This weekend, we're going to Umbria. Last weekend, we went to Anzio, south of Rome. But, the weekend before that, we went to...
Wow, has it been great having Auntie in town.
When Auntie first started planning her trip to visit us, she had one request. While she was here, she wanted to take a train through the Alps. When she actually arrived, and we started planning the trip, it became apparent that this would be an 8-hour one-way train journey, so we were able to convince her that perhaps actually staying put in the Alps would be nice, as an alternative to showing up, tossing back a cup o' coffee, and leaving.
We chose Interlaken for our base of operations, since it's got great rail connections and is right near some of the loveliest Alpine peaks. (Auntie wants me to tell you that Interlaken was also chosen because it looks very very pretty on Google Earth.) Off we went by train.
Train travel = picnic!
Big sweet green olives, salame milano (which was ok, but I bought waaay too much), a giant hunk of cheese we bought at the truffle festival in San Miniato (unfortunately, we forgot everything about it right after buying, except that the rind was washed in red wine to give it that color), tomatoes, oranges, and a hunk of pan forte (tuscan dense fruit and nut cake) for dessert. Ah, and vino novello to drink, since yay! it's that time of year.
Of course, the weather northbound through Italy was awful. Foggy, gray, rainy, yuck. Almost magically, upon emerging from the tunnel marking the border between Italy and Switzerland, everything cleared.
It was getting dark already, so we only were able to take a couple of blurry pictures of encroaching Alps before losing the light.
As Auntie pointed out, it was great to be arriving in Interlaken by night - we had no idea what the countryside around the town looked like on arrival. We were able to find our hotel without much of a problem, though - oddly enough, called the Hotel Toscana.
We had an enormous triple with CNN and MTV - which was playing American Dad in German when we arrived! I wonder how well the humor translates.
We had a nice view of an all-but empty town. November is too late for the summertime adventure sporters and too early for the skiiers and sledders.
The hotel had an interesting way of tracking keys - the little ones with the triangular tags were for the outside door, and you used them to pick up your much heavier room key.
Interlaken is seriously touristy - since this was low season, many restaurants were closed. Husbear did some research and found a place serving "traditional Swiss cuisine" just around the corner from where we were staying.
I was clamoring for fondue, so I gave my full support to the plan - even after we arrived to learn the restaurant was housed in the Best Western. Yeah.
Great interior, though - even if they were keeping it at 95 degrees in there.
We got some Swiss bread for snacking, which was different from Tuscan in that it was salted. And very thick. The butter was yummy, though, but that is to be expected in dairy-lusting Switzerland, a country where the most popular soft drink is 30% milk.
And local beer, since though Switzerland is supposed to have some nice wines, we really wanted to take a break from the fruit of the vine while we were out of Italy.
It was cold outside, so we started with a couple of soups. By the time they arrived, we had gotten so hot from the radiators in the restaurant that we were all sweating.
Auntie got a very good onion soup, which wasn't half congealed cheese like most I've had. The broth was nice and beefy.
I got a consomme with marrow, which was nice but a little bland. I think that's pretty common with consomme, though - not the most flavorful of broths, normally. But I could see it being really nice as a starter on a freezing day.
The Swiss kids in my Italian class this fall couldn't stop talking about how much they missed Rostï, shredded potatoes sometimes cooked with bacon or cheese and served as a side dish with nearly everything. So, a sausage with onion sauce and Rostï for us, please.
I'm reasonably certain this wasn't the Rostï they were missing. Kind of like Waffle House hash browns if you don't get them scattered. The sausage didn't have a snap to the casing, either, and the onion gravy was a little flat. Ah, well. Because sausages were not the most important thing about this meal.
Nope, that was taken up by....
Fondue! Cheesy, cheesy fondue!
Melty, with a bit of a wine bite, truly awesomely delicious. Unfortunately, only served with bread for dipping - it was really calling out for fruit, or something to break up the bready cheesy monopoly. We dipped bits of our Rostï patty into the cheese, as well as some of the sausage.
That giant pot of cheese was fondue for 2, by the way. All of the restaurants we saw would only do fondue for two or more. The three of us finished perhaps just over half of the cheese, and our disappointed waitress chastised us when she came to clear the table. "Too much cheese for you, eh?"
Yup. We were bested by the fondue.
Calvados and conversation for dessert. And a scoop of chocolate ice cream for Auntie, which came topped with 6 (six) blueberries. We fought over them, desperate for some fruit or vegetable to end this cheesy sausage of a meal.
So, our first day in Switzerland, and we only managed to fit in one giant pot of bubbling cheese. More later.
Friday, we woke up to see where exactly we had signed on for five days of fun. I'll have to continue that later.
In real chronological time, we are leaving tomorrow for Umbria - Norcia, the town so famous for its pork products that many butchers in Italy call their stores "Norcinerie" - and we're doing it all in a Smart Car. The forfour, so we should hypothetically be able to fit three people and one suitcase. Blogging on that, perhaps in December?