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Trip Report Tip Report- Prague/Desden/Berlin/Paris

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Our trip – May 16 thru May 29, 2014- Houston to Prague, 3 nights, train to Dresden, 2 nights, train to Berlin, 3 nights, fly to Paris, 4 nights, fly home to Houston. Note that we do not do museums and there will not be any restaurant reviews here.

TRANSPORTATION:
We flew Lufthansa from Houston to Prague via Frankfurt. Plane was an Airbus- new nice we had an aisle and window. Service – was ok but of course compared to the gold standard (most Asian airlines) it was lacking. Attendants seemed cold, bumped my head a few times and did not stop to check on me. Food- not very good as airline food goes and no choice of entrees. We changed planes in Frankfurt and as this was our first time in Frankfurt I´m thinking we will be a few gates away as it’s a Lufthansa connecting flight- wrong! We had the longest walk in any airport we have ever been in. After what seemed like a mile – with a number of the moving sidewalks not operating- we descended to a border control check and then a waiting bus that took us way on the other side of the airport out on the tarmac where we boarded our connecting flight. Good thing we had 90 minutes layover- we needed it.
Arriving in the airport in Prague- getting our bags was a breeze and we just walked past customs, no forms to fill out, and no inspections – nice! We were met by Mike’s car service.
Prague- we found the metro and tram system easy to navigate. We bought day tickets so that we could move about easily. Tram 22 takes you to Prague castle.
Train to Dresden- we had reserved first class seats. Our train was 60 minutes late. Now for those of you who have not had the pleasure of riding the trains in Europe one has to do some homework. You must make sure you are at the right train station as a lot of cities have more than one train station. Then you must identify the platform that your train arrives on. Like the airport your platform (gate for airports) could change so you must pay attention to the board periodically and this is what happened in our case. Now that you know which platform is yours, you need to know where to stand on the platform so you will be close to your car when the train pulls in. Why is this important you ask? Because in many cases the train will only stop for a few minutes before pulling out. Each train has first class and second class cars and may have a dining car. First class cars may include an open seat plan as well as a compartment type car. Your ticket should indicate what type of first class car you have. In our case the first first class car was an open seat plan which is what we had reserved. Some platforms have a picture board of all the trains that arrive on the platform and this board shows the composition of the trains. This helps you identify your car and they even have locations where you should stand to board your car when the train arrives. Some platforms do not have this picture board and here is where you need to be aware when the train pulls in and be ready to move quickly to your car. It is not always clear which direction your train will enter the platform. Baggage storage on the train- we found that some cars have luggage racks on either end of the car as well as overhead racks which can accommodate large suitcases. We traveled with 2 large suitcases and a backpack (we are not followers of the Rick Steve’s school of travel- we are more like Samantha Brown). We were able to put our bags on the overhead racks. Just as your train pulls into your station, if you are carrying large luggage you should get up and move to the door, otherwise it becomes a bottleneck at the door with people trying to get out and those boarding.
Dresden- we did not need to use their transportation system as the city is small and easy to walk to all the sights.
Train to Berlin- no issues here, our train was on time and while somewhat more crowded we had no problems.
Berlin – we bought day tickets and used the UBahn, SBahn, and Buses to get around. We found that the Bus 100 (and the Bus 200) was the best options for seeing the major sights in town. I would advise skipping any hop on hop off bus as these local buses mentioned do a great job and it’s so much cheaper. Do carry a large map of the metro as well as a street map as Berlin is huge and while there are some nice areas to walk you will need to use the transport systems to navigate about.
Paris- we flew Lufthansa Berlin to Paris about 1 hour 40 minutes flight into CDG. Cab to our hotel. We used metro frequently- we bought 2 carnets (20 ticket rides) the reason being is that I paid with my credit card and will get it paid for via Barclay rewards, it being a travel expense over $25.
HOTELS:
Prague- we stayed at the K+K Central which is a small hotel in a beautiful, fully restored building located near the Municipal House and Powder Tower. Let me say without a doubt this is a hotel which has no and I mean no faults- they know how to do it right. The architecture of the building inside is amazing, the rooms a work of art unto themselves. Room includes free internet including the use of a Samsung tablet in your room to surf!
The breakfast buffet each day is wonderful – lots of choices as well as champagne!
We checked in at 12 noon and they had our room ready along with a free welcome drink in their bar. Service was outstanding. The room while not large by Asian hotel standards was fine by our experience with Europe hotels in general. Bathroom modern with shower and upgraded vanity.
Dresden- we stayed at the QF. Fantastic location right next to the church and Main Square.
Small hotel with tiny lobby and to me what appeared to be a dull, gloomy, grayish décor which was perpetuated into the hallways and rooms. No artwork on the walls. We were given a room on the top floor (this was first offered as an upgrade for 40 Euros more but I declined and for some reason they gave it to us anyway). Room was fine, with 2 dormer windows that looked out on the main square. Bath was small, modern with a good rain shower. Separate shower and toilet room from the vanity area.
Breakfast was in a bright large room and had the usual offerings- good but not exceptional. In the room we noticed that the staff does not replenish the soaps and shampoos each day- we found that odd for such a hotel. Overall I would advise looking at other hotels – perhaps the Hilton which is close by.

Berlin- we stayed at the H10 which is located a few blocks from the Zoo station and Tiergarten area. Fabulous hotel- modern, room nice size, good size bathroom, rain shower, Krupp’s coffee maker in the room with free coffee flavors, and free internet in their lobby. Their breakfast buffet was the best so far and yes it had champagne! We also noted that the Bus 100 (the so called tourist bus) had its starting point here at the Zoo station – you want that because this bus gets very crowded after the first stop. We loved this hotel. The Zoo station is also the starting point for the Bus 200 (another tourist bus) and a convenient place to catch Bus 45 which will drop you in front of Charlotte burg palace ( a must see!)

Paris – we stayed at the Hyatt Vendome – OMG what a grand hotel! Gold everywhere in the room with dark hardwood doors, very nice bathroom with a separate rain shower – even had its own sink in the shower! Nice toiletries as well. Our room had a nice balcony from which you could walk out and see Vendome Place. The hotel is a block from the Opera House as well as 2 blocks to Printempts and Galleries Lafayette- 2 grand department stores.
CITY EXPERIENCES:
We found Prague to be a wonderful city to explore on foot for the most part – but when the weather turned sunny and warm (the first 2 days it was cool and raining) the crowds came out in mass and it was not enjoyable trying to navigate through the throngs. It was better when it was cool and rainy as the crowds stayed indoors! People were warm and friendly. One needs several days to see the major sights – we were there for 3 days. Wonderful churches- Our Lady Victorious (Infant Jesus) and St. Vitus Cathedral (changing of the guard at Prague castle at noon). Of course we did Old Town, Astronomical clock, Charles Bridge- all nice.
Dresden- beyond our expectations- just a beautiful small city with the most amazing architecture. You can walk this gem of a city and do not need any transportation. There were no large crowds to deal with – that may change over time as people discover this charming city. Magnificent churches.
Berlin- this was certainly a change from the charming cities of Dresden and Prague. Although Prague is large it is still very much a city where you can walk to most of the sights. Not so with Berlin- here you must avail oneself of the vast transportation system. We did the Reichstag- by appointment only- so take note and reserve in advance online. Walking up the spiral to the top gives great views of Berlin but take note it gets hot in there so make sure you have water. Also you will need photo ID to enter with your reservation (Democrats take note yet another example of why photo ID is common sense when voting!). There are a lot of security precautions taken before one enters. We visited some of the Platzs – Potsdam and Alexander- for shopping. We also did the Holocaust memorial. Beneath the memorial is a very moving exhibit. As for the memorial itself I do not know what to make of that- large numbers of odd size blocks with nothing on them.
Paris – this was our second trip to Paris so we were quite familiar with the city. One thing we were not able to do on our first trip was a visit to Sacra Coeur. We did the Seine river cruise as well. We just love walking this city and re-visiting the major sights as well as doing some shopping. Who doesn’t like walking the beautiful streets of Paris? Weather-wise it was cloudy, cool 55-59 degrees and rainy on some of the days we were there.
What we paid and did not pay for on this trip:
I mention the following to demonstrate that one can have a grand vacation without breaking the bank or taking out a second mortgage. Just about all of the awards mentioned below were acquired simply by taking advantage of the numerous credit card offers out there!
• Flight to Prague and home to Houston from Paris - United Airlines FF Miles (tax on ff award paid for via Capital One Venture rewards).
• Hotels- (with breakfast each day) – Prague, Dresden, Berlin- paid for by using Avios Points and Delta FF miles.
• Hotel – Paris – Hyatt Vendome – 4 nights paid for using Hyatt Points.
• Flight from Berlin to Paris – paid for using Barclay rewards.
• Trains – from Prague to Dresden and Dresden to Berlin – paid for using Barclay rewards.
• 4 one day passes for Berlin metro- paid for using Barclay rewards.
• 2 Carnets for Paris metro – paid for using Barclay rewards.
• Cab Berlin train station to hotel and hotel to Airport- paid for using Barclay rewards.
• Cab Paris airport to hotel and hotel to airport – paid for using Barclay rewards.
• Cab Houston airport to home – paid for using Capital One Venture rewards.
1. Lunch and Dinners in Prague, Dresden, and Berlin- we paid for these.
2. Breakfast ,lunch, and dinner in Paris – we paid for these.
3. Shopping in all cities we paid for these.
4. Cabs which were less than $25 – we paid for these (only travel items over $25 are re-imbursable for Barclays/Capital One rewards).
5. Metro tickets in Prague – we paid for these.





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