Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Taste of Home

It is lovely having family around.
One of the great pleasures of my living in Switzerland is that I can host visitors from Canada. Not only do they get a chance to stay in this very expensive country at no cost, but they bring me a piece of home. In my two years here, I have happily opened my doors to friends, family and former students. The last of these guests-my sister, Catherine, and her husband, John–joined Bob and me for nine days in the first part of June.
On our way to trivia–a pose at Place des Halles
Immediately upon their arrival, Catherine and John were whisked off to the Café du Cerf for Pub Trivia, helping us to a second place finish. There they met two of my colleagues, Patti and Terry, and John reconnected with Bill, whom he had met many years ago through his work at St. Clement's School.
Catherine with friends at Gruyères Castle

Heading towards a fondue lunch in Gruyères
Over the next few days, while I was working, my guests settled into our apartment and visited the school where I introduced them to other colleagues. They were also able to join the audience for one of the plays put on by my drama students. On another day, they headed off to Rolle (near Lausanne) whence they took a day trip to Gruyères with friends.
One of France's most beautiful cities is Strasbourg.

Enjoying the sunshine in Strasbourg
By Friday, with exam week beginning, I had more time to spend with them. Bob picked up a rented car, and off we went to France for three days. With the weather forecast calling for rain for much of the weekend, we decided to travel to beautiful Strasbourg first, where Catherine and John could appreciate this city while the sun shone. Strasbourg did not let us down.
A pretty view from the bridge

Quenching our thirst under an umbrella near St. Thomas Church
Since we were staying on the western edge of the city, we headed east, with the afternoon light adding to the quality of our photos. This was a leisurely and enjoyable stroll.
A pretty corner of La Petite France
The intricately carved façade of the cathedral
Our walk included stops in La Petite France, with its half-timbered buildings, some shopping in the centre of the town, and a visit to Strasbourg's magnificent cathedral.
Le Renard Prêchant is in our sights.
Inside Le Renard Prêchant
As the light waned, we headed to Le Renard Prêchant for an Alsatian dining experience. It turned out to be a great choice: the restaurant was charming and the fare was delicious. I have been to Strasbourg three times since my arrival in Switzerland and this was the best meal I have had there.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil at Obernai's 16th Century Hôtel le Gouverneur

A pretty hotel in Obernai
The next morning, under grey skies, we took to the road, following the Alsace Wine Route starting in Obernai and heading south. This village is one of my favourites and I think Catherine and John enjoyed it too. For one thing, there is excellent shopping here. For another, it is easy to get around in such a small place.
Andlau's mill race.
Alsatian wine at lunch
We stopped a second time along the route, in Andlau, where we discovered an old mill, with a waterfall and grotto nearby, and where we decided to have lunch at Le Relais de la Poste. Again we chose well, and sampled local cuisine. I had a meat pie with a unique taste and texture. I really enjoy trying new things.
Typical view along the Alsace Wine Route
Catherine loved the storks nesting on the towers.
In tiny Itterswiller, we stopped only long enough to take a few photos because the sun had come out. This was generally a very dreary day, but we were happy that there had been no rain so far.
Vineyard at Itterswiller

Blue sky–a rare treat
Ribeauvillé was our final stop on the wine route. Like the latter two villages, it was a new place for Bob and me. There are so many lovely villages in this region that it worth going back several times as we have done.
The tourist train in the centre of Ribeauvillé.

I love the colourful buildings in this region.
We were particularly taken by this last village. Its one main street rose gently up a hill and was lined by pretty shops and homes. Unfortunately, as we arrived at the central portion of Ribeauvillé, the rain began. It would continue off and on for the rest of the day.

St.-Ulrich Castle looms over the town.

A medieval tower.

City Hall in Ribeauvillé
As a result, we made no other stops as we headed towards Besançon for the night. In a word, Besançon was wet–there was so much rain there that we took no pictures and stayed close to our hotel for the night, and then made a quick exit in the morning.
High waters 
Bob wanted to get this shot of Pesmes, and so he did.
Breakfast in Pesmes. Bob is goofy.
Bob had suggested Pesmes as our next destination. It was very tiny and very wet, too. On the way there, we saw just how much rain had been falling in this part of France. River waters were very high, dangerously so.
Catherine asks questions of the mustard man; then we all tasted his product.
At the entrance to the Festival
Shortly afterwards, we arrived in Auxonne, where a large cathedral drew Bob and I out of the car, but the sound of music lured all of us in the other direction. We had happened upon a local event, the Festival des Confrèries, where guild members in medieval attire were promoting local products.
Auxonne's Eglise Notre-Dame
Stairs to nowhere in Auxonne
Since the rain had stopped, we explored the cathedral and the buildings nearby, before we made a much longer stop in Dole, looking for a place to have lunch. Before we arrived there, we had no idea that Dole was so pretty, but luckily, we found the part of town by the canal which was utterly charming.
Walking on the cobblestones of Dole 
Posing in front of the canal
For the next couple of hours, the weather gods cooperated, as we enjoyed crêpes for lunch and strolled through the streets of the old town. The former tannery district was particularly interesting, as it fronted a canal and housed a museum to Dole's most famous son, Louis Pasteur. I alone decided to visit it. Pasteur's contributions to science, I discovered, were many.
Inside the Louis Pasteur Museum
Pasteur's father was a tanner, as the sign indicates.
There was a mill race as well, which brought to mind a similar town, Brantome, in the Dordogne region which Bob and I had visited eight years ago.
The canal area of Dole

At the canal
Our destination for the night was Dijon, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner at an unusual, but delightful restaurant, l'Epicerie & Cie. The food was organic and served in a charming way. Wooden farmer's baskets contained our appetizers, for instance.
A rare photo of all of us. 
Appetizers in a box
Our Dijon restaurant
The next morning, we wandered around Dijon; we were fortunate that very little rain fell in the few hours we had allotted for exploring. Catherine and I did some shopping too. (You will notice that John and Bob were not interested in shopping, except maybe for mustard.)
One of the oldest streets in Dijon. Lots of half-timber houses.

Our tired guests await us.
It is neat that we took both my sisters to Dijon when they visited. It is a very pretty city, a mere two and half hours away. although some sun would have brightened it up considerably. It is also one with deep historical roots, as it was at one time the home of the Dukes of Burgundy, and today is the centre of one of France's most renowned wine districts. We could have spent more time there.
In front of the Palais des Ducs
It looks like a tree behind us but it is a sculpture
Instead, we took to the road after lunch, because the rains came again, and they stayed for the rest of our trip home. You may not be aware in North America, but France, in fact most of the middle part of Europe, has experienced an unusually cold and wet spring. Notice what we are wearing in June and how often I have mentioned rain in this post.
Sisters beside an unusual statue near our apartment.
John and Catherine took the tourist train to the castle
Back in Neuchâtel, I returned to work, supervising and grading examinations, while Catherine and John relaxed for a day, and then played tourist in my home city. They enjoyed their tour of the castle and lunches at Microcity, where they met some more of the students.
At the funicular station
Awaiting fondue dinner at le Petit Hôtel de Chaumont.
On their final evening with us, we took the funicular to Chaumont where the skies cleared enough for us to enjoy views over the lake as far as Morat. Fittingly, we celebrated our last night with a fondue feast.
The view from Chaumont
At the Red Cross Museum
Then they were off to Geneva from whence they would return home. On my recommendation, they paid a visit to the Red Cross Museum there, because, of course, it was raining. The weather notwithstanding, we had a great visit. On our second last evening together, we brought out the wine we had bought in Bordeaux, just for Catherine. It had her name on it (and mine, once).
A Bordeaux red with a great name.

I entitled this post a taste of home, and, as you can see, we ate some yummy meals together in Switzerland and in France; but the true taste of home came with the delicious home cooked meals Catherine prepared for us, while John did the clean up. We were very spoiled–just finished the frozen leftovers last night.  These were very welcome visitors!

No comments:

Post a Comment