Day 5 - Lugano, Switzerland
We didn't pre-order breakfast at the hostel this morning, so we picked up what we could from what they had left over, then made our way down to the train station. The phone lines were down for the town, so we had to pay cash (no credit transactions) which, fortunately, we had taken out yesterday. The proprietor said that the reason the trains were late yesterday was that they usually have two parallel tunnels, for the trains to go through along the route, but when it rains they have to close one of the tunnels because of flooding. Since it was sunny, we took the chance that the morning trains were on time and chose to take the later train. We caught all our connections just right today, stopping in the Milano train station between legs of the journey. We feel like "pros" at the Italian trains now.
Today's journey took us across the border to Switzerland. In spite of being the Italian part of Switzerland, the signs changed to mostly German, and the language spoken around us changed as soon as we hopped on the train headed to Switzerland. We found many of the Italians did not speak much English, but communication wasn't too hard except when asking for something complicated. For example in the self-serve café's, they have sandwiches displayed in the cases with different prices, but you have to order at the cashier (you can't just point and say I want one of those and one of those). Today was one of those days when we ended up with different sandwiches than we hoped for because I couldn't communicate well enough. I found it a relief to be able to use my very rusty, but somewhat functional German to at least understand things around me better.
The countryside changed from olive trees and vineyards to lush forested hills and lakes as we headed north.
At the Lugano station, we bought our Swiss Pass for train travel starting tomorrow, and got a shuttle to the hotel. Unfortunately, the man at the train station didn't understand enough English and gave us a more-expensive flex-pass rather than a consecutive-day pass, and failed to give us the free children's companion pass but since I was confused about what I should be receiving (and was in a hurry to catch the shuttle) I didn't realize it until after we got to the hotel. We are feeling very unsure about the Swiss trains at this point.
The hotel was wonderful - we had a lovely room with duvets for covers. The maid came in to turn down our beds (Noah wondered why that was necessary) and put towel mats down at each bedside for our feet. They had an outdoor pool and outdoor deck with huge chess pieces and a ping-pong table and pedal carts for the kids. The kids got to play in the pool while I did more laundry (it never ends!).
Jim and I debated about what to do about catching the train for tomorrow, but decided to let it take care of itself, and we all went walking around town. Lugano was having a street fair, so around dusk they closed off the main street to car traffic. It was fun seeing the city out playing along the waterfront. There seemed to be a good mix of locals vs. tourists. We tried to stop at a local favorite restaurant, but it was closed for the holidays (Sunday is Swiss National Day - their equivalent to July 4th in the USA). A kind lady noticed we were looking for the restaurant, and walked us over to another local favorite cafeteria, Manora (part of a department store chain). We were dubious after Turkey where everyone is part of the sales team, but she just pointed it out and walked on her way. She told us about her sister who lives in Texas, and wished us well. Part of the famous Swiss Hospitality I guess. We loved the Manora café - very fresh foods cooked to order. We got some dishes to share and it wasn't too expensive once we figured out how it worked (seems like all our meals end up much more expensive than we hoped by the time we are done).
We walked some more through the park (saw three unicyclists riding by - one with a pig mask on and a rope connected to another one - you just never know what you'll see). The kids played on the grass, throwing waterbottles like a football - but then the park police came by and said to get off the grass - oops. No wonder their grass looks so nice. They had a weather station in the park, and I noticed the humidity was 50%. Not bad. The clouds were beautiful at sunset.
Jim and I walked over to take pictures of a water spout fountain in the lake while the boys stayed in the plaza and played games around some posts. They played leap-frog over the posts, ran weaving races around them, and perfected a toss-the-waterbottle-back-and-forth-while-running-down-the-rows-of-posts game. Good, fun exercise.
While the others crashed in the room, I got a pot of tea at the bar and worked on blogging and pictures (another never-ending task). Ahh, internet connections.