Sweet Swiss Alps


Hands down, one of the most spectacular views on Earth is in the Berner Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. The air is so crisp & clean; the snow is fluffy & white; and drinking hot chocolate while looking at people ski or sledge by is oddly comforting. I’ve uploaded a TON of pictures to share because the region is so breathtaking!

SwissIf you ever get to Switzerland (and really…just go because I promise that it’s worth the money), be sure to take the Top of Europe tour. It is worth every cent. My day started at 6am. Once I was up & dressed, I hit Starbucks and then on to the rail station so I could catch the train from Zug to Lucerne. After purchasing my ticket, I had about 10 minutes to wait for the train and you know some crazy man found me. Out of all the people on the platform, he has to come chat with me. I’m not sure if it’s because I was the only person of color and just stood out or what. But, Swissangelo (that’s what I’m calling him) starts speaking German and I was like, “I don’t comprehend that. Sorry.” and thought he’d go about his business. Nope. He apparently is a multi-lingual crazy. How can you be crazy and speak more than 1 language? Seriously? So, he starts mumbling something about songs. I’m half listening until he steps directly in front of me and into my personal space making me take a couple of steps back. Now that he has my full attention, he repeats his early comment about songs and starts singing something in Italian. If you are keeping count, he’s up to 3 languages. I look around and was like, “oh, that was pretty. thanks!” and try to inch away. But no! He starts with, “I wrote 2 songs I want to perform for you!” I was like, “okay.” I mean, at this point, we are already the star attractions for the morning commuters and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He performs one of his “compositions” and Lord help me…liquor + performing = disaster. Save it for the Grammys. I’m looking around slightly embarrassed once he starts getting on one knee and holding out his hand to serenade me. All I want to do is drink my coffee. But, hey, at this point, I figure that I gotta roll with the crazy. I mean, they find me in every country I visit so I might as well be some sort of Ambassador to Sanity for them. Luckily, before he was able to bring the song home with a glory note, the train arrives and he thanks me for listening to his song. Crazy can be sweet. I should know…I’ve dated enough of them.

So, after my 20 minute train ride to Lucerne, I exit the station and start trying to figure out the directions to the tour meeting point. Which weren’t that difficult. While walking around outside, I keep wishing I had brought my big down coat because it was FREEZING! Little did I know that the weather in Lucerne would seem tropical to what it was in the alps.

There are 7 of us on the tour and everybody happens to be in Switzerland on business so we had something in common. We leave Lucerne and take a van to Interlaken (population 5500). Being in Switzerland was a great change of pace after China. Whereas you had 15 million people residing in 1 city, the population for the entire country of Switzerland is around 350K! Another fun fact I learned is that they elect a new president EVERY YEAR! However, this is more for figurehead duties. Apparently, Switzerland is made of up “states” called “cantons” which can have their own language. The government has ministers from all cantons and the presidency rotates between these ministers on a yearly basis based upon a vote.

We ride up to Lauterbrunnen to take the cog-wheel train up to Jungfrau.

IMG_2198.jpg IMG_2129.jpg IMG_2128.jpg
IMG_2072.jpg IMG_2079.jpg IMG_2091.jpg

You can see that they elevation continues to go higher and higher.

IMG_2192.jpg IMG_2130.jpg IMG_2136.jpg

We pass the beautiful town of Wengen!


A couple of the ladies on the tour with me!


Ski lifts & skiers & trails.

IMG_2097.jpg IMG_2111.jpgIMG_2118.jpg

Breathtaking beauty!


This is the first time I’ve seen a conveyor belt for skiers! In addition to ski lifts (in the second pic below), they have this conveyor belt (which is partially covered with snow) that brings skiers up the trail in the 2nd pic.

IMG_2204.jpg IMG_2199.jpg

Then I had the chance to go to the Ice Palace!

270_IMG_2164.jpg IMG_2165.jpg IMG_2166.jpg IMG_2167.jpg

On the way back, we stop in Gimmelwald.

IMG_2191.jpg IMG_2195.jpg IMG_2196.jpg IMG_2219.jpg IMG_2218.jpg IMG_2217.jpgIMG_2215.jpg

All in all, this has to be on of the best adventures of my life! Totally fell in love with Berner Oberland would like to spend a long weekend in Wengen trying to learn to ski. While looking out over the snow-capped alps, all I could think of was that I am truly blessed to be able to have the opportunity to see so much of this beautiful world we live in.

What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!


3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.


4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.


5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.