Thursday, June 14, ’12: NEXT POST

I don’t think my heroine, Dora, would do Europe Through The Back Door. But nowadays we at least like to read the book by Rick Steves. It’s accompanying me on the trip to read when I get a chance.

Friday, June 15, ’12: NEXT POST

We’re finding that travel is more expensive than we thought. I allotted $300.00/day for each day across the country to New York. The days that I know ahead of time are going to be more expensive — Midland, Brooklyn — are supposed to be paid for by saving on the other days. The gas and food bills are killing us. We have to idle our car because of the pets when we’re parked, and we drive a Nissan Quest minivan.Today we had to get gas twice.

Dora had to spend more money on clothes than I would ever dream of.

Saturday, June 16, ’12 NEXT POST

We stopped at various Bowlins trading posts on I-10 on the way to Las Cruces. I looked at postcards, purses, wallets, and souvenirs. But I didn’t buy anything. I told myself this is what I should do on the way back to Tucson — not now. I said the same thing at the Pic Quik in Las Cruces. Instead of buying the decorating magazine, Ventanas, which is what I always do, I should delay buying it for now.

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Wednesday, June 6, ’12

At dinner we watched a video in German that looked like something from German T.V. It was about the Queen Mary 2. They followed a German couple about the ship. They actually followed them to the laundry room. It’s the first time I’ve seen it. I asked questions about it during two interactive cruises and never received an answer. At least something so prosaic is of interest to somebody else besides me.

If the couple had spoken English instead of German they would have reminded me of friends of my parents back in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, June 7, ’12:

I’m bothering to take my Canon dedicated Video Camera with me on my trip to Europe even though it means carrying a camera bag instead of just keeping a digital point and shoot camera in my purse. It takes much better quality pictures. The zoom is better than either of my point and shoot cameras — a Leica and a Lumix. Also the sound is superior. It will involve another step, having to put the film on my computer when I return. It’s more complicated than just sticking a memory card into the slot in my laptop and downloading photos to iPhoto. It’s worth it. We’re renting a car, and I’ll be taking movies on the autobahn.

Friday, June 8, ’12

Gary’s calling all the European hotels to make sure they have our reservations. He called Hotel Kriemhild near the Nymphenburg Palace outside Munich today. They seem to have the best deal. They include breakfast, parking, and internet in a triple room for only 142 euros. The only hotel that rivals it is the Hilton Nuremburg that includes all the above and dinner, too, but doesn’t have as good a location, though it’s the closest hotel to the Nazi Documentation Center on the edge of town.

Saturday, June 9:

At breakfast we were talking about our upcoming shore excursion to Salisbury and Stonehenge on July 13. I recalled the three Tuesday It Must Be Belgium tours of Europe that I took in high school with my family. On bus tours we always kept our eye on the tour director. When at an attraction, we tended to follow him around. If he went to a particular restaurant, we went there, too — in this case in Salisbury. That way we couldn’t get lost or left behind. The tour never left without the tour guide. And since this is a Cunard shore excursion they won’t leave without the tourists on the bus.

Why do I keep on buying high definition digital video tapes? You can’t get enough of them despite the price, I figure two back and forth to NYC, two back and forth on the ship, two for the two shore excursions in England, and ten for the German portion of the tour — one for each day.

Sunday, June 10:

Each high definition video tapes has 63 minutes. If I have only one tape to go three weeks from here to NYC that means I get to film only three minutes per day. Coming back would be the same. Since we’ve just added a diversion for the dog at the La Quinta at Virginia Beach in August, that calls for at least one more tape. It would be labeled the Virginia Beach tape. I might as well throw in a second tape so I can film 6 minutes per day going to NYC.

The shore excursion is at most six hours. A 63-minutes video tape would be OK for the highlights. And 63-minutes will have to do for filming the Queen Mary at sea for 9 days minus the shore excursion. I’m on firmer ground with one tape per day in Europe for filming the autobahn and the sightseeing attraction of the day.

The same thing goes for the smart cards. I plan on using 2 back and forth to NYC, 2 back and forth on the ship including the shore excursions, and 2 in Europe. I’ve got one spare.

Monday, June 11, ’12:

I tried to find a tourist website for Windsor Castle. All I got was — that and a focus on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. There is a special exhibit called 60 Photos for 60 Years. If you’re lucky, the Queen won’t be in residence and we can see the Royal Apartments. If not there’s St. George’s Chapel, which I remember from my previous visit as a teenager. I found out that there are carriage rides, but not on July 27. There doesn’t seem to be much tourism in the surrounding town either.

What could be valuable for me is a walk around Windsor. In my novel I could substitute Windsor for Oxford.

Tuesday, June 12, ’12:

Gary confirmed our reservation for the Comfort Inn Brooklyn Cruise Terminal for the night of July 5, ’12 and asked them how we eat lunch on July 6, the day we board the QM2. They’re supposed to run a shuttle to the cruise terminal at 11:00AM. Before that’s too early for lunch. There’s no food in the terminal. Apparently you’re supposed to enjoy a late lunch aboard the ship.

Wednesday, June 13, ’12:

Today we started to turn our focus on getting out of here on Friday morning. Instead of thinking of impossible things like going to Europe, we should focus on the day by day goals of driving across the country. On Friday I should think that I’m going to have lunch in Willcox and dinner at Kranberry’s in Lordsburg. Take it in small segments. My main focus on the road will be managing my photos, taking road notes, keeping records, and writing my blog.

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Pre-Trip Journal:

Friday, May 25, ’12:

We plan to leave here three weeks from today for our trip to New York. What’s different is that we’re doing it by car. The first unexpected problem was West Texas. The last time we drove through there it was like bumping along the border. It was very cheap, rarely more than $50.00/night.

I was astounded to read that the La Quinta in Midland is selling rooms for over $200.00/night! That’s more than I paid for the Loews Coronado Bay Resort room and certainly more than the California La Quintas. After all, La Quinta is supposed to be a budget chain, and West Texas is the middle of nowhere.

That’s why you should always make reservations ahead of time. You never know what you’re going to run into.

Saturday, May 26, ’12:

I’m always experimenting with luggage and bags. It’s an enormous challenge to fit the most in the least space possible. I settled on a Travelon bag to be my Fort Knox. Then it got a Pack Safe bag use as a camera bag. Now I’ve converted the Tilley bag I got at Christmas into a half bear bag and half briefcase. I think it might work, especially because the Tilley bag is tough. It was very expensive. And there’s a certain amount of built-in redundancy. If one bag falls apart, you can stuff loose items into one of the others. The European outlet strip is so big, however, that I’m stuffing it into Gary’s suitcase. I can’t put it in any of my carry-ons.

Sunday, May 27, ’12

I think I just bought the last two Canon camcorder batteries Amazon had in stock. I bought this camcorder six years ago. I haven’t used it in about five years for a long trip. I’d gone to taking movies on digital cards. But for the purpose of going to Europe I wanted something of higher quality that was better at longer takes. Now I recall how expensive it is buying the high definition tapes! I just got rid of a lot of them that my son couldn’t even sell on eBay. Ironically I thought I’d never need them again.

Monday, May 28, ’12:

It might be Memorial Day, but we spent dinner staring at maps of Munich online. We were trying to figure out how to get from the Nymphenburger Schloss where we have reservations at Hotel Kriemhild to the Hofbrauhaus in downtown Munich near the Residenz and the Mandarin Oriental. My husband traced the route and found parking garages. But we don’t know if they’ll be full.

Gary was looking at how to get to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg. He found a grocery store in the center of town where they would sell cold cuts to take to the Obersalzberg.

It’s amazing how much research and how much planning you have to do.

Tuesday, May 29, ’12

I want to see Ludwig I’s “Hall of Beauties”. Then I can meet Lola Montez face to face. It would be fascinating to assess the woman who caused the revolution of 1848 and caused Ludwig to lose his crown. That’s why I plan to visit the Nymphenburg Palace.

I’m glad to hear it’s not one of the rooms closed for renovation this summer until the end of July.

Wednesday, May 30, ’12

I’m very partial to La Quinta. I resent it when another chain charges a pet fee or some other sort of fee. Ever since September I hold up La Quinta as a kind of standard for what I went in a motel. I’ve booked almost straight La Quintas between here and the East Coast.

I continue to check nearby restaurants for all my reservations. They are becoming more strikingly similar all the time. I see Applebees, Dennys, McDonalds, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse, Fridays, Texas Roadhouse, etc. all the time. I wonder what they have in Europe. My son showed me a Google street view of Windsor across the street from the Palace. I see a Pizza Hut and a McDonalds. It was hard to find a fish and chips.

Thursday, May 31, ’12

Boy, are we having a hard time booking tickets for evening performances in Salzburg! But that was before we read the Frommer’s Guide to Austria and found out about the Salzburger Ticket Office. We called them early this morning when they were still open and reserved three adult tickets for the Friday, July 20 performance at the puppet theater. Guess what it is? The Sound of Music of course! We’ll have to try for Mozart tomorrow for July 21.

Gary called the ship and asked about drinks. We finally find out that drinks that come from the bar are charged extra for. That includes bottled water and soft drinks. Apparently they come from the bar. Hot tea, coffee, iced tea, milk, orange juice, and other fruit juices are not subject to additional charges. The bad part is that there’s no way to get free bottled water, and living in Arizona we’re used to going through lots of bottles per day.

Friday, June 1, ’12

Gary called the Salzburger Ticket Office as soon as he got up this morning. He reserved three tickets to a performance at the Schloss Mirabell in the Mirabell Gardens. This is supposed to be in the Marble Room at 7:30PM. That’s after we have a three-course dinner at the Stiegl Brau. That’s included in the deal. We’re to listen to chamber music played by Russian musicians of all things! This is during the Salzburg Festival, so we’re lucky to get reservations to anything, I guess.

It might be a “deal” at 150 euros, but it seems quite expensive to me.

Saturday, June 2, ’12

We started to plot our route across the country to Brooklyn. We haven’t gone east of Las Cruces, NM in fourteen years — not since we moved here in 1998. Trying to recall the highways, we remembered West Texas being open and empty. There are no tops between Van Horn and Pecos with the exception of a single rest stop just outside of Van Horn. But we remember that you felt like you were being held up when you reached the Dallas-Fort Worth area after speeding out of West Texas. There was always a traffic jam around Dallas.

Sunday, June 3, ’12

Gary started to look for a different hotel in Weimar, but didn’t have any luck. For better or worse, we’re stuck with Hotel Leonardo on the edge of the park where Goethe’s Garden House is located. On the opposite end near an underground parking garage we will find the Klassik Stiftung Library, the Anna Amailia Library, where we have tickets for July 17 at 2:00PM. We will also find the Schloss Museum, or City Museum and a cafe where we can have lunch. Gary says the Leonardo rents bikes. How will I carry my handbag, camera bag, and briefcase on a bike? Stay tuned!

Monday, June 4, ’12

I’m spending my time packing. No matter how I try, I still can’t figure out how to condense what I have to carry into only two handbags. In addition, I’ve added a second small suitcase. I hear that any one suitcase can’t be more than 50 pounds. The spillover into a second one prevents this.

Gary did directions to the Hofbrauhaus Car Park in downtown Munich. It says “women parking”. I don’t know what this means.

Tuesday, June 5, ’12

Gary rented bikes to get around Weimar. But I see on the map that the Leonardo Hotel is only 50 meters from the nearest bus stop. They claim that makes the city center easily accessible. That sounds better than bikes with everything I have to carry including my camera bag and purse.

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It was one thing to look at handbags on over the weekend. But as soon as I could get to my local AAA, I went through their selection of purses which were automatically oriented to travel. This Pac Safe bag is larger than my Travelon messenger bag. It’s just big enough for my digital camera and a spare, both chargers, extra batteries, two cases — one for used memory cards and one for new — a coin purse, two packs of euros, my two six-inch bears, pens, two keys (one on a key chain attached to the inside of the purse), a comb, extra car keys, a purse calendar, and wipes for my sunglasses. There is a pocket for sunglasses and an expandable pocket for a water bottle that complements the two on my Travelon purse. There are even slots inside for the spillover of plastic cards that won’t sit in the Travelon purse. On the outside is a zippered compartment. I haven’t decided what to use it for yet. I’m a real pack rat.

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We’re planning on arriving in Brooklyn on the afternoon of July 5. It was a choice of the La Quinta in Brooklyn or the Comfort Inn Cruise Terminal. We thought for a moment that La Quinta might be better, though it was farther away. It might have a restaurant. But no! It also has only pizza delivery and limited parking. So we’ve opted for the Comfort Inn, which is only five or six blocks from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Though it doesn’t have a restaurant, there’s a place called Mark’s Pizzeria. We looked at the menu online and wow! It sounds like a classy Italian Restaurant, not just any old pizza delivery outlet. So we’re staying there on the night of July 5.

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Baggallini As A Companion For My Travelon Bag

I own a Travelon carry safe anti theft messenger bag stuffed with traveler’s checks, my supply of cash and euros, my passport, my international driver’s permit, my credit cards, and anything that needs to be locked away from prying hands. Baggallini is just the opposite. Instead of locks it has external pockets to make things easy to access.

I’m tempted to buy it to carry my sunglasses, water bottle, comb, wallet and coin purse for everyday use, digital camera, cell phone, and extra camera batteries and memory cards. The Travelon will be my money belt, my Fort Knox. This purse will be my everyday bag for my next trip. I might even put my six inch bears in it. After all, they want to tag along.

I’ll carry one bag over each shoulder. Either that or I’ll take advantage of the Baggallini feature to attach my new purse to my suitcase and push it along — or have my husband do it.

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Yesterday I spent all afternoon going from one Wells Fargo Branch to another. I was collecting euros and pounds sterling for my upcoming visit to Europe. The second teller admitted she had never done this before. It took forever standing around while she was on the phone getting a cash advance from Fidelity where I have my account. Tucson is not the place to get foreign currency.

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We are in the process of booking a visit to the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar for July 17. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed to see the manuscripts during any one day. It’s amazing how you have to book even the attractions in advance!

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Everything in Germany is booking up! We just barely got the Hotel Kreimhild in the outskirts of Munich. We took the last room. And we had to book the more expensive Hotel Meridien near Old Town Nurnberg instead of the Hilton on the outskirts that would have saved us money. All the hotels in Weimar were almost full. We reserved the Leonardo just in the nick of time. Even Hannover seems to be busy, and that’s just an overnight stop. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any English gardens. We won’t have time in our mad dash back to Hamburg to board the ship.
Kenny wants us to try to get a reservation to see the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar on July 17. Apparently that books up, too.

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We just signed up for a July voyage on the Queen Mary 2 to Hamburg. I’m involved in a whirlwind of packing. We’ve heard that one million people show up to greet the arrival of QM2 in Hamburg. Is this true? I’ve also heard that it’s to be a double queen event on July 15 with both the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth docking that morning one at 6:00AM and the other at 7:00AM. I wonder if they will toot at each other.

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