Not-So Easyjet – Part 1

We booked our trip to Belfast from London with EasyJet out of Stanstead in an effort to save a few pounds and arrive at a decent time.  With the flight leaving at 11:55 am, we were off to the airport via Underground and then 45-minute train ride from Liverpool Street at 9 am.  We made our connections beautifully and arrived at the airport by 10:30 with plenty of time to get through security and have a cup of coffee before the flight.

When we approached the EasyJet check-in area, we were shocked to see the long, snaking line of people waiting to check-in and then noticed a separate counter open just for our flight that was nearly empty — what a lucky day, we thought!  As all airlines and planes are different, and we are very hesitant to allow our bags to leave our sight (since they carry all of our worldly belongings), we had originally determined that we would save the £5 and take them on-board with us.  However, when we asked the attendant if they would fit on the plane, she suggested they wouldn’t and said we should check them.  Okay, well – we didn’t really want to deal with the hassle of check-in at boarding if they didn’t fit, so we went with it and agreed to check.  Well, at the counter, we were shocked to find the cost had risen to £18 each (vs. the £5 when buying our tickets online) but still went forward to be in compliance with airline requirements.  After a few quick adjustments, the customer service agent informed us that the plane had been delayed by two hours.  We were still okay with that, as we’re really flexible and figured we’d just hang out and read and talk story to pass the time – no biggie.  The attendant offered to provide us with a food voucher for our trouble but was kind of embarrased to tell us it was only for £3 each.  We thought, that’s okay – at least we can pay for coffee.

We went through security without issue and spent some time perusing the shopping options inside the airport.  Since we would be arriving in Belfast much later than planned, we decided to go have some lunch to pass the time.  That’s when we saw that the flight was again delayed by another half-hour.  *sigh*  Oh well – more coffee and reading before the flight.  While enjoying our Starbucks, we saw the flight had been delayed another 15 minutes to 2:35 pm.  We finally boarded at around 2:50 pm and joined the rest of the cattle in the queue for seats next to one another, since they are not assigned.  The flight was without incident – and yes, I did note that our bags would likely have fit in the overhead with no problems – but given the long delay, we were still thankful to have checked them and not to have been burdened with their weight.

When we arrived in Belfast, we were delighted to find the tourist information center open and empty so we could make transport and accommodation arrangements with them while waiting for our bags to arrive on the carousel.  Perfect!  We even high-fived on our way back to the carousel – pleased with our accomplishments and happy to finally be able to leave the airport at about 4:15 pm.

That’s when I began to feel like I was in a bad movie.  As I approached the carousel, I saw that Maylene’s bag was on the floor already – and open – you could see her clothes in it and things were kind of bursting out.  One of the airport attendants was standing next to it and, in a lovely Irish lilt, asked if it was mine.  I nodded, confused, and she said “The baggage attendant said it was stuffed and just burst so he didn’t want to put it on the carousel and have anything fall out of it.  I nodded and called Maylene over to take a look. I bent over and tried to zip up the bag but found that both zippers and the lock that held them together were missing – completely gone.  There was no way to seal the bag shut.  It was absolutely ruined.  The airport attendant asked if we wanted to file a claim for it and since it cost us $99.95 for the bag (the travel-specific Rick Steves’ Covertible Carry-On) plus another $9.95 for the flexi-lock, we thought this might be a good idea.  She told us where to wait for assistance from the baggage claims personnel and we went over there with the promise that someone would be available to help us in ten minutes or so.  Twenty minutes later, we summoned her again and even though she was clearly on her way home, she did tell us where we could find the Easyjet ticket office where we could report the loss.

At about 4:50 pm, we finally had someone to help us complete the claim.  We filled out the required paperwork and asked about the process of refunding the damage done to the bag.  While the sales attendants were very nice and understanding, they seemed to not completely understand the reimbursement process.  However, they were kind enough to explain that we would not only have to complete this documentation but would also be forced to send a copy of our itinerary, baggage tags, and a written complaint to EasyJet before anything further could be done for us.  Ridiculous since they have all of this same information and have everything needed to deal with our request but yet it’s another hoop for us to jump through made more difficult for being in a strange city where not only do we have to find an internet cafe to print and complete the required paperwork, but we now are also stuck in this town until we can find a replacement bag – at an inflated cost with the currency exchange differences.

We jerry-rigged the bag with Maylene’s belt, my scarf, and another bag strap and I walked behind her to the bus and from the bus station to the hotel to ensure nothing fell out of her bag – after taking on as much as I could into my bag, of course.

I can’t help but feel like I got ripped off today — I truly hope that EasyJet will do right by us but have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll never get a cent for our trouble.

The bag, as seen on Rick's website

The bag, as seen on Rick's website

The bag at the start of the trip in July

The bag at the start of the trip in July

The bag, complete with lock, on arrival in London

The bag, complete with lock, on arrival in London

The bag, post-Easyjet

The bag, post-Easyjet

Very, Very British

We were very excited to be in London – the capital of the United Kingdom and the center of it’s vast (or at least formerly vast) empire.   Being the unapologetic nerds that we are, we spent two afternoons at both the British Museum and the National Gallery.  We had a tremendous time and were very impressed with both the diversity of the collections and as well with the way they were presented.

Interior of the British Museum

Interior of the British Museum

The British Museum houses most of the archeological and cultural pieces from the empire and we were really impressed with how well it was all laid out.  Even though we spent two afternoons, we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to and had to cut out whole geographic areas.  One of the most impressive items we saw was the Rosetta stone – the stone that contained heiroglyphics, ancient Egyption script, and Greek writing and which was the key to unlocking and translating heiroglyhics.

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Of course, there were tons of Egyptian artifacts and mummies – makes you wonder what, if anything, is left in Egypt – especially when combined with our visit to New York’s museum.  I wonder if, like Greece, has recently begun to do with remnants from the Parthenon, if Egypt will begin to demand the return of their artifacts as well.

Statues from the Parthenon in Athens

Statues from the Parthenon in Athens

For being the British Museum, there was really not too much on early Britons or their culture, but what they did have was entirely fascinating – showing a rise from hunter/gatherer to farmer to Roman enclave to dominating empire (okay, they didn’t really explain how that happened but it was interesting nonetheless).

Another really great national treasure is the National Gallery where the best of pre-modern art is displayed (of course, no photos).  We quickly ran through the 1250-1500s – the baby Jesus – Jesus on a stick section as that can get old when you’ve seen it over and over and over again.  We did enjoy the works of the great masters and were especially impressed with some of the later pieces from Van Gogh and Picasso.  It’s really nice to see the locals appreciating their artifacts as well and dropping in on the artists sketching the paintings is  great fun!

Without a doubt, these two destinations are must-sees when visiting London, both centrally located and near an underground station and at the same time, free – sponsored by the UK government much like the Smithsonian museums in the US.

Ummm…I think that was the Changing of the Guard…?!

We arrived in London yesterday afternoon and, after a few snafus courtesy of the National Express bus service, we settled into our hotel just fine and quickly made our way out toward the town proper and more specifically, in search of “the theatre“.  We found it at the tkts booth in Leichester Square where they sell half-price tickets to same-day shows.  We were very excited to see that La Cage Aux Folles was available (the play upon which The Birdcage is based) and we snatched up two tickets — it was absolutely fabulous!!!  What a great way to start our trip to London!

On a cinema near Leichester Square - too funny!

On a cinema near Leichester Square - too funny!

The next day we were off to an early start on a Big Bus hop-on, hop-off tour of London scheduled to end at Buckingham Palace in time to see the changing of the guard.  Our experiences with the tour were very mixed and we barely arrived in time for the big show.  We knew that it would be busy there but OMG!!!  It was crazy – there had to be at least 5,000 tourists there.  Being so short and not incredibly pushy, we couldn’t even get close to the main event though we did catch just a glimpse of the band and retiring guards marching back to their barracks.  Overall, we felt like this “must-see” really isn’t that and the experience could be much better viewed online!!  Coincidentally, when I just searched to find a video online of the changing – all they had was images of the band going by — apparently no one else could get close enough either! 😉

Looking toward Victoria Monument at Buckingham Palace - the guard is going by (I think)

Looking toward Victoria Monument at Buckingham Palace - the guard is going by (I think)

Palace gates with throngs of people

Palace gates with throngs of people

Another "scale of the crowd" picture

Another "scale of the crowd" picture

We are speaking the same language…right??

For the past few days we have been enjoying time in small towns just outside London.  They’ve been just great – we’ve enjoyed doing a few of the local activities and mostly just checking out the towns themselves.  York is such a charming city surrounded by city walls that are so much fun to walk – yes, just to walk the few miles around the town.  The tourist center provided free rubbing materials so you could make your own map of the town with it – what a blast!

York's City Walls

York's City Walls

Fun with Rubbing and Crayons...

Fun with Rubbing and Crayons...

In Cambridge, we just missed having a day out with an dear friend but instead filled our time with his recommended sites – Trinity College and the Wren Library.  It was so much fun to see the AA Milne Winnie the Pooh manuscripts and as well the 16th century Bible, but the best had to be the incredible rush we got when we saw Sir Isaac Newton’s original manuscripts on the study of gravity!  I got chills reading through his actual writing and loved the close familiarity in tone that his documents took.  I’m so happy that these are preserved for all of the future generations.

It was also really fun to see that college students barely change through the ages as I read document after document telling of the debauchery of the Cambridge students and administrative warnings against any loss of control in the areas of women and gambling.  Too funny!

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The sun shines in Cambridge

While I’ve really enjoyed these towns, in reflection I find myself longing for the Scottish Highlands (we got as north as Inverness).  The area is absolutely gorgeous with alluring fishing villages and tiny farms tucked away in the towering, craggy mountains.  Of course there were plenty of sheep there too but the prize-winner in cuteness just had to be the Highland Cow — we fell in love — they are simply too adorable.  So much so that I swear it makes me think twice about eating meat when I see them — and Maylene now has a pic of them as her background on her PC!!

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Beautiful, craggy mountains

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Lone castle on the lochs in Scotland

The people we met there were great – friendly and open and smiling.  I did anything I could to keep them talking because I just love, love, loved the Scottish accent – maybe even more than the Welsh one.  I had the funniest moment with one of the host’s at a B&B on the coast in a tiny town called Oban.  She was trying to provide me with the wifi password and I sincerely couldn’t recognize one of the symbols in the string of letters and numbers.  She tried explaining it to me but for some reason, it still wasn’t sinking in.  She finally had to write it out a few more times while pronouncing it slowly until I understood (and laughed in my head) that it was an “f“.  Seriously – I was like, okay … ummmm… I know we’re speaking the same language and all but we’re having a hard time communicating.  The situation was even funnier because we had just experienced a conversation with an older gentleman who couldn’t understand our accents (of course we don’t think we have one) – we had to repeat Internet to him about four times before he understood what we were saying and even then, I’m not too sure if he did — too funny!!!

We’ve decided that we absolutely have to return to Scotland and Wales – both areas we really enjoyed and didn’t get to spend enough time in.  But for now — it’s finally off to London!!

The UK Countryside

After bumping around for a few days in Southern England, we headed north via motorway with Maylene driving and me navigating.  Yes – she gets the award because not only is she driving on the left-hand side of the road, but she’s also driving a manual and shifting with her left hand — my hero!!

Prior to heading north, we spent a few days driving through the Cotswolds, a beautiful section of the English countryside.  It was amazing — green and lush and tranquil and yes, as Rick Steves says, quaint even.

As we headed to Wales, we were surprised to find that, if it’s even possible, the Welsh countryside is even more spectacular.  The hills and valleys dotted with sheep and ruinous castles took our breath away.  We stayed in the town of Conwy, a small harbor town built within the still-standing Conwy castle walls erected by Edward I in the late 1200s to suppress the Welsh uprisings – it along with six other enormous castles and 2x his total annual budget – definitely had the intended effect.  We went on the very good guided tour – we loved learning about the castle defenses and in our heads, relating them to the RPGs we’ve enjoyed playing so much.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

The Conwy Castle guide - Neil (he was great!)

Conwy Castle guide - Neil Hilton (he was great!)

The town and surrounding area is so very charming – it is a must-see for any visitor to the area.  We also really appreciated the dual-language used in the area as all signs were in both Welsh and English.  The area even has it’s own BBC programming in Welsh as 25% of the people still speak the beautiful language.  We were sad to finally leave Wales and to no longer have the bilingual signs.

A sample bilingual Welsh sign

A sample bilingual Welsh sign

We were headed to another really amazing area, however, the Lake District.  It is this hilly and lake-filled region that has been designated a national park.  The rocky hills covered with grass and shrubs are home to – you guessed it – sheep too.  We took a detour off the “main road” (a two lane windy thoroughfare) on a tiny lane that really should have been one way but was designated as two – passing the Volvo in a tight spot was fun — I watched as they electronically pulled in their mirrors so we could squeeze by.  Maylene told me she didn’t see anything – she was too busy trying not to hit their car!  The detour ran along the lake and was supposed to take us to another ancient rock circle but instead took us across the lakes along a reservoir road and when we reached back to the main road, Maylene had enough of it and we headed to the town proper.  Too funny!

Picture taken from lake shore

Picture taken from lake shore

What a great waterfall!

What a great waterfall!

So now we’re sitting here debating about which area is the most beautiful – Maylene still votes Wales and I have to admit, there really is something brilliant about it but the Lake District is also amazing — I can’t wait to see what we think of Scotland which is next on the itinerary!

Stonehenge and Avebury

Quick note:  hey, leave us a comment, if you’re so inclined.  It’s easy enough to do– just click on that cartoony dialogue balloon to the right of the post title.  We love hearing from you.

So before we set out from the lovely, medieval town of Wells on our adventure to Stonehenge and Avebury, we’d been assured by pretty much everyone that Stonehenge would be “a disappointment” and that Avebury would be a much better and more accessible ancient ruinous site.  We came upon Stonehenge and decided to determine whether or not we wanted to spend the money to get into the site itself.

When we approached, we saw that not only was the whole area chain-link fenced off but even if you had paid the money to get into it, you’d only be able to get about 100 feet away from the stones.  This was truly disappointing.  So, we saved our money, took pictures from the outside, and enjoyed our picnic lunch in the parking lot while listening to tour guides complain about how difficult their jobs are and how hard it is to keep track of how many boxed lunches they have given out and how much money they have collected – too funny!

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Excited to keep moving and get to Avebury in time to romp and frolic with the stones, we set-off.  The Avebury site is also an ancient but less well-known Druid archeological site – 16x the size of Stonehenge and with just as much historical significance.  When we arrived to the area, we were excited to see that we could walk right up to the 25 ton stones – taking pictures and even sitting on some of the low, stable looking ones.  The main difference (aside from accessibility and size) that we could see was that Avebury didn’t have any of the smaller 17 ton stones resting horizontally on any of the vertical stones.  One other really cool thing about Avebury was the sheep grazing in and among the stones — cool but also very poop-ridden.

Visiting the Avebury site is a definite must-do — it was a really cool ancient site and confluence of ley lines.   The town was cute and quaint and filled with Druidic history and the surrounding area was steeped with tradition and folklore – we even glimpsed some of the enormous chalk carvings of horses and other designs in the mounds en route to Avebury.  Too cool!

Avebury - 16x the size of Stonehenge

Avebury - 16x the size of Stonehenge

Avebury - check out the sheep scratching on the rock

Avebury - check out the sheep scratching on the rock

Maybe even cooler than Avebury was our visit to Mr. Wilkin’s apple farm in the tiny village of Mudgley where he makes delicious scrumpy — it was a total “back door” moment and we got a kick out of watching him work — he was two weeks behind schedule for harvesting and a bit too busy to spend a lot of time with us but the drink was great and we bought 2 liters to go — yummm!!!

Huge barrels of dry and sweet cider

Huge barrels of dry and sweet cider

Mr. Wilkins spraying down the apple pressing room

Mr. Wilkins spraying down the apple pressing room

Merry Old England

We arrived in Heathrow late last night – at about 22:35. I had done some research ahead of time, so I knew that there were four ways to get from the airport to our hotel which was chosen for its proximity to the train station Paddington. These included taxi, Heathrow Connect (30 minute ride), Heathrow Express (15 minute ride), or the Underground (60 minutes with one transfer). We wandered around Heathrow trying to find the Connect or even the Express but were completely unsuccessful. Of course, we have yet to take a cab anywhere in Europe and certainly didn’t think it would be a good time to start — so, finding no better option, we jumped on the U and rode the Piccadilly line to the transfer with District and made it to our hotel by 23:45. Easy squeezy!
The room was booked with the intention of being just a place to sleep and shower before continuing our journey to Bath and boy am I ever glad that’s all we needed it for – it’s tiny and furnished with some interesting choices. Located on the fifth floor of a building with an elevator that only goes to four, we have used a lot of stairs and are happy once again, that we pack light. Both the double and the single beds in the room are low-quality and springy with an older Ikea look about them. The rest of the mish-mash furniture is jumbled throughout the room which does include an en-suite bathroom. The bathroom is hilarious – pretty small with things poking at you while you’re trying to use the toilet and a shower that only operates on dribbling steaming hot water. The breakfast was decent only if you purchased the upgrade to English breakfast for 3 pounds. The included meal was very basic at toast, cereal, and juice/coffee. The English included a fried egg, ham, sausage, baked beans, and canned tomatoes and was a decent value.

We arrived in Heathrow late last night – at about 22:35. I had done some research ahead of time, so I knew that there were four ways to get from the airport to our hotel which was chosen for its proximity to the train station Paddington. These included taxi, Heathrow Connect (30 minute ride), Heathrow Express (15 minute ride), or the Underground (60 minutes with one transfer). We wandered around Heathrow trying to find the Connect or even the Express but were completely unsuccessful. Of course, we have yet to take a cab anywhere in Europe and certainly didn’t think it would be a good time to start — so, finding no better option, we jumped on the U and rode the Piccadilly line to the transfer with District and made it to our hotel by 23:45. Easy squeezy!

The room was booked with the intention of being just a place to sleep and shower before continuing our journey to Bath and boy am I ever glad that’s all we needed it for – it’s tiny and furnished with some interesting choices. Located on the fifth floor of a building with an elevator that only goes to four, we have used a lot of stairs and are happy once again, that we pack light. Both the double and the single beds in the room are low-quality and springy with an older Ikea look about them. The rest of the mish-mash furniture is jumbled throughout the room which does include an en-suite bathroom. The bathroom is hilarious – pretty small with things poking at you while you’re trying to use the toilet and a shower that only operates on dribbling steaming hot water.

Great location though – just two blocks from the Paddington train station where we will take a train out to Bath and stay for two days.  The Roman Bath ruins are the big draw there – along with the Fashion Museum — hopefully I can drag Maylene to that one too!!

English breakfasts – here we come!!

We are on our way to the UK for about a month – flying into London tonight and directly onto Bath on Tuesday.  We’re taking Rick Steve’s general itinerary for UK touring in 22 days and cutting it down in a few places.

We will be checking out Stonehenge and Avebury after a few days of relaxing in Bath Spa (really, that’s the name). After that we hit the road with Maylene volunteering to drive us through Wales and Scotland. We are really getting excited about the prospect of driving again and are hoping for a GPS this time. Yes – this is another thing we short-sightedly decided to leave at home, thinking it was too bulky for the trip. Yes – we’ve been kicking ourselves since we rented in Switzerland. It seems like they agencies never seem to have any more in stock when we arrive and/or, they didn’t equip the car with it and it took them two hours to get it to you in the first place — yipes! I’m hoping for a much easier pick-up in Bath.

If anyone has advice to provide about the UK, including Ireland (our next stop) – we’d love to hear it!

Queens of the Rhein

If you ever need to feel like a Princess again (yes, I’m talking to you Bill), the Rhein Valley in Germany is just where you should head!  After spending the night in Rothenburg, we took the Romantic Road – which incidentally, is really not that romantic at all, especially with all the construction.  We bailed out early, near Wurzburg and Maylene got to have fun with the autobahn — just where the heck is Ausfahrt anyway?!

We arrived at Burg Liebenstein at around 3 pm and were upgraded to a suite due to scheduling issues and had two amazing views – one of the Rhine river and the castle surroundings and the other of the castle next door – Burg Sterrenburg.

Castle Across the Way

Castle Across the Way

Our room was at the top of the main house up a curling, crooked staircase barely big enough for our luggage – and trust me, we travel light at 30 lbs each with two backpacks and a small bag between us.

Before leaving, the owner showed me the fire escape and joked that this was the staircase that the ghosts used to access the bedroom while we slept.  Hahahaha… very funny.  Of course I was a bit paranoid about that but shouldn’t have been – we slept peacefully after the obnoxious Americans in the patio finally were told to go to their rooms by the owners.

We had dinner on the outdoor patio area and watched the sun set over the Rhein Valley and Sterrenburg castle.

Sterrenburg and the Rhein at Sunsent

Sterrenburg and the Rhein at Sunsent

Absolutely beautiful and a delicious meal that we both enjoyed.  We felt like royalty as one of two tables on the patio and could easily roll back time 500 years to imagine how the previous inhabitants would have passed the beautiful, late summer evening.  Magic!

We woke and enjoyed breakfast overlooking the Rhein Valley in a room decorated with plate metal armour and double-wielding swords and felt like we had the total castle experience.

In the evening we watched a Rick Steve’s video on the valley and learned that a nearby castle, Burg Eltz, was his favorite in Europe and decided to go check it out.  I navigated and Maylene drove and we checked out a whole bunch of castles along the river while I read from the guidebook.  These castles sprang up every few miles along the river so the Robber Barons could establish a fiefdom and use their control over the river to levy fees on the river merchants – reinforced with the very large chains they strung across the banks – good times!

Anywho – somehow, after a few wrong turns we finally found the road to Burg Eltz and followed it until termination at a point where it said the castle itself was 40 minutes away by hiking trail.  At this point, we had already come so far and had finally found the place, so we went for it – the hike through a part of the Black Forest was a pretty good one — not too strenuous but definitely an up and down and over the river kind of walk.  We finally arrived at the castle after 30 minutes

Burg Eltz Interior

Burg Eltz Interior

and found it to be under repair and coincidentally, charging twice what we had expected – oh yeah – and you can only go in by guided tour every 30 minutes.  That’ll be 25 minutes to the next English tour.  Okay – well, let’s make the best of it — having a quick snack before the tour began.  The tour itself was not exactly — errmmm… – well executed, let’s say.  Anyway – after it was over, I could not convince Maylene to go to the included treasury — she just wanted to get the heck out of there (and let me just admit that it was a rather feeble attempt).  So – we sped down the mountain and 30 minutes later hit the road again and saw a sign just down the road for the Burg Eltz P&R — 10 minutes away from the castle — arrggghhh!  That’s okay though – as it was – the best part of visiting this castle was the hike to it!

With map in hand and Maylene at the helm, we headed out of the Mosel Valley via a side street directly to St. Goar so that we could try to catch the ruinous Rheinfels castle before closing.

Rheinfels Ruins

Rheinfels Ruins

We made it with plenty of time to spare and loved the late afternoon walk through this amazingly enormous castle.  It reminded us of the Colosseum in Rome – on that scale, also used for a quarry, and just as run down.

We spent the night at Rudesheim am Rhein in this super-cheesy duck motif hotel – yes, duck was on the menu btw – “ente”, we learned a new word that day boys and girls.  It was in a great location though and we walked throughout the tiny town in the evening, sampling wine from a local vineyard — the Riesling is the local winner and was delicious!  That’s been a really cool aspect of the trip – sampling the local wines and beers that are so regionally distinct.  Yummm!!

The pics might look better in the album below – I had some trouble inserting some of them. Update: in true SNL “Your Company’s Computer Guy” fashion, Maylene said, “MOOOOVE” and fixed these pics.  Good times.

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…Oooohhh…so that’s why it’s so green around here…

Okay, so when we began exploring the idea of visiting Switzerland, we knew that it would be pricey – like over 250 euro per night for a basic hotel over 100 euros per night for a crappy hostel where tales of stolen items abound and easily over 13 euro for a 6-piece nugget meal from the McDonald’s at the train station for two girls who desperately needed to break a brand new 100 Swiss franc note so they could use the McClean at 2 francs each!  So – since we figured that we had a lot of ground to cover, did not have a very firm itinerary, and needed a cheap place to sleep – we’d rent a car  –  two birds, one stone.

It was great in theory and mostly okay in execution.  After a two hour delay at the Bern airport waiting for our car – we were off!  Maylene did a great job driving and I managed to navigate using the multi -country map we found for 17 francs – we spent our time in a four-inch radius.  While there, we stayed at a very nice campground – Lazy Rancho 4 with all the basic facilities and then some.  No fires but at least it had internet that we used to plan our next adventure.


It rained for three of the four days (complete with thunder and lightening) we were there and sleeping in the car was pretty darn cold even with all of our clothes on but the fourth day was pure glory — absolutely stunning making it all worthwhile! Besides, the rain just reminded us of our Washington camping adventures.

We also met a really kind and generous fellow camper.  Walti has lived at the Lazy Rancho for twenty years — or at least that’s what we think he said.  He first approached us on our first morning at the Ranch.  We had just finished showering and were getting ready for fruhstuck (breakfast) when Walti approached.  He asked in German if we spoke it – I responded quite cheerfully, No – but Good Morning!  He came back from the store with extra provisions and invited us to breakfast in his camper – a really cozy place.  We were surprised but decided to take him up on the offer.  He had a full breakfast spread out for us and we attempted to talk about our families over eggs and bread.  His wife passed away about a year ago and I know that he still misses her a lot – his descriptions of “Mein Frau” were just heart-breaking.  We each understood about 25% of what the other said, but the message came across loud and clear — we enjoyed each other’s company and enjoyed the time we had together (even while eating under the trophies of his hunting accomplishments).  It was such an amazing and moving experience, that we were so very grateful to have.  He lives in a tremendously “schon” area and his hospitality was overwhelming.

We made it up to Gimmelwald on the last day and found it to be a really amazing and special place too.  The town is tiny – only accessible by lift.  The schoolhouse has two teachers who also run a B&B and 17 students each with their own websites.

Gimmelwald schoolhouse

Gimmelwald schoolhouse

Everyone sold homemade cheese and the livestock and random cats kept us company.  We missed the cows though, they were out in the high pastures- can’t imagine where that might be.

We frolicked and let the thin air get the best of us.  It was a beautiful day and a wonderful town.  We loved it and hope you’ll enjoy the pics we took on our Swiss adventure!

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