Or: the Trials and Tribulations of an Uptown Girl with a Boyfriend from Old Europe

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Location: Basel, Switzerland

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday drive

Today was one of those days that one could easily mistake for early summer, if it weren't for the foliage, which clearly screams fall. Such good weather, as far as Swissy Pie is concerned, can only mean one thing: a nice, long bike ride. Though I think he'd have preferred to climb a mountain, I was tired from yesterday's ride, so we got into the car and headed off to Biel/Bienne for a tour around its lake (named, in typically creative German fashion, Bielersee).

We parked the car by the lakeshore, just outside the city, and headed west. Across the road, by the water, russet treetops peeked over the railings to remind us that a park clung to the strip of land below.
To the south, the snow-coated Alps glittered, clear despite a soft haze that clung to the hills nearby. It seemed that everyone was outside to enjoy the day. Quite a few families were out for a stroll or bike ride. Boats with colorful wind-engorged sails skimmed across the surface of the lake. A single hot-air balloon hung in the sky. And cars kept whooshing past us, only to be brought up short at Twann, one of the towns along the shore.

It turned out Twann was hosting some sort of wine or harvest festival, so we stopped, threaded our way through the cars parked in the bike lane, and made our way into the crowded village. Stalls and oak barrels choked an already narrow main street. Some offered "degustations," or wine tastings, for about CHF 3-4 per glass. Others sold food, pottery, or jewelry. Between the silver rings (ubiquitous at New York street fairs) and the dodgy Chinese food, I almost thought I was back in Manhattan again.

Leaning against one of the old aging casks, we tasted a couple of local wines, one mediocre rosé and a pinot gris, which was pretty nice despite being a little warm. Then we continued around the lake for what ended up being a rolling 50 km ride. It was remarkable how abruptly the language went from German in one town to French in the next and then back again. More remarkable still was the variety of terrain packed into such a small area. Vineyards were carved into the steep hills on the north shore of the lake, while woods shadowed ancient cobblestoned streets in the west, near Erlach, and a patchwork of broad yellowing cornfields and cow pastures blanketed the rolling land around Ins.

By the time we got back to the car, my legs were close to empty, even though there hadn't been any serious climbs. That was a bit disappointing. I guess if Swissy Pie wants to ride tomorrow, he'll have to go alone.

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