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Greetings from the lowlands after visiting the higher lands. Easy Jet got us to Basel for only a little over 100 euros, though we did have to put out for water. To give you an idea of how bare bones the airline is, I qualified as a "premium" passenger after paying for a second carry-on, allowing both of us early entry to the plane. I've never understood the hurry to get on the plane, but that's a rant for another day. Aside from having boarding areas that hadn't been updated since the 1970's, causing unnecessary spritzing in the duty free cosmetics area, all was good. We arrived at the Europort Basel Mulhouse Frieburg Airport, where passengers can exit to Switzerland, France and maybe even Germany. I am told that the nonexistent wifi in the airport is not due to a lack of pan-Schengen unity, rather French indifference.

My friend and her husband live within a 5 minute walk to a, yes, prompt and clean tram, 10 minutes to the center of the city. A rider goes to a kiosk and buys a ticket that is not regularly checked, but if a scofflaw is caught, penalties are high. They like their rules and order there, which puts some of us a bit on edge. Our hosts live on a hill in a new and modern building that is surrounded by a mixture of other new and also much older houses, all large, elegant and cozily near each other. External slatted shutters, combined with very few people out and about, made the area particularly quiet, and true to stereotype, never a leaf out of place. When I departed for the airport, I had a dead bird (the story is less interesting than it may seem) in a plastic bag to dispose of, and found that private outdoor trash receptacles were kept locked, no doubt to protect from the likes of me and my quarry.

Aggressive hedge clipping and overall tidiness. I imagined DPW workers combing the tree branches to get rid of dead leaves.

Up the hill from their house and three blocks away, is country and farmland. One of the first things we set our eyes on was an honor flower farm that had just shut down for the season.

Honor flower farm at the edge of a residential neighborhood

The entrance reminded me of the book A Secret Garden

Knives for cutting flowers

Flower menu. No one can accuse Switzerland of being a bargain at 1.25 Euros to a Swiss Franc. The Swiss cow Christmas ornament I was entranced by was the equivalent of $37. Couldn't do it.

On the other side of the flower farm is farmland, mostly brocolli and asparagus. There are well marked paths that one can take walking or on a bike, perhaps across Switzlerland, naturally well marked and in pristine condition. The land where we walked was fairly flat, with beautiful snow covered peaks in the distance.

Asparagus going dormant

There were other farms scattered around, each offering something slightly different to the lucky consumer. I imagined living there and outfitting as much of life as possible from these places in the neighborhood; fired oven bread on Thursdays after 11, eggs any day, bacon, baked goods, berries in summer, Sunday brunch, Christmas trees and my favorite, a handmade Santa finger puppet.

Retail, farm style. Santa finger puppet up top

We took the trolley downtown on a grey and cold day, threatening rain. As soon as we arrived, we forgot about the forbidding weather and walked right into a living Advent calendar. The Christmas market had just begun in this charming, very old downtown, and while I couldn't have been less interested in the wares, the atmosphere was as Christmasy as anything I can remember. We chose to forget it was still November.

Chrstmas prettiness in the old town

Les confiseries are everywhere

A cozy little place to stop for some glúg

And then this, right in the middle of Christmas fantasyland!. We did note that, as with the other storefronts, wares were thoughtfully laid out.

William Shakespeare must have slept here, right?

About half the chocolate display at the Migros supermarket downtown

Nothing better than a supermarket to give you perspective on local life. Hard boiled eggs dyed and ready for transport on hikes.

Saturday was going to start with errands. Amazon raraely delivers in Switzerland and prices in any case are high, so those who live near the border get the equivalent of a PO box for packages in Germany, then pick them up. So, we got our number to wait our turn, yet were told we weren't standing in the right place, perhaps by a Swiss person frustrated by the queue that wasn't quite orderly enough. It was cold in this warehouse type building and the people at the counter worked hard an incessantly.

Warehouse in Lúrrach, Germany

OK, I admit, it was a little bit to say we went to three countries in one day, but Colmar in the Alsace region of France really did look pretty. A very old town on the River Lauch, it seemed the perfect place to go for the afternoon. Public Service Announcement: When the gas guage says Empty, it isn't quite. but maybe it was the tiny bit of battery left on our hybrid car. In any case we didn't have to hike down the road with one of those gas containers.

Colmar is indeed very pretty and as it turns out, has one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. So, on a Saturday afternoon, we were not the only ones there. We very much wanted to come back at a time when it was filled with mostly residents but enjoyed the sprit, stopping at a traditional Alsatian restaurant for some flammekueche, entranced by the warmth of the family that ran this bustling restaurant. Then it was a stop for some French cheese and back to Swizterland, completing our three country trek.

Home of the flammekueche

Unfortunately not for sale

Hansel and Gretel must have eaten here

Some sort of traditional dress for these kind folks who were making some sort of traditional food for the Christmas market.


Colmar at night

Good night, Colmar, good luck with the crowds

Depsite it being a Sunday when absolutely everything is closed for the Swiss to go for bracing walks and have fondue or venison stew, we found a confiserie open in Laufen, where we warmed up after our walk. Another picturesque town.

Looked better than it tasted. Still, pretty great.

Fairy tale land

I believe this was the town hall of Laufen


Farm life

That I couldn't for the life of me get any of my credit cards or apple pay to work at the tram station on my way out of dodge with the dead bird somehow seemed right, as I had been so careful to only cross at walk signs and not litter. Standing there in the rain and dark, I tried, I really tried, but there was no one around to advise me and then there was that nice warm, light, dry tram that pulled up, and well, I marched right on with my bags and acted as though I had a ticket. Three transfers later, I had tried again and again, still without success, so I freeloaded all the way to the airport and managed to escape arrest and long-term dentention. That I inadvertendly threw away my round trip to Amsterdam yesterday after only using it one way seemed kharmic equanimity. I bought another. Phew.

The three kings drop in on Colmar

Over and out


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