Our first stop was in Frederick, MD for overnight and a quick stop at Monacacy Battlefield (Civil War) and Francis Scott Key’s burial site. It was a quick 130 miles to Cumberland, MD and a visit with mom for her birthday. Just by dumb luck, Susan’s high school class had a 65th birthday party that weekend so I managed to catch up with a few old friends.
We’ve been back in Fort Collins for about a month now and are getting ready for Christmas. Since we’ve been back, we’ve heard that some people missed the link to our stories about breweries and beer. I’m writing this post with a link to the beer page. Check it out! It might inspire you to visit a new brewery or just enjoy a Christmas beer for the season.
Visits to breweries along the way … Read all about them.
We rented a car for our expedition to Margaret River from Fremantle. Mark drove and it didn’t take him long to remember that the turn signal is on the right side of the column! He only turned on the windshield wipers once or twice. BTW … European cars don’t reverse the controls on the columns in Australia but Japanese cars do.
Stopped at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and then drove the back roads to Margaret River past all the wineries.
In Margaret River we needed to do the laundry and went off to find the laundromat. When we realized we needed the correct change for the washer and dryer, Mark asked at a bank if she would give us 10 $1 coins. “Are you a customer?” Mark said “No.” and she replied that she could only give change to customers. Really??? Mark left without comment and went to Liquorland next door where the lovely clerk, Mel, gave him change and told us where to find some good beer – Settlers Tavern up the street.
We booked a wine and food tour with Harvest Tours because no one wanted to be responsible for driving after wine tasting. The tour was fun … coffee tasting, wine tasting, lunch and wine tasting at Brookland Valley Winery, chocolate tasting, cheese, olive oil, soap (no tasting), and finished off with a Brewery stop at BeerFarm.
The BeerFarm is a brewery in an old barn with a milking shed. They built a water slide into a lake but after an adult broke his arm, the council forbid adults and only allow children on the water slide – Don’t ask!
Before driving back to Perth the next day, we headed south to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse – the southwestern most point in Australia where the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean meet. It’s a good whale watching spot but not in March.
We wandered our way through the NP and ended up at Surfer’s Point, another great viewing spot.
Lucca was a great place to hang out for a week – walled city, quiet or as a quiet as an Italian city can be. Very few cars have permits to drive within the walls so most of the “traffic” problems occur when walking in narrow streets with pedestrians, bicyclists, dog walkers with small and large dogs, baby strollers, delivery trucks and the occasional car. We saw one Belgian car driving down the main shopping street. The passenger looked terrified, chewing on her hands. We’re not sure whether they were supposed to be on that street but the Italians just went with the flow, getting out of their way.
The weekend before we got to Lucca, the Rolling Stones performed outside of the walls in one of the open areas. We were told the city was crazy with 60000 people and all the hotels and restaurants were completely sold out. One lady told us that Lucca negotiated for 2 years to get the Rolling Stones to perform there.
The walls are not what we think of when we say walls. These are very wide – wide enough for cyclists, walkers, runners, a park or two, benches, picnic tables. The Italian life in Lucca seems to swirl around and on the walls.
We rented an apartment via AirBnB in Lucca and it was on the ground floor. It is ALSO across the tiny little street from a Bicycle Rental shop that, unknown to us, rents tandem bikes as well as regular bikes. This part of the city is pedestrian except for bicycles and cars and trucks with special stickers. You can imagine the chaos at times – people, baby carriages, bikes, tiny cars, delivery trucks, store displays, you get the idea.
I have the front window open while I work on the blog and we heard a crash of metal and 2 girls laughing. They had American voices and talked to the bike store lady. Turns out they’d rented a tandem bike and were trying to ride it. The shop worker gave them a few pointers and off they went again only to return in about one minute and tell the shop owner “We give up on the tandem bike. We can’t ride with all these people around . There are too many lives at stake!”
One day 14 of us took the S-bahn to Herrshing and then walked about 4 miles up to Andechs Monastery for lunch and an Andechs beer. The monks make the beer – pils or dunkel – and they’ve added a schnapps-making business.
We’ve been there a few times so we know there are 2 different paths to take up (about 1 hour walk) or you can take the city bus #951 that leaves from the train station in Herrsching 2 times an hour and take 10 minutes. Eleven in the group walked while the other three with colds took the bus. Naturally, Mark and I picked the hardest route up (We can never remember from year to year whether to go left or right at the sign!) but we had a nice walk up and then we came down the other path. The walk up does involve 2 very long flights of steps – about 60 in each flight. We missed the rain and had beer and good food as a reward for our hard work.
Getting to Frankfurt was no problem from Dulles but when we tried to go to Heidelberg on the Lufthansa Express Bus Shuttle, it was a whole other story – best described as an “Amazing Race” kind of day. As a preface to the story, we each had 2 suitcases with us – one hard-sided and one rolling duffel bag that we need for the safari and we wanted to go to Heidelberg to leave the duffel bags with friends until it’s time to fly to Tanzania. Oh, it was POURING down rain in Frankfurt when we landed.
We booked the Lufthansa Heidelberg shuttle in August sometime so we wouldn’t have to manhandle 2 suitcases on the train with a change needed in Mannheim. We knew exactly where the stop was the last time we did this about 6 weeks ago and we lugged our suitcases up 2 escalators or elevators and across from Arrivals to the train station to the stop. Alas … a sign was posted that the shuttle pickup location (Wrong location #1) was changed as of September 1 to “P29 by the vending machine” but with no hint as to where P29 could possibly be located in the Frankfurt airport.
We knew the “P” probably indicated a PARKING location so the hunt began! We asked a Lufthansa employee by the Lufthansa Shuttle desk and she sent us to the bus lot, involving another trek and an elevator ride. Not there! (Wrong location #2) We asked a Lufthansa bus driver there for help and his answer was “I get asked all the time and I have no idea.” Back up the elevator and, now, we see a Frankfurt Airport Information phone that Mark picks up and promptly hands to Susan. After 5 minutes with the Information lady (She tried to send me to wrong locations 1 and 2 and I had to convince her I just needed to know where P29 is.), I finally got a good answer – Go to Arrivals Hall, exit the building, turn left and walk to the end of the building.
Before we manhandled the suitcases on two more escalators, Susan went exploring and found the location, we hoped, went back to Mark and we took our bags to P29. Now there are 2 vending machines to choose from, no signage for Lufthansa Shuttle although there is signage for other shuttles and we had 45 minutes to wait to see if we really found the correct location. I called the Lufthansa Shuttle number and the guy who answered sounded like he knew what he was talking about and convinced me we are in the right location. Grabbed sandwiches while we waited and, sure enough, the Heidelberg Lufthansa Shuttle showed up at the closest vending machine that had no cover from the rain. Yes, it’s still pouring down rain.
The driver was from York, England, and explained the whole mess with shuttle locations. We were the only passengers and he was kind enough to drop us at our Ibis hotel when we got to Heidelberg. Success at last but I now know how the Amazing Race players feel because we had NO idea – and neither did anyone else – where P29 is.
After we made it to Heidelberg, we were in need of a shower, nap, food, and a beer in that order. The room wasn’t ready so we settled for food and beer and THEN a nap and a shower, a few hours later.
I’m on the hunt for 1 million miles on United Airlines after joining their Frequent Flyer Club when it first started in about 1981. Mark already has 1 million miles so I can be his designated Premier Gold partner but it’s the principle of the matter. I want my own Million Mile designation!
I made up a spreadsheet with Excel and with only 47,00 miles to go as of January 25, I’ve searched high and low for flights with the most miles/dollar. Since I don’t really want to spend my life on planes, I’m searching for long flights. Last year I went to Hong Kong from Denver but routed myself through Newark to get about 1500 extra miles for the same price. So far this year, I’ve found Denver to Tokyo to Bangkok to accrue miles and I did that trip in January. (The miles have to be “butt in seat” on a United plane so only the DEN-SFO-NRT miles count.)
Time to head off to Bruges, Belgium (one of our favorite places) before we head back to Amsterdam to fly home on New Year’s Eve. Berlin Tegel is quite easy to get to from center city – hop on the TXL bus and in about 20 minutes you are at the old and dingy airport. We can’t figure out when the check-in desks open but the U.S. idea of checking in 2 hours before departure doesn’t exist here! Security is right at the gate because the airport is so old it has no place to do a central security. Everyone on the flight uses ONE security line and the line does not move quickly – take off coat, put phone, computer, Kindle, belt, in the bin. New airplane rule on Brussels Air … exit row cannot have anything under the seat in front of it.
After landing, we took the train to Brussels Midi and then to Bruges where we stayed at the IBIS. Standard IBIS – small room, clean bathroom, excellent breakfast. The ongoing mystery for us is why European bathtubs with showers are so deep. People with short legs have great difficulty getting out of the tub after a shower!
Belgium and Bruges are known for beer and chocolate and that’s what this stay was about – visit to Halve Moon Brewery for a beer and Bourgogne de Flandres brewery to do the tour – self-guided with a map to hunt down the moles in the brewery. Mark had a lovely chat with the brewer who’s working on a degree in brewing even although he has a degree in microbiology already. The Bourgogne de Flandres house beer is brown mixed with lambic and that makes a pretty nice sour beer for me. We also stopped at Trappist Beer Cellar (great selection of Belgium beers and knowledgeable staff) and Bieratelier Bruges -on Wijngaardstraat 13. Bieratelier is a tiny bar with 7 beers on tap, 6 of which are Christmas beers. We tried 4 of them. It’s a fun bar and the bartender is always helpful.
We had to buy some Neuhaus chocolate for a variety of people and make a stop at our favorite little chocolate shop in Philipstraat. We found this one in 1990 on our first visit to Bruges and have returned ever since.
One night dinner was at Malesherbes on Stoofstraat and you’ll need a good map to find this. Maleherbes was yummy and our splurge – champagne, pigeon pate with a side of duck foie gras, lamb filet that was rare and tender served with potatoes and ratatouille. Finally, we had chocolate mousse for dessert. This was a typical French meal – 3 hours. The manager told us they only do one seating at dinner so no one has to feel rushed. (more…)
We took the roundabout way to get to Berlin from Denver. Leg #1 – We flew to Atlanta, rented a car and – Leg#2 – drove to Auburn for 4 days for a nephew’s wedding. Driving on I86 is not much fun on a Friday afternoon and by the time we got to Auburn we thought a beer would taste pretty good, but when we asked our waitress at dinner what kind of beer they have on tap, the answer was “we don’t serve alcohol”.
While we were in Auburn, Mark and I went for a tour of the university – checked out the stadium with sculptures of their Heisman winners, the book store and the student center where we were one of the few customers of the Starbucks! We drove around a bunch of Auburn, the town, spent time with friends and family, and got the nephew and his bride married!
Leg #3 started on Sunday afternoon – another drive on I86 back to the Atlanta airport where, by the way, there is no gas station anywhere near the rental car return location!
Leg #4 – the flight to Washington Dulles was delayed several times thanks to all the ice all over the country, slow luggage loading and the air start machine to start the compressor that didn’t work – the hose kept popping off. We ended up leaving 3 hours late and arrived in IAD about midnight, took the shuttle to the Hyatt and went to bed.
Leg #5 was DC to Amsterdam and this one went remarkably well except for United moving Mark without asking to a different aisle seat. We both ended up changing seats – Mark because United moved him to accommodate a mom and son and then I changed with her husband so I could avoid sitting next to the children. Why did we fly to Amsterdam? Cheap tickets! I found this one for about $470 RT each and that was too good to pass up.
We saw the news about the truck crashing into the Christmas market in Berlin so everyone was sending emails checking with where we are.
The sun was actually up by the time we got to the Amsterdam Centraal station and found the hotel – IBIS Styles at Centraal Station. The only room open at 8 AM was in the basement but has a big bathroom! Had a nap and shower and walk and a pancake with ham and cheese for lunch before Mark started on some work meetings.
Dinner at the Kantjil & de Tijger (Indonesian food) – The food was good but the service was spotty.
Leg #6 the next day – Amsterdam to Berlin by train. We had the 2 window seats in a 6-person compartment in 1st class. While we waited for the train to leave, we could hear a cat meowing in the next compartment. It turned out to be 2 Siamese cats and, when the owner let them out of the kitty carrier, they were happy and quiet. They proceeded to lay on the seat by the guy and just check out the world. Eventually, they fell asleep curled up together.
We have a VRBO apartment on Plankstrasse near Friedrichstrasse Station (more…)