Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rhine River Cruise-Post 4

My blog posts will never catch up with our itinerary this trip, I'm afraid. I am writing this one about the Alpine world of Lucerne and Zurich while overlooking the Tuscan gardens of our Siena hotel. Contrasting beauty in two magnificent parts of the world. Hotel Santa Caterina lies just south of Porta Romana on Via Roma in easy walking distance from Il Campo. Our friend Roberto Bechi reserved this 22-room charmer for us, and it's on Rick Steves' recommended list. Breakfast this morning seemed but a side note to the sights and smells of the rolling hills of Tuscany below our garden tables. Picture perfect!

Now back to Switzerland. It had been almost 30 year since Ben and I had visited Lucerne, that picturesque city on the lake of the same name and at the edge of the Alps to the south. We toured by foot and boat and then up Pilatus Mountain by cogwheel railway (the steepest in the world), cable car, gondola, and bus. Clouds at the very top prevented all but brief peeks at the verdant valleys below, but there is no bad way to view this delightful city. I love Lucerne.

AMA booked all of us in the ultra modern Radisson Blu with breakfast included. It is a beautiful hotel in a very convenient location near the central rail station and shops, even if we did decide that the architect never spoke to a group of women, let alone a housekeeper during the design process. Breakfast offered a wide variety of options, however, and the concierge and hotel staff were tremendously helpful every day.
Our trip from this more heavily Catholic region of southern Switzerland, to Zurich in the Reformation-heavy Protestant region was via both tour boat and bus. We sailed across Lake Lucerne to Vitznau, where we reboarded our buses for the final drive along scenic mountains and lakes.

I felt my Presbyterian roots in this city of Zwingli and Protestant churches, and our guides were well versed in the religious roots of their native land. There is much to see and do in this bustling city. Some of us took in the Rhine Falls, others visited the KunstHaus Zurich museum, and some chose to shop. Take your pick! For all of us, though, the most amazing highlight was the view of the Alps 100 kilometers to the south for both days of our stay--a rare treat even for the locals.

Our Zurich hotel could hardly have differed more from Lucerne’s Radisson--a pronounced veer from the contemporary to the traditional. Hotel Continental, formerly a Sofitel property, also positioned us near the city’s booming train station, the largest and busiest in Europe. Easy walking to the main shopping street, too.

I’ve focused thus far only on our itinerary and not the ship, food, and logistics of our cruise. I’ll do that in one of my next posts, however, since I’m more determined to stick with the itinerary for now. Since we were traveling with an elderly slow walker, I also want to add some pointers about traveling with the mobility impaired.  And watch for additional hyperlinks and photos when I've had a chance to edit and embellish my posts.

We said farewell to our cruise group in Zurich as most headed back to the States. Ben and I, however, boarded the Cisalpino train for our journey south to visit his relatives in Ancona, Italy.

No comments: