Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Colmar, France Area--Battlefields, Forests, and Quaint Villages

Wednesday, July 1

Colmar, France
What a difference 45 minutes by train can make.  We left Basel Switzerland early on Monday, and arrived in Colmar, in the Alsace Region of France.  It really does feel like a different country!  
The "Little Venice" of France

We met our friends Bill and Sandy from Broomfield, Colorado and spent the day together, enjoying the sites, a fabulous lunch, and two museums.   

Bartholdi Sculptue
Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statute of Liberty and many other famous works, hails from this town and we enjoyed the museum in his former residence which included mock-ups of his finished works.  

The 12th Century art in a couple of Gothic churches were rather creepy, and they made us feel glad to be alive in the 21st Century. 

Our home for two nights
When our other friends Ron and Barb from Spokane arrived later in the afternoon, we were taken to our stay in Trois Epis, high above the Rhine Valley floor.  What a delight!  

Bertrand, our guide, grew up in this village and he and his American wife, Laura, treated us to a delightful meal at his mother's home.  

The Gang of Six

The first day of any bike tour always gets off to a slow start, getting the bikes adjusted and the pedals installed.  But once we finally got on the road for our 23-mile ride, it was worth the wait. We rode mostly uphill through forests that reminded us of Oregon.   We came upon WWI cemeteries and battlefields.  We tend to forget about WWI, the Great War, the War to End All Wars.  

German Cemetery--Note Jewish headstone
WWI Trench
However,  walking through the trenches and viewing  vintage film clips taken there during the war  reminded us just how horrific, senseless this and other wars are.  The French and German soldiers were locked in battle for three years here, and after thousands of deaths ended in a stalemate.

View from a bunker
Lookout post (Darth Vader's?)

Lunch with a view, then 14 miles down and up hills in 85 degree temperatures.  
Lunch View
in Niedermorschwihr

We enjoyed dinner in the quaint village of Niedermorschwihr, which seemed more German than French.  

"Sorting Hat" Church

Our Restaurant
Today, we're off to another adventure of food, scenery, wine, and hills in even hotter temperatures.  Life is good!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Basel--the Flat Switzerland

Sunday, June 28

City hall water fountain
Basel is flat and not really the Switzerland one imagines of majestic peaks, lakes, and gondolas.  However, it has Switzerland’s legendary civility, cleanliness, sense of order, and above all, exorbitant prices.   And oh yes, the ubiquitous Swiss army knife logo everywhere. 
The Rhine River, just a 15 minute walk from our flat
Located on the Rhine where you can see both France and Germany, the protestant reformation in the 16th Century triggered an exodus of Catholics and an influx of rich Protestants.  This created a chain of events which led to the formation of a big printing industry and the genesis of the pharmaceutical giants Roche and Novartis, AG.

Basel City Hall
We arrived on Friday without much sleep but rallied to find our three-story walk- up studio Air B&B in a neighborhood of immigrants, explore, and buy bus passes and Monday’s RR ticket to Colmar, France.  After practically falling into our beers at a cafĂ© on the Rhine, we decided to go to bed at 7:00 pm. 

Basel is a city of 202 fountains (where you can actually refill your water bottle), 40 museums, and 900 charitable foundations.  So many museums, so little time and standing stamina.    

One of 40 Museums

That said, we caught a modern art museum where we were delighted to see he works of many 20th Century artists we had only seen in college text books. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time or energy to see the Museum of Broken Relationships and 38 others.  

However, we hopped onto a tram to wherever it took us, and we later managed to take in a two-hour walking tour in the hot sun where we learned some of these tidbits. 
Former Fire Station for Vitra furniture factory
Our highlight was Sunday, when took a roundabout all-day excursion to Germany (on a Swiss bus pass) and a 2-mile death march in the hot sun to the Vitra Design Center.  If you’re into modern architecture and design, this is the place for you!  It even had a 1968 Airstream as a coffee/ice cream food cart.  Our guide’s passion for art and architecture made the tour of the huge campus even more delightful.  
Some fun on the sundial slide

The Gehry Museum of Design at the Vitra Center

Vitra Design showroom

Tonight, Sunday, we enjoyed a (relatively) cheap wine and cheese dinner on our deck before packing.  Then off to France early tomorrow to start our bike trip.  Basel is very pleasant and basic European.  We’re glad we got to briefly experience it, but it’s not on our top 40 list of places visited.  Time to move on.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

38 Years and Counting--Our Next Adventure

We're off today (June 25) for an 18-day adventure of cycling  in the Alsace region of France with friends and hiking in the Cotswold region of the UK with Shanti (our London daughter) and her boyfriend.  Thirty-eight years ago today we started an adventure that led us to this one by getting married at Champoeg State Park.  It was followed by a potluck and dancing to the tunes of Salem bluegrass band, Briar Rose.  It was a cheap wedding by today's standards, but everyone had a blast.  Unfortunately, few--if any photos--survived.

38 years later, Anne Amie Vineward
Tangboche Monestary Nepal 1977
Four months later we celebrated our honeymoon with a trek to the Mt. Everest region without guides or porters, eating and sleeping in the homes of villagers. Between altitude sickness, dysentery, and not bathing for nearly two weeks, it's a wonder our marriage survived the rest of the 3rd class trip through northern India, let alone the next 38 years.

Kampong Santang, our home 1978-80
In retrospect, it was the glue that still binds us together and it served as the catalyst for a pivot in our lives. We celebrated our 2nd anniversary by heading off to Malaysia as Peace Corps volunteers, returning in late 1980 after a few months of travel. That adventure forged bonds and unique experiences that continue to this day, and they certainly helped us survive the culture shock of returning to the US as we tried to reinvent ourselves and survive in a tough recession.

The France bicycling part will be with two fun couples we met on a 2006 bicycle trip from Vienna to Venice through Slovenia. In spite of the distance between our homes, we've stayed in touch and  biked together.  We'll send periodic updates as this next adventure unfolds.

Opal Pool with Feruza
Kathy's office while in Ashland
Since our April 18 post, we joined some fellow Airstreamers in Ashland for the Shakespeare festival, did some hikes and road trips with daughter Feruza from New York,  camped on the Metolius River, tasted a lot of wine, attended some cultural events, and tried to get into cycling shape with some rides in the beautiful Willamette Valley.  Kathy also went to Burbank again and remains up to her ear lobes with her position on the national Assistance League board.  

Mt. Jefferson from Timberline Lodge

Metolius River Camp out
For those who ask "Is Ron retired?"  The answer is yes and no. The his team says he retired 10 years ago but just hasn't gone home yet.  If you define retirement as doing what you like to do and on your own terms, then the answer is yes, even if it means going to the office in between our trips.
Oneonta Gorge

Smith Rock State Park

Oswald West State Park

Crown Point, Columbia Gorge

Camping at Nehalem Bay