Zurich

Many years ago I worked in a Zurich Bakery for a few days. This time over, I found the city, buzzing with people of all sorts. Shops were open longer, more restaurants had mushroomed, and tourists from all over thronged this small but extremely cute city.

Zurich does not have the buzz of London, but it definitely has something which draws me back to it.

Since we spent not more than a few days, we did not look around for any activities. Each of us had a bit of shopping to do and loads of restaurants to explore.

Activities 

Lake picnic. We met a couple friend in Fishers Fritz. Its a camping ground and an open air bar. We got rain for the first hour, so we could only order drinks. Once the tables opened up, we could order some food. (the swiss are sticklers for rules). The french fries with truffles was absolutely awesome.

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The Zurich lake front, all over the city is varied and beautiful.
The Zurich lake front, all over the city is varied and beautiful.

Sit by the lake. Zurich has a massive lake. The lake I have mentioned above is the same lake I mention here. This end  is by the main city, where as the lake front I mentioned above, needs a 20 minute taxi drive, it extends sooo far. Take a few sandwiches, pick up your poison, sit by the lake and watch the world go by. I believe, ferry rides, and summer lake water activities are a big draw in Zurich.

Look up and see the Alps.

Walk and cycle. You are more liable to bang into a cyclist than a car. Though post office hours the car traffic jams are gigantic. Walk around, all over, take trams, hire a cycle and explore this city.

Trams – are very easy to access and go just about every where. Take a day pass, for a pass for the entire duration you are in Zurich.

Hikes  Zurich citizens are known to take off for hikes in and around their city. They have some wonderful trails and some fascinating views. No wonder I did not see even one over weight Swiss. You can find some trails here

Zoo  The siblings took their tinies to the zoo. They told me that they could have spent one entire day there. The zoo was wonderful for adults as well as kids. Other than animals it also had a lot of rides and small play area for kids. The brother said that the Restaurant – Pantanal was very very good.

Sprungli You have to and must visit the main Sprungli shop. Ofcourse you will eat there, (as I will soon mention) and shop there too. But the first time, just go and see the spectacular display of chocolates, chocolate related products and the various different ice creams and drinks available in the main shop. Its an unforgettable, mouth opening, jaw hanging experience. And its always crowded!!

Old Town  Its walking distance from main Bahnofstrasse ( the main street). The roads are clean (are you surprised?) and its a pleasure to walk around. Neiderdof has quaint shops, great restaurants and ice cream parlours.

Neiderdof Old Town
Neiderdof Old Town

Train Station. No. I am not a train spotting junkie- This station, rather whats underneath the station is a marvel. They have built an entire city under the tracks. You can shop, eat, window shop. And nope – its not claustrophobic.

Restaurants 

For the best Raclette and Fondue – go to the old town. Swiss Chuchi – Adler Hotel. Outstanding experience. Please book in high season. Sit outdoors if the weather is good. And please have white wine with it. And a Kirsch after that to wash it down.

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Yummy Swiss Food
Yummy Swiss Food

Belvoirpark This is actually a culinary school. The students cook and serve. Sometimes the service can get a bit clumsy, but do over look that. Because the food is terrific. http://www.belvoirpark.ch/ Book in advance.

The Staff and student of Belvoirpark
The Staff and student of Belvoirpark

Sprungli    http://www.spruengli.ch/service/restaurant-en.php There are many small shops all over Zurich. Please go to the biggest one in Paradeplatz. Sit outdoors. No booking is taken so, please dont go in peak lunch hour.

Hiltl  Not my favourite place, but if you would like a pure veg meal, the variety can boggle your mind. Get your samosa fix!

Santa Lucia. Its a pizza chain all over Zurich. Excellent hot, wood fired oven Pizzas here. Get a swiss wine to go with it.

White Elephant http://www.coolinary.ch/de/page/thai-restaurant-white-elephant/. Excellent Thai cuisine. Please book in advance.

Some other restaurants, and some of them Michelin Star are –

Parkhaus

Doldergrand

Kronehalle

Alpen Rose

Shopping 

The entire Bahnoffstrasse (the main street) is a shopping Mecca.

Jelmoli (J is pronounced as Y) has all the upmarket brands.

Annahof  I love this shop. It has many medium level brands. So you can go here for lingerie as well as a wedding gown. Shoes, Bags, Make up, everything.

Co op  There are many all over Zurich. For all ye foodies – go pick up everything gourmet from here. Has normal food stuff by the horde too.

Pharmacy. There are many all over Zurich. There is something about the stuff available here. I always make it a point to pick up Traumalix Dolo 5% gel. This is a fabulous non smelling, no burning gel for bruises, sprains and strains. Pick  up your basic vitamins. All pharmacies will have someone to help you.

Sprungli you must shop here for the luxemburglies, the truffles, the cheese sticks and the tiny tiny icecream scoop in a tiny tiny waffle cone. Try their hot chocolate and cold chocolate milk. Buy your dark chocolate here. Basically, be warned to drop a lot of hard earned money here.

The best place for lunch
The best place for lunch

Hotel If you get a good rate, stay in Glockenhof. Its bang in the centre of the street, yet just off centre to not have you feeling like you are in the middle of rush hour traffic. Great rooms. Super breakfast.

Some notes about Zurich. 

Travel by tram. Its cheap and fun.

Eat lots of Swiss food. Trust me there is nothing like the original.

Take home some cheese.

Take home a fondue set.

Go for the Raclette set too!

Be polite and the swiss will be polite in return. They love their rules.

If you need a watch, buy one here. Interlaken  (2 hours by train) is very cheap for it

Travel around by train. You can take many one day journeys and visit small villages and mountain peaks.

Walk, walk, walk.

Drink some local wines and beers. They are really good.

If you dong mind a little expensive variety of undergarment  – go to Calida. only available in Switzerland, it costs a bit, but lasts for ever and is amazingly comfortable. Look for sales. Their nightwear is hMMmmm!

Have loads of fun!

Ciao.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bruges and Antwerp

Bruges is the cutest, quaintest town I have been to. Completely a tourist destination, the main square is buzzing with people, horse carriages – drawn by some of the handsomest horses I have ever seen.

The cobbled roads, trams, horse carriages and old stone buildings lend it a charm of the Medieval era. And then suddenly out of the blue, you will see a horse carriage loaded with barrels of beer. It makes you want to run to the nearest bar and sip some ot the cool thirst quenching ale.

 

Barrels of beer being transported. Tempting the tourists I say!!
Barrels of beer being transported. Tempting the tourists I say!!

What had us on the throes of disappointment was that nary a brewery was to be found. We went into alleyways, and near by monk inhabited villages.. Nope! We were not allowed to see any breweries. None existed. The only thing we could do was have a couple of local beers on tap! Belgium and beers on tap! Whats so great? Visiting a few breweries and tasting them, just as they were chilled for the first time, would have been the great experience.

Nevertheless, we had copious litres of beer of every kind.

Delerium, was a great place to visit. They had beers made with coconut flavour and so on!

Lots of Bars all over the town.

Do sample some of the gins in the special outlets.

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These people have it all in the right perspective
These people have it all in the right perspective

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We cycled to Knokke, via Damm. It was a hilarious experience, but only on hind sight. We were told Bruges is almost shut on a Sunday, so we decided to cycle to Knokke, a sea side town, 15 km away from Bruges. Not much, specially as we were stopping in Damm mid way for a bite, and planning to load the cycles on a train, with us on our return.

We reached Damm, and enjoyed the Sunday festival going on, with loads to eat and drink.

Then the confused husband, met an equally confused tourist. And confusion + confusion led to us taking the wrong route to Knokke and we ended up doing 15 km more instead of just 8 more. And the last 4 on an incline with head wind!! Needless to say, our legs were jammed and back sides sore.

But Knokke is a beautiful town. The summer had turned on, and people were deliriously sun bathing in the multiple sea touching restaurants and shacks. Lovely restaurants and shopping. Worth a days visit.

Damm, was also beautiful. Small quaint village. We did not leave the market and venture around too much.

The gorgeous cycling path
The gorgeous cycling path

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Wind Mill in Damm
Wind Mill in Damm

Restaurants

What amazing food!! Surprisingly many many fine dinning options.

Some of the restaurants we visited ..

Jai Bhavani. Dont get deterred by the name. Fabulous Indian food.

Le Petit Patron, Great Swiss food.

Some of the Restaurants I had researched and heard great reviews ..

De Stove

T Zwart Huis

The Olive Tree

T Brugs Beertje

Some more restaurants..

Since we landed up during an odd time of the week, many of these establishments were closed for their weekly off.

Bruges
Bruges Canals

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While roaming the Streets, do go to Go Fre, and have their waffles on sticks – with caramel dripping..

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Of course – waffles all over Bruges are YUMMY!

Canal Ride – personally, I found it a bit boring. But you do end up seeing some gorgeous building, up close and you see this little cutie …

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ANTWERP 

Antwerp is full of  Indians. The first restaurant we went into, asked us if we want any Jain dishes. Since it wasn’t an Indian restaurant, I was dumb founded, till I remembered that we are in a city taken over by the Indian Jain community. City of Diamond Trade.

I have no fondness for Antwerp. The city has no very special history, and nothing special in terms of sight seeing.

 

We had very good meals there though!

I can name only some of the restaurants – the ones we visited.

Tasty Thai Express. Excellent hole in the wall thai food.

Lebanese – many many hole in the wall lebanese joints, but food will be fresh, and the tastiest most authentic you have ever had.

Danieli – High End Italian. Fabulous ambience. Great service and food.

Pizzeria Isola Sarda. Wood fire, excellent pizzas.

Ellis Gourmet Burger. I dont like burgers – this one was outstanding. Very different fillings. Its a chain, small outlets all over the city.

CHOCOLATES  – Del Ray is the best place to buy chocolates in Antwerp.

GHENT AND MECHELEN

A days trip is enough. Nothing great

 

Basically, Belgium is just a 4 day trip. 3 days Bruges. Try and be there from a Thursday to a Saturday. Do Knokke on Sunday. Head to Antwerp (if you want – I wouldnt) via Ghent and Mechelen.

Fly out of Brussels.

 

 

Vancouver

One of those places where you sit back, watch your heart rate drop, your shoulders de stress and your breath go into deep meditation phase.

The minute we landed we saw this…

Take a deep breath, when hit by this kind of beauty!
Take a deep breath, when hit by this kind of beauty!

This was a very short trip and the hub and me are a bit laid back. We don’t wake up, have a shower and breakfast and hit the city by 8 am. So the short trip made it even more tight and Vancouver will have to be done once more.

Places to go to.

Stanley Park. Near the park are cycle hire shops, with great variety to choose from. Before that, pick up some food and water. Head to the park. Its massive, Huge. We cycled around for a good two hours, but I think one can spend the day there.

English Bay Beach. We went there for a view of the Sunset. But what we saw was the mist take over the city. A cloud of mist, over a deeply rich setting sun, with sea gulls and eagles flying all over the place. I think my hub wanted to propose once more. I know I wanted him to.

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The mist taking over the city
The mist taking over the city
gathering mist, then scattering all over the city
gathering mist, then scattering all over the city

We did not end up going but Granville Park is also well recommended.

There are many other places in and around Vancouver. Victoria, is across the bridge. Banff is close by. As is Jasper.

Shopping

We stayed in Grenville area, so mostly shopped around there.

Yale town has great reviews, but I was not much awed by it.

Vancouver is full of local designers. Mac (the make up thingy) and some other products are local. So expect great prices on them.

Food

Vancouver has surprisingly a big foodie population. Again, a place of high sustainability and locally grown produce.

Some fabulous places we ate in :-

The Whiskey Kitchen. Sure it’s about whiskey. Every dish has a dash of it (or more!). And its tasty and different and perfectly amazing.

Lupo. Forage and The Grill and Casa Nova were some of the restaurants we ate in. I recommend them all very fervently!

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2011/08/15/top-20-vancouver-restaurants/

Amsterdam.

Amsterdam had me dumbfounded and the first day my mouth was hanging open, like a teenager confronted with a pop star. Its a city of pleasures, and sins.  Cycling and food. Walking and museums. There is a museum for everything – Handbags and purses, Hemp and Marijuana, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. We did not visit any museum. The three short days were spent discovering the streets of Amsterdam, and cycling all over the city. Its great, because the amount we ate, we put on no weight.

We stayed in the Hotel Okura. It’s a little away from the heart of the city, slightly secluded but by no means boring. In fact the bars and pubs near the hotel were buzzing with mad FIFA spectators. (Holland was playing again’st Australia.) The crowds were dressed in Orange and they were all out on the roads. Our hotel had the most happening bar. Great music and great drinks.

Coffee Shops. This according to me, is the biggest draw.  Joints are available everywhere. I mean you have to go to a coffee shop, which are everywhere. This hilariously sells absolutely no coffee. Only joints of various kinds. From the mild to very severe. We took one the last day. The mildest one. With great great apprehension. Nothing really happend, but as I was told by locals later, for a good high, one should go towards the local areas and get one there. It was very peculiar experience for us. Standing on the road and smoking a joint – legally.

Legal joint!!
Legal joint!!

Condomerie. Forget the kids, even we were educated. Massively if a bit inappropriately. This shop has only condoms, usable and unusable. They have a window display they change often. You must go in and buy one. http://condomerie.com

Window display of condoms.
Window display of condoms.

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So many to choose from!
So many to choose from!

Window Shopping. Amsterdam is known for window shopping. You must have heard of the women, dressed up– um! actually dressed down and displaying themselves behind windows. We did not enter any of these. There the kids put their foot down (much to our relief). In fact we were having an inner fight between embarrassment and intrigue. They are to be found in the red light district. Unfortunately I have no pictures. It was’nt allowed.

Cycling. Cycling is a must in Amsterdam. It’s the best way to see the city. We cycled every where. All hotels provide cycles, or you can hire them. Everyone drives almost the same type of cycle. 50,000 cycles are stolen per year, so the fancy ones are taken out only for recreation. The only problem we encountered was quite hilarious actually. We had trouble finding parking for cycles! It’s safest to lock them again’st poles, and poles were normally taken!! Everyone in that city is armed. The cycle locks are so huge heavy and vicious, one twang across the head and Whoosh!

We saw beautiful houses by the canal. Small but so gorgeous. One day we bought some cheese and wine and saddled up, and cycled to Vondel Park.

Picnic in Vondel Park.
Picnic in Vondel Park.

You must pick up Cheese. Amsterdam is known for it. The shops themselves are very interesting. They offer free tasting. I loved the “old amsterdam” variety.

Heineken Experience. The old brewery has been turned into a museum of sorts. (This is the only one we went to) One gets a nice 4D experience, water sprinkles and all.

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Canals Of Amsterdam.
Vondel Park
Vondel Park

 

Heineken Experience.
Heineken Experience.

EATING PLACES

We ate in road side joints as well as 5 course meals.

Maoz. Must eat. Located all over the city, a super duper cheap and massively filling meal.

Hotel Okura. Five course meal. Fabulous. Even more fabulous for non vegetarians.

The bar in Okura is very lively too.

Chilled Tomato soup In Hotel Okura
Chilled Tomato soup In Hotel Okura

Cooking Class. If you like cooking, book a class in Taste Of Okura- Hotel Okura. Even if you are not staying there. And if you prefer vegetarian, let them know before hand. They accomodate.

Taste of Okura. Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce.
Taste of Okura. Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce.

 

And that’s the summary of our memorable Amsterdam trip.

NOTE : If going with kids, make sure they are adults or atleast somewhere on the way there.