Sunday, May 25, 2008

Not Perfect, But Functional!

Now that the warm weather is here I *finally* got back to my router table. I had some fundamental issues when I attempted to actually use it for the first time last year. In particular, the main router plate was sagging in the middle. I managed to score a piece of Lexan (thanks, Paul!) that really wasn't any stiffer than the MDF I had in there, but I figured see-through would be cool, and re-making it would give me a chance to figure out what was wrong and stiffen it up. After working on it all afternoon on Saturday, I had the new lexan piece in place, and even with an aluminum angle stiffener I was no closer to having a non-sag-alicious router plate.

I had an idea to install a tensioner between the linear slides so I could torque them back and maintain a flat surface. I worked late into the night drilling and tapping holes (and removing a snapped off bolt!) and after a quick run to Canadian Tire this morning - it works!

I took some time this afternoon to set up the 45 degree lock miter bit I have (I should only have to do this once) and after quite a few test pieces and fine adjustments the results are quite good!

There are still some things that bug me about this table. In particular, the router plate still is not perfect. If I had to do it all over again I would make it *much* thicker, and probably out of steel or aluminum. I really need to be mindful to keep pressure on the pieces as they are going through to get an even pass.
Also, the linear adjustment is just too sloppy. It is *good enough*, but it just feels home-made.

Ah well, someday when I have room enough for a real shop I will invest in a real router table. It would also be so much easier to fabricate pieces with a few key shop tools like a cut-off saw, and a milling machine! For now, with a little extra care I should be able to make what I need to make on this one.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Swiss Vacation - Day 7

Day 7

The seventh day of our vacation found us getting up at 5:00am to shower and pack so we could catch a 6:20 train to Zurich. The hotel was nice enough to pack us ham and cheese sandwiches and some fruit the night before as we would miss the continental breakfast, and I snapped a photo from our room of the Lucerne waterfront at 6:00am on our way out. It looked liked they were setting up an open-air market all along the river, which would have been very nice to stroll through if we did not have a plane to catch.

We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare, paid $4.50 each for an espresso and finished our sandwiches while we waited for our flight. There isn't a whole lot more to say as we just watched movies the whole way back (this time the Air Canada media system did not freeze or lock up on us), got home safe and sound to a couple of kids who didn't seem to miss us all that much, and went to bed early.

All-in-all, this vacation went off without a hitch; everything turned out great and there were no nasty surprises. We had amazing weather every single day, enjoyed amazing food, people, and scenery. I would like to say a final "thank you" to the people who helped us the most (and who I bugged the most with emails while researching for this trip!) - Alain, Marc, and Christophe. It was also your kindness and hospitality that made this such an awesome trip for us.

I also want to extend a big "thank you" to Sharon's mum (and dad) for watching the kids for us while we were away. I think Rhiannon is actually happy to have us back, believe it or not. But I am sure that will change tomorrow. ;-)

Swiss Vacation - Day 6

Day 6

For the sixth and final full day of our vacation we left Montreux and headed to Lucerne. This was Friday, May 9th and happened to be our 10th wedding anniversary as well! We decided to stop and spend some time in Fribourg on the way as it seemed like a very interesting place to visit from the various things I had read while researching for the trip. Here is a photo I took of us with the timer on the camera as we were waiting for the train in Montreux. You can judge how good of a week it has been as it is directly proportional to the size of my gut in this picture.

We got to Fribourg relatively quickly with a quick train change in Lausanne. Fribourg is built along both sides of the Saane/Sarine River, and has an impressive cliff splitting the town as well. There is a small fenicular train you can take from the upper level to the lower level of town, or if you walk far enough there is a more gradual, walkable route down. It is an interesting city because it seems to be equal parts modern and medieval.

One of the main attractions to see is St. Nicholas's cathedral. I think you can go up in the tower for an impressive view of the city but unfortunately it was closed when we were there. The cathedral is very impressive, as can be seen immediately in the elaborate carvings surrounding the front entrance.

After a very pleasant and impressive walk down to old town we stopped and ate at the Brasserie de l'Opée. The waiter said he did not speak english, so we struggled through in french and by the end of the meal felt pretty comfortable talking completely in french despite the fact we told him we only spoke english. We had the daily special, which consisted of cream of asparagus soup (Sharon didn't even realise she was eating asparagus - she hates it!) followed by a mixed grill meat skewer with an unknown but incredibly tasty sauce on top and a fruit salad for dessert. We had a nice red wine with the meal, and ended with coffee. When the waiter swiped our MasterCard he said "You're from Canada and you do not speak french?". We do, in fact, speak enough french to follow a conversation but we are only able to participate if the person we are speaking with has the patience to work with us a little, which doesn't seem to be a problem over there. We received no dirty looks or eye-rolls when we attempted french, which was very refreshing. Anyway, I think the waiter's english was as good as our french after all, but I am glad he gave us the opportunity. After lunch we walked to the fenicular, and rode it back up to the upper level to catch the train to Lucerne.

We arrived in Lucerne in the late afternoon and found it to be a modern, bustling city with far more tourists rushing around than any city we had been to yet. We wanted to first find our hotel and dump our bags, then we planned on walking around to see the sights and find a nice place to have our anniversary dinner. We were staying at the Hotel Schiff, and found that our room was one of the top floor rooms with a river view. It turned out to be a very nice room indeed with a very cool view of the riverfront. Here is a photo from across the river (the Hotel Schiff is the yellow one). Our room is the one on the top floor on the right with the window open (if you look really close you may see my socks hanging up to dry as I needed to wash a pair for the trip home the next day!).

We changed for dinner and decided to see the city before finding a place to eat. I only had one thing I wanted to see, and that was the Lion Monument. I would have liked to see the transport museum but we simply did not have time. We stopped in at a few of the churches and local sights, then stopped at a chocolate and gift shop to get something for the kids and Sharon's mum (who was babysitting for us back at home all week!). We eventually made our way to the Lion Monument and I was very impressed. I had no idea what it was going to look like, and I did not expect the exquisite carving we eventually discovered.

After a short stop at the Lion Monument we made our way back to the waterfront. What suprised both of us was the fact that all of the stores were closing at 6:30pm. Lucerne by far had the most stores and shops of any town we had seen so far, and they were closing everything at 6:30pm on a friday night as thousands of tourists were still walking the streets. Wow.

We eventually decided to have dinner at La Bonne Cave as they reportedly had a wine menu consisting of over 140 different wines. We got a table right beside the river and ordered their special which was a starter soup (Surprise! Cream of asparagus again!) with a small glass of wine, followed by a steak, pasta and ratatouille with two more glasses of wine to try, and our choice of dessert. The food was good and the wine was great. The service was slower even than Swiss standards, but we had nothing better to do. Normally I would not mind, but there were times when we had no wine to drink, and no food to eat for significant periods of time. But the scenery and the weather were perfect, as can be seen in the picture below I took during dinner.

After dinner we headed back to our hotel room where Sharon went to bed and I struggled with the flaky internet access trying to upload pictures and blog posts, eventually giving up around midnight. We had to get up at 5:00am to catch our train into Zurich for a 10:00am flight, so I figured I had better go to sleep as well.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Swiss Vacation - Day 5

Day 5

For day number five I had reserved tickets on the Golden Pass Panoramic Train from Montreux to Chateau d'oex, then on to Gstaad, and finally back to Montreux. Alain recommended that we stop in Chateau d'oex at a place called Le Chalet for lunch and meringue dessert. It is a fromagerie, so if you go at the right time you can even see them make the cheese they sell and use in their dishes. We had a bit of time so we walked around town for a bit first and climbed up a small garden to a temple offering a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

We then went to Le Chalet and I ordered a rotis with smoked ham and Sharon got a croûte au fromage – which is basically bread soaked in white wine and covered in cheese. Both meals were awesome, and of course we had meringue for dessert. This was a real experience. You get two large meringue twists and a bowl full of whipped double cream to dip it in. It was amazing.

Feeing incredibly full and quite sleepy, we climbed back up to the train station to wait for the train. We found some free wireless internet (in the middle of the mountains!) and caught up on email and while we were sitting there an old french guy came up and said in a thick french accent, “ASUS. It is genius, non?”. He then proceeded to pull a small ASUS Eee PC out of his travel bag identical to ours (but with an AZERTY keyboard). We got to talking (him speaking fairly good english while encouraging us to speak barely passable french) and found out his wife had just got back from a trip to Canada. After he corrected our pronunciation of Gstaad, we finished up our conversation as the train arrived and we were on our way again.

We made it to Gstaad, and had another two hours to kill before the voyage back. Gstaad turned out to be a very nice place with all kinds of really expensive shopping, but most of the stores were closed and everything was under construction or shut down. We walked around for a bit but eventually just found a bench and sat down to enjoy the scenery and the quiet until the train arrived for our return journey.

For the journey back I had reserved VIP seats at the front of the train. We had a front row seat for the entire ride back and the scenery was incredible. The only problem was, we had the sun directly in our face the whole ride back, and it was extremely hot. Since we were still full from lunch we actually had a very hard time staying awake! After a long ride back to Montreux, we found Alain waiting for us at the station to take us out for dinner again.

This time Alain wanted to take us to the Wallis region for raclette (and more wine). The restaurant he had in mind was still closed and he eventually found another one in Ovronnaz (La Promenade) that served a Wallis-style dinner with raclette. On the way to Ovronnaz we stopped at a waterfall outside Martigny and snapped a few pictures then drove far up into the mountains again – this time through a series of insanely-steep vineyards – to Ovronnaz. It was an incredible drive and the restaurant once again had a gorgeous view of the valley below.

For dinner we had a really good bottle of red wine from the Wallis region, and a Wallis-specific meal that consisted of dried meat and bread as a starter, followed by a traditional raclette with potatoes. The waiter would fill our plates with scrapings from the wheel of cheese he had heating on a special machine whenever we would run out, until we basically could not eat any more! Half-way through the meal the waitress brought a coup de milieu courtesy of the owner. This was a shot of pinkish alcohol that I thought tasted like grappa. Alain did not want his (as he was driving) so I later turned it into a coup de fin for me! For dessert we had a fruit compote and coffee. Once again, Alain had provided us with a perfect evening. Thanks Alain for all of your help and kindness – you made this vacation extra-special for us!

Swiss Vacation - Day 4

Day 4

On the fourth day we left Neuchâtel and headed to Montreux where we would spend the next two days and nights. I had contacted a former Swiss colleague (Alain) who lives in Montreux about how to get there, where to stay and what to do while we were there. He was amazing and offered me tons of advice in the weeks leading up to our vacation. It turns out he also knows quite a bit about boats and recommended we take a boat from Ouchy (at Lausanne) to Montreux, and if we were incredibly lucky we may even get a steam ship on the particular day we traveled as sometimes they swap the steamers into rotation at the last minute depending on the weather and availability.

So first thing we grabbed a train to Lausanne from Neuchâtel and arrived at about 11:25am. Alain had told me in his emails that the boat left at 11:45 from Ouchy. I thought we may be able to find our way there in the 15 minutes we had available, but we could not immediately see how to get there. I eventually decided to call Alain, and he told me we had better take a taxi immediately if we wanted to make it to the boat. We grabbed the first taxi we could see and the driver did not speak any english (up until now everyone we had to deal with spoke very good english so the trip has been great in terms of language). Anyway, we were able to struggle through and eventually convinced him we needed a bateau from Ouchy to Montreux plus vite. We pulled into the boat launching area with about 2 minutes to spare, found out we got on for free with our Swiss Pass (bonus!), and were on the boat just before it launched. Not only that, Alain called us right back to ask if we made it and to find out what boat it was and it turns out it was the Rhone, which was one of the paddle steamers!

We had been treated to perfect weather all week, and it was a gorgeous, sunny day again on Wednesday. Needless to say, we had an awesome boat ride through the wine yard regions between Ouchy and Montreux, hitting all of the little ports in between. It was awesome.

We had intended on seeing Chillon Castle while in Montreux and the final port for the Rhone was Chillon Castle (parfait!) so that would be our first stop. However, we wanted to check into our hotel and dump our bags first. I say hotel, but it was really a bed and breakfast I found online for about half the price of a hotel. It turned out to be a room with a double bed and a private bathroom on the ground floor of the owner's house, and it was directly above, and thus only about a 10 minute walk to Chillon Castle. The owner of the bed and breakfast was nice enough to pick us up from the castle to drop our bags at his house, and we walked back down. We had a very nice lunch at a restaurant across the highway from the castle and then did a tour of the castle itself. Once again our Swiss Pass got us in for free, and we spent a good two hours in the castle. I could write a few pages about the castle itself but I will spare you the details. Needless to say, both of us found it very interesting and it was worth the visit. After the castle, we walked along the Lake Geneva (about a 45 minute walk) into Montreux to meet Alain for dinner. While waiting for Alain we found the Freddie Mercury memorial statue and Sharon took my picture.

Shorty thereafter, Alain appeared and we had a quick drink then he drove us up high into the mountains above Montreux for dinner. We went to a restaurant called the Auberge de Sonchaux that was very close to Alain's parent's house and it had a terrace with one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

We had cheese fondue and wine and watched the sun set on Lake Geneva, and then Alain drove us back down to our room for the night. It was an awesome experience. Thanks, Alain!

Swiss Vacation - Day 3

Day 3

The third day we were headed to Neuchâtel with a short stop in Berne. The company I work for has an office in Neuchatel and I was hoping to see the office and meet some people there as I have never had the chance to go there on business. A co-worker from Switzerland (Marc), had also offered to have us over for dinner. We got up early, had another great breakfast at the Hotel Eiger and grabbed the train to Interlaken Ost, where we grabbed a train to Berne. This was closest we had come to missing a train. We got on the train to Berne just a few seconds before the doors closed!

The ride to Berne was rather uneventful, and when we got there we had no idea where to begin. We really looked like tourists as we had to pull out the Frommer's Guide to Switzerland that John (a friend from work) had lent me. Luckily it had a walking map of Berne, but we also found a pretty good map of the city right at the exit of the train station. We decided that we would at least like to see Einstein's house while we were here as both of us had recently read a biography on him. We walked down the main street for about 20 minutes when all of a sudden the pull-handle on my luggage ripped off, and my suitcase flopped to a halt on the cobblestones. I had been carrying my laptop on top of my suitcase and it was fairly heavy. I guess the cheap luggage we bought from Canadian Tire was not up to the task. It took me about 5 minutes to bend it all back into shape and get it in a state where I could pull it once again. Sharon noticed that in a sick twist of irony this all happened to take place right in front of the Samsonite store.

Speaking of stores, Berne was quite a shopper's city. I found the stores located underneath the street accessible via storm-shelter-like doors quite fascinating. I have never seen anything like this before.

After the great suitcase debacle, we found Einstein's house relatively quickly and headed inside. The lady running this small museum was very friendly and seemed genuinely in awe of Einstein and his life. I found it very interesting and quite surreal to be in his apartment and to see his desk and furniture.

After the Einstein museum we headed to the end of the street to see the bear pits. There is really only one bear that we could see, and I heard someone say that soon he will be relocated to the wild. It definitely looked like a boring existence, so I guess that is a good idea. While at the bear pit we met a fellow from Toronto interestingly enough. He saw the Canadian flag on my backpack and we had a short conversation.

After seeing the bear, we moved across the street to the Brasserie zum Bärengraben where we had lunch. The gentleman there was running like a madman serving everyone, and was quite nice. The food was incredible. We had Feuilleté de Roquefort, which was basically a very flaky pastry with ultra-stinky cheese in the middle browned enough so the cheese was melted. I am not big on ultra-stinky cheese, but it was quite good. By this point it was getting quite late and we had planned on being on a train to Neuchâtel by then. There was free wireless at the Brasserie so I sent Marc a quick email and we rushed to try to catch the next train to Neuchâtel. We walked as fast as possible back through crowds of people and missed it by about two minutes. There happened to be another train leaving in about 10 minutes time, so we waited and took that one. Unfortunately I think we grabbed a commuter train as it was full of people and made many stops on the way and we did not get to Neuchâtel until about 5pm.

The next challenge was finding our hotel. We walked along fairly major roads for quite some time and eventually found the hotel, but by this time I was extremely hot and tired and I needed a change of clothes. I called Marc and he indicated that there really was nobody at the office, so he agreed to come and pick us up at the hotel and we would go for a quick glass of wine in downtown Neuchâtel and then go to his house for dinner!

We stopped at a small pub (or whatever you call them over here) and had a nice local rosé. We then headed to Marc's house for dinner (slightly late – oops!). Marc's wife Magalie had prepared a wonderful meal of salad, an awesome curry dish with rice and lentils, followed by cassis sherbet for dessert. The amazing food was accompanied by very good wine, and very good company. Christophe (another Swiss co-worker) was there as well, and we also got to meet Marc and Magalie's children (who were valiantly trying to understand our english). After dinner I got to try some Absinthe (courtesy of Christophe), as well as some of Marc's fabled Swiss Energy Drink (basically very strong alcohol made from plums).

We ended up staying quite late and Marc had to drive us back to our hotel at around 11:30. Back at the hotel we called home via Skype and talked to the kids and I had a late night uploading photos.

We are very thankful to Marc, Magalie, and their children for letting us intrude into their home (it was a school night after all!), and sharing their wonderful food and wine with us. We are also thankful to Christophe for being there and providing excellent company as always (and the Absinthe!).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bloated in Chateau-d'oex

We are waiting for the train to arrive in Chateau-d'oex to take us to Gstaad as part of our Panoramic Train ride today (yes I know, I have not done the previous few days yet) and managed to find some free wifi. It is amazing how you can take a train through a mountain to a remote location in the middle of nowhere and still find wireless internet! We had an amazing lunch and are totally bloated on cheese and meringue at "Le Chateau", a place where you can watch them make cheese.

Anyway, I think I hear the train coming. I figured I would quickly post something while I had a signal. Funnily enough we just met an old french guy who started talking to us and pulled out of his bag an ASUS Eee PC just like ours and said something to the effect of "Linux is interesting - screw Microsoft!". It was kind of amusing...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Swiss Vacation - Day 2

Day 2

Since we had such a long sleep we were able to get up early and had an awesome continental breakfast (again with amazing coffee) courtesy of Hotel Eiger. The plan for day 2 was to see both the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch. Melanie at the front desk told us that would be pushing it and recommended we do it over two days, but we didn't have the luxury of a second day (unless we totally shuffled everything). Since we already had tickets to Schilthorn (the James Bond rotating restaurant) we decided to do that and see how things worked out from there.

We managed to find a train almost immediately (we have never waited more than 5-10 minutes for a train anywhere!) going to Lauterbrunnen, which was where we wanted to go to get to Murren. Once in Lauterbrunnen, we found our Swiss Pass also gave us free passage on the cable car and short mountain train up to Murren. Murren is a gorgeous alpine village with no roads leading to it. You have to take some sort of train or cable car to get to it. The entire place was a ghost-town however, as it looked like they were in between peak seasons. There was a short walk through Murren to the cable car that would take us up to Schilthorn/Piz Gloria, with one stop in the middle to switch cars at the Riggi station. It was really quite freaky heading up to Schilthorn because the clouds would come out of nowhere and all of a sudden you cannot see two feet in front of the cable car. Sharon had been on cable car lifts in the rockies in British Columbia but I had never really been on one before. The angle at which you are carried up the mountain (and the distance you are off the ground) is insane! I swear we were being lifted (or dropped) at 60 degree angles or more in places!

Once we got to Schilthorn, we immediately headed to the rotating restaurant for lunch while everyone else went outside and to the gift shop. It really was quite entertaining to have lunch there, and we enjoyed it a lot. There isn't a whole lot to see that high in the mountains (at least there wasn't when we were there) because the clouds roll in and all you see is white. But there were areas of clear sky and we managed to get a few really nice pictures.

For lunch we had a soup of the day (cream of vegetable) and a meat and cheese platter which we shared. The food was all very good, and the waitresses were quite friendly. Sharon had a small “shot” of wine and I had a nice beer. After lunch we went outside and snapped some pictures, and stopped into the gift shop. There were areas of cheeziness in terms of Bond memorabilia, but all-in-all we enjoyed this particular attraction very much!

After we came down from Schilthorn, we found that there was a train from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg, which was the start of the journey to Jungfraujoch. It looked like it was going to work out quite well and we would have plenty of time to do both attractions. We boarded the train but shortly found out that this was a special cog-wheel train that our Swiss Pass did not cover. But it was no big deal, we simply paid on the train for the entire journey (Lauterbrunnen -> Kleine Scheidegg -> Grindelwald), and stopped in Kleine Scheidegg to see Jungfraujoch. Jungfraujoch is the “Top of Europe” - a trip up to an observation area that is basically 4000m above sea level. For some reason I was expecting this to be all cable cars, but it turns out it is a 10 km train ride in a tunnel carved into the mountain! There are two observation points where the train stops on the way up for you to get out and look out over the mountains (they have installed huge windows in the caves), and after a lengthy ascent you are at the top. At the top there is much more than a simple observation deck though. There are restaurants, a shopping center, an ice palace, some sort of Bollywood-themed attraction (I don't understand it either), and in the summer you can even take dog sled rides out on the glacier. The bottom line is there is a lot to see and do up there and we suddenly understood why Michele told us to do Jungfraujoch on a separate day. We saw the interesting bits and then we decided to go outside and attempt the 45 minute walk on the glacier (which meant we would have to catch the last possible train down).

This walk looked harmless enough, but the incline combined with the extreme elevation had us gasping for breath fairly quickly. We stuck it out and made it within sight of the end point but decided if we were to catch the last train we had better turn back. Luckily the walk down was much easier and went much faster and we managed to find a seat on the last train down. On the way up we were wondering why everyone was sleeping on the trains coming down the mountain. Now it all made sense.

We made it down just in time to catch the last train to Grindewald, and we got back to our hotel at about 7pm, exhausted, but happy we managed to see both sights. We were thinking about what we were going to do for dinner as we arrived at our room to find the front door wide open, and the balcony door propped open with a chair! WHAT!? We called down to the front desk to find out what the heck was going on and nobody seemed to know. From what we could piece together, it appears that the cleaning staff aired our room out that morning and forgot about it, which meant our room was most likely wide open ALL DAY! Luckily the hotel was virtually empty, and nothing appeared to be missing. We had most of our stuff with us, but there was a small portable printer in Sharon's suitcase and it was still there. I guess we were lucky.

After that bit of excitement, we had a lengthy dinner (we have noticed the service here is much slower, but it seems to be a general trend that the wait staff here just leave you alone) at one of the other hotels in Grindelwald, and headed to bed.

Swiss Vacation - Day 1

I had hoped to post every day on our travels here in Switzerland and I am already four days behind. It has been great so far, but slightly tiring – hence the lack of posts. Anyway, I figured it was better to get something up here and I can embellish with links and pictures later as I get time. So, here we go...

Day 1

On Sunday morning we arrived in Zurich. The flight was slightly delayed but other than that relatively painless. We arrived about 45 minutes late, but it really didn't matter as we had no real schedule for the first day. We managed to get some cash out of the bank machine, authorized our Swiss Pass, and grabbed the next train to Interaken. The woman at the train office who authorized our pass was very friendly and offered us two choices to Interlaken from Zurich. We decided to take the longer, more scenic route (through Lucerne) that was leaving right away. Sharon slept a bit on the train and I was worrying that she was missing all of the scenery, but considering what we would see in the next 24 hours it really didn't matter. As an aside getting the Swiss Pass was totally the right choice. We can basically ride every train for free, and we never have to worry about getting tickets ahead of time. We have managed to ride the rails totally hassle-free, and only had to pay once for the special cog-wheel train between Wengen and Kleine-Scheidegg (which was still half price with the Swiss Pass). We also got into Chillon Castle for free and the steam ship from Lausanne to Montreux was free as well (see Day 4 when it is done). It really was a sweet deal. You do need to pay for tickets for specialty things like the Schilthorn or Jungfraujoch, but we were already aware of that and they were discounted as well.

So, the trip from Zurich to Interlaken was enjoyable (except for some annoying teenage girls that were on the train for a short stint laughing incessantly and singing Mambo #5 in broken english...) and once we hit Interlaken we decided to stay for a bit and have some lunch. We walked quite a distance from the train station looking for a place to eat and decided on a Movenpick. I'm glad we did not decide to stay in Interlaken. I'm not sure we could have afforded to eat! What was interesting were the number of people para-sailing. There were quite a few places where you could arrange to go up (it looks like they just jump off the side of the mountain and ride the thermals), and some of them were waaay up there. I would love to try this but I shudder to think how much it would cost in Interlaken. It has to be about as close as you can get to actually flying though. It was amazing just how popular this was. At one point we saw a cluster of about 30 para-sailers all in the same general area. I was amazed they did not run into each other! Anyway, after a very expensive lunch (which was quite good, but still overpriced by a significant amount) served by a not-so-enthusiastic waiter, we headed back to the train station.

Another enjoyable and very beautiful train journey brought us to Grindelwald where we would spend the next two nights at the Hotel Eiger. We got there around 3pm (I think), and managed to find our hotel after a short walk and checked in. We found the woman at the front desk (Michele) to speak english very well, and she was very friendly and helpful. She upgraded our room immediately to a “comfort” room, and we were offered a welcoming drink of white wine or fruity mineral water. We decided to try the mineral water drink and it was quite good. As our room was not quite ready (the upgrade appeared to be a last-minute decision) we had to wait so we decided to go for a short walk. We were absolutely exhausted at this point however, and figured we would take advantage of the Hotel Eiger's free coffee and cake between 3 and 5. Much to our appreciation we found that the standard coffee here is really good, made with an espresso machine. After coffee and cake, our room was ready, and we did a quick email check, Skype'd home (this little Eee PC rocks) and crashed. We went to sleep at around 6pm, skipped dinner entirely, and did not get up until after 8 the next morning.

By the way, just before we crashed, I took a picture of the view from our room. There was a light rain (the only rain so far - we have totally lucked out on the weather this week) and the sun was glinting off the mountain in a very picturesque way.

Next up, Day 2!

A Little Behind

Since a few people have this address and given the fact that I am waaaay behind in terms of posting about our vacation, I'll simply post a link to the web album that I have been dumping our pictures in. I have some posts in the making, but nothing ready to be posted live yet. We haven't had much time for writing, and when we are on the train there is so much scenery to see I don't want to have my head down punching away on the laptop.

Anyway, here are the pictures from the first three days. I'll keep adding to this album as I get more pictures, and more internet access.

I'll get the detailed posts up as soon as I can. Today we are heading out from Neuchatel to Montreux. We are spending two nights there so it may be easier to find some time to post, but I am not sure I will have internet access as we are at a bed and breakfast outside the city.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Vacation Without Kids

Tomorrow Sharon and I are heading to Switzerland for our honeymoon...err, I mean our 10th wedding anniversary. We have always wanted to visit Switzerland and we had planned on going there for our honeymoon 10 years ago. Then we had kids, and well...that never happened.

We have taken a few pretty nice vacations so far with the kids. There was a trip to Wales and two trips to Scotland, as well as one trip to Disney in Florida, and really they were all quite enjoyable. The kids were not really that bad to travel with, and of course we all had fun. But this is the first time we are going away and leaving the kids behind, and it is a little frightening to be quite honest. Sharon's mom is retired now and she is here watching them (we're only gone for a week), so they are in good hands but it is always hard to leave them behind.

Ah well, I guess it is only a week and I'm sure they won't miss us one bit. Perhaps once we all get a taste of what it is like to be away from one another for a few days, it will make us want to do it more often! At any rate, what I am looking forward to the most is the week of dinners without the usual 3 hour marathon of whining, bribery, and threats to get kids - who want to do every *but* eat - to finish their dinner. That's worth the price of admission alone in my book!

So, I am going to attempt to post regularly (internet connection permitting) while we are traveling. It should be fun. The rough itinerary will be:

- Fly into Zurich and head to Grindelwald for 2 nights where we will see the Schilthorn (we are big Bond fans), and hopefully Jungfraujoch.
- One night in Neuchatel to take advantage of the legendary hospitality of some colleagues from our Swiss office
- Two nights in Montreux where we will meet up with another former Swiss colleague and see Chillon castle, as well as take a Panoramic Train to Gstaad and back
- Spend a final night in Lucerne, where we will get up early and grab a train to Zurich to fly home on the 10th.

It is going to be a full week, but I think I have kept it loose enough so that it is relaxing rather than stressful. I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Now I need to pack! As usual, I have all of my electronic gadgets sorted out (laptop, portable printer, cellphones, digital camera, chargers, etc.) and no clothes packed. Ah well, if I'm poorly dressed and totally unprepared at least I'll be connected!