Europe: Paris, Lake Como & Switzerland

Day 1 Paris (1)

When our good family friend, Thomas, got engaged last year, my family knew we had to fly out for the wedding to celebrate with him and his new wife, Nicole.  Thomas and Nicole are from Germany, and we thought we would add of few more countries into our trip as well… 🙂  I went to Italy and Switzerland with Rachel, then to Germany for the wedding and to Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary with more of the family.  Paris wasn’t on the planned agenda, but I couldn’t go back to Europe and not go to Paris, so I left a day before Rachel and spent one very quick, long and exhausting but great day in Paris before flying to meet her in Milan.  My flight to Paris landed at 9:00am and the plan was to have slept the whole way from Seattle to Paris, one reason I intentionally got a direct flight, but I ended up not being able to sleep at all.  That was fun.  By the time I made it through customs, took the RER from the airport to my hotel and dropped off my luggage it was almost noon.  I could feel my precious time ticking away standing in line at the airport.  I didn’t make any really solid plans for my time there, I just wanted to be able to wander around the streets, enjoying being in my favorite city in the world!  It felt so surreal being back for the first time in 14 years.  I have missed it so much!

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My favorite view of the city is from the towers of Notre Dame, so that is where I headed first.  The line can be pretty long, and I was hoping to get there first thing in the morning when it is shortest, but that obviously didn’t happen.  It was a hot and overcast/hazy kind of day, but I still loved it.  One of my favorite things about Paris is the beautiful architecture.  I wandered around Ile de la Cite and surrounding area for a while and got a citron crepe before taking the metro to the Eiffel Tower.

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There was something going on the day I was there, and they had just blocked off the exits for the metro stop right after I got there, and then they wern’t allowing any of the following trains to stop, so I got trapped there for about 10 minutes.  I finally followed a Parisian woman and she managed to find the one exit that wasn’t blocked off.  I walked around the area all around the Eiffel tower and along the Seine before heading over to Montmartre.

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I was planning on going back to the Eiffel tower at dark, but by this point I was so exhausted and had to get up at 4:00 am the next day to go to the airport so I went back to the hotel.  That is after I stopped at the patisserie for dinner… and oh my gosh, fresh, warm french croissants…  nothing we have in the U.S. comes close!

Day 1 Paris (11) Day 2-3 Lake Como (1)

The next morning, Saturday, I flew to Milan very early where I met up with Rachel.  We rented a car there and drove to Lake Como.  I have wanted to visit Lake Como for a long time, and it was so beautiful!  We checked into our hotel and then drove along the lake for a bit and stopped in a small town and wandered around and had some gelato and pasta.  The gelato was amazing, but the pasta was a little disappointing, but the view was great!  It was so fun to be there with Rachel!  It was the longest space of time we have ever been apart.  And a reunion in Lake Como is pretty great!

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See what I mean?  We had the most amazing view for breakfast, and probably one of my favorite breakfasts of the trip.

Day 2-3 Lake Como (4)

One of my favorite things about this trip were all of the beautiful clock towers all over Europe.  They are everywhere, every town has at least one, usually more, and I loved hearing them chiming, so charming.  I loved how each country seemed to stick to the same type of architecture for their bell towers.

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Sunday morning we took the cable car next to the hotel up to the top of the mountain, then went to Villa Del Balbiano, where they filmed the wedding scene from Star Wars Episode II, and the scene in Casino Royal where James is recuperating.

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After touring the Villa we took the ferry over to the town of Bellagio where we wandered around the town and had some lunch.  And of course some more gelato.  We drove out along the other side of the lake.  The drive was beautiful, but it was pretty stressful for Rachel, who did all of the driving.  The streets were curvy and narrow with steep drop offs, and tons of motorcylces weaving in and out.  We drove to Switzerland and stayed the night in the town of Brig.

Day 4 Matterhorn (1)

Monday morning we took the train to Zermatt where we spent the day.  In the morning we took the train from Zermatt to Gornerat, one of the mountains adjacent to the Matterhorn.  It was a cloudy, foggy morning and it was so pretty to see the Matterhorn emerge as the clouds cleared, and then it was the perfect sunny day.

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In the afternoon we went back to Zermatt and took a series of different cable cars up to the Klein Matterhorn (the little Matterhorn), the mountain right next to the Matterhorn.  It was very cold, but so pretty.  There are ice caves underneath it and they have different ice sculptures throughout the tunnel.  We then took the cable cars back down to Zermatt and then the train back to Brig and then drove to Bern.  Rachel’s old roommate, Anita, lives in Bern and let us stay with her, and we got to her apartment very late that night.

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Anita took Tuesday off of work so she was able to spend the day with us.  We went to the town of Gruyeres (where the cheese comes from) and we went to the castle there.  It was the cutest little town, in the most beautiful area.  I loved the Swiss countryside, with the cute buildings, mountains and green hills, lakes and waterfalls.  It really reminded me of the game Carcassonne, even though I know that is a French town.

Day 5-7 Swizterland (2)

Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers and I saw them everywhere on this trip, I loved that.

Day 5-7 Swizterland (11)

We stopped and had some double cream with meringues for “lunch” which was so good.

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In the afternoon we went to St. Beatus caves close to Interlaken.  I LOVED this.  One of my favorite things of the whole trip.  I loved the cute monastery build into the cliff wall over the waterfalls, the huge beautiful watersfalls that cascade down into the lake and then the river and waterfalls inside the caves.  It was so cool.  It is kind of hard to see but in this picture, there were a ton of different falls you could walk around these walkways and bridges to see it.  The caves go pretty far inside the mountain, following the falls all the way.

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We spent all of Wednesday in the valley south of Interlaken.  We took the cable cars up to Piz Gloria, the rotating restaurant with 360 views of the surrounding mountains, where they filmed another James Bond movie.  We weren’t intentionally going to James Bond sites…

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Then we went to Trummelbach Falls.  It is another set of waterfalls almost completely inside the mountain, except this time it wasn’t in a cave, but more of a ravine.  You take an elevator up and then can walk along the paths up to the top of the falls and then take the pathway all the way down, passing all of the different waterfalls along the way.

Day 5-7 Swizterland (9)

Anita told us that most of the Swiss water fountains are drinkable, unless they say so, and so in Lauterbrunnen we filled our water bottles with the water, and it was so good.  We found a fountain next to this church and it was so cool to drink the delicious water almost coming straight out of the waterfall above it.  We drove up to Grindlewald, which was seriously the cutest little town.  We had Raclette with Anita the night before and we both loved it so much that we got some more for dinner in Grindlewald.

Day 5-7 Swizterland (13) Day 5-7 Swizterland (10)Day 7 Germany

On Thursday morning we went to the Bern temple, and then drove to Germany for the wedding.  We took a little detour to Oberammergau to find one of these rotating fan nativities that I have been wanting FOR.EV.ER.  I was so excited to find one exactly how I wanted it.   And I love Oberammergau, the cutest little German Christmas town.  Someday my mom and I are going to go to Germany in December and go to the Christmas markets.  In the evening we met up with my parents, brother Andrew and sister Chani at Thomas and Nicole’s house and we all went to dinner with them and some of their family and friends before the wedding the next day.

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