Category Archives: Basel

The right place at the right time

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Throughout our travels, Sara and I have often thought about how great it would be to arrive in a new city just as some big significant event is beginning, to witness the locals celebrating something they are legitimately passionate about. Alas, this has never happened (save for an incident involving prom queens hurling watermelons at crowds and shirtless men with tridents) …until now.

As plans with our incredible Swiss cousins took shape, we realized that we were taking a very serendipitous detour. Instead of heading south to the French Riviera (where hostels and train tickets had already been scooped up by throngs of tourists), we were very nicely positioned to rent a car and hit not one but THREE events of extreme national importance.

We bid a fond farewell to Andreas, Simone, and their boys at the Basel airport, since we’d have to pick the car up in France in order to avoid border-crossing fees. Fortunately we didn’t actually have to fly anywhere:

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Our faithful steed
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After enjoying a glass of local Alsacian wine with our lovely airbnb hosts, we headed to our first stop: Germany. No particular destination, just anywhere with a screen, some Deutsch brew, and some patriotic football fans. In the town of Kehl, just across the Rhine, we found exactly what we were looking for:

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The crowd thinned a bit after halftime, when the torrential downpour started growing increasingly cold. Fortunately it left only the most hardcore fans (and us, but I suppose that makes us hardcore).

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It was pretty tearing to see the country we were IN (and had grown to love) going up against the country we’d long adopted as our second home. Ultimately I’m glad Germany won, not only because the chorus of horns honking echoed behind us the whole way back into France, but let’s face it, the winning goal was REALLY impressive.

Our second stop was an hour drive south, to the small city of Mulhouse (pronounced muh-LOOZ), where stage 10 of the Tour de France was departing. Despite the banner-waving crowds and adorable tweens running around with notepads hoping for autographs, we were able to get right up to the makeshift fence as the cyclists took their place at the starting line.

The starting line. Full disclosure, the in-town starting lines are purely for show…the cyclists will bike a few kilometres out of town, where they will legitimately start the race with a little less pomp and ceremony. If you’ve ever wondered how the race works (when most of the images we see on TV involve cyclists packed together like sardines, unable to pass each other), check it out here, it’s pretty much the most complicated thing on earth!
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Locals appreciating the scene from the comfort of their own balconies.
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The yellow jersey, the race’s most prestigious symbol, worn here by the current first place contestant, Tony Gallopin (alas, he would be forced to give it up at the end of the day!)
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The day happened to be the 14th of July, known throughout the world as Bastille Day, but in France simply as fête national. We were told that Strasbourg had some of the best fireworks around, but some less-than-accurate directions steered us the wrong way. As we finally found the right exit off the freeway, however, the sky exploded in front of us. A convenient construction barrier on the side of the exit ramp provided the perfect place to watch the celebration.

Strasbourg’s fireworks display, celebrating the victory of reason over monarchical insanity.
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The closed exit ramp was a pain to most, but it afforded an excellent view for us!
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In sum, Glückwünsch, Deutschland; bonne voyage, cyclistes; and heureuse Fête Nationale, France. Thanks for a ridiculously eventful 48 hours!

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Swiss Bliss (zwöi)

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Continued from some previous bliss with other Swiss…

From Bern, we took the train to Chur, the closest train station to the hamlet of Ober-Says where my cousin Andreas and his wife Simone lived. Andreas had come to visit his (and my) Uncle Jeff over two different summers, so we had gotten to know each other then. However, while I knew hypothetically that Jeff and his family were Swiss, my only interactions with both Jeff and Andreas had only ever been in Manitoba, so I couldn’t actually imagine seeing Andreas at home in Switzerland. Furthermore, the last time I had seen Andreas was not only the summer of my & Josh’s wedding (so we were already a bit preoccupied), but it was also during their holiday to Canada that summer that Simone, only six months pregnant, had gone into labour and ended up giving birth to their second son in the backseat of my aunt’s car in the middle of rural Manitoba and had to spend the next three months caring for her son in hospital. Therefore, the last time I had seen Andreas and Simone, there hadn’t really been a lot of time for hanging out together!

As a result, we really had no idea what to expect when we stepped off the train. What we got was two blonde tow-headed Swiss boys hurtling towards us with fistfuls of waving Canada flags, and hugely welcoming hugs from Andreas and Simone.

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They asked us how long we planned to stay, and we proposed three days, but when they hesitated, we hastily assured them we could leave earlier if three days was too much. “Well, we have this whole week off and then we were going to take you to Simone’s family’s place this weekend as well, but if you have to leave earlier than we don’t want to keep you…”

Hosts that want you to stay longer? We would never say no to that!

With our week-long stay confirmed, they got down to business. Spreading out a map of Switzerland on the table between us, our hosts extraordinaires proceeded to plot out all possible destinations and activities for our “programme” together.
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Hang on to your hats… It was a packed week, and we have the pictures to prove it! 🙂

The “4 Countries Before Lunch” Roadtrip (Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany, & Switzerland!)

A little (okay, a lot) of rain couldn’t dampen Lichtenstein’s mysterious beauty
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Umbrella
Lich horse
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The Bodensee (finally seeing it for ourselves after hearing about it from so many Bodenseehof alum!)
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Mid-roadtrip power-nap
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Dinner with Simone’s sister Andrea in quaint Appenzell (ps. Andreas – where is my beer?! :P)
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App dinner

High-Ropes Climbing Garden

Choo-choo… Loading our car onto a train to pass through the mountain on the way there
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Ropes
Ropes kids
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S ropes
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Snowball fights in July as we passed over the mountain on the way back!
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The Great Canadian Breakfast (where our hosts proceeded to write down every single Canadian breakfast food they could think of, then looked at the list and mused, “Maybe we will need to invite another family to help eat.”)
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Roadtrip to Italian Switzerland in search of sunshine!
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Italy side
Paddle!

Josh’s Alpine driving lessons in a standard proved that Simone has the patience of a saint (apparently my terror was palpable from the backseat)
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Road

Weekend with Simone’s family

Ruk-Shuk (thanks to Simone for introducing us to this truly awesome Canadian game!)
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Schwingen/Hoselupf aka Swiss German wrestling pants (apparently it’s a thing… I plan to ask Uncle Jeff for a demonstration! :P)
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A beautiful little walk turned deluge! (Josh & I seem to attract flash floods on this trip…)
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Ps. Dankeschön to Elizabeth for the towels and clothes dryer!!

The best way to learn a language: hang out with 3-year olds (they are always excited to name farm animals and colours, and only judge you a little bit when you can’t count to 10)
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Andreas, Simone, Aric, & Gabriel: You have redefined the meaning of “hospitality” for us.

    VIELEN DANK / DANGGE

for an incredibly fun, beautiful, relaxing, and entertaining week. We cannot wait to host you in Winnipeg next time! 🙂

Fam!!!!