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Europeans Rejoice! Mai Tai Returns From 17 Great Days.

Europeans Rejoice! Mai Tai Returns From 17 Great Days.

Oct 7th, 2003, 01:29 PM
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I think they were pink flamingos, weren't they?
wren is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 01:32 PM
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Pelicans, storks, flamingos, dixie chicks, whatever. This report is great, Tom. Remember, it's 5 o'clock somewhere.
DixieChick is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 01:37 PM
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Welcome back, Tom! Glad to see you had a wonderful time on your trip.
capo is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 01:54 PM
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Great report, Tom. Very funny! Can't wait to here the rest.
RLA is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 01:54 PM
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This is easily the best trip report I've read - ever.

Did you see the amazing Issenheim altar at the Unterlinden museum in Colmar? Other than that cultural treasure I also found the town disappointing. If you missed the altar, you do need to go back though O (or should it be > ).

Andre is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 03:47 PM
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Ah, Maitai, so you too were made welcome at the hotel Saarbrucken.

Such a nice surprise...bring your alibis....

love the report.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 04:44 PM
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DAY 5 & 6 - Hotel Masson - Montreux, Switzerland

Goodbye France - Hello Switzerland. Michelin doesn't let us down this time, and it is an easy few hour drive to Montreux and the Hotel Masson. Our host is a charming, graceful and helpful lady who gives us the bad news that it is supposed to rain the next day. Oh well, it's sunny at the moment so we unload our stuff in our room (with a great Lac Leman view) and drive over to Vevey. Of course, we missed lunch by 5 minutes.

I was a little disappointed in Vevey after what I had read. But to be fair, it was a Monday and most stores were closed.

Oh well, we'd gained enough weight in the past few days, so we drove back to the Chatéau de Chillon, a great medievil castle on Lac Leman. You get an English fact sheet and go on your own numbered tour. It's really fun to pretend your back in the 15th or 16th century. Chillon is a must see if your into castles and history.

Since it was a nice day, we thought about taking the train to Rochers-de-Naye, 6,700 feet above Lac Leman. When we got to the train station at Caux, it was pretty hazy, so we thought the view at 3,600 feet sufficed. Anyway, it was 4 o'clock and we had yet to sip a glass of wine.

We hung out at the outdoor cafe in Caux for about an hour, and drove back in to Montreux. Montreux is not a city I will return to. It has character and a nice waterfront promenade, but it's a little to modern for my European trip taste.

Oh, and the traffic signals. If you are not in to multi-tasking, do not drive in Montreux. First of all the signals are small, and it was very difficult to tell whether the light in your direction was green or red. Since I am still alive, I must have done OK.

We had a little wine on our lake view veranda and decided on eating at the hotel that night. It was a good choice. The four course meal was 33 euro and included melon and jambon, cream of tomato soup (delicious), sliced chicken in mushroom cream sauce with rosti potatoes and apricots soaked in liquor (you know I liked that).

We had twin feather beds pushed together for the romantic among us. The rain came down which was nice and made for a relaxing sleep.

The next morning, after breakfast at our hotel (man, we ate a lot), we headed off for the town of Gruyéres we had heard so myuch about. It was cute, but not as cute as I had imagined (sort of like that blind date that had a good personality). We toured the chateau in Gruyére and then the heavens opened up. Fortunately it was noon, and God forbid we go three hours without eating. I'm glad we did.

On the small, cobblestoned street was the restaurant called Auberge de la Halle. On the menu was a Macaroni and Cheese made with gruyere cheese. Up until that minute, I had never tasted a better macaroni and cheese than the one I make (handed down from my mom).

Sadly, now my macaroni and cheese is only second best. Along with the cheese and noodles were onions and chives, and on a rainy day, I can't imagine a better lunch. It made the trip to Gruyéres well worth the excursion.

We drove back to Villeneuve, which is a cute little town next to Montreux. We window shopped and found a great wine store where we, of course, bought a bottle of wine for the veranda. Also, they had a news stand with the Herald Tribune and USA Today. We had not read anything for nearly a week, so this was a treat.

Had a little wine on the veranda that afternoon (in between rain showers), read our paper and damned if wasn't time to eat again. It's hard to believe I only gained a couple of pounds on this trip. Thank goodness for hiking.

We decided on fondue, and had a cab take us to Caveau de Vignerons (recommended by friends and the hotel as the best place to eat fondue).

During our dinner, except for a couple of guys at the front bar, we were the only patrons. The fondue was allright, but nothing special, and the bill was too high. Fortunately we had a bottle of champagne, so who cared how it tasted.

Dessert, on the other hand, was a treat. Chocolate fondue with assorted dipping fruits made the experience much better.

I would recommend the Hotel Masson as a place to stay in Montreux. The people were friendly, the food was excellent and the price of 220 francs was fair.

I tried to be a little shorter on this part because next we head to the Berner Oberland, which was probably the best three days of the vacation (it easily was the most expensicve three days of the vacation).

Next up: A hotel with phenominal views and food in Grindelwald, a trip to the Top of Europe, gondolas to the stars and hiking trails that I must come back to enjoy again.

maitaitom is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 04:51 PM
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This is SO GREAT! Much better than that book I just brought home from the library!
Now----on to Montreaux!
Scarlett is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 09:03 PM
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This report is SO good I think it should become required reading for every Fodorite!!
prue is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 06:03 AM
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Wake up, Tom. We are all waiting for more report. Yes, I know that you are in California and I am a lot further east, but...........
such a good report!!!
Judy C
anotherjudy is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 07:21 AM
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"Wake up, Tom."

Unfortunately a busy work day here. Thanks for all the nice comments, and I'll be back at the report in the afternoon.

By the way, although I'd love to come to the SF Fodorite gathering, I have to be in Orlando on business at that time.

maitaitom is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 07:40 AM
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Sorry you can't make SF, Tom. I will pay you the highest compliment: I have zero interest in the area you just travelled in, yet I am reading your entire trip report.
Marilyn is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 08:25 AM
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Hi Tom:

Just thought I'd chime and let you know that I think your report is absolutely amazing. Can't wait to hear more!

Oct 8th, 2003, 08:46 AM
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ah, but things have changed....have you been following The Red Sox (they'll blow it, just give them time)
seafox is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 09:02 AM
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A break in the action at work, so here we go again.

Chalet Hotel Gletschergarten - Grindelwald
How to Go Bankrupt and Overcome Your Fear Of Heights In Just Three Days.

We had a short drive from Montreux to Grindelwald (well, a couple of hours is short for a Californian). It was a foggy and damp morning as we arrived at the Hotel G. A beautiful drive into Grindelwald, I should add. The owner greeted us, and she took us to our room which had a huge wrap-around balcony and a great view of the Eiger. We didn't know how great the view was until the following morning.

After lunch (food, glorious food), since it was cloudy, we decided to make Trummelbachfalle (Trummelbach Falls) our first destination. It is located on the road between Lauterbrunnen and Stechelberg. This waterfall, so the propaganda says, "carries the glacier melt from the west wall of the Eiger and the north walls of the Monch and Jungfrau." It seemed logical to me, although I thought Monch was one of the guys on CHIPS.

First you take a funicular that passes through the rocks that lead to the falls. Then you ascend about 12 million steps that offer incredible views of the falls as you climb upwards. At least, that took the calories I had eaten at lunch. It is a great spot to go (especially on a day like this) because it is inside and really damp and just a little eerie. But then we saw something REALLY eerie.

When we got to the top, there was a guy who was just staring at the Falls cascading down on the otherside of this not so tall wall. I mean this guy never blinked. I haven't seen a guy stare this much since I last went to a topless bar. Tracy headed back down, but I stayed for a minute because I thought this guy was thinking about jumping. Then I thought, "Great. He'll try to jump. I'll try to save him, and he'll take me with him (seriously, I had not had a cocktail yet)."

Well, I headed down, too, and we did see him later, so he didn't kill himself. When I mentioned my thoughts to Tracy, she said, "Wow, I thought the same thing." I guess that's why we're married.

OK. Now I have a confession to make. Even though I climb to the top of buildings and enjoy views from even precarious spots, I do have a slight (no, make that moderate) fear of heights, so our next destination made me a little antsy. We decided to take the aerial cableway to Murren (I'm glad that Palm Springs Tramway ordeal of a couple of days ago didn't happen before we left or Tracy would have had to drag me on board). I also, at this moment, decided not to think about money for the next few days when I saw the price of the tram, because I knew we had a few more of these babies to take and the wallet was going to take a direct hit.

As we got in, so did about 25 school kids, so Tracy told me I had better not be a wimp. Then they added a bunch of bags of salt, and I started looking around for the maximum capacity and weight signs. I also looked to see how that cable was looking. I believe at this time Tracy pretended to be married to someone else

The deathtrap (I mean aerial cableway) started its ascent and it was unbelievable. At one point before we reached the first station at Gimmelwald, it seemed to be going straight up. I Loved It!!!

We got to Murren and walked around. It looked charming, but being late in the autumn season, the town was quiet except for the neat sounds of the cows with bells. We felt sorry for some of the cows because the bells were about the size of the Liberty Bell, and they could barely keep their heads up.

A question we never had answered: Why do some cows have bigger bells than others (I know there is a good joke in there, too)?

Note: There is a nice hiking path from the Falls to where the cable car station is located (about 2km).

We got back to Grindelwald (which, by the way for those of you with children, is very kid friendly) and decided to have a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe. The weather was getting better, and people told us the next couple of days were going to be sunny with no clouds.

We ate at our hotel that night. Finn (the husband-owner) served the wine and we had a delicious dinner of leek soup, salad bar, filet de boeuf with Brussel Sprouts (I can't believe I tried them, but they were really good), a tart of pommes and a good bottle of red wine.

We decided to go to bed early because if tomorrow was going to be as nice as everyone said, we wanted an early start. As you will see, it was better than I could have ever expected.

maitaitom is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 09:08 AM
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What an outstanding trip report, Tom!! Now I can't get any work done because I'm waiting for the next installment.
Barbara is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 09:19 AM
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Oh Tom, I hope this trip report continues until you go on the next. I am so enjoying this.
Re: those cows with the big bells...I have wondered the same thing myself.
Re: Heights. I will stand on the edge of a cliff and wave my arms because it makes the Yankee shudder and want to crawl away, he has the height problem, I am just a sadist.BUT...when we have had the misfortune to be on one of those trams/cable cars... I hang on to that pole in the middle, whimper, beg to be let out and generally humiliate myself and my husband. I have no shame when it comes to begging for anyone to get me out of that thing and on to stable ground again..so I am very impressed with your Fortitude!!
Now-on to your report. I am waiting ~
Scarlett is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 10:02 AM
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Tom, great trip report. I don't think you have a fear of heights, I think you respect gravity (well, it is the law).

ncgrrl is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 10:26 AM
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This trip report is becoming longer than my trip.

The weather prognosticators were correct. There is not a cloud in the sky, and our view from Hotel G. is unbelievable. Early breakfast and off to Grindelwald Grund for a ride to The Top of Europe and Jungfraujoch via the Jungfraubahn. I told Tracy maybe we could see a beautiful woman on the Young Frau Line, and, of course, she rolled her eyes and dreamed of what life would be like with a normal husband.

We took an early train and we headed toward the Kleine Scheidegg (a name I never pronounced the same way twice in three days). There you switch to the rack railway that takes you to the highest rack railway station in Europe.

It makes a few stops along the way and people scarmble out for a quick view through a dirty window. There is a short video explaining what you're seeing and how they accomplished this feat of building this thing. From Grindelwald Grund to Jungfraujoch takes approximately one hour and fifty minutes and costs approximately a million dollars (well, I know it was more than $200 for the two of us...so much for Christmas presents this year).

We take the Sphinx tunnel (and walk like an Egyptian) to the fastest lift in Switzerland (a record previously held by Arnold Schwarzenegger). We were then at the Sphinx-Panoramaterrasse, a long name for a place where you can go outside and get some incredible glacier views.

The skies were bluer than Sinatra's eyes ( (I just wanted to get Frank Sinatra and Courtney Love in the same trip report). The view of Aletsch Glacier, which is actually a 14 mile river of ice that melts into Lac Leman and eventually flows into the Mediterranean (or so they tell me) was awesome.

Amazingly we were not hungry. and figuring that the food up there was probably not cheap, we decided to head out onto the glacier for awhile.

We walked through another tunnel and set foot on the icy tundra (insert Lambeau Field here). I immediately slipped and fell on my ass, and Tracy disavowed any knowledge of her relationship with me.

We hiked out a good distance, and the panoramas presented were incredible. Even though it was in the 30s, it did not seem very cold because the sun was so bright. It was better than a tanning booth. We soaked up the sun for about 20 minutes like any good Southern Californian with dreams of eventual skin cancer and then headed back for the Eispalast (Ice Palace).

I was hoping to see Dorothy Hamill (dating myself there), but instead there were figures of animals carved out of ice in little scenes. We decided to go outside again for one last tanning experience.

We took the one hour and 50 minute trip back to Grindelwald Grund. We met some great Brits from outside Manchester, so the trip went by in a flash.

For many, that would be enough. Not for us, though. We walked over to the Mannlichen gondola station, picked up some provisions, and it was off to Mannlichen on the longest gondola ride in Switzerland (or maybe Europe). We were going to Mannlichen to start our hike back to KS (I don't like spelling it either).

Note: We could have taken this earlier hiked and then gone to the Top of Europe, but we felt it would be really crowded up there later and also because of where the sun was located this time of year. As it turned out, we were right. The later trains were packed (mostly with Japanese tourists) and the sun was in perfect position for afternoon photos when we got to the Mannlichen.

We had lunch at the outdoor cafe in Mannlichen and then took the relatively easy hike to KS with unbelievable views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Really fun. Took the train back to GG and got back to the hotel.

Tracy said to me, "I'm in the mood for...."

"Love," I said inquisitively?

"No, raclette," she replied.

Our hotel recommended the Eiger (the restaurant/hotel, not the mountain) for raclette and fondue, and this time everything was fantastic (and pretty cheap).

We got back to the hotel after a pretty damn full day, but we had one day left. Tomorrow, it will be one more gondola, a hike and an afternoon of relaxing (hey, I can be a nice guy sometimes).

maitaitom is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 10:50 AM
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Its got me laughing out loud...and I really am supposed to be doing other things... oh well...I work to live not live to work!

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