Route 66: 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 7

Day 7 is September 13
Well, today starts off in a much better "place" than the end of yesterday.  Momma & I both had a pretty restful night at the Holiday Inn.  We had a decent breakfast in the morning and got ourselves ready for another day on the rails.  I asked the front desk about getting back to the rail station and because we were in a decent place, I got some good info from the front desk clerk and found out we were able to just walk up the street to take the bus back to train station for 1.60 ch (that's Swiss Francs, by the way), instead of the 30 ch for the taxi the night before.  That's good stuff.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, uh, train station, we're trying to get on the Wilhelm Tell Line.  Unfortunately, that was a big fat no go.  The cool part about this time out was that the lady behind the glass was Very nice & tried to help.  She wasn’t able to book the Lucerne to Montreux portion of the Golden Pass Line, for some reason.  She said she could only do Interlaken to Montreux  & that nobody could do the full trip.  To me, that just didn’t make any sense as the literature I had didn’t say Anything about this trip being this way.
In the end, we booked a train from Lugano to Lucerne as that’s where we’re staying for this night.  It's not like we could really hang out in Lugano for another day.  Too bad really, I think Lugano looked like a great city.  The rail trip cost us an additional 60 ch.  By now, I'm getting rather tired of paying extra for Everything.  The pass I bought was supposed to be for 1st class & 50% discounts, which we didn't seem to be getting much of.  All of that being said, I'm pretty sure this agent did give us the discount anyway. 
In the end, we had a very good trip, but we were told we could have been in 1st class, even thought our tickets said 2nd.  In reality, 2nd class is still pretty good stuff.  At this point, my frustration was on the rise again because I felt the $700 I spent on the rail pass seemed like a bit of a waste.

We arrived in Lucerne or Luzern as the Swiss call it, at a reasonable time and for the most part had a pretty stress free ride.  It would have been nice to have taken the other "touristy" trip, but hey, we didn’t have to change trains,   Yay!!!!
After we got out of the station, I wondered around looking for our hotel.  I don't think I would have walked around lost, except that the information I had, said it was about 900 yards from the station.  Well, OK, perhaps my measurements are off, (I'm a guy, after-all), I just couldn’t find it.  I got back to the little lakeside cafe I "dropped" Momma at and then we took taxi again.  This time it was a 20 ch ride.  That was OK because the hotel was a bit out of the way.  Out of the way & small, but very cool and quaint.

Again today, like the rest of this trip, Momma has Totally rocked.  She's been Great as I’m running around trying to find crap & has hung out with bags more than I would have liked.

 Tonight, we stayed at Hotel Drei Koenige - Lucerne, Switzerland
We got ourselves checked in by a very nice lady and
then we were up to our room.  This room was by far the smallest we had, but it was pretty nice.  We still haven’t gotten much at all for souvenirs because we’ve been using our resources in different areas and other "fun" stuff like that.  I'm not at all pleased about that because I'd really like to have gotten some really cool stuff, but that's the way it goes.  As much as I'm bummed about all the extra money spent, I have to remember that the most important thing is that I'm hanging out with Momma for her 80th birthday and That, as they say, is Priceless. 

Dinner was next door to the hotel in a nice little pub.  The food was really good AND the service was Great!  We ended up having 2 different waitresses.  The first was just fine, but the second waitress was cute with tattoos.  I find it always interesting to get in a conversation with someone from another country & discuss things like tattoos, motorcycles, music, food, wine and other things like that.  More often than one might think, there is a common ground.  How cool would it be if Everyone would take the time t listen to someone else's opinion and of course, could have their opinion heard without anyone having the need to tell the other person they are wrong or don't know what they are talking about.   The young lady I talked about ink with had two great things to share.  A.  If a person doesn't like my tattoos, that's OK, they don't have to look and 2. my tattoos are an expression of who I am are are very personal.  I don't need permission & if you don't understand, that's OK, I still like YOU because of who you are, not how you look.  Bravo!  I know there's at least one person out there that will ask.  No, I don't remember her name.

Dinner was quite good & Not hugely overpriced…yay!  As we were eating, Momma and I got to thinking about how cool the area was.  This was a nice little “neighborhood” with the pubs & restaurants right there, along with little shops & businesses.  Houses and flats, too.  If it were like that here, maybe living in the city wouldn’t be all bad.  You know, a person wouldn’t even really need a car.

After dinner, we wondered around a bit and got a look at the buildings, the neighborhood and the really awesome university area, the theatre section and shops.  This was a very cool little city.  Tomorrow, we on our way again.  This time we'll be heading to Montreux.

Cheers to you & enjoy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 6

 Day 6 is September 12

Today we hit the road or rail, if you prefer and are on our way to Lugano.

What a day!
Got to the airport & rail station & had to wait until they opened.  One woulda thought they would be open 24/7.  They weren't/aren't, so of course, we deal with it.  Before leaving the US, I purchased the Swiss Rail Pass and paid extra for the first class option.  It seemed like an Awesome idea.

As we got our opportunity to talk with the gate/rail agent, we got the pass validated and then...we were told that the 1st class coaches for the Bernina Express were full and we would need to travel second class.  By the way, the Bernina Express line is from Chure to Lugano.  As you might remember, we're in Zurich at the moment.  Zurich is a rail trip from Chure, where we start the Bernina adventure.  Oh yeah, we also hear that the bus from Ticino to Lugano is full.  We were told that we would need to book the bus online.  Nice thought, but since I wasn't traveling with my laptop AND there was no time to use an internet connection at the station.

The train from Zurich to Chure was fine & clean.  I had never really ridden on train before, so most of this week in Switzerland was a new experience for me.  We traveled nearly exclusively by train all over the country.  It was definitely a great experience AND a learning experience.

The Bernina Express Line was very cool, but since we were in second class, it was a touch full & well rather tight and small.  We sat next to two young German students.  One of the poor guys was blowing the whole time.  Luckily and good for us, there no sniffing or other yuck like Americans teens all too often do.

During this trip I got TONS of pictures.  This trip was amazing.  We went past several lakes and glaciers; ALL the scenery is Beautiful!  There were several places on the way that went through great small Swiss villages & towns.  During this particular trip I started thinking about future trips & how cool it would be to take a bike, (that would, of course, be Motorcyle), trip over here.
When we got to Ticino; which is very near, (as in the office sits Right on
the border), with Italy.  I spoke with the gal at the counter and found out that the bus was full, (that was part of the price…), so I had to get us a train to Lugano, where we were staying for the night.  We had a choice of going back the way we came for part of the way or to go on the Italian side.  I generally hate to go the same route on trips, so I opted for the Italian side.   Unfortunately, this again cost us.  The good part of this trip was that we got to travel through the Italian countryside, lots and lots of interesting stuff.  This trip was from Ticino to Monze via the Milano line.  This adventure "allowed" us change trains in Monze & then then head to Chiasso.  At Chiasso, we change again and head to Lugano.  Luckily, for these two traveling Americans, the trains in Europe are pretty prompt & are a viable mode of transport, so other than changing several times and lugging around luggage…(apparently, that’s where the word comes from),  it wasn't bad, except that for whatever reason, most of the stations we were in (in Italy) didn’t have ramps, so I got to haul bags up & down stairs at every station change.  This part of the trip was a bit stressful.
Finally, we get ourselves to Lugano & we think that things will be golden from here out, well, guess what…
We stood in the que to talk to a Very frustrating, sweaty, absolutely Worthless "customer service" agent, to try to book tomorrow’s trip to Lucerne on the Wilhelm Tell Line.  The classic line we heard was;  “you need to do that more than 24 hours in advance”.  I next asked about the following day’s trip, (Golden Pass Line from Lucerne to Montreux.  Conveniently he couldn’t do that because "they" were closed.  Seems to me that he just didn’t want to help out at all.  Luckily, this "gentleman" was not at all representative of the rest of the assistance we got, throughout our trip. 
By this time, my veins popping out f my head & said “gosh darn it!"
We ended up taking a taxi to our hotel because I just couldn’t figure out how to get there from the station.  I guess my head just wasn't working any more at that point.  We get to the hotel & I was totally not feeling great about it, but we got our stuff out of the taxi and up to the door.  There was no discernible way to get in & there was a note on the door that said “go around back" or some crap like that.  I hit the intercom button and got a very nasty lady on the line yelling at me about the stupid note.  We start walking around the block with the bags; because the hotel is in the middle of the block and there is no other way to the back side.

I finally get smart and find a place for Mom to sit down and hang out with the bags.  I finally figure out how to get into the bar area where the “reception” area is supposed to be.  I see the keys, but of course there’s no one around.  The phone on the bar is supposed to be used to connect with "someone".  I try but can't reach a soul.  Unfortunately, I'm just getting more frustrated by the second!
As I get out of the other place, I remember seeing a Holiday Inn, so I walk to that, get checked in and we spend a night there.  What an ordeal.  Our other hotel was pre-paid, so I have to fight them on that.  The day's meals were a total of one granola & gelato.  Our dinner at the Holiday Inn was poor because of a tour that had the dining room completely filled up.
After dinner, I called Swiss travel folks & got no where fast.  This day was Very frustrating, but we had a place to sleep & that’s important.  Through it all, Mom has been a real trooper.  No complaints & she kept trucking.

After all was said and done, we still had an amazing day, we got to hang out, had great conversations and learned a tremendous amount about life.  The pictures, as you can see here were pretty awesome, too.

Cheers for another day and I can tell you that the trip got MUCH better the next day.

You know, in looking back over this post, I realize that this really had a pretty negative tone.  While all of what was said here was/is true, the trip, the experiences and the time spent with Momma were well worth the price and I'd definitely do it again.  I just have a great many things I learned along the way.  One of the most important things I learned was that being kind to those around you and open to Everything that the Higher Power chooses to send our way allows us to experience SO much more than we would if we just sat in our little box at home.

Peace to you all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 5

Day 5 is September 11

Momma & I are up and ready to go this morning, after a bit of breakfast at the hotel, we walk down to the train station.  Apparently, because I'm so used to the mountains in Colorado Springs being on my West, I'm a bit directionally challenged anywhere else.  Yes, I'll admit it, I got a touch lost and in Fine Fashion...I did NOT ask for directions.  Gotta make my gender proud somehow.  ;)

As we here in the US know, September 11 or 9/11 is an important date in our history.  Sometimes, we as US citizens/Americans take too many things for granted.  There are vigils and moments of silence, but Momma & I were both quite surprised and proud of our Swiss friends and what they had in store.

We were exploring Zurich and having a Great time when the bells in a local church started to chime.  At first, we didn't think much of it, but they kept ringing and ringing.  This went on for a good 15 minutes.  About 5 minutes into it, I realized it was at nearly the exact time as the tragic events unfolded. It was very moving and made us feel that Not everyone in the world dislikes Americans. 
For my part, I do try to NOT act like the stereotype when I travel and of course, Momma Rocks, so she was right there with me the entire trip, supporting our friends and trying her best to understand and embrace the customs and people of the area where we stayed and visited.

As we spent the day walking around and exploring Zurich, we had the opportunity to see some great architecture, great views of Mother Nature and an interesting mix of people.  As we were walking around, of course, we got hungry.  We happened upon this great little churassco restaurant with outdoor dining.  When I have the opportunity, I Always prefer being outside and this was great.  Food was quite good, the service was good and the "people watching" was fun.


I have to say this now and will say that it was repeated daily during this adventure.  Momma and I had opportunities for some great talks as we were enjoying our adventure.  Sure, I KNOW she's cool, but this trip really reminded me just how cool she is.  The phrase of this trip and beyond is:
              Momma Paisano Rocks!!!

Sometime during the day as we were wondering around and exploring, we heard some music that didn't seem to be prerecorded.  Since I'm Always in the mood to discover some new and/or good music, I had to follow my ears.  Imagine my surprise when we turned the corner and found a mariachi band playing in the square.  It was Great!  The band was having fun and enjoying themselves.  That means so much.  I know many artistic types and musicians from many different genres and it Always comes down to the fact that when  the artist enjoys what they are doing, it comes through to the audience.

When now decide that we want to head back to the hotel.  Sounds easy, doesn't it.  WELL...yes, you guessed it, I got us on the wrong train, so we ended up WAY out of the way.  While it was out of the way, it was interesting and an opportunity to see more of Switzerland and in the meantime, Also learned a new word. Flughafen.  Do YOU know what it means?  Momma does.  ;)

We finally got back to the hotel and we called it a day.  Both Momma & I wrote up notes on our adventure and that was it.  Tomorrow we start our true exploration of Switzerland.

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 4

Day 4 is Friday September 10

We are in Europe!  The flight from Chicago, (9/9) to Munich (9/10) was pretty uneventful, which is good.  We had the layover in Munich with enough time to make our connection with no stress AND since we were flying with Lufthansa, we actually had good food and snacks on all the flights, AND it was free, too.  What a pleasant change from the domestic US flights where they practically charge you to use the restroom.

The process to go through Customs went very smoothly and that was certainly a pleasant surprise.  That will be important later on for the return flight...

While waiting for our flight to Zurich, I had the opportunity to be in the general vicinity of an attractive lady with Great legs.  Now, before you ask, Of Course I didn't talk to her...I'm Shy, remember.  The flight from Munich to Zurich was nice and didn't take too long.  Really, after about 8 to 10 hours of flying, another couple hours doesn't really matter.  I think this flight was a bit over 1 1/2 hrs.

We are in Zurich at last.  Yay!

We checked into and stayed at the Park Inn for two days and used this as a "base of operations" until we head south.  The shuttle and check in went very smoothly and well, it didn't hurt At All that Anna, the gal working the front desk was CUTE.  Yes, I know "here he goes again".  I guess I have a thing for Gorgeous blue eyes, dark hair, a great smile & dimples, with an accent.  (By the way, No, I'm Not just like everyone else.  I really Do understand that True beauty is in what a person does & not how a person looks.)  In this case that accent was because she was from Poland.  Anyway, she was very pleasant and helpful.  Our room was pretty nice and comfortable, so upon getting checked in and settled down, we both ended up taking a nap.

Naptime for Joey was much needed and Mom Rocks, so after a an hour or two she was ready for dinner.  We didn't feel much like "exploring", so we had dinner in the hotel in front of the window that faces the airport.  It was a nice way to relax a bit and settle in for a Great 3 weeks.  Dinner was pretty good, if a bit pricey.  We wrap up and wonder our way upstairs.

Momma Paisano, (Dora, for those who don't know her), had a "Dora the Explorer" notebook, courtesy of yours truly and was absolutely Great about writing in it every night.  I'm so proud of her!  Between Momma's writing and my lesson learned from the Route 66 ride, (Not writing at least Some notes), I kept up on my writing as well.  I mean I've got a Ton of notes.  I wonder if I would have done better in school if I would have taken notes like this back then...Nah, it was boring back then.  :)

Tomorrow, we Explore Zurich!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 3

Day 3 is Thursday September 9

Today, we hit the road, well sky is more like it, I guess.

We loaded up the Vue and set out for the Quad City Airport, (Now called the Quad City International Airport).  Funny, it looks pretty much the same as it did 23 years ago.  Also, if it's International, why did we need to head to Chicago before flying to our first stop in Munich?

Anyway, we got our bags checked in and then had a bite to eat.  Airport "restaurants" are an odd sort.  They tend to either be pretty good or well, not so much.  The food at the Moline airport was OK and the service started out OK, but Wow did it go downhill fast.  The flight from Moline to Chicago is similar to the flight from Colorado Springs to Denver, just about 35 minutes or so.  Hardly seems worth it, but it is better than walking.

The flight from Chicago to Munich was all overnight and mostly uneventful, but we had two folks yakking behind us the entire time, (my Spanish is no bueno, so even the conversation wasn't interesting).  We didn't get to rest much, just a doze here & there.  Since the flight started out an hour behind, we were lucky enough to have layover time built in so that we were still able to make our flight from Munich to Zurich without freaking out, that's good because on the way back...well, we'll get to that. 

This will be continued because Friday September 10 was EUROPE!!!

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 2

Day 2 is Wednesday September 8th.

Today Mom & I spent the day taking care of last minute things like currency exchanges and making sure everything was packed, passports were at the ready and all of the itinerary(es) were ready to roll.  Hmmm...this seems suspiciously like a resume listing.  I think I'm ready to take a band on tour...hint, hint.  ;)

Time for bed once again & the idea that getting to bed early and getting rest is a good idea.  I don't know about you, but any time I am getting ready to hit the road/air, I can't sleep at all.  I might have gotten 4 or 5 hours, maybe.

OK, that's a wrap for another day.  I'll try to make things more interesting from here on out.

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Day 1

Day 1 begins on September 7.

I left Casa de Paisano around 8am, after spending some quality time with my girls.  The drive from the Casa to Mom & Dad's place in Buffalo, Iowa is just a touch over 900 miles.  During the drive I had much time to think about loads of stuff.

I thought about everything from death & taxes to work and kids and even "the M word".  The drive took around 13 or so hours and well, is Very boooring.  This time I went through Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.  We all joke about how windy Kansas is; well, I think Nebraska has Kansas beat.  You know it's windy when they have wind socks on the overpasses.  During the long trip across the state and the Neverending side wind, I thought the state was nearly as long as California.

The Vue did a great job and was pretty comfortable.  Even though it's more comfortable than riding the Lowrider, I still got bored and "twitchy".  I only stopped for the requisite "E & F" breaks.  In case your wondering - that means "empty & fill".  I think you can likely figure out what was emptied and what was filled.

When I finally arrived, 13 hours later, Mom, Dad and Nikki, (Mom's little white fuzzball American Eskimo dog), were waiting for me.  Actually, Nikki is pretty cool & she's great company for Mom.  :)  Once I pulled in, hugged everyone and took a whiz, I unloaded my stuff.  More importantly, I unloaded a special gift for Dad.

The gift was a combination of Father's Day & Birthday.  This project was a shadowbox.  It was supposed to be the Harley Davidson Bar & Shield and while it didn't exactly look that way, it turned out pretty well.  I put a HD cap, belt buckle, Dad's biker gloves, classic black & white pictures of Dad on his bike from 1955 and lastly, 2 black & whites of yours truly.  Check it out...

Unfortunately, the pictures just don't quite show it off correctly, must be the plexiglass.  Anyway, I think Dad actually liked this one.  He is VERY hard to buy or make stuff for.  This project was kinda YOU have an idea for a shadowbox or other project?  I have somebody who can help you out  ;)

After a beer, (or two), it was time to crash for the night.  Lots of stuff to do the next day.  So ends day one of this adventure.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Paisano European Tour 2010 - Prelude

     So, it's been awhile since I've worked on this Blog and I can safely say that I will have a Tremendous amount of information coming your way.

     In September, Momma Paisano & I went to Europe for an amazing three weeks of culture, history, mother nature and extended family.  I'll run through things beginning with my trip to Iowa, on 9/7 all the way through my return to Colorado on 10/2.

     I hope what is on the way will entertain you a bit and maybe make you think about some things as well.  The main thing I would like is for you to think about how important family is.  Family isn't always about blood, there are times when it's just about surrounding yourself with those that matter.  I was lucky enough during this three week tour to have many, many people just like that.  I want to thank everyone we met for making this trip an Exceptional trip and a wonderful celebration of Momma's 80th year.