Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Romantic Engelburg

The Euro rail is a delight to travel in. The train timings are so perfect and punctual with no room for error or delay. On our way to Engelburg we halted at Lucerne for a couple of hours, took a bus, walked around a little and saw the city where people mostly prefer to stay for a day or two since it is supposedly the central place from where you can visit all the mountain tops.

However against Aakaash’s will I decided to stay at Engelburg which was very close to the tallest mountain in Switzerland - Mount Titlis. Once we reached there Aakaash did pat on my back to choose Engelburg since this was a beautiful small quiet town with a population of not even 4000 people. Its snow peaked mountains, romantic aura and picturesque view left us spell bounded.

I was totally surprised when we got off the station in Engelburg since the hotels were just a min walk, literally. It was like the rail tracks were put right in the middle of the town with no entrance or exit. Although our hotel was 5 mins walk but to see the hotel boards from the station was something I had not witnessed before. Before boarding the train at Lucerne we had an early dinner because we were not sure if we would find anything open when we reached Engelburg which proved to be right but…. We regretted eating early dinner since our hotel had a full spread of Indian food, from dal makhani, butter chicken to kheer. So we quietly listened to our stomachs which denied giving any access to any other food particle and went out for a stroll on the lonely but beautiful lanes of Engleburg surrounded by lush green mountains with snow white peaks.

Once we came back to our room, we asked for a baby cot which was installed immediately upon our request but we hadn’t realized that we hadn’t seen the complete room and adjacent to our room was another small room with attached balcony which had bunker beds for the kids and Aan and Aananya once again had a blast going up and down the beds till they were exhausted and it was their queue to call it a night. Aan slept up and Aananya insisted on sleeping alone in the lower bunk. Another hectic but beautiful day gone and we too retired since the next day we were hitting where Shahrukh and Kajol shot for DDLJ. For breakfast amongst other things upma was there and the hotel had signs written in Hindi which was a delight to see. So we packed the kids very well with sweaters, snow mitts and headed for the snow.

We headed towards Mount Titlis in the world’s first revolving cable car called the Rotair and then had our first experience in an Ice flyer which is a chairlift that spans over the glacier. I was just hoping and praying that it would snow and it did. We had a blast and the kids saw and played in the snow for the first time.

Once we reached the top, we were startled to see life size boards of Shahrukh and Kajol in their famous DDLJ pose right at the entrance which was funny too since loads of Indian families were getting their pics clicked there. I also experienced that it was very difficult to see without goggles due to the glare of the sun. We had a blast tobogganing, swirling rides on snow tubes and sledges. Half heartedly we had to leave since it was time for us to catch our last train for Interlaken. After we came down from the mountain peek, Aakaash headed to the hotel to get the luggage while I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy idli, vada pao, samosa and pav bhaji for our journey to Interlaken making it a perfect end to our stay at Engelburg.

Monday, December 13, 2010


After the comfortable and relaxing stay at Abha and Deepak’s house at Lausanne we were all geared up for the hectic but wonderful trip through Switzerland. We headed to Zurich where we left our luggage at the station and headed for Rhine falls - Europe’s largest waterfall which is 50 meters in width and 23 meters in height. The view is spectacular and standing on a small bridge in the middle of the falls, seeing the forceful gushing water and the uproar of waves makes it worthwhile to go all the way up there. The only reason for us to halt at Zurich was majestic Rhine falls which is an hour away from Zurich. Later we headed back to the station, had dinner, picked up our luggage and headed straight to our hotel. We stayed in Zurich only for a night and the next day headed towards Engelburg.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Switzerland here we come! Lausanne - Phew

Thankfully everything worked out just fine and we were able to have just about enough money to reach Lausanne to Abha and Deepak where financially we took a breather. It was wonderful to meet them after 4 long years especially seeing the kids all grown up! Abha was my first teacher ever who showed me how to make “chapati’s” coz when we moved to Sri Lanka, I moved into the kitchen for the first time too. Abha is great at giving simple tips on how to make food quickly and effortlessly and Deepak is excellent at guessing ages (lol ;)!

We stayed in Lausanne for 2 days and as soon as we reached, the first place we hit was an ATM machine. Then Abha took us around; showed the town a little bit, went to Lake Geneva where we fed the ducks and swans, kids played on swings, had ice creams and we all had great time together.

The next day we were on our own, we went by ship to a small town Evian or Évian-les-Bains where the Evian water is bottled. The scenery is beautiful with Jura Mountains surrounding the Geneva Lake. Evian is a part of France and although we did go all the way there but due to time constraint, we just enjoyed the picturesque ride back and headed for Montreux by train.

 Montreux is a small town around an hour away from Lausanne and has a beautiful medieval castle called Château de Chillon, which is also one of the most visited historic monuments in Switzerland. While we were visiting the castle; for a moment it felt like we were in one of the sets of a medieval movie. Later we roamed around in the small town like true tourists and headed back to Lausanne.

In the evening we sat back and caught up on old times and chit chatted with Abha and Deepak till 4am in the morning. Thank you Abha and Deepak for making our stay comfortable and our trip possible. When we woke up it was time for us to leave for Zurich, although the stay was very brief, we wished we could spend some more time together.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Paris – Lover’s Paradise

I think that a vacation to Paris and Switzerland are almost on everyone’s wish list. Hence we decided to take up Aakaash’s very small list and head to France and Switzerland. Well the preparations were done, intensive study and plans were made, bookings confirmed and we were set on a jet plane for a vacation of a lifetime, one which we will never ever forget nevertheless not for the right reasons.

So after a tiring 6 hours plus flight we landed in Paris and for the first time we decided to take a metro to our hotel, pulled our luggage and walked a small distance (small according to Aakaash) to the hotel reception only to find that our room was not ready since we reached at 09.30am and the room would have been available only by 2pm. So we decided – what the hell, let’s dump the luggage in the cloak room and see the tallest building in Paris and the most visited monument - “Eiffel Tower”.
Upon seeing the Eiffel Tower my smile knew no bound, I was thrilled, excited and pumped up since I was seeing the Eiffel Tower which has been a very prominent background for most of the cliché Hollywood romantic movies and there I was seeing it with my own eyes.

We stood in the line and were lucky to break into a shorter line and get the entry sooner and faster; not knowing that the luck that we were smiling on was soon running out for us. After seeing the beautiful view from the top, we headed to Notre damn and walked around a little, had lunch in Latin quarters and decided to call it a day so that we could be fresh for the next morning’s sight seeing. On our way back I did gorge on the famous chocolate crepe and headed back to our hotel via the metro. 

When we reached our hotel at around 6.30pm, we were told that there were no rooms available and they were moving us to another hotel. Although the location of the hotel was still in our favor, I did act a lil dramatic, got a lil upset and got us complimentary breakfast for the 3 days that we were spending in Paris before leaving for Switzerland. Just when we were ready to leave, we told the hotel staff that we needed to buy formula milk for Aananya before we moved to the new hotel. This is the moment I can never forget in my life when all hell broke loose and the bad luck attached itself to us.

Aakaash couldn’t find his wallet. Now these are the events of the day what you didn’t read…..

  1. Since we hadn’t got the room, instead of leaving all the cash in the common luggage room, we had no choice but to carry it. It was for the 1st time ever that we didn’t check into our room and left our luggage in the cloak room.
  2. Aakaash did ask me to keep some money but I thought it was safer with him since my wallet is always in the diaper bag which we keep opening from time to time.
  3. When I was buying tickets for Eiffel Tower, Aakaash kept my credit card in his wallet which was the only credit card we had since all his credit cards had been revoked due to his NRI status.
  4. So we had no credit cards and $2000 and Euro 500 were all gone along with his international debit card.
  5. Although the 3 days stay was paid for but still we couldn’t afford to stay in the hotel because we had no money to eat food hence we had to ask them to cancel our booking.
  6. Before our luck ran out we had purchased a 3 day travel pass, so Aakaash just headed straight back to where we had come from, the place I had my chocolate crepe and he last saw his wallet which was stolen probably in the metro from his front jacket pocket which was zipped up.
  7. Aakaash was gone for 2 hours and my phone which has always been in a perfect condition decided to choose this day to get switched off again and again cutting my calls and making it impossible for me to talk to anyone. So I was cut off from the world, in a hotel lobby with 2 hungry kids and no money.

I didn’t care that people were looking at me but somehow I just couldn’t stop my tears from rolling and as Aan talks about it till today “Mamma cried like a baby”. Well that was the second time in my life I was crying openly in front of people, the first was my wedding day!

Time was ticking and Aakaash was gone, I settled in one corner of the hotel lobby and as night approached Aan and Aananya got hungry. Unfortunately the corner which I got had a vending machine and somehow to antagonize the situation there were kids who would go “ching ching” after every 10 mins and take out some goodies or candy. Although Aan was kind of aware that we had lost our money, so he pointed towards the smallest candy and said “Mamma can I have that” which made me all the more burst into tears since I didn’t even have 1 Euro to get him that; knowing that he hadn’t eaten anything since morning; for when we ordered lunch he has fallen asleep on the chair.

Finally after filing a complaint at police station and 3 torture-some hours Aakaash came back with his friend Deepak Soni who took us to his house. Deepak had worked with Aakaash in Ericsson India and for us, at that time and situation, was no less than an angel in disguise. Deepak and Kavita were staying in Paris with their 2 sons in a comfortable 2 bed room apartment. They had to move their kids to their room and gave us the kid’s room and Deepak himself slept on the couch. During such adverse times when you see such humble gestures, it really touches your heart and we are so very grateful for the gratification bestowed towards us by them. Deepak also assured us not to worry about money since he thought he could withdraw Euro 500 per day so that means it gave us Euro 1500 for 3 days that we stayed in Paris and after that we were leaving for Switzerland where another friend’s of ours had assured us that we wouldn’t have to worry on the monetary aspect at all. Hence we became a bit relaxed and took a breather for the night.

The view from Deepak’s apartment was amazing. When we went to sleep with our windows open, Aakaash who loves to sleep in pitch dark was interrupted with bright light from the full moon and Eiffel tower which looked so close by as if we could jump and touch it. Those 3 nights in Paris, looking at the beautifully lit Eiffel Tower and the full moon by its side really brought some calm and tranquility for the trauma we had undergone on our arrival.

So the next morning we had Euro 500 in our pocket, we were extra careful and headed straight to Louvre Museum to see the most famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci - Mona Lisa smile. Later we had our lunch out, wandered a little and had the feel of Paris! When we got home Aakaash and Deepak went to withdraw money since it was the 2nd day. When they came back, Aakaash had a worried look on his face and I could tell something was not right.

Oh! Didn’t I tell you that bad luck had attached itself to us and was not willing to leave us for a while. So we got to know that Deepak could withdraw only Euro 500 from the ATM once in a week and to withdraw more money he needed to go to the bank which was closed for 3 days. So there we go… back to square one.. insufficient funds and we had to buy tickets for our train from Geneva to Lausanne. So we took out all the coins and money that was left over from the day and started calculating and saw we had just about enough money to take a cab to the airport and then buy tickets from Geneva to Lausanne where our friends Abha and Deepak were. 

So the 3rd day in Paris was kinda closed hence no sight seeing, few stores open but we couldn’t afford to even buy a Euro 10 toy for kids since we were scared that we might fall back in buying tickets by just that much. Since our 3 days tickets was still valid so we roamed around and then came back to Deepak’s house. The kids did have loads of fun since they had 2 new friends -Aroush and Deepansh to play with all the time and spent the evening thrilled playing in a park near the Eiffel Tower. A special thanks to Deepak and Kavita who made us feel at home and truely helped us at the time of our need. Finally we got ready with crossed fingers to start our journey to Switzerland the next day.