Sunday, 30 July 2017

Museums We Didn't Visit and a Fountain We Did

I generally learn a lot from Jane and Chris when we travel together. Sometimes this is about what might be good value for money, but mostly I learn more about how not to spend it. For example, they won't pay admission fees to any museums. I'm fine with this most of the time, but now and then I think there are things worth paying a nominal fee to see, especially if they let me take photos and feel as though I brought something beautiful home with me.

Basel fine arts museum

We didn't visit the fine arts museum, though we walked past it any number of times. 

We poked our noses through the doorway, but stopped and
turned at the payment window.

Across the road was a very strange looking building with almost no windows.

Bill told me it was the new annex built to house priceless art works that could be displayed without danger of exposure to sunlight. I haven't looked it up to confirm this, but it is the only sensible explanation for the weird lack of windows, except perhaps a prison.

We passed by the Paper Mill museum and I would probably have liked to have visited it, but it was shut for lunch when we were there anyhow, so never mind about that. 

I snapped a couple of photos through the window. 

The phrase 'paper MILL' trips off the tongue with familiarity and I do generally know how paper is made. 

In spite of realising paper manufacture involves using a lot of water, I somehow never associated a water wheel with it. Duh. 

(According to Trip Advisor ratings, it would have been good).

We didn't go in this rather scary looking place called the Spielzeug Welten Museum. 

From the window display I thought it must be something about war, given the violent looking characters on display in the window. 

Then again, there was a sweet little carved sign outside. 

My party was advancing without me so there wasn't time to discuss. Turns out it was a toy museum.

One day on our wanders Chris and Jane took us to see something they'd discovered outside the Tinguely museum. Of course we didn't go inside it, but the water fountain outside was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. My photos really don't do it justice, so I found you a video. I'm not sure the link works properly. If not, here it is: 

It was a great place to sit and have lunch! Almost as good as the fountain was watching the reaction of other visitors. 

My favourite.

The Tinguely museum.

 More about Tinguely later...

We didn't go into the museum of Roman artefacts either, but Chris had a look at part of the archaeological dig on display. Hilarious on several levels, but impressive; I hope I can get all the way down and all the way back up when I'm 71 1/2.

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...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Country Walk in Basel

Another day Bill took us for a walk to show us what he had found on a wander alone. We found the other side of a large field, part of which was allotment gardens. 

It looked to be surrounded in part by large grand houses, but one was almost entirely windows, which worried me about their loss of privacy. 

Still, they did have a great view if they didn't mind a few of the hoi polloi traipsing through here and there. The path across the field was a popular jogging track. 

We could see across to the business district of the city, with the odd triangular Roche building sticking up by itself. It reminded me of the Devon Tower in Oklahoma City with its head up in the clouds, keen to be the tallest. "Male ego" those buildings scream to me. 

An interesting graphic in the field informed us how much various crops rely on bees for production. We really do need to be taking better care of bees if we don't want to go hungry. Then again, I suppose it would be one way to shrink the human population. Horrible thought, but in some ways just rewards. Of course the people who decide to de-regulate the use of pesticides aren't likely the ones who would go hungry so it wouldn't do the planet much good after all.

At some point we seemed to pass behind a large building that might have been a seminary, it looked somehow both ecclesiastical and residential (or maybe there was a sign, I don't recall). Then there were different areas of agricultural endeavor. 

We came upon a field of sheep, enclosed by a solar powered electric fence, a simple idea that charmed Bill. Also some rabbits huddled under a tree for shade and cows (with cow bells) doing the same. Early into this trip when Chris first encountered cows he told us a joke:

Q: Why do cows need bells?

A: Because their horns don't work.

This meant that somehow cow bells were mentioned by either him or Bill -- or both -- at every single opportunity; two 70-ish year old boys.

The allotment gardens were impressive and of course complete with the requisite ramshackle huts. 

Once beyond this area there was a very high wall with solid gates. We had seen somem people gathering at what appeared to be an entrance hall and Bill interpreted some of the signs (he did a semester of adult education German a while back, clever guy). 

It seemed that we were walking past a sunbathing facility for the use of nudists. (Sorry, I took no photos - the walls and gates were quite unremarkable). There were separate facilities for men and for women and you had to be either older, ie retirement age, or younger, ie primary school. Which explained why it looked like a gathering of grandparents and grandchildren. It struck us as a very singular idea.

But then why travel at all if not to encounter different ideas?

And then we turned a corner and suddenly we were back in suburbia.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Another Boat Ride

The way Jane planned for us to return to Lucerne was via boat. I was almost blase about the scenery by that time and busied myself knitting between interesting buildings. 

Our fellow passengers stood at the railings most of the time and I would have had to elbow my way in. However, I did get the occasional photo and being able to crop people out of the pictures helps a lot. 

Jane - wouldn't wish to crop her!

Lucerne from the water

I was, however, quite taken with the enormous swan's next at the ferry at Lucerne. 

I've seen plenty of swans in Britain but can't remember ever having seen a next.

The covered bridge looked similar to the one at Thun, but minus surfers. Clearly covered bridges are a useful thing in a snowy winter climate.

Oh, and Bill saw one of his favourite birds, a coot (I love the name as well).

And so another day's adventures (and another blog post) came to an end.