Zurich

The next stop on my three weeks of travel was the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland. I spent two days here, with one of the days being a side trip to Jungfraujoch, but more on that later.

Accommodation was at the ibis Airport Hotel. The cost was reasonable at $70 CDN, although the rooms were rather simple, but the beds were comfortable.

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city at 408000 people. Switzerland has a population of 8.2 million people. Before we take a look at Zurich let’s look at a bit of history of Switzerland and how Zurich came to be.

Switzerland’s history is rather young. Switzerland was inhabited by the Gauls Raetians and was under Roman rule in the 1st century BC. The Gallo-Roman culture was combined with German influence during 235-284 AD time period. The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons (similar to states or provinces). Other localities joined the original three cantons over the years. The Swiss Confederation became independent of the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. The constitution of 1848 replaced the confederations with a centralized federal government. This constitution was modified again in 1874. Switzerland’s sovereignty and neutrality have long been honoured by the major European powers and the country was not involved in either of the two world wars. Switzerland did not become a European Union member until 2002, but maintains its own currency.

Zurich has an extensive tram network that would make many other cities jealous. The trams run every 6 minutes and are very punctual. This keeps traffic extremely light in the city as most people take public transport. Other cities that I have visited that have had great success with trams are Amsterdam, and Melbourne. Two cities that I’ve visited that used to a great tram network before the 1950’s rush to build automotive highways were Auckland, New Zealand and my home town Calgary, Canada. The mayor of Auckland even ordered the removal of some of the tram lines in the middle of the night! It’s a shame because these two cities are absolutely plugged with traffic.

Zurich is an extremely wealthy city, and Switzerland is also an extremely wealthy country with a large population working white collar jobs such as Google (3000 people in Zurich alone), fine quality jewelery and watches, chocolate, and banking and finance.

Zurich straddles both sides of the Limmat river and has many bridges that offer fantastic views, and a beautiful viewpoint from Lindenhof Park. Another wonderful spot for photographs is Grossmunster church, a Romanesque-style Protestant church, which was built between 1100 and 1220 AD.

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Check back shortly for the final installment of my trip; a trip to Jungfraujoch, a notable saddle in the Bernese Alps, connection the two peaks of Junfrau and Monch.

2018-03-20 – Heading Home!

Today I woke up naturally at about 8:30am. I took the complimentary shuttle back to the airport. It was time to scope out some breakfast as I hadn’t eaten yet. After some McDonald’s and Starbucks (only choices available) I explored Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1. Terminal 1, an avant-garde style building, was designed by Paul Andreu, and was built in the image of an octopus. It has a circular terminal building which contains the check-in counters, baggage claim conveyors, and a few restaurants. There are also passages between the third, fourth and fifth floors with a tangled web of escalators arrange through the center of the building. The escalators are suspended over the central courtyard and each one is covered with a transparent tube. It has seven satellites (tentacles) with boarding gates that are connected to the central building by underground walkways. I did not take the overhead photo. Credits for the overhead photo go to (www.adp-i.com).
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On my first flight I had an empty seat next to me, but there was a very nice gentleman I believe was named Joshua situated next to the window. He’s from the Minneapolis area in the United States and had previously served in the United States Military. We talked the entire flight which helped make the flight go by faster.

There was a quick layover in Reykjavik before my second flight to Vancouver. The second flight went by pretty quickly too despite it being 7.5 hours long; perhaps Top Gear episodes, a comfortable business class seat, and free Wi-Fi helped!

There was a two hour layover before boarding my final flight home to Calgary. My friend Myriam, who works for Air Canada as a flight attendant happened to also be in Vancouver so we visited during my layover. The flight home was a bit delayed because the ground handling staff accidentally pulled the ground power which shut down the entire plane because the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) wasn’t running. I was exhausted by the time I got home so I went straight to bed.

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2018-03-18 – Montserrat & Barcelona

Today I woke up at 7:00am with the help of my alarm clock. Since it was the weekend the only breakfast place that was open near me was McDonald’s so I walked there and had an Egg McMuffin for breakfast before catching the metro and regional train to Montserrat. I arrived in Montserrat at around 10:00am.
Montserrat, whose name means ‘serrated mountain’, is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia. The Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was built on Montserrat in 880AD. Having survived two fires, and the Spanish Civil War, the basilica still stands strong, and is currently undergoing restoration as i write this.
When in Montserrat I visited the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey as well as taking the funicular up to the top of the mountain to overlook the entire Montserrat complex, as well as complete a small hike.
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I returned to Barcelona at approximately 3:00pm, and scoped out some food since I was hungry. I noticed a Japanese restaurant called Takumi Ramen Restausant while walking yesterday so I decided to visit there for lunch. I had a spicy chicken ramen dish with vegetables, and it was delicious!
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After finishing a late lunch I took a number 24 bus to Park Güell. The park was another one of Gaüdi’s masterpieces. It’s a total shame that it never got finished.
Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí conceived this park and housing complex in 1900. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch.
The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926 after Gaüdi died and the project was deemed as a failure due to lack of transportation and amenities to the main city, as well as lack of oversight and funds.
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After visiting the park I decided to walk around town to discover more architecture including Gaüdi pieces of work such as Casa Calvet before stopping to have a chicken and brie baguette for dinner.
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After dinner I went back to my hotel at around 8:00pm and prepared for bed as I was fairly tired. Tomorrow is my last day of my trip and includes a trip to Sagrada Familia before hopping on a flight back to Paris.

 

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2018-03-17 – Lyon & Barcelona

Today I woke up at 7:00am naturally. I had some time to just be lazy and stay in bed. I  left at 8:30am to catch Rhone Express to airport. On the way I stopped at a Paul coffee shop along the way and had a delicious pastrami sandwich, bagel and coffee. The Paul coffee shop chain gets a routinely bad review on Google here in France but I thought they were pretty good. I arrived at Lyon airport 2.5 hours before my flight to Barcelona, Spain so I had a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
I was surprised when it was time for me to go through security because despite it being a new airport it was extremely poorly setup. There was not enough staff, and the security area did not have a large enough area for people to queue so the queues backed up where the escalators and elevators to enter the area are. This prompted people to backup on to the escalators requiring people to hit the emergency stop button to stop people getting trampled to death (I’m saying this tongue in cheek but it was a gong show). Security took about 2 hours to get through in total. Once past security the airport is very nice, spacious, and had an ample supply of shops and food.
The flight to Barcelona was rather turbulent, but was actually ahead of schedule about 5 minutes. I took the airport express bus from the airport to the city centre and then walked to my hotel, which was only 5 minutes away from the bus stop. I checked into my hotel, dropped off my stuff and went out to take some photos. I visited a local street market in the Gothic Quarter (also where my hotel is), Barcelona Cathedral, and a few Antoni Gaudi buildings.
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I was starting to get hungry so I stopped at Coco Vail Beer hall and has a delicious burger and two IPA pints.
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After I was finished at the beer hall I walked about 10 minutes to Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera or “the stone quarry”. Casa Mila was desined by Antoni Gaudi and was built between 1906 and 1912. The facade of Gaudi’s buildings are extremely unique and encompass the Catalan Modern style of architecture. It looks like something that you would see in a Doctor Suess book or movie.
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After finishing Casa Mila I picked up some local IPA beers from a local bottleshop and went back to my hotel. It was getting late and I was getting fairly sleepy. I also saw this interesting use of a mannequin on my way back to the hotel.
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Japan – Osaka

The next stop on my trip to Japan was Osaka. Osaka definitely feels a lot busier than Kyoto and has a completely different vibe as well. Osaka felt very westernized compared to Kyoto. I spent three days in Kyoto, including a side trip to a wonderful place called Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site; more on that later.

Osaka was very different from Kyoto. I found the castle in Osaka to be better, and it was a more modern city, but my favorite of the two has to be Kyoto. Osaka had a great metro system, a great zoo, a super cool building called Umeda Sky Building, a great museum on the history of the city, and some really pretty temples. I also tried Sake for the first time here!

Stay tuned for the last installment of my Japan series where I visit the beautiful city of Hiroshima!

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