SUNDAY • OCTOBER 13, 2019
Mountains of magnificence
TONY DIBONA PHOTOS
An interactive playground on the Allmendhubel is a favorite for visiting families and must rank as one of the world’s most scenic spots for kids to play.
Switzerland’s towering Alpine setting saturated trip with awe-inspiring views
BY JOANNE DIBONA
ometimes exceptional travel experiences simply demand a repeat. After visiting the magnificent Lake Geneva area of Switzerland a few years ago, my husband, Tony, and I resolved to return to this beautiful country to continue our voyage of discovery. This time around, we opted to visit the Canton of Bern, famous for its jaw-dropping Alpine scenery, and the cosmopolitan and historical city of Basel, situated on the shores of the river Rhine. We again elected to fly into the Zurich Airport from our San Diego home base. Thanks to the fact that Zurich’s airport has its own railroad terminal, we were on our way in no time after landing. With our Swiss Rail Travel Passes in hand (sure, you could rent a car, but why would you want to?), we settled into our comfortable seats and watched the glorious Swiss scenery roll by. The travel pass gives the bearer unlimited first class train access in addition to several other benefits and discounts. Most importantly, it eliminates the stress of navigating through unfamiliar road systems by rental car. Just getting to our first destination, the enchanting town of Mürren, Switzerland — which happens to be built on an Alpine outcropping at 5,500 feet — was definitely a travel adventure in its own right. It began when we arrived at the Lauterbrunnen train station and enjoyed an “awe” as we gazed at the majestic mountain peaks surrounding us. It’s no wonder this spectacular valley has the reputation of being one of the world’s most Instagram-worthy places. A short bus ride brought us to the cable car, the only way to reach our mountain retreat, since Mürren is closed to vehicular traffic. Despite my appreciable jet lag, I delighted in the beauty of the pristine Alpine scenery (peppered with grazing SEE SWITZERLAND • E11
ESCAPE TO ...
The medieval city of Thun on the shores of Interlaken is best photographed from the portal of the top landing of the 12th century castle that looms over the city. Paragliders sail nonstop over Mürren’s town and valleys, making this area in Switzerland one of the most popular for that sport.
Panoramic view of Basel’s Old Town from Kleinbasel, on the eastern shore of the Rhine.
HAUNTED HOTEL, CREEPY CASTLE MAKE A SPOOKY WEEKEND Town with Gold Rush past also mines its supernatural history
BY MIKE MORRIS There’s something a little eerie about Ione, an hour’s drive southeast of Sacramento. It could be this historic city’s haunted hotel, or maybe it’s Preston Castle, a former boys reform school that’s now a real-life haunted house. At either place you’ll probably experience something spooky. The tab: A night at Ione Hotel costs $85 to $145, plus tax; lunch for two at the Burke Family Restaurant and Bar was $25, plus tip; and general admission to the Preston Castle Haunt cost $30 per person.
The Ione Hotel, less than a mile from Preston Castle, was built to
house miners and was a stagecoach depot during the Gold Rush. The hotel was rebuilt after a fire in 1910 and renamed the Golden Star of Ione. Fire again destroyed the building in 1988; it later reopened after extensive renovations. The Ione Hotel has 14 rooms, including some with clawfoot bathtubs. Its charming lobby features a chandelier, antique furniture and mahogany staircase. Look closely and you can see the stained glass above the entrance still reads “Golden Star.”
and “The Civil War Ghost.”) Ediza was convinced she had encountered a ghost in the restaurant’s restroom.
The Burke Family Restaurant and Bar, inside the Ione Hotel, has a dimly lighted dining room with an old Native American stone well that allows you to look down into the darkness. They were serving Sunday brunch when I ate here with Ediza, my 12-year-old daughter, but we chose the regular menu. Ediza got crispy fries,
Preston Castle, a former reform school in Ione that once housed country singer Merle Haggard, is open for tours and events. creamy mac and cheese and a homemade veggie burger — all washed down with root beer served in a Mason jar. I was trying to eat healthfully, so I chose water and the quinoa salad with sliced
almonds and raspberries. Our friendly waitress brought me a book filled with hotel ghost stories to leaf through while we waited for our food. (Chapters include “The Sexy Lady Ghost”
Spirits are said to linger at Preston Castle, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The Preston School of Industry opened in 1894 with seven teenagers transferred from San Quentin Prison; their crimes included grand larceny, burglary and robbery. At the military-style school, the boys spent half their days in class and the other half learning a trade that could support them after their release. Among those who served time was country music icon Merle Haggard, who had a small “PSI” tattoo on his wrist. What struck me most during a self-guided tour this summer was a list of those buried in the Preston School Cemetery. Their causes of SEE IONE • E12
THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
SUNDAY • OCTOBER 13, 2019
BUNDLE UP AND YOU’LL ENJOY EUROPE IN FALL
Off-peak season is brisk but less tourist-impacted
and November, respectively.”
BY NATALIE B. COMPTON There are people in this world who hate fall. They wallow over the end of summer, seeing the season as a time of mourning. But those glass-half-empty people are wrong. Fall is a season for rejoicing, because while the weather cools off in the Northern Hemisphere and birds begin their long slog south, travel to Europe is at its best. Gone are the hordes of tourists in sweat-soaked tank tops. You’re looking at sweater weather. Better yet, you’re looking at European scarf weather. The perks go beyond climate considerations, too. If you take a peek at airplane fares year-round, prices dip in the fall. The only time you’ll find lower prices is in the dead of winter. Once you’re ready to start packing your layers, you’ll need to plan out your autumnal trip across the pond. We checked in with expert local
VIRGINIA MAYO AP
LUDOVIC MARIN AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Tourists cross the Esplanade du Trocadero in Paris in July. guides in Europe’s best fall destinations to find out what makes their cities great this time of year.
In the summer, Paris is a minefield of tourists. Walking along the Seine is still beautiful, but it’s harder to enjoy when you’re dodging a family of four on rental bikes barreling down the sidewalk. Come fall, most of those families are back at home settling into the new school year, leaving the banks of the famous river to you and the perfectly dressed Parisians. “Sounds a bit cliché, but Paris is the perfect city to enjoy fall because you can sit
Tourists crowd the Colosseum in Rome on an April day in 2018.
at any coffee place and feel immediately in an old romcom movie or like you were a famous novel writer,” says writer Jennifer Padjemi in an email. “Even if you want to stay outside, waiters give you some blankets to keep warm.” Padjemi has many recommendations for fall in the City of Lights. Strolling the Seine and the various canals and parks is a must-do. If you’d like to get outside of the city for some leaf-peeping, an hour’s drive away you’ll find the forest of Fontainebleau.
Berlin is an incredible
walking city, even more so in the fall. The vines creeping up the city’s historical buildings complement the colorful street art. Cooler temperatures also complement binge-eating currywurst and schnitzel. “Whereas summer may be the best time to experience Berlin’s wide range of outdoor activities, fall is when Berliners turn to the other aspects that make this city so livable,” writes Rick Noack in an email. “Tourists and locals alike head to art exhibitions or reflect on the turbulent historic days of German reunification and the fall of the Berlin Wall — both dates fall into October
SWITZERLAND FROM E10 cows, rustic farmhouses and mountain waterfalls) as these pastoral scenes rolled by me some 2,000 feet below. The cable car came to a halt, and the Hotel Alpenruh, our mountain retreat for the next three days, was just steps away. Our rustic room was pleasant and comfortable, but nothing prepared us for the view that met us when we pulled open the drapes and stepped out on the terrace. A mesmerizing scene of what has to be one of the most spectacular vistas we’ve ever enjoyed from a hotel room met our eyes. There’s something to be said about a room with a view, especially one this splendid. As we relaxed on our terrace, we followed the graceful path of paragliders as they sailed over the town’s mountains and rooftops, which they do from morning till night. The Lauterbrunnen valley, for obvious reasons, is one of the most popular paragliding regions in the world. For the next three days, that view seduced us with its sheer magnificence. We woke up at dawn to catch the sun rising up over the Alpine peaks, bathing them in a golden morning light. At sunset, we marveled at the deepening pinkish glow the setting sun cast on the mountains, while we enjoyed delicious local wine and cheese on our balcony. The next morning brought us via cable car up to Allmendhubel, where we were amazed to see kids at play in what has to be one of the world’s most scenic adventure playgrounds. The area offers a panoramic flower trail with more than 150 species of mountain flowers literally blooming at your feet. When I spotted an elusive edelweiss flower hiding behind a rock on our path, I wanted to burst into the song of the same name in “The Sound of Music.” Nothing quite prepared us for our next day’s activity — a 20-minute cable car ride to the spectacular Schilthorn summit, home to 007 Bond World, the original set of the 1969 James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” An interactive exhibit takes the visitor behind the scenes of this movie’s production, which featured hair-raising skiing footage on the slopes that was undoubtedly an unprecedented video achievement for its time. Brunch at the Piz Gloria, the first revolving restaurant in the Alps, was both a gastronomic and sensory experience. We sipped Champagne and dined on an abundant buffet of Swiss specialties, our eyes riveted to the window as the restaurant slowly made its 360degree rotation past some 200 massive peaks. Add “brunch with a view” to our growing list of visual superlatives experienced on this visit! We spent hours on the many observation decks available to visitors, gazing at the incomparable vistas on what is lovingly known as the “Swiss Skyline,” the spectacular panorama of the towering Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Since we were blessed with a cloudless day and endless blue skies, we were given the thrill of seeing the tip of Mount Blanc in the dis-
wool sweater and find a pub to nestle into for a warming whiskey. “Dublin is beautiful in fall — or autumn, as we call it,” says Yvonne Gordon. “The trees all along the canals and rivers, and in parks like the Phoenix Park and St. Stephen’s Green, turn yellow and gold, and the ground is carpeted with soft leaves. The autumn light is spectacular, especially early in the morning and in the evening. There’s also a slight chill in the air, so knitted woolies come out, and the first crackling fires are lit.” The joys of Europe in fall aren’t exclusive to these four cities. The continent has a wealth of options for the fall traveler to explore for fractions of the prices you would pay during the summer. To find inspiration for where to go, try plugging in fall dates to Skyscanner.com’s flight-searching function, and type “Everywhere” into the “to” form. See what the most affordable destinations are from your closest airport, and plan your European jaunt accordingly.
The Alpenruh Hotel in Mürren offers terrace rooms with sweeping vistas over the picturesque mountain town and surrounding Alpine peaks. tance, the highest mountain in the Alps. The next day brought us to Interlaken, a region famous for its two connecting lakes surrounded by yet more stunning Alpine peaks. We opted to ride the ferry across the lake to our next destination, the medieval city of Thun, sailing through turquoise blue waters and past medieval castles and charming towns along the way. A friend’s travel tip alerted us to a relatively little-known phenomenon on the shores of Lake Thun, the St. Beatus Caves. This is a ferry stop on the lake, and a series of paths and stairs take you up to the site, a former monastery. The cave tour led us past stalactites and stalagmites, spectacular grottos, subterranean waterfalls, and otherworldly scenes that were millions of years in the making. It’s no wonder that these caves inspired J.R.R. Tolkien, who visited the area as a youth, to write his vision for the “Lord of the Rings” fantasy world of Rivendell. Thun is located on the pristine river Aare, just a short walk from the ferry stop. We spent a lovely day strolling through the town’s picturesque cobblestone streets, which included a visit to the formidable Thun castle that dates back to the 12th century. It was time to leave the Canton of Bern and head off to our final destination, the historic and cosmopolitan city of Basel. Upon arrival at Basel’s train station, we again didn’t have to worry about any transportation issues, as our travel pass
gave us unlimited access to the efficient trolley and bus system that operates flawlessly throughout the city and its suburbs. After checking in to our accommodations at the historic and classic Hotel Krafft, we were delighted to see we had yet another “room with a view.” Our terrace boasted an expansive vista across the Rhine lined with historical buildings and the famous Basel Cathedral, built from the 12th to 15th centuries in Romanesque and Gothic style — one of the city’s many jewels. As we did in Mürren, we delighted in photographing this splendid panorama at all times of the day and night. During a short-lived thunderstorm one evening, my husband even managed to capture a lightning bolt that lit up the sky right behind the Cathedral spires! Strolling through the medieval streets of Basel quickly became our favorite activity, as each turn on the cobblestone passageways brought us to another historic site and another photo opportunity. The 500-yearold town hall that dominates the city market place is dazzling with its deep red and golden facade. It’s no wonder it is one of Basel’s most visited attractions. Basel is no doubt a city of the arts and boasts more than 40 museums representing a broad spectrum of subject matter. We would have loved to visit them all, but due to our short time in this fascinating city, we had to narrow it down to two. The Basel Historic Museum leads you back in history
from the city’s prehistoric roots to today’s modern age, featuring fascinating exhibits from every century of the city’s existence. Another highlight was viewing the 20th-century collection of
Summer tourism in Rome has gotten so extreme that the city’s government has had to step in with new fines and regulations to protect its treasured monuments. Avoid contributing to overtourism by skipping a trip during the summer and visiting Rome a few months later. “By the beginning of October, the city returns to the residents in full force,” writer Erica Firpo told us. “Everything is back in business, including the buses and politics. Even if it feels a bit chaotic, it’s the kind of chaos we know and love because the city is alive following the summer snooze.” Firpo notes Rome’s perfect fall weather as another draw — bright and sunny in the daytime, a bit chilly at night — along with a new lineup of exhibitions and events during the cooler season.
Leaf-peepers, fall in Dublin is for you. Pack a raincoat to don over your new Irish
Compton writes for The Washington Post.
classic modernism at the Fondation Beyeler, located a short tram ride from the city. Its exhibitions of renowned artists of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries have brought the museum international recognition and established it as one of Switzerland’s most popular art museums. Our final night in Basel was quite memorable and an appropriate end to a perfect three-day visit to this enchanting city. From our terrace perch, we watched a favorite summer pastime among Basel’s population — swimming in the Rhine. Locals grab their inflatable dry bags and glide down this pristine river (the source of which is in the Alps a little more than 100 miles from the city) or gather with friends and family for picnics and socialization directly on the shore. As an added bonus to the evening’s enchantment, we happened to be in town for the unique IMFLUSS (“in the river” — literally) music
GET UP TO $300
festival, which lasts three weeks each summer. A stage is set up right in the middle of the Rhine featuring musicians from around the world, bringing exciting acts to locals and visitors free of charge. There was no more memorable way to say “Auf Wiedersehen” to our unforgettable voyage through Switzerland than by looking down that night from our terrace and watching people dancing to the music in peace and harmony, with Basel’s medieval skyline providing the perfect backdrop to the evening’s magic. Travel memories just don’t get much better than this.
DiBona is a San Diego-based travel writer who works together with her photographer husband, Tony. See more of their work on JoanneDiBonaPhotography.com, getthepicturetravel.com or on Instagram @joannedibonaphotos & @tonydibonatravl
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If you go AIRLINES Several airlines offer service from San Diego to Switzerland. For travel from San Diego between June to mid-September, we can highly recommend Edelweiss Airlines, www.flyedelweiss.com, which is currently the only airline that offers direct, nonstop seasonal flights from San Diego to Zurich. SWISS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION Swiss Travel Pass: www.swiss-pass.ch; This pass gives you unlimited travel in Switzerland by train, bus, boat, select cable cars and public transport in cities, as well as free entrance to more than 500 museums. ACCOMMODATIONS In Mürren: Hotel Alpenruh Muerren; alpenruh-muerren.ch In Basel: Krafft Hotel; www.krafftbasel.ch/en/home INFORMATION Basel: basel.com/en Mürren & Schilthorn/Bond World: www.muerren.swiss, www.schilthorn.ch Canton of Bern: www.madeinbern.com For a complete photo library of this trip: sandiegoscenicphotos.org/Europe/Switzerland
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For centuries, Switzerland has been a favorite European destination for travelers looking for the perfect combination of incomparable scenic...
Published on Oct 14, 2019
For centuries, Switzerland has been a favorite European destination for travelers looking for the perfect combination of incomparable scenic...