Monday, June 25, 2018

Three Countries in a Week

Zurich Insurance has held their CIO conference every summer as long as Tom's been associated with the company. This year was no different except that the conference was in June rather than July. If he's going to Europe, I'm going along. The complication for us was we already had tickets to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl during the conference week when the dates were announced! We had to do any travel in addition to Zurich on the front end of the trip. I left Tom in Zurich to come back for the concert. I wasn't about to miss Andrea Bocelli - he would have been so disappointed!

Eva and Roger
Getting through airport security may be the toughest part of the journey. I am often selected for a random check, or something is spotted in my carry-on that appears dangerous (think telescoping shoehorn). Leaving LA,  it was Tom who had to go through the extra screening and not me! Our first scheduled stop was London, but our flight was diverted to Washington DC for a mechanical issue. We stayed on the plane on the ground for about two hours until all was resolved. The crew never elaborated and we were eventually underway again.

We have good friends from our Zurich days who have repatriated to the UK. We had a very enjoyable reunion in their garden shortly after our arrival. (although we were very tired, we needed to push through and try to adjust our body clocks to the local time) 

Roger, Eva and Tom

so great to be with Eva again!

An interest Eva and I share is food - she prepared a delicious dinner for us. 

We spent Sunday in pairs. Eva and I went to Kew Gardens and the men went to the British Museum. I knew Eva and I would do way too much talking to be inside in a museum! Kew is also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens. What a beautiful place!

The Temperate House is huge and impossible to capture in one photo. It recently reopened after years of renovation. 

main entrance

one end of Temperate House


 We timed our visit to the Temperate House to also see the aerial show. 

musical accompaniment was haunting, but beautiful 

safety harnesses are for sissies

We only enjoyed the Palm House from outside. It was warmer in London than forecast and an interior look would have been unbearable on already overheated bodies. It must be a great place to be on a chilly day.  

Palm House

Kew has something for all ages. Children have the chance to hunt for dragons on the grounds. We didn't intentionally search, but easily happened upon a few. Because of their size and colors, they were impossible to miss.

notice pagoda on the wing

The pagoda at Kew is almost ready to reopen after renovation. Every point has a dragon on guard. 
so shiny!

Kew has its own castle - once the home of King George IV and Queen Charlotte.

Kew Castle

Queen Charlotte had 14 children - maybe that's why she looks exhausted!
boys in red and girls in black

The women gathered for sewing and other activities in this room. I was intrigued by the table on the left. The bit hanging under the work surface is where fabric was stored.

nice view from the castle

 Of course, Kew has plenty of gorgeous flowers and trees. This is just a sampling.


beautiful and fragrant

these remind me of popsicles

We had such a great day. I definitely want to go back. It would be a different experience with each season. I'd also like to walk along the Treetop Walkway. We decided it was too hot to try, but there's always next time! 

While Tom was slaving away at meetings, Eva and I toured the Royal Opera House (ROH). Unfortunately, the guide started by saying "don't even think about photos." I understood why we shouldn't photograph the ballet workout we were able to watch, but the rest is a mystery. Since we were returning in the evening for a performance of Swan Lake, I knew I'd have another chance. 

Royal Opera House exterior - buildings across the street make photography challenging

ballerina sculpture near the Royal Opera House

Covent Garden is also near the Royal Opera House and a fun place to wander around - lots of shops and restaurants. And maybe you'll also happen upon an opera hopeful trying to make some extra money. 

Covent Garden
Covent Garden interior

 ROH interior staircase

It is possible to have dinner before a performance at one of the restaurants inside the ROH, but we opted against that. Instead we chose another restaurant in the vicinity and had a very nice meal at a more reasonable price.
it was fun to have a reason to put on a dress!

Thanks to Eva, I now have my own pair of opera glasses and guess what? They work nicely for the ballet, too!

Next stop, Cologne, Germany. 

Tom had an invitation to a conference in the area which made it possible to also visit both Opa and our friends, Hartmut and Inge Handt. 

While he was at the conference, I amused myself in the little town of Bergisch Gladbach.


interesting cross at the altar

WW1 monument

I  spent the rest of the day slumming it at Schloss Bensberg (our hotel and location of conference). Don't feel sorry for me. 

This tower is used on all their advertising and replicas were on the room keys - they were heavy!  

I took a photo of a sign in town showing the whole complex since there's no way I could capture it all. 

If you are substantially poor, you can use this carriage when you have your wedding celebration at the Schloss. The Rolls Royce was in the garage. 

We've known the Handts for over 30 years! Hartmut stayed in our home often when he traveled with a German choir visiting our church in Westfield, NJ.  The T-shirt he is wearing has the monogram of JS Bach, a very popular composer of both choirs.
we had a lovely afternoon with Hartmut and Inge

Leaving Cologne to fly to Zurich wasn't easy. Of course, there was another trip through security. Both my ipad and carry-on were pulled aside for closer examination. My ipad had tested positive for explosives! This required a group of POLIZEI to come and question me - a bit intimidating to say the least. They didn't stay long and gave me back the ipad. Then I was accused of concealing a knife in my carry-on! I knew exactly what they were noticing, but it hadn't been a problem on my way to London. I had brought several sets of spreaders with cute handles to use as gifts. The set with teapots for Eva, wrapped in tissue paper, made it through security without a hassle. This time I had to unwrap them and then was told they were nice. I guess I should have left them in the checked luggage. Nothing is easy. 

with Monika, leader of the walking group and a fellow chorister
After a short flight, we landed in Zurich - familiar territory. Since there were only a few days, I had to prioritize which friends to see. Several of the people I knew have also moved away making the choice a bit easier.

Luca, horn player without glasses

My young colleague from the Posaunenchor, Luca, let me know that his youth band had an outdoor concert scheduled for the evening of our arrival. Perfect timing. It was also a beautiful evening to be outside. 

no euphoniums!
Back in Switzerland, another priority was enjoying the natural beauty. We chose Flumserbeg because it's easy to get to and not too far away. Oh, and also gorgeous! 

One could argue that all of Switzerland is "Heidiland", but the Swiss limit it to this region. 

In order to get up to Flumserberg, we rode in a cable car. The windows are scratched up from people transporting their skis (no good photos from inside), but a scan of the ticket gives an idea of what it's like.

Quintessential Switzerland: hills with cows grazing, but also a track for human amusement (in all seasons).  We saw people riding go-carts down the long tracks. 
soaking in the view

very fun and sophisticated jungle gym - lots of things to climb and zip along

I'm glad he packed this backpack!

Wallensee below Flumserberg

After a great outing, we met friends in Zurich for dinner. It was another beautiful evening to eat outdoors.

friends through tennis: Margaret, me, Pat

the husbands: Rusty, Tom and Jim

a very musical family!
My last day in Europe was spent with friends from the tiny Methodist church and members of the Posaunenchor. The Hunold family hosted us and a few other musicians in their home after church giving us more time to visit (in addition to a very tasty and plentiful meal). Sadly, no one remembered to take pictures with the whole group. Luckily, Petra had sent me a picture of the Enguel siblings earlier. Only the two women joined us for this gathering. Their brother was spending his weekend in the mountains - can't blame him for that.

our hosts, Petra and Erich Hunold

We took a walk in the afternoon and saw some lovely views of Lake Zurich with Horgen in the distance.  

Lake Zurich with Horgen on the right coast

unplanned color coordination
pond near Hunold's home

the friendship began with the two of us

definitely fun to have an 18 year old friend (Luca)
It will probably be a year before we go to Europe next, but we won't have to wait a year to see the Hunolds. They will be spending some time with us in Westport in August. More good times await!

Leaving Zurich, there was one more opportunity to go through airport security. Guess what? My carry-on was once again chosen for closer scrutiny! This time my round cheese was mistaken for a large container of hand cream or other contraband. Really? Leaving Switzerland and you're surprised someone has cheese?  Airports are the worst part of traveling, but I'm still going to do it. Train travel within Europe is often a much better option, but with the UK involved, it would've taken too long.