Our Barge, Odysseus

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 12 - It Begins

This year's trip began easily enough. The car rental company just down the street from our house allows one-way rentals to LA airport for just slightly more than the bus. That allowed a leisurely trip to the airport, arriving in plenty of time for the doffing of the shoes and other airport funness. Our flight would take us from Los Angeles to London's Heathrow where we would have a two hour layover, then on to a three hour flight to Basel, Switzerland. Helpfully, British Airways checked our bags all the way through so we would not have to deal with luggage in London.

One great feature of Basel is their wonderful tram and bus system. A confirmed hotel reservation gets you free access to the system. We left the airport (with our bags!), boarded a tram and it dropped us off within steps of our hotel. The problem was the steps. The Hotel au Violon is a converted convent/prison. No, really! It is very nice, and for Switzerland, very reasonable. Unfortunately, as in all medieval cities, even with a map it's hard to find your way around. After dragging our airline-max-weight bags up the hill and twice asking for direction, we finally found the place and checked in. That's when we found out about the elevator that leads directly from the hotel lobby to the main square outside the hotel, the Barfusserplatz, locally known as "Barfi," where the tram stop is. As we'll be coming back in September, this is something we'll remember.

This, the German part of Switzerland, is very orderly, very expensive, and, right now, really cold and damp. We found a place to get a pizza (about $23!) and a half-liter of wine (you don't even want to know!), and collapsed into our beds to begin our jet lag recovery.

We would only be spending one full day in Basel now, taking the Saturday train to Dijon, so we spent Friday all bundled up wandering about the central city checking things out. Because the weather was pretty frightful, few pictures were taken. We'll be coming back in September on our return and hopefully the weather will allow some more photography but there are some pictures of city hall.

As usual, any really nice building is covered in scaffolding while we're here.

City Hall and the Friday market. Good sausages for lunch!

The City Hall tower

Very elaborate painting on the courtyard interior.

A city gate.

We did take advantage our our free "Mobility Pass" to ride the tram around; one line takes you in a circle around the old city, so we got a good overview of it's layout which is cut in two by the swiftly flowing Rhine River. We also made a trip to the train station to buy our tickets to Dijon. It would be a rather roundabout trip with changes of train in Mulhouse and Belfort but leaving at about 9:30 am would put us in Dijon around 3 pm; plenty of time to pick up the rental car and be to Odysseus in time for that first bottle of French wine.

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