Europe

100 Words – A Strange Dream in One Hundred Words – Sunday, March 31, 2013

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526523_10150971981357895_1354717364_nThe camp was deserted. We picked a random spot to pitch the tent. I head towards the car to get the last pole set and am  surprised that so many people have arrived. An acquaintance asks for help moving; a strange assortment of damaged sports equipment and battered musical instruments. I ask her to teach me guitar tuning. She asks where the next event is. I tell her that it’s over. She asks who won, but I don’t know. We scan the newspaper as we’re waiting for the pedestrian signal to change. Bicycles rush by on the rubble filled street.

Planning the Scandinavian Adventure 2013 – The First Installment

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Crazy strange people that we are, the trip we are planning to take involves no overnight cruises. A driving tour of Scandinavia may be a novel concept for most vacationers, but it fits our style to wander the countryside. In Europe these types of trips are packaged and called Self-Drive Tours where you rent a car and travel around to a pre-set itinerary. I won’t be signing up for a self-drive tour, but I will be looking at what they consider the highlights of an area before making a decision of whether the offerings are attractive enough to make a detour.

The planning of 4 country adventure by car is a daunting task and I’m just starting to piece things together. The first challenge is to find the perfect number of days for the adventure. The second is to find a place to stay about every four and half hour or less car trip. Long drives are tough for adults but suicidal with most kids/teens. Generally we like to stay 3-4 days at a location and usually aim for a minimum of 2. That means I have to find the perfect sleeping spot about four hours away from the last one. There are logistical problems to tackle as well; namely what to do with the car when you get to a city or want to take a train ride which sends you to a new location. We are not light travelers, so luggage is always a concern as is laundry. Generally we pack 7 days of clothing on a 3-4 week trip we have to find laundry facilities at least twice.

This is the first post of hopefully many in the planning process. I’ll be throwing links in at the bottom of the post which I’m using to help with the planning.

Things I’ll be looking for are: Castles/Ruins, Gardens, Places of Historical Interest, Interesting Architectural or Cultural Buildings, Restaurant destinations, Wildlife Parks, Mazes, Places of Natural Beauty, Day adventures (like glacier walking, fjord cruising, train rides, fishing, hiking), Aquariums, Museums/Art Galleries, Glass blowing experiences…

Here are some websites I’m bookmarking… The all-important restaurant short list will be my next post-in-progress :)
Countryside Hotels – Sweden
Self- Drive Scandinavia
Profil Hotels
Smultronstallen Hotel
Svenskamoten Hotels (Business & Meeting Hotels – Sweden)
Kloster Hotel
Aland – Things to do with Family

The Trials & Tribulations of Planning.

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One month after my 1st trip planning post and we still have not booked anything. No air. No hotel. No Car. Are we even going? I have piles of maps and guidebooks. I’ve watched 3 travel videos. I can draw a map of our proposed route in my head, on a napkin, in my dreams… I’m conversant with hotel options in multiple countries… Today there were so many Firefox tabs open on cross checks and searches and maps I had to restart the computer.

Clean slate now… What do I do…

We’ve re-shifted dates. X-ed out the Rhine and the Black Forest as a stay-location. Now the current dilemma is how to get from the Mosel in Germany to Alto Adige in Italy while maximizing the exploration experience, squeezing in a day in the Rhine, an afternoon or morning at Legoland Germany and making sure we manage the Romantic Road *and* that we have to time see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. Too much? Maybe. The big concern is that on a sight-seeing day we don’t park with luggage in the car. Now I challenge you to make a schedule that works! That is currently my lot.

Then there’s the hotel perplexity. The hotel I want to go to after the Wachau is fully booked on certain days. So we have to land there on a certain night if we’re going to stay there. Generally my argument is that’s close to the Czech border and the train stations – making it ideal for a day trip to Prague. The weekend we’ve chosen to be in the Italian Alps is obviously a busy weekend which is also limiting our choices there. If we shift so we spend extra days to cover all the mid trip stuff we want to see then we end up not being able to stay at specific hotels (which are in excellent locations, like the one near Prague). There’s also a voice saying “you need to stay around in Italy longer”. But we have to get back by the 20th of May, preferably before.

Meanwhile I’ve ruled out all the Amsterdam hotels I started with. The hotel in Belgium I wanted to stay at is booked the 3 days we want to stay there. If we use a Euro car rental we can drive to Italy but not the Czech Republic. We have a friend traveling in the Mosel & Wachau, so we’re trying to coordinate dates so that a winery visit might work in both locations. Of course there’s also the laundry factor which I won’t even get into.

Shall I go on? Probably not. This is just not that interesting if you aren’t in the middle of it. Rest assured, some resolution will occur. I just hope it’s sooner than later.

The Wind has Shifted… The Search is on.

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We’re back to flying into Amsterdam and then driving to Germany. I think watching Rick Steeves Benelux/Germany DVD cemented it. Trent was taken with a museum in Belgium, and I want to see the Van Gogh museum. Currently the plan is at 25 days and up to potentially 8 countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy & possibly the Czech Republic) with 9 actual hotels to book. If we slipped into France & Switzerland it would 10 countries. If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium…

Hotel searching is tough for us. We like luxury, but like to not pay exorbitant amounts/night – and we try to avoid big chain hotels. We also prefer country to town/city properties. We need WiFi, a comfortable bed, decent food near by (that means something *we* would eat) and I look for something special about the property – a castle, on a park, a great restaurant, near something we need to go see, etc.

If you think that’s an easy task – you are mistaken!

Here are the sites I’m currently using:
Relais & Chateaux
Trip Advisor (taken with some large grains of salt)
Small Luxury Hotels
Leading Hotels of the World
Historic Hotels of Europe
Historic Hotels of the Benelux
Great Small Hotels
Five Star Alliance
Castle Hotels (Mainly Austria)
Karen Brown (taken with an even larger grain of salt & cross checked extensively – not trusted)
Kiwi Collection
Mr & Mrs. Smith
Epoque Hotels
Rocco Forte Collection
Romantik Hotels
Historic Hotels of Europe
Luxique
Starwood Luxury Collection
Johansen’s
Authentic Hotels

Chic Retreats