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Posts Tagged ‘Tauck Tours’

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After being a sleepless night flight bird, as we winged our way from Newark New Jersey to Munich Germany, I gazed with tired eyes to the level fields and pastures below as we approached landing in Newark. My friend companion, Martha, had caught a few winks through the night, but I flew from the 5 pm departure time in the United States in the light, through sundown into the dark and back into the horizon’s sunrise in Europe…awake.

All the while, pushing the clock six hours ahead in time. Shall we say, I arrived a bit on the tired side. Yet adventure lay ahead.

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Here comes Munich and the beginning of a twelve day European Alps tour through four countries and a principality: Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Lichenstein. After clearing the passport officials, and safely securing our travel documents and itinery (which I continued to check a zillion times throughout the next twelve days), we located our luggage, even though our flight arrival number was not posted anywhere in the baggage claim area. Not bad, huh, for two women, new to Munich!  Then we looked for our private escort, arranged through the tour, to take us the thirty minute trip into the city.

There he was at the end of the line holding signs for newly arriving passengers. No more baggage handling for us. He took over and directed us to his sleek and shiny black BMW, an upgraded model in which we were comfortable passengers.

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It was somewhat rainy, damp and grey on our arrival day but this was the only time and day that we were rained upon. The rest of the trip boasted exceptionally sunny blue skies and moderate, comfortable, edging toward hot, temperatures.  We experienced our first of many International Five Star hotels here in Munich. We saw quite a bit of this lobby, as we were very early arrivals and we had to wait for our room to be ready.

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We were both definitely wrestling with jet-lag tiredness as we resided in the lobby, watching the comings and goings, and attempting to get our telephones and ipads in wifi sync. But since we had “arrived”, we both agreed, to waste not a minute and take a stroll down into the Marienplaz to “see what we could see” just like the bear who went over the mountain. We knew just enough to know that the famed Glockenspiel Clock Tower was in that vicinity. There was a lot of construction going on throughout Munich, and perhaps, this is why I have the fewest photographs of this location than anywhere else on the tour.

Or maybe, I was just a little groggy.

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Department stores and wares for sale were everywhere throughout this plaza. I was fascinated with people-gazing along with the new feeling of being so far away from home. We didn’t stay out long, returning to the hotel to catch a breather of a rest before our official greeting and dinner party of the evening. Here, we would meet people, seemingly unfamiliar to us, but whom we will be able to recall readily as friends, after the tour is over. It seems like that is what traveling together does to you.

Anna, our marvelous Tauck Tour Guide, explains the next day’s schedule in Munich, along with some free time. We agree to meet the bus at the Opera House at 1pm that day for the beginning of our travels to Oberammergau in Southern Germany and then onto Austria.

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The Vier Jahreszeliten Kempinski Hotel afforded us sweet, luxurious bed and bath accomodations for our first night’s rest and several rooms of food choices for breakfast the next morning.

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Before leaving the hotel that morning, we got a glimpse of a $450,000 Mercedes Benz, parked behind our bus. I saw a sheik checking in, so perhaps it was part of his entourage.

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Martha and I chose to take a stroll through the famed English Garden during the free time we had in the morning before departing Munich. It was one of our many great choices throughout the tour. The garden was too large to take in altogether, but the time we were there was exquisite. The sounds and sights of nature surrounded us on the paths we chose, Martha having a keen sense of “this is where I think we are”.

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We wanted to get up to the Chinese Pagoda, but we were not sure on time allotment. Since we definitely wanted to be “on the bus”, we chose some shorter paths that wound our way back to the hotel, caught a lunch at a Marienplaz biergarten, and met up with our group at the Opera House. All missions accomplished.

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The local people we passed were out walking their dogs, riding their bikes, running their fitness training trails, walking and conversing with friends. Germans walk and ride bikes a lot! The sounds of the birds in the park just made it a nice place to be.

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When I hear the song, “In an English Country Garden”, I will think of Munich because I have not yet been to England.

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Back in town, sitting at the Biergarten. A great beginning to what just gets better and better every day ahead.

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Goodbye Munich. Strike up the band, Willy….we’re on the road.

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Our tour guide on the The Ultimate Alps and Dolmites Tauck Tour referred to it as, “A castle a day.” “You came to see castles, right?” teased Anna, our proficient Italian guide. “Well, you shall see them!” And our Swiss, twenty-five year old Tour bus driver, Stephen, was expert at getting us UP and around all the curves to arrive at the castles. It must have been a rule of the day that castles be built high atop hills.

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The first castle we visited was Linderhof Castle in the Bavarian Alps. In 1869, King Ludwig began transforming his father’s royal hunting lodge into a mini-Versailles.

Linderhof Castle - Bavarian Alps - built 1869

Pictures were not allowed to be taken inside the castle. We viewed a luscious setting, complete with a Hall of Mirrors and a dining room table that rose up from below,  featuring the menu of the day and table service, once the king sat down in his dining chair. The pity of it was, however, he always dined alone. He never had guests. He held parliament meetings without anyone being present. He walked the castle alone, day and night. He had a remarkable study/lounge, filled with an unknown number of classic literature books. His castle walls were adorned with the finest of paintings. He lived in an art museum.

Linderhof Castle 0 grounds

The grounds were beautiful and immaculately groomed. A joy to behold as we waited our tour time to enter the castle.

Linderhof Castle - Grounds

Linderhof Castle Golden sculpture

From his extravagant bedchamber, the King awoke each morning with a window view over his fountain gardens. That must have been a great start to any day.

In Austria, on the slopes of the Karwendel Alps, we visited Schloss Tratzberg Castle, built under Emperor Maximillian I. We began the visit with a private wine reception and lunch, featuring wine from the castle’s own vineyards.

Schloss Tratzberg castle entrance

Schlos Tratzberg Court Reception

Schloss Tratzberg Court Wine & luncheon

Schloss Tratzberg castle tower

 From a window of Neuschwanstein, perhaps the most famous of King Ludwig’s castles, we saw beautiful lake and mountain scenery. The castle King Ludwig II grew up in is also in view. This is his boyhood castle, where he grew under his strict father’s watch and dreamed of a “fairyland” castle atop the hill where he would one day retreat and live in solitude and comfort.

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Neuschwanstein - out the window, Ludwig's father's castle King Ludwig II’s boyhood home.

Let me be clear about this. Neuschwanstein Castle is THE castle destination of the Alps, as evidenced by the bus traffic in the little town below.

IMG_1529We arrived at this mountain town level through the talents of faithful tour bus driver, Stephen. We had company! The town of Fussen.

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We got to the next level, striving for the top, by horse carriage.

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Then we walked steeply upward.

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The castle is in sight…huff, huff, huff. I think I can, I think I can.

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We have arrived! But another surprise awaits. INSIDE the castle, there are more than 300 steps up spiral staircases we ascend to the top. I think Rapunzel’s spiral homebase is a bit overrated. Yet the views were spectacular and we all improved our heart health as we wrapped our way around the winding hallways.

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This is the castle said to have inspired an artist for the conception of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. My five year old granddaughter is very into princesses and castles, but she seemed none too impressed that grandma had visited one or more.

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Walking down to where the horse carriages awaited us was a little easier but hard on the knees. Then a ride back to town, where a hotel luncheon that satisfied any taste bud on the palette awaited at the Hotel Muller.

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Tour guide Anna keeps the group together and tells wonderful stories.

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Paragliders seek adventure in the skies above the spires.

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Tasty lunch and treats and we depart feeling like royalty, indeed.

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“This is not the Captain speaking. It is  Sue, who is a very happy passenger, accompanying her friend Martha who booked our intercontinental flight to Munich from Newark NJ in………Business Class!”

Martha flew up from Tampa Florida and I arrived Newark from Detroit Michigan on the afternoon of July 3. The old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words will be proven quite true here, so as the title says, I’ll give you a few words and let the photos say the rest.

Special treatment begins as we await our departure time in the Executive Lounge provided us by United.

Pre Board Lounge

We flew on a United Boeing 767, a very large plane. We boarded as Zone 1, ahead of others, and when we entered the aircraft, we turned LEFT instead of the usual right turn. There upon we entered what United labels as Business Class, replacing the old term, “First Class.”

You will now see photos of this spectacular setting, which I had never seen before. You will see other passengers, customarily settling into their places, reading their papers, using their electronics up to the last minute. But me! No, I am the passenger, new to this scene, taking photos, perhaps being thought of as a “no-class”  category.

But just so you can see for yourself, if by chance you haven’t been in a plane like this, fasten your seat belts, sit back and enjoy the scene.

Friends UnitedMartha and Sue, Friends “United.”

We are ready for this. We’ve waited and planned for six months and packed with just exactly what we think we will need.

ready for 1st class flight

Ready for fun

The seats are actually separate consoles onto themselves. You always maintain the same space in front of you regardless of the position you put your seat in. The seat, reclines, lifts legs up, and actually flattens for sleeping and none of this affects the person behind you, as your cocoon remains stationary.  It was interesting trying out all the different options you had. I was hoping I didn’t fold myself up like a taco.

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The cabin attendants were upon us at once, with friendly, soft spoken greetings and offers of a drink of our choice, also bringing entertainment plug-ins, warm blankets and a gift cosmetic bag, and choice of newspapers in several languages. Take-off approaches.

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We’re in the air and we study our information panel with its options as dinner soon approaches.

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I choose a movie to watch after dinner and music with dinner. I can also monitor the flight to see where we are at any given moment.

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EWR - MUC light dark

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We are given warm washcloths to clean up for dinner and a linen table cloth is set upon our trays.  We were given our menu choices and made them prior to take-off. Now comes the cold salmon appetizer.

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Martha chose a pork chop dinner.  I forget what I had but on the return flight the “lunch” was like a dinner and the “snack” was like a lunch. I chose a delicious beef filet for “lunch” which was like dinner. Did you get all that?

1st night flight dinner

Dessert was delightful. I think this is why I forgot what I had for dinner.

Dinner dessert

We left Newark at 5:30 pm and flew from day into night into day again, arriving Munich at 7:30 am Germany time, which is 6 hours ahead of US time.

Flying dark into light

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I made the mistake of staying awake most of this time. So not only did I lose my regular sleeping hours, I lost 6 hours on the clock “somewhere.” Oh well, you only live once.

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Martha and I were met by a Tauck representative who handled our luggage for us and drove us into Munich in his sleek, black BMW.  There was a slight rain falling and it is the only time it rained on our whole 12 day trip.

Going Home

So we had twelve days of go, go, go up and down and all around, so on the return trip we did sleep…..a little.

Skygazing

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Skygazing…..a “snack” which wasn’t peanuts…….and after clearing customs, rechecking our baggage, Martha and I depart for different terminals and destinations back home……Detroit and Tom……here I come.

Return Detroit cloud formations

Interesting cloud formations over Detroit; I caught a flight to Detroit getting me in two hours earlier, with United assuring me both checked bags (to save carry on, as I was tired) would indeed arrive with me.  Wrong! One out of two did, as Tom and son-in-law Carl helped me check up on it. It was on the United flight coming in 2 hours later and they sent it on to Kalamazoo, arriving on our front porch at 4:00 am.

This was my view on my return flight from Newark into Detroit, as the plane was too small to accomodate Business Class.  If it serves as an icon reminder of my rather “plain” life, it is rather misleading, as I was overjoyed to walk right back into life “as usual.”

Return to Real life

This was an opportunity of a lifetime, generously given to me and graciously received by me. And I take each day of my life the same — as a gift generously given and gratefully received by me.

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