Freiburg, Lucerne, & Basel (November 27-30, 2014)

It’s Thanksgiving Day! Connor celebrated by falling back to sleep until 9:00am (a major anomaly) after initially trying to get up at 4:30am. We made it out of the house a little after 11:00, and arrived in Freiburg, Germany about two and a half hours later. Connor is becoming quite the little road tripper and doesn’t mind riding in the car. After checking into the hotel, we ventured out with our map to explore the Altstadt (Old Town). First stop was a bakery for a snack to tide us over until dinner (pretzel sandwich for Charlie and a slice of quiche for Connor and me). We then had enough energy see the Freiburger Münster (cathedral) and climb the 265 stairs to the top of the tower. After enjoying the view, we also climbed over to see the bell tower before walking all the way back down.

Freiburger Münster
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View from the top of the Münster
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Charlie navigated us through picturesque streets already decorated for Christmas, past one of the old city gates, down a crowded street full of shops, and eventually to the Rathaus (Town Hall). Outside the Rathaus was the Freiburger Weihnachtsmarkt. Like most Americans we know, we love to attend these spirited Christmas markets in any town we visit during the holiday season! The first order of business was to buy a mug of warm Glühwein so that we could add another souvenir mug to our collection. We meandered the rows of market stalls, then stopped for Connor to enjoy a turn on one of the rides. As we were getting ready to head back to our hotel, we noticed another Glühwein stall offering a different mug (with nutcrackers, Charlie’s favorite!) so naturally we had to add that one to our collection, too!

Beautiful streets
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Freiburger Weihnachtsmarkt
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Connor was happy to hang out on my back while we walked to the hotel. He suddenly came down with some congestion and a slight cough last night, plus he didn’t nap since he slept so late this morning, so he was pretty content to just be carried around. We had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and certainly had no complaints! I had a perch filet served with crispy potato pancakes and creamed spinach, and Charlie had pork medallions with cream sauce and Schupfnudeln (a potato-noodle). Connor ate lots of Käsespätzle (which he so kindly shared with an eager mommy and daddy), as well as plenty of my fish. It was my first Thanksgiving with no traditional dinner, but I feel so blessed to be exploring Europe with my two favorite boys!

Friday
After a few sneezes and nose-blows first thing in the morning, Connor’s congestion was miraculously gone as quickly as it had started! We walked back to the Münster to peruse the daily market in the surrounding plaza and thought it would be a good place to find some breakfast. It was cold and so foggy, but we enjoyed browsing tent upon tent filled with fresh produce, flowers, advent wreaths, baked goods, wooden toys, etc. For breakfast I chose a slice of leek quiche which Connor shared, and I also got a small array of goat cheese (some with dried tomato, some with fig, and some stuffed in small peppers) and stuffed grape leaves. Charlie had a raisin cinnamon roll. Somehow the fog got even thicker while we were there and it felt even colder, so we walked back to eat in our hotel room. Then it was time to check out and drive less than two hours to Lucerne, Switzerland.

Our hotel room in Lucerne was surprisingly spacious, which is definitely a plus when you’re staying two nights with a toddler. It was still foggy and cold, but we put on our layers and headed out to see the city. We walked across the Spreuerbrücke (bridge) and enjoyed our first “real” views of Lucerne. It’s such a gorgeous city, and I love that the Christmas lights were up already. We walked through a pedestrian shopping area before heading to the Museggmauer (old city wall). The view from the wall was worth the uphill walk, even with the fog!

Lucerne
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It was mid-afternoon and we were starving for a quick snack because we hadn’t eaten lunch. Lucky for us, a bakery accepted Euro and we were able to grab something before finally finding an ATM and withdrawing the local currency. (Connor and I shared our third quiche of the trip. This one was a pumpkin quiche!) We walked to the Kapellbrücke, then admired the view of the lake. I was so disappointed that the fog was covering the view of the Alps. Next we walked inside the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to find the Christkindlimarkt. The main Weihnachtsmarkt wasn’t open yet, and we were disappointed that the Christkindlimarkt didn’t have much to offer. Poor Connor had been excited all day about going on another ride, but there definitely weren’t any rides, nor did they have souvenir mugs. But, our optimism returned as we found a Starbucks just outside the train station and Charlie bought a Lucerne mug.

We walked along the river, stopping to take a quick peek in yet another stunning church. Connor found a stick outside and spent the next twenty minutes pretending to play his “clarinet” and singing. We took some more pictures on a bridge before walking back to the hotel. Our dinner options near the hotel were expensive, and we weren’t up for paying that much money to sit in a restaurant with a toddler who didn’t have a nap and could self-destruct at any moment. We went back to the hotel and ordered pizza, which was sadly just as expensive as the restaurants, but at least Connor was able to have plenty of time to let loose. Charlie loved his calzone, but I was a little disappointed in my “regional specialty” pizza topped with potatoes, steak, bacon, Gruyere, and crème fraîche. I know it sounds good, but for the scant amount of each topping used, the pizza should have been about one-third of the original size. Connor passed out quickly for bed, and hopefully he will catch up on his missed naps overnight!

Enjoying the beautiful view after Connor’s “concert”
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Saturday
No such luck…awake at 6:30! After breakfast at the hotel (which my experienced little traveler always looks forward to since he knows that means orange juice, bread, eggs, and sausage!) we bundled up for the cold, foggy walk to our car. Unfortunately we paid almost as much for that first night in the parking garage as we should have for both days because we didn’t know to get a special 2-day ticket. Oops. We drove a few minutes to the Bahnhof parking garage since it was more centrally located for the places we were walking to today.

First we made a quick stop at the tourist center inside the Bahnhof to buy a museum pass for the day. It was still cold and foggy, but we walked about 20 minutes along the lakeshore until we reached the Richard Wagner Museum. Wagner lived in that house for 6 years. What a beautiful location! There wasn’t much to the museum, but for music nerds like us, it was worth the walk.

Outside the Richard Wagner Museum
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We walked 20 minutes back towards the Bahnhof and found the nearby boat docks. Perfect timing…the boat we wanted was just about to leave! It was a short ride across the lake to the Verkhershaus (Swiss Museum of Transport). It was fun for all of us! A major perk for Charlie and me was seeing the huge tunnel drill and wall of road signs that were part of the clues and detours on The Amazing Race last season (along with the Kapellbrücke that we saw yesterday). The museum had different buildings for trains, cars, and airplanes. We never made it to the boat building because there was plenty to keep us busy. Connor enjoyed the train simulator and the big slide down from an airplane, but the highlight for him was the outdoor play area. It was awesome! There was a cargo-loading zone where he could lift containers of blocks with a crane and load them into train cars. He also had a blast climbing into the diggers and other construction vehicles, as well as shoveling rocks into a wheelbarrow. Everything was kid-sized, but completely realistic. There were lots of kids playing out there on this cold day; I can’t imagine how crowded it would be in the warmer months! Our last stop was a mini-train ride around the outside of the museum.

Boat ride to the Verkhershaus.  See the Alps in the background?  Nope, neither did we.
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Verkhershaus
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We picked up sandwiches in the museum café before walking to our next destination. Connor’s early mornings and missed naps finally caught up to him as he passed out on my back with a piece of sandwich in his hand. It was already 3:00 so I didn’t particularly want him to fall asleep, but obviously he needed it! While he slept, we walked another 20 minutes or so to the Löwendenkmal (lion monument). It reminded me of Stone Mountain with a huge lion carving instead of the Confederate heroes. The entrance to the Gletschergarten (Glacier Garden) was right by the lion monument, so we walked through it while Connor was still snoozing, but it really wasn’t as exciting as it sounds. He woke up as we got to the top of a small tower. The view was pretty good since we were already much higher in elevation in that part of town. I loved seeing the Christmas trees and lights by the lakeshore in the distance!

Löwendenkmal
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On the way out of the Gletschergarten we stopped for Connor to see the lion monument. Right across the street was the Alpineum, so we decided to check it out since it was included on our museum pass. It was a 3D diorama of the Alps and only took a few minutes to walk through. We started our trek back to our car, which Charlie thankfully remembered was at the train station (I was ready to walk all the way back of the hotel!). It was a beautiful walk with all of the Christmas trees and sparkling lights. We drove to the parking garage near our hotel, then walked a few blocks to an Indian restaurant we had spotted that morning. Connor enjoyed another “picnic” dinner on the floor of the hotel room and ate plenty of my lamb curry, vegetables, and rice.

After relaxing and watching the end of “Cars 2,” it was time for bed. Thankfully Connor’s late afternoon nap didn’t affect bedtime too much. He was so easygoing all day today! Not one complaint about anything! We will see what tomorrow has in store :).

Sunday
After breakfast at the hotel and checking out, we hit the road for an hour-long ride north to Basel, Switzerland. It was exactly on the way home, so we figured we might as well see another Christmas market! Once we arrived in Basel, our first stop was the Musik Museum. Three floors were filled with countless instruments that we all enjoyed seeing. Next we walked to the Altstadt area and stumbled upon a Starbucks as we were searching for an ATM. We picked up our Basel souvenir mug from Starbucks, found the ATM, then headed to the Christmas market. It’s advertised as the largest in Switzerland! We strolled up and down the rows, wandered off to see a huge church, then came back so that Connor and I could ride a mini-ferris wheel. After picking up a quick snack, it was time to head to the car and start our 3-hour drive home.

The fog may have kept us from seeing the Alps, but we still had a great time. We can’t wait for our next adventure: a Mediterranean cruise over Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

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