We have arrived - Zurich day 1
Well, we are here - a hotel in Zurich. As unlikely as it seemed a few days ago that I would manage to get the packing done and be able to leave, we did it.
The flight from Albuquerque to Atlanta to Zurich went smoothly. We had first class upgrades the whole way. I managed to sleep for about five hours on the Atlanta to Zurich portion, which is great because I usually don't sleep much on overnight flights. We were using our new BOSE noise-cancelling headphones which we bought just for this trip and I think they made all the difference. They get rid of that loud "airplane" hum. We also took the No Jet Lag homeopathic pills, but I have never been convinced that they do anything.
Zurich airport is small and quiet - a subdued airport. You arrive to the onslaught of horrible perfume smells from numerous duty free shops (Duty Free Land as Steve calls it), then you get your luggage and go out to the main airport and the onslaught of cigarette smoke. Everyone was smoking. It is always such a shock for me traveling to Europe to see how many people smoke here.
Customs consisted of only the briefest glance at the outside of our passports.
We took a taxi to the hotel (with windows rolled down because the taxi reeked of air freshener - they love air freshener in Switzerland); 53 Euro. Steve tipped when he really didn't need to. He blamed it on jetlag. Our flight got in at 9am and we were at the hotel just after 10am. I was pretty pleased with how it had all gone, but all I wanted was a bath and a sleep. So I was upset when they told us a room would not be ready until noon. I had emailed them about our early arrival, but now they told us we had to book an extra night to get the early checkin. Nice. If they had said that in the email, I probably would have done that. Next time, I will book an extra night, or book at a larger hotel where there might be a better chance of getting a room earlier, or maybe it really is best to go somewhere on arrival so you get there later in the day.
But, even with first class seats and having slept some, I am always exhausted when I arrive in Europe. We talked to some other Americans who were renting a car at the airport, driving to Davos to find the train station, then driving on to Garda in the Engadine. Because they knew they would be tired, the day after they were only doing the one hour drive from Garda back to Davos to do an all day train ride on the Heidi Express. Some days it seems like everyone in the world has more energy than me. I am writing this on the day after our arrival, after sleeping 10 hours last night, and 5 hours yesterday afternoon, and all I want to do is go back to sleep.
So, instead of a bath and a sleep, we left our luggage and walked down to the lake, then walked along it for an hour. It was probably good for us. Gave us some exercise after being on the plane and some good sunlight to help the jetlag. It was warm. We were wearing jeans and light shirts and were comfortable enough. Some people were in swimming.
For lunch we went to Tibits, the Hiltl owned vegetarian restaurant on Seefeldstrasse above the Opera in the neighborhood of our hotel. We found it for the first time last year. It is inexpensive and the food is very good - a large vegetarian buffet with hot things and cold things. We sat at the large tables outside on the sidewalk. 34.20 CHF (~$25) for two - a small buffet plate (you pay by the weight) and an ice tea. For Switzerland this is very inexpensive for a meal.
Back to the hotel at noon and into bed. Slept until 6pm, then a bath and finally feeling human. The hotel is an old building (from the 1800s) in a neighborhood. The location is really great. We have been to Zurich many times and used to stay downtown. Last year and this year I have enjoyed being in this neighborhood. It is a 20 minute walk to the Bahnhofstrasse, but only 10 minutes to Seefeldstrasse, which is quite lively - full of restaurants and caffes.
We had dinner at Restaurant Hong Kong, where we ate last year. A small, vegetarian Chinese meal (egg drop soup, two vegetable/tofu dishes, rice) for 104 CHF - that is almost $75!! Now I remember why we always stay in vacation rentals in Switzerland and cook our own dinners!
Switzerland feels very prosperous. You look around and everyone seems well-to-do. I think they maintain a very high standard of living here. Zurich is a lovely city. The population is around 340,000, which makes the city feel managable and the airport easy to use. You don't see old cars or scruffy people. You see a few "immigrants" but Switzerland strictly controls their immigration - immigrants are allowed in on temporary work visas. It is not easy to move here. The homes and apartments look lovely, the parks are spotless.
After dinner we walked along Seefeldstrasse and saw another good looking Asian restaurant and a Tibetan restaurant. Back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. Our room is in a corner on the 3rd floor (American 4th) with windows on two walls - three big windows. The windows are that wonderful Swiss style where you move the handle in one direction to open them wide or in another direction to open them just from the top out for air. A big storm came up in the night and the wind was blowing through our room, banging the windows. There was some lightening and thunder, but I didn't notice rain.
Woke up at 8:30 wishing we could sleep longer. Had a good Swiss breakfast in the room - coffee, hot milk, croissants (they call them "gipfel"), rolls, jam, boiled eggs. Connected to the internet to check our business email (TabbySoft). I did not check my email - I have decided to ignore it until we are in Gstaad next week. Earthlink gave us the Switzerland access number, but forgot to tell us to add a zero before the city code. Luckily we guessed that after our first failed attempt to get online. (Plus, don't forget to set your dialer to NOT wait for a dial tone.)
I tried our Italian cell phone (to check our voice mail at home) but all I get is a message in German. It probably has something to do with using the Swiss Orange network from our Italian TIM phone - I shall let our friend Ursula translate the message when we see her tomorrow.
Now we are off for the Bahnhofstrasse and the Old Town to do a bit of exploring before our next sleeping session. By tomorrow we will have finished with all this sleeping and be normal human beings once again.
I am copying this into Blogger - and the Blogger page looks different than from a few days ago - has it all changed?
Here is an excellent article about writing for your blog (I read it on the plane):
10 Tips on Writing the Living Web from A List Apart.