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Swiss Chocolate, or the Day Patti Went Cuckoo


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Today marks the half-way point of our trip and it is our first full day in Luzern. The forecast was for rain all day long, but fortunately meteorologists here are about as accurate as at home, because it has only rained a little bit today. In fact, we actually saw some sun by afternoon. So we did not have to alter our plans for the day at all.

We first had breakfast this morning at the hotel, as it is included here. There wasn't a whole lot to choose from but what they had was good. The only thing we really had specifically planned for today was a walking tour at 1pm so we decided to start the morning with some shopping. Switzerland is expensive so shopping is either a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view.

One thing Patti really wanted to buy was a cuckoo clock so we found a store that had a wide selection. Of course, being Switzerland, they were more expensive than expected. But Patti found a couple she really liked and we decided to look around some more so she could compare some prices and think about it. Our next stop was to find chocolate. There were a couple of stores we wanted to check out and we both bought chocolate at one of them. In fact, I am eating some now while I type this! Here is me by the macarron statute in front of the store where we bought our chocolate, and also another one of Patti in front of the store.

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We then stopped for lunch at Manor restaurant which is on the top floor of a department store. As you might have guessed, this was a Rick Steves recommendation. It is a cafeteria-style place with reasonable (for Switzerland) prices. There was a lot to choose from and the food was good.

Then we headed to our free walking tour. On the way, we saw a really cool view of the mountains, with the clouds hanging in the valleys. It had just stopped raining. I think this picture actually captures it pretty well.

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Our tour guide was a history major at a local university, and his English was perfect. Turns out he spent a year living in Michigan. He was really good. Here are some pictures from along the way. I really love the Lion statue.

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Anyone who has been to Europe knows that occasionally you have to deal with beggars. Typically, those beggars are human. In Luzern, however, the beggars apparently are ducks. This little guy came right up to our group and walked around looking at us as if to say "don't you have food?"

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Then we went back to the cuckoo clock store. Grandma Moore would be very proud that we were "be-backs" who actually went back! Over the course of the day, Patti had determined that she was getting a clock. Here is a picture of her contemplating her choice, and then one of the clock she actually bought (well, not that one because it was a display but you know what I mean). It is really cool and I think she is really going to be glad she got it, even if it did cost more than she originally wanted to pay. The cuckoo comes out every half hour and it plays a little song while a guy chops wood, people come out and dance on the balcony and the water wheel turns.

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As is our usual habit, we are back in the hotel resting before dinner. Tomorrow we are going to Mt. Pilatus so that should be fun. Hopefully the weather holds out. I anticipate having some great pictures to share with you tomorrow.

Auf wiedersehen,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 08:14 Archived in Switzerland Comments (4)

The Only Thing We Saw at the Top of the Mountain Was White


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The weather in Luzern has finally cleared up and we woke up to a bright sunny day. After breakfast we headed to the train station to start the Golden Circle tour of Mount Pilatus. First, we took a boat across Lake Luzern to the bottom of the mountain.

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Then we took a 150-year-old cogwheel train up to the top of the mountain. Each train compartment holds eight people and it takes about 30 minutes to reach the top.

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From the mountain we saw these very exciting views:

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We ate lunch in the cafeteria on the mountain. I had bratwurst (that tasted more like Polish sausage to me; it wasn't spicy like what we think of as brats) with french fries and apple strudel.

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We then took the gondolas back down. You first go part of the way down in a large gondola. Then you get off and switch to a smaller one for the rest of the journey down. As soon as we went down a little bit we were out of the clouds. However, it was still hazy so the pictures from there didn't turn out. Then you take a bus back to the Luzern train station to complete the circle.

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It was fun to take the train and gondolas but very disappointing that all we saw at the top of the moutain was snow and clouds. Oh well, we consoled ourselves with some ice cream when we got back into town. That usually works.

Tonight we are doing what is called the Night Watchman's Tour. It is part walking tour part ghost stories. Hopefully it is good. Then tomorrow we are on to Italy! Our time in Luzern went really fast. I must say, though, that I am ready to get back to a country where I know enough of the language to figure things out a little easier. So I will next talk to you from Genoa, Italy!

Auf Wiedersehen,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 06:11 Archived in Switzerland Comments (3)

Nightwatchman's Tour and On To Italy


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As I mentioned at the end of my last entry, we went on a nightwatchman's tour last night. It turned out we were the only two on the tour. Our guide came dressed like the Middle Ages and told us about the medieval history of Lucern. The tour lasted about an hour and a half and was interesting, albeit a little quirky. First, he blows his horn and does some nightwatchman announcement that is in German so we don't really know for sure. Then he showed us a typical weapon someone from that time would carry. Here I am with the weapon and also Patti with it and our guide.

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About half-way through the tour, we stop in a square and he brings out a projector to show us some pictures on the side of a wall. That was a little odd. He did it again later too.

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And here is a last shot of Chapel Bridge:

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After the tour we went back to the hotel and right to bed because we had an early morning to catch the train to Italy. After breakfast we took a taxi to the train station and boarded our train. It was a four-hour ride to Milan, where we had to change trains. The views of mountains along the way were beautiful, although it was hard to take photos. Here is really the only good one I got:

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When we got to Milan, finding the machines to buy our tickets from Milan to Genoa was a little difficult. But eventually we found it and purchased our tickets. We had an hour to wait for our train and we were hungry for food that was cheap and easy so we opted for McDonalds.

Just a side-note on McDonald's -- they don't have the fried pies here anymore! I haven't been able to find them in any of the three countries we have been in. I am very disappointed! And I am grateful they still have them in England and Ireland so I was able to eat some when I was there in January.

OK, back to our regular story. Our train from Milan to Genoa took about an hour and 45 minutes, and the seating was in 6-people compartments. I haven't been in a train like that in forever.. It was really cramped in there and my legs were sore when we finally got off. We checked into our hotel and then went on a short tour of the area. Here are some things we saw along the way, as well as a picture of our hotel room:

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We are now back in the hotel waiting for it to be 7:30 so we can go get dinner. Nothing is really open until then. We are really looking forward to Italian cuisine and also not spending $40 for a meal like we had to in Switzerland. Tomorrow we are making a day trip to Turin where we will view the Shroud of Turin. That shoud be interesting.

Ciao,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 10:14 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Pilgrims in Turin


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Let me start with our dinner last night. We were really looking forward to Italian food and we went to a place that the owner of the hotel recommended and that was right around the corner from the hotel. She said it was a place locals like to go, and that is always a good sign. Coming from expensive Switzerland, we couldn't believe how much food we got for our money. I had a salad, a pesto pasta dish, water, wine and dessert, It was sooooooo good. Italian food in Italy cannot be beat. I know this picture looks like a bowl of worms, but take my word for it. It was awesome!

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So today we got up, had breakfast in the hotel, and walked to the train station to catch a train to Turin. The train takes two hours to get there and we were in a fairly empty train so it was a comfortable ride. Our main purpose for the trip was to see the Shroud of Turin which is on display right now. This is a pretty rare occurrence so it was something we were really interested in seeing. We arrived in Turin about 11:30 and it was about a mile walk to where the Shroud is. One thing that Turin is known for is the covered sidewalks. The stores along the main route have really expensive stores.

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You then come to a square where there are a couple of churches right next to each other. They are pretty cool, but unfortunately there was a stage set up in the square for a concert of some sort so you couldn't get a good view. This is the best I could do. I bought a postcard with them on it so at least I will have that.

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Then we walked further up the road and came to another square. These guys were performing. The guy on top has to be sitting on something, but we couldn't figure it out. [Edited to add: my guess is there is a rod in his sleeve connected to the pole he is holding and that rod leads to a seat of some kind.]

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There is a church on the square that looks really plain on the outside and we had some time to kill so we decided to stop in. And we are so glad we did! It is really beautiful -- octagonal in shape and marble everywhere. In the corners there are these little nooks with paintings inside that you can only see if a light is shined directly into them. There was a guy there with a big flashlight who would show them to you if you asked. You can see that in the pictures below. The last one is looking up into the dome. I had to take this about a dozen times to get it centered. I really like it.

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By this time it was about an hour before our Shroud appointment so we decided to figure out where it was. It was really hard to find because it is not well-marked. We first went right to the church where the Shroud is, but a volunteer there told us we needed to go back to an information center where the church we saw earlier was. So we went there and the guy there showed us where to go. It was probably about half a mile away across a big park. We eventually found it. Clearly this whole thing is designed for huge crowds. I have heard that on weekends it is really crowded, but today there weren't that many people.

First you have to go through a metal detector. Then there is a covered walkway back to where the Shroud is. There are a lot of volunteers along the way making sure you go the right direction. Eventually you come to a stopping point where you wait for your turn to go in. I imagine when it is crowded it takes a long time to do this. They even have bathrooms and rest areas along the way.

Eventually they bring you into a room where they show you a short video about what you will see on the Shroud. It shows what the different areas of the body are and how they are marks from the wounds from nails, the crown of thorns, etc. That took only about two or three minutes and then you walk into the church. We were lucky to get right in the front row. As soon as everyone is in, there are a couple of prayers said in Italian and then you leave. So you are only in there maybe five minutes.

The body on the Shroud is pretty faint and it is hard to make out very much, so the video they showed before we went in was really helpful. When we walked in, there was a sign that seemed to indicate you can take pictures without a flash. I took one right when we got in as we were among the first in line. When I went to take another one, I was told no pictures were allowed. So I guess my picture is somewhat illicit. I am glad I got one though.

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The whole thing from when we checked in to when we left the church took about 40 minutes. We read on Trip Advisor that for some people it took hours. And based on how it was set up, I can see how that would be. I am glad we went on a non-busy day.

When we were done we toured the royal palace. It was opulent like Versailles except of course not as big. And unlike Versailles, you weren't surrounded by a whole bunch of people so it was more enjoyable to see.

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After that we made our way back to the train station to go back to Genoa. Of course, we got there just as a train to Genoa was leaving and the next one wasnt' for two hours. There aren't many places to eat in the station so we went to McDonalds for a sundae. Eventually we got back to Genoa. On our walk back we stopped at a bakery and got some cookies and pastries to eat tonight after dinner. We had fun trying to communicate with the owners of the place. They would tell us how to say each in Italian and we had to say it before they gave us our choices. They even gave us one cookie for free! We are definitely going back tomorrow.

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We decided to go right to dinner so we went to another place the hotel owner recommended for basic pasta dishes. I had a spinach ravioli with meat sauce.

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Patti had penne pasta, also with meat sauce. We never really looked at the prices so were shocked when the total for our pasta and drinks came to only 11 euros. That is total, not each. Italy is awesome!

Ciao,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 13:00 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

The Hills of Genoa


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Today is our last day in Genoa. We started the day after breakfast by walking down to the waterfront to take a two-hour walking tour of the city. The tour was in both English and Italian and there were seven of us in the group. We went through the narrow medieval streets of Genoa and learned about the city's history. Following are pictures I took along the way. The second is one of the many shrines (usually to Mary) that you find all over the city. They are up on about the second floor of buildings and I don't think I would have ever noticed them if the tour guide hadn't pointed them out.

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After the tour ended we took an elevator up to the top of the hills for a view of the city. After we went back down we walked back to a spot we had passed during the tour where we saw some artwork we liked. We each bought a piece and got our pictures taken with the artist. [Note: I of course did not intend to be flipping everyone off here. It was just how I was trying to hold onto several things at once and I didn't notice it until I saw this picture. Oops!]

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We then had lunch in a nearby cafe. After lunch we wanted to look for a place that sells dried pasta so we could bring some home. That brought us back to the waterfront to a store called Eataly, where you can buy gourmet Italian products. I found a bag of the chestnut "worm" pasta that I had the other day so I had to get some. Outside Eataly, there is a thing (I am not sure what you call it) that goes up above the city for a panoramic view. The city of Genoa goes up a hill from the waterfront and the layers of buildings are interesting to see. I don't know that you really get a sense of it from these pictures. You really need to see it in 3D.

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On our way back to the hotel for our afternoon rest, we stopped again at the bakery we went to yesterday.

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Tonight we think we are going to try to find a place to eat pizza. Then tomorrow we go back to Milan for the last day of our trip. There we are taking a 3-hour walking tour of the city that includes seeing Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper". I don't know if I will have access to wifi tomorrow so I might not be able to finish this blog until we get home. We fly on Monday from Milan to Toronto, and then on to Milwaukee. We won't get to Green Bay until pretty late so if I don't have a blog post tomorrow, the next one will be on Tuesday, June 2.

Ciao,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 07:55 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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