Swiss Cheese and Baguettes

From Friday 13th to Sunday 15th November, my family and I enjoyed a splendid weekend break to Saint Louis in France (near the French-Swiss border) after only a week or so of planning. In my view, spontaneous trips are by far the best kind, and are often cheaper than all-inclusive trips during the school holidays, when airport queues are longer, the activities on offer are far too cliche, and having an adventure is simply not an option. 

 

I apologise for the delay in posting this article. Recently, I have been immensely preoccupied with exam revision, homework and coursework. Education is, no doubt, an intrinsically beautiful thing, however stress is an inevitable product of it.

I have decided to use a slightly different layout for this article; I shall share with you a handful of edited excerpts from my journal:

12/11/15: Tomorrow, at 4:00, we shall leave for Switzerland. I am experiencing some mixed feelings about this trip. On the one hand, I am very excited to learn more about another part of the world- about the landscape, customs and people of Switzerland. On the other hand, I am terrified. According to numerous online reports, Islamophobia is widely prevalent there.

13/11/15 7:18: We are all aboard the plane. Getting here has been a predictably unpleasant experience. Flying with Ryanair has, so far, been a worse one. Many of the staff members were alarmingly rude. For example, when my necklace triggered the metal detector, the woman at Security remarked, in a very impudent manner, “That’s a surprise”.

Additionally, when we told the lady at the departure gate that my aunt has severe learning disabilities, and so is unable to respond to her questions, she said, without a shred of consideration, “So what? You understand, don’t you?”.

Tutting is the language of Ryanair staff.

11:13: We have rented a car from Sixt, and are attempting to configure the Sat-Nav, whose display settings are currently set to French.

12:48: We are eating at a kebab shop- Kebab de l’Europe. Saint Louis is absolutely beautiful. Contrary to my own prejudices, the people here are so very amicable and jovial. I may be generalising here, but the people of Saint Louis are far more courteous than the people of East London!

19:22: The ‘Aparthotel’ is very homely and pleasant.

For lunch, I enjoyed an oversized Margherita pizza. Then, for dinner, I rebelliously had a banana, two biscuits and a few brioche slices with chocolate spread, all of which I purchased earlier during our explorative walk around the town.

21:26: We have just returned from an evening vehicular cruise. We crossed the French-Swiss border and drove around Basel, Switzerland. We were fortunate enough to have seen the River Rhein- the very river that divides Germany, Switzerland and France.

For dinner, the sequel, I had noodles, which dad purchased from a nearby Japanese restaurant. I ate outside, on the balcony.

The streets of Basel are very different to the streets of Saint Louis, though both are astoundingly beautiful. The streets of Basel are a lot busier, and resemble the frenetic streets of London a lot more.

Today, it is Friday the thirteenth, but (save from my Ryanair experience) I’ve had an ironically pleasant day. Dad has been experiencing some difficulty adapting to the different road rules here. He is finding avoiding collisions with trams the most difficult aspect of driving here to overcome.

14/11/15 9:40: We are at Basel zoo. For breakfast, I made myself some instant porridge. As I sat down to eat, I noticed that my mum was watching the news on TV with a worried facial expression: yet another terrorist attack has taken place in Paris. Government officials suspect that ‘Islamist’ militants were behind the attacks. I am terrified.

Mum is fearful of the potential backlash that Muslims in France and Britain will undoubtedly face.

11:26: Our trip to the zoo was very enjoyable, though the animals all looked severely malnourished in comparison to those in London zoo. Seeing the lethargic animals made me ponder on the notion of freedom.

We are now at a Turkish restaurant- Yasar Imbiss- in Basel. After lunch, while everyone else finished their meals, I played football outside with the owner’s son, Ali.

16:00: We are currently aboard a train, going halfway up the tallest mountain in Europe. I love train journeys, and I love mountains. My heart is content.

16:54: Earlier, Sweetie and I went hiking.  It is very cold, but we are warming ourselves up with some hot beverages at a mountain lodge. The atmosphere of this place is replete with rustic charm. The sun is setting, and I honestly cannot put into words how majestic this view is.

23:o1: At roughly 20:30, we returned to the hotel. After having an invigorating shower, I checked my Twitter newsfeed. In the wake of the the aforementioned terror attacks, some people are denigrating all Muslims! I firmly believe that, in order to eradicate such global cancers, we must all  (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) stand together. ISIS does not represent me, and it never will.

I am absolutely, categorically in love with Switzerland and its people. Wow.

 

 

 

 

Going to Battle

The train journey was somewhat comfortable, especially due to the presence of coffee and snacks galore. The train journey was somewhat comfortable, especially due to the presence of coffee and snacks galore.

If one were to question a handful of well-educated adults regarding a specific date in history without the aid of a smartphone or such (take, for example, the birth year of our very own Queen), it is an almost undoubted truth that the majority will fail to answer correctly, perhaps with the excuse of such information being unnecessary. If the same handful of adults were to be asked about the Battle of Hastings, however, it is an undisputed fact that they will be aware of the date ‘1066’ as well as a few other trivial facts. Why? Because the Battle of Hastings was a pivotal event that completely altered the course of English history.

This notorious battle took place seven miles to the north of Hastings, in the beautiful (though eerily undisturbed) present-day market-town and civil parish in East Sussex, known as Battle accordingly. I was fortunate enough to have visited this momentous erstwhile battleground.

Upon disembarking from the train (after a gruelling two-hour journey, excluding the delays due to major engineering works, it being the Easter holidays) I was met with an air of tranquility, and the rare view of a landscape utterly devoid of modern buildings. From the station car park, the only building in view was Battle Station, which resembles a small church, and is surprisingly hailed for being one of the finest Gothic-style small stations in Britain.

The nucleus of Battle is its renowned Abbey, which William the Conqueror built under the pope’s orders, to serve as a penance for the loss of life during the conflict. Today, a thriving community encompasses the Abbey, living atop the very grounds that witnessed the Normal invasion and downfall of the Saxons.

With good reason, Battle is acclaimed to be one of the ‘Top Ten Hidden Gems of Europe” by Lonely Planet, harbouring not only striking historical significance, but also a vibrant culture stemming from it: the town now comprises award-winning restaurants, artisan shops, local history museums, art galleries, country pubs, picturesque pubs, castles and occasional quirky events.

A day trip in this town is ardently recommended, so as to absorb the delightful attributes on offer.

For more information regarding Battle and how to get there, contact:


Thanks for reading!

© Sadia Ahmed 2015