Monday, January 27, 2014

Move over Clark W. Griswald . . .

 . . . the Dugdales stepped it up a notch with Christmas AND European Vacation all rolled into one. 

Yes, that isn't an illusion created by Disney Magic, that's the real Matterhorn.  In our infinite Runamuk wisdom we decided it would be a good idea to take our three psychoanalytic theories to Switzerland, Germany and Austria over the holiday break, and just because we like to make our lives extra difficult, we did it with an injured Superego!

Thankfully the Id doesn’t yet have a boyfriend, so we didn’t have any $1,000 phone calls to home!

And those Europeans sure know how to make life much easier for Mommy and Daddy with free flowing Bier and Kirschwasser (Cherry Vodka).  We had a magical holiday with few hiccups, but of course, there is no way to go halfway across the world with the trifecta and not learn a few things. 

So, here’s The Swiss Family Dugdale Top 10:

    1)   If you have allergies, bring your own food on the plane.  For if you do not, you may find that while your family eats fabulous looking croissants and cheese and crackers for breakfast, you will be eating THIS:

They didn't even provide hummus or nut butter or any protein source to put on that rice cake.
      Oh, and bring a sippy cup of your own, for if you do not, when you ask the flight attendant for a cup lid, you might get THIS:

I seriously thought the flight attendant was trying to be funny!
Where’s Southwest when I need her (or him, or however you’re supposed to refer to inanimate airlines)??????????

    2)   There is no way to avoid looking like an American tourist when the back of your vehicle looks like this:

Apparently they don’t actually make cars larger than a station wagon (which is a good thing because could you imagine filling up your gas guzzling suburban at $6.95 per gallon)!

    3)   It’s a good thing that they don’t teach us the metric system here in America.  For if they did, we would know in real time that a 120 Swiss Franc dinner of hamburgers and French fries actually cost $158, or, that 1.36 euros per liter for gas actually cost $6.95 per gallon.  These revelations surely would have sent Husband from Heaven into cardiac arrest and on the next plane home.  I’m pretty sure HfH is putting me on some serious vacation restrictions after he reads and processes our credit card bills.

   4)   When trying to find “the largest St. Niklaus statue in the world” in St. Niklaus Switzerland, try to remember that their roads were built when the widest vehicle was a horse and buggy and I’m pretty sure the only way that St. Niklaus got there was to fly in with his reindeer.  We almost took off our mirrors and came pretty close to running over a small child and a grandma when we drove down a road that had cars on it, but of course those cars were no bigger than a smart car!

Yes, it's right in the middle of a cemetery!  And, the Superego isn't pictured because she was being a sh*t about getting out of the car.

      5)   You will NOT be able to control your laughter when your 11 year old says “mom, we need to Ausfahrt in Gotthard”.  The children have never used the word “fahrt” so many times in their lives, and we just let them because it was hilarious (and the Nana wasn’t in the car).  For the record, Ausfahrt is German for “Freeway Exit” and Gotthard is a city in Switzerland.

      6)   You have been in Europe too long when THIS is what you see first thing in the morning:

Yes, that's cappucino in that cup!  Not exactly sure what possessed us to allow our hyperactive children to drink cappuccino everyday, but it actually seemed to calm them down!!!  And, I just noticed the dirty socks on the breakfast table.  NICE!!!
7)   You know you’ve lost all “Real Food” credibility when your child says this to her friends when you get home – “Only buy Nutella in a foreign country.  That way your mom can’t read the nutrition facts and doesn't know what's actually in it.” 

Mommy admits that having the nutrition label in German really helped her pretend that somehow Nutella was healthier in Austria than the U.S.  The extra pounds she gained beg to differ . . .

8)   You MAY NOT blame the poor snow conditions for the pain in your @$$ when skiing injuries occur when you are:

a.     Entering a gondola and yelling at your child for running ahead of you

Seriously, my @$$ was killing me and isn't it a coincidence that stars are floating around my head??!!  (Just noticed that, by the way)

b.     Rushing down a street in your ski boots to try and catch the last bus to your youth hostel.
(We don't have a photo of this because by that point mommy would have gone apesh*t on daddy if he took a picture!)

Oh yes friends, there were no injuries (not even to our child who I can now admit skied with a broken arm), EXCEPT when mommy landed on her @$$ not once, but twice in an hour, as we were heading home.  SH!!!!!!T!  And yes, in case you were wondering, the Nana added our little ski adventure to her custody file!

      9)   You really need to evaluate your alcohol consumption when virtually the ONLY souvenirs you bring home are these:

Yes, that's 20 cups - 5 we got from drinking Gluhwein (hot wine - mommy drank all those), 8 for Daddy to drink his Bier, 1 decoration, 1 shot glass, 1 lowball glass, 2 gifts, and 1 mug that may be the only non-alcoholic cup, but mommy can fix that right up with some Baileys and hot chocolate.  And I'm not kidding, with the exception of a few sweatshirts, these were our only souvenirs - 25 pounds of glassware!!  Of course I just noticed the empty dishwasher in the background just waiting for all those cups - that we got home by stuffing them in our snow boots.
      10)                    And last but not least . . . if you travel with the Dugdales halfway around the world to experience a spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks show over the beautiful Salzburg skyline, every other night will look like this
Evening of January 1st

But New Year’s night, will look like this!!!

Midnight on December 31st, same location as above, but it was completely socked in by fog!

Whether it’s to Lake Tahoe to witness the driest winter in a century or Salzburg to witness the fireworks show that wasn’t, the weather will do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we hope for.  By Midnight on the 31st we were in a pea soup fog bank!  

On the bright side, although we couldn’t see the big show, apparently there are no laws against fireworks in Austria, so no less than 3 feet from us there were fireworks that rival 4th of July shows at home.  We were in fear for our lives, but as we were running away, we were marveling at how beautiful they were!

Despite a few minor mishaps, we had an absolutely amazing vacation and here are some ideas and tips for how to see Switzerland WITH KIDS in 7 days or less (in a separate post I’ll include where to go in Germany and Austria – this post is already way too long!!):

Packing – these are a few “must haves” that we discovered.

     1)   If you move around every day like we did for the first seven days, pack clothes in gallon size plastic bags.  I packed enough clothes for each of us for seven days, and as I packed them I put shirt, pants, underwear and socks in a gallon size plastic bag.  Each evening we just pulled out one bag for the next day.  The bags acted as space bags compressing the clothes when I packed, and after emptying them we had extra plastic bags for trash, wet or dirty clothes, children to suffocate each other - oh, no, wait, that was just to see if you were still reading!!!  :-)

I'm still not sure how I got all this sh*t into THESE:
Mommy actually managed to get all FOUR of us girls into THREE bags!!!  Btw, the rolling bags were duffles from Costco and they worked out great - lightweight, easy to carry, collapsible for storage under beds, etc.
     2)   Flight 001 F1 Seat Pak organizer - This was a great gift from the Nana.  Unfortunately, these only work on international flights because domestic flight tray tables don’t have the notch.  But, for international travel this bag was fantastic and it fit all the things I needed:

In addition to the items below, I had a small journal, my Nano, iPhone and girls' shot records in this thing.  It was awesome!

In the bag were - Lip Balm, Nail kit, tissues, extra quart size bag for trash, eye makeup remover cloths, hand sanitizer, tea, pen, pencil, rubberband, bag of safety pins, sanitizing wipes, first aid kit, Colgate Wisp disposable toothbrushes, expandable and disposable washcloths.
3)   Collapsible Water bottle - must have.  Bottled water is expensive.  Fill up collapsible water bottles as much as possible to keep hydrated.

     4) Slippers and Neck Pillow - On the international flight the girls and I each had these and they were vital.  Due to suitcase storage issues we all had to wear our snow boots on the plane, so with the slippers we could walk around the plane comfortably and not have to put shoes on.  These I found at Michaels for $5.

     5) Hostelsheets – we found out that we didn’t really need these, but just to be extra safe, we all slept with our own sheets that we had tie dyed and used puffy paint for our names before we left.

     6)   Towels – if you stay in youth hostels, you have to bring your own.  Hotels will provide towels, but we found that hotel towels were often small and scratchy.

Arriving – If you arrive on a Sunday, grocery stores will most likely be closed.  Before you go, check into whether there is a grocery store in the airport.  We were two hours later than we expected, but thankfully the grocery store was still open so we could grab snacks and provisions for a long car ride.

Munich Airport Grocery – Edeka (this is one of the major grocery chains in Germany).  The one in the airport is just outside the terminal on the way to the rental car location.

Swiss Grocery – We were told about Migros, but we actually found that we saw more Coop stores in the areas where we were. 

Driving a Car in Switzerland

If you rent a car outside Switzerland, make sure when you get to the border that you purchase a toll sticker.  This is true for Austria as well, but not Germany.  Rather than having toll stations throughout the country, they require you to purchase a 40 Franc pass.  The fine if you do not have a sticker is steep.

Also, they are very serious about their speed limits.  Make sure you know what the signs below mean:

50 km/h (which is about 31mph).  For us, it was mostly 80 - 120 km/h, but it changes frequently and so fast, you often don't know exactly what the speed limit is and you just follow the cars around you.

End speed limit (aka test out just how fast 200 km/h feels)

And a driving P.S. I was very, very, very traumatized by all the graffiti.  There was spectacular countryside marred by graffiti.  Not that Americans have any room to talk, particularly those from Los Angeles, but the amount of graffiti on the freeway underpasses was shocking.  There were very few that we saw that didn’t have graffiti.

Lodging in Switzerland
Swiss Youth Hostels are great!  You will be in a twin bed, and a VERY sterile environment (in the hallways I regularly felt like we were in a prison it was so sterile with steel doors that slammed shut), but we found all of the hostels (we stayed in 4) to be clean with a good bed, good size continental breakfast, and MUCH cheaper than hotels.  You can find a list of Swiss hostels at  We stayed in Basel, Lucerne, Zermatt and Berne.  Our favorite was Zermatt because it was a large room with a full bathroom, including shower, in the room.  The others had community bathrooms in the hall. 

And no, Nana, we did not let the children go to the bathroom by themselves!!

Hallway in Berne - large doors are rooms, small doors are lockers.

Making the beds in Zermatt

Sleeping drama queen!

Play area in Basel (all of the hostels had a kids play area)

Breakfast in Basel - yes, lots of yogurt, bread, meat, cheese and . . . CAPPUCCINO!!

Right outside our hostel door in Zermatt - that's the Matterhorn in the background

Ping Pong in the freezing cold!!  The next day it was in the SNOW!
Where to Visit:
One general note about most places – If you have two children are more, the family entry is usually the most economical.  Usually at least one child is free.  When we travelled in Zermatt (the Matterhorn), all the children under 10 (two kids for us) were free, including for skiing (where we still spent $300 for 3 of us for ONE day – EEEEEK!)

Baselwe were told this had the best Christmas Market in the Country and we also went to see their “Wish Book”.  If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t go out of my way.  The ChristmasMarkets were large, but those in Germany and Austria had much better merchandise for a lot cheaper.  We also got a nice little wake up call to just how expensive food is when we paid 100 Swiss Francs ($110) for bratwurst and hot chocolate!


View of the city near the parking lot of the Transportation Museum (Verkehrshaus)
Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkerhshaus) - Most of our time was spent at their Transportation Museum.  I definitely recommend at least a half day at the museum.  They also have a large cafeteria where you can eat lunch (and yes, your husband will choke at the prices and will make you eat the rest of your lunches from food purchased at the grocery store).

"Transporting" over the TV waves

Helicopter simulator transport
Train transport - they are driving a train simulator
Rowing transport (we were racing each other on a video screen)
Glacier Garden, Lion's Monument, Labyrinth Museum – This is three attractions in one and we enjoyed it.  The Lion Monument and the Glacier Garden were neat, but the mirror Labyrinth was the favorite.  There were other things in the museum to see - such as the history of the Swiss Chalets (and why they are made differently in each region of Switzerland) a history of avalanches (which then made the Id frightened she would perish in an avalanche – may want to skip that part with the little ones), but our favorite was the mirror Labyrinth.  Very cool.

Dying Lion of Lucerne

Glacier Garden

Buckin' Bronco on a prehistoric wooly mammoth

Avalanche simulator

Adorable picture under Holly (we'd never seen any in the wild)!!

I can't begin to describe what this looks like in person, but that is actually around a corner.

Photos just can't do the Labyrinth justice!
Hergiswil Glasworks – we saw this late in the day, so were tired.  It was a very neat interactive museum tour.  But, we were not as impressed with the glass works.  I thought they would be more decorative than everyday glass.   

Can't show pictures inside the glass factory, so this is a random Santa who looked so real it scared the crap out of mommy as we walked into the Glass store!!
Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge) – Very cool 15th century bridge (that burned and had to be rebuilt in the mid 1990’s) that is fun to walk across.  And, there is a Starbucks nearby where you can get a $6 tall hot chocolate (on the bright side, Husband from Heaven no longer b!tches about $3 hot chocolate in the States)!

Panels in the ceiling tell about life in the 1600's

Remnants of the bridge having burned can be seen in the ceiling.
Freezing our butts off!!! (you can see in the ceiling where several paintings weren't replaced)
 Zermatt (Matterhorn) MUST SEE, most magical part of the trip.
            A few notes:

1)   You cannot drive into Zermatt – it is an electric car only town, and those electric cars are only specially licensed (most are taxis and buses).  Therefore, it will cost you $200 to leave your car for three nights.  Unless you take the train into town (which for 5 people cost the same as taking a taxi) you must take a 20 minute taxi ride from Tasch to the outskirts of Zermatt where you take another taxi to your hotel.  On the plus side, we didn’t pay for gas for three days and it was fun to walk around the city.
Here's another cool thing - if you drive from Lucerne to Zermatt, you MUST go on a car train through a mountain.

In the taxi to the hostel in Zermatt
2)   Skiing is a must, even if you have to debate bringing your injured child.  It was once in a lifetime and we couldn’t miss it.  Thankfully for us, it all worked out.  We found the best place to ski in Zermatt with kids was Sunnegga as well as the Gornergrat lift (where we even saw an IglooVillage)!  You can purchase a ticket to ski both the Italian and Swiss side of the mountain, but that was too much for us to do in one day (and too expensive).

Helicopter landed nearby to help an injured skier (NOT one of us, thankfully).  That was really the only way to get them off the mountain.  It was very cool to see the helicopter, but of course it also occurred to me "I wonder how much THAT little trip is going to cost that skier".  
Train up to Gornergrat lift the day after we skied.
Train station at top

Igloo Village like something straight out of Star Wars!!
The girls loved the Zermatt mascot Wolli!
3)   The coding for their ski runs begin with blue, not green and then goes to red, and finally black.  In case you were wondering, when they have a run that is red and you are with small children, RED MEANS STOP, DO NOT GO HERE, DUMB@$$.  We somehow managed to get ourselves onto an area with a very steep hill.  This was the one point in the day where we were certain someone wasn't getting down that mountain and we'd need that helicopter.  I'd show you a picture, but I only have video and I fear if I post it the Nana will use it in the custody hearing.

Here is a mean mommy and daddy photo I will post - we made the kids carry their own ski equipment from the village all the way up to our hostel that was literally at the top of the village.  This doesn't do justice to how steep or long it was.  We've got some tough little girls!! 
4)   Definitely stop by the Matterhorn Museum

Girls enjoyed the museum and it was very cool to see the story of the first ascent to the top.
5)   If you stay more than one day, keep lift tickets from night before (these are cards and you save 5 Francs each if you re-use) and don’t forget to bring the children’s passports as proof of age.

6)   We got ski equipment from a place recommended by the Youth Hostel, Julen/Roc, but the owner there was annoyed and hostile with us because we came in 15 minutes before closing (for the record, we only made him 5 minutes late to close and we had to outfit 4 and ¾ of us (the Superego only needed one pole)!  All of the places in town seemed to be pretty comparable, so I wouldn’t fall for the 10% “discount”.  We’re not convinced we actually got it.

7)   Best, best, best meal of the trip – Chez Vrony at Sunnega on the mountain.  The food was fantastic and, well, you’ve seen the view.  Breathtaking!!

View from the restaurant

That's our table, and that's the Matterhorn in the background.

Love the Sheepskin!!
8)   Matterhorn Glacier Paradise – it’s an expensive trip to the top, but it is absolutely spectacular and the Glacier Palace was fantastic fun!
We were running up and down the hallway because we were literally freezing our @$$es off!!!

What a difference a day makes.  You can't see the Matterhorn through the clouds and snow.

Entrance to the Glacier Palace.

Fun slide through a wall in the Palace.  Couldn't get the kids off that thing!!

View outside the window of the Glacier Paradise.  That is the top of the mountain going into the Italian side of the mountain.  Visibility was about 10 feet and the temperature was around -5 Celsius.  Those Europeans are made of much stronger stock than the Dugdale girls.  We would not have made it onto the lift in these conditions!!

P.S. When going to a place that serves food, DO NOT bring your own picnic.  We did buy food from the restaurant, but they were very annoyed with our store bought picnic.  D@MN Americans!!

Breathtaking (and scary as hell).  They are waiting for the gondola to come into the side of the mountain and take us down.
MontreuxOn the Swiss Riviera and the home of ChillonCastle and the Freddie Mercury statue (and apparently some random Smurf statues).  If you can fit in a visit to this part of the country, I HIGHLY recommend it.  Chillon Castle is a medieval castle that was one of the best preserved and with the greatest amount of history that we saw.  The views from the castle are absolutely stunning!  The kids, of course loved the references to farts and sh!t in the latrine display.  Yes, I said sh!t and so did the display explanations!! 

Chillon Castle

The only day we had any weather to speak of!  Daddy was too cool for a poncho.

Dungeon where Francois de Bonivard was held captive and the dungeon was made famous by Lord Byron who wrote about it in the Prisoner of Chillon (1816)

Chit chatting on the Latrine.

Absolutely stunning views outside the castle windows!!

Freddie Mercury Statue!

This was just funny!

Can't really find a good explanation as to why there are a bunch of Smurfs (Schlumfe) in the public park there, but they are cute!

And, of course, daddy decided that just before a 2 hour drive, some candy was a good idea!!
And finally, who would give up the opportunity to exit a “Sortie” and then three miles later an “Ausfahrt” as you move from the French to the German part of Switzerland!

Berne This is the capital city and very easy to walk around and see everything in one day.  We did a self guided City Tour and saw everything within 6 hours (including two hours for a tour of the Federal Palace and 1 hour for the kids to play in a local playground).
So beautiful!

Apparently the neighbors on the left are French and "Sortie" from their garage and the neighbors on the right are German and "Ausfahrt" from their garage.

This was just funny!

Mommy getting Mexican Food at street vendor.  Daddy was mortified that I'd eat Mexican food in Switzerland.  This would actually have qualified as gourmet Mexican food.  It was fantastic!!

Playing on a playground with new friends.

Donating to the Salvation Army bucket (they actually gave us bags of tea in exchange for our donation).
            BearPark – Definitely an interesting stop, IF it’s not winter and the bears aren’t hibernating.  DUH!!!

The children playing in the old bear pit with fake bears because those are the only ones that were out that day!!
The much bigger (EMPTY) Bear park!!
            The Federal Palace (Swiss Parliament) – this was fascinating and so much like our American system I was surprised.  It was beautiful and very much worth learning about how Switzerland became a country in 1848 (who knew they were younger than America???)  Definitely make an appointment for a tour.  BUT, BRING YOUR PASSPORTS . . . otherwise the surly Swiss man checking you in will give you all kinds of sh!t about how “your driver’s license may work in your country, but it has no use in his country and how dare you presume that it would” (even though the woman you checked in with told you it was fine).  Check in Dude has a serious stick up his @$$ about tourists!

View of the back of the Parliament building from our hostel at night.

Front of the Parliament Building (apparently we forgot to take pictures in the day time)
 The Cathedral of Berne - Beautiful Cathedral.  The kids talked us into “going to the top” of the spire.  389 steps later, we were cursing the children!!  But, it was a great birds eye view.

With new friends Emily and Patrick.

              TheArcades – these were explained in books as much more interesting than they were.  This is just their main shopping area that has shops both above and below ground.  

Was able to connect with my college roommate Annalisa who I hadn't seen in SEVENTEEN YEARS!!  So nice to catch up, if only for a little while!!!  You can see the Arcade shops in the arches in the background
In the Arcades area are:

            The Clock Tower

           Einstein’sHouse – very interesting and intriguing.  They actually focused a lot on Einstein’s unhappy marriage and divorce, which was unknown and a surprise to me.  The girls were fascinated to be standing in what was once his house.

Zurichsaw this only at night while we were passing through, but it was beautiful.  We stopped here because according to reports, fondue first began in Zurich.  So, we had a wonderful “last night in Switzerland” fondue dinner at LeDezaley!  A bit challenging to find with a GPS because it is on pedestrian only streets, but highly recommend.  And yes, the bill will make you choke, but by day 7, sadly you are used to it!!

Yummy fondue dinner!
I thought this was hilarious.  It's actually a cable car where people have fondue!
Again, a magical trip that we would do again (AFTER the children have moved away and will pay their own way)!

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