Today started a whole lot earlier than we all would have liked… Although everyone was definitely feeling a lot perkier today than yesterday.
Breakfast was your typical continental fare but very good quality – the breads were delicious as was the yogurt and fruit juices. Everybody seemed to get their fill of food and headed off to enjoy the day well fed and in good spirits.
Up first was free time in Lucerne. The drive back to the town took about 50 minutes so we arrived just before 10am and had about 2.5 hrs of free time to explore the town. Some of us went up to explore the city walls (unfortunately still closed for the season but still a nice spot with good views of the town), others contributed a few francs to the local economy (Swiss Army knives, watches and lighters seemed to be the most popular souvenirs) and just wandered around taking in the sites. Marie and I even managed to crash a funeral at a very impressive Gothic church… Fortunately it was just wrapping up as we arrived so we were able to take some pictures and look around after the mourners had left.
Lucerne is a very pretty city/town. With its traditional Swiss-style architecture, the Alps in the background, the lake in the foreground and an interesting pedestrian zone made up of small streets and alleyways, it’s a great city to spend a couple of hours in. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their time and were a bit sad to leave… But the mountain awaits.
Next up was a 45 minute drive to Vitznau where we boarded the oldest cogwheel train in Europe (also the highest standard gauge rail line in Europe) for the 45 minute trip to the 5,478 ft summit of Mt. Rigi – the Queen of the Mountains. This trip was spectacular. The weather was beautiful today (clear blue skies with just a slight haze in the distance) and the scenery is beyond amazing… Steep valleys, the Alps all around you, traditional Swiss homes… This trip really had it all. The whole setup is quite cool as there’s an entire community with multiple stops served by the railroad line and large numbers of people using the backcountry for snowshoeing, skiing, etc.
Once at the top we played around in the snow for just over an hour (some of the kids even made a miniature Olaf!), took in the scenery and just enjoyed being outside in the mountains. I think our counterparts from Toronto didn’t get quite as much out of the snow as we did but for us west coasters, it was a treat to see snow. Although a few kids did take their lives in their hands by throwing snowballs at me… Not mentioning any names… Ross…
Soon it was time to board the train again for the trip back down the mountain. This time, though, we stopped a few minutes down the tracks at one of the resorts. There, we boarded a cable car that took us straight (almost literally straight times!) down the mountain to another little village where our bus driver was waiting. This was also a thrilling ride – not just for the sheer drop beneath us but also for the spectacular mountain scenery.
Then it was back on the bus for the 1.5+ hr ride back to the hotel where we arrived just in time for dinner (chicken skewers in a sweet chilli sauce with rice, salad bar and fresh strawberries, ice cream and whipped cream for dessert). The food was excellent but I think a few of the kids rediscovered their appetites and would have appreciated something a bit more substantial. After dinner it was off to pack (most of our group is still pretty tired after the long flights to get here) and off to bed… In all, today was as good a day traveling as you can expect to have and everyone enjoyed their time in Lucerne and on the mountain.
Tomorrow we’re up at 6am to be on the road by 7:45am for Venice with stops in Sirmione and Verona (and a couple of rest stops along the way for munchies and bathroom breaks). We probably won’t be arriving at the hotel in Venice until around 8pm so it’ll be a day or two before the next update (depending on wifi).