Saturday, July 31
I got ripped off at the currency exchange counter at the airport this morning. 485.7 francs turned into only $359 when earlier in the week I was cashing $100 travelerís checks and getting 123 francs back. Now I know they need to make money on the conversion, but I was expecting an extra $40 than what I got. But I didnít have much choice since francs donít spend very well in the US. I had a slight problem in Newark while coming back. The plane touched down at 1:30 PM and my Cleveland connection was at 3:15 PM. In this time I had to go through customs, pick up my bag (donít know why they require this) and then re-check it. Due to Newarkís terminal layout, this required going outside the secure area, so then I had to go back through security check to get to my gate. By running to the gate, I barely made the flight but my bag had to take the next flight out. There was another Newark-Cleveland flight later, so they could solve this problem by putting international travelers on the later flight in the first place.
This was a nice trip and I had a very good time touring Switzerland. The weather was beautiful with only rain the one morning. Some days were a little warm and it did not cool down until after midnight making sleeping somewhat difficult. I did everything I wanted to do and saw everything I wanted to see. Having said that, I donít think a return trip here is likely. First, I want to go to different places. There is a yearly tournament on the Isle of Man which is between England, Scotland and Ireland off the shore from Liverpool. Thatís probably my next trip and after that who knows. Second, this was a really expensive trip.
I know it makes me sound like a miserly Midwestern guy, but thatís who I am. It wasnít just the airfare, although at just over $1000 it was the biggest item. Everything I wanted to buy was higher priced than I am used to. I bought everything I wanted anyway because I knew this might be my only time Iíll come here. But each item just kept adding up. Commemorative t-shirt, $25. CD of Swiss folk music, $25. Half-liter of cola, $3. Sun block, nearly $10. Most meals in the $20-$25 dollar range. Some in the $60 range. Although I didnít have a car, itís also notable that gas was 1.4 Francs/liter (thatís over $4/gal for the conversion challenged). And while I thought the train ticket prices were reasonable, they added quite a bit to the overall price of the trip. Round trip to Bern, $22. $50 to Lausanne, $65 to Zurich, $75 to Geneva. I know, I know, memories that last a lifetime are priceless. Speaking of ad slogans, there were a lot of restaurants that did not take plastic and others where their card reader didnít work. This was why I had to keep raiding the cash machine. I can definitely state that VISA was not everywhere I wanted it to be. I donít think I even want to know the total price of this trip, but without the prize I won, I easily spent over $2500.
Still, like I mentioned in the beginning, this is the first true vacation Iíve taken since I went to Budapest. I had a good time and thatís supposed to be what a vacation is about. I played reasonably well in the tournament and gained a few rating points. I got to play five French Defenses and none of them were the interminable Exchange Variation. I was paired against seven higher rated opponents and even beat one of them. (+1, =3, -3 total) I toured Switzerland and got around ok even though I donít understand French or German. Iíll see everybody when I get back to Cleveland and Go Tribe!