Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zurich:Very expensive and very beautiful.

On Aug 5th we left Paris for Zurich aboard TGV. A very comfortable 5 hour ride to Zurich. Only when we reached Basel did immigration officers get on board and asked for passports/visa. Having a US passport makes a difference. No questions asked. When we got off at Hauptbahnhof, Zurich's main station, just as at Paris, no immigration check in. Again we were stuck not able to take a trolley just because we lacked 2CHF in coins. Have they not heard of credit cards???

As a westerner we do take it for granted to find an "information booth" that is manned to answer questions. With their help we found our way to the taxi stand. Yet again the same problem of 5 passengers. A cabbie was polite enough to use his cell phone to call in a mini-van cab. Such mini-van cabs do not charge much more than a car. Off we went to Marriott at Max Bill Platz. We crossed by a drab looking Indian restaurant called "Kerala" on our way, our cabbie said it was close to the hotel we were staying.

After checking in at the hotel I inquired about booking a trip to Mt Titlis, part of Alps. The hotel receptionist helped us with the booking. It cost 140 CHF per person. Then off we went shopping at a mall opposite the hotel.

Coop is Zurich's grocery store. I was irritated that we could not get a shopping cart, again for lack of coins. At the grocery store next to my home we grab shopping carts at will and drop them off close to our car when we leave. Thanks to low-priced immigrant labor some guy would then collect all of them. No such thing in Switzerland. We grabbed a shopping basket instead, luckily being a basket they cannot latch them together like carts. Even at one look we could realise that the quality of food, the cartons, the packaging etc were a shade superior. Especially when it came to dairy products and fruits they were a cut above US grocery stores, well its Switzerland after all. The strawberries were the luscious best. We finished some quick grocery shopping picking up some lassi (yes lassi and it was much better than what I was used to in Madras and Tanjore), milk, fruits, bread, chocolates etc.

That mall had a "One franc store" akin to the dollar stores we see in US. It had the same pungent smell. I did not venture in.

A small pizzeria was our best introduction to how the Swiss love artistic settings. I had a wonderfully seasoned gnocchi served in nice polished wooden tray. Zurich was all about cleanliness. Even the small deli is clean and serving wares are pretty classy. That said when I came to know McD opens at 10 AM, no breakfast, I just wished for the American type. Just today morning I was at NYC McD and a Spanish speaking girl took my order for pancakes at 7:00 AM. I shall save more comparisons for later. When a McD server tells you "please take your seat, I shall bring the burger to your seat" and you get it 10 mins later you know you are in a different culture. This from McD that in US measures its serving time for drive-through in milli-seconds.

On Thursday, Aug 6th, we had "American Breakfast" at the hotel, the only difference between "American" and "Continental" is that "American" includes the hot omlettes, cereals etc. A kind of cereal made up like cole slaw was just delicious. Off we went to join the bus tour to Mt Titlis.

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