Sunday April 26, 1998
I bid Kris adios early in the morning. We managed to share some breakfast, and then he was off on his bike. The taxi to the airport showed up shortly thereafter and it was back to home. Nothing eventful happened on the way – other than the fact it was the best I felt in over a week. Roger was waiting at the airport and we began the long drive back home. There was lots to reflect upon, but I was tired and wanted to get some rest since I had to go to work the next day. No rest for the traveler!
Saturday April 25, 1998
Woke up feeling a bit better – naturally. It was the first morning all week where I could breathe when I woke up. Today I am off to travel back to the US with Wesley and I have mixed feelings. On one hand, parts of this trip were so miserable due to my illness, I can’t wait to get home. On the other hand, this is Europe, and I am on vacation and it beats working. I managed to make it downstairs for breakfast. It was OK, but the Dutch need to learn a few things about scrambled egg preparation. I decided to head out to the Van Gogh museum. It was one of the only sites I really wanted to see in Amsterdam, and since I hadn’t seen anything else, I went for it. Wesley decided to come as well, so we set off in the light rain. The museum turned out only to be a few blocks away. My overall impression of the museum was very positive, despite the lack of big name paintings. The only one I saw that I remembered from High School was “The Potato Eaters”. The presentation and layout of the museum was very good as well. I picked up a poster and some postcards for me and Kris.
From there, we hailed a cab to the Dam Square so Wesley could do some shopping. We then had a long miserable walk back to the hotel in the rain. I had some pretty miserable thoughts in my head as we headed back – probably a combination of fatigue, sickness, rain, and the fact I spent my hard earned vacation sick. The result of the inner conversation was that if we indeed go back to Europe, we need to do less cities, and I like it if some of my friends came along as well – so if I decide to go out for an evening I can have someone to talk to instead of just staring at the wall. Upon returning to the hotel (with my Van Gogh box almost disintegrating due to the rain) we kicked back for awhile and then checked out. We then took Mr. Dutchboy’s Wild Ride to the airport. We had this taxi driver who did no less than 40MPH the whole way. We did manage to make it in one piece, and checked in for our British Air flight to London. No souviners were to be found, and I lost 2.5 guilders in the vending machine. I then called Kris and found out that he’d been at the airport last night – D’oh! I hope it wasn’t my fault, but I called Roger and he managed to get everything straightened out.
The flight from AMS to LHR was pretty good. No complaints – though I did notice that a good chunk of the passengers seemed to be part of the same Japanese tour group. When we arrived in London, we bid farewell to Mom and Gary – they were staying a few extra days in London. As Wesley and I proceeded through the various security checkpoints, the Japanese group from the plane was using the snowplow method to stick together and easily get through security. Wesley and I decided to go along for the ride and managed to get through some long lines quickly. When it came time to re-check in we went around the group and managed to save even more time. Our trip home on American was surprising. I actually had a pleasant flight!! Good Will Hunting was the movie, and I had a good book to pass the time and Wesley next to me for conversation. Our flight attendant Polly was superb and made sure we were in good spirits. Some guy about 6 rows ahead of us had an accident which stunk up a chunk of the aircraft. Suprisingly, Mr. Platinum across from us (so named because he tried to throw his weight around and get a better seat, and threw a hissy fit when he didn’t get his way) stayed calm, only managing a grumble when the sun began to shine in his face and a few other odd moments of attention deprivation.
Managed to make it through customs without a hitch, and finally saw Kris. I was happy to see him, but sad to say goodbye to Wesley. We had a great time on the flight, but he was off to a downtown hotel and I was off to Kris’ SPARKLE house. We headed down to the subway, and despite some bag trauma at the gate, managed to get on the ‘L’. On the way to his house, Kris filled me in on the news that he had been unable to finish his presentation for Ford, and he would have to get up early the next day and head back to work and then travel to Detroit. I was bummed, but understood that work sometimes calls. I was determined not to let it spoil the time I did have with him. We stayed up into the wee hours chating about everything. I decided to reschedule my flight back to SF to an earlier flight.
Friday April 24, 1998
Horrible day. Didn’t sleep well at all. Most consecutive sleep period was 2 hours. Decided to forgo breakfast and the Anne Frank House and stick to the confines of the Marriott. Around 2pm I ventured out in search of food and managed to score some Burger King. Not exactly what the doctor ordered but good enough. Around 4pm, Wesley arrived back and we set off fot the FAME music store where I bought a PAL version of the Black Cauldron. No new Jarre or Mariah stuff. I barely managed to stagger back to the hotel where I remained for the rest of the day. I watched 2 episodes of the Man From UNCLE, Star Trek, and part of Smokey and the Bandit Part 2 – all in various stages of misery and subtitles. I longed to be back at the apartment getting pampered. I can’t believe I have spent almost a week of my trip sick. I didn’t get to go out at all in Amsterdam, and pretty much suffered through Munich and Brugges. As I head off to bed, I hope Kris will be there in Chicago and I hope that my head will survive the flight.
Thursday April 23, 1998
Still not feeling any better. Wesley and I took the minivan back to Avis, where upon inspection, the lady behind the counter stated that there was significant damage to the vehicle. We thought she was stoned as we didn’t even take the minivan anywhere except the highway and there was not visable damage. She mentioned that the paint was all scratched up – I think it was just dirt and branches rubbing it. After a few exchanges, she was nice enough to call us a cab which arrived and took us to the train station where we arrived a scant 5 minutes before the train departed. The train ride to Brussles was nice and relaxing. We were taking the train there to catch the Thayllis High Speed Train service to Amsterdam. Now, I was not feeling good and my nosed was stuffed up. I had not been able to smell clearly for days, but when we boarded the Thayllis, my nose cleared right up. We affectionately referred to the train as the B&O Railroad. The ride was crowded, full of smelly people, and ‘holier-than-thou’ Americans. It didn’t help that my head was swelled up and felt like it was congested (despite the fact I could still smell everything). After two massively uncomfortable hours, which Mom seemed to enjoy since we were facing each other and chit-chatted, we arrived in Amsterdam.
My first impression of Amsterdam was not very good. The city was crowded and extremely dirty (not unlike the Thayllis). Of course, I was still reeling from my sickness. I hadn’t felt this bad since over a year ago, and I hope that it is finally getting to the point where it can only get better. We settled into the tre bien Amsterdam Marriott and then headed out on the town. We wanted to go to the Hard Rock Café, but it turned out to be just a bar. So then we went to look for a place referred to as the ‘Memphis Café’. We ambled around a good chunk of the downtown area, passing many shops, before finally settling on a steakhouse near the train station which was above the Grasshopper bar (No sign of grass or hopping). The place served Argentinean beef which was excellent! I wish I was feeling better, I wanted to go out and explore the nightlife. Instead Wesley and I headed back to the American Book Shop to get some reading material. I felt faint, and then headed back to the hotel, stopping along the way to pick up some 7Up and water. I finally eased into bed as it began to drizzle outside.
Wednesday April 22, 1998
Another fine German breakfast, but my health has definitely taken a turn for the worse. We set out in our Sharon fairly late, heading for Brugges, Belgium. The ride was smoother than yesterday and a smidgen more comfortable. I didn’t have a chance to get a Koblenz postcard, breaking my string of city postcards. Along the way, there was a huge accident on the Belgian Autobahn. Quickly following the lead of an Alfa Romeo driver, we backed down the on ramp and proceeded through the side streets. Wesley did a good job of keeping behind the Alfa Romeo – I am sure we would have been SOL without him. After about 45 minutes of city driving we were back on the Autobahn near Brussles.
We finally arrived in Brugges. I wish I could tell you how long the second road trip section was, but I was really drugged up on the fine German over the counter meds. We circled the downtown looking for our hotel and quickly learned that minivans and narrow cobblestone streets are not made for each other. Due to our late start time, by the time we were settled, most of the shops were closed, which was fine for me since I was yearning for my bed. Mom was disappointed though, this was one of the places she really wanted to see on the trip (other than Budapest). We ended up at Pizza Hut for dinner, which did absolutely nothing to make me feel better. Upon returning to the hotel, I decided to take some Ny-Quil and surrender to bed.
Tuesday April 21, 1998
Man oh Man! When I woke up this morning, I knew the day was destined to be icky. I had a full-blown sore throat. After downing some Theraflu, Wesley and I set off for the BMW museum. They had some interesting exhibits, but since we were pressed for time, we didn’t make it to all them videos. I was also disappointed that there were no free Z3 samples. Even a 3-Series would be OK. Oh well. I bought some postcards and a Z3 T-shirt instead. When we headed back to the hotel, the fun really began. The controller (the ticket verifier) of the U-Bahn asked us for our tickets. We being the lawful Americans, pulled out our tickets and presented them to her. After looking at the tickets, then at us, then back to the tickets, she gave us one of those ‘Oh god, not more dumb tourists’ looks and informed us that we had the incorrect tickets and we owed the German government 60 Marks. Apparently what my college German translated as ‘Zone 1, Two Hours’ was actually ‘One Way, Two stops’. D’Oh! We explained to the controller that we didn’t understand what the ticket meant and that we were sorry. She then paraded us through the train, and lead us off the train at the next stop. I am certain she was telling everyone on the train how dumb we were, but then again it might just be the Theraflu. After consulting with her supervisor, she told us that we needed to buy a different ticket. She actually turned very nice on us, and helped us get the tickets. She did have some problems understanding the difference between the coin insert slot and the paper bill slot, but not wanting to anger her, we let her blame the machine. We thanked her and resumed the trek to the train station to get the rental car. I grabbed some Burger King there, since it took Wesley over an hour to get the car. I tried to call the hotel to let Mom and Gary know what was happening, but the clerk at the hotel insisted that we had already checked out. I was soooooo pissed. I wasn’t feeling well at all and this was not helping me at all. We finally made it back to the hotel and loaded our VW Sharan van and then checked out. We couldn’t wait to leave Munich and get on the road.
The van was nice, but it needed more power for the Autobahn. Most of the cars on the road passed us like we were an old Trabant. Our trip to Koblenz was uneventful save for a McDonalds stop, a rest stop with a nice helpful lady who was nice so you’d tip her, and, of course, Mom’s bag of goodies spilled out over the floor. Six hours and a few throat clearings later we were in Koblenz. We wondered why it took so long. It shouldn’t have taken more than four hours, but I think it was due to traffic, the length of time it took to get out of Munich proper, and that dreaded road construction. There was some outstanding scenery that whizzed by at 120 kph. I was really feeling crappy now, so when we got to the hotel, we had dinner, I drank some German NyQuil, and headed off to slumber. Mom and Gary were fretting about the not having time to visit the Rhine river area, and were blaming it on Wesley’s less-than-stellar travel arrangements. I would chalk it up to a combination of trying to do too much in a short period of time as well as not optimizing our time better. Brugge and a quick Koblenz photo op await us tomorrow, and I hope I feel better. Oh yeah, lots of bitching and moaning all around today. Road Trips do that to people.
Monday April 20, 1998
Definitely the best day. I woke up feeling sick – I am not sure if it is a result of the lack of food, the cold weather at MSM, or staying up until 6 in the morning a few days ago – probably a combination of all three. The experience of today soon made me forget how I was feeling. We caught the morning train to Salzburg. The train stopped 1000 times before it got there, but it was so beautiful, I didn’t mind. We arrived around 12:30pm and made our way to the city center to catch the Sound of Music tour. The weather was absolutely perfect – clear and just right. We ate lunch at a restaurant next to the square where the tour started. Another fine meal of Wienerschnitzelin a cozy atmosphere. At 2pm we boarded the Sound of Music Tour. We toured some of the sites used in the filming of the classic movie musical – all to the rousing music of the movie soundtrack and a CD of the real Von Trapp Family. We saw many of the sites where they filmed the movie including the Von Trapp house and the monastery – and we even caught a glimpse of the mountain where Julie Andrews spun around during the title sequence – apparently boozed up on Brandy or Scotch to keep warm (according to our tour director). Another thing we did was ride the crazy Luge out in the alps. Basically a little cart on a smooth metal track. The scenery was outstanding. Clear blue lakes framed by rugged alpine peaks. Mondsee had by far the best scenery (it is the home of the church used in the wedding scene of the movie). St Wolfgang was a close second. The tour was different than what I expected, but still a highlight of the trip. By the time we started back to Munich, I really started to feel sick. When we got back, Mom and Gary headed off to a mini-Oktoberfest, while Wesley and I headed to an Internet Café. I felt the need to be plugged in to the ‘net and hoped it would make me feel better. After some excessive wandering around, we found it. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but man did the internet feel good. I e-mailed Matt and actually ‘talked’ via e-mail to him. I also e-mailed Cooper and Roger. I was feeling better as we hit the hotel, but I still had a tickle in the back of my throat.
Sunday April 19, 1998
Woke up early for our tour. We enjoyed a great German breakfast, and managed to greet our bus only 5 minutes late. Our tour guide is Charlie. He’s got a sense of humor and the tour was not dull. Schloss Linderhoff was under some renovation, but I took some pictures of the inside that I didn’t take when I was here 8 years earlier. We were on a tight schedule so we didn’t see the grotto, my favorite part. Oberammergau was a disappointment because only three shops were open. It was a neat town, though a bit touristy. The mountain views are cool, and a light snow was a quaint touch. We then headed to Schloss Neuschaunstein – my favorite castle. We had a great lunch, and then headed up the hill on a horse-drawn carriage. We were having fun laughing at the horses. They were flatuating all the way up the hill. Not very pleasant from the front row, but still very humorous. The tour of the castle was run by Daniel, who was only on his second week of giving tours. It was pretty funny as we and some of the others in the tour (like the couple from Colorado) ad-libbed parts. I now know why I never have any pictures of the inside – the castle does not allow pics so you have to buy the book. After the tour, Gary, Wes, and I hiked over the bridge overlooking the castle, took some photos. Mom remained at the castle and we met back up with her as we headed back to the bus.
Two hours later, we were back to Munich, and headed back to the Mercure to get our bags and head to the Bristol. I had bag trauma on the way, but we finally made it. When we arrived, the hotel said that we didn’t have a reservation and the apartment we requested was under construction. Snickers about Wesley’s travel arrangement abilities abound, but fortunately, due to their lack of filled rooms, they were able to fit us in with little hassel. The hotel is a bit worn, but OK. We were supposed to go out and get food, but we were never made it and spent the night hanging out. I am tired, and Hungary (sorry again Mom). Tomorrow its Salzburg, and more touring.
Saturday April 18, 1998
We rose about ten (translation 4 hours sleep) and packed for the trip to Munich (I am on Air France now!). I had barely had time to pack, shower, and stumble downstairs before the taxi was there. I managed to get our hotel’s web address and say my adieu. I was in a fog from the previous night and really loopy. We arrived at the airport on time, and managed to get some batteries. A quick scope of the Virgin mini-megastore in the airport, and of course, the essential Chuck DeGualle meal, Burger King. We left on-time and are being served by Noah Wylie’s twin. After an hour and a half flight, we made it to Munich A-OK. I was disappointed that we didn’t get a stamp on my passport. When we stopped at the customs booth there was no one there at all. So we took a chance and just breezed through. I love the new open Europe. We took a taxi into town, and man, it was a long trip. Our hotel is apparently part of a big chain. I thought it was a best western, but it was actually a Mercure. The room was nice and big and neat, but I saw a few ants wandering around. I decided to take a nap after calling Roger and filling him in on the previous night’s adventures, and the rest of the crew went to check on our hotel for tomorrow, the Hotel Bristol. After the nap, we went to the Hofbrau House for dinner. There were lots of people in bierhaus, but the restaurant was fairly empty. Had my first wienerschnitzel in 8 years, mmm-good! After, we went back to the hotel and crashed. We have to get up early for our tour of the castles tomorrow. I wanted to go out again, but I was pooped and four hours worth of sleep does not help oneself be presentable. Unfortunately, I won’t get a chance to go out until Amsterdam which is OK, it’s better I rest now and save my energy.
Friday April 17, 1998
We are staying the extra day here in Paris, and tomorrow heading off to Geneva or Stuttgart. Woke up around 7am kinda groggy, but better than yesterday. I ate a bagel and drank some water, but I am still Hungary (he he sorry Mom). Not sure what we are going to do today, but I think we are going to make our travel plans and do a bit of exploring. We started out as all good Americans should, at McDonald’s. We had breakfast and made plans for the day. We started to walk down the Champs de Elysais. I stopped into the Virgin Megastore and picked up a Jarre piano book, and a Mariah Carey photo book for Roger. After, we stopped into the Disney Store and flirted with the idea of going to Disneyland Paris. Unfortunately for me, I could not convince the others to go. I managed some small token as we then headed out to the Arc de la Defense – site of Jarre’s 1990 concert. After a quick Metro ride, we were there. I might add the weather was wet today, and some of the photos from the bottom, as well as the ones from the top might not come out very well. So much for Paris in the springtime.
We rode up to the top (only 40FF) in a spooky glass elevator, right out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. At the top, there were the usual spectacular views, as well as an art exhibit, and some offices. I am sure it is even more spectacular when the view is clear. After taking in our 40FF worth, we headed off to the Hard Rock Café for lunch. It was a welcome sight: a greasy hamburger with Ranch dressing. After lounging around there, we headed off to Printemps and the other major department store in Paris. They were something of a disappointment; most of the coolest clothes were available at Macy’s or the Gap. By now, we were very antsy about our travel plans. We decided that instead of trying to squeeze in Switzerland, we would just go to Munich a day early. We went off to American Express and booked an Air France flight and a hotel (Best Western). By then I was pretty tired, but I decided to do some exploring on my own. Nothing big, just decided to go around to some places I had visited with Nathan in previous years in the Marais. Afterwards, I headed back to the hotel for a some rest and a quick nap.
After 10, we headed out to find a pizza place in the left bank area. It turned out to be closed, but fortunately, Paris has more than one. The place we decided on had a very good Pizza Margarita and a decent size Coke. When we finished, it was back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed to bed, as I wanted, but instead I got dressed and went out to a club Nathan had mentioned. It was very different than I expected. For a world-famous club, it was a bit small and a bit intimidating because of the language. I was sort of stuck there until the Metro opened at 5:30am, so I made the best of it. I danced a bit, but mostly people watched. No one gave me the time of day, which was OK because I didn’t really want to reveal myself as American (though I am sure they knew). It was funny because I kept seeing the same people roving around the club. On the Metro at 5:45am I saw an American who was talking to some Germans. He was doing his best to use his charm, but to no avail. he seemed like a nice enough person, but before I could strike up a conversation, I had to leave the train to transfer. I reached the hotel right before 6am and rang the door. I went up to the room and crashed. Roger would have had a good time at the club and it would have been cool to have someone to chat with during the night.