Marvin’s European Vacation
Monday, 16 Sep 2013
Mike, our limo driver, arrived promptly just before 11:00 this morning. Our house is still under construction, which should be completed while we’re away, so we kind of had one day to pack. This unnerved me just a bit, as I’m usually completely packed, except for last minute toiletries and prescriptions, at least a week in advance of departure. But this time, my spare rooms are full of my downstairs contents, and our master bedroom has been our makeshift “living room” for the past several weeks. So there was no space at all to stage any suitcases for packing! Sheesh! Please – never again!!!
Sooo… off we go, on a two hour car ride up to JFK International Airport. Got there without too much travel, arriving right at 1 p.m. This gives us plenty of time to get our bags checked and through security. We’re at our gate 2 hours before boarding time. And who would have thought – there’s a bar directly across from our gate!! Can’t ask for more than that, huh? A couple of beers later, we go off in search of food. Have a bite, and pick up sandwiches to bring on the plane. Sat at the gate and read for a while, then boarded right on time – pulled back from the gate on time at 3:50, and we’re at about 35,000 feet shortly after 4:30. We settle back for our 6 1/5 hour flight, landing in Frankfurt at 5:30 (Germany time) Tuesday morning.
Tuesday, 17 Sep 3013
At Frankfurt Airport, we stood in a long line to have our passports stamped. That was the extent of our being checked out upon entry to Germany. “Customs” was just 2 lines, green if you have nothing to declare (like us), and red if you need to declare anything. The “red” line leads into an interview room area, and the “green” line is just an exit gate into the main concourse area. After an uneventful layover at Frankfurt, our connecting flight takes off about 8 a.m., and deposits us at our destination, Munich, about 9. We collect our luggage, and wander off to find ourselves a taxi. No line/no waiting! Walked up to a cab, the driver saw us coming and hopped out immediately to grab and stow our bags, and off we go to find our hotel. It’s about an hour or so drive to get there, traffic in spots rather congested. Cost us 70 Euros for the cab ride. (1 Euro is approx $1.37) We get to the hotel and register, but check in time isn’t till 3:00. We are able to place our bags in the luggage room, then get directions to the Town Center (Sendinger Tor) via the Metro (the underground rail system). We walk the block or so to the Metro, and go down to find the ticketing machine. Thankfully, it’s surrounded by about 6 or 8 English speaking people also trying to find their way around. Between all of us, we work on translating the tickets and the train routes, and decide which we’re buying. So, if we get the wrong tickets, we all get them together! They appear to be correct, we hope. So we get our tickets, go validate them in the time/date stamp machine, and descend down into the rail station. We actually get on the train in the correct direction, and three stops later (2.8 Euros one way per person) we get off and go up to find ourselves at the arch at Sendinger Tor. No one checks or collects tickets on the train, but there is a sign that if you DO get checked, and you have an incorrect or no ticket, you will be charged 40 Euros on the spot. So, I guess honesty pays. . . We’ll be sure to get our tickets!
So we wander the streets of Sendinger Tor – very old and very beautiful architecture surrounds us. We walk over and find the beautiful Town Hall, home of the world famous “die Glockenspiel”. We go into a little pub facing it to grab a bite to eat. We have some delicious authentic Bavarian food here, along with some Weissenbier (wheat beer). My bier had lemonade in it, can’t remember the specific name of it, but it was really good! We shared some weisswurst, some Bavarian meatloaf, some other local sausages, with sides of fresh sauerkraut and hot potato salad. OK – we ain’t going hungry in Germany, that’s for sure! At noon, die Glockenspiel comes to life – first with it’s chimes, then with music and animation. I caught some video of the animation part – wonderful to watch! 1:00 comes around as we’re strolling around town after lunch, and I realize I have now been wide awake for 24 straight hours. We’re ready to drop, but know we’ve got to stretch the day on as long as we can. We finally give up and find our way back to our hotel via the Metro, arriving just after 2 p.m. Keeping our fingers crossed, we as at the desk whether our room was available yet or not – YEAH! We’re good to go. Get our keys, get to the room, and settle in. Kick off shoes, settle back to relax with books, and despite our resolve to hang in there ‘till early evening, finally gave in and dozed off for a couple of hours. Just enough to get us up and about. We find out at the desk there’s a little grocery store, Penny’s, just across the street. We head over there and buy some beer and munchies to stow in our room. We get some salami and cheese, and some fruit and yogurt for breakfast. All we bought cost us only 12.5 Euros – at home, just the beer alone would cost more than that! Local beer and wine here appear to be really cheap. The beer we’re buying in the store is .34 Euros per bottle, with a .25 Euro deposit. There’s a bottle/can return machine in the store that issues your deposit refund. .34 Euros for a beer? Wow! And the bottles are 16 ounces, not 12! Comes down to .09 Euros per bottle! That’s cheaper than water!!! We stash the goods and head out to the little Greek Restaurant around the corner that we heard about at the hotel, and decide to look for dinner there. Turns out to be truly fantastic. The owner/manager (Arry) sees us eyeballing the menu taped up in the window, and comes out to say “we have a menu in English inside if that would be easier”. So in we go, and decide to stay. Have a beer at the bar while we peruse the menu, decide we’re eating there, and let Arry know. He celebrates our decision by bringing over 3 shots of Ouzo for us to share! Arry then shows us to a table, where we order his recommendations – a lamb in a garlic/rosemary sauce (cooked perfectly!), and grilled squid (also perfect!). We complemented Arry on the wonderful food and thank him for his suggestions – he grins and returns with more Ouzo! As we take our leave, we say “Auf Wiedersehn”, and he says “I’ll see you again! You’ll be back!” Yep. We probably will be.
Back to the hotel by 9, and we crash. Unfortunately, I only manage 4 hours of zzzzz’s. Dam jet lag. Hopefully I’ll catch up tomorrow.
Wednesday, 18 Sep 2013
Today’s the day! Up and have our yogurt and fruit by 8, we’re downstairs requesting a cab by 8:30. It arrives and delivers us to BMW Welt by about 9:30 ish. In we go to check in with the welcome desk. We sent up to the lounge area, where we get in to finish up necessary paperwork, and get our delivery time assigned. We have time to go into the lounge and partake of the buffet set up in there – get some snacks and juice and coffee. We were shown where to wait to meet with the representative who will give us our technical briefing. “Steve” meets us at 10:10, and escorts us downstairs to the media room, where he presents us with the technical history of BMW’s – very informative and interesting! (And VERY high tech, too!). From there, we head over to a simulator room, where Steve has me sit at the simulator wheel. Here, he explains some of the features of the BMW, which shows just how safe the car is. From steering, to cornering, to breaking – it’s outstanding. First, I’m driving without the various features enabled (what a mess!). For instance, coming into a 90 degree right turn with your foot on the floor really makes you fishtail almost out of control!! He then enables all the features. Repeat the simulation and I take the corner with the gas pedal on the floor with full control – zero fishtailing. (Not that I’d ever drive like that for real, of course. . . . .).
OK – now for the whole reason for this trip! Time to take delivery of my car! We see it from the second floor balcony, sitting down on the stage of the first floor, shining impressively. Steve starts the “animation”, which slowly spins my car in a circle so that I can view it from all sides. He then escorts me down the “walk of fame” to present my car to me, stopping for photo ops on the way. We arrive at the car – it’s even more impressive up close than from the balcony! They’ve got a professional photographer who comes right over to snap a few, then we get an under the hood inspection. On around the full exterior, then interior. I then sit behind the wheel (and snap a quick pic of the odometer which reads .3 miles!) while Steve joins me from the passenger side to go over all the controls. Most of them are familiar to me, being the same as my last car, but the “IDrive” is all new: it operates all the bells and whistles – blue tooth, navigation system, media (am/fm/sirius radio, cd, IPod, etc.), and all system settings - via joy stick. Very simple, but that’s gonna take a bunch of getting used to!! Presentation complete, I now start my new car for the first time, and proceed to drive it around the stage into the exit ramp. I pause before the actual building exit to raise the convertible top, since it’s cold and rainy outside. We proceed out and around the corner to the valet parking so we can go back in to the shop and over to the museum. During the initial paperwork phase of my delivery, I was presented with a gift. Friends from home, Carl and Patti McMackin, have a friend, Matt Russell, who is Product Communications Manager at BMW of North America’s headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. They spoke with him about us, and he had a BMW keychain and a very nice personalized note waiting for us upon our arrival! And as part of our delivery package, BMW gives a store credit to buyers which basically covers a keychain, so we ended up with 2 matching BMW keychains, which included engraving! Really nice!!!! (Thank you Carl and Patti! And Patti – I now understand your little cryptic comments at the club the prior Friday when I saw you there!!!! J ). After all this fun, we walk across the street to the BMW museum. Unfortunately, we get inside to discover a very modernized building, with all glass lined walkways and bridges, and open floors and stairs – all enough to send Matt’s head spinning. There was no way he was going to be able to walk through there without being blindfolded, so we had to forego the experience. That’s OK – plenty enough of other stuff to discover in Munich!
We finish up at BMW Welt – and head back to the hotel. Thankfully, Steve helped me program the navigation system, so we should be all set. First stop is a gas station to top the fuel up. Now we’re on the road, heading back to the hotel. Thankfully, all the driving is on the right side of the road. Driving isn’t really so bad, though traffic is quite congested. But unlike NJ, drivers are quite polite. I don’t think I heard one horn, and EVERYBODY lets folks merge in where required without flipping the bird! Imagine that!!! I think we put all of 7 miles or so on the odometer in our return trip, which probably took us about ½ hour or a little more.
We got back to the hotel and just kind of hung out for a few hours. Did some reading, did some day trip research. Eventually headed down to the bar and got beers. I took mine out to the computer in the lobby to exercise Google (there’s no free WiFi here – it costs 5.9 Euros per hour, so I’m only gonna use it long enough to post my trip log!). It’s cold, windy and rainy outside, so I really don’t feel like walking out to find a restaurant for dinner. I suggest we try out the hotel’s Italian Restaurant rather than facing the weather, and we were very surprised with our meals! Personally, I’m thinking the restaurant is how the hotel attained it’s 4 star rating – it certainly wasn’t the rooms!
Hit the room after dinner, and didn’t last too long. In bed by 9:30, I think I was out by 9:35. And, thankfully, gonna get more than 4 hours of sleep. . . . .
Thursday, 19 Sep 2013
Hahaha! More than 4 hours of sleep?????? Got up and about. Glanced at Matt’s watch. Holy Crap! I haven’t slept this late since I was a teenager!!!!!!!! It is quarter to one in the afternoon!!! What the heck happened???? Well, I guess we might be over our jet lag, but we just lost half a day. Oh well, gonna make the best of it! Off we go, back to the Metro (definitely the way to travel around here. . . .) . We return to Sendinger Tor and walk maybe about a mile over or so to find the Hoffbrauhaus. What an extraordinary building! We can’t begin to estimate how many customers were in the place – the row of tables along one “short” wall could accommodate 100 people. Just saying. We found seats (seat yourself where ever you find space!), and flag down a server. Order some beer and awesome food. We had some pig knuckles (schweinhock) with dumplings, some beef tartar (can’t remember the German name), and some weisse wurst to split. Everything was totally delicious. Plus there was an “oom-pa” band that played about 12 feet from our table. That was fun! After we ate, gave ourselves a tour of the other couple of floors of the building (amazing!!!). Then wandered thru parts of the town where we hadn’t yet been. The architecture never ceases to amaze. We found churches and homes and gardens of past royalty that you couldn’t help but ogle. I don’t know if any of my pictures will do them justice, but I tried! Well, we stuffed ourselves, and our legs are about ready to collapse, perhaps it’s time to again retreat to our room. Got back and I finally got my trip log going, and down loaded a bunch a pictures. Sooner or later I’ll get WiFi going so I can load all this onto my website and throw at least one pic out on FaceBook. a break about 7 to walk across the street to Penny’s for a couple more beers and some more munchies for our room. This time had the sense to bring our empty bottles with us, so our cost was again ridiculously low. We watching soccer on TV (luckily we can follow the games and the scores without assistance, because the commentators are speaking German. And no, 4 years of German in high school are not helping me over here. Good Morning, Good Day, Good Night, Good By, Hello, Thank You, You’re Welcome, and numbers I can handle. That and the important one, “I don’t speak German” – that’s about it. Thank God Euros are so easy to figure out!!!
Hoping to get to bed by about 10 and try to get our brains and bodies back onto a normal track. Gonna try for a good day trip tomorrow.
Friday, 20 September 2013
Got out of bed like normal people this morning, and headed out about 9 am. Had pastries and coffee at a café just down the street from our hotel, then walked back to the hotel’s garage – and my beloved new baby! Hopped in, programmed the navigation system and headed out for Dachau (best pronunciation I can offer is “doc-how”), an ex-concentration camp from the 30’s and 40’s. (That’s the 1930’s and 1940’s for you youngins who don’t “get it”.) That was a bit gut wrenching – seeing the prisoner barracks, the gas chambers, and the crematories. And to read that it was initially set up to accommodate 6000 prisoners, and during the last few months before it was liberated, the number grew to 32,000, just astounds (and sickens) me.
We left Dachau and headed over to the Harburg Castle, which is on the “Romantic Road” (I think it’s the “Romantischa Strasse”).. Got some cool pics of the outside of the castle, then went to lunch in their restaurant, “Burgschenke Harburg” – it was fantastic! We only wanted a little something, so Matt got “Goulaschuppe” (goulasch soup), and I got “Maultascchengemusepf” – I couldn’t pronounce it, but it was stuffed noodles with vegetables. Delicious!!!
Continued on to take a guided tour of the castle (you can’t just walk thru). Our biggest problem is that the guide only spoke German. My German came thru a little bit to understand, and there was another American there who translated a little bit. Plus they had a printed hand-out that helped a lot. This is apparently one of the oldest and most well-preserved castles in the world. No picture taking was allowed inside, unfortunately. I took a bunch of pics outside, however. Plus, while waiting for our tour to start, we took the foot trail walk around the castle – some outstanding views to behold!!! A bit out of breath, due to the extensive up and down hill walking, we stopped by the car to chug some water before our official tour. The tour was pretty good, despite the language barrier, as there was only us and another couple, the lady speaking some German.
Left the Castle and headed back “home” to our Munich Hotel. Matt took the lead driving on the Autobahn, and cranked it up to 100 +. Since it was my car, he pulled off into a park/rest area so we could switch drivers (so I could drive on the Autobahn). We pulled back out, and I’m thinking that my BMW advisor when I picked up my car was to “not rev it over 4500 rpm. I ain’t gonna screw up my car so I won’t. I merge out onto the Autobahn and slowly start accelerating so that I don’t come close to 4500 rpm. Getting the speed up, I slowly start switching lanes to the left. I find out eventually that in 6th gear, 4500 rpm equals 120 miles per hour, and at that speed, you don’t have many cars coming up on your butt, and you have many cars in front of you moving over to the right lane. Very Cool! Uh Oh. What’s gonna happen when I get my car home and try to drive Route 37 or the Garden State Parkway? They don’t follow Autobahn rules……
Got “home” to the hotel, relaxed a bit (our legs are killing us – a huge amount of walking today, especially up and down mountainous trails when we walked around the castle! Legs and feet are killing us!!
Went down to the bar for a beer, then back over to the little Greek Restaurant (Mystikon Greek Restaurant) to split a Gyro for dinner. Saw Arry again – and he again made us drink Ouzo. Another wonderful nite with great people!
Back to the hotel, we stopped in the bar (you expected something else? It’s only 9:30! Very quiet, till a whole bunch of young guys show up – they turn out to be from England. Their guest of honor is getting married soon, and this is the bachelor party. The groom-to-be wants to go to Oktoberfest. There’s 20 of them, with 10 more to show up tomorrow. We were chatting with the groom’s brother and another friend, had a great time. They served him some lethal drinks - not lethal for tonight, per the bartender, but not so good for tomorrow! The poor guy! Then the beer on tap runs out, and the head bartender heads downstairs to switch the barrel. Matt asks the cute female (young) bartender about the last glass poured – it has about ½ inch of beer, and the rest (to the top of the glass) is all foam. He takes it off her hands and has it presented to the groom-to-be, who proceeds to drink (?) it. Yuck! At this point, we take our leave, and head back up to our room. Don’t need to see what’s happening with their party, and thank God, their on the 5th floor (we’re on the 1st). I’m sure well see them again!!
OK – back in our room. Watching some German-narrated soccer. One more beer each.. Now hitting the hay – Oktoberfest starts tomorrow, need to be outta here by 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. Good Night!
Saturday, 21 September 2013
Headed out semi-early (9:30-ish) to get over to the opening events of Oktoberfest. First parade started at 10 am, to parade through town and end at the Oktoberfest grounds about noon. At noon, the first keg of Oktoberfest was to be tapped by the Munich Mayor – signifying the actual opening of Oktoberfest. We were advised by experienced Oktoberfest attendees to go see the parade, which we did (awesome), but to not bother going into the festival grounds themselves ‘till after 1:00 to avoid the elbow-to-elbow crowds where you can’t see anything and can’t even get a beer. So, we enjoyed the parade (got a bunch of pics and videos) with just about front row “seating” (read “standing”). Actually had to move back a step or two a couple of times when some of the horses were stopped right in front of us and got a bit feisty – didn’t want to get stepped on by these massive animals. And I mean “massive” – I’m used to horses, they don’t bother me in the least. But these suckers had hind quarters that were almost a foot taller than me, and hooves as big around as my head!!! Awesome!!! So about 11:30, we went back to the hotel for some rest time, and went back over to attend the festivities about 2 p.m. That was just right – we were able to grab beers at a couple of bier gartens, and actually get into and seated in a bier tent to order beers. Found out that 2 people attending Oktoberfest can get in almost everywhere with no reservations and be seated. I think I saw only 1 bier tent that was exclusively on a reservation only policy. Had numerous conversations with fellow attendees – just an all around fabulous time. Eventually stumbled back to the hotel to fall into bed. Tomorrow’s another festival day!
Sunday, 22 September 2013
There’s another parade at Oktoberfest this morning – can’t miss that! Stopped at a little pastry shop for breakfast – found croissants and coffee, then took our time heading over to Oktoberfest. Kind of lazed our way thru, into the festival grounds, just meandering through. Happened across the blocked off parade route, and hung out as the “costume parade” made it’s way through. This was kind of the end of the parade route, where the different breweries aimed off in different directions so as to end their parade marches at their respective tents. More fun in the making, more pics taken! Found our way once more to bier gartens and another bier tent, and had a very enjoyable afternoon. Later in the afternoon, we took the underground to Marianplatz, where the Ratskeller is located. Came up out of the underground exit, to be facing the establishment. It’s right by the Glockenspiel, and we had noticed it before when we were here, but we didn’t come up at this underground exit before….. Not so hard to locate!! Went in to this place, well known for its traditional German food, and were NOT disappointed. And our waitress was a darling! We probably double tipped her, but it was a fabulous evening, so what the hell!!! Off back to our hotel, one last wonderful Munich day ahead of us!!!!
Monday, 23 September 2013
Bound and determined to own proper Oktoberfest wear, we’re off to shop. Embarked upon the underground once again, armed with a couple of appropriate destinations. The 1st address for a Dirndl shop turned out to be a grocery market. So next stop was a bank to obtain some more Euros. Yuck. Three banks later, we found a Western Union Bank office which was able to process our debit card, as it was lacking a “chip”. Who knew? But the lade at the Western Union office gave us better advise for clothing stores, and the second one she directed us to had everything we needed. Whew! Difficult shopping! You really gotta stuff all your “stuff” into a Dirndl! As my attendants told me as they were buttoning me up was “you don’t have to breathe, you just have to look beautiful!”. Yeah. Right. Well, I now own a beautiful Dirndl. Next, off to the men’s department. Matt promised that if I got a dirndl, he’d get lederhosen. No way was I gonna let him off on that one!!! Found the right department, and found the same problem as in the ladies’ department – what the hell size do you buy? European sizes have nothing whatsoever to do with USA sizes. First pair of lederhosen – too small. So I go and grab a pair 4 sizes larger. Still too small. Saleswoman (non English speaking) comes over to help, looks at Matt, then at the lederhosen I have, and exclaims “Oh, No, No, No!”. Throws them to one side and finds two other pair in what she determines to be the better size – sends them in to Matt, and the first pair he puts on and sort of buttons up kind of fits. He comes half way out of the dressing room, and our beloved Saleswoman starts adjusting ties and straps, pulling and tugging here and there, then calls a manager over to translate for her. “These are just right – perfect fit! Feel a bit tight, but they will stretch and loosen with wear. These are for you!!!” So we take them, a pair of appropriate socks, and a proper shirt – and try not to faint at the bill at the register! Oh well – we’ll have these items for life! Off we head to our hotel to – ugh – don our new apparel and head off for our final appearance at Oktoberfest. Have to admit, it felt good going there in local attire . . . . And I think we looked pretty good, too! Terrific last day attending the festivities – had lunch (a very yummy roasted ½ chicken!!!) and a beer in one of the beer tents, then strolled around for the afternoon looking wonderful and visiting a couple of bier gartens, and picked up a couple souvenir thingies to bring home. A wonderful final day in Munich!
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Arose and regretfully said good bye to Munich. Wonderful stay, but time to move on! Headed out for Salzburg, not too far away, stopping at Chiemsee along our way. The “see” part of the name tells you that the location/town has a “sea” there, actually a lake. Chiemsee was a wonderful time! Took the lake ferry to the two islands on the lake, the first one was Fraueninsel (the Island of the Ladies), the second was Herreninsel (the Island of the Gentlemen). The Ladies’ island was recommended to us to do lunch at – which was very nice, though not lots to see (just hotels and restaurants mostly…). Upon the Gentlemen’s Island stands the Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee. We arrived at Herreninsel, and took a horse-drawn carriage ride to the Palace. It was built by the order of King Ludwig II (of Bavaria), in honor of the “Sun King” Louis XIV of France. It was started in 1878, intended purely as a monument to Absolute monarchy and had no practical function. The palace was to be a copy of the Versailles Palace. Ludwig II stayed at the incomplete palace alone during 1885 for a total of 10 days. The following year, he died in June. There are various theories surrounding his mysterious death – he was found dead in the lake along with his personal physician – the most supported/believed version is that he withdrew from political power and stated that if he did not receive the funding to complete the palace he would commit suicide. He didn’t receive the funding, so it’s accepted that it was suicide. The uncompleted wings of the palace were removed after his death so that the mostly completed center portion of the palace would look like a completed structure. The rooms inside that were completed were incredible – unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, so you’ll have to take my for it! The 2 dedicated bedrooms alone were the bulk of the immense fortune invested in the palace. The small dining area was incredible – it had a “self setting table”: a dining table situated on a platform that could be manually lowered to the floor below by a handle powered gear handle. There the table was fully set and laden with food, and then raised back up to the dining area so that the king would not have to be disturbed by serving people. It took a ½ hour to either raise or lower it. It took 10 minutes for the food to be delivered from the kitchen in another building. It is therefore believed that this wasn’t actually practically used, as a 40 minute delay from the kitchen to the dining area would probably result in cold food. The tour was fascinating – we really loved it! I’m so sorry the only pictures I can share are outside of the palace and its fountains and garden area.
After the Palace, we walked back over to near the ferry port, up the hill, and walked thru the Augustinian Monastery Museum, which was worth the walk – very interesting, and a beautiful building. Also did the art gallery – should have stuck to the museum. We’re not artists, but didn’t consider the stuff we saw to be art. Sorry, didn’t like it, can’t describe it, and wouldn’t recommend it. Yucky/stupid stuff! It was really just “stuff”, not “art” in our opinion….
We took the ferry ride back to the mainland and proceeded on to Salzburg. Got to the hotel about 5:30-ish. I ran in to inquire about their parking garage, and was told “it was full”. We were allowed to park out front long enough to check in and bring our bags upstairs, then directed to a parking garage 2 blocks away (rather than leaving the car on the street overnight). So instead of free parking, we were blessed with a garage that we could barely squeeze my car into, and had to pay 14 Euros for the pleasure. Did find out that the hotel at least had free wifi (that I wasn’t aware of). Parked, got back to the hotel, went to our room to figure out what was next. Headed down to the bar (open 10 am to midnight), and waited 10 minutes for a bartender to show up. Finally inquired at the desk, and they tried to locate him. Another 10 minutes later he actually appears. Got 2 beers while deciding on dinner. It was getting late, so we thought we’d just eat at the hotel. The hotel info book in our room said the dining room opened at 6 – it was now about 7. Asked the bartender when dinner would start, and he simply us the dining room was closed that night. No explanation. Wonderful. Walked out and found an Italian restaurant right across the street – nearly empty, fair (albeit slow) service, and really good food. Had dinner and walked back to the hotel. Thought we’d have a nightcap at the bar before bed. I was feeling really crappy from this stupid cold and needed something to knock me out. We looked at their drink menu and found Long Island Iced Teas – just what the doctor ordered! Ordered two, the bartender looked totally puzzled. Matt showed him the drink menu, which listed the ingredients. As he stood and looked confused as to what to do, the bar phone rings. He answers it and disappears. 10 minutes later, we finally went to the desk to complain that we ordered drinks and the bartender left. They said he went to take care of some room service. We gave up and went to our room. Sorry – wouldn’t recommend this hotel……
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Got up and had a lovely breakfast at the hotel, and left out of Salzburg about 9 or so this morning. Headed towards Vienna, but stopped at Mondsee on our way to see the church featured in the Sound of Music. Unbelievable! They actually allowed us to take pictures in the church – I hope they portray the beauty in immenseness of the place nearly as wonderfully as they appear in person! We then drove down to the lake (“Mondsee”), and sat at the waterfront for a quiet lunch in beautiful surroundings before our 2 hour (give or take a few!) drive to Vienna. The drive itself was breathtaking – the countryside that we drove through (with the convertible top down ‘cause it was such a gorgeous day!) was beyond anything we could hope for! Took a pic here or there of that too – but you know how “windshield pictures” come out. . . . Arrived at our hotel in Vienna just before 3 in the afternoon, found their parking garage and got checked in. Did a little recon in our room, then headed downstairs to gain a little intell from the front desk staff (they are great!) on where to go/what to do. Started at their bar for a beer while we digested the maps and “stuff” to do. Decided to walk thru the market area just down the street and find “street dinner” – which turned out fabulous!!! Snacked and shared food from several little vendors/restaurants along the walk – all terrific! From there, headed over to the underground rail (the “U”). Thankfully works the same, yet better, than the “U” in Germany. Found our way to the right track to catch a ride to Prater, where we found out that the Vienna version of Oktoberfest was going on. Got there, had a beer at a biergarten, and just peeked around a little. Walked thru one of the beer tents. All was very similar, but just a bit different from Oktoberfest in Munich. Both were major beer parties, though!!! We had no idea that Vienna had their own Oktoberfest going! Had enough for today, headed back to the hotel to try to catch up a little with my log, and hit the hay early. (oops, not so early for me. couldn't sleep, wanted to catch up my log - looks like a midnight bedtime for me. oh well - time well spent!!! love to you all! c)
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Got up and went to enjoy the hotel’s breakfast buffet at 9 this morning. From there took the Metro over to Schwedenplatz to hop on the boat for the Danube Cruise. This was a delightful way to spend most of the day, as it was cloudy and rained in the early afternoon. Made no difference to us on the boat! The cruise started at 10:30, and arrived back at Schwedenplatz at 1:50. On board, we met a couple of women from Pennsylvania (funny how we seem to keep running into “neighbors”). They were staying at Stephansplatz, in the city square center. They told us if we were looking for an outstanding dinner, we should head over to FiglMullers and have the weiner schnitzel that they are famous for. Supposedly one of the best places ever to have schnitzel! So, with a description like that, what else is one supposed to do? We got off the boat, onto the Metro, and off again at the next stop – Stephansplatz – to locate FiglMullers. There are actually two restaurants, about a block apart. The “original” one is rather small, and requires reservations. The second one is reportedly gigantic, and you can just about be certain that you can get in. We found the “original” place first, so we stopped in to inquire. We were actually able to get ourselves a 6:00 reservation! Very cool! So, back to the hotel to regroup, we’ll leave about 5:15 to arrive a little early for our reservation time (our reservation covers us from 6:00 to 7:00 – don’t want to waste part of our time by being late!).
Success! Arrived for dinner at 5:45, and were seated immediately. The place was crowded, and we were seated near the front entrance. We saw a number of hopefuls get turned away at the door since the place was completely booked for the entire night. Definitely lucked out tonight! We ordered what the place is most famous for, for over 100 years – schnitzel. And what a schnitzel it was!!! I had to cut a small slice out of it to take a picture – otherwise the dinner plate underneath wasn’t visible!!! Yes – it was really bigger than the plate! And one bite explains how they could be famous for this meal – outstanding!! I was only able to put half of mine down – just couldn’t fit the rest in. Not sure how Matt actually managed to finish his…. Took my half to go and wandered outside. Thankful that the rain finally stopped, we decided to head on over to Vienna’s Oktoberfest. It’s just about all the same as Oktoberfest in Munich, just a little different. The big beer tents, very similar to Munich’s bier tents, were surprisingly uncrowded. We walked through, but opted for the bier gartens outside. We just had a couple of beers, then decided to head “home” for the evening. Have a pretty long day scheduled for tomorrow, so we figured it was probably time for some shut eye.
Friday, 27 September 2013
Got up and had another yummy hotel breakfast, then checked out to get underway. We’re heading for Innsbruck today, but taking a detour south to visit St Veit an der Glan, the “City of flowers”. That took us a couple of hours, under overcast skies that rained a little on us here and there. Arrived by noon time, and had a wonderful stroll around this beautiful little town. Up the mountain we viewed the castle at Friesach, and took pictures of it and its moat. Such beautiful country, and such a quaint little town with tiny restaurants and shops and cobblestone streets. We had lunch at the Weisse Wolf – special of the day for Friday and Saturday was pizza, so that’s what we ordered. surprisingly good pizza, considering that we’re in Austria! We finished up eating, and continued on our journey shortly after 1:00. The afternoon’s drive got a bit yucky a few times, with downpours really obscuring visibility. Unfortunately, that also dropped our speed a bit, and our trip to Innsbruck didn’t finish up ‘till just after 6 p.m. Felt good to stand up and walk at that point! We parked in the hotel’s parking garage – found out why parking reservations were required! The garage is shared by several hotels/businesses, and there was one small section dedicated to our hotel – only consisting of about 8 parking spaces! Thank heavens we requested a reserved spot!!! Walked out of the garage, and spent the next 40 minutes trying to find the damn hotel! Stopped to request assistance twice, the 2nd guy was great and gave us very specific instructions, and we found it a few minutes later. Whew! Got checked in, settled our stuff in the room, and as it was now after 7 p.m. decided it was once more time to go forage for some food. Checked at the front desk, and had a wonderful restaurant recommended to us, just steps away from the hotel. I had a local specialty, “deer medallions”, and Matt had filet mignon. All the food was perfectly prepared and expertly presented. We even broke down and shared a dessert – we don’t normally get to this course! – chocolate mousse. It was superb! Amongst the lightest I’ve ever had, served with a variety of sliced fruit. Delicious!!! Shot a couple of pics on our return to the hotel, will catch some more of the town tomorrow before we leave. We were hoping to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle on our way to Lucerne, Switzerland, tomorrow, but mapquesting that adventure proved it not manageable. The total drive, not included visit time at the castle, would be over 12 hours. Rats. Ain’t happening. Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty of other sights and stuff along the way – we sure haven’t lacked any of that so far on this trip!!
Saturday, 28 September 2013
Strolled around town to take in the sights of Innsbruck this morning before hitting the road. Pleasant enough town, we could probably have used a little more time to fully appreciate it. But we enjoyed wandering through town and taking in the shops, even taking a walk through the Swarovski store. Matt had a few issues with the glittering glass steps (the place was three floors tall), but he managed to get thru. We finish up, and hit the road once more. We had no specific plans to stop anywhere along the way, so on about lunch time we just took a convenient exit and drove around ‘till be found a little town and a parking spot. Can’t really tell you where that was, didn’t note the town’s name, but it was another quaint little village, with little charming shops and several small restaurants. Chose one that featured pasta and salads, and enjoyed some local cuisine. Spent about 1 ½ hours here, between walking through town and lunch, then got back on the road again. Arrived at Lucerne, and late afternoon wandered out for a look around the neighborhood. Found ourselves at “The Legends” bar, with a wonderful ol’ “Limey” bartender. There was a local couple at the bar watching local football (or soccer, as we know it) on TV. We sat and had some beers with them, and some very enjoyable conversation. He was very emotional over his team’s performance, and occasionally had to politely excuse himself from our conversation to tell the other team to “F-Off”, while giving them the double birds. It hysterical – had us in stiches! I actually tried some Guinness beer here – first time in my life where it actually tasted OK! As a matter of fact, I haven’t tasted a beer yet here in Europe that I haven’t liked! Which scares me, ‘cause now all the American beer at home is probably gonna taste like crap! Oh well, I’ll figure that out when the time comes! So finish up at the bar, and decide to just return to the hotel and grab a bite there, then call it an early night. Grab a couple of sandwiches at the hotel, and retreat to the (tiny) room. When we first opened our room’s door, Matt looked in and said “Oh crap – I hope our luggage fits!”. I’m so glad we’re only staying in 4 and 5 star hotels – it scares me to think of what a 2 or 3 star room might be like!
Sunday, 29 September 2013
Up and at ‘em by 8 this morning, we head down for a wonderful buffet breakfast in the hotel. Following the suggestion of the Legend’s bartender last night, we’re off to discover Lucerne’s Transport Museum this morning. Have to go move the car to the Citypark (parking garage) first, otherwise the parking meter on the street will need to be fed every two hours. Yesterday, we only needed to pay for 1 ½ hours (cost us 3 Euros), then we had a ticket (5 Euros) from the hotel that covered us from 6 p.m. until 11 a.m.
this morning. Found the garage easily enough, and got the baby tucked safely in. Then off to try to find this museum. Finally arrived there after a nice loooonnnnggg walk (guess we needed to walk that breakfast off, anyway!). And wow – what a museum! We skipped the media center and planetarium, but walked thru the rest. You could easily schedule one entire day here! They have everything from bicycles to spaceships, cars, trolleys, trains, boats, vehicle garaging systems – it’s amazing! I took a zillion photos, but probably didn’t begin to capture the whole thing. We were really pooped after going through the whole place, so we cheated and went to discover Lucerne’s bus system to catch a ride back. We headed over to where we saw “Mr. Pickwick’s”, where the couple we had sat with at the bar last night had recommended we go to enjoy some fish and chips. And we did! Thankfully just chose to chare one plate – and that was plenty enough for lunch! Very good though! It’s now just mid afternoon, so we decide to go take a local lake cruise. We boarded the “Saphir” around 2:30 or so, and enjoyed a 1 hour sightseeing cruise around Lake Lucerne. It was raining again, so this turned out to be a great was to spend the afternoon – much better than walking around town! Very enjoyable! Headed back over to our hotel afterwards for a short rest, and to do a little recon work on the computer for tomorrow’s plans, then headed out for dinner. Had the “Fondue House” recommended to us for that, so we had stopped there earlier today to put in a reservation (also recommended). Arrived at the restaurant just before our 6 p.m. reservation time, and were seated immediately. We chose one of their “specialties”, a combo dinner consisting of an outstanding swiss cheese fondue, a hot oil meat (beef and chicken) fondue, and a chocolate fondue for dessert. We added in a bottle of local white wine, and enjoyed every minute of stuffing ourselves. Talking over dinner, pondering over the cost of dinner, we were thinking that the price seemed quite reasonable – considering how very expensive Switzerland seems to be. Haha! Got the bill – and discovered why it seemed so reasonable! The prices listed on the menu were “per person”, so even though the item was a “Fondue for Two”, it was still per person pricing – which just doubled what we thought we were paying! Oh well – we’re in Switzerland. You gotta enjoy a fondue while you’re here!!! So we did!
Monday, 30 September 2013
This is the earliest we’ve dragged ourselves out of bed since arriving in Europe. We get downstairs for breakfast by 7 a.m., and head out to catch the boat to Alpnachstad. We thought the boat departed at 8:30, but it turns out that that’s only on Sundays. Other days, it’s not ‘till 9:30. Rats – could have lazed around for an extra hour! Oh well. Back to the hotel to waste an hour before returning to the ticketing office, where we purchased our “Golden Round Trip” tickets. We board the boat and depart exactly on time. We arrive at our destination just before 11 a.m. to begin our grand adventure of the day. First we board the cog-wheel train to travel up on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. It is 4718 meters long with a 48% gradient. Besides the wheels which ride on the track like a “normal” train, there is a cog wheel in the middle – kind a big gear that grabs along in the middle of the track to prevent the train car from slipping downward on the track. Up the mountain we go, viewing the trees, cows grazing in fields, though several tunnels cut in the mountain, ‘till we arrive all the way up to the top at Mount Pilatus. The area here, called “Pilatus Kulm”, is 7000 feet above sea level. Our disappointment here was the weather – we were surrounded by clouds, putting visibility to about zero. Rats – the views from up here are so incredible during clear weather! On a good day, we would have had a clear view of the Matthorn, which is at 6700 feet, as well as the other mountain top areas and the town of Alpnachstad below as well as Alpnacher See (the lake). We had a quiet, small lunch at the restaurant up here, then embarked upon our adventure back down. The first leg of our downward trip was via an aerial cableway – a large, enclosed gondola, which brought us down at treetop level to Frakmuntegg. Matt actually did fine on this, despite his worries. But now his worries increase – the second leg is in a very small (yet still enclosed) gondola. So we find the restaurant at Frakmuntegg to find a little courage in a beer, then continue on our descent. Luckily, the entrances to both size gondolas were on concrete platforms, so there was no way of seeing thru the flooring below, so both rides turned out just fine for him. At the bottom of the mountain, we caught the bus to head back to our hotel (the final leg of our “Golden Ticket” round trip).
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
Before leaving Lucerne this morning, we grabbed some breakfast, then headed out for just a few blocks from our hotel to see the Lion carved out of sandstone. Headed on out, aiming for Geneva today. Along the way, we once again took a side trip off the highway about lunchtime, finding another delightful little village to stop in. Walked into a tiny restaurant, who had a “boef” special being served for lunch. So of course we had to order it! Not knowing what to expect, we enjoyed a little salad bar, then were served a delightful meal of a stewed beef with French fries. There were only locals hanging out and eating the same meal as us here, so it was quite delightful! Arrived at Geneva with no troubles (really liking the car’s navigation system!). Took a delightful walk around town, enjoying the sights. Sat by the lake to sip a beer. Had a map describing where an English Garden was located – had to stroll on over there. Glad we did, too! It was really beautiful! But of course, so far all of Europe is! Continued on strolling about town, and found a great Charcuterie (sort of a deli/butcher shop, but with a lot more stuff, all of which better than I’ve ever seen at home! Had to take a couple of pics inside ‘cause it was soooo neat). Spoke with one of the butchers there, asking about an intriguing looking piece of beef called “Bindenfleisch”. He was super nice, slicing off a couple of paper thin slices for us to try – yummy!!! Kind of reminded me of a beef flavored prosciutto. Explained to him that we’d be hitting the road tomorrow, and would love to put together a lunch picnic that didn’t require refrigeration. He set us right up!! “One paper” full of whatever this wonderful cured beef was, then he sent us over to the wine and cheese lady – called across the store to her to clarify our wants, then she took over. Had us sample a couple of cheeses, I didn’t care for her “specialty” – it was a camembert with truffles (it was determined I hated the truffles!), so we ended up with a plain camembert, and a hard aged cheese (kind of similar to parmesan). Then she threw in a “gift from me” – a piece of the truffle cheese (since Matt liked it, and she was proud that she personally assembled it!). She then helped us select a local white wine to compliment our selections. All we have to do is to pick up some fresh bread in the morning before we leave, and we have the perfect French Picnic assembled!! We’ll chill the wine overnight, otherwise – no refrigeration required (for several days!). Continuing on our stroll, thinking of grabbing a bite to eat. Not starving though – had a real “stick to your ribs” kind of lunch today! Eventually happened upon a little pub, and wandered in for a beer. Once more, super friendly folks. Scanned their menu, and they had a small fondue at a reasonable price – this one just the basics, bread and melted cheese. What the heck? We’ll suffer thru another fondue!! It was fantastic – and just the perfect size for what we wanted. After dinner, we took our fully tummies back to the hotel and enjoyed a little quiet time before crashing for the night.
Wednesday, 2 October 2013
Up and at ‘em, we had breakfast then headed out on our way once more – today’s destination is Beaune, France (near Dijon). About half way there, we pulled off the main highway to look for the perfect picnic area (we saw a lake on the navigation screen). Driving around, we came across a defunct ice “plant” – I use the term loosely, as the facility was over 100 years old, and kind of deteriorating. It is open to the public for viewing (from the outside) normally, but they we currently doing some heavy maintenance, so it was mostly closed, but we were able to get partway there by foot and grab a few pics. Moving on from there, we aimed in the direction of the larger lake that we spotted on GPS, eventually finding our spot in a small town called Natua. Found a lakeside bench with a very peaceful view of the lake. Spread our feast out, sat down and enjoyed the repast immensely!! Even shared some bread with the greedy little ducks – jet black birds with white faces, adept at diving and swimming under water, and prone to fiercely chasing one another for no reason that we could determine! But they did enjoy their bread scraps! Packing up our stuff (enough left for a picnic another day!), we continued our travels. Reached our hotel in Beaune in early afternoon and got settled in for our couple of days stay. Checked with the staff at the desk, who provided us with a map of the area and pointed out where “Centre Ville” (village center) is and – more importantly – where the vineyard route is. Not really having enough time to dedicate to the vineyard route this afternoon, we headed in to town – maybe a 10 minute or so ride. I think this is the first stop we’ve had where we appreciated having a car with us – without it we’d have to depend upon taxis to get around. Very tiny cobblestone streets lead us through this village – shops, restaurants and pubs galore! Obviously very old architecture abounds. There’s an adorable little carousel at the edge of the village that we pass on foot on our way in. We amble in, wander about town, and, of course, find a little pub to enjoy a beer at. Continuing our explorations of the village, we find a couple of optician shops – we plan to stop back at one with my glasses. They got slightly bent a week or so ago, and every time I try to get them back into shape I pop out a lens. They’re misshapen enough to make them uncomfortable to wear, so I’m either using my sunglasses or walking about a bit nearsighted. We also found several chocolatiers, and stop in one to purchase a little treat for later today. Feet are tired now, but it’s still a little early for dinner, so we head back to the hotel to relax for a while. Sat back, kicked off the shoes, and put our feet up – boy, did that feel really good?!?!?!?!? Later on, revived enough for some more walking, we headed back on into town for a light dinner. Stopped in at a pub named “Route 66” for a beer and to peruse their menu. On it was a “Terrine de Canard” – basically duck meat preserved under duck fat stored in a glass jar. It’s served with bread and some tiny cornichon pickles on the side. Not for everyone – but we loved it! And it filled us up for dinner, with some left over to add to our picnic fare for later. Strolled around town some more to walk off some dinner, then back to the hotel to call it an early night. Got back, and had a Bailey’s nightcap in our room, and thought we’d accompany that with the chocolate we purchased this afternoon. Oops – should have refrigerated it! It’s waaay too soft! We somehow manage to split one piece without making too much of a mess, then stow the second in the fridge to let it firm up – we’ll have that one tomorrow! OK – that’s enough! We’ve had a full day – bon soir!
Thursday, 3 October 2013
Awoke at a decent hour and went downstairs in search of breakfast. Afterwards, we headed into town to go to the optician’s store. There, the very kind optician straightened my glasses in a couple of minutes, and would not accept any payment. Yeah! I can see clearly once more! Returned to the hotel, and kind of enjoyed a very lazy start to the day – back up to the room to have an hour or so of “nothing time”. We’re going to follow the wine route today, and figure 10 a.m. is probably a little too early to start some wine tastings. We finally headed out to find our way through vineyard country shortly after 11:00. The route itself is fairly well marked to follow, though finding the “caves ouvert” (the open wine cellars) is a bit more challenging. For the smaller ones, you find yourself in a tiny little village apart from the rest of anything, generally (naturally!) situated in the midst of acres and acres of vineyards. You drive around the village ‘till you eventually find almost a hole in the wall entrance to an itsy-bitsy parking area by the entrance to the cave. There’s a wine barrel by the street entrance which announces “cave ouvert”, and usually has several bottles of wine sitting on top. You walk down into the “cave”, where they have a listing of the wines that they have to offer. You select which you’d like to sample, and they give you a small sampling. Unlike wine tastings we’ve attended in the U.S., there is no charge for the tastings here – unless you do not purchase any wine that is. We purchased at least a bottle at each cave we visited, to be sure not to cause any ill will. Most of what we tasted we liked, I think I found one white that I didn’t particularly care for. Most of the reds I liked enough to want to buy, but as we knew we’d be visiting several caves, we resisted so that we could purchase one at each cave. We had lunch at Pommard Restaurant – which was at one of the caves. Delicious lunch – fish with beure blanc and boef borgenoine which stuffed us once more! Had a terrific small bottle of white to accompany it – good enough that after we ate we ventured down into their cave and bought a full sized bottle of it. It was supposed to rain today, but it held off so we were able to completely enjoy our drive through the countryside, most of it with the convertible top down. Wow – heck of a way to spend an afternoon in France!!! Eventually turned ourselves around and headed back to the hotel. Arriving there, we proceeded to empty the car of everything in preparation of turning the car in at the port tomorrow. The only things it can have in it are the owner’s manual and the car’s documentation. The items mandatory for driving through Europe (first aid kit, reflective triangle, reflective safety vest) cannot be left in the vehicle (if you want to keep them!), so they have to be packed in our luggage to bring home. We also have to find a car wash tomorrow – U.S. customs requires the vehicle to be squeaky clean to enter the states. Looking at the number of squooshed bugs glued to the front of the car, I guess I can understand that….. So we get the contents of the car up to our room, where I repack everything. Thank Heaven I brought an empty carryon with us! But pretty much have it all together, so we head back to town to find ourselves a small dinner once more. Find a small outside café and order Edeilweisse Pression (beer), escargot (snails), and cassoulet (a French stew) – all of which hit the spot. (Personally, I like my cassoulet better, but this one was very tasty too! I guess mine would be considered a little extravagant, and the one we had here a more traditional, peasant type of dish.) OK – time to call it another day! Back to the hotel, a nightcap, and split that last chocolate (not too soft this time!).
Friday, 4 October 2013
Heading for Paris today! (Oh my – dropping off the car at the port already!!!!! This trip went waaaaay tooooo fast!!!) Went down for breakfast, then finished loading up the car. Checked out and got under way. Stopped at a nearby boulangerie (bakery) to grab a baguette (still warm and smelling awesome!) to go with our picnic lunch for today. Hit the highway and aimed the car north for its last travel day in Europe. We will have put almost 1800 miles on it by the time we get to the port. Trying to estimate out our gas consumption (they prefer it shipped with a little gas as you can manage), we stopped for a few liters. Cruising along, enjoying as much of the country sights as we can on our last driving day. Saw a hot air balloon hanging in the sky. Enjoyed the fields of grape vines, the grazing livestock, and the beautiful chateaus. Saw a French fighter jet zoom over our heads and make an impressive, sweeping turn. The clouds keep coming and going, but so far there is no rain in sight – and the temperature is slowly creeping up near 70. We’re hopeful for another beautiful picnic opportunity.
Found our picnic spot, alongside a river. Awesome!!! Delightful lunch (again!), just hanging out by boats and water – what more could we ask for? Stayed about 45 minutes or so before heading out to find our hotel. Arrived there by 2 p.m. (Lord, it sucks driving in Paris!!!) and checked in. Got all our belongings stuffed into our room, and immediately headed back out to find the drop off point for the car. Initial directions seems to have the place just minutes from the hotel – went there and found no facility! Returned to the hotel to regroup and do further internet searching. CRAP! Found out we’ve got to go all the way to the Charles de Gaulle Airport to reach the transport company! Hightail it outta there, praying we’ve got enough time. The hotel person said it’s about a 45 minute drive (as long as everything’s perfect, of course!). The transport place closes at 5 – we’re starting out at 3, keeping all fingers crossed! Traffic was terrible, roads confusing, and the final directions at the airport sucked! Somehow though, we pulled in just after 4:30, and everything was taken care of. Gave my poor baby a kiss good by – we won’t meet up again for 6 to 8 weeks. L
Caught a cab to get back to the hotel and 60 Euros later came in to find the bar. Yuck. The hotel bar is a bit lacking. OK – armed with a local map and meager suggestions from the desk staff, out we go in search of food and drink! Actually found a fun place, caught some beers and chow, and got calmed down nicely after the stressful afternoon. Went on a bit of a “walk about” as well, and found the Eiffel Tower is in a reasonable walking distance from our hotel!!! Wonderful! We don’t want to attempt a visit there over the weekend though – we’ll wait ‘till Monday for lunch. Friday evening about 5:30 or 6:00 had a 2 hour line queued up. Though we did find out we can get priority access (read “going to the front of the line”) with Matt’s disabled ID. We’ll keep that info handy for Monday!! Did grab some pretty photos at the tower though, with all the lights. Beautiful!
Heading back to our temporary home, we want to call the night a little early, as we see a very busy next few days coming up!
Saturday, 5 October 2013
Got up and headed out on the streets this morning, in search of a little café for a light breakfast. Found a cute place, got ourselves some coffee and croissants. Then started walking – and boy o boy, did we do some walking today!!! About 6 or 7 hours worth, with only a couple of breaks!!! Headed on out in search of the Arch de Triumph – what an impressive structure that is! And how could you visit Paris and miss that, huh? Moving on, we took in the sight of the spectacular Champs des Elysees – another place you can’t skip! Enjoyed the architecture, the incredible variety of vehicles speeding by, and the beautiful foliage and gardens. I took many pictures, but this city is just a place you need to witness first hand! Around noon time, we found a street kiosk with barbeque, so we stopped for a little lunch. We ordered what we thought was a beef kebab, but I guess something got a little lost in the translation. We ended up with a beef sausage of some sort, served in a baguette, topped with French fries. Not quite what we had hoped for, but we made the best of it. To make up for that, the kiosk next door was serving fresh crepes. We ordered one, avec banana and Nutella. Delish!!! Definitely made up for the barbeque thing…. Continuing on our trek, we eventually made our way to the Louvre. Found out that Matt’s disabled ID will once more work it’s magic! Free admission! Can’t beat that! In we go. Wow. Words can not describe. I don’t think my pictures can, either. We spent about 4 hours walking through, taking in as much as we could. I believe you could easily spend a solid 8 hours in this place, and perhaps still not get it all. I think the visit here was probably one of the most amazing visits of our entire trip!!! We left the Louvre, totally exhausted from all the walking. Found a pub nearby to sit for a while. A large beer each later, asked about cabs nearby – our waiter assured us there were plenty and we’d have no problem flagging one down. A couple of blocks later, on very wobbly legs, no available taxi in sight, we came across an entrance to the Metro. Down we went – thankfully having studied the routes on our map earlier – and found our way “home” via a couple of subways. Thank God! There is absolutely NO way we could have possibly walked all the way back again!!! What a day! Legs and feet just can’t possibly really ache this bad! Soak in a hot tub, venture out just far enough for a quick bite and a beer, then back to bed before every muscle in my body goes on strike! We did stop in at the hotel desk though, to request they make us reservations for the Lido Cabaret dinner/show tomorrow night. Then it’s lights out…
Sunday, 6 October 2013
Ouch. It’s rough standing up this morning. Not sure why the hell we actually took the stairs to get downstairs today. Hobbled slowly down the road today, wishing breakfast would just magically appear in front of us. We’re hurting enough from all yesterday’s walking to play it kind of low key today – resting often to make sure the legs hold up! Had lunch out, meandering about Paris. We ventured through one local supermarket in town, the spread of food was just fascinating! The beautiful seafood laid out was a sight to behold! What I would give for a supermarket like this at home!!!!! Then we found the perfect solution to NOT walking further today! We took a lunch cruise on the Seine. How perfect! A delightful lunch on a 2 hour or so cruise, seeing all the sights from the water. There was a live singer on board for entertainment. Couldn’t have planned a more pleasant afternoon!!! Afterwards, headed back to the hotel mid-afternoon for some much needed down time – gotta rest up for a night out on the town!
Caught a taxi to Lido on Champs des Elysees for our dinner show. Fancy place! Dinner was a bit drawn out (7 to 9 pm), and not really much to write home about, but it was ok. The overall experience was REALLY expensive, but after all, this is the Champs des Elysees! The show was quite good, definitely Broadway comparable, but I’m afraid you get a much better bang for your buck in NY. Nonetheless, we enjoyed it! Weren’t allowed to take photos during the show, but I did have a brochure that I’ll try to remember to scan in and include with all my pictures once we’re home. And besides, I’d probably have to put out a parental warning if I included a lot of photos from there – they don’t think twice about topless women in the show….
Didn’t get back to the hotel tonight ‘till almost 11 p.m. – another thoroughly exhausting day! I think we’re sleeping in a bit tomorrow. . . .