Travel: Zurich as experienced through the eyes of a three-year-old
ZURICH—My daddy has written lots about Zurich for about a million years by now, but he says he never realized what a great place it must look like to a three-year-old like me. He asked me to tell you why it is, so here goes:
You may have heard that Switzerland is where ever so many watches come from and that the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich has stores just full of them. That may be important if you are one of those people who can do something called telling time (which I’m starting to figure out), but for me, the best part is going into Beyer, a store that has its own watch museum. When you are inside, you should ask everyone, “How is your day feeling?” And when your daddy finally says that, maybe we had better leave, go up to everyone again and say, “Auf Wiedersehen!” Then convince a nice lady to give you a red apple from a bowl and go outside while eating it.
Make your daddy sit on a cold bench so you can eat your apple and watch ever so many street cars go by and call out the route numbers on top of each. Later, join your mommy and daddy for a tram ride that is even more fun than taking the “really big bus” back home. Riding a tram is easy to do in Zurich because those route numbers are clearly marked, and friendly Zurich people are always around to help your parents find their way when they get lost—which mine tend to do.
Switzerland is known for its terrific wooden toys, which have been made here for longer than even my daddy can remember, which is hard to believe. Want one? First, convince your parents, on a stroller tour of the lovely old town, that all you want is, “one little car.” Get them to take you to Franz Carl Weber, the most famous toy store in Switzerland. Then run from your stroller to the handmade wooden model of a yellow Swiss Postbus with removable peg passengers and driver and say, “This one!” Watch your parents stare at the price, which would be a little over $100 of the green money they use back home, and every time they offer you a car or truck or tractor made in China that would set them back only a few francs, say, “I ever don’t want it!” Lucky for me, my parents like to see me with traditional toys that let me use my imagination. I really like my new Swiss Postbus.
We stayed at the Eden au Lac, in a room with a lake view and a fireplace that really works. Whenever a boat came by, I shouted out, “Boat,” making my daddy stop hunting around the floor for the peg people I kept pulling out of my Swiss Postbus—just so he could watch the boat with me, using the binoculars the hotel had left in our room.
The hotel’s restaurant, the Eden, served us a dinner that mommy and daddy both said was the finest hotel dinner they had in their ever so many visits to Zurich. Daddy had soup and meat (Thai consomme with house-made shrimp dumplings, followed by a tagliata of beef filet); I had a pile of pasta on my plate, and I even ate some of it. Then I broked the plate, but the restaurant had ever so many others—I just wasn’t allowed to touch any of them after that.
My daddy says I have a specialty in bashing precision German things—like the Miele vacuum cleaner that wasn’t working so well after I took it for a ride around our house. At dinner, I took daddy’s camera and dropped it. There was a “bash!” and daddy’s very brand-new B+W 72mm filter went from looking like finely made German glass to something like a paper snowflake.
Serefino, the captain, made balloon animals for me, and our waiter, Christian, took me to the kitchen, where I got to help scoop out my own chocolate ice cream. Whenever I get dessert, I also ask for a little cake. Lucky for me, the Eden makes really great little cakes. So does Caffe Al Leone, where we went for apple juice the next day. I noticed that, in Zurich, people who are drinking hot things like coffee, tea or chocolate also like to have little cakes. These are very smart people.
At Blaue Ente, another restaurant, my mommy ordered a plate of venison that she said was the best she had in ever so long; my daddy had pasta (meat ravioli in a foam truffle sauce); and I had spaghetti, which is really great for practicing your slurping noises. To keep me busy this time, my parents brought my portable DVD player, which worked well enough until I tried to grab it. When daddy reached out to keep it from falling, he knocked his glass of grape juice (Jean-Rene Germanier Humagne Cepage Rouge du Valais Reserve 2007) all over it! Do you know what happens when your daddy spills his juice onto a portable DVD player? It gets broke, and the waitress brings you coloured pencils and a colouring book and encourages you to occupy the rest of dinner in artistic pursuits. Then she gives you two little cakes. But I was bored by then with the videos, so that was a really good trade.
There are ever so many other fun things we did in Zurich, like buying children’s music and chocolate milk and another shirt to wear after ever so many that my mommy had neatly packed were yucky from chocolate milk and little cakes.
But the best part was on our last day. We were staying this time at the airport, just back in Zurich from our vacation (in Arosa, in the Swiss Alps), and for only one night so that I could adjust and not get cranky before we flew home. That night, at the Hotel Radisson Blu at the airport, we saw a Wine Angel.
The hotel has a tall wine cellar right in the lobby. It is so tall, a woman in a harness “flies” up to get the bottles. That’s silly! But this Wine Angel did her job so well, a man fell off his barstool, so much did he enjoy what he was drinking.
But the next day was the one when I went in my stroller through the Zurich Airport, which is clean and full of signs to make sure that people who get lost a lot, like mommy and daddy, get where they want to go—like to great stores where we bought ever so much chocolate. We went to the observation deck, where there was a playground that had a big make-believe Swiss International airplane where kids could go inside and pretend they are pilots and passengers.
On our way to the real Swiss airplane, my daddy made a funny face when the left rear wheel of my stroller, which had been making a grrrr-grrrr noise for days, broked and dragged sideways along the nice clean floor of the airport.
That is OK because I’m big now and I really would rather walk on board the Swiss airplane and say, “How’s your day feeling?” to everyone.
Nice people who all wore blue and white gave me little cakes and chocolate ice cream, and I got to watch kids’ videos on my seat back, even though my own DVD player had been broken by what my daddy wants you to know is a robust but balanced example of a unique Swiss varietal.
I really like Zurich. I really like the hotels and the airport and flying in real Swiss airplanes. My daddy says that none of the friendly people who helped us is soon ever to forget me. I’m OK with that.
If you go
Getting There: The Swiss International flight crew did everything they could to make a toddler—and his parents—feel cared for and comfortable. Telephone: +1 877 359 7947; www.swiss.com.
Staying and Dining: The Eden au Lac is a five-star boutique hotel run in the traditional mold of a Central European grand hotel, meaning everything works in ways hidden from the guest so that he or she can relax and feel pampered. Restaurant Eden has 13 GaultMillau points. Address: Utoquai 45, 8008 Zurich; telephone: +41-(0)-44-266-25-25; http://www.edenaulac.ch.
The Radisson Blu Hotel, Zurich Airport is surprisingly quiet, given its location, and after a long journey, it is a relief to roll out of bed and roll your suitcase to the terminal. Reservations telephone: +41-(0)-44-800-43-43; 1-800-333-3333; www.radissonblu.com/hotel-zurichairport.
Located in a former mill, Restaurant Bar Blaue Ente was Zurich’s original hip restaurant when it opened in 1986. Remarkably, it has stayed fresh since then and remains a destination for sophisticated dining with a contemporary atmosphere. Seefeldstrasse 223; telephone: +41-(0)-44 388 68 40. www.blaue-ente.ch.
Caffe Al Leone is a fashionable cafe where, by Swiss tradition, sophisticated afternoon treats, remain both superior in quality and sensibly priced. Bahnhofstrasse 32; telephone: +41-(0)-44-221-00-47; http://www.caffealleone.ch.
Shopping: Beyer Chronometrie (along with Tuerler, just up the street), occupies the high end among the city’s many watch and jewelry dealers. Simply browsing is a pleasure. Bahnhofstrasse 31; telephone: +41-(0)-43-344-63-63; www.beyer-ch.com.
Franz Carl Weber has toys you know and toys you might not find outside Switzerland. For children, the store is a destination in itself. Bahnhofstrasse 62/Rennweg 43; telephone: +41 (0)44 225 78 78; www.fcw.ch.
Ryan N. Behr is a Capital News contributor.