Swiss….cheese? Chocolate?

Thursday, August 15

I had to get up at a reasonable time today to pack up and head to the train station – because I am going to Buchs, Switzerland! I was texting with my friend Heidi and she mentioned her dad loved Liechtenstein – so I thought well I should go there! I couldn’t get a train into the country but considering it’s only about 7 miles wide that makes sense, so I went to the town that boarders Liechtenstein and has buses that go between the two cities and countries.

I found an Airbnb that looks promising, I got my train tickets and realized I am going to the German-speaking portion of Switzerland – so wish me luck – German is not an easy language!

I checked my train ticket one last time on my walk to the subway and I am glad I did because I would have ended up at the wrong station! I have no officially used all three train stations in Paris. Because of this change, I opted instead for an Uber because I did not feel like transferring trains. My uber came quick and I was on my way.

I got to the station about an hour and a half before departure. Unlike planes, there are no security checks and if someone ever does something violent to change that, the industry could or sure take a hit.

Anyway, I decided to wait at the tables until my train was assigned a platform then headed to get a croissant (when in Paris and all) and headed to the train.

This train is headed to Zurich and somehow it is not that busy in my car. I am not sure why trains assign you seats right next to someone when a whole lot of other seats are open, but they do. Luckily, all the seats have a little screen above them to tell you when other ticket holders take them – so after about 30 minutes and two stops I moved to the open four seater with a table.

It was a very uneventful ride to Zurich. Once there I had to switch trains to get to Buchs. A quick four-minute transfer and I was on my way. This train was much busier and I had two Americans across from me and an English woman next to me. The American man worked for Amazon and they had lived in Luxembourg but honestly they were both snotty and not that bright. For living around the world for the last 5 years, you would think they would be a lot more street smart in Europe, but it sure does not seem like it.

They got off about halfway to Buchs and some new people came on – new people with a toddler! Therefore, I realized no one was sitting across from us anymore and I moved over to let the little family have all the space. (And to escape a sticky handed child on a train)

I made it to Buchs around 4pm and headed to the ticket counter to make sure I could buy my ticket form Vienna to Prague (as I was unable to do this portion before). For some reason there was no way to buy a seat reservation on the train I wanted so I asked for the next day, but then realized I’d have to pay for it since my pass was going to run out – so back to the original day, but just taking a longer transfer in Vienna, all of 30 minutes longer.

With my ticket in hand, I was ready to find my Airbnb. The host, Markus, had said it was an easy 10-minute walk and was not kidding – 2 turns and a walk down the main street. He had left the key in the post box – it is funny because only outgoing mail is locked, not incoming!!

I let myself in and the space was updated and modern – perfect space to sleep for a few nights. I was getting ready to head out and walk around when Markus came home. He told me to head over to this old little village about 10 minute walk from the flat and I would see a pond and old houses. It was a great little walk – even though it was raining (again, rain jacket to the rescue!) I wandered around, walked up to the old castle and when I got there the rain stopped and a big rainbow appeared over the valley.

I hung out on the hill top for a bit then decided I was hung so I found a Thai place down the street. I have decided to listen to podcasts when I am walking – but often find myself not paying attention – so I am not exactly sure what is going on in them – and during the rain, I paid even less attention. That walk from the castle to the restaurant, not a clue what the podcast was about.

Regardless I made the quick walk to Thai and was the only one there, but the best part about Thai food is it is the same in every country, including Thailand! I ordered my food and started reading my book (it is very long, very, very long) and all of a sudden people started filing in. Clearly, I picked a good spot – I just got there a bit early. While I was there, the rain came down in buckets – it was crazy! I am glad I was inside for sure.

After I paid and the rain let up, I decided to walk back to the flat. On the way, back I passed a gelato shop – so of course, I had to stop – but it was the most expensive gelato ever – thanks to the Swiss. Everything is about 30-40% more expensive in Switzerland (I learned they do not have free trade) Regardless, it was good gelato and a great way to end the day. Tomorrow I am going to Liechtenstein and I cannot wait!

Tonight Markus came to get me to check out the fireworks happening in Liechtenstein, but the cloud cover made it look like bombs!

France and clean underpants

Tuesday, August 13th

Today I got up and headed over to Saint Michel square where I was meeting my free walking tour. I got there about 20 minutes early and there was no one there – the guides showed up about 15 minutes before the start and all of a sudden there were warms of people!! It was crazy! They ended up having 4 tours – 2 in Spanish and 2 in English.

My guide was Harry from the UK. He confirmed he was not part of the royal blood (he had red hair, so people must believe he is or something). We started our tour learning how much of the city had been demolished in the 19th century by Napoleon III and much of what we know as Parisian architecture is “new.”

The tour used to cross the bridge to the front of Notre Dame, but yesterday the city blocked the bridge to begin lead abatement from the fire. It’s pretty controversial in the city because people who live on the island are allowed home but the schools have been closed and now this specific part of the island.

We continued our walk to Saint Chapell, an old prison, a square, and a finally the Louvre.

It wasn’t a long walk but our guide did a great job of skeaping and teaching me things I hadnt heard on other tours.

After the tour everyone else went to the café he was going to be sitting at – but I paid him and left. I was actually getting chilly so I headed back to the hotel for my rain jacket. The market across the street was open so before I went up to the room I grabbed some rolls, cheese, water, blood orange juice, and of course Nutella.

I decided to lunch in my room and then go back to Notre Dame to get a closer look. On my way to Notre Dame, I decided to check out an original Banksy. He is an anonymous street artist who has been brought to fame through his political and controversial art. I brought my phones and my Kindle and headed out to Notre Dame. My hotel is only like a 15 minute walk over there. The Banksy was on the way, so I snapped a picture and continued on.

On the south side of the cathedral you can get a bit closer, but on the east side you can basically walk within 20 feet of the structure. Construction continues – today they were using cranes to build another crane. They have installed protection over all the windows and wooden support for portions of the structure. I stood in awe for a while – took some pictures and realized my phone’s camera was acting up.

I reached out to Google for assistance and was troubleshooting with them right next to the cathedral. With the amount of lead they say is around there Im sure Ill end up with lead posioning – but I did make sure not to lick my fingers.

After my troubleshooting I went to read in the park behind Note Dame. I spent some time there before my work phone started to ring – and the work didn’t stop so I decided to head back to the hotel to eal with work. I worked until about 8pm and decided to go get food – I actually used Google maps to find some good food and settled on a French place one street over.

I ended up with the most amazing onion soup, some cheesy pasta (duh) and a crème brule. I wanted a 7up but they only had Limonade – which ended up being a more lemony 7up – it was good.

After dinner I headed back to the hotel to do laudnry. I only packed enough clothes for 5 days so it was time to wash some clothes (and by some I mean all).

I headed to the laundry room, fully expecting to pay $5 for a load, but it was free!! They even had soap – but I had brought mine from home – including Bounce sheets!. It took just shy of two hours to get it done, but it is nice to have clean clothes for the middle part of the trip.

Luxembourg….er; France

Monday, August 12

I arrived in Luxembourg after a nice relaxing train ride. This is one I had to buy because they didnt have any more Eurail spots. I got off the train and found the left luggage place – $5 a piece – but better than lugging around my backpack and duffel all day.

I didnt have a list of things to see so when I was done at the station I opened Google Maps and clicked the “attractions” button. It is very handy when you are lazy – just pops up and tells you the things to do near where you are at.

The first thing to pop up was the Notre Dame Cathedral (no not the one in Paris). It looked to be a pretty central location to start so I walked the 10 minutes over there. The church location had a lot of history – dating back to 800AD. It had some pretty stained glass so I hung out in the cathedral for a bit and took it in. My step dad is Catholic and every time I enter a church I take a moment for him, taking in the peace of the place.

They also had a crypt so I went to check it out – just another chapel really, with a very modern looking crypt for someone who I did not know.

It was raining pretty hard after my visit so I put on my handy rain coat and headed to find food. I opted for some “fast food” Chinese. It didnt have much flavor leading me to believe it didnt actually have a lot of salt.

The rain stopped while I was eating, but stayed pretty cloudy. I got out the handy Google maps app again and found they have a really old bridge with a rand new pedestrian walkway underneath – I decided to head there.

The Adolphe Bridge is over 100 years old. It rises 140′ above the ravine and is about 500 feet long. Recently, in the last 5 years, they have added a pedestrian bridge underneath it. It was semi disappointing to see they had cut in and removed some original structure so they could put this bridge in, but its safer for all involved being below the traffic. From the bridge you could see the beautiful ravine below and the garden area near the church.

While I was on the bridge I noticed there was a carnival type ride that takes you up in a compartment and slowly turns around the city providing an aerial 360 view. I decided to walk over and check it out.

It started to rain again just as we got in the ride but was just sprinkling. The views were really neat, on a clear day you can see really far away into the country side. There is a huge ravine that runs through the city and you could see the gardens and houses below. It provided a different view of the area than the bridge did. It was about a four minute even then we slowly went back down.

I wanted to explore more of the city but I just wasnt enjoying myself and when I would walk from place to place I saw how dirty and grimmy the city really is. Luxembourg is supposed to be like the wealthiest country in Europe (they did have really nice cars) but they had trash in the streets and lots of loitering groups – mainly men – but some women. There were also lots of people begging – especially near the train station. So, instaed of exploring more I took my own internal advise and headed back to the train station over an hour early to do some work in the safety of the station.

In all my travels I think this may be the first time an uneasy feeling has washed over me. So, Im glad I followed my gut.

I did a bit of work and then it was time to head to my platform to catch the train to Paris. It was an almost empty car – except for the family with two very loud kids – SO LOUD!! I was seated next to someone – but realized after the second (and last) stop that the whoel four person seating in front of me was open so I grabbed my stuff and moved up. It was about a three hour train ride to Paris; a beautiful ride out of Luxembourg into the French countryside.

I got to Paris at around 915pm and needed to make my way to my hotel for the next few nights. I hopped on the metro line – after I was finally able to communicate (what little French I can remember and my mom did the trick!) and got a metro pass to my stop. The machine would not give me a ticket to my stop – for some dumb reason! I was able to find the hotel no problem!

I had picked this place because it looked close to metro lines and the river – and it has a washer and dryer!! Ill need to do laundry while I am in Paris. I took the worlds smallest triangle shaped lift to the 5th floor where my room was located (Rm 69).

The description said it was nothing fancy, but it was exactly what I needed. A small room with a fridge, fan and large window to open. They also have super fast internet which is great for having to set some work done.

It was past 10 when I got to my room but I was so amped to be in Paris I struggled to sleep. I just wanted to go explore the city – but forced myself to stay in and relax. I decided to book a walking tour for the morning, it ended up meeting just a few blocks from the hotel.

Sea no Evil: July 6, 2019

I got up and went to eat by myself. I sat with some older ladies at the Solos table. Turns out they needed some help with their apps (Holland America has an app to help plan your day) – so I helped them get the app set up on their phone. A 3rd lady showed up and asked me to help her as well.

After breakfast I headed to the Crow’s Nest for music trivia. There werent many of us – at the beginning but we ended up with three teams. We of course didnt win – but it was theme songs so it was more fun than other music trivia.

After trivia I hung out with Becky and went to find some food. After lunch we headed back to the Crow’s Nest for Solo’s game time. We played the game with about a dozen of us – they put stickers with famous people’s names on them and then we had to guess who we were.

I headed down to the Explorers lounge for OWL trivia (OWL stands for Older, Wiser Lesbian). Our team was the youngest – we tied for first though!

After trivia a small group of us went to play games in the library but all the tables were full! So we grabbed a couple games and went back to the Explorer’s lounge. We settled on Trivial Pursuit. We ended up playing for a couple hours and everyone was exhausted and over it. We ended up breaking up and doing separate things.

Jess and I ended up grabbing Julia and going to a stretch session up in the gym. It was a nice little session. After the stretch we separated to get ready for WHITE NIGHT! (also known as glacier night)

Julia and I got ready and went to the library to wait for the rest of the group to go to dinner. We were playing Bananagrams and people slowly started to trickle in, in their white!! Julie and I had our white robes on for the white party!! We really know how to light up a room!

We all went to dinner and ended up squishing 10 people at an 8 top! We had surf and turf and Becky and I swapped – she got turf and I got surf!!

After dinner – we all headed to the Crow’s Nest for the White Party!! Julie and I led the gang into the room – we danced all the way around, dropped off those who were staying and danced right out of the room to go to bed!! Just my style!!

It’s been too long

Wow, I haven’t blogged in a few days!

Well let’s start with my train ride to Barcelona. I had all girls in my 4 bed car, that was nice, and they were all young. 2 other girls (one from London, one from LA) they were back packing too. They are Jewish, and one is going to study in Isreal! How neat!

These girls aren’t very smart however, one got their wallet stolen in Rome, and they weren’t prepared very well.

We all headed our seperate directions when we got to the station and I headed off to find my hostel. The hardest part was finding the metro. We arrived at the old station, so I had to walk to find a metro!! Once I found the metro, it was easy.

My hostel is neat, in the middle of a neighborhood, with a supermarket right across the street!! The rooms are in flats, with 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen!! It even had a living room to hang out in!!

I was in a room with one boy and one girl and then an empty bed. The boy always seemed to be sleeping, except when I would go to bed, then he would be off somewhere! The girl is from Germany, she was there both nights with me.

I bought some groceries (Fanta Free, jelly, bread, yogurt, cereal, milk) so that I could save money and not buy lunches. However, the first day in Barcelona I decided to try a salad and potato Tapas–both nasty, cold potatoes aren’t my things, and I don’t like anchoives!! Especially not on a salad!!

I bought an open bus tour ticket for 2 days. They covered lots of the city, and you could get on and off as you like. I decided to ride each one around all the way before I decided what to see. It took 3.5 hours to see all the city, but it helped me understand what I wanted to see.

On the first day I went to the Olympic hill and took a tram to the top of the hill. Up on top there was a castle that overlooked the city and the port. I sat on top for a while and watched the ship yard and the cruise ships. I headed back down the hill after about an hour, and got back on the tour bus. I got off at a random station and caught the metro back to my hostel. I had dinner and relaxed, watched some Spanish tv, it was funny just watching their expressions! I headed to bed around 10, but I was exhausted!! I was supposed to rain, and never did, however it was cooler that day.

The next day I got up around 930 had some breakfast and headed back out. I stopped at the Sagrada Familia church (its been under construction for 70-some years! And won’t be done til 2026!!) My tour gave us a coupon book so I got a guided tour for the cost of the normal enterance. The guided tour was nice, the lady explained every detail, the whole church made sense then!!

After the church I got back on the tour bus, and took it to the stop by the mountain. I took a trolley up partway (more coupons!) And then a funicular up the rest of the way. On the top of the mountain there is a amusement park, you don’t pay to get in, you pay for the rides only!! So I sat in the middle of the park, watching the parents and kids argue over which ride is next, and I ate my lunch!! The mountain had a full view of Barcelona and the surrounding arean it was pretty!!

After the mountain I hopped back on the bus tour and headed for the city history museum. It took 45 minutes on the bus, and 45 minutes to find it! The enterance is very hidden, but it was worth it!! I ended up underneath much of the Gothic quarter looking at the old Roman city, the original Barcelona.

It was getting later, but I decided to ride the bus to dusk! It was fun watching the city close down. I got on the metro and after a construction site manoover, made my way back to the hostel. I had some cereal and some ice cream, what a healthy dinner! Haha!!

I got most of my stuff packed up, and hit the sack. However about 20 minutes later the door flew open and 2 people (a boy and girl) were standing there. They said something and left. My roomie said they did this ealier before I got back. 10 minutes later they came back with someone that works there. They asked us if we had reservations, and then left. We thought for sure they would come back, so we chatted for awhile, after 20 minutes we gave up and went to bed.

Apparently the girl came back because she was sleeping in the top bunk this morning, neither me nor my roomie heard her!!

I’m now sitting in the Barcelona train station waiting for my train to Madrid to post. I hope they have better food in Madrid!!