Wednesday, June 11, 2014

14 Hours in Zurich - Part 2

As I mentioned in the earlier post, we had plans to use the Hilton Zurich Airport hotel to rest a bit before heading into central Zurich for an afternoon of sightseeing. After having a complimentary breakfast in the hotel, we went up to our room and turned out the lights for a few hours of sleep. The plan was to wake up around 12:30pm and then head into the city on the train from the airport.

Unfortunately, instead of a cap nap, we all slept as if we were still on New York time and woke up after 3PM (9AM back home). Despite rushing and getting ready as quickly as we could, we didn't leave the hotel til shortly after 4PM, cutting our free time in Zurich down significantly from 5 hours to closer to 2!

So instead of waiting for the hotel airport shuttle (every 20 minutes), then catching the airport train to downtown Zurich, we hired a taxi from the hotel instead. Fortunately, they took credit cards, because we didn't stop to get any Swiss francs given our limited time on the ground.

The taxi ran about CHF52 (~$58 USD) but included the gratuity. Still a lot to pay for a ride into town, but we rationalized that it was likely our only time ever in Zurich. Plus, we used our Barclays Arrival Plus+ card to pay for the taxi, so after the charge posted on our account, we were able to use our Arrival Miles to "erase" the $50 of the charge for 5,000 miles. So net out of pocket cost was just $8.

By way of reference the train ride would have cost only CHF 6.60 ($7.35 USD per adult) each way. That was a much cheaper option, but it would have required us to lose a lot of time waiting for shuttle buses and train schedules in addition to walking from the train station to the areas we wanted to see.

Fortunately, our taxi driver didn't hit any traffic heading into the city and we arrived at Confiserie Sprüngli (one of the famous epicurean institutions in Zurich) at around 4:30PM where I was amazed at all the beautiful pastries and chocolate truffles.

I wanted everything in the shop, but my father limited me to a small box of four jewelry like macaroons. As you would imagine, they were simply delicious and apparently pretty expensive for about $1.20 USD each.

We continued meandering down Bahnhofstrasse (the Fifth Avenue of Zurich) but we soon realized that we had all the same high end luxury retailers in Manhattan. So then we decided to head towards one of the bridges over the Limmat River that cuts through the middle of the city. We passed by Fraumünster Church and head towards Grossmünster Church at the other end of the bridge.

Crossing the bridge we were able to notice two things. First, the water in the river was immaculately clean and clear. You could see the rocks along the bottom of the river. Definitely couldn't say the same thing in any city river in the United States. Second, there were swans swimming all along the river. What toddler doesn't love seeing swans?

When we crossed, we saw we were in the "Old City" where the streets were cobblestone and roads were for pedestrians instead of cars. Lots of irregular alleys and steep paths. Beautifully preserved architecture and fountains. This was much more what my mother had been seeking when she first heard we were going to be in Europe.

Since we had slept through lunch, we decided to take a break and enjoy some refreshments. My father wasn't that shocked when he saw the menu prices (this was Zurich after all), but he also didn't feel we needed to break the bank on a basic lunch just because we were "on vacation." I mean, we're kind of always on vacation, aren't we? So he just ordered himself a beer and shared an appetizer with my mother who enjoyed a beverage herself. But I did manage to convince him that I should at least get some ice cream.

Apparently our waitress loved kids, because she was super nice to me and even brought me a make-shift balloon face. I'll treasure it always (ie, til I get bored of it 3 minutes later).

Soon after our afternoon snack, we decided we'd rather get back to the hotel and comfortably pack instead of rushing frantically to make our flight to Tel Aviv. We cross another bridge back to the western bank where the business/shopping district was and found our way back to the hotel by 7:30PM. Plenty of time to get our stuff together and leisurely make our 10:45PM flight.

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