Tuesday April 14, 1998
Well I am off on another trip! Last night Roger and I spent the night at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame near the SF airport. We ate at the Knuckles Sports Bar, and after gallivanting around the hotel, we retired to our room for the evening. This morning we got up around 6:30am (OK, Roger got up then, I got up closer to 7:30) and quickly got ready. After taking the luggage to the car, we went to the Regency Club for a quick continental breakfast. A decent spread and the view was good towards the airport. After settling the bill, we headed off to the airport, but we ended up taking the back route, and ended up coming into the airport at a weird angle. I am not sure Roger will be able to find his way, but I sure hope so!! We finally got to a parking spot and trucked it to the ticket counter. I didn’t have any luck with the seats on the Paris-bound portion of the flight – as I was trying to switch them so I could sit next to my party. Hopefully we will be able to swap seats when we get on board. On the other hand, I don’t really care where or who I sit next to, as long as we get to Paris.
I am scheduled to arrive into Dallas around 4pm CDT, about a half hour earlier than scheduled. I hope Mom doesn’t get confused and try and meet the wrong flight from SFO (There were two leaving at the same time). However, it will allow plenty of time to traverse the 900 gates at DFW. I am also meeting Gary and Wesley there and we are all joining forces to Europe. Hopefully Roger will find enough to keep him occupied while I am away.
Aboard AA 48 11:39pm CDT
We are more than halfway to Paris now. I am pretty sure we have about 3 hours tops before we land. I made the connection in Dallas just fine, except that I forgot to call Roger (d’oh!). I told myself that I would just call him when I got to Paris, (about 1am his time), but my nagging feelings just couldn’t wait. So I used the Airfone. The first time the line was busy (I assume he was on the modem). The second time I got through and he was already struggling with figuring out what he was going to do while I was gone. For those of you not in the know, Roger had just moved to Davis and didn’t know anyone there and was over 300 miles away from his family. I let him know that everything was OK and we were on schedule for Europe with no problems. I also got mega-points for using the Airphone (both coolness AND frequent flier miles – thanks CITIBANK) I told him I would call him from Paris when I got there. For dinner, The Great American Burger was a disappointment. Stale bun, and no cookie. I decided to forgo the movie, and finished one of my Trek books already. So now I am desperately trying to relax, but my nose has decided that it has had enough of the air, and has been giving me fits for the last hour. On top of that, I think I am getting a headache, and a canker sore on my tongue. Basically, I feel like shit. I think I am ready to get off the plane now!!
Wednesday April 15, 1998 11:58pm CET
We arrived in Paris ahead of schedule. As a result, we got treated to the bus-to-the-terminal routine at Orly Airport. Man I hate American. This was a really nasty flight. After calling Roger, I was able to get some French money. It doesn’t matter how many times I travel, foreign money looks wierd in my wallet. We opted for the Taxi rather than the Metro and Bus because it was windy and cold and no one wanted to lug their stuff in the rain. Made it to the hotel in one piece after three close calls with other motorists. Makes me yearn for that rental car! When we got to the hotel, our room was not ready yet and we stood around trying to decide what to do. As we were standing around, Rick Steves, the author of my travel book, walked in the door! He was working on the updates to his book and went over some of them with the guy behind the desk. After I snatched his autograph, he posed for a quick picture. Truly a highlight!
At this point I should mention that our trip has already begun to unravel. Our original itinerary called for a few days in Paris and then we were to jet over to Budapest, Hungary for a day and a half, and then jet over to Munich. Wesley informed us on the flight that he was unable to secure the tickets required. I managed to get the hotel reservation, but with no flight it was going to be difficult to get there. We decided to think about our options and we headed out for lunch. We settled on this bistro place around the corner that was OK at best. Mental note – Chicken and Fries at a French Bistro is very different than Chicken and Fries at Kentucky Fried Chicken. We made it back to the hotel, and got our rooms. Nice, a little small, but excellent bathroom. We chose to lay low for awile. By the time we headed out to the Eiffel Tower, it was around 5.
Wesley and I decided to brave the winds and go to the top while Mom and Gary hung out at the bottom. I got some great photo ops, and we were fortunate that it cleared up. We saw the sunset, and then headed down. It was but cold by the time we got down and headed back to the hotel for quick redress. We then headed to the Hard Rock Café, but there was an hour wait so we decided on TGI Friday’s. Another okay meal but free soda refills!! We made a quick stop for souviners at the Hard Rock and then metro’ed it back to the hotel. We have to get up early tomorrow to catch the train to Rennes to go to Mt St Michele. I still am battling stomach cramps that make it seem like I have to pee all the time. I hope they clear up soon. Oh yeah, I bought a Hard Rock T-shirt for us. Nice Parisian one.
Thursday April 16, 1998 Written Friday CET
Today we got up at the unearthly hour of 5:45am to catch the 7:10 train to Rennes. By some amazing feat, we manage to get to the train station and on the train with a minimum amount of fuss. Tensions are mounting, as we try to figure out what we are going to do about Budapest. Mom is the most agitated and by the time we reached Rennes, we decide to go ahead and cancel the reservation for the hotel. I called Roger and let him know how to cancel it. He is doing much better – and upon further checking, is able to cancel our reservation with no problems. We go ahead and pick up our rental car, a nice Opel Astra. We surprised ourselves and managed to navigate our way out of Rennes and in to the countryside with little difficulty, After about an hour, Mt St Michele approaches in the distance. We stopped the car for a photo stop and were bombarded with a strong cold wind and light rain. BURR! Jacket Thermometer reads somewhere around 6 degrees C. We park the car and headed in to MSM. We just couldn’t get over how cold it was and the wind certainly was not helping. We went through the little village and climbed up in to the abbey picking up some post cards and biscuits along the way. The abbey tour was 40FF, but not worth it. There was a renovation going on and most of the abbey was barren and cold. However, the abbey and the views were still beautiful. We then went down for a quick lunch at a local café. I had a waffle while the others had some form of quiche. I was quickly tiring and was getting testy. After a quick hike back to the car, we set off to Rennes and the train. In the car, we decided to go to either Switzerland or Western Germany so the train ride was not so long to Munich.
We manage to get an earlier train to Paris and made our way back to the hotel half-asleep. We never did manage to make it out again. Sort of a bummer to sleep most of the day away, but I feel that this allowed me to adjust to Europe time and be sharp for the rest of the trip. I think the cold took a lot out of us – and hopefully it doesn’t affect the rest of the trip.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.