Amsterdam to Basel
Our day-trip to Haarlem completed, we returned to our Airbnb, picked up our bags, and headed back to the Centraal Train station to wait for our OBB Nightjet train to Switzerland. Our minds were filled with thoughts of the Orient Express and the glory days of rail travel. Amsterdam's station has a surprisingly good selection of dining options. We opted for an asian spot called Kyoto Sushi and Grill... expectations were low, but they definitely exceeded them!
Night train Link https://www.nightjet.com/en/#/
Not long after we finished our dinner, it was time to board. We found our assigned coach and made our way to our "couchette" -- a private room with beds for up to 6. I kept looking over my shoulder waiting for Hercule Poirot to open his cabin door and peer out into the passageway at us!! Unfortunately all the first class cabins (a little more pricey, but having their own bath en-suite) had been booked. The accommodations weren't as luxurious as the old days, but my romantic notions survived intact. We rolled out of Amsterdam as the sun was setting, ready for the next adventure.
About 8 hours later, our coach attendant woke us with warm rolls and coffee as the early morning light revealed our arrival in Basel, Switzerland. Basel is a city on the Rhine River where the French, German and Swiss borders meet. A little groggy, we found a tourist information kiosk, where they gave us instructions on how best to get to the airport.
Why the airport, you say? The next leg of our journey was by car. The answer is twofold... After a lot of research back in the States, we found that prices for renting a car in one country and returning it in another increase dramatically. We wanted to return the car to Nice, France. By crossing the river and getting the car on the French side we cut our rental cost almost by 70%. That combined with our early arrival made the decision for us, as most rental agencies outside the airport didn't open up until much later in the day.
A twenty minute bus ride and we were at Euro-Airport Basel/Mulhouse. We followed the signs to all the rental car companies and found the Europcar desk. The attendant gave us a few tense moments when he could not find our reservation. Then he informed us that the airport has French and Swiss sides! We were on the Swiss side, we needed to cross over to the French. Up we went, bags in tow, across to the other side and down to an identical desk on the French side of the airport. The moral of the story? Rent your car from the side of the country where you are going to return it.!! After a few minutes we were in our car and on our way to the next destination, the beautiful Alsation town of Colmar, France.
Sadly, while Basel is famous for art galleries and beautiful architecture, we were forced to by-pass the city and head straight for Colmar because we were running a little tight on time.
In about an hour and a half, we reached the outskirts of the Ville Colmar and checked into our room at the Novotel Suites at Colmar Centre, which was only a few minutes’ walk from all the historic sites. But the minute we opened the door to our spacious modern suite, travel weariness from the overnight train ride hit us and we knew a shower and a nap had to come first! We rested for a couple of hours before we heading out.
Unfortunately, our R&R cost us! By the time we got ourselves together and down to the historic old town, the rain had begun to pour. But then crowds dispersed, and the village looked incredibly beautiful in the pouring rain. Colmar is renowned for how intact it has remained over the centuries. Many say it was Walt Disney's model for the villages he illustrated in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. As we walked, it seemed as if time had stood still for six hundred years. I had to call my 88 year old mother in India for a video chat, knowing that she may never see it. Truly this beautiful little village is worthy of the title of World Heritage Site. Below you will see a video.
Colmar is small, and it doesn’t take a long to walk around the whole historic district. You will find plenty of vintage stores, art boutiques, and an indoor farmers’ market.
We stopped at the indoor market Le Marche Couvert de Colmar (marche-couvert-colmar.fr) for lunch. They have plenty of great options there for breakfast or lunch. We stopped at Citron Et Basilic, a much recommended place in the center of the market-- the food was great, delicious french fare, but unfortunately the place was understaffed. and the service suffered as a result.
We realized after coming out of the market that there was a lovely spot with tables right on the water that we really wanted to try, so we got up early the next morning and came back to the market for breakfast. We had the place to ourselves and it was better than we expected. Please check out the video. I highly recommend this place.
We also visited the famous Bartholdi museum who was the architect and father of Statue of Liberty.
After breakfast, we headed for a two-hour drive to the Swiss Alps. Little did I know what was waiting for us.