Our Unforgettable 10th Anniversary Swiss Getaway

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, SwitzerlandThe last time Doc Sci and I had the chance to escape alone, Charlie was still swimming in my stomach. We went to Milan for one warm, delicious day (the little one must have liked it because we ended up back in Italy to celebrate his first birthday). But with the little guy nearly two (2!!), we were due for another getaway.

With our tenth anniversary on the horizon, I entertained visions of endless days spent lying on Greek beaches, in private villas, and around infinity pools. These images must have been more delusion than dream because who I am kidding?! There’s no way we have the financial or child-care means to support such grand plans.

Instead, we ended up with a plan that was much more “us” than my former imaginations. We booked our trusty babysitter for a day and a half and set off for Switzerland to sleep in the Alps and hike the classic Faulhornweg.

Logistics

Faulhornweg day-trippers need to take the cog wheel train from Wilderswil to Schynige Platte, make their way to First (about 6 solid hours of walking, not including breaks), take the cable car back down to Grindelwald, and then a train back to Wilderswil.

It sounds confusing, but the basic idea is that you must travel up one side of the mountain, walk an insanely long way, and go back down the other side in order to return to your car. It can be done in reverse, but I consistently read that it was recommended to start at Schynige Platte.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

The terrace at Hotel Schynige Platte.

I figured with our limited budget, we’d need to overnight at a hotel in Grindelwald or even Interlaken. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Hotel Schynige Platte reasonably priced for Switzerland. The hotel sits just above the cog wheel train station on top of the mountain and affords diners and sleepers glorious views of the big three: Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger. Rates include both a five-course dinner and breakfast buffet.

Going Up

Since we missed the cog wheel train experience at Pilatus, both Doc Sci and I were eager to cross this experience off our bucket list. We bought tickets in Wilderswil and waited for the last train of the day. We were asked repeatedly if we had overnight reservations (yes) because it would be a cold night alone on the mountain if we didn’t.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

To our surprise, other than a pack of paragliders, we were the only passengers on the train, save one Swiss family with two children. Doc Sci and I were like giddy school kids, jumping over the benches, hanging out the windows, snapping photos every three seconds.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Interlaken!

At the beginning of the train ride, we could see Interlaken, Thunersee, and Brienzersee. But then the train went through a series of tunnels before popping out in front of her majesty, Jungfrau.

Just like with the Eiffel Tower, sometimes the best view is not from the monument itself, but rather from a distance.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Why, hello there.

The Hotel

We pulled into the station at Schynige Platte, and checked into our hotel. The Hotel Schynige Platte is marketed as something from “grandma’s time.” The bathrooms are very modern (though not en-suite), the hotel is renovated and sparkling clean, but we had to laugh at some of the cheesy antiques.

All chuckling aside, we could barely speak when we saw the view from our room. I’m absolutely sure we had the best room in the entire house because it was on the corner and we could see the Alps from both windows.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Jungfrau!

Dinner was a curious affair. I can’t remember the last time I ate a five-course meal in a restaurant. I must have forgotten that snobbery is often the only thing that comes complimentary.

When we arrived at our table, the waitress insisted that we must order drinks. We only drink water with dinner at home, and I didn’t see in any TripAdvisor reviews that drinks (or at least water) were not included in the dinner price. She refused to bring us tap water and because we only had a limited number of francs with us (stupid I know, but I was not expecting to be manhandled), we couldn’t just order anything regardless of cost. We awkwardly asked for a menu.

A little heads up on this would’ve been nice, and a little understanding from the server would’ve been even nicer. We finally ordered a half liter of Sprite to the tune of 6 CHF. Yikes.

The worst part was that we realized later that another table had tap water – and a different waitress.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Several of the courses were served on “plates” of stone or wood.

This flap put a bit of a damper on our dinner. We tried our best to ignore it, but this server was intent on remaining surly throughout the entire meal. To make matters worse, it started raining during dinner, clouding up our view of the Alps.

Well, whatever – we were here without kids, and we were going to make the best of it!

The room was chilly, but a space heater did the trick. As I mentioned, none of the rooms are not en-suite, but we never had to wait for a toilet or shower, and everything was very clean. It was odd to sleep in such silence with nothing but an occasional gust of wind to break it. We savored every minute of it.

In the morning, we rose early in anticipation of the long hike ahead. Breakfast was a limited buffet (though they did have hard boiled eggs and an assortment of pork cold cuts in the protein department). We made ourselves Alpine cheese sandwiches to take along, and we devoured the traditional Swiss yogurt and muesli in between swigs of coffee.

The Hike

After checking out, we stepped out into the drizzle. Unfortunately, the rain from the night before had lingered. Never mind that, our spirits were still high. Whenever anything threatened to fizzle our cheery disposition, we just looked at each other and said, “No kids!”Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

But this weather, this drizzle, was to be the best of the whole day. The plus side was that we were the only people on the trail. We could chat with each other or climb in silence. Our exclamations at the beauty of this place, even despite the fog and rain, annoyed no one. Pit stops were possible anywhere one pleased.

We traversed so many different types of terrain – huge boulders, tiny footpaths, bits of snow, gurgling streams. We dodged cow pies in pastures with scary heifers and slimy black salamanders that came out to frolic in the puddles. It was incredible.

The only thing that could have made it any more amazing would’ve been the lifting of the clouds so that we could have seen the peaks around us while we hiked.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

The down side of the nasty weather was that by the middle of the hike, we were already on our way to being soaked. We wanted to sit in shelter somewhere to grab a bite to eat. We came across one restaurant (Berghaus Männdlenen Weberhütte) that rudely shooed us away since we only wanted to take a break and not buy a meal. The only other restaurant (Berghotel Faulhorn) we saw was at the Faulhorn summit. We figured we had about 5 CHF to spare and bought a hot chocolate with that in order to sit inside and warm up.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Faulhorn summit.

Unfortunately, our clothing and belongings were now thoroughly drenched (note to self: check waterproofing on clothing and gear before going on a substantial hike). Putting them back on and stepping back out into the chilly rain and blistering wind sent my teeth a-chattering and my body temperature in a frightening downward spiral. Thankfully, I warmed up again after about 30 minutes, and at that time, we discovered a free hut where we could have eaten our lunch.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Bachsee.

This hut looked out over the Bachsee, a lake popular with tourists ascending from Grindelwald to First. The sea was dead that day – no swimming, no fishing. I had hoped to take a dip in the Alpine water, but no dice. We had to keep moving to stay warm and get to a place where we could finally dry off.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking from Schynige Platte to First, Switzerland

Don’t get any crazy ideas – that’s a camera and zoom lens in my jacket, not a baby bump.

Water literally poured off of us as we stepped inside the cable car at First for the ride back down to the Grindelwald valley. I think the only things that weren’t completely dripping were our feet (thank God), our cameras, and our phones. We rode down the mountain relieved to have made it and eager to get back to our car to change into dry clothes.

Final Thoughts

Would I do this hike again? Absolutely. But, only if I had the assurance of a clear day with no rain. And I think my boys would love this route in a few years. Perhaps we’ll go back for our 15th anniversary.

Doc Sci and I talked about anything and everything during the hike to stay focused, positive, and warm. I am so thankful that we are the best of friends. The fact that after 10 years of marriage, we still have things to talk about really encouraged me. While I would have obviously wished for better weather and more amazing views, hiking in these awful conditions really solidified something for me. I’d rather be in a miserable place with my husband than in a gorgeous one without him.

Have you ever had weather or vendor attitudes threaten to ruin your plans for an amazing vacation? I’m not always this positive – I think the absence of potential chorus of whining helped – so if you have any tips on how you managed to make the best of things, share them in the comments below.Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

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Traveling Mercy: Take Action Against Human Trafficking

CHILDREN of the CITY BookIt’s Valentine’s week, and whether you are into the holiday or not, the hearts and flowers are everywhere – love is in the air! I’m pausing my not-quite-lovey-dovey Parisian series today for an important message from the heart of a very dear friend of mine.

Tiffany Pastor and I met over 10 years ago when we were both living in Orlando, Florida. We became fast friends, especially when we realized our husbands already knew each other. We’ve traveled together on a fun Caribbean cruise, driven halfway across America together, and literally weathered storms together (hello, Florida hurricanes of 2004!).

And now, Tiffany has written a novel about human trafficking with the intention of bringing awareness to this heartbreaking reality.

Though the book is set in America, human trafficking is an issue that affects people, and especially travelers, everywhere. I invite you to read her words today, and I personally ask you to support not only the launch of her book but efforts to eradicate slavery wherever in the world you may be.

The Background

Maybe you have heard the statistics…

  • 30 million people are enslaved globally, funding a $34 billion industry.
  • An estimated 300,000 prostituted children live on the streets in the United States.
  • 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.
  • In America, 2300 children go missing every day, and 2/3 of those will end up in the sex trade.

The numbers are staggering and numbing.

Even with our best intention, we might say: “Wow, there are so many of ‘them’.” However, the moment we categorize the victims of human trafficking as a ‘them’ we have unconsciously held their sorrow at arm’s distance.

With compassion we might serve ‘them,’ or give to ‘them.’ We might fight for ‘them.’ But we would stop at nothing if it was one of US.

I realized this brokenness reached one of US one day when traveling. I was given a glimpse into a little girl’s life. She was in danger, and no one seemed to help her. I looked her in the eyes, and made a call to report my suspicion.

When I think of human trafficking, I don’t just think of the numbers anymore. It’s not a ‘them.’ It was HER. I picture her. Now, I picture the faces of people I have met, people with stories so heart wrenching that I can not stop fighting for freedom, because I know they are one of US.

The Story

CHILDREN of the CITY is a novel about human trafficking in America. It transforms the numbers of statistics into the personal connection to someone’s story. People may not feel they know a victim, but when they open the book, these characters come to life before them. It changes the issue into a heart’s cry for justice.

Many people feel compelled to make a difference but they don’t know how to respond. CHILDREN of the CITY spreads awareness that opens our eyes to the communities around us, and becomes a tool to share in the hands of readers.

A call to action at the end of the book features tips and signs to be aware of, as well as a list of non-profits who which to get connected.

When the book is released, 40% of all author profits will be donated to freedom fighting organizations.

What Can I Do?

The book will release in April 2014, and a Pre-Release Launch has just begun! Incredible doors to spread the story are opening up. As future events and conferences welcome the story into their venue, the cost of accommodating a print-run for the book falls to me as the author. That is why pre-ordering your book now really matters!

As you purchase the book, the funds will give us the ability to say “YES” to each opportunity and walk through those open doors with the book in hand.

Take a moment to check out the theatrical book trailer:

Ready to take a stand against human trafficking by supporting CHILDREN of the CITY? Pre-Orders are only available until February 24. Click here to contribute.

Anyone can buy the E-Book for $10. This donation or pre-order is a tangible vote that says “I CARE! And I won’t put up with it!” It’s a small price for a huge impact!

If you prefer a paper copy or would like to order multiple copies for a book club or resources for small group discussion, you can also do that here. We have perks at nearly every price point as a way of saying THANK YOU for taking a stand for the enslaved among us.COTC PreOrder Form

Thank YOU!

Thank you for sharing the story! Thank you for donating, and thank you for being a freedom fighter together. I am honored to stand for justice with you!

I’ve just ordered my copy – now it’s your turn! Please check out CHILDREN of the CITY’s website to learn more about Tiffany and this life-changing novel. You can also like COTC on Facebook here.Signature-Marigold

A Jar Full of Date Nights at Home

Thrifty Travel Mama - 35 Ideas for Date Nights at HomeSo, how was your Valentine’s Day?  Say, what Valentine’s Day?  Right, right, the one last week.  Did you strike out?  Buy overpriced red roses that died the next day?  Bought milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate?  Totally forgot the day all together?

Well, here’s a thrifty idea sure to patch things up and even win over the Valentine’s Day haters – a home date night jar!

We are blessed to have some great babysitters here, but using their services every week is more than our budget can handle.  It’s doable for us to splurge once a month, but what about the rest of the time?

Relaxing with a movie at home is our Friday night activity of choice.  But, it can get old.  And what if there are no new interesting and/or appropriate movies to watch?

I came across this Home Date Night Jar on Pinterest, and I thought it would be a fabulous Valentine’s Day gift for Doc Sci.  It’s ridiculously easy; the hardest part is coming up with ideas that you know you and your significant other will enjoy. To (hopefully) make things easier for you, I’ve listed 35 ideas below.

I scrawled each one on a small scrap of colored paper and then shoved them inside the jar.  I threw together a quick label, attached it with packing tape, and voila!  Done.

Like my label?  Download it here: Date Night Jar Label.  I’ve included the color and a B&W version.  Free for personal use only, please!Thrifty Travel Mama - 35 Ideas for Date Nights at Home

Date Nights at Home – Ideas

  1. Make Fondue (cheese, pizza, meat, chocolate, etc.)
  2. Play a board game
  3. Dig out the cards and play Gin, Rummy, or the like.
  4. Poker Night – get creative with what to bet with!
  5. Make Milkshakes and watch That Thing You Do!
  6. Start a bucket list and post it somewhere that you can both see it and add to it
  7. Whip up some hot chocolate and sit outside together
  8. Bake a batch of the most amazing chocolate chip cookies ever
  9. Do a puzzle together
  10. Dream about where you want to be in 5 years
  11. Scour You Tube for hilarious videos
  12. Mexican fiesta – tacos, chips & salsa, and Nacho Libre
  13. French theme night – French onion soup, French bread, and watch Amelie
  14. Italian evening – pizza or pasta, gelato, and The Italian Job
  15. Korean wave – grilled, marinated chicken or beef, karaoke, and My Sassy Girl
  16. Have a chocolate tasting and watch Chocolat
  17. Eat ice cream sundaes and watch old videos you have made
  18. Write the story of how you met
  19. Make an Amazing Race audition video
  20. Order take out and eat it by candle light
  21. Wii Games – husband’s choice
  22. Wii Games – wife’s choice
  23. Find a book you both want to read and take turns reading out loud to each other
  24. Watch a movie made before 2000
  25. Be a kid – stock up on junk food and watch your favorite TV series from childhood
  26. 80s dance party in your living room
  27. Wine, cheese, and fruit night – keep those pinkies held high!
  28. Sports Night – watch a game, eat nachos, drink soda, and root for the home team
  29. Chow down a picnic in your living room
  30. Cook breakfast for dinner and watch cartoons
  31. Write silly love notes to each other and hide them around the house
  32. Eat cake and watch your wedding video
  33. Bake a dessert from when you were dating and share your favorite memories
  34. Try your hand at making some gourmet popcorn
  35. Go to sleep early!

Want more?  Check out Six Sisters’ Stuff for hundreds of other ideas.

What would you add??Signature-Marigold