In Switzerland, You Can Have Fun Traveling In The Summertime Too

Events, Festivals, Hiking, Biking, Swimming And Hanging By The Lakes

Lake Zurich Switzerland

One of the summertime pleasures of Switzerland is hanging out along Lake Zurich.

 

Switzerland may be rightly regarded as a winter paradise, but don’t overlook it as a summer destination.

In fact, it’s a treasure of events and festivals, as well as activities such as hiking, biking and swimming. Or, simply, hanging by one of the country’s many lakes on a beautiful afternoon.

The latter was demonstrated to me on one such day in Zurich.

The sun was out and so, too were the people. Hundreds of them were strolling along the Limmat River and just a few pleasant moments afterward thousands more were spread out among the bank of Lake Zurich.

Several people were in the river and lake, splashing around and swimming. Other were sitting on benches or on the grass. Me, I was having a beer!

You can’t do that where I live in California, drink a beer out in the open in the public.

Zurich also hosts a massive party in August known as the Street Parade, Aug. 29. Hundreds of thousands of people take part in an an electronic music parade followed by nights in the clubs with top DJs.

Not far away – and nothing is far away in Switzerland – there’s a huge music festival in Luzern called (and I’m not kidding) the Blue Balls Festival. It’s July 17-25.

And in the mountains, well, those ski trails turn into hiking trails. I’ve done this, too, in Zermatt, walking past that mirrored lake with the reflection of the Matterhorn staring back at me.

One place I’ve not been is Interlaken, and it, too, is full of beauty and outdoor activities.

Oh, and there’s wine tasting in Switzerland, in particular the Lake Geneva region.

Heck, even riding the trains are fun in Switzerland.

So when you’re looking at summertime destinations, put Switzerland on your map.

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It’s Time To Start Thinking About Summer Travel Plans

Planning Is Almost As Much Fun As Traveling

Niagara Falls Canadian side

Niagara Falls is one of the top North American summer travel destinations.

 

Now that Memorial Day is over the shoulder, then it’s time to start thinking about what we are doing and where we are going for the summertime.

The entire world is open to adventure. I’m not sure where I’m going but will probably spend most of my time patrolling the California coastline.

What I would prefer to do is go to Europe. In fact, I would like to spend an entire summer in Europe, traveling by train, going to various Mediterranean beaches where girls lay out topless (something we certainly don’t see in the States!), going to festivals such as the Zurich Street Parade and visiting cities, towns and villages.

But it’s not likely to happen, at least this summer.

Still, for others it’s time to get in gear and finalize those summer trips, be it for a quick weekend or a full-on vacation. Actually, for the latter those plans should already be well in motion – especially where airfare is concerned – but there are so many other destinations that are perfect for short summertme jaunts.

There are festivals at cities throughout the Northern Hemisphere, camping, boating and dozens of other activities. Plus huge celebrations such as the Fourth of July in the USA and Bastille Day in France.

So while the memories of Memorial Day Weekend are fading (at least for Americans) now is the time to start thinking about your next great adventure.

That’s because thinking about travel is often almost as much fun as the actual travel.

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USA Airports Fail To Make A Good Impression On Foreign Travelers

Inadequate Facilities Don’t Measure Up To World Standards

LAX Encounter Restaurant

LAX has the iconic symbol but not much else to offer travlelers

 

First impressions are important.

Just ask a single person meeting a date, or someone going for a job interview.

The same applies to travel. The first impression a destination – or an event – makes on you is likely the one that you will carry with you the rest of the trip.

That’s why airports play such an important part in travel; they are often the first thing a person sees about a destination. And it is here that airports in the USA fall short in the eyes of foreign travelers.

I bring this up because a friend was just visiting me in California from Australia. He’s traveled all over the world and is appalled by the state of airports in America.

“JFK, Los Angeles, those airports are terrible,” the friend said. “America deserves better.”

Now granted, I’m using just one example of a single traveler, but he has a point. America has few really good airports like the ones in Europe, particularly. The Zurich airport is like a palace, Shipol in Amsterdam could be a destination all to itself and Munich has a beer garden (the latter was also just named the Best Airport in Europe for the second year in a row).

Airports in Asia are a source of pride for their countries.

Most American airports are old, rundown and have inadequate space for travelers, especially with the new security rules. Since I live in Los Angeles, I fly out of LAX a lot and it’s a mess. Yes, there’s a new international terminal  and it has a bit of European flair to it with a lot of open space, but the lobby and security area is a crowded mess.

The other LAX terminals are narrow and so inadequate that once you check in your luggage, you have to haul it to another area to get it screened. This area is so crammed with luggage you don’t actually hand it to anyone, you just kind of put it on the floor and try to give a little “hey, I just put my bag here” wave to one of the TSA agents.

Why can’t they just put it on the conveyer belt behind the check-in counter?

Then you go stand in a ridiculously long and winding line that in some terminals actually spills out onto the sidewalk. Others take you weaving through a maze of lines and windowless rooms. Are we passengers or prisoners?

I’m also no friend of the Miami airport, either. It’s modern but is more like a big shopping center than an airport. Gates are located ridiculous distances from one another and the security line, well, let’s just say once you finally get through it, you had better start sprinting.

I could easily relate to what my Aussie friend was talking about and we both agreed it’s a shame. America is great, vast country with so much to see and do, it’s too bad that many a foreign traveler has an initial bad impression of the U.S.A.

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LA Freeways Survival Guide: 5 Tips For Driving In Los Angeles

Making It Easier For Tourists To Navigate In L.A.

LA-Traffic-Harbor-Freeway

This is the 110 Harbor Freeway at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon.

 

You can have all the GPS and Apps at your disposal, but in Los Angeles that will do you little good unless you have some idea of the area and the freeways.

This is in large part because CalTrans is unable to design a flowing freeway system – I could have done better with a crayon and posterboard in elementary school – and has built on-ramps and interchanges with the obvious goal of causing massive back-ups of traffic, leaving everyone confused, involved in hair-raising near-misses and very late for your dinner appointment.

This this poor design is made even worse by signage that is often more confusing than helpful.

As a result, many a tourist has been frustrated, lost, baffled, crazed and perplexed (locals too, by the way).

With that in mind, here’s Sightseeing Sam’s Top 5 Tips For Driving On L.A.’s Freeways:

1.) Know The Freeways. You need to know this because there are several confusing intersections and poor signage that come at places where immediate lane-changes and decisions are required. If you don’t believe me, try driving the the 10 freeway through downtown. It’s not a straight line, I’ll tell you that right here!

Here’s a quick guide to the major ones:

• The 405 runs north to south along the western part of the city, from north of the valley to south Orange County. It must be noted this is not a bypass or a loop as, say, I-285 in Atlanta, but a north-south route. Use it for getting to the beach cities (Santa Monica, Manhattan/Hermosa/Redondo Beach, Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach).

• The 10 runs east-west, goes out to the Inland Empire and Palm Springs and ends in Santa Monica. It intersects the 405 just west of Santa Monica.

• The 110 goes through downtown and to the port city of San Pedro, connecting to the 405 in Carson and – in really bizarre fashion – with the 10 downtown.

• The 101 runs, well it’s kind of hard to understand exactly which direction it runs, but it’s the freeway for the Valley. It meshes/merges and does other confusing things with the 134 around Burbank.

• The 5 goes north/south and is a mess in L.A. County. Unfortunately, you have to take it to get to Dodger Stadium. It also goes past Angels Stadium and Disneyland in Orange County, where it has more lanes and is less frustrating.

2.) Motorcycles Zoom Past You Between The Lanes. This will startle the heck out of you if you are not expecting it. Especially when they fly by your door by mere inches at 60 mph as you are sitting still in traffic.

3.) There Are Red Lights On The On Ramps. This is just plain dumb. On the other hand, it fits ideally into CalTrans’ apparent plan to back up traffic as much as possible at every location. In this, it excels, causing backups on the interchanges and the surface streets feeding the ramp.

4.) Watch Out For Sudden Slow-Downs Or Stops. This is quite common. You’ll be cruising along, listening to tunes and saying “hey, this L.A. traffic isn’t so bad,” when all of a sudden your eyes get as big as plate saucers because the traffic in front of you is completely stopped. This usually occurs at freeway interchanges because, as noted above, CalTans can’t design them, which causes traffic to slow down or to come down to a full stop.

There could also be look-e-loos slowing down to check out someone pulled over on the shoulder – often they do this even if it’s the opposite shoulder; come ON people! – or sometimes the traffic speed picks up again and you have no idea what caused the slow-down to happen. So be alert!

5.) Get In The Far Left Lane Immediately If You Are Traveling Some Distance.  Those freeway interchanges and backups at off-ramps often cause the right two lanes to slow down or stop, so get in the far left lane so you can breeze (relatively speaking, of course) past the traffic jam.

Los Angeles does have carpool lanes but some are now tolls – hey, what happened to the FREEway!? – and some of those toll lanes don’t have good signage. So pay attention and hope you are in the correct lane.

Finally, keep your calm and if you get lost or misdirected, and if so, always head to the west. Toward the beach. That’s the best place to be in Los Angeles anyway.

Good luck!

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Last Days Of A Long Vacation Are The Saddest Days For A Traveler

How To Make The Most Out Of Those Final Holiday Moments

Basel Switzerland

The travel blogger takes a ride on a water taxi in Basel, Switzerland

 

The worst days of a good vacation are the last ones, the final two or three days when it’s winding down and you know it will soon be over, it’s behind you and suddenly just another fond memory.

So you spend that time reflecting on the trip and laughing about the “best moments.” You think about all the things you did (usually with a smile on your face) then turn a but sullen as you think about all the things you did NOT do while on the trip.

But don’t get depressed about it ending, relish in the fact you were there, that you are still there, and make the most of it.

Spend your last moments trying to squeeze the last bit of enjoyment out of the trip and the destination. Is there anywhere you really wanted to get to and just didn’t make it for one reason or another? Go to it!

Or is there a place you really loved and went to more than once that you will miss? Someone who works there that has really helped tell you the great places to visit like a local? A favorite bar with a “new friend” bartender is always high on my list.

The last few days of a vacation are not something to feel down about, but rather use them as a celebration of the trip. Take it to the max. Enjoy being there rather than sitting back and reflecting.

Save that for the plane ride home!

Cheers,

— Sightseeing Sam

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Taking A Side Trip To Solvang, California’s Dutch Town

My New Lunch Spot Along Highway 101 On The Drive From LA To Monterey

Solvang CA Windmill

There is, of course, a Dutch-style windmill in Solvang, CA.

 

With my usual rest spot north of Santa Barbara on Highway 101 as Southern California starts to turn into Central California still closed for repairs, I was considering my options of where to pull over for lunch.

I was on my way from Los Angeles to Carmel and Monterey. It’s a drive I often make and one I enjoy. It goes along the scenic coast, through golden rolling hills and past wineries before finally sweeping past Salinas and down and into gorgeous Monterey Bay.

As I approached the rest stop (which was supposed to be re-opened several months earlier) I began to go through the mental rolodex of options where I could stop for a bathroom break and to eat a sandwich I had made for the trip.

And soon it clicked, like a light going on over my head – I’ll go to Solvang!

Solvang is like stepping out of California and into Holland. It’s a small Dutch village across the 101 from all those Anderson’s Split Pea Soup signs you see for miles and miles that, with only slight imagination, can have you thinking you really are in Holland.

There are big windmills, white wooden buildings outlined with those brown boards, small shops and restaurants serving pancakes the size of pizzas. This is not a replica of sin-filled Amsterdam, I must point out, but a village like you’ll find in the true Dutch countryside.

As soon as I drove into it, I realized I would never be going to that rest station again in my travels to Monterey. I would be forever stopping in Solvang.

I correctly guessed I would be able to find a picnic table and a public bathroom, both of which are in the middle of the town. So I sat outside in the brilliant and warm sunshine, taking my time by savoring every bite and realizing my good fortune of having such a unique place to pull off to along a highway.

Solvang-Street-Shops

Solvang’s streets are full of shops that excited Sightseeing Sam’s crafty mother.

 

Solvang-Streetcorner-Framed

Solvang is like entering a village in the Dutch countryside.

 

Solvang-Windmill-SideView

Parking is free in Solvang, which is usually warm and California sunny.

 

Solvang-Park-Picnic-Tables

This park as picnic tables for lunch in the center of the village.

 

Part of me wanted to stay. Among its other attributes, Solvang is full of wine tasting rooms and craft beer places. But I’ll save that for another day, I reasoned.

Mostly, I recalled my first (and really only) visit to Solvang. I was driving my parents up the 101 to show them the Pacific Coast Highway scenic drive to Hearst Castle, Carmel and Monterey, and eventually to San Francisco. Because my mom loves crafts, I figured she would enjoy seeing Solvang along the way.

Boy, was I right! I had not even stepped the car before she starting gushing. I thought she would fling open the door while it was still moving.

She instantly loved the place and bolted from shop to shop, a huge smile on her face the entire time. Her only disappointment was that by the time we arrived it was late afternoon and most of the shops were about to close.

My father, on the other hand, considered this an incredible stroke of good fortune. Had we arrived earlier in the day, he knows we would have spent the whole time in the town and he was anxious to get our hotel in Morro Bay.

Thinking of this as I ate my sandwich caused me to let out a few chuckles, which got the attention of the people around me. When you travel alone and think of something amusing and suddenly laugh, others tend to look at you as if you’ve just escaped from a nearby institution.

They also always scoot a few inches away from you, I’ve noticed.

Well, they may be doing it again in Solvang, because it’s a great, different and refreshing place to visit for any traveler driving along California’s Highway 101.

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Memorial Day Presents Many Travel Options For Americans

Flying, Driving Or A Staycation On Tap For The Three-Day Weekend

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Entrance

The Indianapolis Motor Speeway is a shrine for racers that comes alive on Memorial Day.

 

Stay and play?

Or travel and tip back a few?

It’s an option that presents itself to Americans on Memorial Day Weekend which, in 2015, is a week earlier than usual on the next-to-last weekend of May.

For Memorial Day, Americans go to beaches, lakes and rivers, takes trips to visit relatives or make quick getaways to a wine country or take mini-vacations.

They go to sporting events – the Indy 500 is on Sunday – or local festivals.

There are many options, one of which is to take a so-called staycation and stay at home, or close to it. Backyard BBQs with friends are huge on Memorial Day Weekend.

Because it’s a short time off of work and not a true vacation, most Americans drive. Or perhaps they take short flights of less than three hours. In California, gas prices have jumped to more than $4 a gallon, which could affect what they do, or if they go anywhere at all.

The bottom line is there are a heck of a lot of options for Americans to do on Memorial Day. And that’s why it’s one of the most diverse holidays of the year.

 

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