Wednesday, June 22, 2011: Milan – Italy at last!!!

Today is the day I have been eagerly anticipating…the day we FINALLY enter Italy! We checked out of our hotel, toured downtown Zurich for a bit, had some lunch at a Turkish (?) café (the food was quite good here), bought some (delicious yet expensive) chocolate, and eventually headed for Italy. Our first stop: Milan! Milan, like Zurich, is not cheap. We found a hotel just on the edge of the city…probably similar to a Holiday Inn in the US. The boys’ room reeked of perfume-scented cigarette smoke…ours was not quite so bad. However, it was a deal cost-wise, and we were there for only one night…all very doable. In the end it was an especially good deal because they extended our check-out time to 2PM, which gave us a chance to tour downtown Milan’s famous ‘Il Duomo’ and have lunch before heading to Verona. And an even more important reason: I was able to leave the [delicious yet expensive] Swiss chocolate in our room so it would not sit in a hot car and melt…

We took the tram into the heart of the city to visit ‘Il Duomo’. A wonderful Italian lady saw us reading our maps and (in Italian) suggested places we should visit. I didn’t have the heart to tell her we only had time for the church, but I did take advantage of the opportunity to practice the months of Italian lessons I have invested in for this trip. I was pleased that I was able to understand most of what she was saying (she was kind and spoke slowly).

The church was indeed impressive and well worth the time into town! We were not able to visit ‘The Last Supper’ because reservations are necessary and book up well in advance. This will have to be saved for a future visit…Guess we will have to come back to see that and take in an opera at the world-famous La Scala; perhaps even add in a shopping trip to top things off… J

***The ‘Hindsight is 20/20’ Thought of the Day: It’s never a good idea to face a tram head-on in Milan (in reference to my husband turning right into the path of an on-coming tram as we searched for our hotel upon arriving in Milan…)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011: One night in Switzerland

Stuttgart was more of an industrial town…Zurich is set in the Swiss Alps, a wonderful blend of beauty and money (expensive!).  We arrived late after trying to see the Black Forest in Germany…’tried’ being the operative word. We got partway down the road we needed to take and soon found it was closed for construction. It would have been a rather long detour around, and we wanted to make sure we saw the Alps while it was still light out; therefore, we gave up on the Black Forest and headed for Zurich. As expected, the Alps were stunning. We were able to stop and take photos at a few opportune spots. This is an area I would love to return to with a little more time (and money) on hand to fully appreciate its charms.

Arriving at our hotel, took a bit of an effort since our GPS took us through downtown Zurich at rush hour [side note: our hotel was just outside of the city…]. But we finally made it to the hotel… We were delighted to find out our room had been upgraded to one of their apartments due to a plumbing issue with our original room (no extra charge)…Aaahhh! It was so nice to have some extra room to spread out after a week on the road! We had a kitchen area, walk-in closet and HUGE bathroom with a rain head shower fixture!! Our boys had the original room booked for them. It was a bit smaller and the shower stood in a small kitchenette/bathroom area. Both of the rooms overlooked the lake, mountains and the city of Zurich. It was a glorious view to behold.

The hotel restaurant was booked for dinner, but the (one) restaurant within walking distance – Moosegg – was open and available…and expensive. Yikes! Our most expensive dinner yet…but it was delicious. I enjoyed a nice glass of an Italian red wine with a steak, salad and lentils, all perfectly cooked. It was great to finally have vegetables after all of Germany’s heavy food!!!

I am enjoying the dinner conversations with my family so much. We don’t always take/have the time to sit and chat with one another, especially with one away at college. The years have flown so quickly, and we are so fortunate to be able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity…I almost have to pinch myself sometimes!