For my mom’s 60th birthday present, she had her heart set on a Mediterranean cruise, with visions of sunny skies, emerald green water and port cities that transport you back through hundreds of years of history. Her discerning taste with what type of cruise to go on, and the popularity of the Mediterranean cruise industry, meant that if my parents wanted to celebrate her 60th birthday there, they should have planned it before her 59th. So, when no cruise on the market seemed perfect, she went with Plan B, her second choice, the fall-back….. visiting her daughter in Switzerland. A Mediterranean cruise conjures up images of the Roman Forum, the Canals of Venice, the French Riviera, the Las Ramblas. Somehow, for many Americans, Switzerland falls short of being the substance of a daydream of Europe. (People occasionally still think I moved to Sweden). As a result, my parents decided to throw London and Paris in the mix for good measure. I was very much on board with this idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Switzerland, but compared to London and Paris, it lacks the recognizable historical landmarks and key sites of European history taught in US textbooks. (That said, trust me - it makes up for it in natural beauty.)
And so, my parents headed for London and Paris first, and then we greeted them in Basel. Our impression was they had had a wonderful time in London and Paris, but they have some key differences with each other in travel technique. My mom could be perfectly happy wondering a city aimlessly for hours by foot, whereas my Dad needs a plan, a sight to see, a fact to learn. Clearly, we would have to do our best to accommodate both of these styles during their time with us.
They arrived in the evening and we cooked them dinner in our apartment and allowed the travelers a bit of rest to prepare for the next day’s sightseeing.
In the morning we headed out to see Basel, walk the streets, climb the cathedral tower, shop for lunch snacks in the farmers market, and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Jason was our all-knowing guide. In the 9 months since we arrived in Basel, he has fully infiltrated the Swiss community and has learned a remarkable about of information about the city. Luckily, I can always count on him to play tour guide when any visitor comes to town!
In the evening, we had organized to have dinner on the Rhine river cruise. Surprisingly, the dinner cruise felt much less touristy then expected. Mostly, it was just a nice dinner with a great view of the city – and with some live music! All it all, it was quite enjoyable.
After exploring Basel for the weekend, we decided to head into the heart of Switzerland to get a taste of the beautiful scenery of the Swiss mountains. We took the train, but on the way we decided to make a quick stop in Bern. We walked through the city park, played a game of chess, saw the Parliament building, the famous clock tower, and headed back to the train station.
Next stop: Swiss Alps!
Here’s the view from our hotel in Wengen!
The following morning, we headed further up the mountain for a short walk.
After crossing my fingers for two weeks, worried that all we see is rain and fog, I was very relieved to have such wonderful weather for our trip.
The next morning, we had to head back to Basel, but luckily we could loop back around through Luzern (instead of Bern) to see some new scenery and a new town. The best part is that the train ride is about as stereotypical “Swiss countryside” and it gets:
We arrived at the edge of Lake Luzern and took a boat to the city.
We scaled the old city wall, examined the enormous clock, crossed the 12th century bridge, and shared a nice bottle of wine by the water. Not a bad afternoon.
The trip went spectacularly. Amazing weather, beautiful landscapes, quaint towns, and a bit of quality time with the parents! I think they both returned with a better understanding of Switzerland (mostly thanks to Jason) and an introduction to what it’s like to live in Europe. Thank you both for a great trip!
Although I’m sure they enjoyed themselves, my mom is still craving for some time on the Mediterranean. She was ahead of the game this year, so we look forward to meeting them both again in Rome before their ship sets sail in May.