24 Hours in Lucerne

 

We just returned from two weeks in Europe and one of our (quick) stops was in Lucerne, Switzerland.  We had enough time to walk around and explore the town, have an ice cream or two, and take a refreshing swim in the lake at the local swim club.  

We chose to stay at the Montana Art Deco Hotel and treated ourselves to a room with a lake view.  I'm so glad we did because we had the most amazing views and a sweet little balcony to sit out on while taking in the Lucerne skyline. 

The hotel had been re-decorated a few years ago in the art deco style of Miami that includes a beach club-style bar with cabanas that overlook the Lake.  The hotel sits on a hill overlooking the city and is home to the world's shortest funicular (according to the Guinness Book of Records) to quickly take you down to street level.  The kids loved the novelty of it and it didn't seem to wear off even though we took it up and down several times during our stay.  

Image via Trip Advisor

Image via Trip Advisor

Image via Trip Advisor

Image via Trip Advisor

On a recommendation from the hotel, we had lunch at Cafe de Ville.  Located right across the street from the lake, it was surprisingly not filled with tourists and seemed to be mostly populated with locals enjoying a late lunch.  The menu is typical light fare such as salads, sandwiches, etc., and everything we ordered was delicious.  Keep in mind there is no kids' menu but this shouldn't be a problem as there is plenty of things on offer that appeal to kids.  In our case, Jack had a burger and Ava had a fantastic cheese plate.  Oh, and be sure to save some bread from the bread basket to feed the swans!

On the balcony of the Cafe de Ville

On the balcony of the Cafe de Ville

We spent the afternoon on a self-guided walking tour around the city, exploring mostly in the Old Town section.  

For me, one of the best parts of our trip was the time we spent swimming in the lake.  Very near where our hotel's funicular drops you off, there is a swim club with access to the lake, Seebad.  One of the perks of our hotel is it offers to its guests free passes to the club plus beach towels to take with you.  The club was very busy and again seemed to be frequented by many locals as well as a few tourists.  There were two fairly shallow pools around which the club was built and access to the larger lake via a set of stairs.  There is also a cafe and the food I saw passing by looked very good.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I don't have any pictures to share.

Dinner that night was a serendipitous find, as we stumbled upon Istanbul while we searching in vain for another restaurant.  It turned out to be one of the best meals of our entire trip!  Everything we had was delicious and the waiter could not have been nicer to all of us, but especially the kids.  

After dinner, we walked home along the lake and stopped for ice cream at one of the many stands along the way.  Then it was back up the funicular and off to bed. 


Summer Vacation Idea in the Pacific NW

If you still haven't made your summer plans and are at a loss for ideas, I have a great one.  Over spring break, we spent a week in Washington state, splitting our time between Seattle (more about that later) and a great vacation community called Seabrook.  Located on the Pacific coast about 2 hours southwest of Seattle, this would be a fantastic place to spend a week or more.  Seabrook is a planned community designed by the same man who built Seaside in Destin, Florida.  There are several houses to rent, from small 2-bedroom cottages to large homes that sleep 10-12 that would be perfect for an extended family vacation.

There is so much to do here without even getting in the car:  an indoor pool, bicycle rentals, a quiet little downtown with a few cute shops and restaurants (and a spa), and best of all, a huge beach.  Just a note:  Seabrook is truly a special place but it is rather isolated.  Other than the restaurants in the community, there are very few options for eating out nearby, so if you decide to come make sure to do your grocery shopping before you arrive and plan to cook most of your own meals  Also, most attractions are at least a 30-minute drive away so we did a couple of full-day trips out and a day or so just hanging out at home.

Each group of homes is clustered around a fire pit, where wood and kindling is provided.  While we didn't get to use it, I imagine smores and ghost stories would be high on a summer evening to-do list.  For our visit, just taking a walk in the evening and heading over to the pool for an after dinner swim was enough.

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But the big draw here is the beach, and the charming trail down to it that has been adorned with fairy houses along the the way.  We spent one of our days just walking on the beach searching for sand dollars, building dams in the stream that flows into the ocean here, and playing in the waves.


Spring Weekend in Williamsburg

A couple of years ago we stopped off in Williamsburg on our way down to Charleston for spring break.  We had just enough time to see a few of the highlights (and we didn't mention Busch Gardens to the kids).  Downtown Williamsburg is charming and we arrived in time to stroll through the local farmer's market and feed some of the locals before the historical site opened.  

It is free to walk the grounds (but you must pay to enter any of the buildings) and since it was such a beautiful day, that is what we chose to do.  

For lunch I had gotten a recommendation from the 36 Hours column in the NY Times (a great resource when you are planning a trip) for The Cheese Shop.  This spot is popular so be prepared to wait but it is so worth it.  I took the advice of the NY Times and had the Virginia ham on French bread and it was, as the article had predicted, one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten.

For dinner, we wanted to eat at one of the many themed restaurants in Colonial Williamsburg.  We ate at Christiana Campbell's Tavern, reputedly George Washington's favorite place to dine when he visited.   The tavern is famous for its crab cakes and they did not disappoint.  Our waiter was great with the kids and used Jack as an example to all the diners in our area to explain why our napkins were the size of a small bath towel and the proper way to wear it.  

After dinner, we explored more of the grounds and did a little shopping.  We especially loved Mermaid Books, a used books store with a fantastic selection of kids books and regional cookbooks.  

There is much, much more to do here (in fact, after writing this I'm thinking we need to plan a return trip) and if you are looking for a quick getaway for Spring Break, this would be a great place to consider.  

Wanderlust Friday

                                                     Photo by Victor von Salza

                                                     Photo by Victor von Salza

Dreaming of tulips and spring.  And here is where I am wandering to on the web...

Five luxury vacations for families.  I have my eye on Nicaragua.

Will definitely be taking along some of these the next time we travel.

The High Line, phase three.  We want to walk the whole thing once it warms up a little.

Pizza is always a favorite with the kids when we travel.

Great ideas for what to pack in a kid's carry-on.

 

 

West Point

In early January, we went to West Point to watch a basketball game and visit the West Point Museum.  This is a great wintery day activity and it is a quick drive from Northern NJ/NYC.  The tickets are only $10 each, are almost always available (even at the last minute) and the kids love the atmosphere of a college game.  There is one game left in the season this weekend but if basketball isn't your thing, there are still a few hockey games on the schedule and in the spring, baseball starts up. 

We were lucky to get tickets to the Army-Navy game, which was almost completely sold out.  It was great as all the cadets were there to cheer on their team as well as quite a few midshipmen and it made the game that much more exciting.  One tip if you go, allow plenty of time to get through the security checkpoint at the entrance of the Academy as we did not and missed the first half!

After the game, we went over to the Museum located next to the Visitor's Center.  Admission is free and it takes about 2-3 hours to go through it.  This was our second visit but there is so much to see we found things we had missed on our previous trip.  There are fantastically detailed dioramas detailing famous battles throughout history (Jack's favorite part), a kid's scavenger hunt you can pick up in the gift shop, and uniforms from every era of the American military from the Revolution to the present. 

On the way home we stopped for an early dinner at The Burger Loft in New City.  The restaurant grinds its own beef daily so not surprisingly the burgers were delicious as were the fish tacos, fries and shakes.  In fact, everything was so good we all agreed we would willingly drive the 1 hour round-trip from our house just to eat here again.