It has been a few months since the last update of adventures. This has been due to an adventure of a different sort. One that was not the most pleasant. The purpose of this post is to inform you all of what to look out for in the next few weeks covering adventures including the last part of the Switzerland trip as well some local adventures in South Africa – especially one for those with a keen interest in food.
So, without further ado, the long (unpleasant) adventure which has taken up considerable time this year, coupled with much frustration, actually started on Christmas Day at Ice Magic in Interlaken, Switzerland. Having played ice hockey in my younger days, I decided that it would be a great experience to do some ice skating in Switzerland. Especially since I was there in winter for a winter sports holiday. One fellow South African decided to be adventurous and joined me while the other three opted to remain on the less slippery surface off the rink. The rink was quite nice with some main areas connected by skating pathways. The off-rink spectators wanted to take a photo of all of us and gestured for the two of us on the ice to skate to them. We were skating slowly towards them where they were waiting near the one corner and had reached a point about 2m from the side. Some other skater comes on my right and turns directly across in front of me. In the process he clipped my right skate and took my leg out from under me causing me to fall back and to the left. I landed heavily on my left wrist. Despite the pain and swelling I continued through the holiday, including some very adventurous skiing which will be in the next Swiss Trip post. Two weeks later when I was back in South Africa I had my wrist x-rayed and examined. The diagnosis was a fractured scaphoid. This required surgery. After the surgery I had a bandage and split for a few weeks until the stitches were removed. Then my wrist was placed in a cast. The cast was on until 1 March 2016. Six weeks of physiotherapy and strengthening then occurred. By mid-April I was back to some sort of normality and could finally ride my bicycle again. Outdoors!
However, this improved state of affairs would unfortunately not last long. On Saturday 21 May 2016 I was cycling down a hill after a great training ride in the Cradle of Humankind. I was on the extreme left side (the side we travel on in South Africa) to allow cars to pass me safely on the right. A vehicle in the oncoming lane decided to just turn into an entrance on my side of the road even though he was obliged to stop and wait until it was clear. I reacted as soon as I saw him not stopping but the distance was simply too small and despite trying all I could to avoid the vehicle it was not possible. The collision left me laying in the road with two injured hands, a few cuts and grazes, a gaping wound on my chin and, most worryingly, an extremely painful upper right leg. Thankfully other cyclists and cars stopped to assist. The result was a trip to a nearby hospital for numerous internal and external stitches to my chin. Luckily there were no fractures according to the x-rays. Unfortunately my bike was not so lucky and both sides of the fork snapped as well as damage to the front wheel. Ten days later when I returned to the hospital for the stitches to be removed the new casualty Doctor rechecked my x-rays since my left hand was still in quite a bit of pain. It turns out that the fracture in my knuckle was not picked up and therefore not treated on the day of the accident. Yes, this was the same hand as the one I injured in Switzerland. This would keep me off the bike until the end of June.
So updates and adventures to look forward to soon include the last week of the Switzerland Trip a trip to Cape Town and some of South Africa’s best restaurants for amazing dining experiences, a local adventure to the Harties area, a weekend getaway which could be done as a great day trip and an awesome evening of Mumm. You certainly do not want to miss these!
Please do check in soon for these updates and remember to follow and like my Instagram – @andyrlapin – for some pictures of adventures. Sharing is caring so please feel free to share this blog so more adventurers can experience the adventures with us.
After a lovely breakfast of cold meats, cheeses, breads and hot chocolate at the Hotel Alpenrose in Wilderswil, it was time to head into the mountains on an adventure to the Top of Europe. The route would be one which would become a very well travelled one over the next week. First on the travel plan was the train journey from Wilderswil through Zweilütschinen to Lauterbrunnen. Then there was a change of trains which would continue the journey through Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg. On segment of the journey two iconic sections of the Lauberhorn Downhill Skiing World Cup course were visible. Firstly the section called Wasserstation tunnel where the course drops under the railway bridge and secondly the famous signature Hundschopf jump – about a 40-60m jump over a rock nose. The Lauberhorn Races, hosted in Wengen in mid January, have a very interesting a rich history. First held in 1930, it is one of the oldest continuously held downhill races. It is also the longest downhill on the World Cup circuit at about 4.4km when most others are typically 3.2km or so. The Haneggschuss section is where the Frenchman Johan Clarey set the fastest speed ever recorded in a World Cup race in 2013 – a staggering 161.9 kilometres per hour! Top speeds on the Haneggschuss regularly approach 160kph. For the brave adventurers the course is open to ski after the World Cup events (Downhill, Slalom and Combined) and is listed on piste maps as Lauberhorn-Weltcup Abfahrt and carries number 45.
Kleine Scheidegg is the end station for most people as it is an access point for the start of many of ski slopes and also has some great Après-ski places. But for the adventurers it was the sight of a change of train onto the Jungfraubahn. The Jungfraubahn has a really astonishing history! The concession for the railway was received in 1894 by industrialist Adolf Guyer-Zeller. In 1896 construction of the railway began. The Eigergletscher Station at the foot of the Eiger mountain was opened in 1898. The tunnel section to the Eigerwand Station was opened in 1903 and the tunnel section to Eismeer was opened in 1905. Finally in 1912, on the 21 February, the tunnelling crew breaks through the glacier at Jungfraujoch. In the construction years there were two explosions, a four month strike and 6 workers were killed. The station at Jungfraujoch is the highest railway station in Europe. The first stop on this part of the trip was at Eigergletscher (2320m) where there is a restaurant but more of that in the next blog post. The next stop is for about 5 minutes at a viewing platform of Eigerwand (2865m) followed by another short stop at Eismeer (3160m). Finally the train stopped at Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe (3454m)! After admiring the beautiful view down the glacier, it was time to tour Jungfraujoch through the network of tunnels. The first part of the tour took the adventurers to an area containing information on the research station at Jungfraujoch and the observatory. It was here which some free Lindt Chocolate was being handed out, the significance of which will be revealed a bit later. A lift ride followed which took us to the Sphinx Observatory and out to the viewing platform to savour some of the breathtaking views of the Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. The tunnel route continued through the Alpine Sensation which had Alpine themed wooden carvings. Next was a section on the history of the construction. Then there was the Eispalast section. This whole tunnel section was made from ice and had ice carvings of animals at various points. The somewhat cooler Eispalast section prepared the adventurers for the next section of the Jungfraujoch tour – outside again but this time on the ground instead of the viewing platform of the Sphinx Observatory. This part had a large Christmas tree. The tour continued with the second last stop. This stop would be considered the best by many people. It was at none other than a Swiss icon – the Lindt Chocolate Heaven mini museum and shop! Naturally chocolates were bought at this shop. The end of the tour was at a well stocked souvenir shop. Here is a collection of some of the many photos taken at Jungfraujoch. Please click on them to see the larger image.
The adventurers then had a choice to either search for some lunch at Jungfraujoch or head down to Kleine Scheidegg for some lunch. The decision was made to head to Kleine Scheidegg. After a bit of a wait the train journey was undertaken in reverse, with only the Eigergletscher stop. A late lunch was had at Röstizzeria comprising of a dish which would be repeated many times over the remainder of the Swiss Adventure. This was traditional Swiss Alpine Macaroni. I will divulge into that in more detail in the next post. The local Rugenbräu beer was enjoyed as well. Then it was time to catch the Wengenalpbahn back down through Wengen to Lauterbrunnen. The Wengenalpbahn is actually the world’s longest continuous rack and pinion railway at 19.091 kilometres. It links Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald with trains from both terminating at Kleine Scheidegg which is located between the two. From Lauterbrunnen the Berner Oberland Bahn train was travelled on to Wilderswil.
The evening was all about reuniting with old friends, for some, and meeting new friends, for some, but most importantly having a good old South African kuier, for all! While the two adventurers were frolicking in the mountains the other South Africans, who now live in the United Kingdom and Ireland, arrived. These were Lindie, Louis and Wilco. Our fantastic hosts, Carel and Ryan, kept all our glasses filled with Moët and/or Chocolate Block red wine throughout the evening. The dinner of lamb, vegetables, salad and a strawberry dessert was excellent. Carel and Ryan did, in the words of my Grandfather, excel themselves! After dinner the kuier continued with music and dancing as well as the European tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. For all my non-South African fellow adventurers the word “kuier” is an Afrikaans word meaning visit according to a strict translation but is also used in the wider sense of really connecting with the people present through the related activities etc of the visit. After a great kuier it was time to recharge and catch some sleep.
If you enjoyed this adventure to the Top of Europe then please like and share so that others can also experience the adventure we (you and I) have just been on. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the next episode of the Swiss blog posts. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram – @andyrlapin.
After a leisurely breakfast it was time for the last “mission” in Zürich – a trip to the Nespresso shop. On the way the two adventurers made one last stop in Lindenhof to admire the crisp and cloudless views of Zürich. Then it was time to fetch the luggage and to say “Wideluege” to the Sorell Hotel Rütli. That hotel was fabulous and definitely my choice for future trips to Zürich. The two adventurers enjoyed the short stroll, with a few items of luggage made heavier by Christmas Market and Nespresso shopping, across the bridge over the Limmat River to Zürich Hauptbahnhof. Although on the bridge there was the final rest stop to admire the beauty of the sun sparkling on the Limmat River.
The first leg on the train journey would be on the 13.35 InterRegio departing from Gleis 10 and stopping at Thalwil, Baar, Zug, Rotkreuz and finally Luzern. The train was a double-decker train and had one of those typically Swiss red locomotives. While waiting for the train the obligatory Brezelkonig pretzels were purchased.
Upon arriving in Luzern a quick look at the train departures board and time calculation followed. The two adventurers then dragged all the luggage out the Bahnhof Luzern and onto the bridge where the Reuss River leaves Lake Lucerne with view to the right of Lake Lucerne and to the left the famous wooden bridge of Luzern – the Kapellbrücke. The Reuss flows from the Gotthard Massif into Lake Lucerne at Seedorf at the southernmost point of the lake. It then flows out the lake at Luzern in a north-east direction and, after various confluences, eventually flows as the Aare River into the Rhein River at Koblenz. That is the Swiss Koblenz to the north west of Zürich on the border between Switzerland and Germany. The obligatory photographs of the interesting and historic Kapellbrücke were then taken. The wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across the Reuss was named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel. It was constructed in 1333 as part of Luzern’s fortifications, although the Wasserturm predates the bridge by about 30 years. The Wasserturm is not a “water tower” as the name suggests but rather stems from the fact that the bridge was built in water. The bridge is also the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. Inside the bridge are paintings dating back to the 17th century. A unique and interesting fact is that only Luzern’s three bridges – Kapellbrücke, the now destroyed Hofbrücke and the Spreuerbrücke are the only the only wooden footbridges in Europe which featured interior triangular painted frames. Sadly after the fire in 1993 only about 30 paintings were fully restored of 47 that were collected. Initially there were 158 interior paintings.
Then it was back through the frontage which is all that remains from the station constructed in 1896. The whole station in Luzern was destroyed by fire on 5 February 1971. The present station was opened on 5 February 1991. It was the 15.05 InteRegio “Luzern-Interlaken Express” which would convey the two adventurers on an extremely scenic route passed picturesque towns such as Giswil and Lungren and then over the mountains to Meiringen and onto Interlaken Ost. It was in the mountains around Brünig-Hasliberg that the first bit of snow was sighted! Meiringen might ring a bell to some of you who have read about two characters who were created by British author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and also went on adventures such as “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” and “The Adventure of the Empty House”. There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. These two characters were none other than Sherlock Holmes and his dear Watson. Meiringen is the location of the Reichenbach Falls which is the location of the presumed death of Sherlock Holmes.
The train journey continued passing along the shore of the beautiful Brienzersee with clear blue water. The sunset and clouds provided an amazing addition to complete the view of the water and distant snow capped mountains. Eventually at 16.55 the Luzern-Interlaken Express glided to a stop in Interlaken’s Interlaken Ost Station. The other station is Interlaken West. But the two adventurers’ journey was not complete just yet. It was now time for the extremely short third leg of the day’s train journeys aboard the Berner-Oberland Bahn to Wilderswil, essentially the gateway to the Jungfrau region. After disembarking it was a very short walk to the fabulous Hotel Alpenrose. This hotel will be covered in more detail in the next blog post. The time had arrived to finally meet our hosts – Carel and Ryan. Over the course of the next 10 days they would become friends whom I hold in very high regard and it was definitely an honour to have met them.
Finally it was time for some greatly anticipated dinner and along with some wine. The four South Africans shared a bottle of The Chocolate Block red wine originates from Franschhoek in South Africa. Starter was a delicious soup of the day followed by Rösti with Bratwurst and onion sauce. After the delicious dinner it was time to travel back to Interlaken – luckily in a van this time and directly to our final destination. A quick unpacking and orientation followed. The two adventurers then walked along the side of the Höhematte Park to Ice Magic. In a few days time this would be the scene of the beginning of another adventure which will conclude on 1 March 2016. But for this evening, Ice Magic was the perfect setting to relax and end off the long day of travelling from Zürich with coffee and Glühwein.
If you enjoyed this train adventure then please like and share so that others can also experience the adventure we (you and I) have just been on. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the next episode of the Swiss Adveture blog posts. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram – @andyrlapin.
For a lucky few, food adventures like this are regularly undertaken. But for the rest of us, including these two Adventurers, a food adventure such as this definitely ranks as a highlight of the holiday adventure. As such, a visit to a Star deserves its own post.
The adventure actually started months before during the planning of the Swiss Adventure. Due to the lucky find of huge savings on the flights to and from Switzerland as well as some other savings and because the rare opportunity arose, the two adventurers decided to treat themselves whilst in Zürich.
The initial plan for this food adventure was to spend two nights at the Sorell Hotel Rütli before transferring to another hotel for a dinner package which included dinner with wine pairings and a room for the night, which would be our last night in Zürich. All that was booked and confirmed. Then a few weeks before departure to Switzerland the adventure took a twist when an email arrived informing us that the hotel and restaurant were going to be closed from Christmas during the time we had booked. So now it was back to the planning board for this one night and for the dinner. The one night of accommodation was easily sorted thanks to the Sorell Hotel Rütli’s online booking management system. A simple case of logging in and changing the departure date to the following day when we were going to leave Zürich for the next part of the Swiss Adventure. The more difficult part was finding a new Star. After poring over the guide along with Google maps a new Star was finally found and selected. This took the form of the Restaurant Pavillon at the Baur au Lac hotel. The Pavillon holds one Michelin Star and 17 Gault Millau Points. The Head Chef is Laurent Eperon. Many people are somewhat familiar with the Michelin Stars (from one to three) that are awarded to the restaurants or dining establishments. A lesser known ranking, and one that I came across for the first time while researching which restaurant to choose for this trip, is the Gault Millau point ranking. The Gault Millau guide uses a ranking of between 0 and 20 points, with 20 being the target for restaurants to aim for. While the Michelin Guide is more popular and therefore generally considered more influential, the Gault Millau Guide of often considered more “purist” as it is purely based on the quality of the food.
The winter evening of Tuesday 22 December 2015 approached after a wonderful day exploring Zürich. During the late afternoon the two adventurers prepared for this much anticipated food adventure. It would be the first time that either would be dining at a Michelin Star restaurant. The walk to the Baur au Lac, located in Talstrasse on the bank of the Schanzengraben canal near the Zürichsee.
On arrival our jackets and coat were taken from us to be hung up. We were escorted to our table which was in the circular section of the restaurant which overlooks either the canal or the beautiful gardens. Soon after been seated the, now standard for Michelin Starred restaurants, first of the Amuse-bouches was served. An Amuse-bouche (literally translated from French to be “mouth amuser”) is an appetizer that is served gratis and according to the Chef’s selection. Usually they are served to prepare the guest for the meal ahead and to offer insight into the Chef’s approach to cuisine. They became an identifiable course during the Nouvelle Cuisine movement of the 1960’s. This was in the form of parmesan cheese puffs with very thing Melba toast. After some sparkling mineral water and the perusal of the menu along with the white gloved presentation of the truffle, at 19CHF per gram (approximately R300 per gram) if my memory serves me correctly, a selection of breads were served. Both adventurers ordered the pre-decided Menu Harmonie with wine pairing. The menu Harmonie consisted of seven courses paired with wines from France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy selected by the Sommelier Aurélien Blanc. Although truffle was included in the one part of the menu we definitely did not pay extra for it! The second Amuse-bouche then arrived which was some Swiss sausage on potato pieces. Then the third Amuse-bouche soon followed. This was a very creative and delicious one. Alfredo served in an egg shell. Both adventurers really enjoyed this Amuse-bouche!
Selection of breads.
Swiss sausage with potato.
Alfredo in an egg.
It was now time for the first of the seven courses. The first course was:
NOIX DE COQUILLES SAINT-JACQUES
Roasted scallops and scallop tartar
This was served with a 2012 white wine from the Alsace region in France.
The dish was served in two dishes. The roasted scallop was served warm while the scallop tartar was served cold with a slice of black truffle on top. The contrast of textures and hot/cold made for a delicious course.
The second course was:
FOIE GRAS DE CANARD DE BOUAYÉ
Duck liver terrine, variation of quince
This was served with a 2012 white wine from Switzerland.
The dish was beautifully presented and involved some nice flavours and textures. The sweet wine went well with foie gras.
The third course was:
SOLE PETIT BATEAU ET COQUILLAGES
Poached sole roulade
Normande sauce with mussels.
This was served with a 2011 white wine from Spain.
The dish was beautifully presented and tasted delicious.
The fourth course was:
A SUNDAY EVENING AT MY GRANDMOTHER
This was an interesting course consisting of a raw egg yolk, crispy onion, some vegetable purée and a Hollandaise type sauce.
The fifth course was:
CHEVREUIL D’AUTRICH -CROSS THE CHANNEL-
Roasted saddle of venison, Arabica game gravy
This course was served with an excellent 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley red from France.
The venison was cooked perfectly (for Andy) medium and the sauce was full of flavour and delicious. Andy’s fellow adventurer usually prefers her meat a little more cooked but at a Michelin Star restaurant the Chef chooses how well cooked his dishes are. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape red definitely complimented the food perfectly and was one of the best pairings I have ever tasted. The onion as well as the potato purée was perfect to accompany the venison. Each of the adventurers were served a small bowl of warmed red cabbage on the side.
The sixth course was:
This course took a similar form to the “A Sunday Evening at My Grandmother” and consisted of Mandarines served in three forms along with a Mandarine sauce.
The seventh and final course was a choice of one of two. Andy enjoyed the:
Sour cream and yellow lemon mousse
Lemon Sablé Breton
This was served with a delicious Italian 2014 Moscato dAsti Barisél from Piedmont.
Andy’s fellow adventurer opted instead for the:
FROMAGES AFFINÉS DU CHARIOT
Selection of cheeses from the trolley
These cheeses were some of the best cheeses that either of us had ever tasted! Some more bread was served with the cheese selection.
Afterwards it was time for the traditional cappuccino and espresso accompanied by an assortment of petit fours.
Mention must also be made of the service at the Pavillon. It was simply amazing. We were extremely well looked after by all the staff from the front of house, to all the waiters and waitresses. When the courses were served it was always by a minimum of 3 staff – one to hold the tray and one per dish that was taken from the tray and placed in front of each of us in a synchronized and precise performance. A small side table was also provided for scarves and handbag etc. The waiters and waitresses were always available yet also not intrusive. It was definitely a case of “you are our guest and we will take care of all your needs while you are here with us”.
The ambiance and decor create a light and intimate atmosphere in the main circular section of the restaurant without feeling like you are too close to the neighbouring table.
The food was excellent, delicious and full of flavours with a nice range of textures. One could taste the freshness of the ingredients. The traditional ingredients worked well with what one could detect was creative preparation that fused contemporary and classic styles.
Overall, combining the food and the service, it was simply at a higher level than anything I have experienced before. But mention must be made of the difference in dining culture between South Africa and Europe. That includes the likes of The Test Kitchen (voted Number 1 restaurant in South Africa for multiple years), AtholPlace Restaurant and Cube (which you can read about here in another Adventures of Andy blog post) and another excellent restaurant which will be dealt with in another food adventure blog post after the third part of the Swiss Adventure.
Outside on the edge of the gardens of the Baur au Lac was a huge gingerbread/chocolate house complete with smoke periodically rising out of the chimney. We expected Hansel and Gretel to walk out the door of the house at any moment. It was decided that they would not appreciate us having a taste of the house and besides, after the awesome fine dining there was not space for another bite!
After an amazing dinner the cold night air of Zürich during the walk along the banks of the Limmat River, with frequent photo stops, was very welcome.
If you enjoyed this food adventure then please like and share so that others can also experience the adventure we (you and I) have just been on. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the rest of the Swiss blog posts. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram @andyrlapin.
This was definitely one of the best Adventures of all time! It also literally started with an Adventure.
Departure from Johannesburg and the Frankfurt Connection
After security and passport control it was time for some relaxation with my adventurous travelling partner, Adele, in the Bidvest Lounge before the first of two flights. Some sparkling wine was just what was needed to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas Holidays and the start of the amazing Swiss Adventure!
But, alas, the electronic departure board had some news for us. South African Airways flight SA260 had a delay of 1 hour. Oh well, we just had an hour less shopping time at the next airport which has some great shopping options. The excitement increased as the boarding process was finally carried out. Once we had boarded and taken our seats, luckily the second row from the front of economy, we sat. And we sat. And we sat some more. Eventually it was take off time – over 1 hour 40 minutes later. The delay put a huge time pressure on us for our connecting flight. The time of 2 hours and 15 minutes between landing and take off was now shaved down to just 35 minutes with passport control and very thorough airport security to get through!
We literally hit the ground running in a very misty Flughafen Frankfurt am Main. Would the Germans wait for two South African adventurers? After some running we arrived at passport control, luckily with no queue. Then it was to the German airport security. Luckily Frankfurt is very well organised and have a “Fast Lane” security option for passengers with time constrained connecting flights. We arrived at the gate 2 minutes before boarding commenced.
The Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Zürich was fairly short and carried out with the efficiency the Germans pride themselves in. Finally it was touch down in Zürich! Zürich is a delightful city on the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich with about 2 million people within the Zürich metropolitan area.
Zürich Teil Eins
The hotel in Zürich was the Sorell Hotel Rütli, a perfect little hotel a few minutes walk from the railway station. After checking in it was time to go on an adventure and explore the wonderful city. From the Sunday we arrived until the Wednesday that we departed, with the exception of Monday when we did a trip to Basel for the day, we explored Zürich and the Christmas Markets.
The first Christmas Market we came across was the one inside Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station. This had numerous stalls selling everything from crafts to food and drinks. One of the first stalls we came across was selling “Maroni”. This was something new to us adventurers and turned out to be roasted chestnuts. Since the gentleman occupying the stall was kind enough to give us one to taste we ended up buying one “Glühwein Rot <Alpenrose>” and one Glühwein weiss <Edelweis>” from his “Glühroni” stall. The Christmas Market had stalls selling chocolate made in the shapes of tools, cheeses, salamis and cold meats, nuts with various coatings and, what was to become a favourite, Schmalzkuchen (absolutely delicious little German pastries) amongst others. This railway station Christmas Market had the Swarovski crystal Christmas tree which was spectacular!
The Zurich Hauptbahnhof, main railway station, at night from Bahnhofstrasse with Christmas lights.
The Christmas Market at Zurich HB with Swarovski Crystal Christmas Tree!
Chocolate made in the form of tools.
In the evening we explored another Christmas Market which was fairly new to the Zürich Christmas Market scene. This was the Singing Christmas Tree Market. The Christmas Tree has places where choirs can stand in the tree and perform. A nice touch is that they get people from the crowd to join them up in the tree and participate by ringing the traditional Swiss cow bells. The conductor shows the tree a colour and they ring the bell of the same colour. This was a really enjoyable time listening to the carols, singing and music. Then, it was time to find dinner. The noses of the adventurers detected a very nice smell from a little hut at the Singing Christmas Tree Market. Venturing inside the source of the lovely aroma was found to be a cheese fondue. Naturally the only option was to sit down and have a traditional Swiss cheese fondue. Served on the side was hot cider.
Singing Christmas Tree at The Singing Christmas Tree Christmas Market.
Traditional Swiss cheese fondue.
Basel für den Tag
Monday morning was the day for the planned adventure to Basel, Switzerland’s third most populous city after Zürich and Geneva. It is a city that is located on the borders of Switzerland, France and Germany and actually has suburbs in all three countries. The day did involve a slightly later start in order to catch up on some sleep from the travelling. This was actually a good thing since it was raining a bit in Zürich in the morning. The train journey from Zürich HB to Basel SBB (there are two stations in Basel – Basel SBB is the Swiss station while Basel Badischer Bahnhof is over the Rhein and is the German DB station) ranges from around 53 minutes to about 1 hour 4 minutes depending on the InterCity or InterRegio trains and the number of stops. Exiting the station the adventurers began the short walk towards the city centre and the main sights. But there was a distraction and detour along the way. This was in the form of Schiesser Chocolatier, hidden away in the UBS building on the corner of St. Alban-Graben and Aeschenvorstadt. Of course the only logical thing to do was to go and have a look and hopefully a taste. While admiring the different chocolates the friendly Schiesser lady offered us each a taste of a chocolate of our choice. Wow! It was so delicious that we each ended up purchasing four chocolates. It took a lot of willpower to not just eat all four chocolates there and then. The friendly Schiesser lady did inform us of their main branch with a tea room at Marktplatz.
With our precious cargo safely packed we continued towards the first objective – the Rhein at Wettsteinbrücke, Basel’s second oldest bridge over the Rhein although it has since been replaced by a new structure. The views of the Rhein from the bridge were fabulous. On the Kleinbasel side on the north bank of the Rhein the river bank is fairly low whereas on the southern side the bank rises up quite high and quite steeply. The exploratory walk continued along the bank on the Kleinbasel side. This provided great views with the Rhein in the foreground and some beautiful buildings of Grossbasel, most notably the spires of the famous Basler Münster, a building with a very interesting history. It was originally a Catholic Cathedral but today is a Reformed Protestant Church and construction took place between 1019 and 1500! It was destroyed during an earthquake on 18 October 1356. That earthquake is considered the most significant seismological event to have occurred in Central Europe in recorded history. It is built in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Of course the obligatory temperature analysis of the Rhein was done using the finger test. Yes, it was very cold!
Upon reaching the Mittlere Brücke (which is the oldest bridge in Basel), Greifengasse leading away from the Rhein into Kleinbasel looked quite vibey and a hive of activity. So the adventurers followed it and explored some of the shops along it. This lead us to Claraplatz and an inviting looking stand selling some delicacies outside the St. Clara-kirche. Naturally a “snowball” needed to be tasted. This turned out to be a delicious coconut “cutie pie” type delicacy.
Andy on Wettsteinbrucke with the Basler Munster in the background.
Schiesser chocolates purchased in Basel.
“Snowball” in Claraplatz, Basel.
Then it was time to make our way back across the Rhein which we did by crossing the Johanniterbrücke. From there we walked through the university hospital area of Basel which lead us to Marktplatz where the Rathaus (Town Hall) is. Of course a visit to the Schiesser tea room and shop was a given. As was a pretzel from Brezelkonig.
Time to move on to find the Basler Münster. This was done via a quiet but extremely delightful cobbled street with buildings a few hundred years old. This lead us to the far end of the Münsterplatz right at the Christmas Market. This Christmas market was small but had wonderful food. A small sample of some rösti resulted in the purchase of a plate of rösti with some garlic sauce and sample of Glühwein. A quick walk around the beautiful interior of the Münster and it was time to walk back towards the station, with a detour to another Christmas Market at Barfüsserplatz. Since this was a bigger market there was more on offer with some elaborate stalls, including talking mooses. A purchase of some nutella nuts was made.
Cobbled street near the Munsterplatz.
Rosti with Garlic sauce.
Christmas Market with the Basler Munster.
The Basler Munster.
The decision was then made to head to the station and return to Zürich. A rest stop at the hotel was made before some more night time exploring of Zürich was done. This exploring lead the adventurers to another, much bigger Christmas Market on the shore of the Zürichsee at Sechseläutenplatz. This market provided a real treat – truffle cheese! Dinner was Glühwein and freshly made potato crisps.
Zurück in Zürich
Tuesday was the last day of the Zürich adventures and involved some exploring and a boat trip on the Zürichsee from/to Bürkliplatz to Zollikon and Thalwil. The day involved more visits to department stores where I had my eye on, but ultimately ended up not purchasing unfortunately, a very nice Certina watch – perhaps one day I will purchase it. The first part of the Switzerland Adventure ended with the ultimate food adventure which deserves it’s very own blog post.
View of Zurich and the Limmat River from Lindenhof Park.
View from the boat trip on the Zurichsee.
Zurich at night.
Zurich at night with the Wasserkirche in the foreground and the Grossmunster in the background.
If you enjoyed the first part of the Switzerland Adventure please like and share. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the rest of the Swiss blog posts. The next post will be about the Adventure of the evening of Tuesday 22 December 2015. After the part 2 of the Swiss adventure will be posted. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram @andyrlapin.
My plan for the Christmas Holidays was a two week adventure in Switzerland. This meant that I was missing the traditional family holiday to Umhlanga near Durban on the coast of South Africa. As a result we needed to celebrate Christmas a little earlier and decided to experience fine dining at AtholPlace Restaurant near Sandton (as the first culinary adventure). A few months earlier a fellow food adventurer and I had gone to another restaurant during the KLM Restaurant Week. AtholPlace Restaurant was one of the restaurants on the list for the week. So I was naturally quite excited to try it out, especially since it had received some good feedback during that Restaurant Week.
The service was superb from the moment we arrived. The staff are well trained, friendly and efficient. Shortly after been seated glasses of sparkling wine and a selection of canapes were served. This included butternut soup, fried chicken and a squid head on a mussel with napolitana sauce. All were delicious! If this was just the canapes, then what would the four course menu hold?
The first course was a sweetcorn soup topped with coconut, herb oil and crispy leeks. This was an interesting combination of textures but was also wonderful to my tastebuds.
The second course was one which I have seen in a few manifestations at various restuarants and consisted of a 5 spice pork belly with carrot puree, grilled prawn, broccoli and jus. Although pork belly has been a popular choice for fine dining restaurants, this one was one of the best I have tasted. The difference in flavours between the pork belly and the prawn worked well.
Now it was time for the third course, or main course as AtholPlace described it on their menu. This was a choice of beef massamam curry with sambals, poppadum’s and basmati rice or a pan fried linefish with gorgonzola gnocchi, smoked tomato dressing, rocket and cucumber salad and parma ham crisp. My parents both opted for the curry while I decided to be adventurous with the linefish, which that evening was seabass. The curry was apparently delicious but my linefish was just amazing! This was definitely one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. The flavour combinations were interesting but just worked so well together. The softness of the fish, and gorgonzola gnocchi, and the hard, crispiness of the parma ham made for a great combination of textures. This was just amazing and a dish I really enjoyed eating. As with all dishes like this there was just simply not enough!
The fourth course was labeled as the dessert course and consisted of a deconstructed milk tart, fresh berries and chocolate ice cream. Milk tart is a South African favourite and it was great to see some South African influence on the menu. This, like all the other courses was divine. With coffee some petits fours were served.
After our fantastic fine dining meal Chef Wynand van der Watt went around the restaurant table by table chatting to the patrons about their experience and enquiring about their favourite dishes. This I found to be a wonderful personal touch and thought that it is fabulous for the Chef to show an interest in how his food was received.
All in all, AtholPlace Restaurant was an exciting food adventure which is definitely worth another visit soon. The menu does change very often so each visit will be a new food adventure.
The second culinary adventure happened the night after AtholPlace. Yes, the second fine dining food adventure in consecutive nights! This time it was for a Christmas celebration with family friends. The restaurant of choice was Cube Tasting Kitchen. This would be my second food adventure there and I was extremely excited to taste the new menu. Cube Tasting Kitchen is a great concept and serves a ten course set menu which they change monthly. They are not licensed so any wine you would like to enjoy with your meal you have to take with yourself. This is actually a fabulous idea as you can then take the wines which you enjoy and which you think would pair nicely with the food. Cube Tasting Kitchen does provide you with the menu beforehand and recommends types of wine to pair with each course. The food at Cube Tasting Kitchen could be described as quite experimental and even from the menu you are kept guessing as to the actual composition of the dishes until they arrive at the table and are explained. Often it is one of the Chefs who helps serve the food and gives the explanation.
We were lucky that our table was right next to the kitchen so we could see how the food was cooked and the dishes plated.
The food at Cube Tasting Kitchen was an intriguing mix of flavours, textures and colour. Tastewise each dish was absolutely delicious. While all ten courses were enjoyable I have chosen to only comment on a few which really stood out and deserve a mention. That is not to say that there was anything wrong with the courses that I haven’t mentioned. Nothing was wrong with any of the food. What was particularly enjoyable was the variety of dishes, not only in the food but also in how they were served and the different ways they were to be eaten.
The Asian pancake (course three) was very good and probably my second favourite. This was eaten by hand.
Dissolving Textures (course four) was quite different and was eaten in the manner of “having a tequila” by placing some sherbet on your hand, then licking the sherbet and drinking the orange and saffron bubble.
The pork and white fish (course five) was a delicious dish and worth a mention.
The braai (course six) was interesting and was served in communal dishes from which people at the table shared.
My favourite dish was the three soft rind cheeses (course eight). Each element was made with a different cheese and the onion marmalade which accompanied it was just fantastic and really complimented the cheeses well.
The most interesting dish was the dessert which was mysteriously named “Forest floor interactive dessert”. Remember what I said about Cube Tasting Kitchen keeping you guessing about the dishes? The Chef constructed the dessert as she explained it at the table. It was a food story unfolding and developing in colour and flavours as each element was added. This was eaten in another manner different to the other dishes in that each person ate off a single “plate” in the middle of the table.
The menu was as follows:
Sunday roast as a salad
Cured and smoked Sirloin / Crumbed and deep fried gnocchi / Green pea puree / Cauliflower cremeaux / Parmesan soil / Sugar snaps / Broccoli / Green bean / Mustard Mayo and Jus.
Corn and Prawn
Chilli and corn bisque / Two tone corn jelly / Deep fried popcorn ice cream / Prawn popsicle / Crispy bacon.
Spring onion pancake / Galangal jam / Chilli noodle / Asian gel / Japanese mayo / Pickled shimeji / Tempura pak choy
Dark chocolate mousse / chocolate soil / Tuiles / Wheatgrass / Caramel / Berries / Apple marshmellow / Smoked truffles
All in all, Cube Tasting Kitchen did not disappoint in this food adventure. It was as good as the first adventure back in October 2015. When you go there for your adventure I recommend printing out the menu to take with you as a reference for each course.
So that concludes “The Tale of Two Culinary Adventures”. I hope you have enjoyed experiencing the adventures with me. If you have please like and share so that others can experience the adventure as well. Feel free to comment. Lastly, please check back soon for the posts about the travelling and food adventure to Switzerland!