Now in Basel for the weekend, long-arranged as Ross was in the US last week. I thought it would be fun to join him here, as our mountain apartment is being lent out. In fact the weather is lovely and we spend most of Saturday looking at new cars, difficult in German, as understanding the complicated specs of vehicles these days is challenging in any language, let alone a foreign one!
Today, Sunday, we went on an expedition over the border to France, to Colmar in Alsace to be precise. It is known as Petit Venise and when we arrive there after a short 40-minute drive, we understand why. It is an ancient old town, with cobbled car-free streets, half-timbered houses painted every hue of pastel, strung like coloured beads along the banks of a canal. On a beautiful clear day, it is as pretty as a picture. In fact it all reminds me rather of the Old Town in Prague, with its medieval alleyways and higgledy-piggeldy buildings.
It is a good time to visit, mid-winter, as we can imagine this picturesque place being thronged in the summer months. Already we see Chinese, Japanese and other oriental tourists, just as we did in Wengen last weekend. ‘I can’t imagine what this will be like when the Chinese discover this properly,’ remarks Ross. It is just their sort of place – quaint, traditional and unspoiled– here we are looking at lions carved into stone door lintels; in China, it would have been dragons although both cultures share intricate floral motifs.
After wandering around for a bit we share a traditional Alsace lunch: tarte flambée (a pizza-like flatbread topped with, yes you got it, cheese, ham and cream!) and pork knuckle with sauerkraut and smothered in yet more melted Munster cheese, washed down with a dark Ambre beer for Ross and a Pinot Gris for me. Sinful but delicious.
Afterwards we are strangely drawn to the wine shop – Colmar is after all the centre of the regional wines, and we purchase a few bottles to take home. Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are not my normal wines of choice, but it is too good an opportunity to miss to educate oneself in some local culture….