Hi Mum, I was in NYC, Venice and Switzerland (kind of)

More catching up on several years of travel.

Freiburg and Colmar

In September 2011 we impulsively booked a weekend in Basel, Switzerland. It was a cheap fare from London, what did it matter that we knew nothing about Basel and what there was to see? We realised that Basel isn’t the most charming Swiss city; it’s not nestled amongst snow-capped mountains, or situated on a beautiful lake. But it does have the wonderful advantage of being very, very close to the Black Forest in Germany and the Alsace region of France. So we decided to eschew Switzerland completely and spend our weekend in Germany and France.

First stop: Freiburg.

This idyllic town on the edge of the Black Forest in southern Germany is only about 45 minutes by train from Basel. We lucked into a wonderfully warm and sunny day, utter bliss after a frankly rubbish London summer.

Once we arrived, we noticed that things seemed a little bit… odd.

Lots of costumed people, lots of banners, plenty of roads closed and crowd barriers erected. What was going on?

We worked it out.

The motherflipping pope was in town.

We tried to go about the business of enjoying our visit regardless, but it made getting around the town a little bit tricky. We did see the pope go by in his little perspex popemobile – both of us quite underwhelmed. Who’d have thought that less than 2 years later he’d have quit the job?

Anyway, Freiburg is a delightful place. We sampled the beer and of course, the Black Forest Gateau. We walked in the woods and lazed in a clearing in the sunshine. It was lovely.

Second stop: Colmar

I’d never heard of Colmar. It’s a small town in the Alsace wine country, and is also about 45 minutes from Basel. All we knew is that it was a nice place, so we hopped on a train to visit for the day. People were right: Colmar is indeed a nice place.

In fact, it’s a downright gorgeous place.

It turned into yet another glorious sunny day of walking and exploring, eating great food (flammekuchen) and drinking lovely wine.

Definitely worth a visit.

So that was the weekend in Switzerland that we spent in Germany and France.

Venice

We also spent our second anniversary in Venice. You know, Venice is a stunning place. It’s so quaint and charming, and you get constantly lost, and every time you turn a corner you are faced with another arresting outlook.

It always looks like a painting.

So why not go and have a look through our Flickr feed, which has lots of such photos of Venice.

Just like every other weekend, we spent it walking, getting very lost, and finding good food. Before coming to Venice I’d read up about cichetti, or the little plates (like tapas) that can be found in small bars. I had a list of bars that reportedly did good cichetti, so we basically did a bar crawl, snacking our way from place to place. It was a great way to see the city, and mostly kept us out of the way of the well-trodden tourist paths.

This is one of the places we found, at about 11.30am on a Sunday morning.

Because of the small canals and alleyways, there weren’t many places (apart from the large squares with their overpriced cafes and restaurants) which enjoyed full sun. This little place, on an unusually wide canal, was bathed in sunlight. It was full of small and large groups, of families, friends, children and dogs, coming and going. Plates of food on every table, glasses of wine and Aperol being handed around, lots of laughter. It made me very much want to be Italian.

New York

One plan Alex and I had discussed before even leaving Australia was the possibility of visiting New York while we were living in London. It seemed wonderfully decadent, to leave one huge metropolis to visit another, but given the distance and the price, it was also a no-brainer. And when my sister and her husband were also up for it, then we made plans.

We spent a week there in October 2011.

It was my first experience of the United States, and even though everyone is at pains to reassure you that New York really isn’t America, you know it seemed pretty, you know, American. There was amazing food.

(That’s Alex devouring a reuben sandwich at Katz’s, by the way. It was like he’d come home.)

There was also that sort of food which you think should be really dire, and is, in a way, but is also completely great. I’m talking about food covered in goopy yellow cheese and accompanied by waffle fries.

And there were ridiculously kitschy cocktails at unbelievably pretentious bars.

And everything was super fun.

Alex and I did a lot of eating on this trip. We found some really great food, especially burgers.

Boy, Americans know how to make a good burger. London got a whole lot better recently when they opened a Shake Shack in Covent Garden.

We also hit many of the sights (while avoiding the museums). It was all great.

After all this sunshine, Alex and I nearly got snowed in the night we were due to fly out. Crazy weather. Sally and Anthony, on the other hand, were almost stranded by Qantas’ decision to ground their entire fleet during industrial disputes. But in the end we all got where we needed to go. And we had a bloody good time in New York.

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