The Great Swiss Outing, Day 3: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Sleep was a little sketchy for me on the first night as my mind was dog tired, but my body still believed itself to be on U.S. time.  I awoke in the dead of night and wondered how long I slept.  Turns out I had only been asleep for two and a half hours, but it felt a great deal longer.  I watched TV until my eyes began to droop and managed to fall asleep again, though I had odd, jet lag dreams.  It was as if my wearied mind couldn’t put together a cogent story for a dream.

I was awoken from a deep sleep by the ringing of the telephone for my wake-up call.  It was a persistent little cuss as I had an auto call, a real person, and another auto call.  I organized my stuff, set my bag in the hall for the porter, and went downstairs for breakfast.

Breakfast was a buffet and I shared a table with Marty and Val as I enjoyed bacon, some incredible seasoned potatoes, smoked salmon, a bit of cheese, orange juice, milk, and a multivitamin drink that was actually pretty tasty.

We proved ourselves an organized bunch as all 43 of us were on the bus for us to leave at 8am on the tick.  First we would head to the Old Town of Zurich for a brief little tour.

Brane proved himself quite well versed in the history of Switzerland as he provided interesting tidbits of information.  We took a small walking tour of the town which was capped off with a visit to the Sprungli Confectionery.  They had assorted delights for a pretty penny.  FYI, Switzerland is the second most expensive country in Europe.  A bottle of pop costs 3.50 CHF (Swiss francs).  We were given a sample box of chocolate to nibble on at our leisure as we boarded a bus to visit the principality of Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is the smallest country on the planet and is ruled by a prince.  The royal palace sits high upon a hill and visitors are not permitted.  We stopped in the city of Vaduz which also doubled as our lunch break.

I wandered around the streets, marveling at the architecture.  I stopped at a convenience store for a Coke Zero.  Prices are much lower in Liechtenstein and I paid 1.60 Swiss francs for this beverage.  I walked back into the main part of town and stopped in at a Catholic church.

I’m not sure if this church actually has services as there was a bar in front of the altar with a sign saying, “Don’t approach.  Alarm in service.”  I did kneel and say a quick prayer that the tour would continue to go well before lighting a votive candle for my grandparents and my friend Kay.

I got back to the bus and we began driving up the mountain to the Julier Pass which has some spectacular views as it stands nearly 3,000 feet above sea level.  During the drive, Brane told us that the optional excursion of a buggy ride through the Roseg Valley was canceled due to inclement weather as it had started snowing hard.  We got a taste of the bad weather as the snow began to fall on us as well.  As Roseg Valley was another 4,000 feet above our current position, I can only imagine how much snow was pummeling them.

We took a brief stop at the top of the Pass for photos and restrooms, but only for a few minutes as the weather had turned mighty cold, mighty quick.  Then it was a speedy drive down to the spa town of St. Moritz.

St Moritz is known for a couple of things.  It has been the site of the Winter Olympics and it is split into 2 sections known as Bath and Dorf.  Bath is the resort/spa area of the town.  Dorf is the village area.  Specifically, it’s a village for the wealthy and I mean the very wealthy.

Tonight’s hotel was the Hotel Laudinella.  Since I would be getting a refund on the canceled carriage ride, I decided to reinvest the money into a massage.  If I’m at a spa hotel, I might as well get the full experience.  Right?

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Hotel Laudinella

I got the last appointment of the night at 9pm, then proceeded to take a long walk along Lake St. Moritz.  This gave me a great opportunity to test out my new camera as it can take panoramic shots and be adjusted for vista and night shots.

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I walked along the river as far as I was allowed, then turned back to the hotel.  At 6:15pm, we had dinner at Stuvi where I ate with Marty and Val and Mr. and Mrs. James Bond (not a joke).  Dinner was also buffet style and I had salad, water, turkey, shrimp cocktail, pork steak, rice & corn, potatoes, and a really ripping parfait for dessert.

Afterwards it was back to my room to get cleaned up and begin writing this article until it was time for my massage.

My therapist was the spa manager, Sonja Martocchi, who really worked the kinks out of my back, shoulders, hands, fingers, and especially a tight spot just below the back of my left knee.

I felt like a liquid when I was through and knew I would be guaranteed a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we get to sleep in for another 15 minutes before going through the drill for another 8am departure.  The road will be taking us through a bit of Italy before our final destination which will feature a cruise on Lake Lugano followed by dinner in a traditional grotto restaurant.

 

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Cotton Patch Redux, Days 3 & 4: Cotton Patchless

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Thornton Inn

I imagine you saw the title and thought, “Huh?”  Unfortunately, it is true.  Have you ever had one of those days where fate seemed to conspire against you?  Well, I had that day on Friday and that conspiracy caused me to miss Cotton Patch Gospel. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The drive to Arlington was a shorter trip though somewhat marred by bumpy roads, construction, and heavy Friday traffic.  After weeding through the obstacles, I finally found myself in the town of Arlington where I would be staying at the Thornton Inn owned and operated by Sunny and Terry Graham.

Thornton Inn is quite unique in the sense that it is actually a renovated fraternity house.  The house is actually one of the oldest homes in Arlington being built in the early 1900s.  Eventually it became a frat house until a ruling by the University of Texas-Arlington decreed that all fraternity and sorority houses had to be located on campus.  The home was bought by the Grahams to be used as an office for Sunny’s real estate brokerage.  A suggestion that the home would make a good B & B inspired the Grahams to restore the house to its former scholarly glory and open it to guests in 2013.

Sunny and Terry are very kind hosts and great conversationalists.  Terry, in particular, is full of many incredible tales.  Terry led me to my room, the Remington, which housed a massive king bed which has been one of the most comfortable I have ever slept in and a beautiful modern bathroom with a shower that reminded me of the “Car Wash” in the now defunct Quill and Quilt of Cannon Falls, MN.

After settling in, Terry was kind enough to print out better directions for the Repertory Company Theatre.  After dressing for the play, I briefly toyed with the idea of arranging for a taxi to take me as I was tired after several days of driving.  In hindsight, I wish I had gone with the idea.

Under the best of circumstances, the drive from Thornton Inn to Repertory Company Theatre is about 40 minutes.  What I had to deal with was anything but the best of circumstances.

The journey must be experienced as it is very difficult to describe the roads used to travel from Arlington to Richardson.  One must use the LBJ Freeway and the George Bush Turnpike which consists of a maze of roads and exits which could easily baffle much better drivers than myself.

I was actually doing pretty well and wasn’t too far from my exit point when I saw an electronic sign flash the message that an accident had occurred right where I needed to exit and traffic ground to a halt.  I managed to get around the accident, breathing a sigh of relief that I had given myself 90 minutes just in case.  Then I faced my second problem.

My directions said one had to stay to the left in order to make the necessary turn.  Well, I followed those instructions to the letter. . .and it put me back on the freeway.  Not a problem, I got off at the next exit and got turned back around as precious minutes ticked away.

I found my road and thought I would make it in time to the show, but then I glanced at the road signs where, to my mounting horror, I suddenly saw I was somehow on a different street.  It turns out that the roads in Richardson are not unlike the roads in Flagstaff, AZ.  In Flagstaff if you turn left, the road is Apple Street.  But if you turn left, it’s Blueberry Street.  In Richardson, you need to be in just the right lane or you may find yourself on a road other than the one you want.

I desperately tried to find my road again, getting directions from a gas station.  I finally got back to my road and found the area where the theatre was located, but knew it was an exercise in futility as the show had already started.  I heaved a frustrated sigh and headed back to the inn.

I debated about whether or not I wanted to try again the next night, but there were problems with that.  I knew that each performance had less than 3 rows of seats still available before starting the trip so I wasn’t sure if I could still get a ticket.  You also cannot buy tickets online once it its 24 hours before showtime.  You can call the theatre for a ticket, but the box office doesn’t open until an hour before curtain.  Assuming I could still get a ticket, I still would have had the 40+ minute journey to re-endure.  It was too much of a gamble.  I wrote a letter to the theatre thanking them for Friday’s ticket and explaining why I was unable to make it.

The stress of the failed trip took a toll on my sleep as I woke up during the night with my body going through symptoms similar to a panic attack.  A few deep breaths brought my twitching body back under control and the comfort of the bed helped me fall back asleep.

Terry and Sunny were very sympathetic about my plight.  Terry felt guilty as he had printed out directions for me, but I assured him he could have done nothing more.  The bad luck was completely beyond his control.  But the delicious breakfast of breakfast tacos, fruit, bacon, and a hash brown helped perk me up.

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Breakfast tacos

Luckily I had a relaxing activity planned for the day.  I had arranged for a 90 minute massage at the Sanford House Bed and Breakfast and Spa.  Under Margo’s ministrations I felt my body loosen up and unwind and some cheese and water afterwards helped complete the treatment.  The Sanford Spa is definitely worth a visit if you want some pampering.

Afterwards, I headed to the Parks at Arlington mall where I wandered around briefly before returning to the inn where I watched some Elementary, finished a video game, and caught a nap.

I attended worship services at St Maria Goretti Catholic Church.  This was a beautiful church and the people were so welcoming.  It was a nice service with a good sermon from Father.

When worship had ended and under the suggestion from Sunny, I had dinner at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House.  Sunny had raved about their food and the crowd that met me certainly testified to the quality of the meal as it was packed to the rafters.  Even as the dynamic uno, I had to wait 30 minutes for a table.

But it was worth the wait.  Babe’s is better as a group as it is family style dining.  You get your choice of one of 5 meats and sides of corn, biscuits, salad, green beans, gravy, and mashed potatoes are brought on.  I opted for chicken fried steak which I managed to eat half of and helped myself to a little of each of the sides.  The mashed potatoes are the best I’ve ever tasted.  Price is about $15 per person, so it is very reasonable for the quality and quantity of food.

When dinner was done, I did a little work posting photos, but found myself uninspired to write.  I decided to go to bed.

The next morning I had a filling breakfast of French toast, fruit, bacon, and sausage to strengthen me for the drive home.

I truly did enjoy my time at Thornton Inn and you cannot find better hosts than Sunny and Terry.  If you find yourself in Arlington, do yourself a favor and book a room here.