2009-10-05

Paris and Versailles

Paris, the capital as well as the largest city of France, has been renowned for its status as the world’s leading tourism destination. Being an unbeatable choice for vacation, and home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and many international organizations, no doubt the city and its region will continue to thrive. Paris is such a colorful city where I needed to spend one full week to visit all main attractions. Interesting museums, remarkable monuments, gorgeous cathedrals, and all other antique architectures, etc. are countless. Ease of communication is not guaranteed, as I came across only one person capable of speaking English throughout the trip and that person worked at the information desk of Charles De Gaulle Airport. The city is tourist-friendly though, with the presence of a well-developed metro system; and because of proximity between attractions to which I decided to go on foot. Since I made this trip in August when daytime was the longest, and I was so lucky to have all days sunny, I took enough beautiful photos that showcase the beauty of Paris and Versailles.


2009-09-28

Breathtakingly Beautiful Switzerland

Guided tour hosted by local friends or family members is always awesome.  Not only do they know best about everything a tourist information center would recommend, they can help you dig deeper into a specific spot, town, city or even the country as a whole.  You have no worries about planning of route, means of transportation, choices of accommodation and meals, etc.  I realized how lucky I was to have relatives living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.  I landed at Zurich Airport on the 12th of August. Aunt and uncle picked me up and drove me back their home at a municipality called Hergiswil, which is only 10-min drive south from Luzern.


Engelberg and Mount Titlis


The next morning my aunt needed to head to her workplace at Mount Titlis.  Never once have I dreamt of working in an office with such a breathtaking view over the resort town Engelberg and right at the famous Mount Titlis, also well-known as the site of the world's first revolving cable car that connects Engelberg to the summit of Klein Titlis.  Fantastic scenes of both the town and mountains were captured mostly on the way up.  While my aunt was working, I was having lots of fun myself visiting the illuminated glacier cave, overlooking the panoramic view of Titlis, and shopping in souvenir shops.  I joined my aunt for lunch and I didn't forget to grab a cone of the quality Swiss Movenpick too, before leaving Mount Titlis for sightseeing at Engelberg.  I reunited with my aunt at the car park right next to her car at the end of this perfect day.


Luzern


On the 14th I took my time to breakfast alone, and of course had some tasty fresh yoghurt.  Since my aunt stressed the importance of going to Luzern by ferry instead of any other means, I walked to the pier nearby and started my boat trip on Lake Lucerne.  She was perfectly right.  There were enough picturesque outlooks throughout the trip.  It was a schedule-free day in Luzern.  Apart from the Chapel Bridge, the city's landmark, I visited some churches and monuments.  I didn't even have a map.  I enjoyed walking freely.  I wasn't afraid of getting lost.  In that case, I would have asked for directions back to the city main train station in late afternoon where and when I was supposed to reunite with my aunt and another group of family members just arrived in Switzerland that day.


Rigi



On the 15th seven of us set off for Rigi, "Queen of the Mountains".  It took only 35 minutes to travel by car from the Hergiswil home to Weggis, a small, idyllic holiday resort lain on a projection into Lake Lucerne at the southwest base of Rigi.  We did have a ride on the cable car, but we got off somewhere in the middle and started hiking.  Honestly, it wasn't an easy trail.  It was a long climb to the top, but it was worth it for the magnificent views both on the way and from the top.  Layers of mountains standing beyond Lake Lucerne, little pretty houses situated amid abundant greens, and packs of cows enjoying themselves at their spacious open home were all my favorite scenes.  All of us were exhausted.  We rested, ate, sightseed at the top, before going back down by rack rail.  If you aren't physically active or strong, you might want to do the contrary going up by rail and down on foot.


Rhine Falls



The Rhine Falls, or Rheinfall in German, located between the municipalities of Neuhausen am Rheinfall and Laufen-Uhwiesen, near the town of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland, is the largest plain waterfall in Europe.  After one hour and a half on the road, we reached Neuhausen where we could view the Falls and also the Schloss W√∂rth castle while walking along the waterfront.  On viewing platforms built on both sides of the Rhine there was a spectacular view of the Falls.  We could have come even closer to the Falls by going on a boat trip, if we didn't mind getting fully showered.


Zurich


Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, is only 40-min drive away from Hergiswil.  As the group preferred a day of rest to an interesting city tour, however, my cousin and I decided to travel to Zurich by train on our own.  We weren't really following a map or a particular route.  We both fancied a schedule-free mode of travel.  I was just trying to look for a higher position to view the whole city.  Through some inquiries we were told the Romanesque-style Protestant church called Grossm√ľnster was the right place.  As the staff presumed we were both students, we paid a discounted fee to ascend the tower.  It was quite exhausting to walk a long way up the narrow staircases, but it proved worthwhile as we could finally had a unique and exceptional 360° panoramic view of Zurich.  We spent the rest of the day walking around the city.  We visited a university, different churches and monuments.


Valle Verzasca



On the 18th we visited the capital of Switzerland, Bern, which is 1.5-hour drive west from Hergiswil.  It's just another clean, pretty Swiss city that I didn't find extraordinary.  Tourists with tight schedule might prefer a thorough tour in Zurich to a rough one in both cities.  What's interesting was the last day's destination Valle Verzascaa, a valley in the Locarno district in south of Switzerland 2-hour drive away from Hergiswil.  The magical jade green waters of the Verzasca river flow peacefully over smooth polished rocks, passing under the picturesque double arches of the Ponte dei Salti in Lavertezzo.  Lots of people were on a queue waiting to dive from over the arches.  Follow the river down the valley there were wonderful worn rock shapes and natural jacuzzis.  On the Lago di Vogorno at the entrance to the valley the Verzasca dam was another option for a jump, but personally I would not recommend that.  After another one hour on the road we arrived at the Italian-speaking city Lugano where we had a delicious Italian dinner.