of a terrace area and new facilities, you have to dodge workers, cables and building materials to get outside, we’re amazed because you wouldn’t see that in Australia thanks to workplace health and safety regulations. We spend a couple of hours on the mountain, most of it indoors drinking coffee and eating fries as we wait for the cloud to disappear, every now and then we get a glimpse of sunlight and the mountains that connect to Pilatus providing several photo opportunities and a break from the cold. Regardless of the weather and construction work it was still a great way to spend our time in Switzerland and make use of our winter thermals which could easily be discarded now that the temperature has risen.

Lucerne-0260

Our time in Lucerne (or Luzern in Europe) is quite relaxing, a bit of shopping, sightseeing and eating and taking much pleasure in the scenic surroundings. The Saturday morning markets were a fabulous way to spend a morning, lots of cheese and cold meats to taste and the flowers, art and crafts for sale provided colourful eye candy for browsers. The market stalls lined both sides of the river that linked to Lake Lucerne, locals and tourists mingled and the tables at cafes running parallel to the site were almost always full and a good vantage point for people watching. Being in Switzerland I thought that a hot chocolate would be a delicious alternative to coffee, huge disappointment when they bought out a cup of hot milk and sachet of chocolate powder for me to DIY the hot chocolate, this I can get at home and for alot less than 4 euro!

Lucerne and Switzerland in general is famous for being an expensive place to visit, I’m curious to know how high the cost of living is because it really is a lovely part of the world and the easy access to other European countries is enviable. Our three nights in Lucerne were just enough to get a taste of the country and have a little down time, our budget couldn’t really afford to stay longer but it would have been nice.

Food, glorious food…part one

Plane food, Emirates
Plane food, Emirates

You get fed well when flying Emirates, the meals are pretty good in comparison to many airline meals I’ve eaten but it is important that you don’t eat all the food on offer otherwise you will feel extremely uncomfortable and besides delicious treats awake once you reach your destination. When travelling around Europe you expect to eat good food and drink lots of wine because its usually cheaper than soft drink and mineral water and generally tastes good as well. We’ve had some great, inexpensive meals and also a couple of ordinary expensive ones, most of the time we’re dining on baguettes, paninis or crackers with cheese and cold meat but after a while the craving for vegetables and a different taste can’t be ignored.

Dinner in Paris, Rue Mouffetard
Dinner in Paris, Rue Mouffetard
Frites and mayo, Amsterdam
Frites and mayo, Amsterdam
Dinner at the Blazer Brasserie, Amsterdam
Dinner at the Blazer Brasserie, Amsterdam

In Paris we tried escargots in herb and garlic butter at La Grange on Rue Mouffetard, nice except for the slight hint of dirt on one particular snail. The bread served with the meal soaked up the herb and garlic butter nicely, in France and Italy the bread comes free with the meal. The cheese we bought made our fridge smell, we threw one lot out (it may have been perfectly okay to eat however the smell made us heave) and ate the rest cruising on the train to Amsterdam. Wine was cheap and much lighter in flavour than Australian wines, we ordered the house wine on most occasions and it was served up to us in a carafe or jug.

My favourite meal in Amsterdam was frites and mayo, the dinner we had at the Blazer Brasserie was delicious and the cheap thai (9 euro) on our last night was the best value. No way was I trying the pickled fish that are sold at stalls, I’m fussy about fish and they look horrible and slimy.

I’ve tried to remember to take photos of all our meals eaten at restaurants and cafes, having started well I’m now failing dismally and usually half way through my meal before remembering that I have a camera on me. The most expensive meal we had was in Lucerne Switzerland, I forgot to photograph the main and should have scanned the bill because it is a meal we won’t forget and not because it was the best one we had. The meal was nice, local produce and wines followed by luscious creme caramel with cream and strawberries, for 120 swiss francs you might expect more, but hey, we’re in Switzerland and everything is expensive.

Fresh asparagus, Hotel des Alpes, Lucerne
Fresh asparagus with Hollandaise, Hotel des Alpes, Lucerne
Creme Caramel and Strawberries
Creme Caramel and Strawberries
Macaroons, Lucerne
Macaroons, Lucerne

In Germany, Marty ate Weiner Schnitzel four nights in a row, it is a dish that brings back wonderful memories of childhood meals with his Grandparents and I have to admit that it was quite tasty. I tried having different meals even though we ate at the same restaurant in Bacharach and Rothenburg ob de Tauber, we enjoyed the company of the host at each place and the food was good. Our most memorable meal and one of our favourite experiences was courtesy of a friend of Marty’s, he took us to Neuschwanstein and showed us some of the surrounding area and then we went to his family home for the most delicious meal of roast pork, crackling, potato dumplings and salad. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat anymore Joe’s Mum brought out cherries and Bavarian cream and his Grandmother started cutting up cake. Their hospitality and friendliness really made our day, it was also nice to have freshly brewed coffee to finish the meal – we hadn’t had much success with coffee in Germany.

Salad for starters at Rusticana, Bacharach
Salad for starters at Rusticana, Bacharach
Venison stew with potato dumplings, Rusticana Bacharach
Venison stew with potato dumplings, Rusticana Bacharach
Wiener Schnitzel, Rusticana Bacharach
Wiener Schnitzel, Rusticana Bacharach
Roast Pork and dumplings, Rothenburg ob de Tauber
Roast Pork and dumplings, Rothenburg ob de Tauber
Roast pork knuckle and potato dumplings, Hofbrauhaus Munich
Roast pork knuckle and potato dumplings, Hofbrauhaus Munich

The food in Italy is so far, so good, breakfast was lacking initially (prepackaged croissants and toast) but our stay in Varenna on Lake Como has proven to be a ‘filling’ one. Seafood in Venice is a must, I even ate little fishes fried in batter, at first quite nice but after a while I couldn’t eat anymore and the whole prawns fried were nice (couldn’t bring myself to eat the heads) although I after consuming half the meal I was a little over eating whole fried creatures. Chocolate shops and sweet shops line the narrow streets, Lindt and Perugian chocolates of all kinds and you can pick and mix – we added to our stash of sweets for the Easter weekend. We couldn’t find crostoli anywhere, a small bakery over near the Rialto markets sold something very similar and we ate the sugary fried treat as a snack while walking back to the hotel, wish I could remember what it was called.

Flavoured cheese, Lucerne Markets
Flavoured cheese, Lucerne Markets
Gnocchi with prawns and zucchini, Venice
Gnocchi with prawns and zucchini, Venice

In Florence we’ll be attending a cooking class, maybe I’ll have something more interesting to write about, until then I’ll try to remember to take more photos.