A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 13

Advertisements

Finally, it was Sunday morning, the last day of our three country business/leisure trip.  As is our habit, we woke up at about 6:00am.  Although I initially had a great impression of the hotel in Vevey, our experience having dinner in the restaurant had dampened my enthusiasm a bit.  We probably should have searched for another place to have breakfast; they are definitely available in the area around Grand Hotel du Lac.  But I remembered the excellent experience we had at breakfast on Saturday morning and was hoping another great breakfast experience would make up for our run in with the snotty Swiss waiter from Saturday night (ooh… try saying that three times fast!).

The best shot I managed to get of the lake.

We got dressed and went back to the restaurant.  We waited a few minutes until another young man, not the one from Saturday night, greeted us and invited us to take a seat.  We chose the same table where we sat the night before.

We were the only ones in the restaurant at 8:00am.  That’s probably because the hotel has a brunch from 12-3pm on Sundays.  I bet it’s very expensive, though I have read that the food is excellent.  We needed to get on the road, though, so we opted for the regular breakfast buffet.  Instead of coffee, I asked for hot chocolate.  I figured since we were in Switzerland, the hot chocolate would be something to write home about.  Alas, it wasn’t.  The waiter brought out a cup of steamed milk and three sachets of hot chocolate powder, one of which was Ovaltine.  I haven’t had Ovaltine since I was about twelve years old.  Maybe I should have asked for a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream on the side.

“Hot chocolate”…  Now I know how real southerners felt when I waited on them at The Trellis in Williamsburg and invited them to sweeten their iced tea with the sweeteners in the caddy on the table.

Anyway, I decided not to order anything else special.  I noticed that unlike the awesome lady who had run the breakfast on Saturday, Sunday morning’s waiter had not put out labels for the food items.  I ended up being affronted by a chafing dish full of grilled tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.  This is not a huge deal… I only mention it because the other lady had paid such great attention to detail, while the young chap serving us yesterday seemed to still be learning.  However, I give him credit for being very pleasant and not irritating us.

Also, I noticed that the plates stacked in the plate warmer were much warmer than the ones on Saturday.  The pat of butter I struggled to put on my plate ended up melting by the time I sat down.  We also had to use napkins in order to handle the plates.  Again, not a big deal… just a minor oversight that made an impression.  I’m sure there’s a reason why the awesome lady who identified our room number without a hint was working Saturday morning, when more people would be eating breakfast, and the greener waiter was working on Sunday morning, when more people would probably choose brunch.

Melted butter…

Once again, the food quality was very good.  I wasn’t as dazzled by the experience as I was on Saturday morning, but at least I didn’t leave the restaurant annoyed like I did on Saturday night.

We packed up all our stuff and hauled it down to the car.  Bill went in and settled the bill for our two night stay.  The grand total was 1340 francs.  Again, the bill was presented with a box of chocolates to soften the blow.  It was not the most we’ve ever spent on lodging, but it probably was the most we’ve spent for only two nights.  For the most part, we really liked the Grand Hotel du Lac.  I would not hesitate to stay there again or recommend it to others.  If we ever go back to Vevey, I will think about whether or not the deluxe upgrade to the room is worth it.  Had we been in town all day on Saturday, we would have been able to enjoy the lake views.  The sun eventually came out after we got on the train to Gruyeres.  As it was, the times we were in the room we couldn’t see the lake due to the morning fog and it being dark outside when we returned.  Also, we could hear faint strains of the piano player because our room was right over the restaurant, though thanks to Advil PM, it was a temporary nuisance.   On the plus side, the rooms on the first floor had bigger balconies than the ones on the higher floors.

The restaurant also seems to be hit or miss.  We had one really great experience there, one poor one, and one that was about average.  The food was uniformly good, but for what we were paying, I think the restaurant should have been better than it was.

The rest of the staff was very kind and helpful and the property is really beautiful.  In fact, the whole area around Lake Geneva is gorgeous.  I’d love to go back and see more of it sometime.  I think if we have the time and chance to do it, we will return… after we save up some money.

Our drive back to Germany was mostly uneventful, if foggy.  Switzerland is an interesting country.  Since they have so many official languages there, you can see when you cross over to another area.  One minute, all the signs were in French; the next minute, they were in German.  We stopped at a rest stop, which was very bare bones.  Basically, it consisted of a row of unisex stalls that weren’t all that clean and offered no sink for hand washing.  I did spot a spigot on the side of the building.  Maybe that’s for those who want to rinse off.

Swiss rest stop.  At least it was free!

Border…

Blurry German sign.

Bill struggled to distract me from playing with the seatbelt.  He’s a safety freak and I get bored and restless on long car trips.  We eventually made it back to Germany in one piece after crossing the two lane border.  Since it was almost lunchtime, we stopped at a truck stop, hoping to find chicken.  We decided to pass on eating there, since they didn’t have anything that looked especially appealing.  That was a mistake, since we ended up stopping in Horb and couldn’t quickly find anything there.  The one place we tried was booked solid.

We’ll have to go back to Horb and explore it more, though.  It looks like a really interesting town.  Had I not been in a hurry to get home and reunite with our dogs, we might have tried harder to find a spot for lunch.  I did at least get a few photos.

Horb

Weird sculpture.  It smelled like it had served a few public urinators.

I kind of identify with this one…

A black cat followed us…

Overall, we enjoyed our trip.  It was great to be able to get away for awhile and actually do some traveling instead of hanging around Stuttgart.  Our next planned trip is in March, but I’m hoping we can do a short trip sometime before then.  For now, I guess I’ll get back to trying and reviewing local restaurants and attractions!

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 10

Advertisements

We arrived in beautiful Vevey, Switzerland at about 6:30pm or so.  It was dark outside and Bill was stressed out from the mountains and switchbacks, along with the steep inclines and descents.  He says he’s going to get the brakes checked on the Toyota.  I mention this only to remind folks headed for Alpine territory by car to make sure your brakes are in fine working order.  You will definitely need them more than ever there.

I had had my eye on Grand Hotel du Lac in Vevey since the first time we lived in Germany.  Back in 2008, we took a trip to Italy and Switzerland and Bill had wanted to visit Gruyeres then.  I had tried to find us a place to stay, but had no luck finding something we could easily afford.  Back in those days, he was still paying child support for three kids, one of which was not legally his responsibility.  None of those kids speak to Bill now.

Anyway, somehow that hotel got added to my list of bookmarks.  I wasn’t necessarily planning to go there when we decided to visit Switzerland.  In fact, we weren’t sure where we’d want to go.  I suggested Gruyeres when I remembered that Bill wanted to visit the H.R. Giger Museum.  I also know how much he loves cheese.  Once again, feasible lodging in Gruyeres seemed lacking.  Having never been there before yesterday, I didn’t know how many hotels were available.  It sounded like the parking situation might be difficult there.  So I decided to just go ahead and splurge on Hotel du Lac.

The first thing to know about Hotel du Lac is that it’s a five star establishment.  It’s expensive, but save for a couple of fairly minor hiccups over the weekend, we had an almost flawless stay.  It started when we pulled into the hotel’s small parking lot in front of the impressive facade.  The door opened and a young man came out and parked our car, steps from the front door.  He then took our bags for us.

A young woman opened the front door and welcomed us.  We sat down in the hotel’s office and she and her colleague offered us house made Swiss chocolate.  Then we got down to business.  I had booked a deluxe room, which was priced at $387 (390 francs) per night.  That did not include the charge for breakfast (39 francs a person) or parking (40 francs).  However, even though I spent a lot of cash on this hotel, I would say it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever stayed in in my lifetime.  The deluxe room included a balcony, which looked over Lake Geneva and The Alps.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate with us when we were in the room and the view was mostly wasted on us due to fog.  We did enjoy the large balcony, though.  It would be especially nice when the weather is totally clear.

As you may know, Switzerland has four official languages: Italian, German, French, and Romansch.  Vevey is in the French part, very close to Montreux.

Wonderful, plush, king sized bed.  A lovely housekeeper stopped by and did turn down service for us.  She left us with Swiss chocolates.  When we got back to the hotel last night after going to Gruyeres, she set the television to play classical music for us.  The room uses a card to keep the lights on, but she had kindly left one for us, so we didn’t come back to a dark room.

Beware!  Outlets in Switzerland are different.  I had forgotten that about Switzerland last time we visited and stayed overnight back in May 2008.  I will have to get some adaptors, because I’m pretty sure we’ll be back again sooner rather than later.  The hotel did provide us with a universal power adapter, which took care of our needs.

A view of the bedroom. 

A foyer with two closets and a minibar.  The closets light up and there’s a full length mirror.  The minibar has typically overpriced stuff in it, though it was relatively well stocked.  I’m not paying the equivalent of five bucks for a Kit Kat, though.

The bathroom.  The toilet is in its own stall, as is the shower.

The tub is generously sized.  They even give you bath salts.  I wish I had thought to indulge last night.  I was tired after our day trip and a bath would have been nice.

Large sink, complete with makeup mirror.  There was also a scale that I didn’t use.

Nice toiletries, generously restocked.

Shower.  The towels were awesome… huge, with ridges so they had a massaging effect.  There were matching bathrobes that one could purchase.  

Complimentary sparkling water and fruit… and yes, more Swiss chocolate.

Our car was literally parked outside the front door.

The front was all lit up for Christmas…


The view from our balcony…

The hallway.

Furniture in the hall.

 

We took a stroll, stopping at a bar called Sherlock’s Pub.  We only had one beer there because we got a weird vibe, although it looked like it could have been a great place in the right hands.   But the bartender couldn’t be bothered with us and there were a few shifty looking folks there.

After walking around Vevey, which is a very charming town, by the way, we passed through some kind of food fair, attended by many locals, a couple of sheep, and a donkey.  Near the fair, we stopped for pizza at this little hole in the wall place called L’ Armailli…  It looked like an Alpine bomb shelter and it was packed with locals!  The food turned out to be outstanding and our waiter spoke excellent English.

I had a large Cardinal beer, as did Bill.

Taking in the Swiss chalet atmosphere and enjoying the way the place smelled… heavenly!

Bill had lasagne.

I had a Sicilian pizza.  This was served with ham, capers, peppers, and cheese.  It had a thick crust and was manageably sized.  I really enjoyed it.

 

Of course, eating out in Switzerland can be pricey.  We paid about $50 for this meal, plus tip.  But it was definitely worth it and, as Swiss meals go, quite economical.

The front of the fabulous pizza joint.  I think that may have been the best pizza I’ve had in a very long time.

 

I kind of wish I’d bought a pair of those slippers.

We came back to the hotel, once again welcomed by the nice lady who checked us in.  A pretty Asian woman was sitting at the piano playing and singing, sounding a little karaoke-ish.  I decided I needed to go to bed.  I slept very well.  The sheets were absolutely exquisite.  Better yet, I didn’t wake up feeling stiff and sore, like someone had beaten the hell out of me like I did in Italy and even Austria.  Damn, I’m getting wimpy in my old age… but so is Bill.  He had similar complaints.

The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel.  The lady running breakfast on Saturday morning was absolutely awesome.  We approached her and she knew which room we were in.  She invited us to choose a table and then said if there was anything we wanted not in the buffet to let her know and they’d take care of it.  I wish I had asked for Eggs Benedict, but I ended up getting my breakfast from what was laid out.  The restaurant was very beautifully decorated and the server was so expert and proficient at her job.  She made us feel very welcome.  We left with a wonderful impression…  which sadly slipped later, but more on that in an upcoming rant/post.

Bill enjoys what tasted like French pressed coffee…

The orange juice was fresh squeezed and delicious.  The buffet had a very impressive array of treats available, all labeled with calligraphy.  It was very nice.  

A view of the front door during the morning.

 

After breakfast, which cost us 78 francs plus tip, we made our plans for the day…

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 7

Advertisements

Yesterday was kind of like Tuesday.  Bill and I got up, had breakfast, and he went to work.  I came back to the hotel room, wrote a post or two, then headed to the mall so the housekeeper could clean.  I did some more shopping.  Ended up buying a Multi-Knacker, a device that was made in China, but will probably be very handy for us.  It cracks nuts and opens pesky champagne bottles or tight bottle caps.  It was about five euros.

Festive Nutella filled cookie at breakfast.

I also bought lots of black socks, trying to buy ones that were made in Italy instead of China.  I bought a new scarf, made in China, but looks Italian.  And I bought wine…  but that’s a given, right?

Lovely Italian cakes… except for maybe the ones that look like a pile of horse shit.

When I got back to the room, it still hadn’t been made up.  I took my iPad and went to the lobby, where I listened to the latest British and American pop songs interspersed with older hits and Italian pop songs that sounded inspired by Mentos ads.  I played Covet and listened to a snazzily dressed local talk on his blackberry.  Then I came back, put the iPad away, and had lunch at the hotel restaurant.  I ordered a half liter of white wine and a bottle of water, along with shrimp ravioli.  It was all delicious, but I was rather buzzed after the wine.  It was more than I needed.

This ravioli was nice, especially after I drank the wine.

I started looking around YouTube and found a video of Renee Alway in jail.  About a year ago, I posted about her on my main blog.  Renee was a contestant on Cycle 8 of America’s Next Top Model. She did very well and had a lot of potential.  Sadly, she is now in prison.  I was watching old ANTM episodes when Bill came back.

I took him to the mall and showed him its hugeness.  He said we’d go back tonight and load up on Italian stuff like olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  And maybe a 10 liter bottle of wine…

Purchase one of these and fill  it with vino!

What a concept!

Afterwards, I told him he could take me to McDonald’s if he wanted to.  He refused.  I don’t actually like eating at McDonald’s anymore, but I also wasn’t really in the mood to go out.  This dark, cold weather makes me want to hibernate.  But we ended up going to a place called Me Gusta, which was located very close to our hotel.  I had a sirloin with fries.  He had roast beef with pecorino cheese and greens.  Instead of wine, we drank beer.

Wonder how many glasses have been broken because they were set up this way…

An amuse…

Better quality than McDonald’s.

Bill’s roast beef!

Remember this for next time?

Then we decided where our next stop will be.  We are going to Vevey, Switzerland, which is very close to Gruyeres.  Bill wants to see the Giger Museum there.  I want to go somewhere that has a bed that won’t kill my back.  I booked us a room in a five star hotel.  I even sprang for the lakefront view.  It’s going to cost us, but what the hell… it’s Christmas time.  And it’s also Switzerland, where bargains don’t come by every day.  I suspect we’ll come home with cheese and chocolate and lots of beautiful photos.

I had actually had my eye on the hotel I booked when we lived in Germany the first time.  Bill had wanted to go to Gruyeres then, when Mr. Giger was still alive.  The hotel was beyond our budget then.  It probably still is, but what the hell?