Uetliberg

The final part of my Swiss adventure involved a trip to the top of the mountain which overlooks Zurich: Uetliberg.

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From our base at the wonderful Hotel Atlantis by Giardino, it was an easy walk downhill to the train station, passing this cute little troll house on the way (no idea what its purpose was as it was deserted).

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The trains in Switzerland all run on time and this cute little mountain train was no exception. We passed through fields initially, then little villages, until finally reaching the forest.   I was delighted to see that the cows do indeed have bells in Switzerland.  I think this one was a bull actually.

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From the train station final stop, it was a steady 15 minute uphill walk to the very top.  I’d like to say the view of the city was amazing, but as we were above the clouds we saw precisely nothing.  It was worth it for the walk in the forest though!

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On our descent we decided to go into the station café for a bite to eat.  I confidently ordered from the menu in my schoolgirl German, only to be presented with something like a weiner schnitzel.  Not what I ordered but no matter – I need to brush up on my language skills.

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On a clear day you can see for miles from the station we were told, but to be honest, we really enjoyed getting out into the fresh air and into the beautiful forest.

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Zurich City Break

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If you were to ask me what my ideal city break involved, it would go something like this: fabulous architecture, amazing history, a river running through it, a strong sense of identity, foodie heaven, cute coffee houses and quirky shops.  Well, Zurich has all of these things in abundance.  In fact, it is so pretty I’ve had difficulty in choosing photos for the blog as the temptation to just photo-bomb you with pretty squares is huge!  On top of that, we are in the run up to Christmas, so the city’s festive vibe (think hot chocolate, sheepskin seat covers in outdoor cafes, sparkly window displays) only enhanced the experience!

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Not only did my Lonely Planet competition win include flights with Swiss Air and a fabulous stay at the Atlantis by Giardino, we were also given a Zurich City Pass which gave us 72 hours free transport in and around the city.

Steve is drawn to water so the first thing we did was jump on a boat for a lake tour.  The autumn colours were breath-taking!

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The trip takes one and a half hours and is free with the Zurich card.

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The city is right on the waterfront, so it was only a short hop into town to see the Fraumunster and its amazing Chagall windows.  We were very lucky to have popped into the cathedral just as an orchestra was rehearsing for that night’s performance of one of Bach’s cello suites, so we took a pew (literally) and enjoyed the music.

Next was a coffee shop recommended by the hotel: Schobers.  It’s like a winter wonderland in there, with the most amazing cash register I’ve ever seen.

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There are squares in abundance, each with multi coloured buildings that are just so typically European.

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We visited the very grand Metropol Café, famously frequented by Albert Einstein, who, it is said, developed his revolutionary theories in the early 1900s whilst sitting here with a drink.   Just look at those impressive columns.

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We also enjoyed a hot chocolate in café Odeon, where, in the first half of the century, writers, artists and intellectuals would hang out to discuss politics and culture.  The décor is grand and the place just oozes history.

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One of the prettiest areas is the Fisherman’s district where long, low houses lie along the water’s edge.  This district is crammed with antique shops and individual boutiques.

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Split across both sides of the river Limmat, the city is ideal for a city break because it is easily covered on foot.

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The architecture is a real mix of traditional and modern, with some lovely old squares having quite unusual pieces of art.

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You didn’t have to look far for traditional houses though, many with flowers spilling over the balconies.

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This was such a beautiful place to visit in the run up to Christmas.  I’ll leave you with a photo of this fountain in one of the many impossibly pretty squares.

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Atlantis by Giardino, Zurich

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to readers of my blog that I read Lonely Planet magazine, nor that my bulging bookshelves contain Lonely Planet guides to far flung places such as the Amazon, Australia and Thailand.  I buy them for inspiration, education and as often as reminders of places I’ve been.

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This month, thanks to a Lonely Planet competition, I struck the jackpot and won the most amazing city and spa break in the urban retreat, Atlantis by Giardino just on the outskirts of Zurich.

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From the moment we were chauffeured from the airport in the hotel’s sparkling white Range Rover (with heated massaging seats no less!) to the minute we were whisked back to the airport after five blissful days, I can honestly say we were treated like very special friends.  Instead of having to stand at reception to check in, we were offered iced tea and hot towels whilst our details were taken.

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The rooms are beautifully appointed and equipped with everything you might need, including robes and slippers, a free mini bar stocked with local soft drinks and Swiss chocolate, a Bose sound system, Nespresso machine, flat screen TV and my personal favourite, a huge walk in rainforest shower.  Above is the view of the city from our room which had a huge balcony to enjoy in sunnier months.

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Because the hotel is just outside the city, there was no noise pollution, unless you count the tinkling of cow bells (yes- the cows really do have bells in Switzerland) or the occasional sheep calling out.  Oh, and in case you think being a couple of miles away from Zurich is a disadvantage, I should mention there is a free shuttle back and to into town at whatever time suits you.

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The hotel has the most stunning floral decorations. Orchids (real ones) everywhere plus bowls of fresh fruit dotted around should you ever feel peckish.

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The hotel has two restaurants, the two Michelin starred Ecco and the casual dining Hide & Seek where we had dinner and breakfast.  The choice was staggering at breakfast, with continental breakfast, or cooked, with eggs prepared to order.  The buffet even including a fresh honeycomb.

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We had dinner at Hide & Seek on two nights, each including a wine flight of carefully chosen wines to accompany each course. My favourite dish was this shrimp coconut bisque which tasted out of this world.

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We visited the spa every day to take advantage of the pool and Jacuzzi and the soothing Dipiu spa products.  I enjoyed an aromatherapy massage too, with Franco, who has the most magical hands! I was massaged to within an inch of my life, and as a trained masseuse myself, I can tell you he was good!

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There is so much I want to tell you about the city, that I will cover it in another blog post, but in the meantime, if you ever find yourself looking for a break in Zurich, then this is the place to book.

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Packing for Geneva

We’re off to Geneva for just a couple of days this month.  This is what I’m planning to take.

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It’s hand luggage only, so everything has to mix and match.  That’s why I’m going for a navy theme.  The outfit on the back of this door is what I’ll be travelling in:

Straw Hat (M&S)

Breton wool tee (Two Danes)

Jeans (Debenhams)

Long navy cardigan (M&S)

Leather saddle bag

I’ll be adding to this a baby blue cashmere stole and electric blue trainers.

In my carry on bag:

Nude jewel sandals, navy tee, chiffon blouse, white jeans, vest tops.

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My minimal beauty bag contains Clinique City Block, Clarins body oil, a few samples, sun cream, a couple of Clinique lippies, mascara and a Benefit blusher.

Only time will tell if I have enough stuff but there are always shops in Geneva and I have these very pretty Swiss Francs to spend.

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