mardi 7 août 2018

Swiss Cheese

I highly recommend going on an impromptu holiday to Zurich with a handsome man you barely know, if ever you get the chance. Especially if you take a 6am flight the morning after your dog has just died. Sometimes it turns out that a change of scene and unexpectedly kind company are exactly what you need.

Zurich is lovely. It’s a city perfect for people who don’t like cities. We went hiking up a mountain and swimming in the lake, all within view of skyscrapers and highways. We also took a train to Vaduz in Liechtenstein for the day, because why not go to two different countries if you can? This means you can also take very Instagrammable pictures of each other on the bridge that straddles the border between the two countries, a foot in each one. It’s fun.

We played travel Scrabble and enjoyed the very Heidi-esque train views and tried to decide which mountain cottage we would live in and whether we would ever get bored. We then spent a very pleasant day out in Vaduz, which involved excellent pizza, Shakespearean gangster rap, oversharing conversations, and the Postal Museum (which really delivered a first-class experience, obvs).

We stayed in west Zurich, which for shorthand purposes we just called ‘Brooklyn’. We stayed in a high-up flat with a balcony and a tall twisting staircase and a skylight that reminded me of being at the Chelsea Hotel. Behind our building, there were art studios under railway arches, expensive coffee places, outdoor flea markets and pop-up bars with live jazz and many, many fairy lights, not to mention excellent sweet potato chips.

We walked into downtown Zurich most days, where we looked around old churches and graveyards and botanical gardens, saw Marc Chagall stained glass windows that made me think of Jandy Nelson books, ate a lot more pizza. We drank wine on our balcony while listening to the Tom Waits version of Sea of Love. We ate Frosties for breakfast every day, like children who had been allowed to go on holiday by themselves with no parents, and watched stupid horror films every night under our blankets on the floor.

We missed the World Cup final, and were quietly bemused by the sound of car horns and cheering below our balcony. We ate sandwiches in the park and also drank quite a lot of beers in the park, which seemed like an entirely OK thing to do in Switzerland.

We felt very at home at the Brockenhaus (basically a Swiss version of Snoopers Paradise). We ate chips at the top of a mountain. We sat and looked at views a lot. We talked about a lot of things. We ate noodles in an empty restaurant that played early 90s soft rock.

The very best place in Zurich is the China Garden. It is unimaginably peaceful, whatever else is happening in the world. There are koi carp (you too might want to give them names), and there are pagodas and you can make a wish on a friendly dragon statue as you go in, as long as you step in with the correct foot first. You can spend the whole afternoon lying around half-asleep by the lake, feeling dreamy and with David Bowie songs running through your head. You know, if you want. (Actually, you can't: we did but eventually a security guard woke us up and told us off for lying on the grass).

When it’s time to leave for the airport, you can sit on deck chairs on a terrace overlooking the runway. There you can drink glasses of white wine bought with the last of your Swiss Francs. If you don’t want to go home, maybe you can be secretly relieved when your flight is delayed and you get to stay longer, even if you have an early breakfast meeting with a publisher the next day. You can be sad when it’s all over and you have to go home. But maybe you can decide you will go on holiday together again.

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