European Vacation: Part 2


In the last article my brother and I started our adventure off in Amsterdam.  In Part 2 of our three part European Vacation adventure, we move on to Paris, the City of Light and lots of dog poop on the ground.  We stayed in a hotel between Paris proper and the Disney parks.

While this was cheaper, it meant a lot more time on the metro system. This was good experience for me though, as I hadn’t spent any real time on subways before, and this is definitely a skill one needs when traveling around the world.

by Benh LIEUSONG via WikiMedia Commons

As with Amsterdam, we hit the normal tourist trail with stops at the Louvre (where we confirmed that neither of us were really that into art), the Eiffel Tower (which my brother decided he didn’t want to go up in, and instead sat down at the bottom reading his book) and Napoleon’s tomb (which was a highlight for me, having been fascinated with him most of my life). And of course, we visited Disneyland Paris, which was both similar and quite different from its American cousins.

The Eiffel Tower at night, with the lights of a merry go round in the foreground.

There are a few things I really remember about our Paris stop. First, we were on a budget, which meant we ate lots of French bread, bottled water (including Evian, which was very cheap compared to US prices), and other snack type foods we could buy in the grocery stores.

We also debated whether to attend a football (soccer) match in one of the nearby stadiums, as there was a tournament taking place and we had become wannabe soccer fans over the past few years by playing the FIFA videogame. We ended up not going to the match, but did watch it on the television in our hotel room, where we witnessed one of the players collapse on the field and die. It was quite shocking, and put the football world in a state of mourning for a while.

Another surprising (though nowhere near as tragic) thing we noticed was the amount of Justin Timberlake, Nellie, and Justin Timberlake with Nellie we heard just about everywhere we went. It was 2003, so I guess it was around the apex of their musical careers, but it was still surprising to hear it so regularly.

Our trip to Stuttgart was a quick one, but it was nice to meet up with Tolga, whose family had immigrated to Germany from Turkey before he was born. We saw a different side of Germany by hanging out with him.

“Schinner Ausleger” by Benreis at wikivoyage shared. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

The life of an immigrant family is never an easy one, and one of the funniest things I think I have ever heard was when we were sitting in a bar with him and there was a group of loud Italian guys across the bar that Tolga looked at and then said to us “damn Italians coming in here, stealing our jobs…” Something that I am sure other Germans said about his family decades before, and it made me think about all of the various immigrant groups that came into the US through the years who quickly became the next target for xenophobic wrath, creating ethnic ghettos that are now tourism spots in our country, such as Little Italy and China Town in New York City.

Finally we were on our way to Munich, and the original reason for the trip. We picked up our rental car at the train station in Munich and made our way down to the town of Murnau to the south of the city. This was my first experience driving outside of the U.S., and I was excited to get onto the world famous autobahn and drive without speed limits!

by Church of emaes via WikiMedia Commons

Then I saw that there were speed limits for parts of the highway, and not for others. This was quite confusing, as people seemed to go as fast as they could for a few kilometers and then quickly slow down for a few kilometers, and then start all over again, depending on what the road signs said.

This is also where I found out that I am definitely not a speed demon, as our little Citroen car did get close to 100 miles per hour, but began to shake and I became quite nervous. It also didn’t help that people were flying past us in much more expensive and powerful cars, making me appreciate the areas where there were speed limits.

After finding the resort (the Alpenhof Murnau), we parked the car, grabbed our bags, and walked up to the front door. This is when I first realized that we were both in scruffy looking cut off shorts, t-shirts, backpacks, and looking like we had been traveling around Europe for a week on the Lonely Planet “Europe on a shoe string budget” tour. I only mention this because as we approached the front door I noticed a sign showing this was a 5 star resort.

Then we went inside and the feeling of not really belonging intensified. It was a beautiful hotel, and we were given a welcome aperitif (a first for both of us) and then taken to our split level hotel room, which might not have been one of their suites, but it was probably the nicest hotel room I had ever been in up to that point in my life. I then was hit with another dose of reality…There were welcome cards and other things all addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Allen. They still thought this was a romantic getaway that someone had purchased on a website called Luxury Link. We definitely did not meet the hotel staff’s expectations!

by Smial via WikiMedia Commons

The package included a daily buffet breakfast (which was very nice), one dinner in their “regular” restaurant (which was nicer than almost any restaurant we had ever gone to before) and another multi-course (and I mean something like 12 courses) meal in their gourmet restaurant. While both of us have improved over the years, my brother and I are not the most adventurous eaters. We are also most definitely more on the carnivore side of the consumption chain, and we were way outside of our comfort zone during the gourmet dinner.

Of course, I think the staff were fairly outside of their comfort zone serving us, because when they brought us the phone book sized wine list we sheepishly asked for a bottle of water (for my brother) and a beer (for me). We then went on to pick at the beautifully presented food, one course at a time, for the next couple of hours. That meal was definitely wasted on us!

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany.

The package also included plenty of other goodies, including tickets to several castles in the region, including the world famous Neuschwanstein Castle (which they say the original Disney Castle was based on).

There were tickets to an opera (which “Mad King Ludwig” who had the castle built, was very fond of). There were two Swedish massages, which was another first for both of us.  There were probably a few other things included as well, but needless to say it was worth much more than the price I paid from the auction.

By this point in the trip, my brother was homesick, and was begging our parents to let him come back home early. He did come with me to one castle, but decided he didn’t want to go see the two others (including Neuschwanstein), or attend the opera.

Finally, he declared that he was tired of all of the local food and wanted to go to McDonald’s. I already felt out of place in the resort, and definitely did not want to look like the stereotypical “ugly American” who travels around the world, only to eat at McDonald’s and drink coffee at Starbucks. But I also wanted to make him feel better and stick around for the rest of the trip (which was about 3-4 days more).

by GeorgHH via WikiMedia Commons

So I went down to the front desk and asked two beautiful young ladies where the nearest McDonald’s was. The looks of shock and horror on their faces made me feel even more embarrassed than I had already, and they said there were so many other, much better, restaurants around the hotel and on the way to the McDonalds. I said I understood, and I was truly sorry, but my brother really needed to eat McDonalds or he was going to go crazy.

So they explained the driving directions (all the while telling me the various restaurants along the way that I really should go to instead) and I went back, picked up my brother, and off to Mickey D’s we went. We continued our “American break” by watching the Simpsons (in German) on the television in the hotel room. Of course, we had seen those episodes so many times, we still laughed in the correct places because we had them memorized!  Globalization does have some benefits I guess, when you are homesick for comfort food/shows.

Join us in our next article as we come to the conclusion of our trip and the final misadventures that take place.

Next: European Vacation: Part 1

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