Zipping along gleaming steel tracks and sliding along sleek s-curves we climb our way through the glass-like peaks into the heart of Switzerland via the precisely efficient train.
The cabin is comfortable, luxe and an easy way to spend a full day. The scenery is astounding- immaculate- jaw-dropping and like nothing I've ever seen, two and a half hours pass before I peel my face away from the window to discover the time. Light dances through the clouds and falls across peaks, shadows and hills, sculpting dimension, carving highlights and depth into the rolling grassy hills covered in dairy cows and charming huts, to the towering impressive walls of white that from a protective wall, known as the Alps.
Never have I been in a place more quaint, efficient and well run than Switzerland. The train is two minutes late pulling into the platform at the Gare Du Nore in Paris. Upon boarding they apologize amply over the loudspeaker for the delay and drop us off in Zurich precisely two minutes early. After a stunning and entertaining ride, we are tired from the many days of travel and drag our sorry butts straight to our hotel. We've only got one night in Zurich on our way to Vienna, and as much as the darling towns and delightfully colorful steeples are calling to us there is simply no energy left to be spent. So we retire to our accomodations.
The Hotel Senator where we have booked a night is lovely, comfortable and spacious. It's warm and inviting on the inside and located near some adorable hearty little food joints where the man at the front desk tells us "Good greasy food can be found." Room service is sent up from the restaurant downstairs and three of the biggest meals I've ever seen are dropped off for dinner. Sandwiches stacked with more layers than the twin towers and heaping plates of herb french fries so good I'm licking my fingers just thinking about them. There's no way any one of us could ever finish this much food and again we're all astounded that, despite popular belief, we have been served far larger meals than we could get anywhere in the states.
Our cozy room sports a tiny balcony facing a courtyard of sunny-colored apartments and flower boxes. It's getting colder now outside as we move north and I wrap up in a blanket to enjoy my apple cake (served with one of my newly discovered favorites- ground cherries!). with some wonderfully hot tea. A large husky man plays a horn in his apartment while a man across the courtyard sips his wine and smokes his cigarette as he hangs out the window and enjoys his neighbors melody. A young woman who looks just home from work waters her roses while a couple saunters home on bikes and I feel a great sense of this city.
In the morning, we trot our now well-rested butts back to the station (the streetcar here is run on the honor-system, which I find charming and delightful).
A relatively small city in a relatively small country, Zurich (like everything else in Switzerland), is well-run, clean, friendly and wealthy. The dogs here are larger than they are in France, as are the people and the portions. Everyone is very well-dressed in proper, business attire that looks more comfortable, practical and friendly than their French neighbors, yet still maintains polish and tailoring.
Downtown is flooded with diamond stores, yacht-wear and fine occasion needs. Compared to France, we find the merchants and train-station employees considerably friendly, helpful and happy to have you. There is still an air of smoke much stronger than I am used to floating about but it has a subtle improvement.
At the station we grab lots of ginormous pastries and coffees for breakfast. Diabetes worries aside, they are absolutely delicious!
The train station turns out to be a surprisingly ridiculously fun way to kill a few hours. Flooded with fine stores of delectable chocolates, elegant flowers, satisfying meals and well-made presents, we wander around and around as I make frequent trips back to the various Chocolatiers.
The board lights up with the the train to Vienna and off we go to the next adventure.