April 30, 2016 8:00 PM Saturday evening:
I’m sitting in the restaurant annexed to the hotel where I am staying. It is a lovely small restaurant.
Though my travel plans for a full day in Zurich was shortened by several hours, I have enjoyed and relished the few hours I have been given. I walk along the popular Bahnhofstrasse, the fashionable and retail richly appointed boulevard that spokes outwardly from the Bahnhof Train Station in the center of town.
The strasse begins with department stores and brand names originating in the US or the UK. Window shopping or shopping here is redundant, useless but deeper into my walk the true jewels of Switzerland began to appear: Audemers Piguet, Breuget, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Phillipe and Piaget. This is the only retail shopping I desire. Unfortunately, my pocketbook does not match my very good taste.
I don’t care. Coming to the retail center of Switzerland means you observe (and try on) the best goods the Swiss have to offer- fine watches!
Salesman in watch stores are meant to charm and inform their customers into buying from them. Perhaps to overcome being in a store where the average watch begins around 35K, I charm the salesman with stories of watches, or connecting with them because I mention I am going to Kenya and they have both spent time in parts of Africa. Regardless, I am having fun and enjoying myself.
I window-shopped mostly but stepped into only two stores- Breuget andPiaget. Breuget had one of their original machines on the showroom floor displaying how they make the distinctive faces and back dials of the watches. The start with gold and cover with stainless. It is so impressive. I sit with Tobias the saleman and try on watches ranging from 25k to 38K. He brings me sparkling water and chocolates. I should love and value Brueget more than Piaget, but the classic Piaget style with a round face and diamonds has my name on it! I fell in love with it when I walked into the showroom. Fanno waits on me in this store and promises to send me one of their very fat, big luxurious photo books displaying all the Piaget watches- it is the grown up version of a Christmas Sears catalog- only better!
My second shopping expedition is more within my budget- Swiss Chocolate! I visit Springli which has loads of handmade pralines and truffles. Pralines are what we in the US would call assorted chocolates. Truffles are the cream, chocolate filled balls of chocolate delight! I examine all of them and decide on a few purchases which equal to fifty dollars. What can I say? It’s supreme chocolate you don’t get in the states.
I inwardly sigh a satisfied and longing sigh and leave the shops to walk to the end of the strasse where a beautiful outdoor scene awaits me- The lake and a view of the Swiss mountains. It is so idyllic, a scene you imagine traveling to a European country and city. The sailboats are docked in the lake and the mountains rise up faintly on this cloudy day but still recognizable as mountains with their snow laden peaks. And off to the side of the lake are beautiful old buildings and church steeples with clocks trimmed in gold.
The river from the lake ambles back toward the train station and walking along here, I find more restaurants and coffee houses. Elegant coffee houses with chocolates and pastries; a feast for the eyes and stomach.
The clouds are rolling in now and my stomach is rolling as well, due to needing food. I find a very traditional Swiss restaurant with the bratwurst, riosetti (a Swiss version of hash browns), and potato salad that fills me up rapidly. It is raining and by the time I am done with my meal, only the wet coolness greets me as I step outside and amble down a few cross streets off the main strasse.
The hotel and restaurant where I am staying- Hotel Krone- is right off of Kronestrasse and the city tram conveniently stops there. I love the transportation of this city- trains and trams are what everyone uses unless they are biking somewhere nearby. The weaving of the trams along curving roads is somehow aesthetically pleasing. I could stay here for awhile, imagining myself a citizen of such a clean, sophisticated town still retaining it’s small European charm.
I have powered through my day and now sitting in this beautiful restaurant enjoying white chocolate mousse garnished with medallions of orange segments and whipped cream, I am indulging for the last time today. The mousse is infused with a hint of coffee beans but not enough to overpower the white chocolate. Instead it seems to enhance the flavor.
Coffee so good that a nutty colored foam of coffee cream naturally tops each cup. I drink the first cup quickly and greedily, having to ask for another. What I find out in Zurich- there may be complimentary chocolates when you are viewing a 38,000.00 dollar watch but hardly anything else is complimentary, including my second cup of coffee or the bread sitting on the table at the Swiss-German restaurant that I took to be complimentary. It was not- one and a half Swiss Marks ($1.50 USD) for each one of them.
So ask before biting or sipping if there is a charge attached! I’m just grateful I wasn’t charged for the pat of butter I used on my bread roll or the sugar and cream I put in my coffee.
I love listening to the mix of the different languages of Switzerland- German, French and English. I have found most people to be very helpful and friendly (to the point of helping me drag my suitcase on to the train and helping me buy a tram ticket for the day). The people are beautiful and stylish and it’s more fun and easier to get around in than places like NYC or Chicago. There are free (yes, FREE) concerts in the beautiful cathedrals and public transportation is very reasonable.
No matter the small costs of eating, I am happy to have spent a day here in Zurich. I would do it again, and again. My room is lovely- the bed is very comfortable and as I sink down in it for my one night’s rest, I know it won’t be the last time I visit!