Sunday, July 25, 2010

St Moritz Switzerland

St. Moritz Switzerland

Nestled in the Engadine Valley in the heart of the majestic Swiss Alps lays the village of St. Moritz. At 6,000 feet above sea level it overlooks the beautiful, aqua blue, Lake St. Moritz. It is Europe’s version of Aspen, Colorado . And home to international vacationers, sports enthusiasts, and spa seekers and certainly has its share of the rich and famous.

The Kulm Hotel, ranked 4th best in Switzerland in the five-star category, is a magnificent, 173 room property in the heart of St. Moritz built in 1856. It’s charm and elegance attract those is seek of a get-away fit for royalty and brings to mind this saying; “Only the possibility of realizing a dream makes life worth living.”

To that end, the hotel has added a 6th rating star which includes the motto: “Whatever You Like!” The staff is dedicated to make your every wish come true. In fact, they tell a story of one such patrons dream to ski with her favorite soccer star. Done.

This year, The Klum Hotel introduced a valley-wide, stay and play golf package, which includes four golf courses. The first is a 9-hole executive course right here on the Kulm property. All of the tee boxes have artificial mats from which to tee off, and the longest hole is about 140 yards. But don’t let that fool you. Even if you are a big hitter, you will find this course sporty and pleasant. Every hole, with all of its elevation changes, is a small gem.
I am reminded of the par-3 course at Augusta National Golf Club to which you can compare the beauty and majesty of this small golf course. If there were a rating of top 100, par-3 golf courses in the world, this would have to be on it. Not only is it challenging, but it is very romantic as well. When you stand on the tee box of hole # 5, you see a lovely heart-shaped green some 100 yards below the elevated tee box. My wife cooed with emotion and even gave me a big kiss!
Handy divot tools hang from every flagstick and the rakes in the bunkers have leaning stands. It’s Swiss efficiency at its finest. But it is the views of the surrounding Alps that are truely awe-inspiring. If you come for golf, don’t ignore this little treasure.

Golf Club Alvaneu Bad
This is part of the hotels stay and play package, and when they told me it was an hour and twenty minute drive, I began to question the sensibility of that. But the drive alone is well worth the trip. The road itself winds dramatically over the Alvaneu Pass, which often becomes a single-laned road, and reaches a summit of over 7500 feet. Along the way you will dodge a myriad of bikers, hikers, motorcyclists, and perhaps a cow or two. Wunderbar!
The course is a par 72 playing at 6400 yards. It lies at the base of the Alvaneu Valley. So, while I was prepared for a mountain course with a lot of elevation changes, this course plays horizontally within the valley, with mostly level holes. And these holes are beautifully framed by the tall, wooded forests growing mountainside, with rivers and streams cutting through many of the holes. It is level enough that there are hardly any players choosing to hire carts. It is the splendor of the walk that enhances a players’ experience.
The manager, Roland Fisher, told me it is regularly rated in the top 10 in Switzerland, but keep in mind there are only about 100 courses in the entire country.
Because of its sunny valley locale, their season of golf lasts from May through September. Aside from the golf package, the greens fees are 100 Swiss Francs on weekdays and 120 on weekends.

If you go:

Zouz- Madullain
Zouz is less than 10 miles from St. Moritz and was built just seven years ago. It is a par 72 playing 6600 yards from the tips. It plays mostly level through the enchanting Engadin Valley. The course is tightly built with very few trees to line the fairways, so it is easy to hit your ball into the adjoining fairways. This is evident on a few of the par-5’s where it can be a challenge to direct your ball onto its proper fairway. There are holes with 45 degree, dog-legs, and holes whose tight, small greens require accurate approach shots. My wife protests the difficult golf shots here, but marveled at the courses scenic beauty. In fact, she photographed many holes laying next to active farmland, mountain streams, quaint ponds, and even distant Swiss trains.
Be prepared for altitude accommodations and sun intensity here in Zouz. And be prepared to have fun too!

Zouz is a Romansch word, and the primary language of the village of Zouz. Romansch is a form of ancient Latin and one of the four official languages of Switzerland. The others are German (with many speaking Switzer-Deutsch), French, and Italian. The head Professional here is one of the 10,000-20,000 Swiss who speak Romansch. And that number dwindles each year. With a population of 7 million, it is interesting that this language that is spoken by so few people remains one of Switzerland’s official languages. Those who speak this language live in a very small section of Switzerland, and the Engadin Valley is home to most of them. It all adds to the charm of this golf vacation.

Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina
The Hotel Kronenhof is a sister hotel to the Klum , and approximately ten miles away. It has 112 luxury rooms and is also 5 stars. The original part, like the Klum Hotel, is very traditional. But there is a newer part that is quite contemporary and we stayed in one such room.
Vibrant red colors and sleek design lines define the room with a leather headboard and electrical blinds that block the bath from the bed. Many of the rooms have large windows and patios that allow viewing of the nearby glacier.
The hotel also has a newly designed spa, which features pools of water that massage, soothe, relax, invigorate, and transform your entire body. There is a floating, relaxation pool with accompanying light projections on the ceiling that is sure to delight any spa enthusiast, weary golfer or skier. A massive central Jacuzzi generates bubbles in every shape and form, designed to target different parts of the body; neck, back, legs, etc. And the pool uses underwater music to enhance the relaxation process. One may very well forego golf and lavish into this sensual world of water.

But is the impeccable service at the Hotel Kronenhof that defines its elegance. The entire staff offers friendly, inviting stays. It is not uncommon to find the General Manager awaiting your arrival or visiting your dining table to welcome and enrich your experience.

Like many upscale resort hotels, kids activities are becoming a priority. There is a kid’s club space with loads of activities, and even a kid’s dining room. The Hotel Klum has a VIK program (very important kid)
If you bring your children during the ski season, the hotel will take care of them to whatever degree you desire. Take them to ski school, pick them up, keep them busy, and dine them in the kid’s dining room. It’s almost like having the hotel staff as your private nanny.

Samedan Golf Club
Samedan Golf Club was built in 1893 and is the oldest golf course in Switzerland. It is no more than 7 miles from St. Moritz and plays 6800 yards from the tips. Today I played it from 6500 yards, but keep in mind that, at this elevation, balls travel between 5% and 10% further. I played with Wault (from the Netherlands) and Frank (from Austria) and we had a blast today. This course is much flatter than Zouz but has much more water. Of the 18 holes only 5 have no water in play, so pay attention to your accuracy The greens were in excellent shape and most of the fairways were too, but there is the occasional bad patch of fairway.
The sand, which I found more than once, is very will cared for and the bunkers play very well. There is a diagram board at each tee box so the water hazards, some of which may seem hidden, are quite obvious if you pay attention to the board on the tee box. The Engadin Valley is broad so there is plenty of flat terrain on which to build a course. High approach shots look magnificent with the Alps in the background.
If you go:

Badrutt’s Palace

There are 6 hotels with 5 star ratings in the St. Moritz area and Badrutt’s Palace is one of them, featuring 159 rooms 38 of which are suites. The senior member of the Badrutt’s family built the Kulm hotel and his son built Badrutt’s Palace which was completed shortly after his father died. It has a very British feel to it, serving high tea everyday and customer service is at the forefront of everything.
It seems that Mr. Badrutt had a bet with some British friends that if they came in winter they would experience at least 90 days of sunshine “otherwise I will pay the bill for your entire stay” He not only won the bet but started a tradition of the British visiting the St. Moritz area.
In addition to the skiing in the winter, which St. Moritz is known for, there are lots of activities: Hiking, biking, curling, tennis, polo, sailing, wind surfing, bridge. . The list is almost endless!!
80% of the customers return regularly and the staff knows everything about them, from names of parents, kids and even pets. Regular returning guests have robes and towels that are personally monogrammed for them. There is even a resident who has lived in Badrutt’s Palace for 38 years and has his own table in the dining room at which no one else is ever allowed to sit. The kitchen keeps his own personal place settings on hand at all times for use exclusively by this man. The history book of the hotel and family have dozens of stories like this, mostly about the many royalty and celebrities that have spent time at Badrutt’s. Some guests return so regularly that they leave everything when they checkout. The staff then photographs the placement of everything in the room, packs it up and stores it until they return and places everything just where it was when they checked out.
A couple more interesting facts: Every winter season the kitchen goes through 2 ½ tons of chocolate!! I love this place. The wine cellar, which very few people ever get to see houses 40,000 bottles of wine.

“Kids are the clients of Tomorrow” is a creed of the entire staff, and it reflects in the commitment they have to the younger generation There is a kids club here with a capacity of nearly 40, for kids age 2-14 and there are up to 5 nurses on call to take care of these kids at all times. In addition to the adult activities, mentioned above, they can take lessons in almost all of these as well as cooking classes from the head chef. In winter the hotel has access to nearly 60 ski instructors. They will arrange family picnics, have an arts and crafts room and the activities range from both indoors to outdoors. No wonder generations of families keep returning to Badrutt’s Palace.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, Italy

We are in Cinque Terre, Italy. The 5 villages date as far back as the 13th century and sit on the hillsides that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea.
A little over 150 miles across the Mediterranean Coast lies Monte Carlo, which also sits on the hillside over-looking the same sea. But that is where the similarity ends. Monte Carlo fashions itself with the very best that money can buy, while Cinque Terre takes great joy in the simple life. Colorful houses seem to hang on the cliffs. Local churches sound their daily chime. And the land is terrace farmed for food. Surrounding these five villages is an infinite mosaic of vineyards, olive and lemon groves, and fruited trees. These agricultural plots seem to hang onto the sheer cliffs above the sea. And from these marvelous fields, we receive tangy local wines such as Sciacchetra, purely extracted olive oils, and delightful herbed pesto.

The agriculture is of main concern here in Cinque Terre. All of the 5 towns and other rural villages are tied to each other in their quest to keep local farming alive. The towns people, like their forefathers, preserve the terraced farms as a means of income and property stability. While some of the farmland has been abandoned and is scrub, most have been passed on from generation-to-generation. They farm mostly wine grapes, olives, pears, and herbs. Each family plot is divided by old, dry-rock, stonewalls, built hundreds of years ago.

We visited an Olive Oil mill that housed both old and new technology. The old is powered by a water wheel at the foot of a water fall, which spins two large stone wheels one of which presses the olives. Then heat is applied to separate out the water and the extra virgin olive oil. The new technology accomplished the same task with an electric press.
In old days these terraces were very difficult to access, to plant, fertilize and harvest. Now they have a monorail with a small-motorized cart that can take whatever they need up and down the mountain to their plots.

Today, the area is sought by tourists from all countries. We were told that there are 800-1000 residents here who mingle quite well with the two million annual tourists.

On our first night here and as we walked the streets of Riomaggiore after dinner, we heard music in the distance. We were drawn towards the drumming of the Alleluya Band from Malawi Africa, who were singing and dancing for the village of Riomagiorrie. No less than 15 singers and dancers, who were wildly dressed in multi-colored costumes, were gyrating to a rhythmic, African beat. The local Catholic Church sponsored the event for all of the towns residents to enjoy. The audience was captivated. What a treat!!

Cinque Terre (5 lands) consists of 5 tiny villages sitting on the bluffs over the bays on the Northwest coast of Italy.
Monterosso al Mare is the most western of the 5 towns and the closest to being a classic beach town of the Italian Riviera. Vernazza, and Corniglia are just a few kilometers down the coastline. The later is different from the others because it is situated on a plateau, over 300 feet above sea level, while the others lie next to the Sea. And Manarola and Riomaggiore lie on the eastern end. All of the villages are linked by charming cobblestone pathways that make home to local musicians. One can have a quiet seaside stroll while listening to melodic accordion music. But be prepared to take in a few sets of stairways, as each village is scattered with scenic steps that reach high into the mountains. It seems that every street, alleyway, passageway is a long stairway to somewhere. Who knows how many outside stairways exist in these 5 villages!!

These five communities discourage auto traffic to preserve the tradition and ecological impact of the area – so they are best reached by train. It has now become a World Heritage Site and a UNESCO National Park. In fact, certain parts of the nearby sea are part of the National Park system as well. And it is the preservation of this area that makes for some clear water scuba diving and snorkeling.
The water is temperate and refreshing while keeping a swimmer bouyant and tireless.
But it is the view from the boat back to the towns that is truly breathtaking. If you don’t want to plunge into the sea, there is plenty of kayaking, canoeing, and beach time to fill your day. And for those preferring the countryside, you may go horseback riding, or rent a mountain bicycle, or hike almost 100 miles of trails. There are plenty of activities for all families here in Cinque Terra.

If you want to have your kids interact with a culture rich in history, this is the place for you and your family. In this town of Riomaggiore which is almost all hills, there is one flat Piazza, where all the kids of the village gather daily to skateboard and ride their bikes. On the walkways, pictorial photographs recall a time when nearly 1000 hectors of land was cultivated for farming. Scenes of harvest are murals of the landscapes, with Italian locals briskly carrying baskets of grapes on top of their heads. By taking a walk into the vineyards, one may recall such a time.

The main street is doted with tiny restaurants (capacity of 20-25), a few souvenir shops, and several grocery stores. We are talking tiny stores with fresh fruits and vegetables out front, and a bakery and meat counter inside. You wont find much in the way of packaged food here.

· Visit the terraced farms and learn how farmers worked hundreds of years ago
· On the Sea: snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, swimming and even surfing
· Hiking: nearly 100 miles of hiking trails cris-cross the area. These trails can be explored on horseback and mountain bike as well

If you go:
Fly to Pisa Italy and take the train to Cinque Terre about 1-½ hours or fly to Genova and take the train. You can drive there but once you arrive your car will be useless.
More information:
More: don’t bother with a car and don’t show up in high season without a room reservation. Rooms (mostly small apartments)
Range from 80-$125.00 per night.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monaco Golf club

Monaco Golf club

When the assistant golf pro, who lives only 30 miles away, in Nice, France, was scheduling an interview to work at The Monaco Golf Club, he asked the manager; “A golf course in Monaco? How do I find it?” And that was our first challenge of the day; finding the course.

Monaco’s sole golf course lays 3000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea, yet only a couple of miles away from the center of town. Narrow switch-back roads ascend dramatically from the seaside to a cliff-hanging locale at the top of Mont Agel approximately 8 driving miles away from the center of Monte Carlo. The golf course is technically in France, but it is owned and operated by the Principality of Monaco. It is the sole golf course in the area and boasts Prince Ranier and the royal family among its famous patrons. There are 500 members in all.

The Monaco Golf Club will celebrate its 100-year anniversary next year, and it is truly a wonder how this course was carved into the mountain in 1911. And only a few changes have been made to its original design by a committee of members.

The front 9 boasts panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. Standing on the 5th tee box, one can see Italy in one direction and France in other. And, on a clear day, the views reach Cannes, nearly 50 miles away. Today, I am able to span the entire city of Monte Carlo, some 3000 feet below, with its yacht filled harbor and meandering coastline.There may not be another course in the world where you can see three separate countries on one tee box.

It is 8:00 AM and birds are singing. The grass is covered with dew, and the sun is playing hide and seek behind the mountain, creating exotic, long, shadows from the mountain peaks. Taking in account the severe elevation changes and the deep shadows, a golfer must carefully examine the depth and width of each hole. A golf shot 20 yards into the rough may well send your ball into a different country!
Before you finish the first half of the course, you will have mastered playing the fairways for a convenient roll, sacrificed distance for accuracy, and used a high-lofted wedge onto the many smaller greens. And be sure to calculate your endurance, since most players choose to walk the course.

Be prepared to hold onto your chariot on the back 9 holes, as hole number 12 plunges down the mountain towards the cup. And as you meander back up the remaining 6 golf holes with relative ease, remember to take in the enchanting cliffside villages on hole number 14,15, and 16. Bowled fairways and strategically placed bunkers will probably save you from rolling off the course. And you may even thank a bunker or two. But for the average golfer, an errant shot may be trapped by the heavy brush and hedges that frame the holes.
If you have a fear of heights, hole #16 will sure to send you packing. The green is cloaked in an amphitheatre of rock that hangs cliffside. The visual splendor of this course brings to mind a German word that I have recently learned: Augenschmaus. It means “a feast for the eyes”. And the Monaco Golf Club is certainly one such feast.

If you go:
Length 6341 yards par 71
Cost: 120 euros weekdays and 150 weekends

Goodbye Salzburg Hello adventure travel

Auf Vidersehen Salzburg
Hello adventure travel

We are leaving Salzburg via train to Milan and then plan to pick up a rental car and drive to Monte Carlo. I bought the train ticket 2 days ago and was told “on Thus and Fri there is a train strike in Italy, so go to Innsbruck on Fri, stay overnight and continue on, Sat morning. When we got to the train station we were told, “change in plans! Now travel to Innsbruck, change for Brenner (a boarder town) and take a bus to Verona and a train from there will continue to Milan.”

Somehow all that worked, and as unexpected and unpleasant as it was changing to the busses with a train full of people, the bus ride through the Alps to Verona was beautiful and we actually loved it. It turns out the continuing train to Milan is a German train, leasing track space from Italy, and our conductor was American born (in Orange County) and living in Innsbruck for the past 18 years. We left ½ hour late but we got to Milan and he actually found us a room at the hotel he stays at.
The next day was another story. Rental cars are sold out in Milan, so we set up a car rental in Genova, 90 miles past Milan and on the Mediterranean Sea. Took a cab to Milan Central Train station to get our train to Genova. Remember that I told you about the train strike? Well, 12 hours ago it was over, and the train station is packed with huge lines everywhere. We were in line to buy our ticket from a machine and a very nice guy helped us. The line to purchase a ticket from a human ticket agent was at least an hour long.

Got a ticket for a noon train, a regional train with no AC and very dirty train cars… I mean dirty. Boarded 20 minutes before departure, the train is almost completely full, and a conductor comes on and announces in Italian “this train is cancelled and is not going anywhere”. We did not know what to do, got off and we were told get on the train on the next track and take it to another of the Milan train stations and change for Genova. We took that train on faith, hoping that what we were being told in English was accurate Hundreds of us got off and we were directed to track 1.
We asked the conductor “is this train going to Genova?” He never looked up “no” is all he mumbled.!!, But someone else informed us its going to _______ and you can change there for Genova. We took that on faith and hoped on this dirty, regional hot train.
“Welcome to Italy” our seat mate told us, “this is how our train system operates on a regular basis”. As you can imagine it’s still crowded with people trying to get to Genova.

Got to this intermediate stop, waited an hour and, low and behold, a train for Genova showed up. It was full, but we all got on anyway filling the aisles with bags and people and an hour later we got to Genova.Most of us were standing, but I managed to sit between cars on the step to get on and off the train.

Throughout all of this we never saw a conductor on the train and were never asked for a ticket. Hoped in a taxi to get our rental car at the airport. “I hope I never see an Italian train again as long as I live” said Annie and I agree!!!
We had a rental car reservation with Dollar, but guess what??? There is no Dollar counter at the airport, what a day. We went to all the counters and finally Avis said, “I have one car left” So we were off. Its approx 90 miles to Monte Carlo and there are two ways “the toll road and the beach road. We ended up on the beach road through 20-30 miles of the Italian Riviera. Windy, beautiful, packed with cars and scooters and motorcycles, both driving and parked in every imaginable spot. It was a challenging, slow drive, but after an hour of that we found the toll way. I see why it’s a toll way!! It is bridges connected to tunnels and not short tunnels and very high long bridges. Whoever figured out how to get a highway here was truly an engineering genius. We finally got to Sam Remo where we found a hotel, and a fell fast asleep. What a day.

Up at 8 am and on the road at 9:00 AM. Up the beach road< which at 9:00 AM on a Sunday is not nearly as crowded. 10 miles of that and 10 miles of toll road and we are in Monaco.

Monaco is a principality, completely surrounded by France and otherwise its own government. A few thousand live here permanently and several thousand call it home (I am guessing tax purposes has something to do with it). The municipality of Monaco consists of 6 communities one of which is Monte Carlo. From this day forward when I think of Monte Carlo I will think of the show “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” We are staying at the Hermitage Hotel across from the Casino and a cheap room is 700 euros per night. Don’t even ask about the cost of restaurants. Condo’s which are everywhere start at ½ million for a studio and go up from there. We saw several advertised for 5-10 million.
If you are not staying at one of the hotels that is owned by the principality, a beach chair at their private beach cost 100 euros and if you want to rent one of their cabanas it could cost you 300-400 euros per day. All of the taxis are Mercedes, the cars parked in front of the casino are Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys, etc. making a Porsche look cheap
Did I mention the port yet? 80-foot yachts look like bathtub toys compared to some of the yachts here. And every kind of high-end shop you can imagine is here.

All that said, it is a fascinating place to visit and a beautiful community sitting on a bluff overlooking the Med.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trains and Boats and Planes

Trains and Boats and Planes

That is how the song goes but we took every form of trans I can think of today -- Metro and bus to the airport, plane to Memingen, bus to Munich and Train to Salzburg. We have been told that they have had a couple weeks of straight rain. Good thing we missed all that. Found our new apartment in the walking section of the city and fell fast asleep.

This is a great walking city, like Barcelona, and we walked and saw plenty. But tonight we went to see the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, performing the Sound of Music. Imangine choosing that piece in Salzburg. (we did however learn that the Sound of Music is the 3rd most seen movie in history behind GONE WITH THE WIND and CASABLANCA. This Marionette Theatre is 97 years old. I was overwhelmed and the show was fabulous… As an encore they deploy a mirror so you can see the puppeteers working their magic. A big surprise…

Last night we found a bridge club and played bridge—Can you say hearts,clubs,diamonds, spades in German? I can now… we met some great people there whom we will get to know.

We have made a couple friends thru “expat blog” someone from Ireland and someone named David from Chi who works here. We spent the afternoon with David and went to Hohen Salzburg the fortress high above the city. Quite a hike and a beautiful old place.

Our small apartment is on Linzergasse and last week Linzergassefest was in full swing, just outside of our window. 5 bands food, beer and sales from all the shops, just like every street festival you would expect.

I was surprised to learn that Salzburg is only 150,000 people. I guess because of the festivals, and its notoriety from the movie and the home of Mozart, people group it in conversations with the major cities of Europe.

I finally convinced someone at the Mozarteum to let me use a practice room to play piano. The number of pianos in this city is too numerous to even cotemplate but so are people here studying piano and voice as well (they need piano accompaniment). I feel like I am playing pianos, where great piano players may have preceded me. Yesterday I even got a Boesendorfer, originally an Austrian company.

We have also found a couple swimming pools where we go for exercise. We walk to the pool and swim laps.
Yesterday we went on the Salt Mine tour. It is approx 20-25 miles from Salzburg and its no coincidence that the Salz in Salzburg means salt. It was a beautiful bus ride, near Bertchesgarden. We were issued protective clothing to wear and walked to a little railroad that takes you into the tunnel, deep in the mountain. The mine is at a constant 55 degrees. We walked from our little train and then, as the miners did years ago took a slide down approx 100 feet. It was a riot.

Hundreds of years ago they mined the salt with picks and axes. Then they discovered a way to inject water into it and let it leach out into a lake that creates a 27% solution which is piped out of the mine and dried and taken to market.

Today we toured the catacombs of Salzburg, dug out of the mountainside this is where the monks prayed years ago.
Then we wandered across a couple beautiful churches and finally toured the Festspiel halls. This is the center of the Mozart festival that takes place later this month.
Since I made my living renting theatres all my life this was a very interesting tour for me. There are 3 theatres, 1400, 1600 and 2200 seats. The 1600 has a retractable roof and when the opera director wants it open, it's open, if the director wants it closed, it's closed. It turns out, however, that the roof is not strong enough to hold the winter snow, so, in winter, they open it up, retract the seats and cover everything in plastic for the season.

We were told the large theatre has the largest stage in the world at over 350 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. I can’t imagine that it is bigger than the met opera stage but google showed me that it truly is, by a few feet each way. Mozart festival, which does not begin for another 3 weeks, is 95% sold out. Cheap tickets are $ 50-60 and top tickets go for over $500 a seat.

We met two wonderful women at bridge club and the other night they invited us to one of their homes for dinner and bridge. This is what I was hoping for in getting integrated into the community. We had a great time and we are getting together again Monday and on Thurs I am playing golf with her son.

I am getting to be a regular in the practice rooms at the Mozarteum and I just love going there.

Wally (a female), the woman we met at bridge who invited us to dinner, introduced us to Laurie and Gene. They also play bridge and he is a very successful doctor and quite an avid golfer, he has golfed all over the world. We were at their house for dinner last night. In high school Gene was a foreign exchange student in Denver and both of them speak perfect English and they are very willing to help us in our learning. So I increased my German vocabulary today.

We finally started doing the tourist things. We bought the Salzburg Card, for which you pay by the day and it gives you free admission to the attractions. We visited the house where Mozart lived and learned of this child prodigies story. He was already a superstar at 6 years old, pushed by his “stage dad” and died at age 36, no one knows the cause of death and even more importantly noone knows where he is buried, only in Vienna, seems he died a pauper and went to a common mans cemetery.
Then we went to visit Schloss Helbroon which has magnificent grounds. It turns out the Prince who built the castle was quite the practical joker. He had fountain features through out the property and through them he would have his guests squirted with water. One example, he had an outdoor wine table for 8, When the guests got tipsy, he would turn on his fountain so it not only sprinkled on the guests but the cement seats they were sitting on shot up a stream of water to soak everyone’s pants, except his own chair, of course

Finally we went to the cable car at Unterberg. About 6-10 miles out of the city. This cable car rises to almost 7000 feet and the panorama views are breathtaking. Worth every minute.
Our last day in Salzburg today and Laurie and Oegen invited us to play gof at Altantann, the first Jack Nicklaus golf course designed in Europe. Gene had a match so Annie and I played with Laurie and Marcos, their son who is a banker. Beautiful day, beautiful course. I am gonna miss it here. Auf Viedersehen, Salzburg


We are in
Barcelona at the Caledonian Hotel in the heart of the city.

This is a great walking city and the Ramblas is full of people. Shops and restaurants galore and several street performers on every block--- some of them have come up with fabulous costumes and characters.

We flew on Ryan Air, which is cheap, not great customer service but cheap. The seats don’t recline and the flight attendants are up and down the aisle selling you food drink and even lottery tickets. Its non stop, but its cheap. I think Annie and I paid about $70 for both tickets from Malaga to Girona (Girona is a secondary airport for Barcelona approx 60 miles from city center.

Today we walked thru the park, came a cross a very big Harley Davidson rally (its funny to see a rally in Barcelona based on a company based in Wisconsin. Then we visited the Joan Miro museum. He lived here in Barcelona and this is the largest collection of his work anywhere.

We went on a harbor cruise and saw Barcelona from the water then we went to the Picasso Museum and saw a large retrospective of his work. He was born in Malaga, but spent a substantial part of his life here in Barcelona. We must have walked 5 hours today.

Attention Harley Lovers
Annie and I were trying to figure out why so many hotels were sold out when we were looking for a room in Barcelona. This morning the reason went right by our hotel window. The Harley Days Barcelona 2010 is here this weekend. The final event is the flag parade and I am sure over 10,000 motorcycles just went past our little balcony . What a sight. The last one was in 2008 and over 100,000 people visited the city for that one. I don’t know how many people go to Sturgis, but if this isn’t bigger, this cant be far behind. WOW!!!

Today we took the .bus tour of Barcelona. This is a wonderful,clean cosmopolitan city and I could see living here. We saw several bldgs designed by Gaudi which are big tourist attractions. But there are also 4 projects here by Jean Nouvel, who designed the Guthrie Theatre in Mpls.
He has 2 park projects here and 2 bldgs.
One is definitely an icon of Barcelona—all glass shaped like a very tall cucumber with lights that change color in the night.
This man will make an impact on this city.

This eve we went to see Barcelona Opera Flamenc. This is a combination I never heard of before but there are a couple famous opera composers from Spain. It was a combination of Arias, flamenco music and dancing. Quite the interesting evening