Friday, 21 July 2017

Into Each Life Some Rain...

No, it didn't actually rain, but did you ever have one of those days that you wish you could move it to the end of your life and then die before you got there?

After so many good days together, we split up. Jane & Chris went somewhere else on the train to more mountains, up trails Bill didn't want to try with his dodgy knee. There was a town in one of the French cantons (their name for the regions) that claimed to be an Art Nouveau paradise, La Chaux-de-Fonds (2 km south of the French border). We went there for our third day and last day of train travel.

This fountain is called the Grand Fountaine (original name) and is described as a 'spurt of symbols'. Sadly they didn't say on the plaque what the symbols meant. Only that it was built in in the late 1880s and renovated in 2007...and apparently it's more than a 10 year job. 

I'm guessing dragons, not basilisks.

The turtles made me think of Terry Pratchett's disc world, which I only know about because Bill's a fan.

The train journey was pleasant enough other than having a particular middle-aged Dutch couple sitting near us. Don't ever try to tell me it is only women that talk too much! I've been on plenty of planes and trains and observed the male of the species. This Dutch guy nev-ver shut up. His wife looked like she was half dutifully attentive, half asleep (dreaming of the peace of widowhood). I wondered if she wasn't on tranquilisers not to have strangled him long ago. 

We changed seats at the next train stop. My knitting progressed.

Big boring apartment block, with modern glass things on top?

When we arrived at La Chaux-de-Fonds we discovered that Switzerland's fabulous free toilets had disappeared. The pay toilet on offer at the train station was named something like Mr Clean, which made me laugh. Better than crying about the 2 CHF wee fee, which we did not pay. 

More goth than art nouveau...

Instead Bill found a major shopping mall near by complete with public loos.

A balcony, one of my life's dreams.

Then we found a slightly green place - well it had some flowers - to sit on a bench and each our packed lunch. It was very hot, but thankfully we had plenty of water.

The real trouble began when Bill couldn't get his phone to hold the map of the Art Nouveau walking tour long enough to follow it. I suggested we jot down some notes with pen and paper while he had the map, but he wasn't interested. We tried the tourist info office, but it was shut for lunch. Eventually he managed to get some sort of map up and I duly followed him around.

See the lady looking out her window...all painted on?

I can tell you that this town is very hilly and is absolutely stuffed with cheap (boring) enormous terraces of apartments; they seemed to crowd out too much sky. I hope they were more pleasant to live in than they were to look at. Somehow I doubt it.

There is little green space, some streets stink of sewage and/or garbage and there was a definite contrast to Basel (in one of the German cantons) in terms of litter. On top of this there is precious little Art Nouveau to see for the effort.

At least the window trim was interesting and the colours were nice. There were also little gardens at the back.

I got a fair amount of exercise, trudging up and down hills for the next few hours and an enormous amount of practice time at patience. My small consolation was that Bill wasn't hugely enjoying himself either (how mean is that!?)

Fun window trim

We found the more upmarket neighbourhood further out (and up) with some fairly attractive houses. I took photos of any and everything I could find that was remotely pretty or interesting. I feel hot and cross again just looking at the pictures. (Then again, I am typing this in the south east of France where it is 37 C/99 F today. Thanks heavens for the fan Bill brought and for cold -if not actually iced for long- tea.)

After so many apartment blocks it was a relief to see a house with windows and lawn.

According to Bill, La Chaux-de-Fonds is relatively prosperous, being the location for most of the watch-making in Switzerland. I thought they hid it rather well or perhaps it was just outside of my walking distance. I'm not likely to return to look for it.

Nice front door...actually, nice house.

Having exhausted ourselves and seen perhaps a third of the mapped route (the wrong third, obviously), we stopped for a coffee at a cafe near the train station.

At last, some art nouveau, the brown stuff over the windows...

I recalled earlier having seen a dapper young man coming out of a doorway, maybe he was in his early 20s and something about his shirt or a bandanna, I don't remember the details, made me think 'he's an arty sort' and sure enough he'd emerged from an art school.

Self-portrait by house painters?

As we drank coffee at a sidewalk table I spotted a couple of young women approaching. It was the swinging red 'tassel' that caught my eye. Bill had his back to them, so as a kindness to him, I snapped their photo so he wouldn't miss out (though he did get the back view, which I did not). My theory is that they were also at that art school. What do you think? I've just noticed they are both very tall...

I don't know if it was seeing them or the coffee, or our imminent journey back to Basel, but I felt a lot better then!

One of the best things about having a self-catering flat and eating self-cooked meals each evening is that whatever you are doing during the day, you know it will stop and you can to back to the flat for a sit-down, a cool/warm/wet/maybe even alcoholic beverage and a meal. Followed by a lie down and some sleep to help you forget most of the day...

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