Some thoughts from Europe (yes, I know I should write a proper travelogue and that someday when I’m trying to remember the name of the cute little restaurant where we had the really good pancakes with the cheese and bacon and powdered sugar (no, I swear) that I’ll regret it, but at the rate I’m going, I figure I’d better get down the interesting bits before they’re gone altogether).
- We very nearly missed our flight on the way over because we’re both too polite. We’d arrived (plenty in advance) at the NW desk to check our bags. Since we were in business class we got to get in the super-short line not the reaaaaaaly long one, so we were pleased. The dedicated business-class gate agent asked us if we’d wait just a moment while she helped out on the regular line, which was so long because a plane had been cancelled. No problem, we’re fine. :) We waited. :) And waited :| And waited :(
And finally said something. Well, it turns out that they were closing our gate! The guy whose attention we finally got said he’d announced a call for all passengers on our flight (and he probably did…over at the other end of the counter, with all of the noisy cancelled passengers in between us and his announcement). He ended up checking our bags super-pronto (actually he looked a bit panicked) and walked (sorta ran us, really) through security (past all the lines and all the other people!). My knee, needless to say, was not liking this one little bit. Thankfully we caught a luggage/people trolley/cart right past security because, of course, we were in the farthest gate possible! Whew.
- The logistics of this trip (with me flying on Jeff’s Northwest frequent flier miles and us splitting the cost of Jeff’s ticket) necessitated some interesting routing. I ended up figuring out (this on about 1 hour of sleep over the last 36 hours, mind you), that we’d taken: a car to a plane to a plane to a bus to a plane to a bus to a car to a bike. Say it out loud; it’s sort of fun. Exhausting, though.
- So we get to Detroit (the end of the first “plane” ride above) and we’re peckish. It will be at least another 3 hours before we’re fed on the plane, so I sally forth to find vittles and bring them back to Jeff, who is dealing with work emails from the NW airport lounge. Exquisite irony: Airlines no longer feed you (unless you’re flying, as we were, overseas, or, also as we were, business class, but anyway). The suggested solution is, of course, to buy your own (damn) food and take it on the plane. Great! That’s a swell idea!
The only problem? The NW Lounge won’t let you bring airport food in *and* doesn’t sell food. (They do have out Pepperidge Farm cookies, which are yummy and all, but which do not a complete meal make). I was soooooo frustrated that I left my salad that I’d bought with the women at the Lounge check-in. (They did, as it turns out, attempt to make it right by returning said salad to me before we left to check in for the flight. Of course then Jeff left said same salad on the plane. Sad salad.)
- Earplugs hurt my ears. I’ve tried the normal yellow squidgy ones, and the beige ones billed as “super soft” squidgy ones and no matter what I do in terms of insertion technique, it’ll be fine for 5-25 minutes… and then it’s like they’re boring holes in my skull and my head is pounding and it’s all I can do not to rip off the helmet and dig them out. I know I’m super-sensitive girl (I blister so easily it’s ridiculous), but this just won’t do. I need to wear earplugs on the Europe bike as it’s *quite* noisy, and I’ve probably done enough damage to my hearing already with all the concerts I go to. Sigh. Any suggestions? I think my next bet will be the “earhole-shaped” ear canal-shaped ones like this http://www.earinc.com/p2-music-competition.php — expensive, but if I can keep them in my ears without getting a headache it will be worth it.
- Germans have …interesting…restaurant music. The first night we were in Cochem, Jeff & I ate at a very nice restaurant at the Union Hotel…great food (I had schnitzel), horrid music. Not just horrid music, no, no. Horrid music, remixed and covered in German! Oh yes! “I Will Survive” *and* “Break My Stride”. In German. Did I mention that? They were *remixed* *in* *German*. Aye yi yi.
- Then there’s the menu options in Germany. I was operating under a working model where an area might have a regional specialty (like bar-b-que, for instance), and 10% of the restaurants specialize in the specialty (like Allen & Sons, for instance), and maybe 30% of the restaurants might have a version of the specialty on the menu (like Crooks Corner has a bar-b-que plate on their menu), but the other 70% of the restaurants (percentages are, of course, approximate) would have other food. Other things than the specialty, like, say Chinese food or Indian food or Sushi or “American fusion” (whatever the heck that is) or … you get my point. Not so in Germany (or at least the bits of Germany I’ve been to so far). At most restaurants your choices are schnitzel (several varieties), wurst (ditto) and rumpsteak (which, honestly I never figured out…they clearly don’t mean what we mean when we say “Steak,” but I was never able to pin down exactly what they do mean. You can get really cheap versions of schnitzel, wurst and rumpsteak at what they call “Imbisses” (Imbii?) or really expensive versions of same at nice restaurants. And variations of s,w & r at just about every price range/formality range in between.
What you can’t get is anything else. Now I <3 me some schnitzel and it turns out that curry wurst (not at all the curry we have here…theirs seems to be ketchup with curry powder added and maybe some paprika?) are most delicious, but after three evening meals in a row… I just wanted lasagna or sushi or tuna seared with sesame seeds or…
- Eis (aka Italian Gelato) is a great weakness of mine. So much so, in fact, that I think I managed to have some variant of it about 80% of the days of the trip (yes, I realize this shoots a hole in my schnitzel argument, but it’s *eis*!). Highly recommended: lemon and raspberry, together in the same bowl. The lemon is almost-too-tart and the raspberry is almost-too-sweet (though anyone who knows me knows there’s really no such thing as too sweet). Together they are a blissful union of tastiness. Dang. Now I want eis. Thankfully there is an eis shop in Raleigh that will pack it for takeout…mmmmm
- As you may remember, one of the stressors about this trip is that there is Very Limited Luggage Space. As a result, there’s pretty much no shopping possible except in Heidelberg (where I can leave things and Jeff can pick them up on his way back through to drop off the bike) and the last stop of the tour (Amsterdam, in this case). Generally speaking, my vacations are comprised of eating, shopping and taking pictures (not necessarily in that order), and so it surprised me, when looking back on last year’s vacation, that I wasn’t more unhappy about the dearth of shopping that I did during the majority of the trip. Why didn’t I see things that I wanted and get distressed that I couldn’t get them home, I wondered…
Mystery solved. There’s very little in Germany (at least the parts I’ve been to) that I wanted to buy! (Notable exception: “wolle” aka yarn, which luckily is in Heidelberg.) Case in point: one day in Cochem Jeff comes back to the room (having gone on a riding expedition) and says there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is tut, tut, it looks like rain. The good news is that there’s a flea market in town, and all the streets of Cochem are filled with vendors! Whee! I love flea markets.
Well, let me tell you …this was the oddest flea market ever. I counted no fewer than five (five!) vendors whose booths were filled entirely with microfiber washcloths and mopheads and another eight or so who had mostly very large, very white, very cotton underwear (for men *and* women!)! Then there were the brightly colored polyester shirt tables and the “charming” wood figurine tables. Oh, and scarves. Lots and lots of scarves.
- I felt obligated (ok, compelled, I’ll admit it) to “Meep” at all the Mini dealerships we passed on the road. Of course, I also wanted to “Meep” at them in their native tongue, so I “MIP”ed rather sternly at the German ones and “Moop”ed at the Dutch ones. They seemed to like it. And Kate (momma of Huff the Hedgehog) brought me a Mini keyring!
- It’s getting harder and harder to tell crazy folks from normal ones, as people walk around talking to no one with cell phone plugged into a headset.