Eurotrip 2011!

So it’s been a little over a week since we’ve returned from Europe and I can honestly say I cannot wait to go back! I’ve already started planning for our next trip which will include London, Amsterdam and all of Germany. Of course, this will have to wait for another five years so we can save up some money. The dollar-to-euro conversion is ridiculous. Our traveling friends all agreed that holding paper euro in your hand doesn’t seem real- like we were paying with pretty monopoly money. Of course the ATM withdrawals on our credit card statements reflect differently!

Besides our monotonous and drab legal tender, there are a few (well, many) items that I wish were more “European” here in the states. The obvious choice would be food and beverage. In Germany, Austria and Italy, mostly all the meals were made of fresh, local ingredients with very little (if any) processing. Real food just tastes better. It’s quite a simple concept. When Sean bought his €5 Coca-Cola, even THAT tasted better because they used real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Being a vegetarian, I didn’t have any problem finding meatless options on the menus. I was a little worried about this, especially in Germany and Austria, but to my surprise, even the smallest of towns had some sort of option for a non-animal eater. And Sean was satisfied as well with the plethora of dead animal meat selections. In Italy, Sean had more than his fair share of Pasta alla Carbonara and I loved the Insalata Caprese and Pizza Margherita. It’s true what they say about pizza in Italy. It is THE BEST.

Also, the coffee served there is petite yet pungent. I’m a fan for the efficacy of a small, strong dose of coffee in the morning, especially while walking around cities with limited bathrooms, or WC’s as they call them. Oh, and that’s another thing– restaurants and cafe’s don’t seem to mind if you need to use the WC and you’re not a paying patron. In fact, Europeans are a lot less uptight about EVERYTHING. Honestly, I think our blood pressure dropped a few notches just by hanging out with these people. We have much to learn in that regard. While the driving over there is chaotic, at best, it seems as though they are still relaxed while driving in chaos. I never saw any road rage over there, nor car accidents which was completely amazing given the way they drive.

The architecture is, of course, stunning. It’s funny.. we arrived back in the states and the first night we put in a movie which showed a beautiful court building with the columns and ornate detailing and both Sean and I were like– meh, that’s nuthin’. Aside from Ireland a decade ago, this was my first trip overseas and I was really overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture. In Munich, it was mind-blowing walking into Marienplatz and seeing the facade of the New City Hall. We both let out a gasp of …”ohhhh, wooooowwww” as it came into view around the corner.

And Rome.. My God, And Rome. Wow. If you have not been, I would strongly recommend planning a trip. The ruins were unbelievable and the Pantheon and the Vatican and.. everything. We truly were blown away at the beauty of the city.

Ok, so let’s start from the beginning here. We left BWI on May 16th on US Airways. The flight was okay. Long. Food was gross of course, but I liked being able to watch a bunch of new movies on the plane. That helped the torture time go by a little faster. I was able to get a solid 15 minutes of sleep on the plane. Same for Sean. So, we were in prime form when we arrived into Munich the next morning. We exchanged some dollars for euros there at the airport and then hopped the train into the city center, which was apparently only a block and a half from our hotel. Unfortunately, we forgot to print out a map of Munich so after walking a few blocks (in flip flops) in the wrong direction with our four pieces of luggage we finally realized where we were and found our hotel, King’s Hotel First Class. We walked in, with tired eyes and bodies and gave the front desk clerk our last name, hoping for an early check in (or at least a spot to hold our luggage). After typing the computer keys for what seemed a solid 10 minutes, the nice gentlemen proceeded to advise us that we were at the wrong hotel. Apparently, we were booked at their sister hotel, King’s Hotel City Center, which he promised was just right around the corner. So, after dragging ourselves and our stuff another couple of blocks, we finally arrive at the right hotel and they proceeded to quickly check us in early. Thank goodness.. we were really jet-lagged and stinky from sweating in the sardine can known as US Airways Flight 706. We needed a good shower. And although we would have LOVED a nap, we were advised to try to stay awake the first day of arrival to ease getting into the time change. The hotel was beautiful and very comfortable and the organic breakfast, which is included, was scrumptious. I would highly recommend this place. (http://www.kingshotels.com)

So we showered and changed and headed out that afternoon to see what Munich had to offer two tired, hungry and thirsty Americans. Our hotel was right in the center of everything, which was convenient for our weary little footsies. Our first stop was a stroll through a lovely little park at the edge of the town center with lush tree-lines paths which conveniently led to an oasis known as the ParkRestaurant Löwenbräu. Our first taste of German food and beer didn’t disappoint. We ordered a couple of Franziskaner Weissbiers (my favorite!) and sipped on them as we devoured our first meal in Europe. Sean had some smoked pork chops, a cabbage salad and potatoes while I ate a “Vegetarian Potato” which was basically a baked potato encompassed in a broccoli cream sauce with green beans and cabbage salad. The meal hit the spot for both of us, especially after the long flight. It was a nice “welcome to Europe” meal.

After our meal, we proceeded on to Marienplatz, the central square in the heart of Munich. Here, were again blown away by the architecture of the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) and giggled at the delight of the Glockenspiel. The town center was bustling with people and there was an abundance of shops, cafes and restaurants. We found it amusing to grab a pint and sit at an outdoor cafe to people-watch. It is here where we first noticed that dogs have quite a spoiled life in Europe. They are everywhere..in restaurants, in shops, in cars and bikes..even leading their owners by foot! I think our pooch Rosie would love it here.

After absorbing the sites of the town center, we proceed to the Hofbräuhaus which we were advised to visit by friends and family who have been there. Although a little touristy, this place was a ton of fun! The decorative ceilings, the typically wood tables and benches, the German band playing in the background and the large steins of beer made this place feel like were officially in Munich. We both had a very large stein of beer.. I can’t remember what type we got but it was pretty “hoppy”, so Sean was “happy”. We ordered a HUGE pretzel and swayed our steins and bodies along to the music. We met a bunch of people there. The place is very conducive to making friends out of strangers. We met a couple from New Jersey who we gabbed it up with quite a bit. She even shares my birthday of 9/11 (Virgo’s unite!). The place was a blast, and helped us forget about our jet lag!

So, at this point it’s early evening so we leisurely stroll back to our hotel and find a nice place for dinner, right across the street from where we’re staying. We finally get to bed for an early start the next day. As mentioned, the breakfast at this hotel is delicious. A typical German breakfast consists of danish, pastries and croissants with fresh butter and jams. Seasonal fruits are plentiful and there is a wide variety of cheese and meat slices. Hard-boiled eggs are a staple as well as freshly squeezed juices and hot coffee. A good night sleep and hearty breakfast were needed for our next venture—onto Austria!

……to be continued……..

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