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.

2018-03-14 – Toulouse

Today I woke up at 8:00am. Toulouse has an amazing bike rental company called Toulouse Velo, which stands for Toulouse Bike. I rented a bike from right outside my hotel and rode towards the town Center where I grabbed some McDonald’s for breakfast before taking the tram up to The Aeroscopia Museum near the airport. The museum featured predominantly Airbus products, but had a few other products such as the Caravelle and not one, but two Concorde’s! The price was fairly reasonable at €12.50.
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The Caravelle, designed and built by Sud Aviation right here in Toulouse between 1955 and 1972, is such a unique aircraft because it had triangular windows, a unique T-tail arrangement, and was one of the first jet turbine powered aircraft to be built that was highly successful. The last aircraft was retired in 2005, a whole 50 years after it first flew. The only comparable jet turbine powered airliner that shares this same success would be the McDonnell Douglas DC9 or the Boeing 737 series, the later having just had its 10,000th unit produced and was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. I also got to go inside the Concorde’s, an old Airbus A300, and a Super Guppy!
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After exploring Aeroscopia I went to the restaurant next door called La Ferme du Pinot, where I had a local Toulousian dish called Cassolette. Cassolette is beans, pork and duck confit; think meat and beans casserole. I really liked the aviation inspired chairs that were at the restaurant as well. Once I move into a nicer apartment or house I’d like to purchase one.
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After lunch I took the tram back into the city exploring lots of old architecture dating back to around the 1100’s and onwards including the old City Hall, Saint Sernin, and Church of the Jacobins.
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I went back to my hotel to relax for a bit before going out for dinner at the same place I had the donair last night because it was so good. After dinner I went to a local brewery/beer shop called La Matabiere, where I picked up four different beers; three IPA’s and one Amber. I head back to my hotel room and did some photo editing and drank the beers before heading out to do some night photography of the churches and old City Hall. I ended up going to bed around 10:00pm.
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August 31st 2016 – New Zealand Day 11

Today I woke up at 7:00am, and prepared an egg skillet for breakfast. I then went and explored Wellington.

First was the infamous Wellington sign, a quirky take on Hollywood.
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I then drove up Mount Victoria and had a beautiful view of the entire city, and watched planes take off from the airport for an hour or so. Wellington International Airport is pretty unique because it has over 5 million passengers a year, but is only services by a single short runway less than 7000 feet long. This combined with its very primitive terminal for its passenger volume limits its ability to really complete internationally. Overseas destinations are limited to the east coast of Australia and the South Pacific. Interestingly Singapore Airlines now flies to Wellington from Singapore with a Boeing 777-200 via Canberra because it can’t fly there directly due to the high takeoff weight associated with loading on that much fuel; therefore must load on a shorter amount of fuel to make the hop over to Canberra.
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After visiting Mount Victoria I walked around the central business district and visited the old government building, the second largest wooden structure in the world, behind Todai-ji in Japan. It was built to house New Zealand’s civil service, and now houses the law school of Victoria University of Wellington. The beautiful is bold and beautiful, as well as well-maintained. The building became the first building in the world to have a smoke-free policy over concerns about the threat of fire, due to the fact the building is entirely constructed of wood.
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Close-by the next stop was the beehive government building.
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After that I was walking towards the Wellington Cable Car when I smelled and saw delicious cookies being baked at Mrs Higgins Cookies, so I stopped and had a white macadamia nut cookie. I should have bought two!
The ride up on the Wellington Cable Car was great, and the price was right, only $7.50 return. I entered the free museum at the top and learned a lot about the cable cars history. The original cable car system opened in 1902 and ran until 1978 when it was replaced by the current system. The old system was built to imperial standards and had double track the entire way up. The new system was built to metric standards, was fully automated, and only has double track in the middle. There were and still are five stations equally space so that when the cable cars are stopped at one station, there will be a cable car at another station. It’s aim was to increase safety and passenger throughput. The original tram had over a million passengers per year in 1912, with its peak nearly two million passengers in one year, but I forget the year. The cable car averages about a million passengers per year now. I was actually lucky I was able to ride on the cable cars because the cable cars had been out of service for nearly three months until August 18th 2016 for upgrades.
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After taking the cable car back down to the central business district I decided to search out some food for lunch. I didn’t have anything in mind so I just walked along until a restaurant’s smell caught my attention; Fishermans Plate Seafood. It was an odd combination of meal choices, fish and chips, and Vietnamese. I had some sate beef soup, and it was the best I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a good thing because it was rated one of the best ten restaurants in Wellington this year.
After enjoying my delicious lunch I walked around for a few more hours enjoying the beautiful architecture, and making sure to visit the infamous Cuba street, before heading back to my camper.
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The next stop was Trucks and Trailers Ltd., located in Lower Hull, a subdivision of Wellington. I picked up two replacement parts for my camper for $26 to repair the damage from my accident a few days before. This way I don’t have to go through insurance.
I then browsed through my GPS for spots to visit around Waikanae, where I wanted to be for the night, because tomorrow I’m going to visit a car museum there I found a scenic outlook, up one of the most terrifying roads I’ve been on in my life. A sheer drop to your death on one side, and a steep vertical cliff on the other to scrap up the camper really good if you’re not careful. I annoyed a few people by driving slow and steady, but I made it. The scenic point was called Paekakariki Hill Lookout.
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After viewing at the lookout I input into the GPS Waikanae Beach to stay for the night. When I arrived I sat on the beach and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the sun set.
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When I went back to my camper a German couple with two children parked next to me. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. During the middle of us talking a young cat came up to my camper and jumped inside. It ended up hanging out with my for most of the evening and then left on its own terms towards midnight.
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August 25th 2016 – New Zealand Day 5

Today I woke up at 7:30am. It was pouring rain so I decided that I would drive to the Museum of Transportation and Technology (MOTAT) instead of walking there. It was supposed to be an hours walk away, but the drive is only supposed to take about twenty minutes. I wondered why traffic in Auckland was so horrific for its size, and I eventually found out why, but more on that later. I prepared an egg skillet for breakfast. The drive to MOTAT took nearly 40 minutes, which is pretty bad considering it is only 5.5km away from where I was staying.

MOTAT is comprised of two spots; the World War 2 aviation museum, and then the technology and transportation museum is a short tram ride away. The tram is one of only a few remaining tram systems in New Zealand; more on this later.
The aviation museum was quite large and went into New Zealand’s history and involvement in the war. Their aviation fleet was composed of mainly DeHavilland aircraft, most of which were manufactured right in Wellington, New Zealand. The plant actually had a lot of difficulties ranging from finding enough employees (women were eventually hired, uncommon in that era, because the men were at war), numerous floods, high winds, and golf balls because airplane production started before the factory could even be finished or had windows. I also learned about the bouncing bombs that were used in World War 2 to blow up and break down dams.
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It was 12:15pm when I left the aviation museum. I went back into my camper to make myself a quick lunch before hoping on tram number 893, a 1944 SW6 tram on lease from Melbourne, to go down to the second MOTAT area. A few trams are on a long term lease from Melbourne, which is one of only a few places in the world that still has a successful wide scale tram system.
Upon arriving at the second MOTAT location i was overwhelmed by the amount of school children on a field trip, so I did my best to avoid them. The second MOTAT location has over a half dozen buildings with different displays in them ranging from technology, trains, steam pumps, arctic displays, and my personal favorite was the tram display.
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Once upon a time Auckland actually had one of the most successful tram networks, at its time, in the world. It would be equivalent to what we now realize Melbourne for. The system was over 70km in length at its height in the 1930s and 1940s. The electric tramway in Auckland was initially a public/private venture by the British Electric Traction Company in London and the Auckland Borough Councils, eventually taken over by the Auckland City Corporation in 1919 and operated until 1956 when the Master Transportation Plan emphasizing motorways was favoured. The tram network was quickly ripped up and replaced by diesel and trolleybuses as part of a “modernization” program.
Ridership fell from a 1954 average level of 290 public transport trips per person per year, to only 41 trips per person per year in 1999. In 1954 58 percent of people used public transport, now that number is around 15 percent. Auckland has a similar population as my home town, Calgary, at around 1.4 million people. Calgarian’s love to drive and don’t really favour public transport, but it’s not that bad in comparison to Auckland. The entire city is gridlocked and the reverse thinking of its municipal government in the 1950’s has absolutely crippled the city in gridlock. They had a great system and removed it, whereas Calgary never really planned properly for public transport until now, but is seeing light at the end of the tunnel. To this day I would say Melbourne easily has one of the most successful transit systems I’ve seen for its size. It’s clean and supports 5 million people quite well.
After I was done at the second MOTAT area I took the same tram number back to my camper at the first MOTAT location.
It was time to get some more groceries, so I drove to a nearby grocery store to stock up. It was now time to meet Anne to go up the Sky Tower. I parked my camper at the same spot as the night before, and did the half hour walk to her hostel in the pouring rain. The weather conditions didn’t look good for the Sky Tower, but we both were leaving Auckland tomorrow so we decided to go up anyways. The view was absolutely white out conditions, but we made the most of it by having some ice cream! I had vanilla bean and Anne had raspberry orange sherbet. Mine was better, but she’s convinced I’m boring and that hers was better…
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After the Sky Tower we went in search of food because we were both hungry. She had never had Vietnamese food before, and I was craving it again, so I suggested we go to a place just around the corner. She ordered a spicy chicken curry soup, which was actually pretty good, and I ordered my regular sate beef pho, which wasn’t the best I’ve had. We said our goodbye’s and j went back to my camper and tried to get some sleep. On my way back to my camper I saw an amusing marvel comics creation made from sticky notes in office windows. Someone’s getting paid to have fun…
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I went to bed at about 9:30pm, and was woken up at midnight with a terrible howling wind like something you would have heard out of a horror movie. It really gave me the chills. I checked the weather report and the wind gusts were around 100 kilometres per hour. I put up with it for a bit, but decided that it was time to move. I found a free place to park about an hour inland in Mercer. I eventually got to sleep at about 2:00am and slept through the rest of the night.

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August 7th 2016 – Melbourne

Today I woke up early at 5:30am. I made myself my first “fancy” breakfast on this trip; toast with smoked salmon, melted cheese, and eggs. It was delicious! I got ready to leave, and left to catch the 7:20am train to Flinders Street Station.
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After arriving at Flinders Street station I walked to Hosier Lane, which is one Melbourne’s most famous grafitti street art locations. There are 16 locations that are officially recognized by the council. While I was walking up Hosier Lane I saw a gentleman with the exact same camera is mine, which is a rare sight, so I said “nice camera”. He introduced himself as Mark. Mark had so much valueable information to give me about the street art, because he works with homeless people and people with mental health disorders. When Mark isn’t working he goes around and takes photos of the street art, which he says is quite relaxing. He pointed out a few fabulous pieces of art, which had caught my eye earlier, and told me the Melbourne famous “LushSUX” had painted those pieces. Later on in the day as I was exploring other locations I was able to spot the “LushSUX” pieces with ease.
After admiring the beautiful work in Hosier Lane I walked around the CBD (central business district), similar to our downtown, and came across and information booth, where I grabbed some maps and information pamphlets. One of the pamphlets I picked up showed the location of all the 16 grafitti art locations that are officially recognized by the council. Natually I was curious so I explored them all. The one that struct my eyes the most was the one of the Kardashians. Mark had told me the council had to censor it, so they painted over their breasts with black paint. The council is quite quick to cover up anything that is beyond PG13.
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After visiting all 16 grafitti art locations I came acorss the Queen Victoria Marketplace, where I walked around for a bit and admired all the delicious food trucks and venue’s. I thought I had almost safely cleared the area without having any purchases, when I came to a truck selling fresh mini donuts. Naturally I had to purchase them! I recieved 5 hot mini donuts filled with strawberry goo for $5.50. I was almost able to finish all of them, but I gave up on the last one!
I then walked to the Italian district to view some very old architecture. After visiting the Italian district my feet were starting to get tired as I had already walked 15km today. I caught a ride on a tram to the CBD, and then caught another tram to the Docklands area. Melbourne’s tram network is fantastic! Trams run every 10 mintutes or so, have lots of space, and the network is huge. In fact if you’re even lucky you’ll get on an original rolling stock train, which is quite beautiful. They even have some restaurant trams where you can get on and have a fine dining experience while circling the CBD.
The Docklands area is an upcoming trendy area, similar to East Village back at home. There is tons of development going on here, ranging from many malls and hotels, to low and medium rise condominium developments. There is even a huge ferris wheel called the Melbourne Star. I sat down here and ate the lunch which I had packed for myself (ham and cheese sandwich, apple, and a banana).
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After walking around the Docklands area I boarded a tram back to the CBD, where I switched to another tram to take me to Saint Kilda beach. There is a very long boardwalk at Saint Kilda where you can get a pretty beautiful view of the entire CBD.
After Saint Kilda I took a tram straight into the CBD, where I walked around a bit more until my feet could no longer take it. I got on a train back towards my hotel, but this time stayed on a stop further in search of delicious food. I disembarked the train at Preston station and walked towards High Street, where again the first thing that caught my eye was a Vietnamese place. I caved and had to go there. I’m glad I did because it was the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever eaten to date. After having dinner I walked back to my hotel, where I worked on my blog and fell asleep at 8:00pm.
Check back tomorrow so you can read about my Great Ocean Road experience!

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