The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur In Italy
August 1 - Zurich
I wonder if there is a 12-step program for e-mail addicts. I was not able to get an Internet connection in Gersau. The best I could find was an Internet setup at a local restaurant where I could send messages, but not check my mail or download to my website. So after sending a few "we are still alive" messages to the family, we decided to leave the lake and head for Zurich. In addition to the Internet issue, I also will be turning the car in there instead of Milan as originally planned and need to be sure that can be accomplished without an international incident. (Schlepping all our bags on and off the train just seemed like too much of a hassle!) I will also feel more comfortable if we can re-confirm our return flights.
The rationalizing complete, we rolled into the deserted city of Zurich. I was happy not to have to fight with traffic, but we couldn't figure out why there was nobody on the streets on a Tuesday morning. When we got to the hotel and discovered that this was a Swiss national holiday, roughly their equivalent of the Fourth of July.
We are staying at the Hotel Zurichberg which sits on a hill well above the city. Very quiet and restful . . . and a little strange. The building in the brochures looks old-worldy (is that a word?) but as we were directed into the underground parking garage and came up to the room, we found something very 21st century. The annex is about 30 rooms arranged in a helix -- there is a long ramp-like thing spiraling from top to bottom with the rooms set in the outside wall of it. Very futuristic. The rooms are very large, very minimally decorated and have great baths! The interior package looks like it came from Ikea if you are familiar with their stuff. Comfortable enough but seemingly out of place with the look of the rest of the hotel.
There was no purpose in heading into town -- everything was closed for the holiday -- so we just hung out around the hotel. We took both lunch and dinner on the terrace overlooking Lake Zurich. Margene spent the afternoon napping while I (finally) got caught up on the electronic chores.
The restaurant has an interesting policy -- they do not serve alcohol. There is alcoholic beer and wine in the mini bars in the rooms, but the restaurant is on a health kick. They have a decent selection of non-alcoholic beer and wine but I found the policy curious for a property that draws a reasonably sophisticated crowd (and us!) The service timing is more what we are used to in the US and the staff is reasonably multi-lingual.
I am reminded again what linguistic lightweights we are in the US. In Europe, most people can get by in at least one or two languages beside their native tongue. We do our best to learn enough Italian, German or whatever to get by but it is such a relief to be understood in your own language. Come to think of it, it is probably the same feeling our foreign born staff might have when we take the time to learn enough of their language to be able to communicate effectively.
At the least, I have a fresh appreciation for what Europeans must go through when they visit us. How many of us offer menus in several different languages? I thought it would be helpful to me (here) if, in addition to an English translation, the menu had two price columns -- one showing the price in local currency and the other showing the approximate price in US dollars. Just another way to be more user-friendly.
The evening was about fireworks . . . everywhere! Apparently civilians can buy some pretty sophisticated pyrotechnics as there were star shells and professional-looking displays popping out of back yards all around the lake. We were in the perfect spot to see it all, too. We missed the fireworks in Venice the night we arrived, so it was nice to close the trip with the same sort of festive display. Everybody was into the show and I enjoyed hearing the same sort of comments you hear at a Fourth of July fireworks show, except in German, French and who knows what other languages? We are all pretty much the same in that regard. Nice.
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