Amazing Swissland!

Switzerland! Hear the word and you start imagining the snow-capped mountains, glittering lake-shores and breath-taking landscapes. Just like they show in films. Wow! And this is how I felt when I was packing for my trip to this beautiful snow-laden picturesque country.Switzerland1_Ms. Singh Posts

At the airport while queuing up for my boarding, I looked around and felt that most people in the queue looked ‘expensive’. Yes ‘very expensive’. Well, some men were wearing  fine luxurious jackets while some were pulling posh label  trollies but  almost all ladies were carrying high end designer bags.

Once inside the flight, I was totally sold to the hospitality of the Swiss airlines. They are warm and friendly people, I must say. Except for once when I had a bad experience with this airline while flying from Switzerland to Nice. And that’s because the planes are crammed and they will only allow a ladies purse as hand luggage even though they mention “8kgs allowed”. Watch out!

IMG_20160106_144831-EFFECTSDue to work commitments my hubby couldn’t accompany me so my trip itinerary was planned by a lovely guide ‘I, me, myself’.  I was putting up at Zurich and planned to move mostly around the city with ‘Bahnhofstrasse’ being on top of my ‘To-visit’ list.

The Friendly Swiss
At the tram stop I had little difficulty figuring out the travel zones so I asked a man standing at the stop. But to my dismay, he did not understand English but he could make out that I was asking for directions. He tried his best in his Swiss German but with words like ‘Strasse’ for street and ‘Flughafen’ for airport, my brains couldn’t comprehend any bit of it. He waited for someone else to arrive at the stop and then to my surprise he asked the other person on my behalf for help. I was really moved by his helpful nature. Believe me Swiss are the most helpful people on earth. So, if you ever get lost in Switzerland and you do not know the local language, do not panic; you are in a country of great people. You will reach your destination safe and sound.

 

IMG_20160106_154037I reached Bahnhof, the main railway station of Zurich and looked around for the tourist information centre (i). One thing I have learned about Europe is its tourist information centre is pretty good.

You can be sure of getting not just good information but city guides, maps and one can even book tours here. Obviously Pricey

I took a stroll through the Bahnhofstrasse and realised this is one of the most expensive streets. Chanel, Hermes and Gucci stores – all high end designer brands were here. At the stores, it was easy to connect with the salesperson with a simple greeting ‘Grüezi’ meaning hello.

 

And my adventures
IMG_20160108_125234I had known that James Joyce, the great novelist is buried in Zurich, so  I decided to visit Friedhof Fluntern I reached early in the morning and I was surprised not to find a single soul around than I. The place had the quietude of night and all I could hear were my feet pressing against the leaves on the pathway. Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud noise. A noise like a growl of wild dogs or wolf or may be a tiger. What tiger? I turned back and started running so fast that I was about to slip the road. I became tired and stopped to look back only to realise that there was nothing behind me. And as I looked ahead I saw a familiar looking statue sitting on a rock with an open book and a cigarette in an uplifted hand. It was James Joyce’s statue. I felt wonderful and clicked a few pictures. May be the growling noise was only in my head or may be Joyce wanted me to come to him swiftly. In either case, my heart was beating fast.

IMG_20160108_182008My adventure trip continued into the evening as I decided to take a walk around the lake. Somewhere half way through, I walked into a lane and lost my sense of direction. It was getting dark and to figure out anything out of the map was straining my eyes. I had no internet connection on my phone. Just then I saw a group of people coming towards me with their leading man dressed like a vamp. It occurred to me that this group must be on a night tour and of course that man in vampire’s outfit must be their guide.

Well, it was already dark and my map was of no use so I decided to follow the group. Following the group, I came across a lovely pebbled street and it led up to a place called the Lindenhofplatz from where you get a great view of the city. The city looked stunning at night and I captured the sight in my phone camera.

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Finally the Snow
Well no trip to Switzerland is complete without going to the mountains, so towards the end I decided to  to go to the beautiful snow-laden Mount Titlis. I was gushing with excitement to see the snow; the snow I had never touched, never played with, and had never ever felt.

Titlis_Ms. Singh PostsMy journey from Zurich to Titlis started with a train ride with warm and pin drop silence compartments while outside the window it seemed like a slideshow of beautiful paintings one after the other. On reaching Engelberg, we were transported through a cable car to Mount Titlis. The Gandola ride took us even further on top of the mountain where I was welcomed by a big poster of a popular Bollywood film – DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge). The temperature was minus five degrees here and I had dared the snow in my canvas shoes. So, after an open chair ride called the Ice Flyer lift and a tour through the ice cave, I finally came to a café where I was surprised to discover Café Baileys on the menu. I placed my order and relished the small pleasures of life.

Here are some more pictures from my trip. Hope you will enjoy them and may even plan a visit to the beautiful Switzerland. The country lives up to the hype every bit and a must visit if you ever get an opportunity.

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Love, laugh and Barcelona!

It was sometime in the beginning of December when I started to feel ‘Christmassy’. This is a feeling which makes you want to go shopping, think of sumptuous food, drinks, and simply relax. Or in other words ‘festive’. To be honest, I had been doing all of these things even before it was “December”. Bought new shoes, new clothes, plenty make-up plus a useless hair-curling tong which sleeps in my drawer now. Somehow, I was not getting that real after-shopping-feeling. I wasn’t sad but not happy either. Then one fine day I saw the daylight. DSC00230My husband came up with the idea of taking a small vacation around Christmas week and travel to Barcelona.

“What? Barcelona! Yeyy!!”, I exactly said that. Like an instant coffee, the not-so-cheerful face was now lit-up. Aah! Now I get it why I was feeling low even after my shopping therapy. Reason is that no amount of shopping is complete unless you flaunt its content. I am ready for the ramp. Hola Barcelona!

Weather
DSC00227Having a Mediterranean climate, Barcelona is a bit but cold in December. To my surprise, it was quite sunny and warm as opposed to the grey skies in London. So after checking-in the hotel and relaxing a bit, I wore my pink lipstick with a blue dress and headed out to explore the city. But yes, I did wear a jacket but no coat.

We wandered around the Gothic Quarter which had a beautiful Christmas market in one of the squares. Some alley led us to the ‘La Ramblas’ the most over-hyped street I would say, but for some it might be a shopping paradise. Copy of IMG_20151223_113643To me, it was only a route to one of the most famous beaches ‘Barceloneta’. By the way, I had read a lot about pick-pocketing on ‘La Ramblas’ so most of the time my bag was tightly hugged(sort of) to my chest. Surprisingly, when I looked around for those pick-picketers and realised that there were none; I could have missed, may be. What I think is that it stands true for every Country and city you visit, you should take care of your belongings and that’s it.

Tapas
Our walking took us to ‘Passeig de Gràcia’ (street name) and we decided to indulge in some gastronomy. We stopped by a restaurant called ‘QU QU’, I can’t remember its full form but were greeted by a gracious waiter who made us feel like the ‘Guest of honour’. We ordered ‘tapas’ and drinks, and put a hold on the main course for time being. Guess what? We were hooked to those finger foods so much so that it became our dinner. ‘Potato Bravas’ and ‘tomato bread’ were our favourites in the tapas menu.

Gaudi’s Barcelona
I had read a good deal about Antoni Gaudí, the 18th century architect and his creations. I found the city is beautifully adorned with his work.

To me, ‘Casa Batllo’ is Gaudi’s most stunning and not-to-miss piece of work. ‘Casa Mila’ or ‘La-Pedrera’ as it is popularly called by the locals has a distinctive architecture. Another unique creation of Gaudi is ‘Park Guell’, but ‘La Sagrada Familia’ (Roman Catholic Church) considered as his masterpiece is the most amazing architectural works. But I feel sad he couldn’t finish his most passionate work.

Bike Ride
Copy of IMG_20151226_185517Some cities are best explored on bike. We booked a guided bike tour and decided to explore the most interesting part of the city – the Gothic Quarter or Barri Gotic. We had already walked through some of the places in that area but a bike would be fun.

It was after almost three to four years, I was going to ride a bike. Initially, I was hesitant but the tour guide adjusted the bike exactly according to my petite height. Cycling through the narrow alleys, going up and down the streets was exciting and it also made me feel like a local.

Hop-on Hop-off
Well, I asked my hubby to book a hop-on hop-off bus ride because I never did it in London. Now, it’s too late for me to do a touristy stuff when I am already living here. So why not do it in Barcelona? To my dismay the weather wasn’t conducive enough for such a ride on that particular day. But with a ‘Come what may’ attitude, I carried on with the ride. At least, my long term desire would be fulfilled.

Christmas at Magic Fountain
This one is the most memorable visit. There are certain days when the Magic Fountain is operational. My hubby and I were excited to learn that not just the fountain would be in operation but there will two hours long show too. Wow!! After all it was Christmas. In fact there was one more reason for my delight. We were going to be surrounded by the crowd and not feel lonely on Christmas being away from our family. Isn’t that a good feeling?

After coming back from the trip, I feel the shopaholic inside me is content with the display of the goods and clicking numerous selfies. Now I have plenty of pictures on my Nexus phone and  an inexpensive Sony camera to go through and short-list the best ones to be shared with family and friends on the social media. Aarghhh…that’s a hell lot of work now!