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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Scottanddischloss in Basel


When I read about "old town" Basel, the medieval part of the city, I pictured crumbling, grey stones like, say, York in England. But that's not how the Swiss do medieval. Nothing is allowed to crumble. The old town is beautifully maintained, probably all wired as well. I love both versions Ye Olde, it's just that Basel's took me by surprise.


Scott and Di live right in the center of the city, practically across the street from the beautiful Kunstmuseum and just a block or two away from the old town. In addition to their two little sprite dogs, Dee Dee and Gibby, they also have a cat or two.

Two things trigger my asthma: chest colds and cats. I came prepared for the cats with my usual asthma medication but I'd also come down with a cold. The cats and the cold got together and kicked my inhaler's ass, stole its lunch money, and gave it a wedgie just to make a point.

Hives. Vomiting. Now out-of-control asthma. The travel maladies and reached comic proportions. I would have laughed but I couldn't breathe.

So I took the charming tram through the old town to the nearest hospital. If you have to spend ten minutes gasping for breath you might as well choose lovely scenery, no? And if you find yourself ill in a foreign country, be sure it's in Switzerland. The serene, spacious waiting rooms have bottles of mineral water (sparkling and still) and I couldn't have waited more than five minutes before the doctor appeared. He looked just like my brother Jared, which was oddly comforting. And, of course, he spoke fluent English. After examining me he gave me a steroid inhaler. I paid nothing for this service and have yet to receive a bill.

Love, love, love Switzerland. Can I move there?

The steroids gave me loads of energy (but not, alas, tour de France thighs) so I dragged everyone out with me and we toured the old town and took a ferry across the Rhine. We were losing our light by then so I couldn't photograph our crossing, but the ferries in Basel have been around since the middle ages. They run along cables and are pushed by a current. You can sit on the small deck outside or you can hide from the wind indoors, where they keep a little candle burning.

That night I used my remaining steroid-enhanced stamina to make the Cooks Illustrated enchiladas. They didn't photograph well. But don't you love Di's cute kitchen tile?


The next day we set out for Colmar to see the Isenheim Alterpiece at the Unterlinden Museum. But first we made an important stop, lunch at Wistub du Sommelier in screamingly-adorable Bergheim.



Lane had a terrine of Guinea hens with a compote of figs, then pike dumplings. I started with steak tartar and then had young vennison scallpe with spaetzle and red cabbage. I also had their Gerwurtztrameiner Cote d'Raufaach 2004, not that I'll ever be able to locate it anywhere but it did send me back to a blossom-filled spring afternoon.

My third favorite thing about this place was that we weren't the only ones with a kid. There were five others, including a two-year-old who spent most of the meal rolling around on the floor and a five-year-old who just seemed to wander at will. Everyone sipped their exquisite wine and ate their delicious food and acted like this was how things ought to be.

I'm afraid I can't report on the Isenheim Alterpiece. Rather than stare at yet another extraordinary work of art I decided to reward Jasper for his patience with us and take him on some kiddie rides. Colmar's Christmas market was still up and there were little train rides and a mini Ferris wheel -- Jasper's first! He loved it, and I loved watching his delight, stomping his feet with a car load of other rowdy little French boys.

Our last day in Basel I went shopping with the girls. Di took us to this store with clothes designed specifically with me in mind, yet strangely everything was out of my price range. That is, until we got to the clearance rack in the back. Oh, what fun I had then.

Back in Venice I'd met two very chic and very sweet Turkish women. When we went to the countess' house they showed up in these dishy little blue cocktail dresses. I didn't know we were going to a countess' house and so I wore jeans and a sweater and thought, for the 1000th time, I need a good party dress. I found it, a blue (!) silk and crepe number, and I almost missed it because it was under a goofy-looking vest. Di discarded the vest and demanded I try on the dress. And it was mine.

I also found the perfect playground summer skirt and a sexy blouse -- perfect for one of those art events I'm always scrambling for. So you see, I actually needed these items. Really. I have "festive dress" functions to attend! This was not just a fun splurge. (My post-shopping speech to Lane)

I won't even go into the other amazing finds, except to say adorable Marc Jacobs coat practically for free, but it did not fit me. Merde!

What goes with shopping with girlfriends? Lunch! We went touristy and had cheese fondue -- I forget the name of the restaurant and lost their card. The salads were so good, nutty maiche with lardons (little bits of bacon) and chopped egg. So good, in fact, that after we drove back to Geneva with Lara she whipped up the same salad for dinner to go with our omelets!

And the following morning we left for home.

I left so much out, like the 100's of kinder eggs we kept giving Jasper, the fountains in Basel, all the hats Carmen kept knitting, and the wonderful jams I bought in Bergheim. It was a grand adventure. Proof that I'd had a proper holiday came when I looked in the mirror at home and found that the deep wrinkle that had formed between my brows was completely gone.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

OH! I would LOVE to see a pic of you in the dress!! What color of blue is it? It sounds like you had a wonderful time in Basel. I love reading your vacation posts...they help that line between my brow disappear as well.

Swizzies said...

Wow, you even make me want to live in Switzerland! :-) We only have one cat, but she's annoying enough for two.

We'll see what the Swiss hospital is like for surgery and over a week-long stay. I'll let you know...

We had SO MUCH FUN with you all, you should come back!

janeannechovy said...

Swiss vacation with girlfriends = Botox? Sign me up!

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed your European adventures. I liked going there vicariously through your posts.

The food sounds so amazing. I'm drooling.

How awful that you were so ill.

Fred got some kind of weird bite when we were in Norway a few years ago. We still have no idea what it was--if it really was a bite. The bump on his ankle grew to the size of a baseball before we decided to spend a day finding a clinic/hospital. That place was just about as awesome and our experience as great as yours. We paid the equivalent of a co-pay for our entire visit, including the pills they gave him.

I kept thinking (because I was pregnant at the time) that Norway was the place I wanted to give birth.

Happy B-Day to Jasper, too.