Tuesday & Wednesday 11/28 & 11/29/06

Ahhh! The world is a much better place after a decent sleep. I was determined to get some sleep last night so I ignored the snoring symphony and was out like a light about midnight. Persistence can break through so many barriers!

We had a leisurely breakfast and checked out at about 12:30pm. The first thing on the agenda was to return the erdgas car in Bern. Bern is a city about 40 minutes from Interlaken.

We arrived at Hertz Bern to exchange the car at about 1:30pm. One of the guys on duty kept on saying that it was a good car, but in our broken communication he conveyed that he really did not know when the erdgas would be available. They considered the erdgas car a 7 seater and thought that would we would be more comfortable in a 7-seater. I don’t thing so – the 5 seat car they offer us (a Ford Focus “C-Max”(?)) is just fine and we’ll be on our way!

Since we were already there and Bern is a reasonably sized town we decide to park and explore. Not 10 feet from where we parked the car was the Musee de Tireurs (shooting museum). We decided to go in – it was 2:05 pm and the door was closed. It said it was open from 2pm – so much for Swiss punctuality (just kidding). Anyway, just we were about to leave, this lady walks up saying she is the curator/manager and she just needs to open the door as she was coming back from lunch. She apologized profusely for being late, (please, it was not as if there was a long line waiting for her to open the door) and starts looking for the keys as we wait and she starts to look in all the pockets of her bag for the keys and her face looks more and more stricken. She starts to explain that she can’t find the keys and it is her birthday which is why she was out to lunch. We wish her a sincere happy birthday and tell her we will come back because we figured our standing there was causing her some stress so she could not find the keys.

We had walked away for no more than 1 minute when she called out that she had found the keys and there were in a back pocket of her handbag. See, we stressed her out! She turned on all the lights (it was pretty dark and cavernous with the lights off). It was 3 floors of guns and gun paraphernalia. I really hate guns but I was fascinated all the same at the rows and rows of guns and ammunition they had on the wall of the staircases leading up to the 3rd floor. The most recent gun was from 2003. There were also some beautifully ornate ones from the 1800s & 1900s. They also had displays of all the shooting trophies from way back when. The other interesting thing was they had a display of what the champion shooter in the 1800s wore vs. the guy who won in 2000. Amazing the difference! The guy in the 1800s only wore a dark suit, hat, and some lenses while the current guy was wearing what seemed to be a bullet resistant suit which was white (I guess to make sure no one shoots him!), a visor, goggles with a thingy you flip over one eye to help with targeting, and it seemed a bunch of other things as well. Makes you wonder how the other guy all of those years ago would do if he was shooting in the present. There was also a huge book which catalogued all the elite members of the gun club. John mentioned to me that Switzerland is touted as the poster child of how a country can be infused with guns and not be violent. Almost everyone has a gun and is required to do something similar to army reserves till they are 50! Best thing about the museum is it was free – we gave a donation.

We walked over this bridge to the shopping area of town. We first decided to look at the first hotel we saw to see if we could get a room for the night. Wouldn’t you know - we walked into the most expensive hotel in Bern: Bellevue Palace! (or at least it felt that way!) We were old hat at this now. We asked to see some of the rooms. The rooms were simply exquisite – some overlooked the river and other over looked the city of Bern. Very nice, but at 500+ sfr ($400+) per night we’ll pass, thank you very much!

We went on to walk through what seemed to be the shopping street in town. This was quite fun because it was an old and wide cobble stone street and there were shops both at ground level and underground. To get to the underground shops you had to climb through what looked like some entrances to the basement in the Midwest: double wooden doors that are almost flush to the ground leading to a staircase so you are literally disappearing into the street – isn’t that cool. We were not in a mood to shop so our wandering in the shopping area did not last long. We continued to walk around for a bit till the need to move the car and find a hotel won out.

Our general heading was in the Lausanne and Montreux direction. In our quest to get on the highway we wound up in Fribourg. Actually in old town Fribourg which had a quaint little stone bridge and buildings right out of the middle ages. We asked a bit around to figure out where to park and we were told to go to the post office to get a blue card to put in the car and that was it! It was here we also noticed that we started hearing more French instead of Swiss German and English. We had coffee at a neat little coffee shop/bar while deciding where to go next as our attempt to find a room in Fribourg did not work out ($200 for a broom-cupboard like room).

We decided to go to a little village called Avry-Devant-Pont to spend the night after we saw the hotel in the guide book. Getting there was not exactly easy because there was horrendous construction in the center of Fribourg, one of the gentlemen at the pub gave us incorrect directions (the map we had was not the best), and it was closer than we thought so we passed the exit heheh. Actually, we passed the exit while we were on the phone getting directions from the hotel! Go figure. It was actually a very nice place, it overlooked the river and it had a restaurant.

We got a room and decided to have dinner at 7pm about an hour after we arrived. They said we had wireless internet in the rooms at no charge which was a godsend because I was beginning to worry about work. The Internet signal in the room was so low and inconsistent that we started trying to find the one corner of the room that had the best reception. By the time we had exhausted out scouting efforts it was time for dinner.

The Hostellerie de Vigne has 2 restaurants the brasserie and the fine dining. We had booked to eat in the fine dining section. John hated the table from the moment we sat down because it was right by the exit to the kitchen and even though I had the lady move the table so it wasn’t so near the service entrance John was still not happy. There were other booked tables in the restaurant which the hostess would not give us. Humph! We decided to move to the brasserie section this move probably save us 60-80 sfrs for the prix fixe menu. My only dislikes about the move is I hate a fuss and they still served duck liver. When foie gras is in pate form I have no issue with it but when it is intact, the consistency reminds me of uni (sea urchin sushi) – in one word: slimy. Ugh. I swallowed 2 pieces without chewing (my wee bit to honor the chef – it was brought out with such fanfare that I felt guilty) and transferred the rest of a still healthy portion to John’s plate. He enjoyed it immensely. I am blessed that he seems to like foods I can’t stand so between the both of us the chef can feel proud.

After dinner it was back up to the room with a few more acrobatics with the laptop to see if the reception was any better. It wasn’t so I went down to the bar, with the hostess’ permission to login to the office intranet and get some work done. I also found out at this time that we needed to settle the bill immediately because we needed to leave latest 7:30am to get to Geneva on time for the 11am flight but no one would be at the reception till earliest 7:45am. Too glad we asked. The lady said she would put our breakfast outside our door during the night so we would have it in the morning. How sweet!

Wednesday morning went as planned, picked up breakfast outside the door, showered, packed and were on our way. Getting out of there was again a bit of a pain because there was more construction and no easily readable signs. We drove most of the way by Lake Leman at the base of which is Geneva. It was a very cool drive because the morning mists were about and it gave the whole morning a very surreal feeling. You couldn’t quite see the lake but knew it was there. We got to the airport area with some time to spare but had a little hiccup finding gas. There was one gas station right at the airport but no apparent way to get to it. We had to drive further into the nearest city by the airport to find another gas station. It was a little disconcerting because you feel so triumphant about having found the airport without incident that driving further away from your prize in a direction you had not planned makes you nervous. Well, we got back to the airport after a couple of near misses.

Everything was relatively perfect except for the line at SwissAir and the long conversation on how to get upgraded to better seats since the ones on the flight out were horrendous. Trying to get an upgrade did not work seemed to be too much fuss and disconnect between United and SwissAir. Anyway, the seats we did get were slightly better in comfort even though they were the last possible seats on the plane – we were in 44A&B. The flights back home went well with a good couple of naps decent food and lots of snacks – Swiss chocolate hmm hmmm good!

Once we got here John went off to teach and I had to figure out how to get home. John wanted me to wait through his class to get a lift home. Being the stubborn person that I am and needing to see my house, I decided to find a way home. For an hour and a half all the long distance buses seemed to indicate every other city and county except Huntington Beach and Orange County! One of the buses going to Orange County wanted too much for the trip. He said he would be circling for a while and if I changed my mind I should give him a shout. Well, after his 5th or 6th time circling the airport he has more passengers in the van mostly going to Anaheim and I bargained him down to a price I was willing to pay. Ahh, home sweet home about 1.5 hours later! Alls well, the stack of mail was waiting, and it was freezing! After all the gourmet food we ate in Switzerland I was quite content with French fries for dinner and some primetime TV!

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