Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Italian Riviera, Swiss Alps and Strasbourg.....

Instead of driving back to Luxembourg through France again, we decided to take a different route through the Italian Riviera and the Swiss Alps.

In a word, it was breathtaking. The drive was extremely long for our young family -- Bitsy sucked on my pointer finger from where I sat in the front seat through five countries, and Charlie threw up every 100km -- but the journey was well worth it.

We drove along the French Cote d'Azur to the sweeping western curve of the Italian Riviera, which is sometimes called the coast of the setting sun. From our winding mountain road, we peered down on the sparkling Mediterranean, colorful seaside villages, pristine beaches and rocky cliffs, all with the a backdrop of the Maritime Alps. Just north of Milan, we stopped for a gelato break in Lake Como (home to George Clooney). As we got back on the highway, we were surprised to come right up on the Swiss checkpoint.
I borrowed this image, but I promise, this is what it looked like!
Lake Como
Gelato break!
And before we knew it, we were in the majestic Swiss Alps, threading between spectacular snow-capped peaks, glacial lakes and lush green valleys. I never wanted it to end! It was fascinating to drive directly into a mountain through a 17,000 meter tunnel. 
We arrived in Lucerne, nestled amidst Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi, with enough daylight left to enjoy a fondue dinner along the river. We sat right beside the Chapel Bridge, which was built in the 1400's! Rob, who's allergic to cats, was such a good sport. At our farmhouse in the South of France, a neighbor's pet must have sat on his shirt while it was drying on the patio. Throughout the drive in the Alps, Rob's eyes continued to swell until they were slits and he looked miserable. With all the pharmacies closed on a Sunday and no such thing as Walgreens (that's Europe for 'ya), we ordered a beer and went home to crash after a long day.
Six hundred year old Chapel Bridge
Festive Swiss dinner. Poor Rob's eyes! Darn cats!
Bitsy was 7 1/2 months old and a terrific little traveler!
Early morning Lake Lucerne
The next morning before the city was even awake, we walked through old town to the Lion Monument, which was carved into a cliff face to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were killed during the French Revolution. The carving depicts a dying lion -- it was peaceful and powerful, even for the children. 
The Lion Monument
We pushed off again for the final leg of our journey, stopping for crepes and some sightseeing in the charming Strasbourg, which is in France on the German border. The buildings look like darling gingerbread houses, though a quick look on Wikipedia explains the medieval, gothic, Romanesque and Germanic influences in the adorable town. We can't wait to go back around Christmas time when the markets are set up!
Strasbourg sits along the Rhine River
It was so hot! The kids jumped right into the fountains!
Crepes and Fanta!
At last, we made it home! It felt like a giant accomplishment to travel so far with four young children -- an even bigger undertaking than we realized. We had a blast, bonded as a family, and learned important lessons about how to travel Europe. Now we feel seasoned and ready for more.

The next morning, my cousin, Ann, and her darling family arrived from Singapore, and two days later, we were off to America for home leave 2015!

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