Ryan Ho (age 9), his sister Rachael (age 5), and their parents Adrian and Shirley. Ryan and Rachael attend The British School of Beijing.
Over the Spring Festival holiday, we traveled to Switzerland for one week of skiing and spent Chinese New Year in London, UK with friends. We flew with Swissair from Beijing to Zurich and with budget airline EasyJet from Zurich to London. We stayed at Movenpick Hotel Lausanne in Switzerland and at Citadines Prestige Holborn – Covent Garden in London. We planned the entire trip ourselves using Agoda, Hotels.com, and TripAdvisor. Switzerland’s tourism website (myswitzerland.com) was also very useful. We enrolled the kids at Les Paccots ski school online (www.lespaccots.ch).
The overall cost of the trip was around RMB 50,000. This included all flights, rental cars, two weeks’ worth of hotels, dining out, ski lessons, and some shopping.
The Best Parts
Ryan: The skiing in Switzerland! We drove up a snowy mountain and into the ski resort. I could see the Swiss Alps towering above us, and Lake Geneva and the French Alps looming far away. Skiing was a great experience, especially with such nice instructors to teach me. I zoomed through the alpine wonderland, curving through emerald trees and whizzing down white alpine slopes. It was exhilarating!
We also went to two castles, but the most impressive one was Castle Chillon, 2km from Montreux. When I entered it, I could see how people lived in the medieval ages. The castle was owned by the lords of Savoy before the Bernese took over; it didn’t need a moat because it was built on an island just meters off the coast. Inside, tapestries covered the walls of the banquet room and there was a tall spiral staircase that went all the way up to the castle’s main tower (or keep). This served as the guard’s watchtower, a last resort for defenders to hide in and where the treasure was kept. There was a room where the beds were incredibly short. Its occupants did not sleep lying down; instead, they slept sitting down with their backs on the bed rest. I still like the watchtowers the most. There were at least six guards stationed on each tower on a 24hr lookout.
We also went to the famous town of Evian, where they fill bottles with Evian water. We took a ferry across Lake Geneva to France. On the ferry, I saw Lake Geneva glistening in the sunlight below me and seagulls calling above me. When we reached Evian, we climbed to where the water source was. I filled my bottle with fresh Evian spring water; it tasted sweet and refreshing, as if my body had been suddenly filled with energy.
The Worst Part
It was great overall, but the weather in London in February can be very cold and rainy; families should bring an umbrella and warm clothing.
Ryan: On this trip, we got to watch three West End musicals: Shrek the Musical, Wicked, and Matilda. All of them were amazing, but the one I liked best was Matilda because it was astonishing how one little girl could remember so many songs and lines! Most people told us that the tickets were all sold out, but we managed to buy them all one hour before the show.
Shirley: Both Switzerland and UK are very family-friendly countries. For example, we managed to get English-speaking instructors for the ski lessons in Zurich. Staff at the Movenpick in Lausanne were very accommodating, such as letting the kids eat for free during breakfast and providing free transportation to the city center. Both hotels in Lausanne and London upgraded us to larger rooms at no extra cost. In London, all the museums had free admission, which means we got to spend an entire day just exploring them.
Ryan: My family and I also boarded a train to Piccadilly Circus, where we shopped under the bright lights and ate a magnificent dinner. Piccadilly Circus is famous for its bright advertisement screens and many, many shops. We walked down Regent Street and into the oldest toy store in the world, Hamley’s. The original store was opened in 1760, over 200 years ago! Inside, there were four stories of absolute fun, with board games, toy helicopters and almost every toy that you could name.
The Swiss slopes at this time of year are great. Swissair flies direct from Beijing to Zurich daily.
London’s unpredictable weather means that you need good planning and backup options. Staying at a hotel in central London (one minute from Holborn subway station) is a real plus if you want to zip around this vibrant city.
photo courtesy of the HO Family