Monday, November 30, 2009

The Land of Cheese was Calling Us

John and I had been hearing wonderful things about a town east of Zurich called Appenzell, more particularly, we had been eating and loving the Appenzell cheese!
While this would have been very accessible by train, we had a car this particular weekend and chose to drive through the GORGEOUS country. While I didn't have anything in particular planned for the visit, it was a great day trip. We just walked the streets, sipping gluhwein (It's my new favorite holiday beverage! Check out Swisstory for a post) from a street hut, tried our first Biberbrot from the local bakery (a sweet breaded pastry filled with marzipan), and had a quick little lunch in a local cafe. Perfect afternoon with the family!


Strolling along the streets of Appenzell

The mountain ranges were stunning! I think a trip back to go hiking in the area is definitely on our list this year. (Funny that list keeps growing and growing....)

On our way home we decided to swing by Jucker Farms to let Ella play for awhile, and see what new items they had in their market. While we were there, we were excited to see that a gorgeous sunset was beginning to shine over the Alps.


Räbechilbi Richterswil

I have been looking forward to the holiday season since our arrival here. I love learning about the Swiss traditions and the different celebrations that they do over here. The one that really took my by surprise was the Rabechilbi in Richterswil. The town of Richterswil has won the award from the Guness Book of World Record for the most Turnips/candles lit at one time, over 50,000! The tenants that live along the parade route are required to turn off their lights, letting the parade of only candles in turnips put on a good show. It was VERY crowded, and it started raining, but Ella enjoyed every minute of it. She loved the canons that start the parade, and she was enthralled with every lit up float that went by. This was definitely a neat event to go to, but leave your stroller at home, and be prepared for crowds. Here's just a few of the pics we took - so neat to see the homes have their windows lined wtih candles. The city lights a canon to alert the town to turn their lights off, then a second canon to start the parade. What a great way to start off our holiday season!

Ella was exhausted after the parade, time for bed!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Adventures at the Langenburg Animal Park

I think I had been spending a little too much time this week in the crowds of the Swiss while running little city errands (aside from our Zoo trip yesterday!) For a change of pace, Ella and I decided to go on a little forest adventure. Using the train network, you can so easily navigate all kinds of trails and parks that are intertwined throughout all the hills that surround the city. From the Zurich HB, we hopped on S4 which took us directly to the Wildpark Hofli stop, walked under the station and headed for the hills to the Animal park. (It is also accessible on the other side of the hill via a couple buses, and they have plenty of parking too.)

The trails here are so well marked with signs directing you when the trail splits, and in this particular park, it tells you which animals are down that path. We had to do a little hiking to go over the hill to get to the animals, but the hike through the forest was wonderful. Autumn leaves covered the trail, we were surrounded by a myriad of gorgeous fall colors, perfect for a toddler to play in!

(I didn't bring a stroller, but it is absolutely stroller friendly if you choose to bring one.)

We came upon the wolves first - this was by far our favorite part! - there was an entire pack of wolves that seemed to be 'running laps' around the trees.

We then moved on to the restaurant area that had some boars, mountain cats, bears, a restaurant, some big grill pits and a playground.

This big net play structure spun around. Ella loved it, I can't say that I share the same feelings...

We picniced, played and then started our hike back down the hill.  I have routinely seen 'funny sign' posts on other swiss blogs. I'll have to add this sign to the mix....

We spent over two hous wandering around up there, and could have easily spent two more.  On the way back down, Ella discovered that leaves and sticks and rocks were great toys to collect, and deemed me the 'holder' of such treasures.

I think we collected most of the forest by the time we reached the bottom of the hill- she had a blast, and I can't wait to return!

You know you live in Switzerland when...

Your two year old has embraced the Swiss city lifestyle.
Top 5 Daily comments from Ella:

5. "I see a crane and some construction men." There is construction going on EVERYWHERE in the city, you can't get away from it!

4."We should get a bretzel today, I think."
3. "That's Tram 5, we rode on that yesterday!" Or "There's another train, it has a 3 on it, I like that train!" Or "Our train is coming from THAT way, it's a BLUE train"

2. "Nope, that's not our train stop, ours is the one in the tunnel to go to Gymboree class"

1. "Look Mama, I see recycling" (at the big recycling bins by the Wine Ships)
In Zurich, there are big blue recycling bins throughout the city, and we walk by them/use them on a regular basis, as the swiss do love their recycling. I thought Ella was hilarious - she definitely fits in here!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Penguin Parade

When we moved to Zurich, I naturally spent way too much time searching for things to do with a toddler in the city. One of the first things I found was the Winter Penguin Parade at the Zurich City Zoo. Even though I have this terrible fear of birds, I thought Ella would LOVE this and I could not wait for November to arrive. 
Today was a beautiful day in Zurich, and we just happened to wander up to the zoo in time for the parade! It has to be less than 10degrees (C) outside for the penguins to come out, and today it was just below that temperature mark. Ella kept saying, 'the penguins are going to a parade! Watch they're coming out of that gate!"
The zoo keepers let the penguins out at 1:30 sharp, every day in the winter. They walk out of their gate, down the little paved path and back around to their 'home.' Ella thought it was hilarious, and wanted to follow them all the way - they were just about her size. Of course, today was the only day we didn't have a camera with us. But, I'm sure there will be more penguin parade days to come this winter!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Part 2: Traveling Rome and Milan

Yes, this is an overdue post, but at least it's getting up here!
We hit all the major tourist attractions while in Rome and Milan. Well, we may not have actually gone in and fully experienced all the sights, however, we probably walked by it, thought, "Wow, that's amazing" and kept walking on by to the next site. Our touring was hindered by two obstacles :
1. the blistering heat
 2. Ella
Going in and out of museums, stopping at every major attraction for hours on end, does not exactly make for happy two year old travelers. So we picked the highlights we wanted to hit, and skimmed over the rest, but we were happy to do so.

I think the highlights for me weren't so much the sights, but more the food, wine, gelato and coffee! I fell in love with the cappuccino's and practically dragged poor (sick) Justin to the cafe every morning so I could get my fix- such a trooper! We were lucky enough to be visiting dear friends of ours that have lived there for over two years, so they know all the good little haunts that we otherwise would have missed. Without any complaint, Courtney played 'tour guide' for two very hot days in a row. She was amazing, and we never had to open a map, or wonder where to go next. She led us happily through the parks and the monuments with a smile on her face. Thank you Courtney!

Now, for the food -  The restaurant I loved is called Maccheroni - very small little cafe, with mouth watering pasta dishes and great house wine.

We visited Dar Poeta for fantastic Italian pizza, Il Brillo Parlante for a great lunch, and a Chocolate Mascarpone Cappucino that nearly made me fall out of my chair, it was so delightful. And to break up our touring, we were treated to the best Gelato in town- San Crispino - a teeny tiny little shop, down a teeny little street with the most creamy gelato in delicious, original flavors. This is a must visit for any trip to Rome.

Thanks guys we had a great trip!!

We also made a two night stop over in Milano to break up our trip home, and tour Milan! It was a great stop, we saw all the highlights and spent hours exploring the city .

On our train ride back to Zurich, we stopped in Brig, Switzerland for a few hours. We had been admiring the alps from our train window, but really wanted to get out and visit a small little ski town.

Brig was the perfect stop -full of little shops, restaurants, and packed with gorgeous views. You can't go wrong with a visit to Brig.


Zurich Weinmesse

It was a gorgeous weekend afternoon, and we were dressed in hiking gear, ready to climb up the hill behind our house into the forest, when John realized this may be our only chance to go to the wine ships! While Ella had been excited to go on a hiking adventure, she was thrilled to be going on some big boats! A quick change of clothes and we were out the door headed down the hill instead of up it! I know what you're thinking.... two wine festivals posted so close together.... yeah, you can come to the conclusion that it's time for us to find other things to do while we're in Zurich!

However, this was a can't miss opportunity! Every year, around early November, Zurich holds the Zurich Weinmesse on 12 ships docked at the Burkliplatz in downtown Zurich.

You pay 20chf per person, and enter in to a dock lined with hundreds of flags, hundreds of eager wine drinkers, and hundreds of bottles of wine ready to be consumed- it's pure joy! There is a Fondue/Raclette ship just in case you need a little snack break, along with a couple brat venders to keep everyone happy.

 Once we were there, Ella was directing us around, wanting to go in and out of the boats and walk along the water.  I would highly recommend going on an afternoon trip, as the weekend nights are too crowded to actually enjoy yourselves. If you're contemplating taking a baby/toddler, it's manageable, but I'd recommend that babysitter. We were one of three families there, and it was not exactly ideal, but we made it work and Ella was happy to be there.

While the wine was very good, I think our favorite part may have been standing on the end of the dock watching the fog lift up over the Alps at the end of the lake. It was definitely a, "Holy, cow, I can't believe we live here" moment!