Europe is our favorite continent to visit during the summertime, but this year we started our yearly visit to Europe a little bit earlier! In fact, we just got back on Sunday night from our three weeks vacation 🙂 The main purpose of this vacation wasn’t Europe though….it was actually to Morocco! It is expensive to fly to Morocco from Boston (but not expensive enough to use my points/miles at 40,000 miles one way to Africa) so I have been searching for the cheaper ways to get there and saw a sale to Switzerland for $450 round trip! Then, from Europe to Morocco is a lot cheaper in total. To avoid the desert heat, the best time to go is before May so we settled on April. I’ll talk about the details and logistics to Morocco at later post so let’s get back to our 27th country that we visited: Switzerland!
We flew out on April 14th to Zurich via Newark on United and Swiss Air. Jason and I were thankful that we were not listed in the overbooked “volunteer list” due to the recent United incident!
The Swiss Air flight to Zurich was comfortable although the plane looked old probably due to its warm colored toned interior and seats. The food was not bad despite the sauce was a little bit too salty. The entertainment system was excellent which has some new Chinese movies 🙂
Goodbye New York City!
Arriving Zurich 🙂
We took a train to Lucerne where we stayed 3 nights as our base. I bought the 3 consecutive days Swiss Travel Pass through Rail Europe because it was on sale for 20% off end of the year. I did the calculations of per segment train cost at Supersaver Ticket price (advanced purchase at discounted price) from the wonderful Switzerland train website: SBB versus the price of the Swiss Travel Pass and it was almost the same price but the Swiss Travel Pass offers much more flexibility. However, later I found out that it is not possible to purchase the Supersaver Ticket in the USA because SBB requires a special kind of credit card security that none of the US based credit card qualifies! So when calculating per segment train cost, use the regular price and not the Supersaver Ticket!
Zurich is a very efficient airport as I read and it was really true except that when we were standing in line for passport control, there were two women and their kids cutting the line GRRR. They just naturally walk up and up and step into any gap in the line acted like nothing wrong!!!!!! I gave them a look but of course, they totally did not mind as they are shameless!!! Anyways, we walked to the train station by following the signs into a shopping plaza. I was able to purchase the train ticket from the machine to Lucerne with my Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red credit card with a set 4 digit PIN. In Europe, any unmanned ticket machine will require a credit card with a 4 digit PIN! The train ticket cost 30 CHF (almost $30 USD) each, yes Switzerland is expensive!!
We got on the 1:47 PM train and arrived Lucerne at 2:49 PM; we stayed at Ameron Hotel Flora which was very close to the train station and the famous Chapel Bridge. Weather wasn’t great and it was much colder than I hoped for the Spring Easter weekend 😦 Check-in starts at 3 pm so our room wasn’t ready, we left our luggage at the hotel and walked out…..first stop was obviously the Chapel Bridge!
This famous covered wooden bridge is beautiful with interior triangular paintings throughout the bridge that illustrated the history of Lucerne but unfortunately, most were destroyed during the fire in 1993. Each are numbered:
It was like walking through a free art gallery, not to mention the beautiful houses on both sides of the river!
It was quite busy on the bridge as it’s the #1 tourist attraction in Lucerne!
The colorful buildings on both sides of the river and the emerald colored water, it should look much more prettier during good weather!
The river was filled with white swans just like a fairy tale.
We walked across the bridge to the Old Town section of Lucerne.
The Old Town is filled with colorful mural painting facade buildings; each one is unique and tells a story.
Another bridge: Rathaussteg, it offers the best view of the Chapel Bridge.
We didn’t venture into the Old Town yet and turned back to the hotel to offload some of the weights in our bag in our room. Back to the other side of the bridge where I saw this bakery/dessert shop selling Easter themed chocolates and treats…..aren’t they cute?
Next to it is a bank with ATM machine so I took out 200 CHF as I read that some small restaurants and shops in Switzerland only take cash. For this trip, I opened a Charles Schwab online checking account since I got tired of the $5 per transaction fee from Bank of America! I was so glad because it was so convenient to use any ATM machine with no ATM fee charged! Our room was ready and as expected, European size – tiny room but it was indeed comfortable! The 3 nights cost $346, I booked it when it was on sale in Cheaptickets.com and with 16% off coupon. This hotel sold out months prior so book in
Our room was ready and as expected, European size – tiny room but it was indeed comfortable! The 3 nights cost $346 (which is a bargain for a 4 stars hotel in Switzerland), I booked it when it was on sale on Cheaptickets.com and with 16% off coupon. This hotel sold out months prior so booking in advanced is the key to save money in Switzerland!
Instead of giving those small travel sized amenity kits which the conditioner was never enough for my long and volume hair, I was so glad that they have this big refillable bottles! The brand they use is The White Company London which smells very good and I love their lotion as it is very light and absorbs fast instead of feeling sticky!
After we unloaded our bags, we headed back out to explore the Old Town. Fruit stands in the Old Town:
More stunning painted facade buildings!
A clock tower:
And more cute buildings….
And cute pie!!!
We walked to the 2nd covered wooden bridge – Spreuer Bridge where the paintings are death-themed.
Scary….I preferred the scenery from the bridge more!
Look at how blue the water is!
After the bridge, we turned back into Old Town for more photos of the lovely buildings.
Continued on to our walk through the shopping streets of Lucerne, we spotted a supermarket – Migros! Money saving tip #2 – cheap eats at supermarket like Migros or Coop! We got drinks and rolls there for breakfast. The ham and egg rolls were super yummy at 5 CHF! The peach drink (right side one) was delicious, we got addicted to that on our trip!
Being in Switzerland which is famous for Swiss Army Knife and watches, Jason was eager to check out the Rolex store haha! Unsurprisingly, the store was filled with Chinese tourists!
For dinner, I picked Khoua Vientiane at Kauffmannweg 7; it’s a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant with one dollar sign from TripAdvisor and good ratings. The “$” means each dish cost over 20 CHF!!! The restaurant was packed even though we arrived early for dinner. I ordered the Vietnamese noodle soup – pho with beef and Jason ordered pho with seafood at 22 CHF each, the most costly Pho I ever had (at least 3x the price as in Boston). The portion was not as big but the soup base was delicious and the beef was top quality! This was the first time that Jason regretted ordered seafood over beef haha!
The restaurant only has like 4-5 tables and we shared a table with another person who we found out he is a local who regularly dine at this restaurant. He ordered a mango salad, soup, and fish woah!
That fish looked so good! We chatted a little bit on life living in the expensive Switzerland and shockingly housing is very affordable! He said renting a 3 bedroom apartment in the outskirt of the city cost less than 2000 CHF per month. Of course, I asked about how many vacation days average workers get, he said the start is 4 weeks, jealous! The dinner cost 44 CHF which was the minimum we spent on a meal in Switzerland! The impression of Switzerland so far? Clean, beautiful, and expensive haha!