Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hotel Schweizerhof in Lucerne

This hotel, the first 5-star hotel in Lucerne has a long history and is one of the important landmarks in lucerne. Situated right in front of lake lucerne, the grand building cannot be missed if you stand on the side of the KKL. Schweizerhof is a chain in Switzerland reputed for it's good locations and service.

Welsome snacks which we brought on our cruise

Cruise on Lake Lucerne, with the hotel in the backdrop

From KKL, the cultural centre (for perfomances, conferences, exhibitions etc.)

What we liked best was the fitness and wellness centre which all guests have access to.
Check out my video :)

Rate: SGD$450+ per night for non-lakeview without breakfast. Add CHF80 per night if you want lake view, CHF35 each for breakfast.

Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald

Of all the hotels we stayed at in Europe, only two are worth mentioning here: 1. Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald and 2. Hotel Schweizerhof, Luzern.
Grindelwald is one of the two gateways to Jungfrau (Top of Europe). The other is Wengen. I simply love this hotel with splendid view of the mountains nestled in Grindelwald, 35 mins from Interlaken OST station. Grindelwald n wungen are the gateways to the famous jungfrau region.

Run by a couple, the fourth generation owners, the hotel gives you a chance to stay in a traditional Swiss country-side cottage. Although 100 years old, it is very well-maintained and clean with modern amenities such as complimentary wireless Internet.

They very kindly picked up our baggage from grindelwald station so that we could go straight to jungfraujoch, the highest peak in Europe. After our jungfrau trip, we were picked up from grindelwald station and checked in immediately, with our baggages already placed in our rooms. No need to show passport or present credit card.

I really have no complaints about this hotel. The owners are so warm and hospitable, the hotel is so cosy, the view and location cannot be better, the food is awesome and the price is so reasonable!

For it's awesome location and view, with buffet breakfast,  it costs CHF240 a night for two (very reasonable by Swiss standards)! The 4-course dinner was CHF40 per person which is very value-for-money by Swiss standards (a MacDonald's fillet-o-fish meal costs CHF9.90).

Our dinner consisted of

Quiche Lorraine
Broccoli soup which I would have licked clean if I was at home
Salmon with hollandaise sauce
Raspberry w cream

Chris accidentally dropped his iPad and spilled water onto my almost finished quiche Lorraine. They swiftly removed the soiled table cloth and changed to a fresh, new one and offered to give me another quiche but I declined. That's awesome service.

If we go back to grindelwald (very likely), we will definitely stay there again!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Tax-Rebate Fuss

It's such a fuss to collect tax rebate if you make purchases in an EU country but leave from a non-EU country like what we did. I made purchases in Milan, Italy (EU) but we were to fly back from Zurich, Switzerland (non-EU) to Singapore. When you do that, you need to get a custom stamp at the last EU point of departure. No custom stamp = no refund! Reach Switzerland = too late!

If you travel by plane from Milan to Zurich, that's not a problem cos you can get the custom stamp from Milan airport. Unfortunately, we were going to travel from Milan to Chur in Switzerland via Tirano. So we had a hard time figuring out where to get the custom stamp because we had no idea where the border is! The worse part is that the Italians themselves have no clue! Is it at Milan? Is it between Milan and Tirano? Is it between Tirano n Chur?

Here are the versions we got:

1. Ferragamo salesgirl

Just do it at Zurich airport

This is the biggest mistake! Once you reach Zurich, it's too late!

2. Girl at tax-refund counter in La Rinascente shopping mall beside Duomo Cathedral

Get on the train, tell conductor we need the stamp and the officer will get on at Como Chiasso to give it to us.

She got it totally wrong! Cos that's the wrong border! That's if you go from Milan to Zurich directly but we are not going that way!

She also told us that although Tirano is in Italy, it's not part of EU so we have to get the stamp somewhere in between Milan and Tirano which she insisted is Como Chiasso -.- this is sooooo wrong!

3. Milan station officer
She said "I don't know!"

Great... But it's at least better than saying the wrong thing...

4. Hotel concierge
Get the stamp from Milan station.

This is also totally wrong -.- cos Milan is not the last EU departure point -.-

So we scoured the Internet and found some suggestions. I prayed really hard, couldn't eat couldn't sleep... Cos some of the purchases were made on behalf of my colleagues. If i don't get the refund, its fine but i feel bad towards them :(

Here is the correct way to claim tax if you go buy from Milan and then travel to Chur in Switzerland via Tirano onboard the Bernina Express i.e. You travel from Milan to Tirano on trenitalia then from Tirano to Chur on Bernina Express.

From Milan to Tirano is about 2.5h. You get off the train from the Italian side 

and cross over to the Swiss side (they are just side by side). The customs office is in the Swiss ticket building.

Show your tax-refund forms and passport. Be prepared to show your purchases (read my precious post "You is crazy"). Get the stamp, fill in your credit card info (if you have not already got it in cash) n all relevant info, seal the envelope and mail it in the red postal box in front of the tourist info office.

This is so inconvenient! Pui! In Japan, they just charge me the tax-free price right away!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

You is crazy!

The custom officer at Tirano is very funny! When I presented my tax-refund forms for the custom stamp, he insisted on seeing my Ferragamo shoes so I showed them to him...

Custom Officer: These shoes? This price *points to receipt*?!?!
me: Yes...
Custom Officer: *suspicious look*
me: *points to the brand* Ferragamo
Custom Officer: *shakes head* You is crazy!!
Me: *run my fingers over the stones* Swarovski crystals...
Custom Officer: Ah... Hm... Your (h)usband (will) kill you!


All these happened when chris was happily sipping his minestrone soup at a restaurant and when I related the incident to him, he also LOL haha