switzerland, italy & france recap: sights, experiences, and quality “life” time

{all images taken by me, please credit if using somewhere}

how do you sum up 10 days of traveling in a little blog post? not possible, especially for a photo-loving girl like me. our trip was amazing. well, i speak for myself considering i didn’t have 4 days of meetings, but, all in all, it was wonderful. i’ll share with you some of my favorite shots from the trip, and little tidbits i learned along the way. bare with me on the length and number of pics in this post :)

our first stop was in zurich, switzerland. we landed after a 12-hour flight and immediately hopped on a ~2-hour train ride to brunnen, where Pat’s meetings were taking place. our hotel was situated right at the base of a gorgeous lake and i was in heaven - the air was clean, the lake was crystal clear in the prettiest shade of teal, and we could see the mountains from our room.

switzerland learnings:

1. people are friendly, though very few speak english. even though this was a challenge, i found it to be really refreshing to be totally immersed in a less touristy area and worked to learn the basics so i could get along without someone having to speak to us in english.

2. the country is absolutely gorgeous. some of my favorite moments were those spent on a silent train, watching the beautiful scenery fly by. i took about a million iPhone pics and videos from the train.

3. everyone is so quiet. even the bars were quiet. it was kind of peaceful.

4. everyone smokes. everywhere (this was the general consensus for europe in general from what we saw). in the bars, at breakfast, everywhere. for a non-smoker, i was not a fan. but this was the only negative thing i’d say, and it’s a way of life over there, so i’m totally not judging. i’m just not a smoker.

4. people enjoy such a simple way of life. it was really refreshing. smaller cars, more family time, less blackberry/iPhone reading at restaurants. more time enjoying life and the outdoors.

Pat and i spent a few days together in brunnen before his meetings began, and then i took a train from brunnen to venice, italy for a 3-day mini adventure. some of Pat’s colleagues were surprised that i was taking the trip alone, but as a girl who moved solo to australia for a year, i’ve done my share of traveling alone and i was perfectly fine with it (and Pat knew i could manage it). i did my research beforehand and found that venice was included in one of the top safest cities in the world, so i felt comfortable making the trek on my own. the train ride was a bit of a long one, and i had to connect in milan where i had to figure out how to find the next track for my connecting train. although i had no “roaming” coverage on my iPhone, i was able to log in to wireless zones here and there, and use my “say hi” iphone app to figure out how to ask “which track is the train to venice” to a nice woman who was also looking at the train schedule. the only problem with the app is it doesn’t tell you how to understand people’s responses haha. but it worked out fine and i was on my way.

i arrived in venice after a looooong day of traveling, just as the sun was starting to set. i had no idea that you literally take a water taxi everywhere in this city, so that was an adventure in itself getting to my hotel which was on the island across from the main city (a total score on priceline the morning i left for venice!). but it worked out fine after a few wrong turns.

after checking in to the hotel i freshened up quickly and headed straight back out to check out the sights with a quickly setting sun. i was actually pretty excited to get a real italian meal and walked to a nearby restaurant for wine, caprese salad with real deal mozzarella and homemade pasta with bolognese sauce. words can’t even describe it. i was having one of those moments where you are so content and happy and nothing can bring you down - it was such a special experience. everything was made with love, the servers were so nice and it was the perfect way to cap off my first night in venice.

the next morning i woke up bright and early to explore venice. my hotel had a free shuttle to 2 spots in the city so i headed over on the water taxi and started exploring. i missed breakfast that day but made up for it by housing half a margherita pizza at lunch, hehe.

venice was unbelievable. i got completely and totally lost through all the alleyways, and it was perfectly fine. in fact, many urged me to do just this when i asked for recommendations. i loved meandering around at my own pace, snapping pictures around every corner, and taking everything in. it’s amazing the thinking you can do when you have a few days of talking to barely anyone. and it’s amazing how completely universal a smile can be - there’s no language required to understand genuine friendliness.

i have always been completely in love/obsessed with european architecture and history, specifically that of italy & greece so it was a dream come true to actually be in venice. i was enamored with the detailing, the colors, the textures, and everything about it - from the window boxes filled with fresh rosemary and basil to the seafoam green waters in the canals.

venice learnings:

1. everyone is very sweet. shop owners, restaurant waiters, people walking their dogs patient to let me pet it because i missed rhody haha. the overall culture is just very different from the US. it’s a simpler way of life. but it’s a good life, filled with meaning. at least from what i could tell. i was on the train coming back to brunnen from venice and bought a glass of wine which ended up being half a bottle of wine, so i asked the woman (probably in her 70s) next to me if she wanted to share. she, in turn, shared some little italian candies with me. i thought that was really sweet.

2. people spoke barely any english but thankfully i speak spanish so i could get by for the most part. again it was nice to be immersed in the culture - obviously this was a much more touristy area than brunnen, but you could still find hidden gems off the beaten path.

3. apertif and digestif time was something i stumbled upon by accident but was one of my favorite experiences. i found this little bar on a side “alley” that had all the homemade cheeses and bruschettas you could possibly imagine, for 1 euro a piece. for 4 euros, you could add a glass of champagne. i took the last 8 euros from my wallet and had one of the best “meals” ever.

4. when you buy a glass of champagne, you’re not getting andre. you’re getting veuve or laurent perrier or real deal bubbly. my champagne-loving heart was full, my friends.

5. the food was 100x more amazing than i ever expected. i am not a coffee person but found myself ordering one with every meal, just to have a latte.

after venice i headed back up to brunnen to meet Pat who was finishing up his meetings. we spent one more night in brunnen then took the train up to paris the next morning. it was a pretty easy train ride, about 5 hours in total with a transfer in basel. we ate mcdonald’s in basel, thinking we’d be saving $ and honestly i was tired of schnitzel. don’t judge haha. switzerland is one of the most expensive places on the planet, so our plan backfired and we managed to spend almost $50 on a big mac meal and #2 cheeseburger (only 1 burger!) meal. yep. that happened! haha. but once we hit paris, though, any thought of mcdonald’s was far from our minds. paris learning #1: paris has. the best. food. in. the world.

we didn’t arrive to our hotel (yeah starwood points!) until late on our first night there. we were tired, crabby (translation = hungry), and the air was hot and humid. we felt pretty gross from traveling all day so we freshened up quickly then hit the town to find some dinner. the best advice on paris came from my cousin, who said “don’t listen to anyone else’s recommendations - just get lost and find places off the beaten path”. and we did just that. we walked for a few blocks to find the st. germain/latin quarter area which we had heard was fun, and at that point we were so hungry we didn’t want to walk any more. we found this little restaurant with lavender plants and old wooden wine barrels outside, and it seemed so quaint and perfect. and it was. it was probably my favorite meal in paris, just because it was some random place we found, we were one of the only tables in there because it was so late, they had french jazz playing quietly in the background, and we could just sit back and enjoy ourselves after the busy day of traveling. no joke you guys, we had foie gras with every single dinner. so. delicious.

i did a horrible job at chronicling our paris trip in photos, mostly because i was too busy enjoying it to pull out the camera. pat and i aren’t really touristy people, so we weren’t really interested in seeing most of the tourist attractions (again, don’t judge) but we did visit the louvre to see mona lisa and some amazing paintings, notre dame (from outside haha) and the eiffel tower. all of our other time was spent wandering and eating and drinking. isn’t that the way it should be?

paris learnings:

1. see above :)

2. i don’t know where the stereotype comes from, but our experience with parisians was friendly as can be. in fact, i would call paris the friendliest city we traveled in. the waiters, shop owners, everyone. we did have a friend (one of pat’s coworkers) who is french who helped us out though, by teaching us how to say “sorry, we don’t speak french” in french which parisians really appreciated (or at least it seemed that way).

3. being people who like to avoid busy areas (translation: times square), we did not enjoy Avenue des Champs-Élysées - it was way too busy and bustling and touristy for us. we much preferred the quieter areas!

4. being a salt/savory person, i was hesitant to try the pain chocolat (chocolate croissants). it is now on my list of top 10 foods ever in life :)

5. i think there’s something in the water that makes their bread and pastries so amazing. honestly i would have been happy with a french baquette and glass of bordeaux for every meal.

6. on our next trip we are renting a car and driving through the french countryside. that was another favorite part of the trip, speeding past the bright yellow dijon fields!

after paris we were officially ready to hit the road and take our 12-hour flight back to SF. we missed our pup and it was time! fortunately, i had been checking in daily with emails/updates for my clients but with some busy LLD weeks coming up, i was ready to get back to my lovely little home office and in to the daily routine. and the greeting we received from rhody when we picked him up last night made us happy as can be.

if anyone is planning a trip and wants some advice other than this 10-page blog post, feel free to reach out! :)

  • Jessica says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    So beautiful!!!!

  • Faith says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    omg, swoon! your pictures are incredible! i loved all your pictures on Instagram, so gorgeous!

    looks like such a fabulous time!

  • Alicia says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    It looks absolutely gorgeous! I dream about sitting in small cafes drinking wine and gorging myself on bread, pastries and pizza all day! My cousin lives in Switzerland and I have been dying to visit!

  • Aleah and Nick says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    So happy you had such a great time! Love all of your pictures - it has us hankering for a return trip.

  • Liz says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    I loved your recap! Simply sitting back, doing your own thing and taking in the culture is totally the way to go! Checking sites off a list is not important :) Glad to hear you thoroughly enjoyed your trip!! Welcome home!

  • court says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    perfection :)

  • birdie to be says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    Amazing pictures! Your trip looks fantastic!

  • Miriam Corona says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    Awesome recap & photos! Welcome home :)

  • Kristin @ BBC says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    I am SO happy for you both! I see it was a work trip for Pat, but I’m so glad you went along and had the chance to learn more about the world together. Your experience inspires me to do the same! I, too, love being immersed in the ‘true’ culture of a destination. My favorite spot on the entire earth, thus far, is Isla Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. And not the part that’s built up with timeshares… the villages with children running and laughing, and rickety huts with nothing but a bedsheet for a front door. It’s so crazy, but I can totally see myself moving there someday. If you’ve never visited, you should definitely consider it! It helped me to realize how incredibly blessed I truly am.

  • k5 says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    personally, we’re figuring out our “last trip” before we have kids…debating between a caribbean cruise, las vegas/grand canyon or EUROPE… :-)

  • CC says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    I’m so jealous! Because I may or more then likely will not be going to Europe as I was hoping to and I hate to see all that I’ll be missing. I’m so glad for you that you had the opportunity to take such an awesome trip with your husband. I’m sure you needed it! Beautiful pics.

  • Marie says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    Absolutely gorgeous photos! I love the pics of the plants, flowers, and veggies the most.

  • Anni says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    I love your photos, and your tips are all so helpful (I’m definitely bookmarking this post!) - I’m so glad you had fun, and I think it’s awesome that you went on the Venice trip alone, there’s something great about exploring new places without that comfort zone of another person.

  • Steph {bubblerock} says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    Next time you hire a car and travel down to Bordeaux to spend quality time with us. We will show you the sights, make you taste the wine and eat the best food and just relax in the countryside. How does that sound?

  • Laura *You Stir Me* says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    this sounds absolutely heavenly. Your pics from Switzerland look so similar to the ones my father took almost 20 years ago! I love when places haven’t changed. I loved Paris but you’re right, the french countryside is a heart stealer. Traveling up through Normandy and Brittany is still one of my fondest memories. You two make a fantastic traveling pair - take me next time!!!!

  • Leslie says on May 15, 2012 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and taking us along on your journey. I like the way you summarize the area and people :) We will be in Paris in July and I’m excited to venture off the beaten path ~ away from all the traffic and high end stores.


  • Paper Moss says on May 16, 2012 Reply

    Loved reading about your trip and seeing your gorgeous pictures! So glad you had a good time & safe travels :)

  • Kara says on May 16, 2012 Reply

    Oh My God! I loved everything about your trip! I love the pictures! Your words! What you saw! I am so jealous! So happy for you and this next adventure you are embarking on! Make sure you chronicle that for us too!

  • Lena says on May 16, 2012 Reply

    What a heavenly trip–and such a good reason for work for a European-based company!

  • Holly C. says on May 16, 2012 Reply

    Such beautiful pictures! I loved following your travels on Instagram!

  • Naomi says on May 17, 2012 Reply

    This recap makes me want to take another trip! The images are beautiful! I’m always envious when David gets to visit yet another distant land. Glad you enjoyed! I’ve got the fever…again! ;-)

  • Naomi says on May 17, 2012 Reply

    P.s. I agree Parisians aren’t rude in fact they were quite helpful! Champs is touristy but Laduree is on Champs!

  • Nicole says on May 22, 2012 Reply

    Wow, looks like you had a fabulous trip! And do you still have your day job or did you go to LLD full time now? Just wondering b/c you travel a lot, seems like you have tons of vacation!

featured and seen in
   | Web hosting and development: The Hosting Guide