Last weekend we finally got to do two of the many things we were looking forward to when we decided to move to Switzerland—meet up with friends from Belgium and travel in Europe. Our trip was actually planned well in advance (thanks to Miguel and Kris, who are much better planners than we are) and turned out to be our first European road trip! With a new Garmin to get us there, we left Zurich mid-morning and ended up in the middle of France by late afternoon. Our destination was Bougres d’ânes in southern Burgundy and it was fun to take our first big trip with the car.
…digging through some old photos for this post, I can’t help but share these – 15 years later, nobody’s changed a bit (wink)…
Esel, donkey, ezel, âne
Walking through France with 3 Belgian kids, 2 French donkeys, and 2 guys with very strong Flemish dialects made for a bit of a linguistic carnival: at any given moment, there could have been simultaneous conversations in Flemish, English, French, or, of course, Westvlaams. As we are studying German, it seems I (Aimee) have forgotten the bit of Flemish I used to know – at one point I could absolutely not remember what a lepel was, though I have known and used this word for years. I can still understand a lot, but words kept coming to mind in German, rather than Flemish. I am totally useless when it comes to French, and will never understand how people can swap languages so smoothly and seemingly effortlessly! And again, I was continuously feeling stupid for not being able to really master any language but English. The main interesting thing about it, was driving back from France and crossing into German-speaking Switzerland I actually felt some relief when I could again at least read the road signs. I seriously hope I will eventually learn German!
As a random aside, we also actually found something that makes Switzerland seem like a bargain – driving on French highways is really expensive – we paid about 40 EUR (55 US$, round trip) in tolls to drive a few hours in France. By contrast, we pay about 33 EUR (45 US$) to drive on the highways all year in Switzerland.
But seriously, we had such a beautiful weekend – the weather could not have been more perfect, with wildflowers everywhere, green grass pastures with living hedgerow fences, happy-looking cows with lots of young ones – very curious about the donkeys, and postcard perfect villages. We walked through the woods, along canals, and through the fields, with occasional bits along infrequently traveled roads. The donkeys are so sweet, and keep trudging along, stopping occasionally for a bite of grass.
Among the highlights of the trip were the delicious picnic lunches and dinners that we shared with the owners of the B&Bs. I discovered I really like aged Comté cheese, and am looking forward to finding some here in Zurich once the stores open again (everything shuts down for Easter, which is a 4-day weekend).
Kris and I did note that all of the cooking seemed to be done by the men. For the first several meals after getting back home I found myself looking for a plate of cheese after dinner and whining when there was none, but I have lived with Jo long enough to not ever expect a French dinner to appear on our kitchen table. In any case, I have since then resolved to pack myself better lunches and find more excuses to eat in France.
The other thing this trip reconfirmed is my disappointment with Swiss bread, which I generally find underwhelming. The Swiss gipfeli don’t stand a chance next to the French croissants, and the baguettes reminded me why people actually like to eat baguettes.
Our next vacation trip is probably in a different direction but it was nice to see how close we are to the border!