After the mille feuille caramel breakfast we left Grenoble for Strasbourg. Our navigation system took us from Grenoble, through Switzerland and Germany before we arrived back in France. Later, on our way to Belgium we’d also zip through Luxembourg one of the world’s richest countries. Who knew?
As Switzerland is not part of the European Union (because they would have to be more transparent about the money they hold for various murderous dictators, drug lords and evil crime syndicate kingpins) there is a border crossing and it was heavily guarded. As we sat in the line of cars to get through the frontière douanière and into the country I became a little worried. I could see these guys were no nonsense. These were not the Swiss Guards who stand officiously around the pope in those sissified leotard get-ups with feathered hats and useless, Wizard-of-Oz hatchet weapons. These guys looked like CIA operatives. Scowling, middle linebackers with real live weapons and real freakin’ uniforms. And when I got shooed out of the line and into a sectioned off area I nearly passed out. I was preparing to hand Ashish over and admit his guilt for whatever offense we were being accused of or, maybe, run screaming from the car while they gunned me down. But as it happened, they only wanted us to pay for a sticker to put on our windshield so we could drive on their freeway system. For the record, the French do not need military personnel for this. They have a little machine into which you put a credit card and it gives you the ticket without the rifle in the throat. Just sayin.’
So off we went singing Eidelweiss into the charming, if industrial, Swiss countryside. Yes, there was quite a lot of mustard in bloom on the route, but there was also a lot of industry along side the freeway and so when lunchtime rolled around I thought we’d get off it and take a peek at a more charming side of Switzerland. We exited at Bissengiünneringein (At this point, Jane our GPS navigatrix, became very disturbed, repeatedly demanding that we make a U-turn and issuing all sorts of imperative directives. Eventually she petulantly stopped speaking in a fit of passive-aggressive behavior) and we then drove through Thrussorischienneringer, passing Grürreingluschtereschiess. Finally settling on a quaintish local restaurant in a reasonably cute (and definitely clean) little town whose name escapes me but rhymed with Schlossingersheissenhoft, we went in for lunch.
One of the many reasons I like being in France is that I can understand what they are saying (even if they can’t understand me very well) so when the waiter greeted us with a series of guttural noises and apparent throat clearings I knew language might be a different kind of border that would need to be crossed. Fortunately the limited menu was easy enough to comprehend. Schpaghetten appeared to be spaghetti and salat, well, obviously salad. On the other hand one never knows. It could have been red meat salad but we were willing to take the risk, besides it couldn’t have been worse than the “Caribbean style” boudin I’d had in Hyéres which is blood, just plain blood in a tube. There were only 2 things on the menu anyway. I thought. There may have been other stuff since other people were being served things other than pasta and fish. But we ordered salad and pasta.
First though, little tomato soldiers, an apparent nod to our recent run in with the Swiss SSwaffen were very proudly presented as an appetizer. They were nice enough in an oddly cute, straight forward sort of way. I was more fascinated with the 2 condiments in the basket on the table. Both of which were bouillon. One, dry and shakable, and the other in a liquid, pourable format. Neither of which were something I could feature using regularly.
Our salads, thankfully, were really good. Chopped fresh herbs in buttermilk dressing and it gave us hope for our main courses. But our hopes were dashed when they arrived. It was just spaghetti and not anywhere near as good as my mothers’. Oh well.
When we got in the car Jane was still not speaking to us as we tried to make our way back to the freeway, the use for which we had very nearly paid with our lives. Finally after some aimless wandering she must have become overwhelmed with our stupidity and couldn’t help herself or else we’d been forgiven. She began abruptly barking orders at us and we were able to find the autoroute that headed north where, after much additional touring of Swiss industry, we exited the country and entered Germany without so much as an auf wiedersehen.