Christmas in Switzerland and New Year in France
Updated: Jun 4, 2018
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas ...
It was a very last minutes idea to visit my best friend and her family in Brugg, Switzerland and to spend Christmas and New Year in Europe. This was my 3rd time in Europe but I thought of adding a new place to visit and I chose Lourdes in France. My first night train adventure and my first white Christmas! :-)
I flew to Zurich and arrived a day before Christmas. My best friend picked me up from the airport and we spent sometime in Zurich, visited a very lovely Christmas Market and enjoyed Gluhwein (mulled wine). Gluhwein is made of red wine with some spices and served hot. We had a little walk by the lake, Zurich Lake, looking at the birds. It was a gloomy day but I still enjoyed it. There's a statue called Ganymed. The statue was completed by Hermann Hubacher in 1952. It symbolizes man's longing to ascend Mount Olympus. With an outstretched hand, Ganymed pleads with Zeus, the father of the gods (who appears as an eagle), to take him there.
On Christmas Day, we went to St. Gallen, about 120 km west of Brugg. We visited the city landmark - the magnificent baroque comples - The St Gallen Abbey Precinct. It is a world heritage of the UNESCO. The Abbey Library collection is the oldest in Switzerland, and is one of oldest libraries in the world. Unfortunately, it was closed on Christmas day so we couldn't come in and see its beauty. I have been reading that it is one of the most beautiful library in the world.
It was another gloomy day and very quiet. Very few people outside. I guess most of them were inside, celebrating Christmas with families and friends. We stopped and ate at McDonald (St. Leonhard-Strasse 32). I am not a fan McDonald but that's the only one opened on that day :-)
A day after Christmas, my best friend, her husband, and their toddler took me to see snow in Zugerberg, about 60 km south-east of Brugg. On the way there, we stopped at Lake Zug. It was a sunny day, not as gloomy as the previous days.
On that same day, I took a night train to go to Lourdes, France. My friend sent me to Brugg train station. I took a train from Brugg (17:32) to Bern (18:25), the journey was about an hour. Then from Bern (18:34), I changed to another train that took me to Geneva, scheduled to arrive at 20:15. The journey was about 1 hour and 45 minutes. In Geneva train station, I had to "cross" the border from Switzerland side to France side. This was my first time taking train in Europe and it was night time. I was by myself and honestly I was a bit scared. It didn't help that somehow Geneva didn't look as safe as Zurich. I was a bit worried but I had no choice - I just had to be brave - and pray! I took a night train to Lourdes. Because it was a night train, I bought a ticket with a bed (for me to sleep). I didn't remember anymore what made me choose a 4-beds compartment - which means, there were other persons (strangers!) with me inside the compartment. What a nightmare! The moment I realized it, I got really scared! I tried to sleep hugging my shoulder bag where I kept my money and passport. I couldn't sleep well! I was also worried that I missed my stop - all the announcement was in French and I didn't understand at all. So exactly at the arrival time written on the ticket, the train stopped - I tried to read the station name and yes it was correct! I alighted with a relief. It was still very dark although it's already around 7 am (it's winter) when I reached and taxi was not available yet so I went to the cafe in the train station and had breakfast.
I checked-in at Citea Lourdes Saint Jean, a small apartment hotel located just about 500 metres from Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Everyday while walking to Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, I enjoyed the view of the mountain and the river, Gave de Pau. Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes was very beautiful. I checked all the mass schedule and attended quite a few of them (either in the main church or in the chapel or in the Grotto of the Apparitions). If not, I just sat there and prayed or did nothing - just rested my mind. I also did the bath (filled with water from the spring that flows in the Grotto of the Apparitions) - it was really cold - but it went very quickly and before I could think of anything, I was done. I visited the Grotto of the Apparitions: had a candle lit on the candelabra, prayed, and entered beneath the rock to see the spring and the famous statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. There was another spot to lit a candle at the Sanctuary, near the Grotto. I did that too and I left my prayer intentions and remembered my loved ones.
Deze kaars zet mijn gebed verder
This candle set my prayers more
On one of the day I was in Lourdes, I had lunch in a restaurant near the sanctuary. I was eating by myself when a father, a mother, and a teenage daughter next to my table offered me to join them. They were Australian from Adelaide, Australia, and their teenage daughter was studying at The Netherlands. It was very lovely of them to talk to me. We bumped to each other again on the next day and again we had lunch together. I could never forget them. I and the daughter became friends on Facebook - until today - although we never met again.
From Lourdes, I took a train to Paris - where my other friend picked me up. He took me around and accompanied me for a day (it was the 30th of December). I stayed in a nice hotel in the city, Grand Hôtel Du Palais Royal (4 Rue De Valois), about 500 metres away from Musée du Louvre. A hotel with a great location! It's easy to walk to everywhere. I spent the last day of the year and the new year by myself - walked along Seine River, around the city, visited Notre Dame Cathedral and prayed. This was my 3rd time in Paris - and I still liked it a lot.
I was on my way to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in the morning when it's snowing! I just enjoyed the moment - didn't take any photos or videos. Such a lovely feeling!
I had a lovely time in Switzerland with my best friend and her family during Christmas and it was such an enriching experience visiting Lourdes. Ending the trip in Paris with snow falling from the sky was just perfect. I'll be back! :-)