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Trip Report STUTTGART~S.GERMANY~NORMANDY~PARIS Is This A Car Story OR A Trip Report?

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Both. We returned last week from a trip to Germany and France. The main purpose of the trip was to have fun and, oh, I almost forgot, to pick up a new 2013 Mercedes CLS550. Hopefully, a few observations will help future Mercedes European Delivery pioneers. This is both a trip and Mercedes ED posting.

Bottom line, DO IT!

Some background: my wife is young (well sort of) and I celebrated my 69th b’day in Mont St. Michel region a few days ago. Thanks to owning a business which allows us to maximize our AMEX points, we are able to take one or two first class overseas trips each year. My wife claims two per year and I claim one. So, splitting the difference, call it one and a half. We enjoy, among other things, dry red wines and unique hotels. We had three friends join us on this trip. We frequently travel with friends and have never had the problems you read about.

Now, what about cars? I have owned about a half dozen Mercedes. From my first 280SEL (paid around $7k new) to the CLS550. We keep our cars a long time. Once the CLS arrives, we will sell my red 2000 500SL. I love this car. We had a 300SD that we sold with 280,000 miles. This is our first new car in decades.

We started this process several months ago. I test drove a CLS550 about six months ago and was hooked. We worked with our local dealership and booked a 7 night trip that ended up being a 12 night trip. Without going into details, we received bad information which required that we change our plane reservations and add 5 nights. We had to stay close to Stuttgart because we met up with some friends 4 days later. We made lemonade.

Mercedes USA has a lady in Montvale, NJ ~ she is the Specialist, European Delivery Mercedes-Benz USA. Get to know her. She is very knowledgeable and responsive. Otherwise, try to find out if your dealership has an experienced ED person. Cash is best ~ financing requires that you lease or use Mercedes’ financing.

Arrived in Stuttgart and immediately took a taxi to the delivery center. Our taxi driver did not know about the voucher but one of his buddies did. We were at the Kundencenter in Sindelfingen until about 3pm. One very pleasant and exciting day. Go on YouTube and find the videos of the factory robots. I was blown away by the automation. The final assembly had plenty of real people. Everybody was fluent in English including our “instructor Jamie” (American father and German mother). Food was excellent and since we could not eat enough to meet the voucher limits ~ the waitress, as a complete surprise, brought us two large bars of chocolate. By the way, our new car is Storm Red. It stood out on the delivery floor because it was the ONLY red color. It seemed like dozens and dozens of black and gray cars were picked up. We stayed at the Le Meridien compliments of Mercedes. Beautiful hotel but lacking any local character. Ate dinner at the Zum Ackerbuerger. It was built in the 1500s. Very good food and ambience.

Departed the next morning for Hohenschwangau on the autobahn. I was driving 80-90mph at 2000-2100 rpm. We felt like we were standing still! We stayed at the Hotel Mueller with their castle package. Don’t know if any cash but definitely complexity savings. Our original room did not have a view of either castle. I just mentioned to the desk how much we liked the room but it lacked a castle view. They upgraded us to a very large two bedroom suite with a beautiful view of Neuschwanstein. We ate at the hotel (in the solarium, although they did not know that word) and at Alpenstuben. Both good choices. Looking back ~ great location (alps), hotel and experience.

Take a few minutes and visit Oberstdorf and the other Kleinwalsertal villages. We were on our way to Lindau. I tried to buy the Austrian Vignette autobahn pass twice at gas stations but was unsuccessful. Since we were not stopped, it saved a few bucks. PLEASANT SURPRISE: We drove between Fischen, Balder-Schwang to Bregenz. We have made plenty of beautiful drives ~ this was a top contender. We stayed at the Hotel & Restaurant Villino. My wife’s favorite hotel of the trip. Costly and worth the experience. Great wines. It is a few minutes outside of Lindau and the GPS was indispensable. Speaking of GPS and other technology ~ I figure by my 70th b’day, we will figure out how to use all the gadgets on the automobile. At one point, we had to call our “instructor Jamie” back in Stuttgart because we could not figure out how to use the GPS, CDs, etc. Suggestion ~ bring a few of your own CDs. MBRACE2 and sat radio will not work until you get back to USA. In addition to the car’s GPS, we brought our Garmin. Glad we did.

While you are at Lake Constance, drive to Meersburg. Wonderful town, very picturesque. We ate dinner at the Wissingers im Schlechterbrau in Lindau. Highly recommend.

Back to Stuttgart to meet our friends at the Mercedes Museum. This was also when we were originally scheduled to arrive. Made a couple of wrong turns and parking was a challenge. So what, the museum was outstanding. By the way, the food at the museum was excellent. So much has been said by others about the museum so I won’t bore you. Allow at least 2 or 3 hours for a visit. Even if you are not a car buff, you will enjoy the architecture, history and the antique automobiles.

This is getting long, isn’t it? We are only a few miles into our total of 1517 miles.

Wanted to see a part of the black forest, so drove A8/A5 to Baden-Baden exit. Then B500 Schwarzwald Hochstrasse. Stop in Mummelsee for desert and relaxing look at lake. On to Bad Peterstal and continuing on to Strasbourg. OK OK SOMETHING FINALLY HAD TO BE DIFFICULT Neither the auto nor the Garmin GPS could find the Cour du Corbeau hotel. We finally had to call them on the cell phone. They stayed on the phone giving us rights and lefts. One of our party was fluent in French. We all loved Strasbourg. We were upgraded to suites in the Cour du Corbeau as well. This hotel is amazing. Look it up on the internet and stay here! Location, ambience was unsurpassed. Eat at the S’kaechele in Petite France. Quaint and wonderful. Make reservations because very small. Everybody extremely nice at the restaurant and the hotel. FYI the CLS holds 4. We rented a second car.

Stopped in Reims (try to correctly pronounce that). We joined small tour of Ruinart. Some of their caves were dug over 1600 years ago. Make reservations. Interesting story ~ parked along road waiting for Ruinart to open. Saw a young man looking over the new car. Walked up and he said he thought he was looking at a diplomat’s car. That made me feel good. Long story short ~ he was from China going to college in Reims. Since no place to eat near Ruinart, we went with him to the college cafeteria. Our lunch was all of 6 euros plus we enjoyed talking to him. Drove through Champagne area south of Reims.

On to Chelles (suburb of Paris) to stay night with relative and then to Giverny (Monet’s house and gardens) the next day. Delightful visit and broke up the longer drive to Honfleur. GPS burped again in Honfleur and took us through a parking lot and down a street so narrow that a nice tourist had to fold back the rear view mirrors on a car we were trying to pass. Stayed L’Absinthe Hotel in a very large room over looking the harbor. Hotel came highly recommended and was very close to a secure parking area (paranoid about the new car). We were tired so we sat at a Honfleur roadside bar to watch the people. If I had one more vodka tonic I would still be in Honfleur. This town was a very pleasant surprise. I wish we had one more night here. I would go back in a flash.

My bucket list included Normandy. This is the reason (well the new car helped) for the cross country trip. No disappointment. Very moving. Still not sure why you have to go through airport type security but you do. No admission charge. Right above Omaha Beach. Nice displays, newsreels, etc. Highly suggest you consider for your own bucket list ~ makes you appreciate what the greatest generation did for future generations.

On to Chateau de Bouceel. This is also “a look it up place”. A chateau (rebuilt and relocated) occupied by the same French royalty for the past 1,000 years. The owner is a delight. English perfect (college in Chicago). If you love history and French antiques, this is the place. Only a few rooms so contact early. On to Mont St Michel the next morning. Also on my bucket list. The most popular tourist attraction in France. We only stayed about 2 hours because we had no interest in hiking to the top.

Long drive back to CDG. Filled the car and it was about $150 USD (estimated $7.50/gallon). Stayed at the Hilton Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport because of proximity to car drop off location. I would stay at the Sheraton Charles De Gaulle otherwise. We dropped off car on Monday morning at 8. We washed the car the night before only to have it pouring when we delivered the car the next morning. Oh well! I hope they are taking good care of car. I don’t think we will see the car before Christmas. TT Car Transit was very efficient (they had one or two questions about perceived missing documents) and we were out of there in about 30 minutes.

Now comes the long wait for the car to arrive in Texas and for us to go back through retraining (remember the days when you turned the key and dialed the radio). Would I do it all over again ~ absolutely. Thank you Mercedes for the memories!

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