Day 1 - Wednesday, May 9, 2012
We made our way out to O’Hare International Airport at three o’clock this afternoon. We were able to upgrade to First Class which we were very happy about. We settled into the United Airline Red Carpet Lounge and had cocktails while we waited for our flight, United Airlines #906 to Munich. We boarded at 5:15 PM and settled into our pods. Very comfortable seats which later on in the flight turned into very comfortable beds. Each pod is equipped with a TV with on demand programming which included a selection of about 50 movies and TV programs as well as interactive games, a writing table and curtains to pull for privacy. After some preflight champagne we took off. Had a wonderful dinner which was served in courses. First we were brought a salad, followed by an appetizer of grilled shrimp cerviche. The main course served was filet mignon with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The steak was excellent. Strawberry ice cream was served for dessert and afterwards a cheese cart was rolled down the aisle and we were served a selection of cheese, fruits and crackers. We felt very spoiled. After dinner we watched some TV and then turned our seats into beds, closed the curtains and had a good nights sleep. The flying time from Chicago to Munich is nine hours. The concept of these "pods" reminds me of the old pullman sleepers on the trains only these are much more elegant and luxurious.
Day 2 - Thursday, May 10, 2012
We awoke to a lovely continental breakfast of a fresh fruit plate, assorted rolls, yogurt, orange juice and coffee/tea. We landed in Munich on time at 10:00 AM local time (3:00 AM Chicago time). After claiming our bags we made our way over to Hertz and retrieved a car. We had made reservations for a Mercedes but found it cramped with all our luggage so they upgraded us to a beautiful BMW. The car is brand new and had only 170 miles on it. It is jet black with bone and wood interior and all the latest creature features. The built in GPS system is phenomenal and soon we were off on the autobahn heading to our first destination ……… Innsbruck, Austria. Innsbruck is a little under two hours by card from Munich and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the ride down. We settled into our hotel, the Tyrolis in the Zirl section of Innsbruck. It is a beautiful hotel in the traditional décor of Tirol. Check out their website at http://www.tyrolis.cc/ We went down to the old city of Innsbruck, known as Alstadt, and explored. A beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 70’s. We stopped for lunch at a wonderful café on the Inn River. The buildings are painted bright colors and we enjoyed watching the locals go about their daily business. After lunch we explored the old city on foot. We drove up into the mountains at had a panoramic view of the city. We returned to the hotel around 6 PM and had an early dinner on the terrace of the hotel restaurant, the Restaurant Maxilmilan. We sampled some of the local specialties which were excellent. Still not totally adjusted to the time change we called it an early evening and slept with the windows wide opened and the cool mountain air and fluffy down comforters made for a sound sleep.
Day 3 - Friday, May 11, 2012
We woke early and had breakfast at the hotel. We left Innsbruck around 8:30 AM and made our way through the Austrian Alps through the Tirol region. We are taking the back roads that wind up and down, over and through the mountains. We crossed in Switzerland at the town of Martina and made our way through the Swiss Alps to St. Moritz where we stopped for lunch and explored this picturesque town. It is anther beautiful, sunny day with temps in the 70’s. After a couple of hours in St. Moritz we continued our journey winding down the Alps. We drove for over an hour going downwards, that’s how high we were. We crossed into Italy making our way through the Italian Alps to Como. Como is a small city right on the banks of Lake Como in a beautiful mountainous section if north central Italy about and hour north of Milan. We checked into the Palace Hotel, a beautiful 19th century hotel on the Lake. http://www.palacehotel.it/en We arrived in Como around 3PM and after checking in were out exploring the town. It is much warmer here with the temperatures in the mid 80’s. There is a beautiful promenade along the lake which is very nice except that a large portion of it is currently under renovation. We took a funiculaire to the top of Mt. Brunate where we had a wonderful dinner at Da Antonio Ristorante on top of the mountain with views overlooking the city and lake of Como. After dinner we took the funiculaire back to town, the views coming down the mountain were awesome. We strolled through Como, visited the cathedral and piazza’s around the town and watched the city come alive for the evening. We made our way back to the hotel around 9 PM.
Day 4 - Saturday, May 12, 2012
Another beautiful day. Dennis slept in and I took an early morning walk through town. I love early morning walks when few people are about. It enables you to get a feel for the area. Returning to the hotel and retrieving Dennis we enjoyed breakfast. Today we are heading down to Nice, on the French Riviera where we are joining some friends and spending a week in a Villa we have rented. We took the autostrada down through Italy. It is a very well maintained highway and the speed limit is 130 to 140 kilometers (81 – 86 miles) per hour. It is a toll highway and expensive to use. The trip down from Como to the French border in Ventimiglia was about $40 US. Gasoline is also very expensive here in Europe with the average prove being 1.70 Euros per liter. 4 liters are a little over 1 US gallon. It cost of 76 Euros to fill the car which is approximately $98.16 US. We crossed into France and moments later were in the small principality of Monaco. We took the coast road from Monaco to Nice (about 10 miles) and found our Villa, located at 22 Route Forestaire du Mt. Boron. Our friends Dick and Alan had already arrived and had wine and cheeses waiting for us. The villa is beautiful and the pictures we had seen when we rented it do not do it justice. It is amazing with the most stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and of Nice. Built in 1905 it is four bedrooms on three levels build on the side of Mt. Boron. Painted in a beautiful shade of yellow with white trim and some aqua highlights it consists of four bedrooms, three baths, a beautiful swimming pool and huge garden filled with exotic plants and orange trees. The house has huge glass French doors that open up unto three different terraces, two of which overlook the Mediterranean and one that overlooks the pool and gardens. The first level which is the mail floor with huge living room, modern “Americanized” kitchen, dining room and two outdoor terraces. The floors are white marble and are stunning. There is a grand marble staircase that goes downstairs to the first lower level which has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. There is a lower level beneath that which has another bedroom and bathroom. Dick and Alan said when they arrived and got the keys from the caretaker they were told Elton John has a home down the road a bit and that a very large castle like building a few feet below our villa is Sean Connery’s home. The weather in Nice continues to be great with temps in the 70’s, humidity free and lovely breezes. I could spent all our time here sitting on the terrace watching the sea. Two other friends form Chicago, William and Stephen arrived around 3:30 and joined us on the terrace. We made a trip to the local supermarket, Carrefours, and stocked up on provisions. The six of us took a walk along a coral rock walkway to the Port of Nice where we had dinner outside at a lovely restaurant, the L’ Espad’ or, featuring Corsican French food. We had a long , leisurely dinner there, lasting about 4 hours. We started with an appetizer course of mussels which were so large and very meaty. Great! Dennis has sea bass for dinner and I had duck. Well prepared. Champagne and aperitif’s flowed and we finished up about 11:30 PM and walked back to the Villa for a nightcap on the terrace looking at the lights of Nice in the distance before bed.
Day 5 - Sunday, May 13, 2012
A beautiful morning. The early riser that I am enabled me to take a long morning stroll into Nice. A Sunday morning it was very quiet with the smell of fresh baked breads coming from the bakeries, people walking their dogs and gradually the town coming to life. Returning to the villa everyone was up and we had breakfast on the terrace. It is a little cloudy today but quite warm and comfortable.
We made our way into town and explored the old city section of Nice. The market place was very active and we climbed up to the top of the Parc de la Colline du Chateau for spectacular views of Nice. We visited the Cascades, a waterfall in the park as well as La tour Bellanda (Bellanda Tower) were, in 1831, Berlioz composed the opening of King Lear. Making our way back to the market place we had lunch in an Italian Café. Being so close to Italy (20 miles) there is a large Italian influence in Nice as well.
We explored Nice on foot and walked along the Promenade des Anglais which is the street along the Mediterranean with the beautiful beaches on one side and shops, restaurants and hotels on the other. The street is dotted with beautiful palm tress and looks very elegant and pristine.
Dennis and I were last in Nice 18 years ago in the summer of 1994. One of our memories from then was going to the Castel, a restaurant right on the beach. We were so happy to find it still there. We repeated what we did 18 years ago and ordered a bottle of wine and sat just a few feet from the water having a great conversation and feeling quite content.
We returned to the villa around five and joined up the our friends. Another couple, Duane and John (also friends of ours from Chicago) joined us for a few days. William and Stephen, who are quite accomplished chef’s, spent the day going to the local markets and preparing a phenomenal meal for dinner, using some spices picked right from the garden at the villa. Before William and Stephen arrived they had spent several days at a chateau in St. Tropez owned by a client of William’s. William is a wine distributor and his client produces the wines. They brought several cases of fine wines and champagnes with them and it flowed all night. We ended the evening after dinner by watching the movie “To Catch A Thief” with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. This movie was filmed in Nice and the French Riviera in 1955 and is when Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco. It was interested seeing Nice in the movie 57 years ago.
Day 6 - Monday, May, 14, 2012
Another glorious morning at the villa. I woke early and had a cup of tea on the terrace before setting out on my morning walk, It is so peaceful and beautiful here. Dennis and I are falling in love with Nice and the environs. It is much different "living" here as a native and getting a feel for the people and the culture as opposed to being a tourist and staying in the tourist area's in hotels. On my walk this morning I met several people walking their dogs and I felt like I fit right in with them. Returning to the villa we had breakfast before leaving with Stephen and WIlliam and walking east along the coast road to the next town of Villefranche. Villefranche is very upscale and quaint. We toured the old city and port areas before meeitng up with Dick, Alan, Duane and John around noon. From Villefranche we all continued walking east to Cap de Ferrat. Cape de Ferrat is a long hilly strip of land that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. It is filled with Villas and Chateau's each one bigger and more elegant then the other. Tina Turner currently lives full time here and the late actor David Niven had a home here which we saw. The main village on Cape de Ferrat is St. Jean Cape de Ferrat and we had a wonderful liunch there at Le Voilier du Cap, a restaurant along the docks of the port, Lunch was outstanding, especially the mussels which we had as appetizers.
After lunch we went to the Villa and Gardens Ephrussia de Rothschilds, an amazing villa and exotic gardens originally owned by the Rothschilds family and now open to the public. It was outstanding. Check out their website at http://www.villa-ephrussi.com/ The home iteslf is a mastepreice but the gardens are priceless. Clasiscal music plays throughout the grounds as you tour the gardens which sit on several acres.
We returned to our villa around 6PM and decided to have a combination American barbecue and French country dinner. We grilled hamburgers and eggplant (known here as aubergine) and had Cassoulet and steamed vegetables. For desert we had French ice cream (known as glace) with fresh strawberries. We had a wonderful evening and were still sitting around the dinner table at midnight when we called it a day.
Day 7 - Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Was up at sunrise and took some beautiful pictures pictures of the villa before my morning walk on Mt. Boron. Today Dennis and I went to Monaco and spent a wonderful day there wandering around town and seeing all the sights. Monaco, a small country surrounded on three sides by France and one side the Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful modern city that is picture perfect. A haven for the rich and famous of the world, Monaco looks like it is a movie set. Everything is immaculate, the people all dressed to the nines and the low end car on the street is a Mercedes. The majority of the cars you see are Rolls Royce, Ferrari’s, Alfa Romeo’s and Porsche interspersed with jaguars and Mercedes. There is no homelessness or poverty in Monaco and all of the fashionable stores are present there. Monaco consists on city and two towns. The city is Monte-Carlo and the towns are Monaco-Ville and Fontville. The major streets are named after the late members of the Monaco Royal Family, the most major and beautiful street after Princess Grace. Monaco is about 12 miles east of Nice and about 5 miles west of the Italian border. We did some shopping in Monte-Carlo and visited the famed Casino that is there. The city is setting up for the Grand Prix of Monaco which is next week and seating is being erected along the main streets.
The town of Monaco-Ville is located on a plateau overlooking the sea and Monte-Carlo. We walked up enjoying the splendid scenery. In Monaco-Ville we visited the Royal Palace where Prince Albert is now reigning monarch. We had a lovely lunch in Monaco-Ville. The weather again to day is perfect……70 degrees, crystal clear and sunny.
We headed back to Nice around 5 PM and we met up with “our gang” at Lido Beach at 6PM where we had cocktails on the beach at the Lido Plage Lounge. Sitting right on the beach we toasted John, who today is celebrating his 49th birthday and to Alan and Dick who this year are celebrating their 41st Anniversary.
After cocktails on the beach we went for dinner at a truffle restaurant the Terres de Truffes for a phenomenal meal. They have two locations in France, one in Paris and one in Nice. Check out their website. The food was excellent.
After dinner it was eleven o’clock we strolled back to the villa for a nightcap before bed.
Day 8 - Wednesday, May 16, 2012
An exciting day. After breakfast Dennis and I drove west along the coast to Cannes (about 25 miles from Nice) Today is the start of the Cannes Film Festival. This is the 65th anniversary of the film festival and a very important event for Cannes. The entire waterfront area of Cannes is set up for the festival with each country having their own pavilion to showcase their films. Actors and actresses from all countries are there promoting films and talking with film distributors and backers. Since they are set up along the waterfront and harbor there are many huge yachts, representing different film companies, one yacht more elegant ad beautiful the the other. Dennis and I were interviewed by a reporter from the German television network ARD who asked where we were from sand filmed us walking . I have no idea what it was about but perhaps we will be on German morning TV. We were searching for the Today Show set but they were not present yet.
We had pizza for lunch at the Caffe Roma, a charming sidewalk café across from the festival hall. After lunch we explored Cannes on foot, climbing to the top of a large hill for a wonderful panoramic view of the city. We toured the old section of town and walked the entire waterfront promenade to Palm Beach where we sat in a beachfront restaurant and had some wine.
When we walked back into town it was 5 PM and the festivities were beginning. The paparazzi where in full force as people from all walks in the film industry arrived on the red carpet for tonight’s festivities. We saw Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Pattinson arrive as well as many French performers who the paparazzi went wild after. It was very exciting being caught up in it all.
We got back to the Villa around 9PM just in time for dinner. William, Stephen and John had gone to the fresh market in Nice where everyday farmers, fisherman and bakers bring their goods to sell. They had prepared a wonderful dinner of homemade vichyssoise, mini ricotta stuffed ravioli in a light butter and herb sauce, baked fish with capers and lemon butter and white asparagus. Magnifique!
A wonderful way to end a wonderful day
Day 9 - Thursday, May 17, 2012
Today we set out to explore the old perched city of Peillon and it’s environs. A perched city sits atop a mountain (hence the term perched) and is a walled compound. The city of Peillon was founded and built in the 12th century. The walled compounds of these cities served as protection from invading armies and pirates. So today Dennis and I and Dick and Alan in our car, and Duane and John and William and Stephen in their car drove up into the Maritime-Alps, north of Nice and visited Peillon. Words cannot describe the visual of the city, looking much like a castle, as you approach it from afar so I will rely on the pictures for you to see for yourselves. It is still inhabited and the homes, have been modernized and it is quite beautiful. We explored the city and its beautiful panoramic views before taking a two hour hike in the French Alps which too was breathtaking. All the wild flowers growing on the path added to the beauty of the blue sky and green covered mountains. After our hike we had a delicious lunch at Auberge de la Madone. The only restaurant and hotel in Peillon it is very dramatic . The menu was excellent and the chef came over and spoke to us (between his English and Stephen’s French we had a great conversation.) The meal was amazing; an amous bouche of crostini with olive tapenade and three courses consisting of asparagus soup with cappuccino cream froth; roasted guinea fowl with whipped polenta, foies gras and current compote; strawberry terra misu. A strawberry wine accompanied the soup course and a white wine the main course. Check out the website for Auberge de la Madone at http://www.auberge-madone-peillon.com/
After our two hour lunch overlooking Peillon we drove through the alps and stopped briefly to walk through the town of Sospel, a quaint town in the alps on the Italian border. We could not resist stopping at a local patisserie (bakery) and getting some tarte citron meringue (lemon meringue tarts).
We returned to the Villa around 6PM, I took a swim in the pool and then we all had cocktails on the terrace watching the Mediterranean watching the cruise ships leave port. Not extremely hungry tonight we sent out pizza, watched the movie, “Bell, Book and Candle” and retired around 11PM.
Day 10 – Friday, May 18, 2012
A little bit overcast and rainy this morning this morning so we slept in and were lazy. Duane and John went to Monaco for the day, William and Stephen went shopping in Nice, Dick and Alan had errands to do so Dennis and I stayed at the villa and spent quite an enjoyable morning doing nothing. We had lunch on the east terrace and afterwards the rain had stopped and we took a hike on Mt. Boron. The villa is on Mt. Boron and we hiked to the top to an old fort, Fort Montalban with picturesque views of Villafranche and Cap Farret to the east and Nice to the west, the Maritime-Alps to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. We hiked al around the mountain where wild flowers were growing in abundance. The red poppies were beautiful. Hine at the villa around 5:30 we started to pack as tomorrow we leave Nice.
This evening the eight of us went into Villenfranche for dinner at La Mere Germaine, a wonderful restaurant on the waterfront where we were treated like royalty. We were greeted by Jerome, the grandson of the founder of the restaurant, his grandmother, Germaine. She founded it in 1938 and his father succeeded her and he his father. It is touted the best restaurant in Villefranche and the food certainly lived up to our expectations. We had a wonderful dinner (is there ever any bad food in France????). Check out the restaurants web site WEBSITE. After dinner we walked back to the villa and had a nightcap on the west terrace which commands the most beautiful view of the lights of Nice at night.
Day 11 – Saturday, May 19, 2012
We woke early, said our goodbyes and were on the road at 8:00 AM. Duane and John are heading to Paris for a week, Dick and Alan are spending a week in Monaco and William and Stephen are heading back to Chicago. Today we are heading to Interlaken, Switzerland. We took the longer, off the beaten path roads through France driving through many little towns and villages through the Maritime-Alps. We stopped for coffee and freshly baked croissants (to die for) and also picked up some local cheeses, baguettes, fruits, pastries, wine and sparkling water for a picnic. The drive was spectacular and around noon we were driving through the Rhoen Alps where we found a secluded picnic spot along a little river high in the alps near Lus la Croix Haute, France. We spent an hour lunching and communing with nature. So peaceful all you could hear was the rushing of the river which was flowing pretty quickly downstream. As much as we hated to leave, we needed to press on and we continued on the back roads until Grenoble, France where we joined the super highway and were speeding along at 130 KPH. We crossed the border into Switzerland and made our way to Interlaken, a beautiful city in the mountains situated between two lakes. If you think of an elongated figure 8 and each circle of the 8 being a long lake and the center of the eight would be the city of Interlaken. We checked into the Hotel Neuhaus located right on Lake Thunersee. Our room is beautiful with a nice balcony overlooking the lake and mountains. After settling in we went out for a stroll around the lake and then had dinner in the hotel restaurant sitting at the waters edge while we dined. We had a quiet evening, catching up on e-mail and watching CNN to catch up on news. CNN and BBC are the only two English speaking channels on their cable and BBC was having a show on paper mache.
Day 12 – Sunday, May 20, 2012
A brisk morning walk started out another beautiful day in the Swiss Alps before returning to the hotel for breakfast. A bit too cool to sit outdoors we ate inside. The temperature this morning was in the high fifites although by mid morning had warmed to the mid seventies. The center of town of Interlaken is about 5 kilometers away. There is a very nice boat that traverses the like picking up passengers along the way and ending in Interlaken. They are quite nice, large, with a restaurant (some of the people are coming from two hours away) Dennis and I took the boat, right form the hotel dock, for the 20 minute ride to town. Lake Thunersee is so smooth….traveling on it was like skating on ice. The views were awesome and it made for a beautiful Sunday morning. Arriving in Interlaken we explored the city on foot and made our way to the Interlaken Bahnhof Ost (east train station) where we boarded our Swiss Rail train to the alpine village of Grindlewald in the alps. The train, quite modern and comfortable, took 40 minutes to complete the journey, climbing high into the mountains with breathtaking views. We explored Grindelwald on foot, checking out the numerous shops and spectacular views before boarding a aerial tram to go even higher up in the Alps to the top of Pfingstegg, a large mountain overlooking Grindelwald and the valley. On top of Pfingstegg is a very lovely restaurant with a deck built out over the mountain. We got a table right at the edge and could see for miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers) . We had a very nice, Swiss German lunch of Schwein Schnitzel , bratwurst german potatoes and some red wine while taking in the view. A walk around the summit of Pfingstegg followed lunch. We found a bench and sat at starred out over the beauty in front of us. We took the tram back to Grindelwald where we caught the train back to Interlaken. Back in Interlaken we went to the old city and explored that. We found a park where a wonderful band was playing American and French music and sat in the garden of the park amongst the moat beautiful array of flowers. We returned back to the hotel around 6:30 and sat on the balcony watching the boats and sun set. We had such a large lunch that we just finished some of the fruit and cheese from our picnic yesterday.
Day 13 – Monday, May 21, 2012
We had breakfast at the Hotel Neuhaus this morning before embarking on our trek across the Alps on some beautiful winding roads to the small Principality of Liechtenstein and the capital city of Vaduz. Liechtenstein, much like Monaco, is a small wealthy little country that is in the western part of Switzerland. A principality the current reigning monarchs are Prince Hans-Adam II and his wife Princes Marie. The capital, Vaduz, is a small city with quaint shops and restaurants. The royal palace sits high on a small mountain overlooking the city. We drive up to the palace, an old castle, with commanding views of the entire country and of surrounding Switzerland. All the building and houses look like they came out of a storybook.
After lunch we proceeded an addition 50 kilometers to Bregenz, Austria and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Ibis Bregenz. Bregenz is a beautiful little city on the extreme western tip of Austria. Bordered by Germany on the north and Switzerland on the south the western edge of the city sits on the eastern edge of Lake Konstanz known as the Bodensee. The city is beautiful and we walked along the Bodensee to the Festspiele Bregenzer, an out door amphitheater used for shows and operas. They were setting up for the opera, “Andre Chenier’ season begins in July and it was surreal. Only pictures can show the magnitude of what they created.
Check out their website.
Along the waterfront is a traditional Austrian Restaurant called the Wirtzhaus Am See, a delightful little place. We stopped there and did, what has become tradition on this trip, shared a bottle of a local wine while enjoying the peace and tranquility of the sea.
We explored Bregenz afterwards and took a long walk (about 5 miles) along the sea front to the town of Lochau-Hobran, right on the German border. All of a sudden a thunderstorm came over the mountains and the skies opened up with a torrential rain. We were very fortunate as we were right in front of a hotel where we took refuge and as luck would have it the hotel, Die See Hotel, was across the street from a train station and we were able to catch the train back to Bregenz. The clerk at the hotel checked the schedule and found a train would be there in 10 minutes. Like the train in Switzerland, the Austrian trains are beautiful comfortable and very efficient. The schedule said the train would arrive at 6:04PM and at 6:03 and 30 seconds, it pulled into the station. What took an hour to walk took 5 minutes to get back. The rain had let up when we got off at the Bregenz station which was close to the Wirtshaus Am See Restaurant where we had our wine earlier. We had enjoyed the ambience of the place so much that we returned there for dinner and had a very good meal. Check out their website http://www.wirtshausamsee.at/
We returned to our hotel after dinner as it had started to rain again and spent the evening updating this blog and out website.
Day 14 – Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Hard to believe we have been traveling for two weeks. It is going by so fast but we are having a wonderful and memorable time. We left our hotel in Bregenz after breakfast this morning and drove north into Germany and the town of Fussen in Bavaria. From there we proceeded on the Romantiche Strasse (Romantic Road) a highway that winds through Bavaria passing quaint German towns and villages as well as castles nestled in the Bavarian Alps. We visited two castles on our travels today; Neuschwanstein and Hoehenschwangau. Both were beautiful and each unique. Neuschwanstein built by King Ludwig in 1866 and completed in 1886. He lived there for 172 days before he died at the age of 41. He was very friendly with Richard Wagner, the composer and it is rumored that he and Wagner had a relationship with one another. It was this castle that inspired Walt Disney to create Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland and Disney World. Unfortunately some of the west side of the castle is covered in scaffolding for a resotration project but we were still afforded great views of it form the east side. Check out the website for the castles:
After castle hopping we had lunch in the village of bratwurst and sauerkraut (the best sauerkraut I have tasted) and German Pretzels. We then continued up the Romantic Highway towards Augsburg catching the autobahn to Munich where we checked into the Munich Marriott in the Schwabing district of town. Schwabing is the trendy, upscale, yuppie place to live and work in Munich. It is very much a cross between the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park in Chicago. After settling in we went out to explore the area on foot. There are beautiful shops, department store, café’s, restaurants all along the street and we even saw our first Starbucks in Europe there. We went shopping in Karstadt’s, a Macy’s like department store and could not resist buying some clothes. We had a light dinner at the Café Monaco and got back to the hotel around eight. The hotel has a beautiful fitness room and spa and I spent some time down there this evening. Tired, we retired early around 10.
Day 15 – Wednesday, May 23, 2012
After an early morning workout in the hotel fitness center we had room service for breakfast after which we set out to explore Munich on this gorgeous sunny 75 degree day. We talk a long walk through the Englischer Garten, a huge park similar in size to Central Park in New York City. It was so peaceful and serene with sheep and goats roaming freely as well as people and children enjoying the park. In addition at the large lake there were swans, ducks and some species of water foul that we had never seen before. There are several Bier Gartens (Beer Gardens) and Hofbrau Houses in the park and we stopped at one and had a wonderful lunch or weisswurst, bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad and huge pretzels. It was excellent and we sat at an outdoor table and thoroughly enjoyed it.
After lunch we continued our exploration of Munich. Munich is the provincial capital of Bavaria. We visited their government buiding an the Bavarian Capital. We strolled the streets of the city, its quaint shops and large department stores. Now buildings in the downtown area are taller then 6 stories with the exception of churches and palaces and the town hall. We made our way to the Marienplatz, a large plaza where the gothic structure of City Hall sits. It is here that the Glockenspiel is. The Glockenspiel is a large cock tower above the city hall with larger then life sized figures that dance as perform as the clock strikes the hour. Quite a sight and a must to see when in Munich.
We walked back to the Marriott along the beautiful tree lined Leopoldstrasse up through the Schwabing district. Back at the hotel at 5 we took a swim, freshened up and this evening went out for Indian food at Shere Punjab. The city lights at night are beautiful with musicians on the street playing all types of music, from classical to modern. A great day!
Day 16 – Thursday, May 24, 2012
We navigated the Munich subway system today and found it to be modern, immaculate, efficient and so smooth you would not think you were moving. Each station is different and each one more beautiful then the other. A work of art. Rahm Emanuel take note we need this in Chicago!!!!!! It is an honor system. You buy a ticket for 2.50 Euro’s (about $3.30 US) and you time stamp your ticket when you enter the system. Occasionally you will be asked by a train employee to see your ticket. The ticket is good on all trains, buses and trams for 2 hours once time stamped. Quite impressive. The interior of the cars are teak wood and teak seating. Some of the seats are covered in plush fabric. No graffiti, no noise, no shoving, no pushing…..Wow! We took the subway out to Nymphenburg Palace and the Munich Botanical Gardens where we spent a wonderful day. The palace is immense and the grounds beautifully maintained. Check out their website:
We walked the entire grounds. Swans swim and roam freely and I even got up close to one. Everything is kept immaculate. The fountains were so clean you could drink the water from them. The Botaniche Garten (Botanic Garden) is adjacent to the palace and we visited there as well. The rhododendrons were in full bloom and the array of colors was breathtaking. We had lunch on the terrace of the restaurant at the Botanische Garten’s with a splendid view of the grounds and a great German meal. We toured the hothouses after lunch. The flowers and cactus were awesome.
The grounds of the Botanic Garden’s are enormous and full of many exotic flowers and plants (both local and international) Check out their website:
We walked back from Schloss Nymphenburg to Munich, about 4 miles. We love roaming foreign cities and looking at it from a native’s standpoint. No one seems to rush here, everyone civil, everything clean….almost unreal!
In downtown Munich we went to the Bayersicher Hof Hotel. This is a very grand hotel, one of the finest in Munich, and they have a rooftop garden and bar. We went up there (8th floor but for the old city of Munich this is tall. The taller buildings are in another part of town) and the views were spectacular. We took it all in while enjoying some prosecco at the Blu Spa Lounge.
We had dinner in a traditional German restaurant tonight, the Stengel Hof . Charming! Another great day.
Day 17 – Friday, May 25, 2012
Although everyday on this vacation has been spectacular, today was one of my favorites. We got an early start, leaving the hotel at 7:30 AM. Soon we were whizzing down the autobahn at 130 kilometers an hours, the German national speed limit. (about 81 miles per hour), listening to classical music and taking in the beautiful scenery. We are making a day trip down to Salzburg, Austria a beautiful city and the basis of the movie, The Sound of Music. We were there by nine o’clock and parking the car in a garage we took the city by storm. We stopped first at a little café by the Sacher Hotel and had cappuccino and a sacher-torte. Heavenly….fortunately we are doing a lot of walking and getting a lot of exercise on this trip or we would be gaining weight big time. We made our way across the Salzach River to the old city of Salzburg and visited the market place, the Horse Fountain, Festival Hall and the Cathedral. We made our way up the mountain to Nonnberg Abbey, the abbey used in the Sound Of Music. The exterior shots were filmed here and, being a SOM fan, I recognized where several of the scenes with Julie Andrews leaving the abbey were shot. We went into the church there and saw the cloister area and the area where the Von Trapp’s hid at the end of the movie. However the interior scenes of the abbey were recreated on a Hollywood sound stage…but are very recognizable. We continued making our way up the mountain to the top to the Hohensalzburg Castle. A fortress actually it was started in the 11th century and continued expanding well into the 1600’s. Check out their website:
We toured the fortress and were able to climb to the very top of it to an outdoor viewing platform for the most spectacular panoramic views of the city.
We had a wonderful lunch on the terrace of a lovely restaurant overlooking the city. We both had salmon and it was excellent. The sky is so blue today and while we were dining the clock struck 3 PM and the hills did become alive with the Sound of Music as all the church bells rang…..the echo’s off the mountain made it surreal. We felt like Von Trapp’s!! Salzburg is a city of many churches and all of them have bell towers. It was a first rate carillon concert.
We made our way down the mountain and back to the old city. We picked up our car at the garage and made our way out of the downtown area to the suburb of Leopoldskron to the Schloss Leopoldskron (Leopoldskron Castle) This was the house where Captain Von Trapp and the children lived in (in the Sound of Music). It is a private residence and not opened to the public but sits on a lake. The lake is a park and you can walk around it, which we did, for some spectacular views of the house where the boat scene was filmed. Breathtaking!
Today just went so fast. We left Salzburg around 6:30 headed back on the autobahn to Munich. We found a wonderful radio station with native Austrian music and enjoyed it immensely on the way back. We were back at the hotel at nine, had a light caprese salad for dinner and turned in early.
Day 18 – Saturday, May 26, 2012
Our last full day of our vacation. Dennis slept in and I paid an early morning visit to the Spa here are the Marriott for some pampering. Great J J!!!!!
We went out for a stroll followed by a late breakfast. We had a good laugh on our walk as we ran into a little German boy of about 7 years of age. He said Hi! I answered Hello and he proceeded to speak to me in German. I replied to him “No sprechen Deutsch, I sprechen English”. He replied to me “This is Deutchland we say Nein not No.” Hilarious.
We visited the Olympic Park site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. This is their 40th Anniversary. Time goes so fast. I remember those Olympics well. It was when Mark Spitz won for the US and also the tragedy of the Olympians who were massacred.
We had lunch in a bier garten, the Olympia Alm, on a hill overlooking the Olympic Park. It was wonderful! I am getting too used to this! We roamed the streets of Munich visiting the Propylaen and headed down through Karls Platz to Sendlinger Tors where we stopped for a drink at Kennedy’s , an American Sports Bar. We sat outside right by the Sendlinger Tor (old city gate) but the inside looked just like any Ameircan Sports Bar with several wide plasma TV with sports games (soccer) on. Felt like home! We headed back up to Schwabing and did some more shopping in Karstadts before heading back to the hotel around 7PM where, unfortunately, we had to start packing and getting ready to go home tomorrow.
Day 19 – Sunday, May 27, 2012
Well our journey has come to an end. Today we fly home to Chicago to begin yet another chapter in our lives and to plan our next trip.
We were up early this morning to finish packing and then exercise and a walk. We checked out of the Marriott and drove to Munich Franz Joseph Strauss International Airport, said goodbye to Rolf, our loyal BMW with the best navigation system and checked in for our United Airlines Flight # 907 to Chicago.
It was a great flight back, we ate our way across the Atlantic and watched TV and movies as well as played interactive games on the planes entertainment system. We left Munich at 12:35 PM (5:35 AM Chicago time) and eight hours and forty five minutes later we arrived Chicago O’Hare (45 minutes early). Clearing customs we jumped in a cab and where home at the Hancock by 3:45 PM….. the end of a great trip.