Saturday, May 6
Lucerne, Switzerland

We landed at 8:00 am, found an ATM, headed to the train station inside the airport and purchased our tickets (52 francs round-trip each, 2nd class). Our timing was perfect...a train for Lucerne was in the station. As soon as we boarded, the doors closed and off we went for the 75-minute journey. It was a pretty ride with the exception of occasional graffiti.

It was too depressing to check the dollar exchange, so I didn’t. I also did not use my currency calculator as it was futile to see what I was spending. The euro was fluctuating between $1.26 and $1.29. The exchange for Swiss francs was equally bad. My first trip to Europe in 1979 was with Frommer’s “Europe on $15 a Day.” My, how times change.

We stayed two nights at the Hotel des Alpes in Lucerne,, a five-minute walk from the train station (cross the river and turn left; the entrance is on the back side of the hotel, not the side facing the river). We arrived at 10:30 am and were greeted cheerfully with, “Yes, you may check in now.” We were given room 346 on the third floor with twin beds and a Juliet balcony overlooking Lucerne’s 14th century Chapel Bridge. The room was small but adequate, the beds comfortable. The location and view made it ideal. The recently renovated bathroom, with a shower stall, was also small but adequate. No air-conditioning. I’d heard that there could be a lot of noise at night. It was cool and damp the first evening keeping people away from the outside cafes, so we had peace and quiet. On the second night, we heard cheering until very late from the winners of a ballgame, although with everything going so smoothly, nothing could have bothered us.

Breakfast (included with the room) was good; cold items only as we found at all of our hotels: rolls, breads, croissants, cereals, yogurt, meats, cheeses, and juices. The days of just a roll and coffee are thankfully gone. The no-smoking breakfast room had a lovely lake view. Surprisingly, we encountered more smokers in Switzerland than we did in Italy. 

We settled in and set out to explore. As it was Saturday, the streets were filled with market stalls and people out shopping or dining at street cafes. The city was very much alive—you could feel the energy. There appeared to be about a thousand shops, not tourist shops either, but shops you’d find at your neighborhood mall. We stopped at a yogurt/creperie so Maritza could get a sandwich. I didn’t have the heart to explain to her why I wasn’t hungry after our flights. I admired the many painted buildings in the plazas.

After a while jetlag overtook Maritza and I continued exploring on my own. I stopped into a supermarket, a four-level store with the food section on -1. Shoppers take their carts onto a people-mover down a level. One aisle consisted of nothing but yogurt on both sides. These folks take their yogurt very seriously.