Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Vacation in Switzerland
We landed finally in Geneva on Thursday afternoon, where we were met by G. who was in the area anyway, and he loaded us onto a train for Neuchâtel, getting out himself at a half-way point for more wedding preparations. (The train ride, though quiet, punctual, and smooth, was not terribly encouraging for the rest of the weekend, as the rain pelted down...) We were then picked up at the train station by C., G.'s mother, who gave us a quick driving tour of town for orientation. Then to their house... and what a house! A spacious three full stories broken into three apartments, with different branches of the G. family living on each one, each one owning their share of the whole place. After some coffee, and showers, and rest, we gathered for dinner, during which a bright double rainbow manifested on Lac de Neuchâtel. Not much was visible past the lake on the first evening, but we were promised views of the Pre-Alps for sure, and perhaps even Jungfrau in the Swiss alps and Mont Blanc in the French Alps if the weather cleared.
On Friday we started the day with a walk to a cemetery nearby. A sign at the entrance said that visitors should not play football, among other things, but who could possibly do so on such a steep pitch? Some of the graves reminded Joe more of New Orleans than any other place he's seen, and neither of us had seen wall niches quite like these. The cemetery has an absolutely beautiful view of Lac de Neuchâtel, which we sat and stared at for a while.
We headed out then see the town. We started off at the base of the steep hill that has the old prison tower and church at the top, where there was some street art that defied explanation. The town has lots of small narrow streets and alleyways, and a beautiful exterior circular staircase in one of the tiny courtyards, made of the yellow limestone that is a hallmark of the area. Neuchâtel is famous for its ornate public fountains, and it was at one of these that we tan into G.'s best man, who is also G., so I will cal him G2. G2 didn't stay with us long, claiming to be out and about on various wedding-related errands. After while we found ourselves back in the plaza where we started... and there was G2, sitting at a table at a cafe, taking his ease with a cup of coffee! (Although it turned out that he was waiting for G.'s sister, and they really were on wedding business.) We had chocolate milkshakes and took our ease for an hour, hearing some fun stories from G2. about life as a journalist in a small energetic town.
We went next to the collégiale area, up on top of the hill, with its cobblestones and picturesque old buildings and reform church, complete with imposing statue of Guillaume Farel, who looks like he is about to brain you with a bible ("When I was little I was scared of him," confessed G.'s mom). Back at home, we made preparations for the next day's wedding, and G.'s sister L. and her boyfriend T. made pizzas for dinner.
Sunday, the day after the wedding, started a little late in the day, as you might imagine, and so we missed the boat trip around the lake that we had planned on. But that was fine, because the weather was so pleasant that we decided we'd rather have an even more intimate encounter with Lac de Neuchâtel, and go swimming. We went first to the marina where G.'s father keeps his sailboat, and walked around the docks. Then we went to the beach, and spent quite a while paddling around in the water, which made Joe and me quite happy. As this is a city beach, there were showers, toilets, and ice cream stands, but a treat we did not expect was that the orchestra of Biel was playing from a small stage, which we went and listened to for a few minutes on our way out. It was quite windy, and at one point everyone's sheet music flew off their stands; Joe plucked a score out of the air with a skill that any base baller would admire.
Dinner was an extra treat, a special request that D. had made to her new in-laws: a traditional Swiss raclette, which is both a cheese and a procedure, and rather like a fondue. The G. family tradition at least is to have pickled mushrooms, onions, and cornichon as well as small boiled potatoes at the ready, over which is poured raclette cheese that everyone has broiled to their own taste at the table. Yum!
We were genuinely sorry to leave on Monday morning, but leave we did, without much bother (it turned out that we had both been secretly hoping for a 24-hour delay like the one we had on the way out, so that they would have to put us up in a hotel in Geneva for the night). The train from Neuchâtel to Geneva was on time (of course), the plane left only one hour late, the bus rides home to Uppsala dry and uneventful (we were lucky, it turned out that we had just missed the biggest rainfall of the year). It was fun to gather up our Swiss loot. Wine, cheese, chocolate, plums fresh from the G.'s tree—how could one go wrong?