Sunday, July 31, 2016

Spending the Day in Napa

Sharon and Janie spent the day in Napa. They picked up wine shipments at Kuleto Estates. They had lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company in the Oxbow Market. After some shopping, they finished the day picking up wine shipments at Bouchine Vineyards before heading home.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spy

Sharon and I watched Spy as a HD rental on the AppleTV. This 2015 comedy stars Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Allison Janney, and Jude Law. It was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for McCarthy.

The film follows the transformation of desk-bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy) into a field agent who attempts to foil the black market sale of a suitcase nuke. The opening sequence, opening credits and music invoke the feeling of a James Bond film.

The movie was filmed in Budapest, Hungary; I was very impressed with the scenery. When we were originally planning our European trip, we were trying to figure out how to get as far as Vienna and Budapest, but it was just too much ground to cover. Budapest is definitely on my list for a future trip. Sharon had visited Vienna and Budapest in 1985.

I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It was very watchable...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant

Sharon came over and spent the night with me in Napa. With the Napa Valley Marriott full of Oakland Raiders, I am spending one night at the Harvest Inn.

After checking out the bar at the Harvest Table, we headed to the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant for dinner. I had gotten a gift certificate to the Culinary Institute of America restaurants from work.

Given the prices, we were both disappointed with the ambience and the food. We had tomato toast and a watermelon salad as a starter. Sharon had salmon as an entree, while I had pork. Talking about dinner afterwards, Sharon said "disappointing is an understatement."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jesuit High School National Signing Day 2016

I was fascinated by this year's scholarship and signing day process in April at Jesuit High School. With Jack's class as seniors, this is really the first time that I have known boys that have gone through the signing day process.

Talking to parents and others shortly after the National Signing Day event, I got very confused. I didn't realize that signing day has grown to include full scholarships as well as kids going to college to try and play. Signing Day includes walk ons?!?.

Looking at the NCCA site, by signing an National Letter of Intent, a college-bound student-athlete must attend the participating college or university for at least one academic year, and that college or university must provide athletic financial aid for that same year.

Jesuit High School said that a number of boys signed Letter of Intent Commitments. I am not sure what this means or if it really exists... I have searched the NCAA sites, but haven't found any references to Letter of Intent Commitments. Several people have told me that some of the signing day participants were just signing a blank piece of paper?!?

I am interested in following a number of these boys as they continue to play in college.

Letter of Intent – Scholarship Athletes

Baseball
Alex Isola – University of Utah - First Team All-Metro
Jack Wolger – University of California, Berkeley - First Team All-Metro

Football
Beau Bisharat - University of Colorado

Golf
David Laskin – University of Arizona

Soccer
Gabriel McEwen – Westmont

Track & Field
Stephan Reynolds – Lewis University

Letter of Intent - Commitment

Baseball
Jack Cosca – University of California, Berkeley
Nick Sogard – Loyola Marymount University - Second Team All-Metro
Sam Stiltner – University of Pacific

Crew
Bryce Knight – Santa Clara

Lacrosse
Chase Browning – University of Nevada, Reno
Dominic Quiggle – Otterbein University

Rugby
Bailey Abercrombie – US Military Academy at West Point
Christian Dyer – University of California, Berkeley

Soccer
Matt Glass – Harvard University

Swimming
Terry Johnson – Georgetown University

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: The Guerrilla Fighter

ESPN Films has released the fifty-fifth film in their 30 for 30 documentary short series.
30 for 30 Shorts: The Guerrilla Fighter

Alexis Arguello is considered by many to be the greatest junior lightweight of the 20th century. He is also considered the greatest hero in Nicaraguan history for what he did for his people when his gloves were off.


You can find The Guerrilla Fighter on the ESPN web site at http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=17132049.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Caterzillar

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Caterzillar

Code Expiration: October 18, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

David Laskin

Jack and David have been friends and classmates since kindergarten. David will be heading to the University of Arizona on a golf scholarship. It is going to be fun to follow David's career.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Brunch with Drew

Stopping on his way back from two weeks working at the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp, Sharon, Jack, Kiki and I had brunch with Drew at the Rey Azteca Breakfast and Juice Bar.

Brunch with Drew

Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 River Cats versus Chihuahuas

At Raley Field
Sactown slugfest ends in River Cats rout
The best offense in the Pacific Coast League took the field Saturday night and then looked on as the Sacramento River Cats (45-56) ran up the score early en route to a 12-0 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas (57-42). Sacramento struck for nine runs in the first two innings and coasted to the win behind an excellent combination effort from the bullpen.

Sharon, Jack, Kiki and I went to the Sacramento River Cats versus El Paso Chihuahuas Pacific Coast League baseball game. As a social event for her work, Sharon's company took more than 100 people to the game. We had dinner in the Smokehouse BBQ area before wandering to the seats.

I was excited to see Hunter Pence in right field. The two-time World Champ and two-time All-Star was working his way back from hamstring surgery. Pence went 1-for-4 with a double in six innings.

Andrew Susac caught the game. He was 2 for 4 with a home run, two runs scored, two RBIs, one base on balls and a strike-out. After the game, Jack was talking mostly about was Susac's three passed balls...

Kelby Tomlinson played third. He was 3-for-5 with two runs scored.

We stayed for the fireworks after the game. Unlike the experience in Lille, it was fairly easy to get out of the parking lot after the game!

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Europe Vacation Musings

This year's summer trip had three basic goals. First, I really wanted to visit the Netherlands and Amsterdam. I self identify as Dutch. I really enjoyed Amsterdam. Except for the fact that it rained on us off and on for the entire first week, the highpoint of the trip for me was the first week in the Low Countries.

Second, Jack really wanted to see one of the Euro 2016 soccer games. One of the quarter final games fit almost perfectly into our schedule. It was in Lille, France and was only about 46 miles from where we were staying in Ghent, Belgium. We saw a great game between Wales and Belgium. In spite of the amount of beer that the Welsh fans dumped on Sharon, it was a very neat experience!

Once we were on the trip, Jack added a goal of wanting to get to as many countries as possible. He was not happy that we cut out a leg that would have taken us into Switzerland and Liechtenstein. As it was, we hit six countries: Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria.

Third, Sharon wanted to get to Salzburg, Austria. In 1985, between her second and third year in law school, Sharon spent six weeks taking classes at the University of Salzburg. She hadn't been back since. The itinerary for the first part of the second week of the trip was designed to get us close to Salzburg. Even though I was starting to come down with a cold, we had a great couple of days in Salzburg. We got a chance to revisit some of Sharon haunts from 31 years ago!

Over the course of the second week, I drove over 900 miles in two different rental cars. Both cars were manual transmissions. I have spent my whole life driving manual transmission vehicles of all shapes and sizes, but frankly I had kind of forgotten how much more you have to stay connected to the vehicle with a manual transmission. You have to pay attention and drive! I also got a chance to drive on the German Autobahn without any speed limit!

[Note to self], the one thing that I probably done differently on the trip was schedule one or two guided tours. We did self guided tours in most of the cities. While I enjoyed all of these, there were a couple of places where I think that a guided tour would have helped make more effective use of the time. For example, Sunday morning in Luxembourg City would have been a great spot to do a guided tour. We had guided tours in Rome and Charleston that I really enjoyed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt

On the flight to Amsterdam, I finished reading Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward P. Kohn. The book fits loosely into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. I actually bought the book in 2010 when I heard the author on the old Jon Stewart Daily Show. It has been sitting on my bookcase for almost six years!?!

Theodore Roosevelt was a New City Police commissioner during the the heat wave. While the book looks at Roosevelt and the role he played in and around the heat wave, William Jennings Bryan is really a lot more of a focus of the book.

Bryan was the Democratic nominee for President; he was running against McKinley. In the middle of the August heat wave, Bryan came to New York City's Madison Square Garden to kick off his presidential campaign with a speech. For a number of reasons, including the heat wave, the speech was a failure. Many people blame the failure of the speech for essentially killing Bryan's presidential campaign. The book also gives you a little taste of the McKinley presidential campaign.

Although I read the Woodrow Wilson book, I had forgotten that Bryan later served as Wilson's Secretary of State. Bryan played a major role in keeping the United States out of the first half of World War I.

While it has some interesting pieces, it is not a very good book. I felt that the book was very repetitive talking about the impact of the heat wave. It seemed like it repeated the same kind of examples over and over. I don't recommend the book.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Terminology 3

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Terminology 3

Code Expiration: October 11, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bruges Run with Jack

Much to my surprise, Jack wanted to go for a run a couple of times while we were on the trip. On the last day that we were in Bruges, he and I ran 2.95 miles in a loop through the city. There was a nice series of windmills along the River. A picture from our run is here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Amadeus

On Friday and Saturday night, Sharon and I watched the director's cut of Amadeus. As I said during our vacation, Salzburg is crazy for Mozart. The last morning that we were in Salzburg, we toured Mozart's residence. Sharon talked about wanting to watch the movie before we went on the vacation. My interest was peaked enough by our trip to Salzburg that I suggested that we watch it...

The story, set in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century, is a fictionalized biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. F. Murray Abraham stars as Antonio Salieri, while Tom Hulce is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Released in 1984, the film received 11 Oscar nominations and won 8 awards including: Best Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham); Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design; Best Picture; Best Director; Best Makeup; and, Best Sound Mixing. Amadeus is the most recent film to receive two lead actor nominations.

The Director's cut adds more than 30 minutes to the theater version of the film. As a result, the movie we watched was just over three hours long. I felt like the second half of the movie really dragged with a number of long production numbers. I don't recommend the movie unless you have some particular interest in the subject...

I think that the film's plot strays pretty far from some of the real details of Mozart's life. [Note to self], I need to find a short biography of Mozart.

Friday, July 15, 2016

2016 Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp

Starting Sunday, July 10, Drew is spending two weeks working at the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp as a counselor. Since 2003, he has worked thirteen out of fourteen years at the camp; he missed only 2015. Drew also spent five years as camper.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

ESPN 30 for 30 Vol 3: Doc & Darryl

Staying at the Napa Valley Marriott hotel, I watched Doc & Darryl. This is the eleventh installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 Volume 3. An episode guide for Vol 3 is here.

The documentary looks at the intertwined careers of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Starting with each as kids, it follows their meteoric rise with the Mets. Behind Gooden and Strawberry, the Mets beat the Boston Red Sox in the infamous 1986 World Series.

Darryl Strawberry played 17 seasons with the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants. He was rookie of the year in 1983 and an eight time All-Star.

Dwight Gooden played 16 seasons with Mets, Yankees, Indians, DevilRays and Astros. He was rookie of the year in 1984 and an four time All-Star.

Although they won a World Series and had fairly long careers, their lives were a mess. The amount of alcohol, recreational drugs and performance enhancing drugs involved is unbelieveable. Both men served time in prison. Combined with Strawberry's two bouts with colon cancer, it is amazing that either of them is alive. While Strawberry seems to have stabilized his life, Gooden looks and sounds like a serious drug addict.

I think that Doc & Darryl may have been one of the hardest of the 30 for 30 documentaries to watch. It is so depressing that I don't know that I can recommend it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Amsterdam Run with Jack

Much to my surprise, Jack wanted to go for a run a couple of times while we were on the trip. On the last day that we were in Amsterdam, he and I ran 5.57 miles from the hotel through the city to the tip of the Vondelpark and back.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 17 - To Sacramento

In hindsight, we probably didn't use our time in Munich as efficiently as possible. If Sharon and I had felt better, we could have covered more ground on Friday night and Sunday morning.

We had a lazy Sunday morning. We slept in and had a nice free breakfast in the hotel. We eventually caught a taxi from the hotel to the airport about noon. It is actually a pretty long ride out to the airport. The cab driver was not happy that I used a credit card...

We had a nonstop flight from Munich to San Francisco on Lufthansa. We checked our bags. I swear that Jack's bag was probably more than 55 pounds. I think that Jack's bag only weighted 43 pounds when we started. Sharon and Jack bought quite a bit of swag.

Lufthansa doesn't seem to care about overweight bags. We had a similar experience with Sharon's bag coming out of Italy four years ago.

We breezed through security. With a 3:25 pm boarding time, we had some time to kill. We ended up having a cold drink and some sushi followed by some Italian food.

The boarding was delayed about 45 minutes. In spite of loading a very big plane, Lufthansa didn't seem to have a very organized boarding process...

It was an 11 1/2 hour flight. Jack and I watched Portugal beat France in the Euro final by the score of 1 to 0. We had been hoping that Germany would be in the final. It would have been wild to be on a Lufthansa flight from Munich with a couple hundred Germans watching the game! Although the food was particularly horrible, the flight was uneventful.

We landed at 7:00 pm Sunday evening. We moved through the password control, baggage claim and customs fairly quickly. Jack's girlfriend picked him up at the curb. Sharon and I dragged the luggage on to the parking shuttle and wound our way to the car. By the time, we got home it was almost 11:30 pm. The cold had gotten the best of me and I was done.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 16 - Munich


Up fairly early, we had a very nice free breakfast at the hotel. Given the size of Munich, the plan for the day was to take the Grey Line on and off bus to a number of sites.

We walked to the subway station and took the subway to the Marienplatz stop. From there, we walked to the main railway station. We bought tickets and boarded a 10:20 am bus.

The first stop was the Nymphenburg Palace. The palace is the main summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria. We spent about 45 minutes touring the palace and the gardens.

Jumping back on the bus, we got off at the BMW Welt (BMW World) and BMW Museum. We wandered through the BMW World which is mostly current and future technology. Jack has been talking the whole trip about wanting a BMW station wagon. We saw them everywhere in Europe. We then toured the BMW Museum which showcases the history of the company. I was astonished at the number of people; both sites were packed. Overall, we spent almost two hours between the two venues.

The next bus stop was the English Garden. This is essentially Munich's equivalent to New York City's central park. We walked into the park and had lunch at the Chinese Tower beer garden.

Afterwards, we walked the length of the English Garden. At the tip, people were actually surfing on the river where it came into the park.

At this point, we started along the reverse direction of Rick Steve's walking tour of Munich. Struggling with a cold for the last couple of days, I was really starting to wear down at this point. We made a couple of stops to tour the Frauenkirche and St. Michaels Churches. We ended having a couple of good drinks in the Frauenplatz and watched an entertaining street performer.

We had one odd experience in and around Munich. It seemed like they were more reluctant to take credit cards than everywhere else that we went in the two and a half weeks. There were a couple of places that wouldn't take cards and a couple of other places where they acted very bent out of shape when we used a credit card.

We caught the subway back to the hotel. We headed down to the pool and the spa at the hotel. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. The hot tub was not hot and the steam room was a far cry from the one at Hohenschwangau.

We finished the night with a late dinner in the Champions sport bar attached to the hotel!?! This is an Amercian restaurant chain. I had a cobb salad, Jack had hot wings and Sharon had a quesadilla. I was frankly done with German food at this point. I have had enough sausages, sauerkraut and schnitzel to last me a couple of years. We watched the European track and field champions while we ate...

Friday, July 08, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 15 - To Munich

With a short hop planned from Salzburg to Munich, we decided to leave Salzburg late. After yesterday's struggles finding breakfast, we had a very, very expensive breakfast in the hotel.

Afterwards, we headed to Mozart's Residence. In addition to the Sound of Music, the town is crazy for Mozart! We did an audio tour of the museum. I have to agree with Jack: they could have done a better job providing an overview of his life.

We wandered back to the hotel, checked out of the room and headed towards Munich. This was a fairly easy drive of less than two hours on the autobahn.

We were at the hotel in Munich about 2:00 pm. We are spending two nights at the Munich Marriott. This is the first hotel on the trip that is not in the heart of the city center.

Getting the bags in the room, I took off to get rid of the rental car. I returned the rental car to the main railway station. Sharon encouraged me to call get the exact address for the rental return. I did and they give me a street address on an alley near the station. Like usual, I missed the turn the first time and had to loop around.

When I parked in the garage, I was next to three young Americans with large backpacks who were also returning a car. The side of their car had three deep gouges running the length of the car. It looked like some kind of dinosaur clawed the side of the car.

I grabbed a taxi back to the hotel. We walked to the subway and took the subway downtown. We walked from the Opeonsplatz stop to the Alta Pinakothek Museum. This museum is one of the oldest galleries in the world and houses one of the most famous collections of Old Master paintings. I was astonished at the number of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens.

From there, we walked to the Marienplatz, Munich's main square. Eventually, we found our way to the HofbrÀuhaus. This is a world-famous beer hall. Eventually, we found a table and had an early dinner of sausage and sauerkraut.

After some discussion, we ended up heading back to the hotel after dinner. Two plus weeks into the trip and with both Sharon and I nursing colds, we decided just to crash early in the room...

Salzburg, Austria

Thursday, July 07, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 14 - Salzburg


We set an alarm for 7:30 am. Getting dressed, we headed into the old city center for breakfast. We had a hard time finding a place for breakfast. We wandered back and forth before finally just settling on a Starbucks! Finding a place for breakfast is a struggle that we occasionally have when we are traveling. Every culture deals with breakfast slightly differently and sometimes we just can't find the right rhythm to get in sync.

After breakfast, using the Rick Steve's book, Jack led us on a great walking tour of the old city. We toured the Salzburg Cathedral, St. Peter Cemetery's and St. Peter's Church. The old city, including the cathedral, have some very Italian influences. In the cemetery, we climbed up into the cliff to tour some hillside caves where the medieval monks had lived.

Along the walking tour, we stopped at the University of Salzburg. In the summer of 1985, Sharon spent six weeks taking classes here between her second and third year of law school. After 31 years, Sharon was excited to have a chance to come back!

After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed to the Mirabell Gardens. We wandered through the gardens.

Next, we went looking for Hotel Amedus. When Sharon came to Salzburg in 1985, she got there a couple of days before the dorms were open. Wandering in the city, she ended up staying a couple of nights at the Hotel Amedus. She has some very fond memories of her stay there and the view of the church cemetery out the windows.

From here, we headed to the Museum of Modern Art. Located on a cliff overlooking the city, we took an elevator up to the museum. The plan was to have lunch there. The museum restaurant has some fantastic views. All of three of us had a business special (soup and risotto). Sharon has been talking for weeks about special desert that they have in Salzburg. We didn't get it on the first night. With our schedule, this was our only chance to order the desert. Sharon ordered the Salzburg Nockerl. It was huge.

Continuing to feel under the weather, I wandered back to the hotel to take a nap. Sharon and Jack explored the ridge above the city.

When they got back to hotel, we got cleaned up and dressed up a little. Sharon had made a package of reservations for the rest of the day that included four parts.

First, we took a boat tour on the Satz River. We sat on the river and had a cold drink while we waited for the tour. We caught the boat on the river right across from our hotel. The boat tour lasted about an hour.

Second, when the boat tour was done, we walked across the old city and took a funicular train up into the fort. It is literally a 30 second ride.

Third, we had dinner in the restaurant on the far side of the Hohensalzburg Fortress. While the food was mediocre, the views were stunning. There was a fixed meal; Sharon and I had a fish plate, while Jack had veal.

Fourth, after dinner, we went up to the top of the fortress (the high floor of windows in the picture at the top of this post) and listened to an hour and a half concert that included Mozart and other composers.

After the concert, we took the train back down and headed back to the hotel. Jack and I finished the night watching the France versus Germany semi-final Euro soccer game in the bar. France scored twice in the second half to win by the score of 2 to 0. For a couple of reasons that I will explain later, we were really rooting for Germany. By the time, we crashed in the room it was almost 11:30 pm...

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 13 - To Salzburg


Up early, we had breakfast at the hotel. We were packed, checked out and were loaded in the car by 8:40 am.

We are heading to Salzburg, Austria. For the first hour and a half, the GPS lead us over a series of small country roads through small villages. In the drive from Freiburg to Hohenschwangau to Salzburg, we saw a lot of rural Southern Germany.

Eventually, we hit the autobahn to Salzburg, We got to the hotel about 11:40 am. In heavy traffic, I missed the hotel the first time and it took 20 minutes to loop back around.

We dropped the bags and the car. The hotel said that the room wouldn't be ready until 2:00 pm. This wasn't a problem. Sharon had made plans for the afternoon.

We wandered across the river into the historic old town and had lunch on the Mozartplatz. Sharon had salmon trout, Jack had sausage and I had risotto.

From there, we wandered to Bob's Special Tours. Sharon had made a reservation for a four hour Sound of Music Tour! This was a highlight spotlighted in the Rick Steve's book. Frankly, I didn't even realize that the Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg.

Let me start with the positives. Both Jack and I felt like the driving tour give us a great feel for the city, the area around the hilltop fortress and the surrounding countryside. We also enjoyed the stop to ride the luge.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of negatives. We were in an eight passenger van. Siding in the middle row, we had a six year old and her grandparents sitting behind us. The tour guide/driver's English was not good. You really had to focus to figure out what the driver was saying. The six year quickly lost interest and was just yapping away about all kinds of things. Her grandparents couldn't hear the guide and got frustrated about where we were going and what we were seeing.

The traffic was very heavy. The driver kept muttering about how usually bad the traffic was. We ended sitting in traffic for much of the first hour trying to get to a number of stops in and around the city.

Over the second half of the tour, we started playing leapfrog with a Panoramic van that was doing the same tour. When we got to the parish church at Mondsee, I followed that group for a while. Their guide spoke great English and was being much more pro-active about actually leading the tour. This was actually the company recommended by the hotel...

What we really needed was a reference sheet and map that supplemented the tour. This would have provided a much better perspective on what was going on.

We got back to the city about 4:00 pm, but it took us almost 30 minutes to wind our way to the hotel in very heavy traffic. I finally convinced Sharon to get out and walk the last 100 yards rather than sit in the van.

We picked up our key and went up to the room. We are spending the next two nights at the Hotel Sacher.

Jack had come on the trip with a cold. Starting Sunday or Monday night, I started to feel it a little. Walking in the room, I essentially collapsed. I couldn't go any further. Sharon and Jack wandered down to the hotel bar, while I slept.

Sharon had made a dinner reservation in the old city center, but she and Jack decided to eat in the hotel grill instead. Jack had more schnitzel, while Sharon and I had hamburgers. Jack spent the last week of the trip raving about how much he loved German food.

Jack and I finished the night in the room watching the second half of the Portugal versus Wales Euro semi-final. We were rooting for Wales, but Portugal won by the score of 2 to 0.

Hohenschwangau Castle, Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 12 - Hohenschwangau

Up at 7:00 am, we had breakfast at the hotel, we picked up our castle tickets at the front desk just after 8:15 am. It is a steep 2 km hike from the hotel up to the Neuschwanstein Castle. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner. It serves as the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

We had tickets for a 9:40 am tour. It was nice to be there early. The courtyard where you wait for the tour was pretty empty. The tour plus wandering out of the castle took about an hour. It was definitely worth it. There is a bridge across the gorge above the castle, but it was closed.

We walked back down to the village and then up to Hohenschwangau Castle. We wandered around the ground. We had a 11:50 tour of this castle. This is s 19th-century palace built King Maximilian II of Bavaria. While not as impressive as the Neuschwanstein Castle, it was interesting.

After the castle tours, we had a pasta lunch along the shore of the lake. We headed back to the hotel and took a short nap.

I eventually wandered down to the front desk and got bikes and helmets. We ended up wandering over a fairly large area for more than two hours, including the shore of Lake Forggensee and around Lake Schwansee (Swan Lake). Jack got bored with our pace and took off on his own for the end of the ride. We covered more than 14 miles. Unfortunately, somehow I screwed up and didn't save the map...

After the bike ride, we again spent some time in the hot tub, sweat room and sauna. Both days, it was just the three of us in the spa.

We drove into Fussen for a fairly early dinner. The hotel had made a recommendation, but that restaurant was closed. Wandering into town, we finally settled on Gasthaus Zum Schwanen; this was a German Croatia restaurant. Jack had pork, Sharon had schnitzel and I had sausages.

The Germans don't eat as late as some of the Europeans. We were the last group that they seated and we were done with dinner about 9:00 pm. Tomorrow is another travel day.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - MaxCurve

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - MaxCurve

Code Expiration: September 27, 2016

Monday, July 04, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 11 - To Hohenschwangau

This was the longest driving day of the trip. We set an early alarm and had breakfast in the hotel. By 9:15 am, we were packed, checked out and on the road.

We drove southeast across Southern Germany. The trip took us through a bunch of small towns along the top of Lake Constance. Jack had wanted to have lunch in Litchensutein so he could add another country, but that would have added an hour and a half to two hours to the day. With one stop, we made the drive about 4 1/2 hours.

After two one night stops, we will be spending two nights at Villa Ludwig Suite Hotel in Hohenschwangau. We checked in and dumped our stuff in the room. When we checked in, we arranged with the hotel staff to make reservations for the castle tours.

We wandered up into the tourist area below the castles for lunch. Sharon's brother Tom suggested this stop; he and his family had stopped here. It is a major tourist attraction. There were people everywhere. Apparently, a lot of people come on day trip tours from Munich. After getting a bit to eat, we wandered back to the room.

We then headed to Tegelburg Cable Car. There is a luge at the base of the cable car. All three of us took multiple runs down the luge. Afterwards, Sharon and Jack took the cable car to the top of the mountain, while I had a cold drink... There were a lot of parasails jumping off the top of the cable car and floating down into the valley.

Back at the hotel, the three of us spent some time in the spa. The hotel had a great spa with a hot tub, steam room and sauna. We then spent some time on the hotel patio with a cold drink. The hotel has a fantastic view of the Neuschwanstein Castle from the patio and the hot tub!

After getting cleaned up, we wandered back up into the tourist area for dinner about 8:15 pm. It was empty... Jack and I had Bauernschmaus, while Sharon had pork and spaetzle,

Just before we crashed for the night, we got some upsetting news.

Frieburg, Germany

Sunday, July 03, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 10 - To Frieburg, Germany

Since we had gotten there late, we made a decision to stay late in Luxembourg City. Unfortunately, we failed to set an alarm. With the room darkened by shades, we slept until after 8:40 am.

Getting cleaned up, we wandered the square around the hotel. Given that it was Sunday morning, it was very dead... We finally settled on a place to have some coffee and pastries.

From there we walked through the Notre-Dame Cathedral. We then took the elevator down to the Grund. The Grund is a city quarter located in the valley below the centre of Luxembourg City on the banks of the Alzette River. We spent some time exploring the area before walking back up to the city center.

By the time, we got back to the room, it was time to check out. We loaded up the car and set the GPS for Offenburg. We traveled out of Belgium, across part of France and finally into Germany. Part of the route included toll roads and the autobahn without any speed limit.

We had lunch in the Offenburg city center. After running into a lot of English speakers in Netherlands and Belgium, as we move south into Germany, we are getting more and more people who don't speak much English. This created somewhat of a comedy of errors at lunch. We all ordered the same thing which we thought was salad and sausages. As the lunch progressed, we started to think that all we had ordered was salad and bread. It turned out that we had ordered a very good chicken special with salad and bread!

Part of the plan for the day was to visit Zunsweier. Sharon's grand grandfather left Zunsweier in the 1850's and emigrated to Philadelphia. We stopped in the village and took some pictures.

From there we took a smaller back road to Frieburg. This area is the heart of the Black Forest. There is a lot of hiking and biking. I would be interested in coming back and spending a week in the Black Forest.

We will be spending one night at the Hotel Oberkirch. This was another hotel on the pedestrian mall in the city center. Sharon went to find the hotel, while I waited with the car. Unfortunately, rather than sending a person to help us get to the hotel like they did in Luxembourg City, they sent Sharon back with a map. It took us some time to figure out how to navigate the streets to the hotel.

By the time, I parked the car and we got settled in the room it was almost 6:00 pm. We wandered through the city cathedral. There is a picture in the cathedral of the town essentially destroyed by allied bombing in World War II, but the cathedral untouched. Afterwards, we explored the rest of the city center for about an hour and a half. We were scouting for somewhere to have dinner and watch the soccer game. We ended up back on the square around the cathedral for a cold drink.

We went to dinner about 8:45 pm at Tacheles. We all had different kinds of schnitzel. We watched the France versus Iceland. France won the game by the score of 5 to 2. With a long day on Monday, we crashed early. We are going to try and get an early start tomorrow.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 9 - To Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

We are going to cover a lot of ground over the next couple of days. This trip had a number of goals that I will explore in a future post. The goals necessitated a couple of longer travel days.

After a very late night on Saturday morning, we set the alarm for 8:00 am. Getting cleaned up and having breakfast at the hotel, we packed, checked out of the hotel and were on the road shortly after 10 am.

Jack set the GPS for town center in Clerxaux. We drove across most of Belgium and into the tip of Luxembourg. It rained heavily over the first two hours of the drive. As I told Sharon and Jack, I am getting !@#$%^&* tired of the rain. It took us about four hours to drive from Ghent to Clervaux.

We had a nice lunch in the town square. After lunch, we toured The Family of Man, a exhibit of photos collected by Edward Steichen in permanent display in Clervaux Castle. As Sharon said, we could have spent hours looking through the photos.

Needing to drop one car and pick up another car, we started toward Luxembourg Airport. Unfortunately, the GPS lead a little astray. We ended up on a dead end dirt road paralleling the freeway. As part of this leg, we were essentially driving the length of Luxembourg.

We finally found our way to the airport about 4:00 pm, but then had some struggles figuring out where Hertz was. The Luxembourg airport is very small. We picked up the car that we are going to have for the next week.

Driving from Clervauz to Luxembourg City, we covered almost the entire length of the country of Luxembourg. We finally got to Luxembourg City about 5:00 pm.

We are staying at the La Place D'Armes for one night. This hotel is in the city center on a pedestrian mall. I dropped Sharon and Jack at the edge of the mall. Jack brought back one of the hotel staff who guided me to the hotel through all of the people walking in the mall. The hotel gave us a nice upgraded multi-level room.

This turned out to be a little like the Orvieto experience. I hadn't read the Luxembourg book. We got there very late in the day and weren't organized about what we were going to do. Jack had wanted to come to Luxembourg so I was kind of letting him drive.

After some initial confusion, Jack led us to the Bock casemates. We toured the underground fortification. Afterwards, Sharon and Jack walked along the city walls, while I explored the area.

Getting cleaned up, we walked to a late dinner at Le Sud. It started pouring rain on the way. We had a very nice dinner; this might turn out to be the most expensive place on the trip. I had risotto and lamb, Jack had veal and Sharon had had fish cappuccino and pigeon. We took a cab back to the hotel and crashed...

Friday, July 01, 2016

2016 Europe - Day 8 - Ghent, Belgium and Liile, France

Forgetting to set any kind of alarm, we all slept really late. It was almost 9:00 am by the time we got up.

Getting cleaned up, we wandered towards the Saint Bavo Cathedral. We had breakfast on the street near the Cathedral (eggs and bacon). Afterwards, we headed into the cathedral.

The church houses the Ghent Altarpiece. The Ghent Altarpiece (also called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb or The Lamb of God) is a very large and complex early 15th-century Early Flemish panel painting. It is attributed to the van Eyck brothers. It ranks among the most significant works of art in Europe. The altarpiece is another one of the works of art featured in The Monuments Men... There was a good audio tour of the altarpiece. The church also has the Saint Bavo enters the Convent at Ghent by Peter Paul Rubens.

Finishing up touring the church, we did the Rick Steve's walking tour of the historical center of Ghent. After Bruges, I was frankly surprised at how big a city Ghent is.

After the walking tour, we stopped for a snack at a place called the 13 Monkeys. Sharon had frog legs, while Jack had chicken wings.

The plan for the rest of the day was to head to Lille for the Wales versus Belgium Euro soccer game. Originally, I was thinking that we were going to take a train from Ghent to Lille and back. Although Lille is only about 45 miles from Ghent, it turns out that you would have to go to Brussels to get a train to Lille and it would take almost 3 hours one way.

About 1:30 pm, I split up from Sharon and Jack and headed back to the hotel. After about a 30 minute wait, I finally got a cab to Hertz. I picked up a rental car and brought it back to the hotel.

We took off a little before 5:00 pm for the game. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get to the Lille. It turns out that most of the parking requires a reservation?!?. Eventually, we found the only lot that apparently doesn't require a reservation and ended up parking in a walkway on the top floor (there were literally no other spots left).

We walked about a mile to the stadium in the pouring rain. Getting through security and the ticket lines was fairly easy. Sharon felt that the security wasn't tight enough. We grabbed a hot dog before the game. The game had a 9:00 pm kick-off.


We had great seats about 35 rows up close to midfield. It was a great game. Belgium scored first, but then seemed to sit back. Wales went on to score three goals and win the game by the score of 3 to 1. It was a very, very cool atmosphere. I have to learn the words to a couple of the songs that the Welsh were singing.


After the game, it took us over an hour to get out of the parking lot. We were back to the hotel in bed at 2:00 am. A very long day...

Ghent, Belgium