Zurich, Switzerland is beautiful, clean, and expensive

We pet- and house-sat in Zurich, Switzerland as our last sit this summer.  We took care of a very sweet dog named Lilly.  Lilly loved to chase balls in the backyard.Switzerland lilly the dog netWe were about 12 miles outside of Zurich, out in the countryside.  We would take Lilly for walks through beautiful green farm lands. There were lakes and rivers everywhere in the country.  This is Lake Zurich.Lake Zurich trees net

There were parks and small houses built on the shores of this large lake.Lake zurich house netLake Zurich bench netAnd there were still flowers in October.orange spike flower closer netsweet pea pastel netThe public transportation was good and easy but really expensive.  To go into Zurich on the train, (12 miles) and return was $22.00 each.  This was like 3 times more expensive than in the other places we have visited.   The expensiveness of everything was kind of off putting.  A coke at a cafe was $6, a hamburger was $13, a box of cereal was $7 and gas was $8 a gallon.  We purchased two small pieces of chocolate and it came to $4.50.Switzerland handmade chocolates net

Even postcards were $2.50.  Needless to say, we ate at home and did not buy much.

But the city of Zurich was beautiful.  It is cut in half by the Limmet River, and there are many bridges to cross from one side to the other.Zurich Limmet river netThere are fountains everywhere and they all run cold, clean water all the time.  You can always fill your water bottles for free.Zurich fish fountain net 

I came across done fountain that someone had filled with fresh roses.Zurich rose fountain 2 netIt was a lovely city to visit for a week.

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Milan a city of faith and death

We spent several days in Milan.  The city is a mixture of celebration of the Roman Catholic faith and honoring the dead.  The Milan Cathedral is a magnificent example of  Italian Gothic architecture.  In 1386 the church was started and was not finished until 1965. It is the largest church in Italy.Milan cathedral netThe main doors outside the cathedral have wonderful bronze  sculptures that illustrate the bible stories designed by Italian sculptor Ludovico Pogliaghi .

Milan Cathedral door images net

Joseph and Mary marry

 

So many exquisite works of art inside the cathedral like these marble saints.Milan Cathedral saints net

And the body of St. Carlo Borromeo who was the archbishop of Milan in 1564 to 1684.  It is in a crystal coffin in the crypt of the church.  It is the site of pilgrims who come to pray for the saint’s help.

Milan Saint Carlo Borromeo net

His face is made of silver

The monumental cemetery in Milan is one of europe’s best.  The sculptures and grave stones are artistic and creative.  This is one of my favorites; a woman expressing profound grief.milan monumental cemetery grief netI will say that the majority of the statues are women expressing grief at the passing of their husbands.  Though there were some honoring women and children who have passed.milan monumental cemetery woman netThere is also a sense of deeply felt faith even in sorrow.milan monumental cemetery grief woman net

 

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And this grave stone which is an abstract.milan monumental cemetery abstract netThe city is a combination of faith and death.

Lake Como a wonderful place to visit

I am two weeks out from losing my dear dog, Mac.  I am still sad but I am doing better.  So I thought I would start to catch up with the adventures in our trip.

We spent two days in Lake Como.  lake como hill netIt was really lovely and because it is the end of the season there were less people to contend with.  We used the all day ferry pass to visit small towns on both sides of the lake.Lake Como ferry netThe second day we took the hydrofoil ( fast boat) to the city of Como because if you do not it takes two and a half hours by regular ferry.  Como is a lovely small town with a cathedral.como cathedral altar netThe late afternoon brings a light fog over the lake.Lake Como hills netThe last sunset over the lake was stunning.Como sun clouds net

I will be putting up more blogs as we are going home on the Celebrity Reflections across the Atlantic.Lake Como dark sunset net

Price shock in Switzerland … and a tale of two ATMs

You may remember our amazement at the prices of nearly everything in Copenhagen … the Burger King lunch for two for $21 stands out in my mind. We knew Switzerland would be expensive, and that’s why a week’s pet-sit was such a good opportunity.

The 3-km cab ride from the station to Sixt car rental was a quick introduction, as it cost $37 — $8 to start, $5/km, $1.33/minute, and $5 extra to bring our 3 suitcases, even though the driver was older than me and I had to load them into his cab myself.

Food in the grocery store is about 2 – 3 times US prices for most things.  Cereal is $7 a box, ground beef is $10 a pound, a croissant that might be €1 in Paris or Rome is 1.70 here. A lemon was $0.70. Frozen vegetables are all about $6.50 for 800g, about 28 ounces. Although a liter of milk is 1.60, if you add chocolate and sugar and air and make a liter of ice cream that weighs 500g, it’s 10.60 (on sale last week for only 7.40!). This is Carte d’Or, who make a dark chocolate that is Linda’s favorite. But still! Gas is 1.70 a liter ($6.43 a gallon), not quite the highest we’ve seen in Europe. The shocking thing was transportation — we’re 19km from Zurich and a 1-way tram ride is 10.60; an all-day ticket twice that at 21.80. Even in London, where we stayed about the same distance from the center, transit was capped at £8.00 — about $10.40 per day, so about half the Zurich rate.

The Swiss Franc is just about on par with the dollar now, costing about $1.01 from an ATM. Everyone seems OK with these prices, so I looked up Swiss salaries and discovered that the median is about $72,000. There’s less range … a lot of professional types (IT, etc) make around $110,000, but even grocery clerks clear $50,000. There isn’t a formal minimum wage, but effectively it’s about $25/hour, and everyone gets healthcare.

All this would make sense to me if a Swiss Franc cost US $0.50, but as it is, it makes Switzerland and Swiss products really expensive, and must make traveling worldwide a great deal for the Swiss! The roads are great, the trains are spotless, and the cows look happy. They actually wear those bells you see in drawings.

Anyway, yesterday we were in Zurich, and as those francs had been flying out of my wallet, I went to get some more.  At the Paradeplatz, the center of shopping Zurich, there’s an immense Credit Suisse bank.  In front, there are two ATMs, and as someone was using the one on the left, I approached the one on the right.  It informed me it only dispensed 100- and 500-franc notes, and if I wanted smaller, I should use the other ATM. Well, harumph! The money is really pretty, though:

Image result for swiss banknotes

and the 5-franc coin is huge, as it should be.

Saturday, we’ll return the Mercedes A180 that Sixt gave us “because we’re out of everything else,”  and take trains back to Milan and then to Civitavecchia, and our rendezvous with Celebrity Reflection on Monday.  We’re feeling a little better.

Time for a break

We’re in the heading-for-home phase of this year’s travels, and we have a lot to tell you about. But sometimes things don’t work as planned. So we have to leave you with this stub, or outline, and we’ll finish later, as Brian Williams says, “on the other side.”

We flew from Birmingham to Milan on October 6, and took the train to Varenna on Lake Como. We had two and a half days of great weather, and explored the lake by boat, before returning to Milan.

There we visited the Monumental Cemetery. You know Linda is such a fan of these, and this was the best one we’ve ever seen. She now has hundreds of pictures to sort through, in spite of the zanzare (mosquitoes) that inhabit the place. The next day it was raining, but we went to visit the Duomo anyway. For some reason, the lines were worse than they had been the (sunny) day before._DSC0003

But that night, we received news that out dog Mac had been killed by a coyote. Linda is seriously depressed.  This has really ruined the mood of the adventure, and it’ll take a little time before we’re up to the work of selecting and cleaning photos, and writing interesting and witty commentary.

On October 13, we took the train up to Zurich where we’re sitting Lilly the labrador for a week. This Saturday, the 20th, we’ll take the train again (it was a beautiful trip) back to Milan for the night, and then Sunday it’s six hours back to Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. Monday we’ll depart on Celebrity Reflection, stopping at Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga (all of which we’ve visited before) and Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, which is a new port for us, and arriving in Fort Lauderdale on November 5. We fly home the same afternoon.

We’ll update you as soon as we can.

In the meantime, are you registered to vote?

Baddesley Clinton, Packwood House and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom

We have had a great time here in Stratford upon Avon.  We went to a couple of National Trust homes that are open near by.  The first one is called Baddesley Clinton.  This a moated manor house from the 13th century.  It was the home of the Ferrers who were Roman Catholic when the Reformation was overtaking England.  They hid priests from the authorities and had several “priest holes” built into the house.  A priest hole was a hiding place for Catholic priests if the house was raided.  It is a lovely home and so interesting to visit.Baddesley Clinton house net

 

Baddesley Clinton window net

In the 19th century, when they could practice their religion privately, they built a small chapel to hear Mass.Baddesley Clinton chapel netWe also went to Packwood House.  This was a Tudor home that was restored to its Tudor interior by Graham Baron Ash in the 1920s.  Packwood house gardens net

Packwood house sun dial net

A sun dial at Packwood House

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One of the best things about returning to Stratford was seeing some people that we got to know last year.  These two ladies work at the Shakespeare Hospice bookstore.  Last year they helped me find some old books that we falling apart for me to use in my mixed media art.  They helped me again this year, thank you ladies.Shakespeare hospice charity net

I also got to tour Shakespeare’s school house.  I did not get to do that last year so I was very happy to visit this 15th century building that was Shakespeare’s school for 7 years of his life.  They do an excellent job of bring you into the experience that Shakespeare might have lived,  Here is a photo of the school master at his big desk.Shakespeare school teacher net

So we will bid Stratford adieu tomorrow and say goodbye to sweet Enzo.

We are pet sitting again in Stratford upon Avon

We are pet sitting here in Stratford with Enzo the border terrier.  We sat for Enzo last year and were happy to be asked to take care of him again this summer.

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David and Enzo

This is the home town of Shakespeare (1564 -1616)  and it is a quaint and walkable town.  It is amazing how many of the places in Shakespeare’s birthplace are still preserved and open to the public.  I did a lot of visiting of Shakespeare’s places last year, so this year I am exploring the city and the historical places that are around this city.

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Shakespeare’s childhood home

The entire town resolves around Shakespeare’s life and work.  shakespeare school sign net

 

There are lots of Tudor homes that are still intact and they are very interesting to see in town.

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The Stratford library

It is also the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.  We will be going to a play early next week.rsc building net

We walked Enzo the dog along the River Avon today.  It is so beautiful here.

Avon River trees net

The River Avon

There are so many lovely swans floating in the river.  swan drip vertical net As we were walking home and we passed Shakespeare’s church; he is buried inside.

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Holy Trinity Church

I really find it amazing to walk the streets where Shakespeare grew up, married, had children and was buried.