Aren't the best things in life unexpected and spontaneous? This trip definitely was spontaneous, booked on the Thursday and flew on the Friday!
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My only foray into Switzerland before this trip was an unsuccessful audition at Zurich Ballet after which I took a boat ride and then sat in Starbucks (it was freezing cold) until it was time for my flight. By the way must be the most expensive Starbucks in the world!! However being as it's so close and Basel being so close it was the perfect weekend getaway (thank goodness for my boyfriend's spontaneity travel bug), with direct flights from Dresden on the Friday night I finished work at 18:00 and by 21:00 we were in the air.
Basel is a small city that spans over 3 countries, the airport is in France and the local tram system spans over France, Switzerland and Germany. Quite confusing for when to switch your data roaming on and off! As we were getting in late we booked an Air BnB 5 minutes from the airport in the French town of Saint-Louis which had great connections by train and tram into the main city of Basel. Also considerably cheaper that staying in the centre and perfect for the quick rides to and from the airport.
The best way I find to explore a city is to get lost in it and that is exactly what we did. With a few monuments or pre planned items on the itinerary, the rest we just stumbled across. On the Saturday morning we took the tram from Saint-Louis to the Spalentor (around 25 minutes), the first sight on our list.
The Spalentor is one of the 3 remaining gates to the city dating back to the 1400s. Facing outward it is decorated with the Madonna and two prophets.
From there we wandered along Spalentorvorstadt eventually winding through the narrower streets stumbling upon the Basel Academy of Music and then found ourselves at the Basel Town Hall. A hollow building beautifully decorated in burnt oranges, golds and midnight blues. A busking violinist setting the scene perfectly.
Out front was a market square packed with stalls of antipasti, cheeses, pastas, olives and chocolate. All the deliciousness that you would expect from this part of the world. We picked up a selection for dinner, the benefit of living like a local is that you can also cook local! Although we spent as much as we would have if we had gone to a restaurant it was well worth it, and in our pyjamas no less.
Continue wandering and we found the Middle Bridge with a great view of the Hotel Les Trois Rois and both ends of Basel including the famous Roche Tower (tallest building in the country). From here we also spotted the cable boat that we would later take back across the river to the foot of the Basel Minster Cathedral.
By this point especially after stopping not so briefly in the Läderach Artisanal Chocolatier to indulge in what Switzerland is known for, and the sweep through the food market we were pretty hungry and found the most amazing Asian restaurant. Now I know it's not a typical cuisine of Switzerland but we had that planned and bought for dinner already, and with Dresden not exactly being a hub for good Asian food we indulged.
My goodness I can't even explain how good the food was. Fulfilling all satisfactions my Chicken Satay was TO DIE FOR! I have since done quite a good job at trying to replicate the recipe but that's a post for another day. Also might I add my boyfriend's dish had dancing onions on it, just saying! If you're curious the vlog is linked below 😉
So with full stomachs we continued along the river (choosing which colour combo houses we liked the most, I went for pink obvs) to catch the famous cable boat back across. Another cute thing about Switzerland is they had their flag everywhere! The boat ride costs XXX and lasts all of 10 minutes and considering it was such a windy day was pleasantly calm. The Rhine River that runs through Basel is very low set so it was wonderfully sheltered.
We took the Münster Ferry "Leu", don't be confused by the term ferry it is a rather small boat that uses no power only the current of the river held by a cable to power it. These ferries pass to and from both sides of the river and are a super cute and cheap way to cross if you're not near a bridge. Take note of how clear the water is, it's insane!
From here we climbed the steps up the back of the Basel Minster (which was under renovation) a gothic cathedral built between 1019 and 1500. Quite a defining feature to the cityscape of Basel due to it's red sandstone bricks and twin towers.
This is where we made the most awful judgement call. Instead of visiting the Fine Arts Museum to see the Van Gogh pieces we were tempted by a poster outside by the sister museum which had an limited time modern exhibition. Now not only did it take us 30 minutes to find because the directions were unclear it wasn't exactly a riving success. Apart from a few interesting pieces on climate change and the evolution of fuels and consumption I would recommend sticking to what you know will be beautiful or if that isn't your thing either there's always the Caricature and Cartoon Museum.
This concluded our cute exploration day in Basel we took the tram back to Saint-Louis grabbed some bread and pastries from a local bakery (now back in France), popped on a movie and cooked an incredible local meal of truffle ravioli with burrata and some antipasti bits just in time for the storm to hit (the wind I mentioned earlier). Pure bliss.
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