Switzerland

Rhine Runaway – Park Hyatt Zurich

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich to Munich

I just realized that I failed to include a review of our hotel! So before I describe the last legs of my flight home, here’s the scoop on the Park Hyatt:

For our two nights in Zurich I transferred 44,000 Ultimate Reward points to the Hyatt Gold Passport program. The points have since devalued and it now costs 30,000 points per night for the Park Twin room we had.

We were greeted promptly and assisted immediately at the desk. The desk clerk then escorted us to our room and showed us how to work the lights and the thermostat. It sounded basic enough as she explained it but we did have to play around with it a bit to get the hang of things!

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin

The room was pretty spacious at 387 sq. ft. (36 sq. m.). In addition to our large twin beds we had a desk with chair, a small credenza with a flat panel TV on top, a small vanity with a lighted mirror as well as a small bar area with the safe.

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Desk

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Desk

As is typical in many hotel rooms, the bathroom was immediately accessible when coming in from the hallway. The toilet had a small room to itself with an opaque, textured, sliding glass door. The bathroom vanity was large and had a small TV embedded in the mirror over the sink. There was no door between the vanity area and the tub & shower area but the showerhead was far enough away from the door that water splashing into the vanity area wasn’t really an issue. The tub was quite large and the wall beside it was actually wooden, sliding panels that opened up into the bedroom. A little awkward if you’re staying with a friend and not a romantic partner! Fortunately the panels fit together snugly so there were no embarrassing moments between friends. The large showerhead was not over the tub but in the far corner of the room. It wasn’t directly overhead but on the wall. I know a lot of people love overhead rainforest showers but personally I prefer ones that pound down on me like a constant mini-massage. This shower didn’t do that but neither was it so soft that I had a hard time getting the shampoo out of my hair.

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathtub

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathtub

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom Vanity

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom Vanity

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom

Park Hyatt Zurich Park Twin Bathroom

The bath products were Laura Tonatto and the scents were made especially for the hotel. I really enjoyed the hair products and brought them home to finish off the bottles. I wasn’t crazy about the scents of either the hair or bath products. Just a bit too “perfumey” for my personal taste.

Park Hyatt Zurich Toiletries

Park Hyatt Zurich Toiletries

Two bathrobes were provided. I’m somewhat tall for a woman and these fit me fine. A larger person would have trouble with the robe but I’m told that larger sizes are available for the asking at the desk.

A couple of things I almost always have trouble with in other countries are the bedding and the thermostat. At home I like a sheet, a light blanket and a comforter. I can sleep with that setup all year-round and throw covers on or off as needed during the night. Here (and on the river cruise as well) there was a fitted sheet and a duvet. It’s great that the duvet cover can be easily changed between guests but a top sheet would have been most welcome. Since we couldn’t turn the thermostat down as low as we wanted we were constantly throwing the duvet off and then pulling it back on. Really, hotel designers, let middle-aged women tell you how cool the room needs to be at night! Most people I know prefer to sleep in a cool room and then they don’t mind the heavier covers – but nobody likes to wake up in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night.

On our last night we walked back from our Italian dinner and felt we’d walked off enough calories to indulge in one last dessert for the trip. We went to the cafe area in the lobby and browsed the menu. Naturally we were hoping for chocolate melting cake again but did not see it on the menu. However our excellent waiter started describing a chocolate dish to us and soon we knew he was describing exactly what we wanted. One last round of cake and ice cream for the trip!

The staff was fantastic and the location made it easily accessible. It was in a very quiet neighborhood and inside was peaceful as well. I wouldn’t hesitate to return on my next trip to Zurich.

View from our Park Twin room at the Park Hyatt Zurich

View from our Park Twin room at the Park Hyatt Zurich

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Categories: Lodging Review, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I

We’d pre-purchased a Viator half-day city tour for the next morning. The meeting location was very convenient, just around the corner from the main train station. We took the tram to the train station and walked the couple of blocks from there. We’d hoped to find a place to eat breakfast in the train station but didn’t find anything to strike our fancy.

There are a couple of small kiosks there that sell tours and we went to the one that indicated they were a Viator supplier. But it turned out that it was the other kiosk offering our particular tour. With tickets in hand we went across the street to Starbucks for breakfast. Starbucks is usually kind of wasted on the two of us as neither of us are coffee drinkers but we found museli, fruit and hot chocolate, plenty to start the day off right.

Our tour actually started off at the park beside Lake Zurich and it was just as beautiful as it had been the day before. We were really very fortunate with the weather on this trip! Our motorcoach then dropped us off at the Dolderbahn, a rack railway that runs up the side of the Adlisberg mountain. (If you’re familiar with the Incline Railway in Chattanooga, TN, it’s similar, though not nearly as steep.) Once atop the mountain we had lovely views of the region including both the lake and the city. The Dolder Grand Hotel is atop the mountain and there’s a large park/recreation area up there as well, though we didn’t spend time at either place.

While we’d been riding up on the Dolderbahn, our motorcoach had been wending its way up the mountain so we were able to ride it back down. Kudos to the driver because some of those roads were very narrow and lined with parked cars!

Back in town we stopped at Fraumünster, one of the three main churches of Zurich, which is known for its five large stained glass windows designed by the artist Marc Chagall. They were just lovely but unfortunately no photos are allowed. That was the end of our tour and we were left to explore Aldstadt (Old Town) on our own.

Fraumünster

Fraumünster

One thing our tour guide had mentioned was that each spring there is a holiday that celebrates the end of winter. Called Sechseläuten, it’s usually held on the third Monday of April but apparently was a week later this year. The high point of the holiday is the burning of Winter in effigy in the form of Böögg, a snowman figure filled with explosives. In preparation for the festival a large pyre had been built and we could see the back of the Böögg figure. There were lots of folks willing to pay the charge and climb up to see him up close however! It had been a tough winter in many regions and apparently the good folks of Zurich were ready for it to be over.

The Böögg figure that will be burned to celebrate the end of winter

The Böögg figure that will be burned to celebrate the end of winter

Aldstadt Waterfront in Zürich

Aldstadt Waterfront in Zürich

We spent the afternoon and evening wandering through Aldstadt and collecting a couple of souvenirs. We ended up dining at Ristorante Toscano, a small Italian place. The meal was excellent and it felt more like a locals place than a tourist place though they spoke English very well.

It’s worth noting that everywhere we went in Zurich we had no problems with people not speaking English. Although my friend’s parents are from Germany and so she does speak and understand some German, it was nice that it wasn’t a struggle.

We were quite full from dinner and decided to walk back to the hotel to get in a little exercise since we knew we’d be sitting for hours during the flights home the next day. By the time we reached the Park Hyatt we were ready for dessert so we stopped in at the cafe there. As we perused the menu we didn’t see our favorite but found other options that would suit us. As the waiter answered our questions about one of the menu items he described something that sounded supiciously familiar. With a bit of clarification we realized one of items we’d overlooked was, in fact, chocolate melting cake! It was the perfect end to the trip.

Categories: Europe, Switzerland, Viator | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II

The Viking cruise officially ended in Basel, Switzerland on a Thursday. I wasn’t in any hurry to get back just to save a vacation day, so my cruise roomie and I decided to extend the trip through Saturday. We took the train from Basel to Zurich, which is about an hour away.

The Viking concierge arranged a taxi for us and one was waiting for us at their terminal at the appointed time. I don’t recall the price but it was very reasonable. Inside the station we didn’t try to use the automated ticket machines but the man at the ticket window was quite helpful and got us the correct ticket we needed. Fortunately there was a train leaving in about 15-20 minutes so we hopped aboard. I finally pulled out some reading material I’d brought for the trip. It was the first time I’d seen it since I packed it up on the plane! This was a terrific choice for getting to Zurich. The ticket cost 32 Swiss Francs or just over $35 USD.

Zurich’s main train station is very convenient for tourists. The local trams (on-street trains) are super-convenient and the whole area is very walkable. We picked up tram tickets at the tourist information office in the train station and only had to just walk outside to pick up the tram that would take us near our hotel, the Park Hyatt. We didn’t have to wait long and even lugging/rolling our suitcases (one large case apiece) it was easy enough to get them on/off the tram. Our tram stop was about two blocks away from the hotel. It was an easy enough walk with the suitcases though there was some construction in the area. (We have a running joke that we’re going to invest in a scaffolding company in Europe because it seems everywhere we go some building or tourist site is covered up with it!) We walked a couple of blocks and then couldn’t find street numbers though we knew we were close to the hotel. As we chatted about it on the street corner, a local asked what we were looking for and then indicated we were right across the street from it! The signage was so subtle that it was easy to miss during the daytime. At night the sign was lit and easier to see. More on the hotel itself in the next installment.

After getting settled in the hotel we got out and started exploring. We first walked around the immediate area of the hotel, looking for a place to eat. We eventually wandered into an Italian place and both ended up ordering pizza. If we’d only known how big they were we’d have split one! We ended up spending way too much on food – and because we hadn’t checked the tipping rules, we overtipped like crazy too. (At the hotel later we did check the tipping rules and realized our faux pas. That didn’t happen again but I’m sure the pizza guy loved us!)

Flower clock overlooking Lake Zurich

Flower clock overlooking Lake Zurich

It was a gorgeous day and we ended up near Lake Zurich. We enjoyed just walking through the park there and sat for a bit enjoying the sunshine and the water. There’s a small aviary there and we looked at the various birds housed there. We passed through the souvenir stands and wandered around looking at the architecture and some of the older buildings. After awhile we decided it was nap time and headed back to the hotel. While we never felt we had to rush while on the ship, we were glad to have some extra rest time.

The dancing fountains of Lake Zurich

The dancing fountains of Lake Zurich

That evening we wandered out again for dinner. We took the tram down to the train station and then meandered around the city from there. It was a lovely evening and we found a delightful cafe, Cafe Kranzlin. The food was quite good and the dessert…well.

Our one “complaint” (and it wasn’t a serious one) about the food on the river cruise was that there was no chocolate melting cake available. We even talked to Chef Imre and he said that while that dessert was offered on some of the longer cruises, it was not offered on ours. We’d had it before on a Mediterranean cruise and just loved the chocolate cake with the warm melted chocolate center. We’d had it several times during that earlier cruise and were looking forward to it again so we were disappointed when it wasn’t available. But Cafe Kranzlin had it! It was called by a different name but it was just as good. It was so good we had to send a photo back to our friends who had just landed back in the States. They were jealous!

Mmmm...chocolate melting cake!

Mmmm…chocolate melting cake!

One thing we’d read about, and found to be absolutely true, was that Zurich is a pretty expensive town.  Dinner with dessert, regular water to drink, no alcohol plus tip (a reasonable one this time!) – this came out to over $50 USD.  Just something to keep in mind if you plan on visiting.

But it was the perfect way to top off our first day in Zurich. We headed back to the hotel prepared for a good night’s rest.

 

Categories: Europe, Switzerland | Leave a comment

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