Hiking in the Swiss Alps - Day 1

We spent three days in the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland in July.  This is a great area to hike with kids as the scenery is spectacular, there are plenty of cows and horses to ogle, and lots of the routes are just challenging enough to keep everyone happy.  We made our base in Gimmelwald, a picturesque little village perched below the Jungfrau mountain range.  It is a car-less town and the only access is via a quick 5-minute trip on a cable car from the valley floor.  There are only a few guesthouses and B&B's to choose from and we opted to stay at Esther's Guesthouse.  Esther's offers many different types of accommodations, including two apartments, each with it's own bathroom and kitchen.  We stayed in one of these and thought it was a great choice for a family.  We had plenty of room to spread out and a balcony with a gorgeous few of the mountains.  Breakfast and lunch are on offer for an added fee but we chose to pick up supplies at the supermarket in nearby Murren.  

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There aren't a lot of of dining options in Gimmelwald but luckily what is available is very good.  Our first night we wandered into Pension Gimmelwald, mostly because of their patio and it's spectacular view.  The menu is small but everything we had was delicious and while there is no set kid's menu, they were very accommodating in making something for Ava.  

On our way out of the Pension, we spotted the Honesty Shop.  Both kids were enthralled with the premise - no one worked in the shop so you selected what you liked, wrote the item you were purchasing and cost on the provided envelope, put your money in the envelope, sealed it and placed it in a locked box.  The store had a range of items available from snacks to postcards to small souvenirs.  

Wanderlust Friday

 
  Image by Amaia eta Gotzon via Flickr

Image by Amaia eta Gotzon via Flickr

We are headed to the Berkshires tomorrow to check out the Van Gogh exhibit at the Clark Art Institute and to get in some hiking.  We may even try to grab lunch at one of our favorite spots.  And here are some spots I am wandering to on the web...

Loved this piece, especially considering we just had our own bat-related rabies scare.

Great tips on finding cheap airfare.  I will definitely be checking out XL Airways the next time I am looking for a flight to Paris.

This family has the right idea when it comes to traveling.  I relied on their Paris tip sheet heavily when we were planning our trip.

Am editing my carry-on checklist to include all of these things

Bookmarking these for restaurant ideas in the future.

 

Iceland's Golden Circle

We chose to fly Iceland Air this summer because they offer a program that allows you to layover up to 7 days in Iceland without incurring an extra charge on the cost of your flight.  We spent a weekend there on our way home and one day of that traveling Iceland's famed Golden Circle, taking in some of the country's most spectacular natural attractions.  There are tour companies that offer guided bus tours of the Circle but we wanted to go at our own pace so we rented a car for the day.  

The first stop is Pingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland's first Parliament dating to AD 930 and in continual use until 1798.  It is also the point where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and are slowly pulling apart at a rate of 1 to 18mm per year, creating rifts and fissures in the landscape.

I had read several recommendations for Lindin, an adorable little restaurant right on the lake in Laugarvatn.  The food was delicious and Jack enjoyed trying a reindeer burger.  The highlight of the meal though was the house-baked bread which was served with fresh butter.  I think we all could have happily made a meal out of this bread alone.  We would have liked to try the geothermal pool next door at Fontana but were short on time and so put it on the list for next time.

The next site to see is the geothermic area at Haukadalur, which features the geyser Strokkur.  The most famous geyser here, Geysir, which gave it's name to all geysers, is now dormant.  Strokkur erupts every 4-10 minutes shooting hot water 100 feet into the air.  As you explore the area, there are bubbling pots and steaming vents all across the terrain.  Signs warn not to step in any puddles or flowing water as it may be scalding hot.  There is also a large cafeteria and gift shop here, along with a small museum on the formation and history of the geysers.

The final stop for us before heading back to Reykjavik was the waterfall Gullfoss.  It was my favorite of the three sights and was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.  You could walk out closer but as we were with the kids we elected to stay back and enjoy the view from afar.  There is a small gift shop and restaurant here and the organic lamb stew comes highly recommended.  We were still full from lunch so we had to pass but it smelled delicious!

The whole trip took us about 8 hours and along the way there is beautiful scenery with lots of sheep and Icelandic horses.  In the summer the sun doesn't set until 11:00 p.m. or later, so need to worry if you decide to linger and take your time.

A River Cruise on the Rhine

We were lucky enough to spend a week cruising the Rhine on a river cruise with my husband's family.  This is the second river cruise we have done with his family and it is a fantastic experience for everyone.  The benefits of river cruising are many:  you get to see many different locales while sleeping in the same bed every night, breakfast and dinner (and some lunches) are taken care of, and there is plenty of time to socialize with family along the way.  

A few of the river cruise companies offer certain weeks as "multi-generational" or family cruises, and that was what we were on this time with Uniglobe and previously a cruise of the Danube with the Tauck cruise line.  This trip began in Basel and ended in Amsterdam with stops along the way in places such as Strasbourg, Koblenz, and Cologne.  At almost every stop there was an extra activity available designed for families, i.e., more interesting for the young ones.  These included a children's museum in Cologne, a transportation museum in Speyer, and a visit to a medieval castle in Marksburg.

The cruise included stops in small, quaint villages in the Alsatian wine region,

a day in Strasbourg,

a stop in the town of Speyer, a visit to a vinegar estate and a local transportation museum,

a walk through the vineyards of Rudesheim,

and a visit to a fortress and a castle, where the kids tried on the latest in medieval fashions.

I can't recommend river cruising enough for families with school-age children and above.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Rhine and the kids are already studying the map to see what other rivers we can cruise in the future!

3 Hours in Zurich

 

As were heading from Lucerne to Basel, we stopped in Zurich for a few hours.  We had visited Zurich briefly pre-kids and I wanted to show them the Marc Chagall stained-glass windows in the Fraumunster Church.  These 5 large stained-glass panels were designed and installed by Chagall in 1970.  Each depicts a different story from the Bible including Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.  The windows are beautiful works of art and the peaceful setting of the church only helps to enhance their beauty.  Most importantly for those with kids, they can be easily seen and appreciated in a small amount of time.  

  Image via Zürich.com

Image via Zürich.com

  Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

We had passed a Sprungli chocolate shop on our way to the church and I promised the kids we would go in on our way back.  We noticed they had a nice cafe attached to the store and decided to have lunch there as well.  Jack and I each had a delicious spinach and bacon quiche which was served with a small green salad while Alan and Ava enjoyed some of the freshly made sandwiches.  Afterwards we headed into the store to pick up some Luxemburgerli, (the name of the company's trademarked mini-macaroons) for dessert and a few chocolate bars for later.

We still had a little time so we walked over to a toy store I had read about, Pastorini Spielzeug.  The 4-story space is filled with amazing toys, with an emphasis on those items that encourage imaginative play, i.e., no video games or electronic equipment in sight.  The dollhouse section could have kept Ava busy for days and almost all of the items were constructed of wood not plastic.  They had a huge arts and crafts section with all kinds of papers, pencils, and paints.  Jack enjoyed checking out the Legos and noting the sets he had not seen before.  If the kids were younger we would have spent a fortune on Playmobil sets but instead we spent our time reminiscing over the sets we used to have and those we wished we had known about.  

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Just walking around for the short time we did, we made a game of finding the best signs and markers on the buildings.  Zurich is such a beautiful city and I hope we can return one day to enjoy it more fully.