Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekend in Zermatt

To celebrate the completion of Luke's Masters Degree program we headed to Zermatt for the weekend. We woke up early Saturday morning to catch our 6:17 train which we made with 0 seconds to spare. As it was, we were running late to the train station and didn't arrive until 6:10. Then, we had to get the stroller, our snowboards, boots, bags, etc out of the car and run to the platform. When we got there it was 6:15 and we were out of breath. Luke asked if I had my keys and I said no, I thought he still had them. That is when we realized my keys were sitting on top of our car in the parking lot because he thought I had picked them up. Luke took off running to get our keys and 30 seconds later our train arrived. I thought for sure we would be sitting in the snow for an hour waiting for the next one because there was no way Luke would be able to run to the car in back during the 1-2 minutes the train was stopped at the station. But, sure enough Luke came running back and we jumped in the train right as it was ready to leave. We met up with Luke's coworkers in Bern and at 9:00 we were in Zermatt. We headed to the hotel right away and the guys got ready to go skiing while Jack and I got ready to go sledding. By 10am everyone was ready and we walked to the station to buy tickets and just as I was about to buy our sledding ticket, I noticed Jack was down for the count:

That left me with an hour or so to explore the town of Zermatt. It is a really nice town situated right at the base of several mountains.
The train dead ends here and it is a car free city. The only vehicles allowed in Zermatt are these little electric busses.

On clear days you have an awesome view of the Matterhorn. This is the last city on the Swiss side and once you cross the alps, you will be in Italy.
Once Jack woke up, we rented our sled and headed out
Unlike the ski resorts in the US, Zermatt is not limited to skiers/snowboarders. Many of the pistes (runs) are open to sledders and hikers as well. Jack and I took the gondola up the mountain to one of the sledding runs.

As you can see, skiers and sledders use the same run. In fact, on our way down the mountain we were passed by several skiers, snowboarders and we past a few hikers as well.
The sledding adventure turned out to be a terrible day. I thought that we would be able to sit on the sled and ride the whole way down the mountain, but that was not the case. The majority of the sled run was flat so I had to pull Jack. It took forever and before long he started getting cold, then he started to cry and scream so I had to carry him while pulling the sled all the way down the mountain. What I thought would be a 30 minute ride down the mountain ended up taking several hours. It was miserable. In fact, the guys finished their day of skiing before Jack and I got down. After Jack and I warmed up in a small restaurant, he was able to sit on the sled again while I pulled him, but then he started falling asleep.
So I ended up having to carry him again, and pull the sled all the way back to the hotel. I was ready to collapse. Next time, I will make sure to ask if the sled run is actually "rideable" I will not go on another one where I have to pull the sled, where is the fun in that!?

Later that night we headed out for some good food.
Sunday morning was my turn to hit the slopes, while Luke watched Jack. We headed right away to the top of the mountain. I have to mention the terrifying gondola ride up the mountain though. We loaded into one of these huge gondolas that can carry hundreds of people and the driver has a steering wheel at the front of the gondola. At first, everything was normal. But as we started to go higher, the gondola began to sway. A little bit at first and then much more. The wind was so severe (80 km/hr) that the driver was worried it would blow us right against the big stations as we passed. So every time we reached one of the stations he would stop the gondola and we would be suspended mid air swaying back and forth until the swaying was almost at a minimum and we could inch by the tower hoping a gust of wind wouldn't blow us right against it. A few times a big gust of wind did come and I was waiting for the crash and then to fall thousands of feet to the ground below. Needless to say, by the time we reached the top I was shaking and it wasn't because of the -30 degree weather. They closed the gondola after we got off.

Our first run of the day was right at the foot of the Matterhorn
It was an amazing view. There is a run on the Matterhorn but it was closed due to the severe winds.
The runs seemed much shorter than those in Colorado or even Mammoth. But, then again half the mountain was closed due to severe weather so it is hard to say

It seemed that everything was geared towards skiers though. Many of the runs had long, straight parts where snowboarders (and even some skiers) have to walk. And most of the lifts are gondolas so you have to take your snowboard off completely. I spent most of the day taking my snowboard on and off. Next season I will ski!
Down in the valley is the Zermatt
I loved going through little villages where you could stop for some food or a beer

Here is a picture of one of the huge gondolas that carries hundreds of skiers, snowboarders, hikers, etc.
And a picture of me, just to prove I was there :-)

I loved all the different forms of transportation used on the mountain. We rode on a huge gondola, a 4 person gondola, regular chair lifts and trains.
C'etait une bonne journee
Here is a map of the mountain showing half of the runs (or more) closed due to winds
Back in town ready to see my guys again
We grabbed all our stuff then headed out for the 3 hour train ride home. Thankfully Jack had lots of people to keep him happy.

We arrived home safe and sound, but completely exhausted. Now we have two days to rest and then it's off to Barcelona for Christmas. Good thing too because I need a vacation ;-)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Time to celebrate!

Luke just finished his last class for his Masters degree! I am so happy to have our nights and weekends back! To celebrate, we are going snowboarding in Zermatt this weekend.

In the meantime, here are some photos of Jack having fun in the snow

Goofing around inside
Jack has the smooth moves of his daddy

 My little chef

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Santa Claus Day!

Today the kids in Switzerland celebrated St. Nicholas Day. It started last night, when you put out a boot for St. Nicholas to fill. Then, this morning you wake up to find nuts and chocolate in the boot:

Jack was so excited to see what Santa Claus had left him
But he was mad when I told him he had ate enough candy for the morning
Then we went to the mall to sit with Santa. Jack did surprisingly well!
He received more chocolate, nuts and a clementine
Then we saw another Santa roaming the mall
Who gave him even more candy!

He was able to spend some time with his little friend Anik. She loves to hold his hand where ever we go. Jack figured this out and now he thinks it is funny to hide his hand behind his back just to frustrate her.

We even got some more nuts and chocolate from our lunch at McDonalds.

I think we have enough candy to last us until Easter!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Florence, Italy

We ended our Tuscan vacation with a stop in Florence. I found a B&B in the middle of town next to the Duomo. I figured it would be a convenient place for sightseeing. But I forgot how much Luke (and myself) loath big cities. Just getting in to Florence was a nightmare. Since we were staying in the old part of town we were allowed to drive in the "restricted" zone across the river and through the Port Romana:

Our hotel was right next to the Duomo so we wanted to visit it first, but by the time we got there it was closed
 I couldn't get over how big this cathedral was. It dominated the entire area
 Luke "city" (aka pissed off) face
 At least I got some smiles from Jack when I found a carousel
 We decided it was time for gelato. The first of the trip!

Walking back to our hotel I got a picture of the Ponte Vecchio. It is the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed by Hitler during WWII
 A view of the buildings along the river front
 So many people!
 Jack's favorite thing is to throw himself on the floor in a fit of rage in the most inopportune places
 Sunday morning we had breakfast tickets for a nearby shop
 So many delicious things to choose from
 The chocolate croissants are not as good as the ones in Switzerland, but they are pretty good
 It rained all day Sunday. We tried to stop in at the Duomo, but it was closed all morning. 

 Most of the city was sectioned off for a bike race and marathon
 Another great place for Jack to throw a fit
 At lunch we stopped in to get some pizza. This shop had "french fry" pizza for sale. It doesn't look or sound good
 Jack was happy with his sandwich
 Luke and I were happy with some Italian beer
Since it was raining we hit up the Academy museum and saw David. No pictures were allowed but I think everyone knows what David looks like anyways. He was much larger than I expected, Luke's only comment was "those are the most famous pair of nuts in the world" haha. It's true.

After dragging Jack through another museum we told him we would take him to an indoor play area nearby. The tourist office assured us it was open. So we walked in the rain for 30 minutes. We got there at 12:45 and it had closed at 12:30. Jack was so sad...
 So instead we played in the rain at a nearby fountain

 Later that night we stopped in at the bakery and got some treats. The rum ball was my favorite!
Here is Jack eating his dinner in the shower. Spaghetti is so messy, shower dinners are the best option
 Monday morning we got some more treats, and coffee for breakfast
 Jack picked out his own donut with cream
 Monday morning we were finally able to visit the Doumo

After visiting the church, we got out of the city and started our 7 hour drive home. I think I might go back to Florence one day (without Jack). It was a neat city but it was not child friendly in the least bit. The smaller towns of Tuscany were truly the most amazing part of this trip.