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!

Paris by Jump bike

Wednesday, August 14

I got up today and decided to do the hop on, hop off tour. Last time I was here and took one there were three routes – this time, only two. They removed the yellow route. I walked over to where the bus would come and decided, no, I am not going to do it. Instead, I decided to go eat “brunch” and read in the Luxembourg gardens. It was a quick 10-minute walk over there. The garden was huge – there were many people reading, picnicking and running around. They had chairs everywhere, it was wonderful. I opted to walk over to the palace and sit where people were picnicking. I had my yogurt and sat there and ready and people watched for a while before heading out.

I decided to head to the Pantheon. It was only a 20-minute walk from the gardens. I decided to go inside because I do not recall doing it before. It was huge and there is some sort of clock in the middle of the junction – a big brass looking ball hung by a string that somehow tells time, I have no idea how it works but it was awesome. I walked to the crypt and checked out some of the crypts of people I have heard of. Most notably the man who invented Braille and Marie Currie – Noble prize recipient.

After the Pantheon I wanted to go to the Eiffel tower – but it was like a 1.5 hour walk – there were many scooters around – but without a helmet and the with the cobble stone road, I wasn’t very confident. I had Googled “bike rules in Paris” last night, so instead I found a Jump bike and decided to try it because I felt I understood the rules of the road and it was not busy in the area.

Getting the bike was easy, quick scan of the QR code and the bike was ready for me. Most of the Paris streets have a bike lane – or are labeled for bike access, even one way streets have bike lines in both directions.

I was confident I could make it over to the Eiffel Tower – a 30-minute ride is what it said. The main street it wanted me to take was actually under construction – so it proved to be a little bit more difficult than I had planned. They are redoing their bike lane to make it even safer, but in the meantime, it is a nightmare to actually ride. I just weaved my way around – over the river and bike. I finally saw a bike on the road and decided to follow that local rider.

The best part about Jump bikes is they are electric assist, so you can go 25-35 KMh to keep up with traffic when needed. I followed the guy until I got to where I would drop my bike. You can only park in certain areas or they fine you. It is smart – they are presumably paying a fine if they are caught in a “no-bike zone” so they charge the person who put it there before they are fined themselves.

I had made it to the Eiffel tower!! I rode the bike – confidently, safely and happily – I made it! I walked through the park and noticed since the last time I had been there how much had changed. The amount of terrorist attacks are clearly leading the French to protect their landmarks more securely now. You can no longer go under or near the tower without a ticket. They have this glass wall all the way around. Therefore, I saw people queuing for security, then queuing for the lift line. I have been up there a handful of times so I opted out of going up and instead I decided to read, people watch and eat a chocolate bar in the park.

I laid out my rain jacket as a blanket, took out my book and read for a little over an hour. I saw a couple get engaged – the most anti-climactic proposal ever – they even put the ring on the wrong hand!! And just like that, they were gone, it was over.

After sitting there for a while, I decided I am going to go do a bike tour of Paris – so I grabbed another Jump bike and headed to the Sacre Couer. This ride was about the same distance (30 minutes) but uphill – thankfully for the Jump bike it was easy. I made it to the side of the Sacre Coeur and immediately saw a tram to take you up – but I decided for the stairs. I eat so much good food in Europe – it is always best to burn as much as I can. I went to the steps and looked out over Paris. From my view, I couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower, but I could see Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Museum D’orsy. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Notre Dame on fire from here – and I just couldn’t even get a clear through about it.

After people watching for a while, I decided to head down to Centre Pompidou – something I had never seen before, but have wanted to since I saw it in my high school French book. I grabbed a Jump bike again and took off. The ride took me through parts of Paris I had never been before – through the district that sold traditional Indian and African apparel and finally Centre Pompidou.

CP is a library and museum. I did not want to go in, but to see the exoskeleton of the building. They consider it an “inside-out” building because structure, mechanical and plumbing are on the outside of the building. It’s an eye sore for sure – sticks out like a sore thumb – but it is pretty neat to see how it is all color coded, each mechanical pipe is green and water is blue.

After my quick pull off to stare at the building I decided to head back to the hotel. This was just a quick 10-minute bike ride back over the river. I locked the bike and headed upstairs to do some work. It also gave me time to have a snack (some cheese, duh) and drink some water. It was not hot – only about 73* but it was sunny and I was a bit sun burned and knew I needed more water than the 32oz I had today.

At around 9pm I went for dinner – I had pizza. I cannot help it, it is just so good. I met a woman and her two teenage kids from Boston. She had traveled in her younger years – doing Asia for a year on her own – but when it came to now she and her daughters were a bit embarrassing.

They wanted things lickety split and nothing is fast around here when it comes to food. They want you to relax and enjoy the food, and these women just would not settle down. We chatted a bit – I finished my food, paid and wished them luck.

After dinner, I decided to find a crepe. It was late, which means the crepe stands are out. I found one, one block from the hotel and got myself a Nutella crepe. I only like the sweet ones. I headed back to the hotel because tomorrow I was off to Switzerland to bus into Lichtenstein.