Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Zurich - Day 1

I'm actually going to start with the night before as our flight out of Brussels was in the early evening. We didn't arrive in the Zurich airport until about 8pm, and it actually took us awhile to figure out the transportation from the airport to our hotel. But we always seemed to get lucky in that area. A very nice man helped us at the train ticket kiosk, and eventually we were on our way.

We arrived at The Hotel Opera by 9:30 and then left to find some kind of dinner after getting settled. It took a while but we finally found a place open called Santa Lucia with once again unusual service but pretty good pizza.
The area in this photo, also called Altstadt or Old Town, is where we walked the most our first night. The three churches you see are Fraumunster, St. Peter's and Grossmunster.

I like this shot Mike got of Grossmunster church while we were walking around looking for dinner.

When we got back to the hotel it was pretty late, but because of the seven hour time difference we were able to FaceTime with the kids.
Just a little more information about our hotel. This was the view from our room which we saw the next morning when we woke around 10am.
 (photo from internet)
And this photo is similar to the room we stayed in. It was a good size and the bathroom was a decent size as well. I will say it was a smaller hotel than we realized with only four rooms on a floor. And the elevator was tiny! When we brought our luggage in the night before, Mike took the stairs because the elevator only fit one person with a big suitcase.

Anyway, after we woke up we had a breakfast snack of Fruit Juice smoothies from Joe and the Juice, and then we decided to just walk and explore.

Once again I had turned to the internet and researched things to do in Zurich. Here are a few of the sites I pinned that we actually used.
Zurich Bucket List: 15 Things to do in Zurich, Switzerland
We only really did four things on this list. Explore Altstadt - Old Town (mainly because our hotel was located in Old Town), Eat at Zueghauskeller (which was good but didn't work out too well for me. More to come on that later), See the Chagall Windows at Fraumunster church (loved!), and while we didn't take a boat ride on the river, we did take one out on Lake Zurich

Walking in the Rain - A Zurich Walking Tour
Because of this post, we went to see Lindenhof Hill and Rennweg Street. We kind of naturally ran into Bahnhofstrasse and the churches while walking on our own.

10 Awesome Things to do in Zurich Switzerland
After awhile these types of posts basically mention all the same places because honestly in my opinion, I don't think there is a whole lot to do in Zurich itself. 

5 Best Views in Zurich
The only one we made it to together was Lindenhof Hill. I would have liked to check out the Cloud Bar and Grossmunster Tower, but it just didn't happen. Maybe if we had a little more time.

Anyway, we started off our first full day by going on our own little walking tour like we did in Brussels.
The water in the Limmat river which flows into Lake Zurich is such a pretty color!

 I think the name Altstadt (Old town) is fitting.

 Just the two of us - Zurich, Switzerland August 4, 2017
We walked down to a bridge on the other side of the churches and made our way back down.
I didn't even know Mike took this picture, but I thought it was pretty cool with all the pots on windowsills.

Then we found a little quiet area right next to Fraumunster Church before heading out through some narrow streets to Bahnnofstrasse.
It reminded me of a little fairy tale village back there with the cobblestone streets and buildings. I expected Beauty to pop out any minute singing about wanting adventure in the great wide somewhere!
So Bahnhofstrasse, the main street of Zurich is for trams and walkers only. It is a pretty well known shopping district with stores for every major designer you can think of. It was kind of fun to look and take it in, but in all honesty we just weren't interested in hanging there long.

We decided to head towards Lindenhof Hill to see the view.

Our views from the park at the top!
Just the two of us - Lindenhof Hill August 4, 2017
After that we continued walking heading towards Rennweg street.
 Making our way there on some pretty cool little side streets.

Renwegg Street is supposedly where they take "the iconic photo of Zurich you see in all the guide books." So of course I wanted to check it out!

I had come across the information about Rennweg street on the "Walking in the Rain - a Zurich Walking Tour" blog post. And as we followed the directions to get to Rennweg street we felt lost even though we knew we were right there. Finally I realized since we had been following her tour backwards and we were facing the wrong way. So we turned around and saw this...

Lol, not quite so picturesque as we had thought it would be. Kind of fits right in with the scaffolding on Big Ben in London and the construction machines and materials from the iconic building shot in Amsterdam.
Yep, quite a difference. What are you going to do though? And actually Mike was kind of impressed with how they had the tower crane rigged up there on the street.

After that we headed back towards Fraumunster church to see the Chagall windows.
Fraumunster Church was founded in 853 AD! And of course there were no pictures allowed inside which was a little disappointing.
So you will have to settle for both of these photos off the internet. These are the five windows, but they don't appear together that way.
When you enter the church as you can kind of see, three of them are straight ahead and then there is one on a wall on each side facing in. They were so, so pretty in person!
After visiting the church we had a late lunch at another Santa Lucia restaurant in a different location. We are thinking it is a chain over there because we saw more than one with similar menus but different looks.
We ate out on the patio and the food was really good. I had the Ravioli with buffalo cheese ricotta and it was yummy!

We headed back to the hotel after that to rest and decide what we wanted to do that night.
We finally decided to take a one and a half hour boat ride out on Lake Zurich.
It was pretty cool and relaxing to just sit there on the boat watching the scenery and just talk. It's hard to get a lot of time for just the two of us back home. So I really enjoyed having uninterrupted time just for us.

Then we headed to Zeughauskeller for dinner. All of the "what not to miss" in Zurich lists said to make sure you had sausages at Zeughauskeller.
We managed to get a table and the food did live up to the hype. It was very good. Or so I thought, but more on that next blog post.

After dinner, we walked around for a bit more.
We bought some dessert at a place called Cake Friends and sat by the river to eat it. But we were surprised to find it super crowded all along the river with a teen and college aged crowd. I guess it's the place to hang out on a Friday night.
So we decided to head back to the hotel to FaceTime with the kids and we wanted to get to bed earlier since we had a big day planned for Saturday - a trip to Rigi Mountain.

And surprisingly for all the walking we did, I only had 15,981 steps and 6.87 miles on my Fitbit.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

From Brussels to Zurich!

This was a day where we still had some time in Brussels before our late afternoon flight to Zurich.
We had to be out of our hotel room by 11am, but thankfully they were able to store our luggage till we were ready to leave for the airport.

So we decided to explore a new to us part of Brussels and had brunch at a place called Chicago Cafe.

 (photo from internet)
It was this cool little retro, fun place and I wish I would have actually taken a few photos inside. But I'll have to settle for a few from the internet.
(photo from internet)
In fact, I found this photo of the exact spot where we sat at that little white table! Kind of fun.
But I digress. The food was really, really good. I had a cheese omelet with toast and fruit salad. It wasn't what I would call a traditional omelet, but I liked it. And the service was pretty good, so it was another favorite restaurant along with the one from dinner the night before.

Then we decided to walk around for awhile.
We literally just wandered the streets and took it all in one last time. There was so much I loved about Brussels. The beautiful old buildings and lots of cobblestone streets.
 I loved this building that reminded me of Hogwarts castle a little.
So many pretty balconies.
The chocolates! They were all so pretty. We almost bought this box for Erin but then found another one we liked better.
And then after a lunch at Manhattn's Burgers (and yes I did see the irony that we ate breakfast at a place called Chicago Cafe and Lunch at Manhattn's Burgers while in Brussels!) We found this little spot.
The Mont Des Arts Garden. It had been on my walking tour list, but we didn't make it there that first day. And then as we were walking around we accidentally stumbled across it. Such a beautiful view!
Just the two of us - Mont Des Arts with the City Hall in the background - Aug. 3, 2017
Just sitting enjoying the view and the moment.
We were running out of time though. So we headed back to Maison Dandoy to get one last waffle to go to split.
And we sat and ate it in the Grand Place. Perfect end to our time in Brussels!
Just the two of us in the Grand Place one last time - Aug. 3, 2017
I snapped this photo because this was the route we usually took going back to our hotel from the Grand Place. And I always knew right where we turned for our hotel because if you look closely you can see the balcony with the flower boxes way up there. I loved that balcony!

After picking up our luggage, we walked to the train station that would take us to the airport for the last stop of our trip - Zurich, Switzerland.

I think I will just wait and talk about our first night in Zurich on my next post. We didn't get in there until 8pm so it was a little late.

But I ended the day with 23,387 steps but I was short around 1000 because my fitbit finally went dead. And we walked 10.1 miles total (minus a little bit)

I miss Brussels sometimes and looking back, I now wish we had a little more time to spend in Belgium. Next to Italy and Germany, I wouldn't mind going back to Belgium someday to explore a little more. It will always hold a special place in my heart!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Brussels - Day 2

Our second day was the day we were really able to explore Brussels, so settle back for a long post! We didn't wake until 11am though. And after we were up and dressed, we went to find a place to eat.
We settled on Peck 47 close to the Grand Place. It had great reviews and was highly recommended on a blog post I had pinned about places not to miss in Brussels.

It was a cute little cafe, and we were able to sit outside on the patio.
I loved the chalk sign out front, but honestly we weren't super impressed with the actual restaurant. It was an unusual menu for us and Mike was a little surprised when his orange juice came out as you can see on his Snapchat photo.
It looked more like the beaten egg yolks than juice, and didn't quite taste like what he expected. He had also planned on having a waffle, but the choices were a little different to say the least.
I had a Cuban sandwich that had too much mustard and not enough pork, but it was actually pretty good otherwise. Not our favorite restaurant on the trip at all, but it was ok.

After breakfast, we headed off on a little walking tour with some help from this Blog Post. 
Using Google maps, we were able to figure out which stop was closest to our hotel. So we headed left and found ourselves at St. Michael and St. Gudala Cathedral. Our walk to the Cathedral was all uphill. Brussels is definitely hillier than Amsterdam and London, which was actually a nice change because it gave us some incredible views at times.
Like this one that I posted on Instagram which I will talk more about in my next post.

But from the Cathedral steps we were able to see the top of City Hall over at the Grand Place.
It had started to rain by the time we arrived at the Cathedral and thankfully we had brought a little umbrella with us.

You can read more about the cathedral Here. 
The Cathedral has been around since about 1000 AD and is really beautiful inside. One of the things I love about Europe is how so many buildings have been around for so long. There is so much history over there that it just can't compare here in the United States.

So many gorgeous windows inside.
I love that it was originally devoted to St. Michael the Archangel who is my husband's patron saint.
There is a pretty cool statue in his honor inside.
And an amazing pulpit.

Our next stop was the Royal Palace (Palais Royal de Bruxelles). We actually did walk through Brussels Park (Parc de Bruxelles) first.

And it was still raining just a little bit. Just a light rain, but it was kind of nice sharing an umbrella. :)
The Royal Palace is still the official palace for the King and Queen of Belgium, but they do not actually live there. We happened to be there at the right time, because it appears it is only open to the public for about six weeks out of the year - July 21st until beginning of September. So we decided to go inside for the tour which was free. Online a blogger had mentioned it takes about thirty minutes, but I'm not sure if it was even that long.
Here are a few photos from the inside. Lots of chandeliers!

But I think this one was the best!

The chandelier and the artwork on the ceiling are actually made from the wings of Thai jewel beetles! Very unique and unusual to say the least.

Of course after the Palace, we had to stop at Manneken Pis. 
Yes, it is a statue of a little boy going pee. And it is a very famous and well loved landmark in Brussels that was designed in 1338. So it's definitely a must see if you are ever in Brussels.
I actually had to a photo of those windows above the statue, because I loved them so much. They were so pretty in person!
Next up finally, we got waffles from Maison Dandoy! The Manneken Pis is a short walk to the Grand Place and the Maison Dandoy tearoom is located on the way right around the corner from the there. Maison Dandoy has more than one location though. One is just a shop and the other is a shop with tearoom where you can eat in or get your waffles to go! We actually ate in the tearoom this time around.
Not the prettiest shot of our waffles, but we didn't think to take a photo until after we had started putting everything on top. lol
And I will say the waffles are every bit as good as the internet says they are! So yummy and highly recommended.

After filling up on waffles, I stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe which is also right next to the Grand Place to pick up a souvenir for my dad. He collects pins from the different Hard Rock Cafes and I thought it would be fun to get him one from Brussels.

Up until this point we had been checking out a variety of chocolate shops to find something for the kids. There are so many to choose from! But we finally settled on Le Comptoir De Mathilde. We stocked up on a few things and headed back to the hotel for a nap and some time to relax.

Since we were seven days into our trip, Mike had found a laundromat not far from our hotel where we could wash a load of our clothes. We walked over to the laundromat and put our clothes in a washing machine.
Then we had fries and a few drinks at a little restaurant down the street with terrible service but a fun atmosphere. Once our clothes were done, we walked around for a bit trying to find a place to actually eat dinner. One thing I will say, stay clear of Rue de Boucher. It's a tourist trap pure and simple. It is a few streets full of restaurants with very aggressive "sales pitches" about why you should come try their restaurant. And honestly none of them even looked appealing. I've heard there are a few good ones in there, but really seemed to be too much of a hassle to find them.

Ironically, we ended up at a little place called Ricotta and Parmesan located right around the corner from our hotel. And we loved it! Great service for a change and really a perfect little date night type place. I would totally give it 5 stars! Our waiter was originally from Palermo, but had lived in Philly as he called it in the States for a while. And now he is living in Brussels. It was the best service we had the entire trip and he gave us free limoncello shots on top of it!

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel to drop off our laundry and get our nice camera before heading to see the Grand Place at night.
It was so beautiful!
 Once again, photos cannot do this place justice!
There were still so many people around that late at night just sitting and talking. It was so cool!

All these photos take you in a complete walk around the entire square.
I think the Grand Market will always be one of my favorite places in the world!
We decided to join the crowd and just lay down and hang out for a bit looking up at the top of the City Hall.
It was our last night in Brussels after all. :)

Steps - 18,714
Miles - 8.02