Zurich is my hometown. I was born there. And it had been a long time since I had seen it. Things have changed. It's busier, wealthier and more international than before. Leaving one day during the rush hour, Cassandra and I faced a serious traffic jam, forcing us to drive up into the hills to sit on a park bench for an hour in a beautiful old neighborhood. From there, we could see the entire city on the splendid blue lake and the Limmat river trailing amongst the steeples of the churches on its banks. Switzerland has changed, too. What was small and quaint in my childhood is giving way to modern development.
What, or rather who hadn't changed were the little schoolboys of Zurich. They still go around by themselves on scooters, totally independent, and pluckily speaking the local Swiss German dialect, which sounds so fanciful and magical on their lips. That brought back the old Switzerland: amazing toy stores, hand made chocolates, cable cars, trams and trains, glassy ice blue lakes reflecting mountains, cozy tea rooms and bakeries, Tinguely, Corbusier, the Jet d'Eau on Lac Leman, Brienz, the cathedral in Basel, the Rhein Falls, a trip to Ticino with a quick excursion to the Italian Alps...Recently, I spoke to a Frenchman and he asked me, "Are you English." I answered, "no, I am Swiss." He replied, "That's O.K. nobody's perfect."
After spending time with our friends in Zurich, seeing the town, eating at one of our favorite old student hangouts, Restaurant Weisser Wind, it was time to return home to southwestern France. After a late start, we headed down towards Geneva along the eastern bank of Lake Neuchtel. Traffic was again awful, and around 5 pm we decided to head east over the Jura mountains towards Pontarlier, France, thus avoiding the inevitable bottleneck at Geneva. We drove over a beautiful landscape, crossed into France passing an empty tollbooth and drove toward Pontarlier, a town mentioned in Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables". It was getting late, and we needed a hotel, but found nothing good along the way. At Pontarlier, around twilight, there were two hotels that didn't look too inviting. In a parking lot, a slightly haggard man with a little girl holding his hand gave us directions to a small bed and breakfast in a hamlet called Frasne, about 26 km down the road.
In the failing light of early evening we spotted a small sign, "Gite," along the road and turned off at Frasne.
And there in Frasne, we found a beautiful and wonderfully comfortable b&b run by the charming couple, Ambroise & Bénédikte Bettineschi. Here is a photo taken by Cassandra of me with them. Bénédikte prepared a superb menu for us, and we dined "ensemble."
(Click here or on the photo to go to the website of their b&b with table d'hôte.)