Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bridge and Mom: Destination Venice Italy

The last weekend of my mother and sister's sixteen day stay, we went to Venice, Italy. This meant that we needed to catch a 7:31 train in Zug and spend close to seven hours on a train, changing trains once in Milan. This makes for an extremely long day.

This may be the first time in Venice that I didn't get turned around. Once off the train, we proceeded down to the boat taxi area and paid for our tickets to the Lido Island where we were staying. After a thirty minute boat ride, we arrived at the Villa Laguna Hotel. To our surprise, it was off to the right in visible view.

When we opened the door, we were warmly welcomed by the matre de, where he explained different things to do in the Lido and provided us with a map. He then brought us to our room to show us where everything was and how to work the electronics in the room.

We were first pleasantly surprised at the actual size of the suite to European standards. It had a kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and a living room. We had excellent views of the laguna and could actually watch while the boats came rushing in. It gave you the impression of what it would be like to be on a boat out on the Adriatic Sea. It even had a slight vibration from the boats docking and you could hear the splash of the waves.

We decided to play it more low key the first night since we had a seven hour train ride, so we decided to explore St. Elizabette Street where there were shops, boutiques, gelato stands, and open air restaurants. We stopped for gelato at an open air cafe and watched all of the people rushing to whatever they had planned for that day.

The next morning, we awoke about seven in the morning, got ready and headed out the door to the Island of Murano where we would be escorted by a private Italian speed boat. It resembled what a limousine would look like on the water. We each took turns sticking our heads out of the roof of the boat and feeling the cool breeze and sea air envelope us.

Once to Murano, we were greeted by two Italian men in suits who the led us through the door and asked to sit down and listen to a short presentation of how Murano glass was made. We learned that it takes a man twenty years to be considered a master of this trade. It was amazing seeing these men turn hot glass into something so artistically beautiful.

First they shaped the hot glass into a ball. They then rubbed the hot glass in colored glass to give it some color. Then it went back into the fire. Once out, they would bend and mold it into the shape they want and then add any other specifications. Watching a true master make a horse out of a hot ball of crystal in mere seconds was astounding.

We then toured each of the exhibition halls ranging from high end expensive to reasonably affordable. The Murano glass creations were chandeliers, wine glasses, vases, modern art, jewlery, and sculpture. We each bought an original Murano piece and made our way by private speedboat to the Island of San Marco.

San Marco is a lively and touristy destination that houses some of the most amazing religious architecture. From The Saint Mark's Basillica to the historic bell tower, this island was very aesthetically pleasing. We spent the better part of that day moesying from one store front to the next. The one thing I found intriguing, was the islands fixation on Murano glass. You will find Murano pendants, necklaces, sculptures and art. The only problem is, that you will be receiving a machine created replica of the original. I opted to buy one of each.

Mom and Bridge: Destination Mount Titlis

Mom, Bridgette, and Nick woke up early and decided to visit Mount Titlis. No Switzerland adventure would be complete without a visit to the mountains. Mount Titlis is approximately an hours drive from our house, and then a gondola up to the highest point of the mountain (10,000 feet above sea level). The gondola is constantly in motion, and you have to jump in. Mom and Bridge did just that. Nick, finding the gondola to be full, trailed after them.

Once to the top, they took some pictures of the amazing mountains. They couldn't have asked for a better day. Sunny blue skies and surrounded by mountains. They decided to sit at the cafe and have a Cappuccino, or a beer in Bridgette and Nick's case. Once they finished their beverages, they started their walk down the mountains ridge.

Mom and Bridgette did exceptionally well for their first mountain hike. There was only one time when my Mom felt she needed to stop due to the change in altitude. The key here is a lot of hydration.

As they continued their hike, my Mom noticed that she had lost her sweatshirt. She contemplated just leaving it there, but decided to back track the way they had come to actually pick it up. Along the trail, they heard old women yodeling back and forth to one another which is something many have not experienced before. Once in the restaurant, which was overcrowded with tourists, they found a place to sit and ordered the famous Alpine macaroni which I suggested they try. It was so popular, that they had run out earlier, so they opted for the German bratwurst.

Once lunch was finished, they proceeded to take the gondola down which is somewhat like an elevator where they cram thirty some people in. It is not for the clastrophobic or the person with heightened sense of smell. The smell of body odor and moth balls seemed to permeate the air. Moth balls being a smell my Mom hasn't smelled since her childhood.

Once down, they drove the hour back and both said that the mountain adventure was the highlight of the trip. Nothing like being 10,000 feet above sea level to put things in perspective.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mom and Bridge: Destination Zug and Hunenberg Switzerland

After a thirteen hour plane ride, it is suggested to take it easy due to jet lag. We did just that. I opted to take them into the town of Hunenberg where they toured the Hunenberg Castle Ruins, and let the kids play at the park. All was going well, until Mother Nature decided to pour down on us, so we made our way back to my house drenched or as Geno would say "dirty." Geno hats having his hair wet and kept saying, "My hair is dirty."

The next day, I decided to have them take a bus and then a train into Zug to do a little sight seeing and shopping, but before I did that, I wanted to show them the monastery by my house. We walked into the church and Mom lit a candle and prayed. We took some pictures of the monastery itself, and then we toured the monastic grounds. Here we saw two nuns working in the cemetery of nuns past making sure that beautiful plants and flowers were planted on their burial mounds.

Once in Zug, I showed them the old part of Zug, the quaint cobblestoned streets, and the architecture, and ended the adventure at an open air cafe for dessert. Great start to their sixteen day adventure.

Mom and Bridge: Destination Konstanz Germany

While my sister and Mom were in Europe, I wanted to expose them to as many countries as I could, and did quite well by showing them Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland. I chose Konstanz Germany for it's close proximity and heard that it was a beautiful university town. Once there, we parked the car at a mall, and did some shopping. Afterwards, we decided to make our way to the lake. What was supposed to be a ten minute walk, turned out to be two hours due to the language barrier and poor directions. Factor in that it is raining, and it was quite a sight.

We decided to stop for lunch at a quaint restaurant along the Rhine river where Bridgette and my Mom were able to sample their first German wiener schnitzel in a beautiful atmosphere. Once we finished our lunch, we opened our umbrellas and were on our adventure to find the lake or as they call it the Bodensee. One thing to remember in Germany, is that they have bike paths and walking paths, and you must make sure that you are on the right one. We found ourselves ironically on the bike path instead of the walking path, and with the rain, decided to not turn around. Leave it to one impatient German to yell at us in German which I replied with "Naa Naa" which he then retorted back to me. Quite comical actually.

Although we never made it to the Bodensee, we did make it to the old town of Konstanz, where we saw open markets selling cheese, sausage, and crafts, and toured a beautiful church befoire walking back to our car and driving back. They were good sports and didn't allow the rain to dampen their mood or adventure.

Mom and Bridge: Destination Luzern, Switzerland

No trip to Switzerland would be perfect without a trip to the city of Luzern along the lake. We took the bus and train into the city and toured the oldest Jesuit Church in Europe. In all of my travels and tours of old churches, this one impressed me the most. It appeared to be from the Renaissance age and mirrored a Venetian style. Absolutely breathtaking experience.

We then walked across the historical covered bridge that connects the new town with the old town and took pictures. I then explained to them that the tower in between this covered bridge used to house prisoners in the past and is one of the most photographed locations in Luzern.

We proceeded to the old part of town where the architecture was amazing and several hand painted murals on buildings suggest the importance of the Faschnaut festival that takes place every year. We did some shopping in the many souvenier shops and then decided to have lunch along the lake at an open air restaurant where we had a three course meal that included soup, salad, and pesto pasta. We then took the train and bus back just in time to pick Geno up from school.