Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grand Swiss Bike Tour

Our Grand Swiss Bike Tour:

July 2013
This blog journals the experiences my husband and I shared during our first self-guided cycling tour, which we arranged through Hooked on Cycling, and which took us on a 450 kilometer, 8-city, 8-day vacation on bike.
We chose Hooked on Cycling (HOC) (www.hookedoncycling.co.uk) company because it all seems so easy with their self guided tours. I had lived very briefly in Switzerland right after college but hadn't been back to that beautiful country. My husand Frank had traveled through there when he lived for a year in Germany during college. We both agreed that the beauty of the country made it a perfect choice for our first-ever cycling trip.
So here we were, ready for our 9-day Grand Swiss Tour.
Frank and I aren't really cyclists. We are very active in our lifestyle, with lots of exercise and running, but biking had not been a big activity. We both have bikes back home but usually rode for just 1-2 hours at a time. We trained for just a few weeks for this tour, riding more frequently but never for more than two hours at a time.

I wrote in my journal before we began the trip:  "I hoped that miniTraining was enough! I must admit I'm a bit intimidated about four hours of biking on certain days. (And crossing my fingers that our bikes hold up, with no flats or other possible disasters). Flats, heavy thunderstorms and exhausted legs are my only concerns."  

Day 1:

Travel to Zurich, Switzerland and Tour the City:

It was an easy flight from Nashville to New York, then New York to Zurich.  We took a taxi to our first hotel. All hotels are arranged by HOC. It was about 12 minutes to our small, quaint, semi-modern hotel. It is a Rex Sorrell and was located on the corner next to a bakery. It's in the middle of an urban neighborhood. The front desk host spoke English but she and Frank also spoke German to one another.  Frank bought from the hotel 2 24-hour tram ticket so we could easily tour the city, and the passes proved useful. It was a nice view out our window.

View outside our Sorrell Hotel in Zurich.

After a quick nap and shower, we were ready to eat a meal and explore.
There are cute stores next to the hotel. A market selling fresh fruits and vegetables is outside on the wide sidewalk. I remember eating my first fresh cherry when I was in Geneva in 1987. I'd never seen one and didn't know what it was. The only cherry I'd had was in a Shirley temple drink.
I quickly remembered why I love Switzerland. It is just so amazingly quaint. It feels small and big at the same time. Cobblestone streets with outside cages and shops. From H&M to local dress stores. And, there's the river running right through town and every language represented by all the tourists who crowd the narrow streets. All of the old stucco buildings are pastel painted with matching shutters and flower boxes out the windows.
A must-do is to walk along lake Zurich. We were there on Saturday in July. Perfect 80 degree weather. The lake is calm today. Wide stone sidewalks around the lake give a perfect opportunity for leisurely strolls.
Swimmers, paddle boat riders, boaters and lots of walkers around Lake Zurich

Though there's not a beach, that doesn't stop masses of people from laying out on a lazy weekend to catch some sun.

Traveling is easy in Zurich with the electric trams

Sites in Zurich.  You can take the 7 or 15 Tram directly from our Sorrell Hotel and be at the center of town in five minutes, then walk to all these areas near the Lake.

There are bikers, roller bladders and walkers. Lots of booths selling ice cream. Docked sailboats adorn the edges of the lake and dotted all along the lake are tourists on paddle boats and kayaks. I was perfectly content sitting on a bench by the waters edge and watching the diverse groups of passerbys speaking French, German, Chinese, Spanish, English.

A nice excursion in Zurich is to walk from the Old Town to the DolderBahn cable car. The car takes you up a hillside in a residential area to the majestic Grand Dolder hotel that has a large view of the city.

That night we took the tram into the city. The trams 7 and 15 are right outside our hotel door and it is a quick 5 minute ride to the Center of Old Town. With so many restaurants its hard to choose. Great first day in Switzerland!
Our two red bikes were already at the Rex Sorrell hotel when we arrived on the first morning. They each have a lock and a carrying satchel on the back. Wide, soft cushioned seats and raised handlebars look more comfortable than my Giant brand road bike at home. These bikes may not be as fast, but for this trip I'm all for a comfortable and casual ride.

Our bikes are provided by Hooked On Cycling and were waiting for us at our first hotel and were already sized correctly for each of us.

Day 2:

Our biking begins!  Zurich to Rapperswil and then train to Einsielden.

We enjoyed aA easy buffet breakfast in the hotel, which is included in our tour price, and then we are off. We leave luggage at the front desk to be picked up by HOC.

Our bikes have a small saddlebag so I don't need to carry my backpack. We don't have a holder for our water bottle but place it in the bag.

Today we head 21 miles to Rapperswill and then catch a 30 minute ride to Einsielden.

This was an easy ride.  There was some morning traffic in Zurich, but our route quickly takes us out of town, and though we are on a main 2-lane road, the cars are so used to bikers that there is room for everyone.  We pass urban neighborhoods and retail stores for most of the trip.
There were numerous lake-side cafes along the easy ride, where you could stop and enjoy the view.

Two hours after departure we are in the village of Rapperswill. It was a much easier ride than is expected. The path followed the lake the entire time and there was a bike path on the road the whole way. There were a lot of bikers of all ages and speeds. The two lane road went past lots of small villages with picturesque chalets as well as modern flats. There were small lakeside cafes and grassy knolls where residents were sunning and taking swims in the clear lake. We even passed groups of scuba divers. Who knew that they practiced their diving in the lake! The entire ride was completely flat. We rode about 13.6 miles per hour and the bike was comfortable.

Rapperswil has a large cobbled center of town surrounded by four story Swiss buildings all surrounding the edge of the lake. There's a castle at the top of the hill surrounded by a rose garden and vineyards overlooking the lake. It has a tall stone fortress and there also is a beautiful church. It all reminds me if the Ken Follett novel Pillars of the Earth.
Expansive view from the cathedral at the top hill in Rapperswil

The train station is about three miles down the street in an industrial looking town called Pfaffikon. HOC provided our train tickets. We stopped across the street at restaurant Hofe and had salad, fries and Frank had a large beer.

We had a bit of a scare on the train when we stepped onto the wrong train. Our bikes were settled and so were we when we heard the automated attendant speak in German the name of another destination. Thankfully we had one minute to spare and disembarked before it scurried off to who knows where.

The trains are right on schedule so don't be a minute late or you will miss it. It's on the platform for no more than 3 minutes. The train comes every hour or half hour. The train itself is modern clean and quiet and made for a very relaxing ride in through the countryside. It went up into the hillsides, offering large vista views. I was glad to not be biking up this small mountain!
Hotel Linde in Einsiedeln is quaint as can be. It's an easy five minute bike ride from the train station. From there it's a two minute walk to the town's primary attraction, an 1000 year old extremely large monastery.

If you're up for a 10 minute hike, you can find a gravel path behind the monastery and walk up the green pastured hillside. Red benches site quietly at the top, giving you a perfect place to view the panaramic sites. Frank and I brought our Kindles and spent quiet time reading while a brisk breeze cooled us in the early evening. Church bells filled the air every quarter hour.
The monastary is the expansive brown-roofed, white building structure which dominates the town.
For the most spectacular view of all, consider waking the trail past the red benches. Leading up the left into the woods. In about 10 minutes on a steep incline you'll find your first glimpse of the snow capped Swiss Alps with a small lake at the basin. Cows with cowbells are lazily eating in the fields below us and red roofed chalets dot the hillside. It's like being in the movie Heidi. As Frank says, it's about as good as it gets.
We could see and hear cows, with large cow bells as they grazed. Very much like being in the movie, "Heidi"
We took HOC's recommendation of eating dinner at Hotel Linde. We sat outside on a small patio with the monastary close by and ate one of the most enjoyable meals. Frank highly recommends the sweet cantaloupe and prosciutto. Chicken and risotto, lasagna , chocolate and vanilla mousse. We are going to be with satisfied stomachs.

Sleepers beware: as charming as the bells are when they ring during the day, they are as disturbing at night if you are a light sleeper. They ring throughout night so bring ear plugs.

Day 3:

A 60 kilometer journey to Lucerne!

Much to discuss about this big adventurous day. Bottom line is that we rode for 5 1/2 hours and took only a 40 minute stop in Zug. So it was a much longer bike excursion than we'd assumed. But I must say it was incredibly beautiful in many parts.
We left at 9 am after breakfast at Hotel Linde. The HOC directions were a bit uncertain. They said follow the road Chatzenstrick. What was confusing was that there was a road sign to Zug/Lucerne that looked logical to take. Thankfully we didn't take it. There was no Chatzenstrick but there was Katzenstrick so we took it and it looks like it leads nowhere. But, as the directions said it did in a few minutes come to a large hill that we had to walk up. Not a hill for the faint-hearted. I huffed and puffed up that mountain. And HOC was correct about the gravel path in the way down. I went slowly. That leg of the journey took at least 40 minutes but was only a few kilometers. At the end of that gravel path you hit a main road but there is no clear signage that says the way to Rothenthum and Sattel. Frank asked for directions. The correct answer is Turn left!
When HOC mentions that you are to follow red symbols, be aware that these markers are very small - probably three inches in a diamond shape with a white outline of a bike. If you get distracted watching scenery you could miss these markers.
The marker behind me is an example of what you will follow during your trip.  But sometimes it's just the bik symbol without a route number.  And they are posted in random places, sometimes on left, or on right side of the road, sometimes up high and sometimes down low.
In Sattel you actually take two sharp right turns one after the other. The directions only mentioned one turn.
There is a beautiful lake that you'll pass in Morgarten, a sleepy town.
More cycling and more effort to follow the small and often obscure red bike signs that are hung on the road signs. Sometimes these markers lead you onto neighborhood roads instead of the main road because the main road doesn't have a bike path.
Our biggest near miss was a red bike sign that had an arrow to a gravel path on the left side of a main thoroughfare on the way to Zug. This was in the Lorzentabel area. The HOC simply says you will travel through a deep ravine. What it doesn't say is that this 30 minute gravel path takes you into the woods with towering pines and a rapid, rock and boulder laced stream. It feels like you are in an Alpine hiking area. It was a nice break from the car-heavy roads.
A fair portion of this leg of the trip was actually downhill. The entire ravine on the gravel was downhill and took half an hour.

The rest of this first leg was flat.
Path into the ravine.  There's a shallow river with large boulders.
We finally made it to Zug at 11:30. At first it looks like just an industrial non tourist town. We didn't know where to go so we found the train station and asked for information and got a map. The castle was closed because it was Monday. Across from the train station is a mall. At the Migros supermarket we bought bread, cheese , cherries, cherry cake and water. We sat at an outdoor patio and nourished our tired bodies.
Luckily, Frank is good directionally so he found the small bike symbol just next to the train station near a sign that said Luzern. We were off again. Quickly we realized that Zug is beautiful. After being on the bikes just a couple of kilometers, we saw yet another spectacular lake.

There were sailboats and swimmers, lots of joggers on the paths and beautiful gardens. Our bike path led us past the lake, with train tracks on the right and an array of sites on the left, from houses to sunflowers fields to lakefront to pastures with cows. The train tracks left our view eventually and we were on small bike paths going both downhill and uphill with other bikers and joggers. It was picturesque and leads you to understand that you are in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We continued on mile after mile following signs for Risch and Kussnacjt and Luzern. We were on both small bike paths and main thoroughfares. We didn't stop at all but there were a few roadside hotels overlooking various lakes where I'm sure you could have enjoyed a soda, beer or even wading in the lakes.
This leg of the trip did have some uphill biking. Not too long and not too high but definitely I was putting my bike in the low gears or lifting out of my seat.
Eventually we made it to Luzern. Thank goodness! The lake was on our left and there where scores of bikers, cars and pedestrians. The signage was not obvious to our hotel Ibis. We rode a couple of miles past it, asked directions and turned back. The street name is not clearly visible from our Main Street of Lowenstrasse.   My advice is to stop and ask for directions!

Lucerne is full of history and beauty on every corner.  View from the famous covered wooden bridge.
The hotel is modern. No air conditioning but right in town. Though my feet and legs were tired we still walked large areas of the old town, down the cobbled streets with open air restaurants. I love the large fresco paintings on many of the three and four story buildings. We played cards on a bench shaded by trees overlooking the lake with swans gliding by, as we ate Tobleronr chocolate and a glass of local organic red wine.

Day 4:

60 kilometers to Interlaken:

A nice long sleep was welcomed last night. No monastery church bells made the night more restful.
We've enjoyed the ease of having breakfast provided at each hotel. It's been the same at every location: a buffet consisting of a variety of breads and jams, cereals, yogurts, cheese and deli meats.
We left the hotel at 7:50 and rode until 10:40 with virtually no break to Giswell, passing through Sarnen. We took the 11:30 train at Giswell to Brienz, arriving at 12:30.

Many small tourist villages along the paths on today's journey.

Our second leg began at 12:40 and we rode nonstop until 2:30 when we arrived at our hotel. This was a bear of a Biking adventure during this second leg. The guidebook didnt reference that we would be climbing into the mountains. But that's what we did!


Beautiful, but tiring ride to Interlaken.
We rode up to the waterfalls which were beautiful, but we kept climbing even past that into alpine gravel trails. I walked a few times and other times had my bike in the lowest of the 24 gears or was cycling out of my seat. This is not for the weary riders. We stopped to drink water and catch our breath. I admit that the rides down the mountain trail felt great and I thank God we had those.
Along the path were spectacular lakes. So beautiful it's hard to believe they are real, with the towering mountains shooting right up from the green valleys.
Beware, if you are directionally challenged, this day will be hard. Frank did a good job of looking out for the light blue route 9 bike signs that accompany the small red signs but there were some spots where the sign was simply not visible when we got to a center of town. Frank asked for directions.
It's amazing to realize that a person literally could bike her way through Switzerland. There are paths in every city. There are lots of little villages. They are busy with summer tourists and the winter sports must be very nice.
Brienz is very pretty as a village along the lake. The train was an easy one hour ride up the mountain.
After our 2 hour mountain journey on the bikes, we ended up in Interlaken. I had been there nearly 30 years ago out of college but it seemed much smaller then. It is a very busy tourist town - people from every nationality. The Hotel Toscana was easy to locate. The front desk lady spoke good English and when we asked about taking a train up to the Jungfraugh mountain she gave great directions.  

Hotel Toscana - good location, nice Italian meal and friendly staff.

It was fun to watch throughout the afternoon and next morning a large number of hang gliders parachuting off the mountain cliffs and landing right in the park behind our hotel.  There is a kiosk in the park where tourists can sign up for this adventure activity.

Paragliding off the mountains is a popular tourist attraction

We caught a quick and short bus, then took a small train up to Lauterbrunnen and then a cable car and tram up the mountain to Murren. It's a little ski village right up on the highest mountains in Europe. It's amazing to think about how they ever built hotels, chalets and stations up there.

Ski Village in Murren.  We took a bus from Interlaken and then a tram up the mountain, followed by a cable car to a higher destination on the mountain, which is one of the highest in Europe.

Day 5:

Interlaken to Bern:

It was drizzling as we woke at Hotel Toscana in Interlaken. Clouds hung low over the mountains. After breakfast, we rode our bikes towards Interlaken West train station, across the causeway where the pale green glacier water rushed by along the canals and we toured the little village of Unterseen. Up in the sky were hang gliders flowing over the mountains. Bikers are everywhere - older ladies with baskets heading to the bakeries, young girls with friend, tourists readying themselves for cycling trips like us, and old men in alpine shoes and newspapers under their arms after having stopped for cafe.
Interlaken West is just to the left of our hotel. It's a two minute bike ride. At the train station, directly underneath it, is the Boat station. Today's journey includes a two hour boat ride on Biernesee to Thun. Our boat tickets were included with our trip packet. The boat departed promptly at 11:10. It made about six stops, all at yeti the quaint villages perched on mountains that touch the crystal emerald green lakes. Thousands of chalets, if you counted them all. I just love the views.


Thun is a very pretty town. It's fairly large. The boat docks directly across for the station in the old part of town. There's a large castle right in town, just a five minute walk. However you can't actually tour inside the castle so its not really worth the walk. There aren't grounds outside the castle so you can't even stand and have a good view. The river Aare runs through town and there are hundreds if small shops. We decided to get on our way for biking since the boat didn't land until nearly 1:30.
From the train station we immediately saw the Aare Route 8 cycle signage and began following it towards Bern. Our ride was 30 kilometers. It was a 2 hour ride for us with no stops except a couple of picture-taking moments.
Of all of our cycle days thus far this was the easiest ride. It wasn't as pretty, however, as most of the other rides but everything in Switzerland is unique and worthwhile.

This entire Aare Route 8 is very well-marked. Probably the best marked of our journey so far. The path has about 6 kilometers on unpaved, gravel road but our bikes are able to handle that type of terrain.

Fields of farmland, with corn, tomatoes, beets and even sunflowers.

Hotel Alpenblick had modern rooms and nice outdoor meal - Swiss cuisine
This entire path is perfectly flat except one small hill just as you move into Bern. The path begins on a bike-walk only path out of Thun. There are some factories and then you spend an hour cycling through farmland. We passed corn, tomatoes, wheat and sunflowers. We followed the course of River Aare but only saw the river a few times. The course also went a small ways through a forest. At one point the River Aare had a small bridge across it and we saw large raft boats with people paddling down the rapid green stream, and swimmers. The Alp mountains were behind us and instead most of the land around us was flat with a few rolling hills. As we came into Bern we passed behind the Bern airport, with planes taking off next to us. Once in the outskirts of Bern after the first and only hill just after the airport, we had to watch very closely for the Route 8 signs. The road had us turn right and pass over the river on a walking path. We kept along and passed over two very large overpasses high above the River in the old part of town. Eventually we turned right and found Hotel Alpinblick. Small and modern, the room is like all other rooms we've stayed in - two twin beds pushed together, with two white comforters without a top sheet, and no air conditioning.
We ate dinner at the restaurant and we recommend it if you want to stay close to your hotel. Salad, fries, pork etc. After dinner, it was very convenient to turn left out if the hotel and start waking to the old part of town. It was a 10-15 minute walk but hundreds of people were out, enjoying summer. There are large town centers with space for open air restaurants. One thing we've found that surprises us are the large number of smokers in all of the cities. So they are out on these open air dinner and bar locations.
The city of Bern is grand and impressive. It has a modern feel with electric trams, some modern buildings and impressive old government buildings. It would be a nice place to stay for two days.
As we rode into town we crossed the rapid moving Aare river, which was a beautiful green. It was so inviting and even surprising to see that scores of people were swimming in the river as it ran right through the large town. The current moved them along at a rapid pace so they were floating on their backs enjoying a Swiss summer. And alongside them were large rafts filled with riders. Some were filled with children dressed like Scout troops.

Many boaters, rafters and swimmers enjoy summer days on the Aare River

This capital city is large and our map was basic so we were challenged to find our hotel. Thanfully we did and were glad to arrive. The Hotel Alpenbirk had a nice terrace for an outdoor dinner.

Day 6:

Biking from Bern to Biel/Bienne.
To summarize the day, we were on the bike for a full 4 1/2 hours with no stops and we totaled 60 km. the HOC guidebook says the ride would be 50 kilometers but our ride was longer. In ranking the difficulty of the ride, if one is easy and five is the hardest I would rate this a two and three. There were several hills that we had to walk. The down hills were fine but steep, so we went slowly. Of the 60 km, about 10 were on graveled paths.
The HOC guidebook does not give you any descriptors about the route you are taking so you don't know what to expect in terms of degree of difficulty of the ride.
The roadsigns leaving Bern and taking route 8 were very easy to locate and we moved out of the main city very quickly. Today's route was similar to the one yesterday, in terms of riding through farmland, Woods, and along the river. But as mentioned earlier, it was much more hilly. As we've become accustomed to seeing, there are many tiny villages along the way with chalets directly on the roadside. We found a bike shop in Asrberg because Franks handlebars would not stay up. The bicycle repair person could only moderately fix the bike, so we called the HOC contact number and made arrangements to go to a bike shop when we reached Biel.

While waiting at the first bike shop, I crossed the street to a small bakery that had a whole array of sweets, and I settled on a coconut macaroon which was delicious.
As our route continued through the farmland dotted with apple orchards, Frank spotted cherry trees, which I had never seen before. The cherries were fully right, so we stopped at the top of the difficult hill and picked cherries directly off the tree. Fortunately we had a plastic bag, so we kept a few for our continued journey.
Cherry trees - right along the small, two-lane roadside!
Route 8 continued to be well marked but it is extremely important to always keep your eyes behold for the next marker sign, and sometimes they come up very quickly as you are riding and it would be very easy to miss one.
Lots of pretty village churches and scenic views along our route

Our main challenge for the day was, surprisingly, finding Biel itself. Route eight had us on a small graveled path that showed 10 km to Biel. But after 10 km there was no signage towards Biel and the route continued and so did we. About 4 km past what we expected to be the end of our journey, we saw a bike route sign saying Biel was behind us. We stopped and asked directions twice. We backtracked about 3 km and eventually took a bridge over the river that we had been following. We lost track of route 8 and wound ourselves through a town just next to Biel and eventually found the center of Biel by the train station. We stopped at a large hotel and asked for sitting out. They spoke English and gave me simple directions to our hotel, the Mercure.
We wish the HOC directions spent more time giving you detailed location routes to your hotel. And the guidebook should also give you a more detailed map of the city with street names. We've had trouble finding our hotel almost every day on our route.
The hotel is very nice, and modern, and it has air-conditioning. The balcony looks out on the busy section of the city. Like all of the other Swiss cities, this one has a huge number of bikers and walkers and just a lot of hustle and bustle.

Biel has a large lake, like most of the Swiss cities.  It's very large and urban.  We found a large park and took a happy break from riding.

The old town in Biel has beautiful streets and buildings.  A way to spend a quiet evening was strolling down the streets.


Day 7:

Biel to Solothurn

By far this was the easiest biking day of the entire trip. A 30 kilometer ride, this one was completely flat. It was primarily on unpaved, gravel paths between farming fields, often following the Aare River. In comparison to our other routes, this was rather boring.
We followed Route 8 again but the road signage is not clearly evident within Biel. Instead of using the HOC map which doesn't give detailed directions, we used a city street map. We left our hotel and headed toward the train station and the routed ourselves towards the canal to the west of the station. We crossed the canal and once again picked up the small gravel path that has Route 8, heading northwest to Solothurn. We passed very few bikers along the entire route.
As we did yesterday, we passed through fields of corn, beets, wheat. We only passed by two towns. The first was very pretty, with an old covered wooden bridge over the river.


I enjoyed riding past the many farm houses that butt right up to our bike path. Chalet homes with attached barns. Shetland ponies, horses and cows graze next to many of these farms.
Pretty town centers in Solothurn
There is a large church in Solothurn, where you can pay a small amount and climb ancient winding stairs to the top of tower that overlooks the city.  It's a beautiful view.


We found a bakery directly across from our hotel, and ate the Soloturn Torte (very good)

Day 8:

Solothurn to Aarau

A 60 kilometer bike ride, continuing on Route 8 following the bike signs to Olten. The 8 path was easy to catch in the heart of old town Solothurn just by the river. We averaged 18 kilometers an hour so we made very good time, leaving our hotel at 8 am after breakfast.

This ride was very easy. The roads were both paved and gravel but fairly flat. I walked up only hill. The views were a variety of more farmlands - with corn, wheat, sunflowers, apple orchards - mixed with dark forest trails and a few small towns and some rural neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are interesting because the houses are directly on the main road, with the front door being about 10 feet from the street. Occasionally we saw the Aare River, as it continues to be our main road marker.
Again today, the route is well marked the entire time. But again, it's important to stay alert for the red Route 8 bike signs because they come upon you quickly and it would be easy to be admiring the scenery and entirely miss a sign.

A prominent smell throughout the routes, not just today but on many of the days, is the heavy smell of fresh manure. After all, the pastures and even neighborhood yards are filled with cows chewing their cud with large cow bells ringing. The manure is often outdone by the smell of fresh flowers, maybe lilac?  Early on the ride we passed through Aarburg and there's a pretty wooden bridge where we took pictures as we stood by the River. Once in Olten, we stopped at an outdoor market and bought a bratwurst. The city is a blend of modern and old, like so many of the Swiss villages we've seen.
Our paths were a varied mixture of gravel, dirt and pavement.
I'm surprised at how many older bike couples I've seen along the path. Couples in their late 60s or 70s, often speeding by at a faster rate than me.
We reached Aarau around lunch time. By simply following the Town Center signs and continuing straight instead of turning left to go up the hill to the town, our Hotel Zum Shutzen was directly in front of us with pretty blue and white stripe awnings and large outdoor restaurant under blue umbrellas.
Our luggage was waiting, as it has been almost every day. My first intent, almost always, is a quick hot shower. We then headed out to the town at the top of a hill. More cobblestone streets and a midday farmers market, where we bought cherries and tomatoes. My favorite lunch destination is Migros, which is the equivalent of a Kroger grocery chain. They are in every city and have a super hot and cold food bar. It's been packed at lunchtime but the food is good, it's qui k and the price is reasonable.
The town of Aarau is yet one more town. They are now running together. A blend of old and new and a hundred small stores that are selling tshirts and shoes on the outside pavement. And of course there are the outdoor tables with umbrellas in front of a variety of Swiss and Italian restaurants, where old and young people alike are drinking a beer. It doesn't matter what time of day it is, those tables have beer drinkers and, unfortunately, smokers.
There's always a Starbucks in the Swiss towns!
This was our Hotel Gasthof Zum Schumtzen
The hotels in these towns have no air conditioning because there are few times they need them. But our hotel really needed it today. It was 85 degrees at 9 pm. We walked around the village and found ice cream in an effort to stay cool. We kept the windows open at night a d heard the shutter of trains as they sped by.

More pretty churches in the small towns

Day 9:

Last biking day! Aarau to Zurich, where it all started. A 60 kilometer trip.

My knee is tired so I'm wearing a knee brace I bought yesterday at a convenience store. The weather is mild, about 65 degrees. It feels great to bike in the mornings and we were off at 8 am

This 60 kilometers ended up being a surprising and fairly tiring 5 1/2 hour bike ride with very few stops. The reasons for the lengthy ride:
1) we were riding against the wind the entire time so it slowed my pace;
2) I was just plain tired so I rode more slowly than usual:
3) a good amount of the path was gravel so that slows us down;
4) there were a fair amount of small hills from the 20th - 45th kilometer;
5) we were lost a couple of times- once because we read a road sign that we thought was pointing down but was pointing straight so we lopped around a couple of kilometers, and another time was getting into Zurich itself (I will explain that later).

The first 20 kilometers were along the River Aare and were flat, all gravel and fairly uninteresting. It was in wooded trails all the way to Brugg. Because it was Sunday morning nothing was ope. In Brugg so we stopped just long enough to drink water and finish off the cherries we'd bought the day before.

From Brugg we left Route 8 and started following Route 5 toward Baden which was 13 kilometers. This was when the path began on a paved road with cars and more hills. Some of the scenery was through neighborhoods and empty stretches of road. I walked my bike up a hill at least once. Arriving in Baden, we stopped for more water and again due to it being Sunday everything was closed. We took a few photos and then we were off again.

The bike sign said Zurich was 27 kilometers so were were halfway there.
The last 27 kilometers lingered on. There was more unpaved paths and regular roads. For a few kilometers we lost track of signage for Route 5 and simply said Zurich but didn't have the number sign. We realized those signs were keeping you on main roads. Within a few kilometers we saw Route 5 again and followed it into Zurich.
The big challenge was that Route 5 started showing Zurich flufhafen which means airport. It showed 4 kilometers but it was longer than 4. Then we passed around the back if the airport and the next Bike signage we saw was another city past Zurich so we realized that Route 5 bypasses the whole city and does not take you into town. The signage took you left, away from the actual road signs directing you to the right towards Zurich.
By now we already had traveled 68 kilometers.
We stopped in confusion and thankfully my phone's GPS worked and we located our Hotel Sorrell address. On the GPS the hotel was about 5 miles away. We arrived at 1:30. We congratulated ourselves for accomplishing this big adventure and promptly found hot showers and a full meal!
We had the remainder of the afternoon to spend on Zurich. We had bathing suits on and took the tram to Lake Zurich where there's a large park and hundreds of sunbathers. We relaxed and read our book, then ate at a pizzeria and made our way back to the hotel to pack. 

It was a great journey on a bike. I would do it again because it is a fantastic way to really feel the like of a country - the rural and urban areas. The fast and slow pace of life. On a bike might be the best type of vacation of all!