Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Birthday Surprise!

I'm a pretty lucky girl on a regular day, but my birthday always serves as a reminder of how lucky I really am.  I felt the love all the way in Turkey yesterday, which says something.  I was constantly bombarded with texts, facebook messages, emails and video chats wishing me happy birthday.  Pretty lucky!

On top of that, Mike planned an entire trip for my birthday and refused to tell me where we were going until last week.  All I knew was that there were Christmas markets there and that I should probably brush up on my French. He also told me that we would be flying into one place, spending the night there and then meeting Kelly (his sister) and her boyfriend Sean somewhere else the next day. That doesn't leave me with a whole lot of clues, but luckily, last Sunday on our way home from Prague, he told me that we would be leaving on Wednesday for Basel, Switzerland.  We'd stay there for a night and visit the Christmas market there and then head to Strasbourg, France for the rest of the weekend.  I was ecstatic!

Our flight left at 6:00am, which made for an early morning, but we went to bed early on Tuesday and were up and ready to go bright and early Wednesday morning. Our flight to Istanbul was a blur and then we didn't have a ton of time before we caught the plane to Basel and three hours later, we arrived in Switzerland!

We weren't able to get into our room at the Ramada Plaza Hotel since we were so early, but we did drop our stuff off before heading out to explore the town.   The Rein divides the city in two, which adds a little ambiance to the otherwise kind of commercial/sky scraper-esque city.

The first Christmas market was somewhat small, but pretty nonetheless.  There were a few Christmas shops, but there were also a lot of stands that just sold every day things, such as toys, gloves, home decorations,etc. The highlight of this Christmas market was the food.

 One of the stands was smoking salmon that was then served as a sandwich.  I'm not normally a salmon eater, but this was delicious!  Mike had a sausage and we shared some french fries before setting out.

Before we went to the other Christmas market, we stopped in this cathedral next to the Christmas market.  I love how these European towns have these beautiful, old cathedrals that are the center of the town. It just makes the entire town feel more connected. 

Happy Advent, y'all!

We made our way through the town of Basel towards the other Christmas market, just trying to soak up the winter air and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.   The second Christmas market was bigger and had more Christmas-y stuff there, but our favorite part of this Christmas market was the singing moose.  They sung Christmas carols and spoke in German.  They had quite the crowd watching and had both of us laughing. 

Singing moose! 

Christmas Market #2

After wandering around the second Christmas market, we both decided we wanted to go back and see if we could get in our room.  Luckily, we could, so we made our way up to the 11th floor where our room was and were greeted with a beautiful view of the city!  I was extremely impressed with the entire room at the Ramada Plaza.  It was pretty big, the bed was comfortable (which seems to be unusual these days), and the bathroom was big and clean.  Definitely worth the stay!

After a quick nap, we headed out for dinner and drinks (it's vacation!).  We were surprised at how expensive Switzerland was and we didn't want to blow our whole travel budget on dinner.  We don't have a lot of variety in food in Turkey and Switzerland doesn't have any sort of food that is special to their country (or at least, not that we knew of!), so we settled on Asian food, which was not a disappointment.    After a quick dinner, we found a bar where we could have a few drinks before heading back to the hotel for an early night.  

It was a great first day of the birthday trip!  Basel was our first stop and, while I'm not sure I would go there again, it was a great first stop on the way to Strasbourg, France. It helped us get in the Christmas spirit and was a refreshing scene of order, rules and structure, which is always refreshing after a few months in Turkey!