Friday, August 29 – Zurich (Switzerland)

Overcast, raining off and on

I said I was not going to retrieve my email, but of course I did when I was posting the journal. I made it 24 hours without email. However, as I am writing this, it is Monday night and I have not done email since Friday – a new personal best.

Woke up to overcast and rain. We had breakfast in our room and hung around the room until noon, then headed out. First, coffee at Café Odeon, a famous old Zurich café. We sat at outside tables and people-watched. The day was clear for awhile.

Then we walked around Old Town, found a store that sells juggling balls and bought five leather ones for Steve (he juggles). Walked across the river to the more upscale part of Old Town and to the Bahnhofstrasse (the main shopping street that starts at the train station (Bahnhof). Bought handkerchiefs at Sturzenegger (but the selection of women’s handkerchiefs was not as good as in previous years – are Swiss hankies finally going out of fashion? – good men’s selection, so Steve got four).

As we were walking up Bahnhofstrasse we noticed a new Orell Fussli store that sells only English language books. Usually we go to the main store just off the Bahnhofstrasse and get English language books for the trip, but this branch is all English language books. Apparently the store has been there for four years, and we have managed to miss it on other trips. There was a copy of the Sunday New York Times with the article with the mention of me and SlowTrav in it – very exciting to see that in Zurich (to think of people in Zurich reading about the web site!!). Even more exciting – a new P.D. James mystery!! I bought that and a couple of other light books for the trip.

Orell Fussli – The Bookshop
Bahnhofstrasse 70
Great selection of English language books. Many books from England, titles from the US also.

We went to the Hiltl for lunch. This is a vegetarian restaurant that we go to on most trips to Zurich. The food and selection is excellent. It can be a bit crowded inside, but we got there around 2pm when it was not as full. Had a good lunch.

Today is turning into a total shopping day. Next we went to Jemoli, a big department store and bought very nice quality notebooks for the trip – one for me to tape in my receipts and two smaller ones to carry around to take notes. Walked back down Bahnhofstrasse, stopping at the pastry shop Sprungli to get a few “Luxemburgerli”, a small pastry/candy thing they are famous for (small round cookie like tops with different fillings – melt in your mouth sweetness – probably 99% sugar).

There are Starbucks in Zurich!! We saw one on the Bahnhofstrasse and one near Bellevueplatz, by The Odeon. We went into the one on the Bahnhofstrasse and had two short Café Americanos. It was exactly like a Starbucks in the US, except 1) the menu descriptions were in German 2) they had the “short” size (which has been abandoned in the US because it is just too small for us!). Short Café Americano – 4.40 CHF (over $3). They even had a tip jar – in a country where people usually do not tip (but it only had small change in it). They sold really horrible looking muffins – exactly like at home. I can’t imagine people going there when the Swiss tea rooms are so wonderful – but the Starbucks was packed with people.

It started to rain and I found out that the shoes I had brought (and also brought on last year’s trip) leak when on wet streets. Within a minute my socks were wet. I don’t know if I just don’t remember this from last year (because I remember wearing them in the rain in Vetralla) or if it didn’t happen then. Anyway, a good excuse to buy me some Mephistos which everyone on the board raves about. Everyone says to buy your new shoes a few weeks before your trip to break them in – now I am breaking these in on the trip.

We went back to the hotel for a rest and were about to take an afternoon nap when we realized it was 8pm, so we went out for a light dinner at Tibits (vegetarian buffet) instead.

Zurich Notes
If you have to pay for a public restroom, it is usually 1 CHF (put a coin in the slot in the door to open it).
Taxi from airport to hotel 53 CHF.
Do not tip in restaurants. (You can leave some small change.)
Parking – if blue lines, look for a sign. Sometimes you need your parking disc (you can get one free from the tourist office), sometimes you need to pay at a machine, sometimes it is restricted to permit parking (we saw this in Zurich).
I met a woman on the plane who was going to the Engadine for the hiking. She told me about the Swiss National Park there (this was her first trip to Switzerland). I think some people may be under the mistaken impression that the only hiking in Switzerland is in the National Park. This is wrong – there is hiking in all the mountain towns and in most other areas too. We have not been to the National Park, but from what I read the hiking is good there too, but you do not have to go there for hiking. Hiking in the regular mountain towns would be better because it is nice to do the easy hiking from village to village – you don’t get this in the National Park.
I got a new one of those easy back purses for this trip (my other one had worn out). I think it is great to travel with a purse that you don’t mind trashing – because they get really trashed up on trips. I left my nice new leather purse at home.
Note to Self: I need to get one big duffel bag to hold all our hiking gear instead of distributing it around all our different bags.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.