Monday, September 15, 2008

Familiar Ground...

I think part of my feeling unsettled here has to do with not really knowing what to make of the new situation. It feels familiar, but that's because it feels like travel. I am actually much more used to the traveling than I am to moving. My days in Zurich are a little confusing because internally I'm not sure how I want to behave. I'm sure this will come with time.

However, we just had our first weekend trip and I have to say it was a pretty big success. Overwhelmed with the huge range of options to pick from (when you want to go everywhere and try everything where to you begin?) we had somehow managed to put off planning all week. Friday morning we decided that since we had nothing planned we'd just do a day trip to St. Gallen. Ease into things. But when we really got down to the wire we both knew we could try a bit harder and we decided to try to make a weekend adventure happen. We pulled up recommendations for hotels in Fribourg on the western side of Switzerland, called up NH Fribourg and just like that, at 10pm on Friday, we were going away for the weekend.

Saturday morning we went out and stood in pouring rain for our shuttle bus, scurried into the HB, and easily bought our round-trip train tickets. With our half-price cards we spent about $100. We had planned on waiting a half an hour for the next train that would take us directly to Fribourg, but instead we got the train that would require one change that was leaving in 5 minutes. That's how easy it is, just buy your tickets and get on. I love it. We spent the next hour wooshing through the country, eaves dropping on about every tenth word or so from the Italians across the aisle. A 7 minute stop-over in Bern and we hopped on our next train. Shortly after that we were at our destination. It was still only 10:30am, but the hotel had a room ready so we got to check in. CF had been talked into the upgrade and for an extra 20chf we had a lovely hillside view.

We geared up and headed out to explore the city, rain or well, more rain. The old town section is very lovely, with winding streets and alleyways leading in all sorts of directions, small but still somehow tricky to navigate. We discovered the farmers market was in action. "Just so you know, I am very happy right now." CF told me. The market's offerings were beautiful. Later he would keep talking about how there was a guy selling cheese that he probably made at home from a little card table. Unfortunately the next couple hours were the worst of the weather and the narrow street was filled with umbrellas that seemed to reach under mine and spill their runoff onto my canvas peacoat. Damn it, where is our air shipment? What am I doing here without a raincoat? Stupid. I regret now that we didn't get to enjoy the market more but instead we went inside for some lunch at Cafe des Arcades.

Fribourg is in the French speaking part of Switzerland. We were pleased at how quickly what we knew came back to us, although I guess that's not saying a whole lot so of course it didn't take long. But I think we felt a bit more at ease with our bonjours, mercis, and au revoirs than we do with much beyond grüezi while back in Zürich. I ordered crepes du bacon, each one had 3 strips of bacon cooked right into it. CF ordered a salad topped with chicken, tomatoes and avocado. I'm not surprised that avocado can be grown near here, I expect it was from Italy, but I didn't know if I should expect to see it on many menu items so it was a pleasant surprise. We split our meals half-and-half... and also had an order of frites... we were cold and soggy, what can I say? The rain got a bit worse during our meal, but it actually stopped for a while after our meal.

If you know much about the way we travel you know that if there is a craft-beer option in town then that is where we are headed. Our Lonely Planet book had mentioned a one-room brewery in town run by a couple of friends as a bit of a hobby. We found a lovely view off a very high bridge, the town certainly has a high part and a low part and I made a joke that where we were going was probably down below. As we were walking away from the bridge we saw some people disappeared down some steep stairs and we both widened our eyes at each other. "I kinda want to know what's down those stairs, but I'm worried I'd have to climb back up them." CF confessed. I was worried they'd be slippery in the rain. "Come on, let's go find beer." Well, it turns out, of course, that we were indeed headed down to the lower part of town. We got there by easing down a slanted walkway. But after all that work, we found the brewery closed for renovation. A message was left scrawled on the window, it said something about Saturdays. CF worked on translating it with his new favorite toy, his iPhone. "Ahh! Aha!" He held it up for me to read. It said they were selling beer at the door at the back of the house on Saturdays. We were hopeful, but several tries to find the right door and not wanting to be too pushy led us in circles and we had to give up. Drat!

We settled for a less interesting beer at a pretty interesting local bar that I noticed on the walk back towards the hotel. The interior was all fun pirate themed murals. And then we went back to our room and had a nice nap. That evening we went back out, okay, I admit it, we made one more pass by the brewery, hoping to find some sign of this "must try" beer. Boo! CF had his heart set on some Thai food but they were closed for a wedding party until 7:30 so we went to a bar for another round or two of beers. We paused outside to shake out umbrellas and I thought for just a moment that it was getting dark, it's no longer day. I stepped inside and got a slightly tentative look from the woman clearly in charge. "Bonsoir," I said with a smile, and she replied with the same. I felt rather satisfied and proud of myself for remembering that one as it came out of my mouth. CF stepped in behind me and I started to walk into the bar... and promptly stumbled as I didn't see the step below my feet. Smooth, maybe if I stopped smugly congratulating my puny language skills in my head I could watch where I'm going.

After a beer or two and long enough for the memory of my grand entrance to fade we paid the bill and headed back up the sloped walkway and found the Thai restaurant. We managed our way through the meal with a bit of French, bit of English, tiny bit of German and plenty of pointing. It was very good and we had a very nice time. I had a nice glass of one of my new favorite drink, port, and CF had his usual girly sounding and looking but surprisingly strong cocktail. The waitress giggled when he ordered it. We had some pad thai and red curry pork. The red curry had no coconut milk, this was the second time I've had something recently that I was used to getting drenched in it and found that I liked it just as much without it (the first was a Thai iced tea I had at a popular place in Zürich last weekend). Interesting, the things you can learn when you don't know what you are ordering!

The portions seemed small, but I felt incredibly full. It was also some of the most expensive Thai food we've ever had, but that's Switzerland for you. We declared ourselves properly indulged and decided that was enough for the night. There was cheese to be discovered the next day so we needed to make some room. "I hope this breakfast buffet tomorrow is a lot of coffee and not much else."

1 comment:

Trevor said...

mmmmmmmm... cheese...