La Tour Vagabonde in Basel Switzerland

Perhaps being somewhat of a nomad in the last few years has deepened a sense of home away from home for me. Making each destination feel like a new home (even if it is a temporary one) is something I've always admired from the Romanis (widely known as gypsies), bedouins and other traveling nomadic groups.

Here in Basel, there is a little industrial area that has turned itself into quite the indie, gypsy no man's land kind of hangout. In the summer, the Klybeckquai transforms into a makeshift outdoor hangout with beautiful bars, restaurants and concert set ups, but always with a twist of the unusual. Using shipping containers, junkyard finds and other playful items to combine its industrial surroundings with a rather playful spin that makes it utterly welcoming and fascinating at the same time.

And as it turns out, this winter, the Klybeckquai brought this vibe even further with the introduction of La Tour Vagabonde into its roster.


photo courtesy of holzpark klybeck

The only way to actually describe what it looks like from the outside is that it looks like a wooden space ship tied to the ground via a vintage campervan.

La Tour Vagabonde is a brand new dining experience constructed inside an Elizabethan style theater (think English renaissance theater used in the days of Shakespeare) that serves only Swiss fondue all lit in a dim candlelight setting and with a stage for local singers/bands to entertain the cozy crowd crammed inside this 3 story wooden building. The 3 different levels are set up with balcony views down to the ground floor where the bar and the stage share the space. From every single table inside the structure, you can see the other patrons enjoying their beer and melted cheese on a stick.

It's absolutely delightful, guys!

The place is run by a family from the french side of Switzerland so the entire service was done in french (which made me do an internal happy dance as my German language skills are going at snail speed). The entire place was ran in such a casual no hassle yet maddening kind of way. The inside is packed to the brim and the waiters had to squeeze between very narrow spaces and stairs to reach the tables with heavy fondue equipment, bags of cheese, white wine and bread and they made it look easy. Total hats off to them.

Now comes the time I had to visit the loo. And so fitting to this entire soiree, the loo was located outside the theater dome (aka restaurant, but "theater dome" sounds way better does it not?). Following the rocky paths to the nearby wooden outhouse (which had electricity, running water and flushing toilets so don't think of nothing nasty here!), you were aided with the help of lanterns lighting your way. There was one lantern attached to the WC door that would swing up and down in sync with the door swing which I found madly entertaining, perhaps because I have the attention span of a child and swinging bright lights captivate my child like disposition. Or perhaps it's just plain fun.

Eating a hearty meal of bread dunked in melted cheese with white wine and soft acoustic music accompaniment was truly a perfect Saturday night. The chilly air outside made the warmth inside this place even more enjoyable. As I sat on my creaky wooden chair looking around each table admiring how simple and genius this place is, it does make you feel like you went back in time and are eating a meal the same way folks must of eaten decades ago.

As its name suggests, they a a touring group of vagabonds. This place is a temporary set up and will be taken apart in a few months and keep traveling around the country wowing folks with their whimsy and charm. So I hope whoever gets to visit them while they are in town will do so. And preferably with no dairy intolerance because their fondue is absolutely delicious.

** Disclaimer:  As you can tell by my post, I am no food critic. I love food and can tell you if they are delicious or not but I cannot tell you a sophisticated reason why or decipher why they used this type of coulis instead of that type. In all honestly, I know practically nothing about food chemistry. I am more of an ambiance observer and will look at places to study its uniqueness and flare. So forgive me for lack of food breakdowns, but there are plenty of food critics already so feel free to read their reviews on that topic.

TravelLucy ShihRestaurant, Basel