Sunday, November 8, 2015

10th Anniversary River Cruise: October 24 - November 5: Part 1 - Zurich, Switzerland

This is no way related to camping - other than it's keeping us from Luray for 2 weeks. With that disclaimer out of the way... on to the river cruise!

Our 10 year wedding anniversary is this year. It's hard to believe it's been that long, yet that short at the same time. Earlier this year, in the middle of selling the house, we decided to look into what to do for our anniversary that wasn't a trip to somewhere we've already been. We decided on a river cruise, started looking at companies & itineraries, while cross checking our crazy fall schedule. We narrowed it down to three lines and ultimately decided on AMA Waterways "The Enchanting Rhine". We've been anticipating the trip for months & the time has finally come.

Oct 24, 2015
We spent all day running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get things done & get packed. Around 3:15, we packed up the car & the dog and headed to the dog sitter's. After dropping him off, we headed to the airport. Checkin with United is getting to be a little confusing because now they're making you print your tags and put them on your bags. Shouldn't that be included in the fee we paid to fly? I mean, the people are still standing behind the counter & I still have to give them my bag & they have to check the ID & boarding pass. Anyhow... We got done with dropping the bags, got through security, and were to our gate in no time. The flight was rather uneventful, which is always nice.

Oct 25, 2015
We landed in Zurich, Switzerland at around 7am (which felt like 2am or so). After collecting our bags, we headed out of the airport & were in search of the train station directly across from the airport to get to the city center. Jon stopped to grab some tissue packets (poor guy has a bit of a cold) at the grocery store in the airport/train station. We found the ticket station, bought the ZurichCard for the day (to be able to ride as much as we want/need to basically), found our train, and settled in for the 10 minute ride. Quick and easy! Once off the train, we figured out how to get to street level & walked to our hotel (Hotel Continental - HC for short).

When we arrived at HC, we were expecting to drop off our luggage & head back out. We were surprised that they had a room ready for us! That worked out perfectly! We were able to get settled into the room, shower, take a quick nap, and get ready for the day. What a difference that made!

After freshening up, we headed out to explore Zurich. We had absolutely no agenda. It was really nice actually. Just strolling around and taking it all in. We headed to Old Town and admired the beautiful European architecture. I'm sure we'll learn more about it tomorrow on our tour.

Starbucks mugs - I may need one to join my other (from a friend when she was in Morocco).

We decided on Swiss Chuchi at the Hotel Adler. Mmmm, fondue! (Note: The Melting Pot back in the US has it about right - just a bit more food.) They even had gluten free bread for the cheese fondue. YAY! After breakfast/lunch, we wandered around a bit more.

We stopped in the Fraumuenster Church, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed, so we couldn't take pictures of the great stained glass that was in the church. After visiting the church, we wandered around a bit more, watched the ducks, seagulls, and swans on the river and then headed to the train station to get a couple of water bottles. Why is this detail important? Because it's Sunday. Apparently, there are laws here that grocery stores can't be open on Sundays. The loop hole? If they're attached to a train station. Weird, but true. On that note, the majority of the city is closed on Sunday, so consider yourself forewarned if in Zurich on a Sunday.

We then headed back to the hotel (via tram because we had the ticket to do so). We ended up walking around more than riding the tram. It's better for us anyway. While at the hotel, I hopped on the wi-fi, tracked my brother while he was running the Marine Corps Marathon back home, and Jon slept a bit.

At 6pm, we had a welcome meeting. We met our fellow vacationers & our cruise director, Veronika, talked about the plans for the next few days. We also learned that we are definitely the youngest on this portion of the trip. Veronika also organized a "pre-tour" walk around/tram ride and dinner if you wanted to attend. We decided to go with the group (specifically for dinner), since we didn't have any better ideas on how to spend the evening and we still needed to get dinner.

After walking around a bit & riding the tram to the lake and then back to the restaurant, we arrived at Zeughauskeller for dinner. Eating gluten free here was a bit difficult in that they had an allergen menu that went through the menu & listed what was contained (based on a number assigned to that allergen). The problem? The menu we were ordering from was in English and the allergen menu was in German. Thankfully, everything was in the same order & I could recognize some words. It just took a bit of time.

Allergen menu. Each allergy is assigned a number. Every menu item has next to it which allergens the item contains. It was helpful, but hard to read in German. I should've studied German for this trip!

Kielbasa & Rotsi 
Bratwurst & warm potato salad
Dinner was pretty good. We got to know a couple of our fellow vacationers a bit more. After our table was done, they trusted us enough to get them back to the hotel, which was an easy tram ride from the restaurant.

The schedule in the hotel for the next couple of days
We crawled into bed & finally crashed after a long couple of days.

Oct 26, 2015
This morning, breakfast was included at the hotel. I love European hotel breakfasts - meats, veggies, fruits, and a bunch of pastries (that I can't eat, but Jon enjoys them!). We went to talk with the hotel staff about the temperature in our room (HOT - we both woke up sweating this morning) &  got them to bring fans up for us. The fans helped immensely!

Around 9:30, we started our bus & walking tour of Zurich. We had seen most of what the boat covered yesterday, but we did get a chance to stop by the lake and take a few pictures there. After the bus tour, we had an hour walking tour. We saw several things we hadn't seen quite yet - or had seen and didn't know how to get to.

Once done with the walking tour, we stopped at the train station and got Luxemburgerli from Spriingli and had lunch at Yoshi Sushi Deli (complete with GF soy sauce!).

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to wait for the optional tour to Rhein Falls. Once on the bus, we enjoyed an hour long trip to the falls, complete with a couple of (planned) detours off the highway and into some smaller towns. The towns were really nice & worth the side trip. We got to the falls and went on a 20 minute (or so) boat ride to the falls. They were great!

After the falls, we headed back to the bus & on to Stein am Rhine for a quick tour of the town and a glass of wine (yum!). The town was very quiet & had some very interesting buildings.

Once back from the tour, we dropped a couple of things off in the room and then headed out in search of dinner. We ended up at The Butcher. Very "American" food - burgers. Jon had a bbq pulled chicken sandwich, I had a falafel burger (GF - woot!), and we split french fries. It was pretty tasty. I'd eat there again if given a chance.

After dinner, we headed to Grossm√ľnster Church to see if it was still open for public viewing, but it wasn't. Hopefully we'll have a chance to see it tomorrow before we leave Zurich. If not, that's ok, but it'd be nice. We walked up the river & headed to Coop, a grocery store. I love local grocery stores. You can learn a lot about the area you're visiting the grocery store. We headed back to the hotel after that, calling it an evening. It's been a busy day & we need to get ready to head to Lucerne tomorrow!