Travel Suisse: Road tripping with babies and Luzern

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Lucky us, Z and I finally have been able to do some traveling with the whole family! We’ve been laying low in the last months of my pregnancy, and the first months of E’s life, because that’s just the way things work out. But now, E is a healthy solid baby, three months old, and we’ve decided to tackle the easiest of trips with babies: the driving trip.

I was actually complaining not too long ago about how much quicker I recovered from X’s pregnancy and delivery than I did from E’s. However, I’m not actually sure that’s true. I spent the first three months of X’s life in near complete “confinement.” It was Calgary mid-winter, it was damn cold and I wasn’t going anywhere. I spent all day napping next to X, or feeding him, and if the laundry got done it was a minor miracle.

Two years later, I’m still feeding and caring for an infant, but I have a healthy active toddler that demands things from me ALL THE TIME. There is no resting, no delightful hours of baby cuddles or gazing at her face in adoration until the whole day has passed and I sheepishly smile that I hadn’t even gotten up yet. (I still do baby cuddles and adoring face gazes, but in much quicker doses!) I was still in immense pain from the delivery when I was out and about, taking X to classes or the park, while carting around my bemused infant. To her credit, E is up for pretty much anything and fazed by little – she is my awesome angel baby that I’ve earned with good karma through caring for X.

We took X on a road trip when he was about three months old as well (to Nelson, B.C. from Calgary). It seemed like such a huge thing, likely because I had barely been out of the house for that time. By the time E was two and a half months, I felt like such an old pro at getting them ready and stuffed into the car. We’ve already had visitors and have done some trips, although day trips to surrounding Switzerland and France. Now was the time for the exciting stuff: Italy.

Lake Lugano is right on the edge of Switzerland and Italy, up in northern Italy, set in the Alps. We wanted to take advantage of its northern location and drive through Switzerland to get there, even though it’s shorter to drive through Italy, because we have seen scandalously little of our country-of-residence. On the way there, we charted our route to follow the major Swiss highways, passing by Bern and heading nearly up to Zurich before bowing down through Luzern and into the Alps from there.

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I initially had planned to have lunch in Bern, the capital of Switzerland where we have never been, but “planning” to stop with two kids is always precarious. If both of them are sleeping, there is no way in hell I’m going to wake them up, no matter how hungry I am. As it turned out, we had kind of just passed Bern when both kids woke and demanded food, so we quickly pulled over at a truck stop.

I say truck stop, but that’s not really right. They are called “Aires” here – or they are in French Switzerland. I quickly tried to look up what they were in German as we were looking for a place to stop. No luck, so I just frantically pointed at the sign for a gas station as if rendered mute by my inability to understand German. This place we stopped at was nice, like a big truck stop for the whole family. There’s a restaurant, with a small outdoor play area, so seemed perfect for us.

Except for the price. Switzerland is expensive, but should we really be expected to pay more than 60 francs for a fast food meal? To be fair, my 25 franc bratwurst was really good, and the fries had great seasoning, but … c’mon. And to add insult to injury, you had to pay to get into the bathrooms. Z had thoughtfully rid my wallet of all Swiss coinage because we were going to Italy, but it left me coinless as I crossed my legs and tried to figure out a way to get in, along with a slightly smelly baby due for a change. Luckily I found some coins in my messy diaper bag (my mess can come in handy!) X loved it though, and we spent more than an hour there letting him play. Small price to pay for our comfort later on when he fell asleep again!

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The drive was really uneventful towards Zurich, and pleasant. The whole countryside is gorgeous, but once we turned towards the Alps, we started to get the really spectacular views! Two hours later we pulled over in Luzern, this time actually into the city and not into some hopped-up gas station. Well worth the effort. Luzern is one of the prettiest towns I had ever seen. The above photo was not, unfortunately, where we were staying, but I took this as an aspirational photo – as in, someday I will stay here!

We spent an hour enjoying Luzern, letting X run up and down the many bridges spanning the Reuss River that opened into Lake Lucerne. I fed E while Z and X enjoyed an ice cream. Ice cream is one of X’s favourite treats, but he’s yet to really figure out how it works. He kind of puts his mouth on it and takes it away, then looks up with a beautific chocolate smile and pronounces it: “Yum yum!” The whole thing would melt over his sticky hands if we didn’t help him out, which of course we gladly do.

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We also got a chance to walk over the historic Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, Europe’s oldest wooden covered bridge. It was busy, but not as busy as it would be at peak tourist season, so it was nice to see this monument. With kids, getting to see history is way less likely to happen then it used to. We spend a heck of a lot more time looking for playgrounds! This worked well as both, since X enjoyed running down the darkened wood path while I tried to navigate the crowds with my immense stroller.

I should also mention that we wanted to go away for a week, but decided to book from Sunday to Friday. This gave us some buffer days on either side to avoid feeling too overwhelmed by the trip. And it had the added benefit of driving against crowds and showing up at places when there were few people around. Also, avoiding the costly weekend days overnight! Totally recommended way to do things and I think we’ll start planning our trips this way in the future.

That was the first leg of our trip. On to Italy next: Lugano and Como, although sadly no Clooney sightings.

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