European Vistas Day 6: Mountains, mountains everywhere!

Lucerne

I’m not a person that typically eats breakfast, but on a tour like this when your day starts around 6 am and you won’t be eating lunch for another 6-7 hours, you learn pretty quickly to always take advantage of free breakfasts!  I haven’t mentioned our breakfasts much in my previous posts because they were all fine — typical European breakfasts with coffee, pastries, meat, fruit, cheese, and sometimes even hot sausages and eggs.

All of that preamble to get to this point… the breakfast at Hotel Hirschen was TERRIBLE. There was hardly a selection to choose from and the meat and boiled eggs that I ended up with did not taste like they were fresh. If you do go on this tour, make sure you have a granola bar or something to eat on this morning.

Even after a lackluster breakfast, we were all excited to be going to the Alps! We would be taking a cogwheel train up Mt. Pilatus and then walking up a bit more to get to the summit, then taking an aerial cableway down.

Pilatus

Swiss Alps

No one knew anything about cogwheel trains, and once we got to the mountain and saw how steep of an incline the train was on, I immediately regretted my decision, since I have a little bit of a fear of heights and will sometimes get vertigo in high places. In my mind, I imagined this ride would be the same as the climb you experience when you’re going up on a rollercoaster and it filled me with anxiety. In reality, once you’re actually riding the train, you don’t feel the incline at all! The way the train is constructed keeps you mostly upright and moves pretty slowly. You don’t get that roller coaster feeling at all, and the view from the train is spectacular. I quickly went from being scared and nervous about the ascent to wishing I had picked a window seat so I could get better photos.

The cogwheel train group
Part of the cogwheel train group

It’s cold at the top of the mountain. I think we were all expecting it to be a little chilly up there, but it was COLD. Cold like winter. Here we were in our tee shirts, and some of us in light jackets, and they did absolutely nothing to shield against the cold and wind.

Braving the cold to get the best view

There were enclosed buildings not far from where the train dropped us off, so we ran in there to warm up. While were there, a lot of us also grabbed some food, since none of us had done more than pick at the morning’s breakfast at the hotel.

After that quick break, we were prepared to face the cold again to walk the rest of the way up the mountain to the peak. It actually wasn’t all that bad since the walking helped us stay warm but the climb was longer than it looked. The views up there made it totally worth it though!

Taking the cableway down was also a fun experience, though it was little more than a glorified ski lift. Again the views from the cable car were gorgeous and it was an ideal way to cap off our Switzerland experience before making our way to France.

Dijon

We had a nearly five-hour bus ride from Switzerland to France, and it was a much-needed time for all of us to catch up on sleep and get prepared for a busy next couple of days. We arrived in Dijon in early evening and headed straight to the hotel, Ibis Dijon Clemenceau, to drop our bags off before dinner. This was a rare occasion when we had an hour of free time, so I took my time getting changed before heading back down to the lobby to meet the rest of the group for our walk into town.

Dijon town square
Notre Dame in Dijon
Notre Dame in Dijon

Before heading to dinner, our tour leader led us into town for a brief walking tour through the main square and Darcy Park.

Darcy Park

Dinner itself was in a restaurant that was converted from an old theater, still complete with stage, curtains, box seats and crushed velvet. The meal started with Burgundy Ham, followed by Beef Burgundy & Potatoes (with Dijon mustard) and an unidentifiable dessert. If I could have had a do-over, I’d skip the ham and the dessert and get a gigantic portion of the beef and potatoes. It’s one of the dishes the area is known for, and for good reason.

Burgundy Ham
Burgundy Ham
Beef Burgundy & Potatoes
Beef Burgundy & Potatoes
Unidentifiable gelatinous dessert
Unidentifiable gelatinous dessert

By the end of this day, we were all starting to feel the effects of going, going, going non-stop for the previous six days and the whole group was noticeably dragging. There was no talk about going to a bar or hanging out in the lobby once we were back at the hotel — everyone just went straight to their rooms, went to bed and dreamt of our next destination… Paris!

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