Well we're back in the states now, after nine weeks of travel. Here's my final update for this part of the blog, but stay tuned for more updates once we move to London...that's right, London.
When I last updated, we were in Milan, waiting for a train to Switzerland. It was a gorgeous trip, made more fun by the occasion of our teaching new card games to Jennica, a Canadian model sitting at our table. We got to Switzerland and breathed a collective sigh of relief. It's a fabulous country. Everything is clean and efficient; everything works the first time; and people were really friendly and helpful. We got to Interlaken that first day and set up our tent at the best campsite of the trip, right on the banks of the River Aare, which was the most incredible shade of greyish-greenish-blue.
Our first full day we spent relaxing, running errands, and waiting for Bryan and Christina to show up from Venice. We checked out the town and found some fantastic grocery stores (thank goodness; Swiss restaurants are outrageously expensive). We also discovered that Swiss chocolate is omnipresent and delicious.
Once B and C arrived, we began our Swiss routine of hiking, mountain-gazing, napping, and card-playing, and we stuck to that routine for four more days. We also took a couple day trips. We went to Bern, which is a beautiful town (and our fifth European capital city) with neat buildings, eccentric fountains and clocks, and a bear pit holding the two mascots for the city, which people feed by dropping apples down, where the bears catch them expertly in their mouths. We also went to Luzern, another charming and cozy city on a beautiful lake. Just outside of Luzern, we went to the top of Mount Pilatus on three separate cable car excursions, including one that was at least a hundred feet off the ground that swept us up over deep canyons to the very summit of the mountain. About halfway up we got out of the cable car and went down the summer toboggan run, which was fun for everyone but Andrew, who, in keeping with his behavior at Versailles, hurt himself by falling off the sled and getting dragged down the metal track for a couple dozen feet. Ouch. The views from the summit were fantastic, and we also enjoyed the trip down the other side on a cog railway.
But our favorite Swiss place was a little mountain lake a 30 minute hike from our camp site. We walked over with picnic supplies (ham, wurst, cheese, bread, various salads, pickles, and mustard...and three kinds of chocolate), sat for a while in the sun, then plunged into the surprisingly warm lake and swam and dove and jumped off a rope swing until our arms were sore. It was harder to float in the freshwater than it had been in the Mediterranean, but I managed to stay on my back and watch the clouds pass over the tops of the mountains, and I have rarely been happier in my life.
But all good things must come to an end, and Andrew, Robert, and I left Switzerland on Sunday on a first-class train with a first-class brunch and mimosas packed in our picnic bag and finally got to Paris. We checked in, got some lunch, and wandered through the strangely empty streets. Nothing was open; there were hardly any people walking around; and we wondered why, until we made it to the Champs-Elysses and found the entire city crowded on every spare inch of sidewalk straining to see the circling cyclists completing the final stage of the Tour de France. It was really exciting! People were cheering and waving banners, and there were cameras thick on the ground and helicopters roaring overhead. We stood for half an hour and saw the cyclists rush by in a blaze of color several times and cheered for no one in particular. It was great. That night we ended our trip with a fabulous dinner in the most fashionable part of town. I had tuna tartare with avocado puree, a lobster and herb salad, and creme brulee. Now that's how you do Paris. Our last day was a blur of trains, buses, and airplanes, but we finally made it back to New Jersey, where Uncle Fred is helping us recuperate. Then it's another whirlwind two weeks, and back to London! We're really looking forward to seeing everyone before we leave, but if we don't see you now, we'll be back at Christmas, and you can always come visit us in London!
Thanks for reading about our trip...I hope you'll also read about our new adventures starting soon!