Euro East 2011: The Grand Summary

 

Date: Thursday, May 5, 2011
Begin/end
the day in:
Phoenix, AZ, USA / In flight
Lodging: In flight
Transport
Notes:
Found the World Traveller Plus seats to be less than comfortable. I love my Bose noise cancelling headset.
Calabash: Leaving at 7:30 pm is great. Not much last minute crashing and dashing.

 

Date: Friday, May 6, 2011
Begin/end
the day in:
In flight / London, UK
Lodging: Premier Inn, London. A ground floor room with a view of an airshaft is just not acceptable, but we’re too tired to complain straight away.
Main
events:
Lunch with a pint, a walk across the Tower Bridge, another pint and a good night’s sleep.
Culinary
highlights:
Our very first go at pub food!
Transport
Notes:
Express train from Heathrow to the tube, tube to the hotel. Not bad.

 

Date: Saturday, May 7, 2011
Begin/end
the day in:
London, UK
Lodging: Premier Inn. Complained about our semi-subterranean room and the hotel accommodated us with a move to much larger, more comfortable environ.
Main
events:
Tower of London Beefeater tour, a trip on the Hop-on-off double-decker tour bus and a visit to incredible St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Culinary
highlights:
Following cocktail hour in our new comfy room, we had a marvelous alfresco dinner on Ludgate Hill Street, just down the road from St. Paul’s. For lunch, we took a recommendation from one of the Tower’s warders. The
place looked wonderful, wish I could say the same about the food.
Transport
Notes:
Go for the tour busses with live commentary, not the recorded stuff.
Calabash: Our dinner waitress was from Poland. When I told her it was our next stop she asked “why are you going to Poland?” I’ll admit  that that was not the response I had
expected.

 

Date: Sunday, May 8, 2011
Begin/end the day in: London, UK
Lodging: Premier Inn
Main events: Boat on the Thames to Greenwich with a visit
to a great market, a walk past Westminster Cathedral and on to Buckingham Palace with an impromptu encounter with a parade and ceremony for former
palace guards and a ride on the famous London Eye.
Culinary highlights: Full English breakfast with beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon and sausage (hold the black pudding) at Wetherspoon diner across from the hotel. Dinner at our favorite neighborhood pub, but this time the food was not quite as good. On the other hand, the cask ales were still great.
Calabash: I do believe we have a picture of the Tower Bridge from damn near every angle. Sadly, in Greenwich the good ship Cutty Sark was undergoing major refurbishing and unavailable for viewing.

 

Date: Monday, May 9, 2011
Begin/end
the day in:
London
Lodging: Premier Inn
Main
events:
Visited the Churchill War Rooms and the Tate Modern gallery of contemporary art. I found the Tate to be less than totally impressive.
Culinary
highlights:
Nothing I can think of. Remember, we’re in London.

 

Date: Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Begin/end
the day in:
London/Gdansk, PL
Lodging: Hotel Bonum, located in a quiet section of the Old Town area, was a lovely find.
Main
events:
Visited St. Bartholomew-the-Great church, the Smithfield market, the Anchor Inn pub where William Shakespeare supposedly hung out, our WizzAir flight to London to Gdansk and then our crazy late-night cocktail session at Restaurant Scampi with the ship workers
and strippers. Great fun.
Culinary
highlights:
The Anchor Inn pub was expectedly touristy and the food pretty much what one would expect from same.
Transport
Notes:
WizzAir’s reservation, booking and check-in processes are awful, but the in-flight operations are actually quite nice. Finding the London to Luton airport bus was not easy and the bus trip was VERY long.
Calabash: Border control in Gdansk had two lines for Poles and one line for everyone else. We managed to get behind a lady with whom the Polish border cops had issues. We were finally accommodated in the Polish Citizen line after everyone else had left. Toughest time getting into a country since my last hassle with Canada.

 

Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Gdansk, PL
Lodging: Hotel Bonum
Main events: Toured the reconstructed Old Tow, the Gdansk History Museum and St. Mary’s Church, purported to be the largest brick church in the world. It is BIG.
Culinary highlights: Breakfast in the cozy basement dining area at Hotel Bonum was fabulous and my hotdog from the little shop just off of the old town square was a fabulous combination of crusty bun, skin-on wiener with
just the right snap, peppers, onions, slaw and chili sauce. A steal for 5 just Zloty. Had a wonderful dinner  and
house-brewed beer at a restaurant across the Vistula  from our hotel.
Transport Notes: All on the hoof.
Calabash: The Poles love their ice cream. It’s wonderful
and inexpensive.

 

Date: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Gdansk, PL / Warsaw, PL
Lodging: Hotel Metropol
Main events: Began the day with an early morning photo shoot walk around town followed by our last Bonum breakfast and then time to drag the bags to the train station for our trip to Warsaw.
Culinary highlights: Dined at the restaurant in the Polonia Palace
hotel in Warsaw. Elegant joint, wonderful service, but food you’d expect in a place that caters to tourists.
Transport Notes: Nice to be back to Euro train travel and the trip from Gdansk to Warsaw was nice. It was interesting that the first class cabins on the Gdansk to Warsaw train didn’t have electrical power (outlets), but the second class cars did.
Calabash: At least at its center, Warsaw is not a terribly pedestrian –friendly city. There was an advertisement in the form of a bubble machineoutside of our window at the Metropol.

 

Date: Friday, May 13, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Warsaw, Pl / Krakow, PL
Lodging: Hotel Benefis. Our room was really more of a suite with a foyer , bedroom, sitting room and bath.
Main events: Warsaw old town, Warsaw Uprising Monument,
Presidential Palace and Centrum shopping district.
Culinary highlights: Nice breakfast at the Metropol.
Transport Notes: We didn’t make reservations; wound up not being able to get on the train we wanted. Once we did leave, the train was so crowded we ended up standing outside the WC door in the last car on the train for the entire 3+ hour journey. Cab driver in Gdansk was very nice.
Calabash: Even though we had to stand for our train trip, I did manage to snag a glass of ice from the McD’s and a bottle of gas water prior to our departure. Ever mix two Scotch whiskeys while standing on a moving train?

 

Date: Saturday, May 14, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Krakow, PL
Lodging: Hotel Benefis
Main events: A morning freshening our wardrobe in a great
Laundromat/Internet Café/Bar, afternoon in the Krakow old town (tourist trap) and then the Jewish Quarter.
Culinary highlights: Followed the guidebook to a highly recommended
place near the Jewish Quarter. We have to stop taking guidebook restaurant picks.
Transport Notes:
Calabash: Hunted for the Czartoryskich Museum in old town which was supposed to be one of six places in the world with a Da Vinci painting on display. Unfortunately, the museum was “closed for repairs” an Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine was in Warsaw.

 

Date: Sunday, May 15, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Krakow, PL
Lodging: Hotel Benefis
Main events: Wawel Castle, Schindler’s Factory/Wartime Krakow museum.
Culinary highlights: Happened upon a little Italian place on our way back to the hotel. I think we were the only ones in the place.

 

Date: Monday, May 16, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Krakow, PL
Lodging: Hotel Benefis
Main events: Wieliczka salt mine followed by Nowe Miasto, the communist-designed “new town.”
Culinary highlights: Decent polish dinner at a place in Nowe Miasto
(no cards, Zlotys or Rubles only).
Transport Notes: Finding the bus stop for the salt mine was a bit of challenge, but glad we didn’t go on an organized tour.
Calabash: Watched the launch of STS-134 on my iPad about 100 meters underground in the Wieliczka salt mine. Pivo goes well with Shuttle launches.

 

Date: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Krakow, PL / Ostrava, CZ via Oswiecim.
Lodging: Mercure. Hadn’t stayed in Mercure in years. This one was wonderful.
Main events: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum in Oswiecim.
Culinary highlights: Great pasta dinner is a neighborhood Italian place, just down the street from the hotel. Grabbed some wonderful train snacks at a small shop in Oswiecim.
Transport Notes: On the ride to the train station in Krakow, Laurel tried her Polish out on the cab driver. He was amused. Ostrava, a former mining town, is not at the top of most tour lists.

 

Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Ostrava, CZ / Prague (Praha), CZ
Lodging: Hotel Mövenpick: Very large hotel with a “Passionately Swiss” moto. The hotel claimed 4 stars, but I’d give it barely 3. The €7 bottle of Evian on the dresser was a bit of a turnoff.
Main events: Wenceslas Square.
Culinary highlights: The Mercure in Ostrava had a beautiful breakfast room.
Transport Notes: Train to Praha; metro to our hotel.
Calabash: There’s just no way to get around it, Praha is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

 

Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Prague (Praha)
Lodging: Hotel Mövenpick
Main events: Strahov Monastery, Prague Castle (Day 1), the famed astronomical clock and the Dancing Building.
Culinary highlights: Breakfast at the Mövenpick is good, but crowded with tour groups. The omelet lady is most adorable. Had dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and brewery next to the dancing building.
Calabash: As opposed to the Queen’s guards in the UK who pack real heat (M-16s), the guards at Prague Castle appear to be packing squirrel rifles.

 

Date: Friday, May 20, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Prague (Praha)
Lodging: Hotel Mövenpick
Main events: Prague Castle (Day 2), Prague Beer Festival
Culinary highlights: What else? Beer Festival food!
Transport Notes: By far, the shortest and most expensive cab ride ever. From the exit of the Beer Festival to the Metro station was barely 100 meters, but it was lightening and raining like crazy.

 

Date: Saturday, May 21, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Prague (Praha)
Lodging: Hotel Mövenpick
Main events: Kutna Hora for the Sedlec Ossuary, Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and the Cathedral of St. Barbara.  Big event of the evening was beers with a few German table-mates at the famed U zlatého tygra (At the Golden Tiger), a favorite of Václav Havel and where he brought President Clinton during a visit to Praha.
Culinary highlights: A late dinner at a café in Praha with a bunch of Brit ladies on a hen party trip.
Transport Notes: On the return trip to Praha, Laurel tried helping a few fellow travelers out by pointing out that an express train
leaving Kutna Hora 10 minutes later than the one that was in the station, actually arrived in Praha sooner. The later train then failed to leave Kutna Hora on time. No good deed goes unpunished.
Calabash: We really got in today’s exercise with the hike up the hill to St. Barb’s.

 

Date: Sunday, May 22, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Prague (Praha)
Lodging: Hotel Mövenpick
Main events: Catching up on administrative tasks—basically a day off. Late in the day, a trip up Mövenpick’s funicular and then
it was back to Wenceslas Square for another look at Praha’s nightlife.
Culinary highlights: A pivo and fatty lunch at a local eatery.

 

Date: Monday, May 23, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Prague (Praha)/Cesky  Kremlov, CZ
Lodging: Hotel Konovice. Squeaky floors and lots of charm.
Main events: The trip to Cesky Kremlov. The town is most beautiful, but I don’t know that I’d make the trip again.
Culinary highlights: An almost vegetarian dinner of garlic soup, radishes, carrots and vegetable salad. Wonderful!
Transport Notes: A long train trip, including a diversion to a bus caused by “technical difficulties” and subsequent missed onnection.
Calabash: Cesky Kremlov, as Rick Steves has noted, is a day-trip town. Late in the day, the crowds disappear.

 

Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Cesky Kremlov, CZ / Vienna (Wien), AT
Lodging: Delta Hotel. Another self-annointed 4-star that I’d give a grudging 3.
Main events: Tour the castle and the gardens in Cesky Kremlov.
Culinary highlights: Alfresco dinner near the hotel.
Transport Notes: The cab ride to the hotel seemed to go on forever.

 

Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Vienna (Wien), AT
Lodging: Delta Hotel
Main events: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church, Royal Apartments, Augarten Park with its German-built WWII FLAK bunkers.
Transport Notes: On the bus to Augarten, we met a teacher and a few of his students to whom he taught English.

 

Date: Thursday, May 26, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Vienna (Wien), AT
Lodging: Delta Hotel
Main events: Lipizzaner Stallions, Sacher Torte, MOMAK
Culinary highlights: For dinner we inadvertently wound up crashing a private party. Oops.

 

Date: Friday, May 27, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Vienna (Wien), AT
Lodging: Delta Hotel
Main events: Laundry,  Casino Film Theatre
Culinary highlights: Alfresco lunch across from our Laundromat.
Transport Notes: We shared the tram with another couple heading for the laundry.
Calabash: We wore swimsuits to the Laundromat so we could strip off our jeans and get EVERYTHING in the wash.

 

Date: Saturday, May 28, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Vienna (Wien), AT / Bratislava, SK
Lodging: The très chic Boutique Hotel Marrol’s. What a lovely hotel. We were greeted with offers of beverages, chocolate, etc. Comp Mini bar, free porn on the tele, what more could you want?
Main events: Leopold Museum in Vienna. Fantastic collection.
Culinary highlights: Dinner, watching footie, in a very local Slovakian restaurant.
Transport Notes: A boat trip down the Danube from Wien to Bratilava.

 

Date: Sunday, May 29, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Bratislava, SK
Lodging: Boutique Hotel Marrol’s
Main events: A walk through town, the Bratislava castle and the old city gate.
Culinary highlights: Champagne on the hotel breakfast bar and a very fancy dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Transport Notes: One more hike up a hill.

 

Date: Monday, May 30, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Bratislava, SK / Budapest, HU
Lodging: K&K Hotel Opera
Culinary highlights: The K&K desk clerk and a guide book recommended a restaurant for “authentic Hungarian food. “ What we found was a lot of tourists, marginal food and service and less than friendly prices.
Transport Notes: Our last relaxing train journey for this trip. At the Gustav Eiffel-designed train station we were greeted by taxi Hustlers.
Calabash: Small scheduling FUBAR. We showed up a day early. K&K was able to accommodate us, but we’d really rather spent another night at Hotel Marrol.

 

Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Budapest, HU
Lodging: K&K Hotel Opera
Main events: Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest History Museum,
funicular ride back down to “river” level.
Culinary highlights: Delightful alfresco meal and the rain didn’t even touch us.
Transport Notes: We should have bought a 1-week transport pass.

 

Date: Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Budapest, HU
Lodging: K&K Hotel Opera
Main events: A hike to the Citadel and a long bus trip to Memento park.
Culinary highlights: We’re on a first-name basis with Trainee, the coffee lady at the hotel breakfast.

 

Date: Thursday, June 2, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Budapest, HU
Lodging: K&K Hotel Opera
Main events: City Park, the Agriculture museum, Opera tour and a beautiful late-night boat ride on the Danube.
Culinary highlights: Another one of those guidebook snags, this one for Tex-Mex. I knew it didn’t sound right and it was awful. Laurel’s enchilada was layered with what must have been Ketchup.

 

Date: Friday, June 3, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Budapest, HU
Lodging: K&K Hotel Opera
Main events: The Turkish Baths and the Food Fair.
Culinary highlights: Real goulash from a stand at the fair

 

Date: Saturday, June 4, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Budapest, HU/Windsor, UK
Lodging: Mercure Windsor Castle. Another lovely Mercure room and this one had a carafe of whiskey waiting (although we didn’t partake).
Main events: Goodbye to Budapest, paprika shopping at a
local market.
Culinary highlights: A farewell wine, pivo and snack at the ritzy Café Gerbeaud in Budapest. Very spicy chicken in Windsor.
Transport Notes: Opted for the tram/bus rather than the train for the trip to Terminal 2 at BUD. Got frisked by security in BUD. Second time through British Entry control this trip. Getting used to right-hand drive cars takes a bit of practice.
Calabash: The evening crowd in Windsor is very young and rowdy. The gal on crutches in full saucy attire with a cast on one foot and a lofty spike high heel on the other took the cake.

 

Date: Sunday, June 5, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Windsor, UK/ Amesbury-Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK
Lodging: Fairlawn Hotel
Main events: Windsor Castle. The queen was in residence.
Culinary highlights: Pub food in Windsor, Indian food next to the Fairlawn.
Transport Notes: Driving in the rain on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is not my best.

 

Date: Monday, June 6, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Amesbury-Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK/Newbury, UK
Lodging: The Crab at Chieveley. This was our least favorite accommodation of the trip
Main events: Stonehenge at 5:00 a.m. with about 20 Druids, the Roman Baths in Bath.
Culinary highlights: A lovely full English breakfast in the cellar restaurant at the Fairlawn. Thai pub food in Newbury with a few of the
regulars.
Transport Notes: Leaving Bath, the GPS guided us to a very narrow road (even by Brit standards). We came to a bridge with a bloke directing alternate flows of traffic across a bridge. When we go to the other side, another orange-vested guide hit us up for a toll. Go figure.

 

Date: Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Begin/end the day in: Newbury, UK/Phoenix, AZ, USA
Lodging: Hale Nani. Hey! Now let’s see, where’s the pisser in this room?
Main events: Travel. Row 50.
Culinary highlights: A very lovely breakfast at the Crab. Airplane food after that.
Transport Notes: So long right-hand drive car and narrow roads.
Calabash: Passed directly over the Grand Canyon which was great for the foreign visitors. Going through customs, I’d guess about 80% of the folks on our flight had non-US assports. When do we leave next?

 

Where did the month go?

Tuesday, June 7th.

It seems impossible that our trip is about to end. We’re off to Phoenix at 2:30 this afternoon.

Our journey has been simply fantastic. Driving on left side of narrow 2-lane roads with cars parked on them for the last 3 days has been a challenge, but I haven’t hit anything yet and have only been honked at twice.

Keep the blog journal up to date has not worked out as well as I’d hoped. The problem is that we’ve just been too busy. Days have typically started no later than 7:00 and frequently didn’t end until just after 11:00. Hopefully we can get a few thoughts and impressions recorded before too long.

Time to mind the stairs and head for Heathrow straight away.