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Europeans Rejoice! Mai Tai Returns From 17 Great Days.

Europeans Rejoice! Mai Tai Returns From 17 Great Days.

Oct 6th, 2003, 10:13 AM
  #1  
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Europeans Rejoice! Mai Tai Returns From 17 Great Days.

After committing more traffic violations than any single driver in European history, I returned on Saturday night to find out that nothing has changed in the good old USA since I left on September 17. The San Diego Chargers still are winless; California will be led by one of the Three Stooges (Gray, Arnold or Cruz) after tomorrow's election; and Rush Limbaugh is still an idiot.

Since I am back at work, the trip reports will have to wait until later this afternoon. Our destinations we visited were Beilstein (on the Mosel...fantastic base); Ribeauvile (thanks to all who talked me out of staying in Colmar...more on that place later); Montreux (hotel was great, although I doubt I'd ever return to that area); Grindelwald (spectacular weather, incredible views, neat hikes, lots of fun AND lots of money); Lugano area (our favorite overall hotel); Buggiano di Colle (fun little find in a 12th century town overlooking Montecatini de Terme); Cinque Terre (restaurant alert later) and Malpensa (train down to see the aLst Supper). Just a few quick observations right now, with details later today.

Rufus, good call on the Haus Lipmann in Beilstein. A great place to start the trip. Bobthe navigator's choice of Stella d'Italia near Lugano provided us with the best meals on the trip.

Except for our last night at Malpensa, all of our hotels had spectacular, unique views whether they be lake, vineyard, mountains or river. We ran into very few Americans, but a lot of Brits and Aussies. All of our hosts and the people we met from each respective country was friendly (except one). It was amazing, though, how big the Arnold story is in Europe. Most every time I said we were from California, I'd get the response, "Is Arnold going to be your next governor?"

Most of the areas we visited we loved, but there were a few disappointments along the way. The viamichelin directions I had with me were, for the most part, good, however the people of Sarrbrucken in southern Germany still must wonder why a Volkswagon Golf with two frustrated Americans made 50 illegal u-turns in their town trying to navigate into France. Fortunately, no pedestrians were killed in our one hour, unplanned tour of their town.

Here is are a few of the by the numbers of our trip.

0 - Mai Tais consumed on trip
1 - Snotty French lady at our hotel in Ribeauville (a real charmer).
2 - Days of rain
3 - Martinis drank in Levanto with a couple from Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately that was one too many.
4 - Incredible meals at Stella d'Ilalia in San Mamete
5 - Average glasses of wine per day (that I can remember)
8 - Killer mosquito bites acquired in the Cinque Terre
170 - The most kilometers per hour I could get my Golf to do.

Suffice to say, we had another remarkable European vacation. I will have to look back though posts to see what is going on here on the Fodor's Board (Degas, sorry to hear about your "coke" problem. Rush Limbaugh probably has some drugs that could help you in your recovery. By the way, I have a great wine you can try).

I also saw there was a Starbucks controversy, but was too tired to go through it. I did read when I was in Europe that they were opening one in Paris, so I am sure that provided some good controversy on the board.

As our potential next governor might say, "I'll be back" with more on our trip later.
maitaitom is online now  
Oct 6th, 2003, 10:25 AM
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Well, as I leave the office for the day THIS is one bright spot...looking forward to hearing MORE. And, yes, I'm afraid Europe, and Paris in particular, are headed for cultural oblivion because Starbucks has opened up a couple of venues there. I don't suppose it has anything to do with some cockeyed idea that the people who LIVE there might actually like the idea and BUY some coffee do you????
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Oct 6th, 2003, 10:25 AM
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Welcome Back! Can't wait to hear all the gory details.
HeatherH is offline  
Oct 6th, 2003, 10:42 AM
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Glad you had a good time! Looking forward to the trip report
Kay_M is offline  
Oct 6th, 2003, 11:02 AM
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We've been waiting for your return and nothing has changed here
we got your numbers, welcome back.
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Oct 6th, 2003, 11:03 AM
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Welcome home, Tom!
Will you be stocking up on maitais, since you were deprived for 17 days?!
Isn't it funny, you go away, you do so much, you see so much and when you come back, it is as if you never left~
I am looking forward to your in depth reporting
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Oct 6th, 2003, 12:18 PM
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Looking forward to reading your always snappy prose, MaiTai. If you get itchy feet, come on up here for the San Francisco get together on Oct 18.
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Oct 6th, 2003, 12:36 PM
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Perhaps the fact that all of Europe was talking about your driving skills allowed me to exit Ireland, having turned in one trashed and mirrorless vehicle, unnoticed. Thank you. MaiTai
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Oct 6th, 2003, 12:39 PM
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Didn't mean to post last message. Meant to add....MaiTai, while I didn't harm pedestrians either, I did shorten the lifespan of a few sheep and cows.
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Oct 6th, 2003, 01:41 PM
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It isn't the European drivers who keep me from wanting to rent a car, haha...!
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Oct 6th, 2003, 01:52 PM
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Welcome back MaiTai! Looking forward to trip details.

I second Marilyn in asking you to join us for the SF get-together. I even have the ingredients for your Key Lime Pie Martini, so you simply must attend!
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Oct 6th, 2003, 01:53 PM
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How can poor old Europe cope without your presence dear Maitatom?

Welcome back home, glad that you had a terrific time!!
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Oct 6th, 2003, 01:54 PM
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Maitaitom...great to see that you are home safe and the Europeans will now be safe as well. I bet you had one heck of a trip, and I for one am looking forward to each juicy detail.
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Oct 6th, 2003, 02:09 PM
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maitaitom: You brightened my afternoon with your note. You sure have a way with words! Sounds like you had a great time. Same old, same old here. Just about to OD on the election detritus. Sent our ballots long ago, but have enjoyed the phone calls from Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Mrs. Davis, encouraging us to do what we already did.

Welcome back to the Golden State.

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Oct 6th, 2003, 04:10 PM
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Here is the trip report for our first couple of days in Germany.

Lufthansa from L.A. to Frankfurt. The last time we flew Lufthansa they went on strike while we were over Greenland and lost our luggage for a few days, but we are a forgiving couple. No such excitement on this flight. Very attentive flight attendants, but I swear they have added the rows American Airlines have taken out.

Of course, the guy in front of me goes into full recline early in the flight, but at least he didn't have dandruff. So I hit the wine, put my IPOD on full music blast and endured. We arrived at Frankfurt at 10:30 am. Neither of us slept more than hour.

Easy pickup of the Europecar and we strolled to the garage. There it was, the ugliest color of blue Volkswagon Golf you've ever seen. It screamed out, "I am a rental car because no other car on this continent is this color! Don't leave any valuables in my trunk because every thief in Europe knows I am a rental car!" Oh well, it was time to conquer the German autobahn.

DAY ONE & TWO - Haus Lipmann - Beilstein on the Mosel.
An easy 1 1/2 hour drive from Frankfurt airport to Beilstein. We arrived at the Haus Lipmann which has a great location across the street from a ferry dock on the Mosel River. We had blue skies and sunshine. They also have a restaurant terrace overlooking the river where Tracy and I downed some goulash soup and some pommes frites. I saw Tracy beginning to have the first signs of jet lag narcolepsy, so we set off on foot to the Beilstein castle (Burg Metternich). An easy 15 - 20 minute walk from the hotel. I climbed to the top of the castle, while Tracy scouted out the beer garden for some guy who would let her go to sleep. It was a picture perfect day and the views of the Mosel Valley were astounding.

Tracy didn't find another guy, so we went back down to Beilstein and walked through town. The walk through town takes about a minute. Pretty much
maitaitom is online now  
Oct 6th, 2003, 04:18 PM
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Waiting with bated breath~
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Oct 6th, 2003, 04:19 PM
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No kidding, maitaitom. Did you have a narcolepsy attack yourself?
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Oct 6th, 2003, 04:22 PM
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Wow, the jet lag must be hitting me since I just accidentally hit the "post my reply" buton. Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah. Tracy didn't find another guy, so we went back down to Beilstein and walked through town. The walk through town takes about a minute. Pretty much everything is a hotel, restaurant or shops and caves selling wine.

It was only 4:30 and we were dragging. So what does any red-blooded American do when they can barely keep their eyes open? You guessed it. We got in the car and took a drive. Tracy was afraid I'd drive in the river, but I'd only do that in France so we could go In Seine. Sorry. We drove about 10 minutes to Cochem and saw the road for the Burg Eltz, where we would be going tomorrow morning. We drove the other way and got as far as Zell.

Dinner started at 6 on the terrace at the Haus Lipmann, and after a shower to try and wake us up a little, we fell downstairs into the restaurant. The food was good (we ordered a couple of different types of steak - my pepper steak was fantastic).

The owner of the hotel Mr. Lipmann came over to our table and greeted us. He is a very nice guy. We were the only Americans, and soon a big group of gregarious Germans started mingling on the patio. I asked what they were up to (in a nice way, of course). and they said it was a reunion of the class of 1957.

We chatted with them until about 8:30. Tracy said it was time either to go to sleep or to file for divorce. After thinking it over while sipping an after dinner drink, I felt sleep would be better since a lot of the trip was already paid for.

I heard the Germans singing for about three minutes. The next thing I remember it was morning, and we had ten hours of sleep under our belts.

In my next installment, it's on to the Burg Eltz, a day of exploring the Mosel Valley, AND a great time getting drunk with nearly 200 Germans.

maitaitom is online now  
Oct 6th, 2003, 04:26 PM
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Maitai, I can see I'm in for a treat...
Gratefully... Treesa
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Oct 6th, 2003, 05:04 PM
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We finally met our first Americans at breakfast. They had tried to drive to Burg Eltz the previous day, but had gotten lost. I am not a big Rick Steves' advocate, but sometimes he does give good advice, and he did not fail us on this morning.

The Americans we had met left ten minutes before us. I had read in Steves' book not to follow the signs to Burg Eltz, because those were longer hikes. Instead we ignored the Eltz signs in Moselkern and followed the signs to Munstermaifeld as he had suggested. We kept the faith because it seemed like we were headed in the wrong direction.

However, in about seven kilometers we came to a T in the road. Signs to Burg Eltz were seen again. We made a left and went though Wierscheim and from that town's exit sign it was only 2km to the Burg Eltz Upper parking facility. It was an easy 10 -15 minute walk down to the castle from there (More on our hotel friends later).

Burg Eltz is a cool sight to behold as we walked down the trail from the parking lot. It is in the middle of a forest, and it is quite imposing.

Once again, there were no Americans or anyone who spoke English, so we paid the 6 Euros apiece, got an English guide and took the tour presented in German. The guide was great, and every once in awhile when something wasn't spelled out on our sheet, she would do a little of the tour in English. She also encouraged to ask any questions, and she would answer them.

The castle is great, and when the tour was over we tipped her five Euro for her generosity. She asked where we were from. When we said Southern California, her eyes lit up and she asked, "Do you ever meet any movie stars?"

We chatted with her for about five minutes and went to look at the treasury for a few minutes. As we departed, we saw the tired faces of the two people who we met at breakfast. I had tried to explain the short cut to them earlier, but they got confused. They took the long hike and were sweating bullets. When we told them we had already taken the tour, they looked at us incredulously like "How the Hell did you get up here."

It was then on to explore a little of the Cochem. The part of Cochem directly on the river is pretty touristy so we went up a few alleys and found a nice outdoor patio to have lunch. It was part of the Hotel Lohspicher, and we chatted with the owner who also served us.

The special was Zweibelkuchen (a delicious onion pie) that we had with a glass of young wine called Federweinber. It was great. The inside of the restaurant looked very nice as did the hotel. We might stay there if we ever came back.

Then it was on to Zell. Zell looked pretty tired so we kept going to Bernkastel-Kues. One of the Class of '57 recommended us going there the previous evening, and it was a neat town with half-timbered buildings on the square. We sat at a cafe, watched a woman playing the accordion leading a parade of drunken women down the street (Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore) and strolled the town. We got back to the Lipmann, showered and I had wiener schnitzel (pretty good) while Tracy opted for the salad and soup.

It was Friday night, so an early bed night was out. In back of the Haus Lipmann is the Zehnthauskeller (owned by Herr Lipmann's brother-in-law). We got there about nine o'clock and the place was hopping full of Germans singing folk songs and other stuff being led by a guy on organ and I think a synthesizer.

The only table was in the front. I walked around and heard no English speaking people anywhere. Perfect. We ordered some wine and two German couples sat at the other seats at our table. The next song was about two seconds long when one German lady locked arms with Tracy and one German guy locked arms with me and the songfest had begun in earnest.

They ordered some wacky shot of some liquer which they let me taste. Then I decided to order. Since I had already consumed some wine at dinner, I was feeling no pain. In my pathetic German I tried to order two shots. Instead the waitress thought I said five.

Well, when the five shot glasses arrived at the table, I quickly made a decision to give four of them to my German friends. From then on it was one long drinkfest. The highlight was singing "Take Me Home Country Roads" in English with 200 Germans all locking arms and swaying with the music. John Denver would have been proud.

When I got the bill, I could not believe it. I had ordered 11 shots and/or wine drinks for ourselves and our German friends. The bill was only 21 Euro and change. I asked the waitress if that was correct and she said, "Ya" or something to that effect. I tried to tip her 5 Euro for the great time and she said, "No, I can't accept it it. It is too much."

"How about two?," I asked. She said that was too much but took it and thanked us profusely.

We slept soundly. The next day it was on to Alsace, and little did we know that an hour of that journey was to take place committing driving infractions never before seen in the town of Sarrbrucken.

I will also make the resty of the trip report much shorter. I hope.
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