We landed at London Heathrow airport about 30 minutes ahead of schedule on AA flight 50 from DFW. The flight itself was pretty uneventful up until the last two hours when the flight attendants paged for any doctors on board to tend to a sick passenger. A few rows behind us, we could see a group of doctors and nurses assisting one of the passengers, who appeared to have suffered a heart attack. The doctors and nurses were able to stabilize him enough to prevent the Captain from having to land in Shannon, Ireland. However, as soon as we landed at Heathrow, paramedics boarded the plane to evacuate the passenger. In spite of the medical emergency delay, we were able leave the aircraft in enough time to make our tight (90 minute) connection to our flight to Basel.
As soon as we exited Customs and baggage claim in Basel, I noticed Mark with EdelSwiss holding a sign with my name. EdelSwiss provides a wide variety of ground transportation services including sightseeing tours and even airport transfers from Zurich to Basel. We will discuss more about EdelSwiss in an upcoming review.
On the drive from the airport to our hotel, Mark took time to share information about Basel, including how to get from our hotel to the old city of Basel. Once we arrived at the Swissôtel Le Plaza, Mark quickly unloaded our luggage and we were greeted by the hotel's Concierge who escorted us into the hotel and to the Reception desk for a quick check-in. Our luggage was delivered to our room while we took a few moments to explore the hotel lobby and check things out.
In the lobby area, we could see a Viking River Cruises' hospitality desk. This hotel is one of three Basel hotels that Viking River Cruises uses for its guests. The hotel lobby has a large lounge area filled with new furnishings, making it a comfortable place to relax and enjoy a drink, or use the complimentary WiFi to check your email. We were greeted by Melanie Frey, the hotel's Director of Sales and Marketing, who graciously invited us to join her for lunch at Grill 25, the hotel's restaurant. We accepted Melanie's invitation and agreed to meet her after an hour to freshen up and check out our room. When we entered our room (603), we were pleased, but not surprised, to find my large blue duffle bag waiting for me. I had shipped the bag to the hotel using Luggage Forward and, once again, they came through with a perfect delivery. Shipping your luggage ahead using Luggage Forward is super convenient when traveling abroad. Not having to deal with airline luggage handling, wasting time at baggage claim waiting for luggage, or dealing with the frustration of lost luggage, makes Luggage Forward a special service.
I had enough time to wash my face and have a quick shave before we headed to the lobby to meet Melanie for lunch at Grill 25. The restaurant was remodeled a few years ago and Melanie sang the praises of the restaurant's burger, which she claimed to be the "best burger in Basel." How could we resist that?
The restaurant is contemporary, with an impressive salad bar and open kitchen. There is a lot of comfortable seating, both indoors and out. When our burgers arrived, Rickee and I looked at each other as if to say "why didn't we just order one and share it?" The menu showed the burger at 200g, but we are not used to seeing meat weighed in grams. A quick conversion on my laptop shows that is nearly 1/2 a pound of beef!
The burger was huge and dressed with melted Swiss cheese, a red onion jam and chipotle mayonnaise. The chipotle definitely gave the burger an unexpected "kick", something you would expect in Texas, not Switzerland. The burger was delicious, albeit a bit pricey at 29 CHF (about $29.75 USD). I also tried the salad bar (only 8 CHF) which was quite varied, and would have been a substantial meal in and of itself. After the excellent lunch, Rickee and I were both ready for a well-deserved nap after our overnight flight. However, we could not resist Melanie's offer to show us around the property first. In our final review of Swissôtel Le Plaza, we will cover the details of our findings. After the brief tour, we headed to our room for a two-hour nap. We never want to sleep too long after an overnight flight. Otherwise it will take longer to shed the effects of jet lag. We woke up around 5pm and decided to head out for a walk to Old Town Basel.
Even though Swissôtel is not located in the Old Town, the city's tram system runs right in front of the hotel, making it a 5-minute journey to the center of Old Town. The trams are clean, efficient and are an excellent way to get around the city. And, upon check-in, Swissôtel guests receive a "mobility ticket" giving you free use of the tram system!
The weather this afternoon was so perfect, we decided to skip the tram and walk to Old Town. It is pretty simple: just walk out the front door of the hotel, turn left at the corner, and keep walking! It took about 15 minutes at a leisurely pace to reach the Middle Bridge which happens to be the largest and oldest bridge crossing the Rhine river. The bridge was completed in 1225!
After you cross Middle Bridge, you arrive at Old Town Basel. Just a couple of blocks from Middle Bridge we find a plaza where we can see the sun hitting Rathaus, the city's Town Hall and one of the most beautiful buildings in Basel.
We keep walking up the cobblestone streets until we walk past Hotel Basel, where we stayed in 2014 during our last visit to Basel. Continuing up the hill we find Tapas Del Mar, an interesting little restaurant. The walk has made us ready for a glass of wine or beer, so we find a table for two inside the little restaurant.
We could not resist ordering the Pimientos Padrones, little peppers that are seared in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. We had these for the first time in Barcelona about a year earlier and fell in love with them. We shared an order of the Pimientos and an order of Bruschetta (tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil on crusty bread). Both were excellent, and just enough to complement my glass of Syrah and Rickee's local beer. As we dined, some local street performers serenaded us with Spanish guitar music and the place began to fill up. The total bill was only 31 CHF (about $32 USD), a real bargain. Our visit to Tapas Del Mar was another one of those little treats you sometimes find when you just get out and walk around on your own.
After our light dinner, we walked back to our hotel (about 20 minutes) as it was just starting to get dark outside. It was a great day in Basel. This is a city that everyone should visit when traveling to Switzerland.