Hey, Kids– Big Ben, Parliament…

For those of you not familiar with National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Charity and I have been laughing about the following clip since we arrived in London, especially on yesterday’s Hop-on, Hop-off tour.  Little did we know… well, first the clip…

We had so little sleep yesterday, we decided to take it easy and sleep in today. The big plan for the day was to go to the British Museum and perhaps King’s Cross train station (Harry Potter geeks unite!) to play tourist.  No problem. The subway system here, or “The Tube” as the locals call it, is fast and efficient. With all of the experience we’ve had on other metro systems, this one proved to be quite easy to navigate for the last couple days, so we were confident we knew the best way to the museum when we left at about noon today. We got to the nearby “home” station in a few minutes, deciding to wait to eat breakfast somewhere near the museum.

Our first hint that something was amiss:  instead of seeing the Tower Hill stop, we see Liverpool Street.  A quick glance at the route map on the train wall showed us that we had actually gotten on the wrong train from the start.  Instead of being on the District Line like usual, we had actually jumped on the Hammersmith and City Line.  No problem– we would just ride it in to King’s Cross and do our Platform 9 3/4 thing first.

Well, long story short, that was sort of a bust.  There was some construction at the station from platforms 9 onward, and although they actually filmed between 4 and 5, most of that was coned off for some reason.  Oh well, we took some lame pics and made a beeline for the Tube again.  The museum stop we were aiming for is on the Northern Line which had a stop at King’s Cross, so that was going to work out beautifully.  We hopped on the southbound train and settled in for the ride.

Mistake number two: the Northern Line actually has two separate tracks which run paraellel to each other through different stations, and of course, we realized after two stops that were on the wrong one.  Ha!  No problem again.  We could 1) ride it out for five or six more stops, switch to our familiar District Line, and continue our morning’s original plan which would require one more Line change or 2) get off, go back three stops, and switch to the correct Northern Line track which would take us directly to the museum stop.  We opted for #2 as it seemed the easier route.  Right.

We got to the station where we supposed to change to the parallel Northern track but couldn’t find where to do that.  No problem, right?  We could switch to the Victoria Line, get off at the next stop, and switch back to the Northern again and be back on track.  Except there’s a lot of construction on many of the Lines over the weekend, and unbeknownst to us, that stop is closed for the day.  *sigh*

So by now, you should realize that this carried on for quite a while longer; we had one more Line switch to the Picadilly.  And we still hadn’t had breakfast since the whole trip was supposed to take no longer than 30 minutes.  By the time we finally made it to an alternative museum stop, it was nearly 2pm, and we had taken five different trains and lost our sense of humor somewhere in the Tube.  OK, maybe not completely– we kept laughing about the Griswolds’ “Big Ben, Parliament” moment as King’s Cross was constantly threatening to trap us again and again.

All in all, we had a great day and will likely go back to the British Museum again this week as we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the place (good thing it’s free!).  And I definitely have a new-found respect for the Tube and will not underestimate it anymore.  Also, I’ll be paying attention to which Line we jump on tomorrow morning and make sure it’s the District Line.  For funsies, see if you can find some of the aforementioned lines in the following Tube map.  Also, the stations we visited (there and back– intentionally or not, successfully or not) today were King’s Cross, Bank, Euston, Warren Street, Green Park, Russell Square, Victoria, Embankment, Leicester Square, and Tottenham Court Road.  Our “home” station is Bow Road.  There will be a quiz later.

London Tube Map

London Tube Map

Excuse Me, Wells, Can I Have Your Autograph?

We took some downtime in Conwy the other day and were lucky enough to have an impressive collection of DVDs at our disposal at the B&B.  I’d wanted to see Hot Fuzz for ages, so when I saw it on the shelf, I snagged it with a quickness.

From the same guys who brought us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz follows Nicholas Angel, an overachiever cop from London who gets forcibly transferred to a village in the boonies for making his colleagues look bad.  All seems incredibly boring in Sandford until a series of murders pushes Officer Angel into super cop mode.

On his first night in town, Nicholas walks out of the pub and makes a wish in the town fountain.  When I saw the fountain, I thought, “What the…???  No way…”  The fountain looked very familiar, but I thought that deja vu would be easy in a country like this.

In a scene a few minutes later, however, I saw him jogging by a very familiar moat and castle which I instantly recognized.  I boxed Charity’s arm and exclaimed, “Hey, that’s the Bishop’s Palace in Wells!!”  She didn’t believe me, until he ran around the corner, by the familiar fountain, and right up the street, stopping outside the Swan Hotel, two doors down from the inn we stayed in.  Well, she didn’t even really believe me then as I had to rewind and pause so she could clearly read the hotel name and accompanying signage.  She thought it was a common hotel name, which it might be, but I spent a lot of time outside of that place while she went in to inquire about vacancy and rates, so I was kind of in tune with the signage.

In any case, I would have enjoyed the movie anyway as it was a spoof-homage to cop/action movies (as Shaun was to the  zombie/horror genre), but I loved it even more since I was just in that village a few days prior and recognized a lot of the settings.  OK, I guess the latter’s not hard since the town centre is kind of tiny, but you know what I mean.  Very cool.  And kind of like, “what are the chances??”

We have passed through many, many villages and stayed in only a handful.  I thought Wells was a neat little town, and now, I feel lucky to have stumbled upon it in the first place.

Fountain in Wells town square

Fountain in Wells town square

Not Cantebury’s Bath

Quick note:  hey, leave us a comment, if you’re so inclined.  It’s easy enough to do– just click on that cartoony dialogue balloon to the right of the post title.  We love hearing from you.

After that late flight into London, we immediately hopped a train out of Paddington Station the next day, saving our London touring for later. Our real first stop in merry old England was a city you may have heard of called Bath.

Before Rick Steves, I’d only known of Bath through high school English’s Cantebury Tales .  Yeah, I didn’t remember much of the Wife of Bath’s Tale either, but we ended up going there on Rick’s advice, and I’m glad we did.  Depending on who you speak to, the main draw to the town is either its Abbey or the Roman baths.  While the Abbey is nice, it was the latter that really drew our attention to the city.

Bath is fortunate to have the only natural thermal springs in the UK, and it appears that the ancient, indigenous people (the Celts) already worshiped at the main spring before the Romans appeared to build their own “all-inclusive” resort around 43 AD.  It was all-inclusive because along with the intricate (and awesome) bath complex, the Romans also built a huge temple to worship Sulis, a water goddess whose name was incorporated into the Roman name for Bath, Aquae Sulis (the waters of Sulis).

The Goddess Sulis Minerva

The Goddess Sulis Minerva

Main Bath

Main Bath

Touring the Roman baths, we were fascinated with the technology and reach of the ancient empire.  “Brittania” was at the very edge of their holdings, truly in the “sticks”, and yet it was a very famous spot for Romans to come and relax and worship.  The Romans spent over 300 years building onto and improving their resort, but when the empire started to fail, they pulled out around 410 AD, leaving the baths to ruin.  Over time, they fell into disrepair, and as time usually does, the complex was covered with silt and forgotten.  During the Dark Ages, the locals had no idea what their hovels were resting upon.  Long story short (too late), the baths weren’t rediscovered until about the 17th or 18th centuries and enjoyed incredible popularity first with royalty and then with the elite class.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time touring the place (we started late), but we thoroughly enjoyed what we saw.  Could have used another hour or so, for sure.

One quick thing– at one point in the museum, there was a scale model of what the Roman baths may have looked liked in its heyday.  There were little Romans all over the place (even little Roman slaves :-|) going about their business.  I mean, the whole museum is very well done…

Model of Roman Baths

Model of Roman Baths

But I happened to notice one teeny tiny anachronism hiding in the shadows…

Romans Really Were Advanced... ;-)

Romans Really Were Advanced... 😉

After checking out the Romans’ handiwork, we decided to go on the highly-touted Bizarre Bath tour.  Well, to be perfectly correct, Bizarre Bath isn’t really a tour– the proprietors describe it as a comedy walk through Bath with zero historical content.  The walk starts in front of a pub, so we had a couple of pints beforehand (and after– hehehe) and thoroughly enjoyed the strange and funny “tour” with its magic tricks, mockery of passersby, and Stu the Rabbit.  It’s kind of difficult to describe, but if you’re ever in Bath, I would highly recommend doing Bizarre Bath.  It’s one of those “gotta do it once” things.

The next day, we did an actual historical walk, provided free by the local tourist office and volunteer guides.  The tour took two hours, walking around the old town with our guide, Roger Wilson.  It was extremely informative, and Mr. Wilson was great.

Mr. Wilson, our guide, showing us an old loo, now built into the wall

Mr. Wilson, our guide, showing us an old "loo", now built into the wall

Another recommendation, but be sure to wear really comfortable walking shoes as the walk is long and over lots of odd surfaces.  I was already tired that day (I overdid a workout a few days prior), and my plantar fascitis was acting up, so by the end of the tour, I was sooooo ready for our visit to the new thermal spa.

*Tourist Trap Alert* Yes, the Thermae Bath Spa is one of those “if you liked the Roman baths, you’ll love our new state-of-the-art facilities” tourist trappy things.  We knew this going in, and even Mr. Wilson mentioned the spa with just a hint of disdain.  We went back and forth as to whether or not to go, but we figured the thermal springs have been a draw for this city for a couple thousand years (the full name of the city is actually Bath Spa— yeeeeaaaah…), and we also found a package dealy with a discount and a fancy dinner to be eaten in bath robes and slippers.  Sweet.  Ok, so the latter was actually better in theory than in practice, but you get my point.  We enjoyed the baths, but would only suggest going if you get some kind of deal.

All in all, we enjoyed Bath and would suggest spending a day or two there.  We would, however, strongly advise against renting a car from the local Europcar/National/Alamo agency if you need an automatic.  That’s a whole different story we will not get into here, but trust us– manuals are easy enough to rent, but if you need an automatic, fuggedaboutit.

And now, a small sampling of our pics…

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A Day in Rothenburg

After Switzerland, we took the train up to Frankfurt just to pick up a rental car.  This time, however, we had no intention of using it as a hotel room, thank goodness!  Instead, we decided to ditch the train system again to get to that ever-elusive European “back door” Rick Steves keeps espousing.  Before heading off to the nearby Rhein River Valley, we made like the birds and flew south down the Autobahn to the quaint medieval village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

With the car camping experience fresh in our minds, we decided to finally redeem one of our hotels.com rewards nights to “splurge” on a pricey room. We hit the jackpot with the King’s Suite in the Villa Mittermeier. Hands down, it was the most luxurious experience we’ve ever had in a hotel with outstanding customer service. Recommend.

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We checked into the hotel early, and because of Charity’s mad research skills, we knew our hotel was across the street from the Old Town wall. Sweet. We threw our stuff down in the room, ooh’d and aah’d over the coolness in the room, and made for the wall.

Now, way back in the medieval day, when Munich and Frankfurt were just bumps in the road, Rothenburg was the second-largest city in Germany at a population of 6,000. It was the crossroads of two major trading and pilgrimage routes, so it prospered for hundreds of years. Then, in the 1600’s, a series of unfortunate events including the Thirty Years War and the bubonic Plague left Rothenburg devastated, and it effectively went to “sleep” for a couple of hundred years. During the age of Romanticism in the late 1800’s, artists and travelers stumbled upon the sleepy town, giving birth to its tourism industry which it has enjoyed ever since. So it is with this knowledge that we visited Rothenburg, and we heard from friends who had been that it was the best example of a medieval town.

We did a bunch of wandering right away, following Rick Steves’ trusty self-guided walking tour. There were some really cool sights including the tiny door for curfew breakers and the rampart walk during which you could pretend to be a sentry on patrol OK, maybe that’s just me. Inevitably, I thought of how many times sentries died in RPG sessions. Yeah, morbid.

Stairs up to the town wall

Stairs up to the town wall

Testing the towns defenses

Testing the town's defenses

To be sure, we liked Rothenburg a lot. It truly was a cute German medieval town, one we’re glad we added to our trip… that said, the whole experience could be so much better if they banned motorized vehicles (except for deliveries and shuttles) throughout the town center. Loved the fountains (even through none were fit for drinking), loved the historic buildings, loved the ramparts, heck we even loved the huge, cheesy Christmas store. Hated the traffic in the town. I mean, seriously. The Old Town is super tiny. Walking the ramparts around the whole thing– that’s only 1.5 miles. During the day, the town is overwhelmed with tourists dodging cars on crazy cobblestones in narrow alleys. The cars just detract from the experience.

On Rick’s recommendation and the main reason we wanted to overnight in Rothenburg, we wanted to take the Night Watchman’s tour that night. The English tour runs daily at 8pm, long after the day-trippers have disappeared, leaving the town quiet (well, but for that dang town bell) and relatively empty. We had awesome local cuisine for dinner (brats, kraut, and potatoes) and washed it all down with local beer and wine.

The tour itself was great, and we really enjoyed it. The guy who runs it is a good host, guide, and showman. His effected accent is fun, and he is full of random and historical tidbits about the city. If you’re ever in the area, you should check it out. Pretty cheap at 6 euros (you throw the money in his hat at the end, hehehe).

One story I particularly enjoyed involved the German occupation of Rothenburg near the end of World War II. The soldiers stationed there were ordered to fight to the death, and the Allies bombed the town, destroying large chunks. Knowing they would not give up the town, the Allied General ordered its total destruction. Luckily, the U.S. Assistant Secretary to War John McCloy, called off the general. The reason? McCloy’s mother had visited Rothenburg as a young woman and loved it so much, she brought home a painting of the town, a painting McCloy grew up with in the family home. On the German side, the Officer in Charge decided to commit treason and turned over the city without a fight. To rebuild, Rothenburg put out an SOS to the world. Since the end of WWII, people have been able to buy one meter spaces along the city ramparts, and we saw bricks from private citizens and companies alike spanning the decades. Neat.

So here are just a few of the many pics we snapped in town.  Enjoy!

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This Is Mike and Sue

This is Mike and Sue.  They hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza.  Whoah.

This is Mike and Sue. They hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza. Whoah.

Even if we are behind in our posts, I felt we would be remiss not to mention two really nice travelers we met in the Cinque Terre. We were fortunate enough to chat with Mike and Sue over a bottle of prosecco while chilling on piazza benches fronting Vernazza harbor. Of course, Mike and Sue watched us do the drinking, and we laughed as they recounted their hike from the resort village of Monterroso.

Sue, we hope Mike is out of the dog house for that hike. And that you found a sandwich with meat and soft bread. Also, we agree with Mike– you should be very proud of yourself. We gaped as we tried to find the path from the water when we took the boat. Crazy. Wow. Also, thank you for saving us from ourselves. Yes, Mike, we wussed.

Hope all is well in CA.

Rome Rewind Redux

Yes, it’s been two weeks since we were in Rome, but obviously, we are terribly behind in posts.  Lots of those coming.  While in Switzerland last week, I wrote a really long post on my iPod Touch with the spiffy WordPress app. Of course, when I went to post the darn thing, the app crashed.  No problem, right?  Umm… no, problem.  Post go bye-bye.

So here is that post in a nutshell.

Throughout our time in Rome, I stumbled over the name of this town square.  Hawai`i people might appreciate this…

No, Hawaiian.  That's piazza of the people.

No, Hawaiian. That's piazza of the people.

OK, Hawaiian, that’s “POPE-oh-low” not “po-POH-low”.  As in piazza/square of the “people”.  Or poplar trees, according to Wikipedia.

Most of my last post had to do with a 16th Century philosophical dude named Giordano Bruno…

Bruno statue in Campo de Fiori by Jastrow on Wikipedia

Bruno statue in Campo de' Fiori by Jastrow on Wikipedia

Bruno was a brilliant and prolific cleric/scholar who was burned at the stake as a heretic.  There are numerous theories as to why he was convicted detailed in his Wikipedia entry, and I found researching his story extremely interesting.  Long post short, I believe the leading cause of his death was not his “radical” ideas about humans’ relationship with God or the Earth’s relationship to the universe or even pissing off enough ecclesiastical peers.  He died because he refused to recant on all of his claims.  The Church wanted a full pullback, but he refused, so he died for his theories.  Not even Galileo did that.

Hundreds of years after his death, the Italians think of him more as a martyr, and when the Church lost some of its power over the government in the late 19th Century, it was the Romans who pushed for a monument.  The statue also shows his trial and subsequent burning in relief on two sides of the statue…

Bruno's trial

Bruno's trial

Bruno's execution

Bruno's execution

I was quite moved by Bruno’s story.  Even so, the immature side of me (“silly Maylene” as Charity says) pops up every now and then.  Those of you who have seen my Friends Are Forever Woot shirt can probably guess what I did next.  Yeah…

Friends Are Forever, meet Bruno.  Bruno, meet my favorite t-shirt at the moment.

Friends Are Forever, meet Bruno. Bruno, meet my favorite t-shirt at the moment.

Yes, sometimes, I’m 12.  With my Monty Python and Gary Larson intact, thank you very much.  What have you.

Siena, Italy: Piazza Del Campo

Piazza del Campo by Patrick Landy (Creative Commons)

Piazza del Campo by Patrick Landy (Creative Commons)

As the shade extends, so does the blanket of loungers and loiterers. Families with bird chasers and friends chatting over gelato and frappes. Couples’ attempts at self portraits either timer-assisted or arm’s width away. Randoms with snacks and beer. All comfortably co-existing, nearly rubbing elbows and not minding a bit.

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Englischer Garten

Last Wednesday was the first sunny day we had in Munich since our arrival on Friday, so we decided to take advantage of the weather and headed to the Englischer Garten (i.e. English Garden).  We took the trusty U-Bahn/subway to what we thought was the correct stop and managed to wander through a neighborhood before stumbling upon the park.  OK, wait, “park” is definitely a misnomer and “garden” especially doesn’t seem to cut it.  The Englischer Garten is huge.  I mean bigger-than-Central-Park huge. 

We immediately tried locating the infamous Pagoda/Chinesischer Turm (“Chinese Tower”) since it is the landmark symbol used on all tourist maps for the garden… and it also supposedly had a beer garden nearby. 😉  We walked for quite a ways and saw what looked like a Greek temple up on a hill…

Greek Temple on the Hill

Greek Temple on the Hill

…but still no Chinese tower.  There were loads of people in the park, locals and tourists alike– bicycling, sunbathing, kicking the soccer ball around.  You know, normal stuff.  We came around a bend and saw subtle hints of picnic table umbrellas through the trees in the distance.  We managed to find a park map at the bend.  Of course, the map was in German, but we figured it out and headed off towards the umbrellas.  Although it had seemed like we had walked a fair ways, we realized after looking at the map that we had actually covered only a teeny tiny portion of the park.

The path followed a little stream to our left, and plenty of parkgoers were wading in the cool waters.  We broke through the trees into a big space and finally found the Chinese tower…

The Chinese Tower/Chinesischer Turm

Chinesischer Turm... and Beer Garden!

Surrounding the Chinese tower is (what else??) a beer garden.  Row after row after row of picnic benches with beer, pretzel, and Bavarian food vendors nearby doing brisk business despite it being midweek.  We hadn’t done a beer hall yet, so we thought we’d try our very first German biergarten.  We grabbed a couple of “small” mugs and a pretzel and settled down on a shady table to enjoy the brew and people-watch…

Beer and Pretzel... How Bavarian

Beer and Pretzel... How Bavarian

So we’ve heard how Germans love their beer.  In fact, the average German drinks 30 gallons in a year.  Seriously.  We have learned to keep an open mind when it comes to beer in Europe, and Charity has tried the local brew in every city we’ve been in 1) to experience the local culture through their favorite drink and 2) because it’s usually the cheapest.  That said, of the two beers we tried that day, one was decent and the other was… kind of disgusting.  It tasted sweet, like some kind of messed up soda.  Eeek.  We tried to choke it down and got halfway before I put it aside.  Life is too short to drink crappy beer, no matter the cost.

We finished our people-watching and decided to go find what I really came to the park to see.  We’d heard the rumors but had to see it with our own eyes.  Now, if you look at a map of Germany, you’ll notice that München is nowhere near a significant body of water.  Yup, it’s landlocked.  That is why I had to see the surfers myself.  That’s right, ladies and gents– there is surfing in the Englischer Garten.

On our trek to find this infamous feature of the park, we followed behind an Ashton Kutcher wannabee and his friends.  Young, carefree, and silly as hell, they made lots of noise and showed off quite a bit.  Even so, I did notice when they all looked to the left, and he started harumphing and whistling, as if to get someone’s attention.  So of course, I looked, too.  Yeah.  Those sunbathers were markedly different from the ones we’d seen in the general population because those young ladies were nekkid.  Birthday suits.  Oh and one had a cute hat so as not to burn the top of her head (??).  And she was posing for pictures with her friend.  Oh myyyyyyy…

We finally came to the park’s “waterfall”, and off in the distance, we caught sight of our goal.  We walked along the fast-moving water, taking a moment to sit and enjoy the calming sound before moving upstream.  And yes, people, there indeed is surfing in that park… 

Paddling to Get Out of the Water

Paddling to Get Out of the Water

The stream system that runs through the park is manmade, and at the mouth of the stream is the water pump which creates a standing wave.  Watching some of the surfers work reminded me of the standing wave machine at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park (i.e. Wet ‘n Wild) back on Oahu. 

Balancing on the Wave Machine

Balancing on the Wave Machine

You basically just wait your turn on either side of the wave and jump in when the last guy bails. 

Pumping

Pumping

Their boards weren’t new or at all fancy.  In fact, they all looked like they’d seen better days and were pretty well beaten.  Even so, you could tell they were well-loved possessions, and you should have heard the collective groan and guffaws from all the surfers when one unlucky guy’s board snapped in half.  These guys were out there because they love to surf and it shows.  It was one of the coolest things– ok, no, it was the coolest thing I’d seen in Munich. 

Surfing the Stream

Surfing the Stream

Street Corner Randomness

Unlike my previous street corner experience, we had a rather pleasant encounter the other day. It was our first day in Munich, and we were just getting oriented with the neighborhood around the hotel. It was 20:00, and we noticed that there was hardly anything open. We were trying to find a grocery store or corner market to pick up a few things since we actually had a fridge at our disposal in the room. Well, we walked down one side and around the corner and were just going to give up when we decided to walk to just to the end of the street. We got to the corner and looked around. Nothin’. We talked about giving up and turned back towards the hotel, when an older lady stopped us with a, “Do you need some help?” in perfectly American English. Our American accents had stopped her.

I was tongue-tied, but Charity piped up and asked if anything was open. The lady laughed and said, “Goodness, no, nothing’s open after 8!” She made a few suggestions, especially giving up on restaurants as they were too expensive and said, “just go to McDonalds!” We laughed some more, and she commented on how things used to close at 6:30 when she first arrived in Munich 11 years ago. It apparently was a big deal when they decided to extend to 8pm! Ok, I swear not to use this word too much, but how “quaint”! I guess “blue laws” are alive and well here in Munich. She also advised that nothing would be open on Sunday (after Charity referred to Austrian Sundays). Basically, forget about it.

So I finally asked where she was from, and you’ll never guess… she’s from MAUI. Ha!! Talk about serendipity. Not only had we met a kind soul on this random street corner, she is kama`aina. I mean, she coulda been from Boise, and I woulda been happy to connect with another American, but heck, from HAWAI`I? Really?? Wow, small world. She’d come to Europe a decade ago looking for adventure and fell in love with a German in London. Cool.

I am thanking the Universe for random moments like that one. Out of all the street corners and people in the Nymphenburg neighborhood, we ran into just the right person at exactly the right moment. I am grateful for the randomness.

Whoever You Are, I Want To Thank You

I know, I know.  I really should write more.  Too often, Charity is the only one updating this blog.  Let it be known that I’m not a complete slacker– just a little bit after I’m pau (finished) with work.  So on that subject…

As many of you know, I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work remotely.  For the last couple of years, this has not been an issue as we had stable domiciles with high speed broadband internet access.  We had a couple of minor roadbumps in Hawai`i but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with some elbow grease and/or creativity.  We’ve chosen our accomodations in Europe very carefully, always booking hotels that promised broadband internet, preferably WiFi (or W-LAN, as they call it here).  Amsterdam was no problem– we stayed in a hotel located in the heart of the business district, so WiFi was fast and easy.  Of course, my alias at work was disabled during that time, so I couldn’t access work, but that is a separate story not worth retelling here.  Since Amsterdam, we have had… challenges… in the area of consistent and accessible internet.

In Berlin, the hotel’s promised internet access was non-existent, so we hung out at a lot of cafes with free WiFi access.  Sweet.

In Prague, the first hotel had internet in the room… but only the wired kind which didn’t help with the itinerary-planning Charity needed to do while I was working.  So we hung out in the lobby for WiFi.  We moved to another hotel that promised in-room WiFi, but the signal was so weak, work was reeeeaaaaaally slooooooooow.  Ah well, at least I was getting things done.  One morning, I woke up super-motivated and got a bunch done before sightseeing (normally, I waited to work in the afternoon/evening) which turned out to be a good thing since the tool I use at work was taken down for “a day” for updates.  Yeah.  Think two-and-a-half days.  Good times.

When we got to Vienna, we were surprised to find that the budget hotel we were in actually had good WiFi we both could use.  Wow, great.  When the tool updates were finally done, I found I could access work quickly and efficiently.  But oh wait.  Now I have to update some other software (SQL Server Management Express… 2005 -> 2008… yeah, good times) to work with the updates the tool team made.  Holy moly.  Ok, updated my software… oh crud, now what??   Oh, the tool updates also crashed some of the networks at work.  Fun.  Oh, and the internet isn’t working right again.  Oh, there it is.  Working again.  Oh, no, my bad, it’s not…

By this time, you should appreciate how much time and research Charity invests in each and every hotel we book.  She has spent (literally) hours researching.  That said, there is only so much research that can be done beforehand– we really don’t know what to expect until we get there.  As you can imagine, it has been a source of some stress.

So when we booked the Snooze Hotel in Salzburg, we were sure we had a clear winner.  Opened last year, the Snooze is a budget, modern designer hotel.  In-room wireless internet is a key feature prominently advertised everywhere on the website with rave reviews from former guests on hotels.com and tripadvisor.  When we checked-in, it was everything we thought it would be.  Quiet, modern– really cool.  AND it had wireless internet in the room.  Sweet!!  So I login to work.  Oh crud.  Can’t login.  Try again.  Nope.  I recognize that error.  It means the router at the hotel does not support VPN Passthrough.  Translation:  I can’t login to work even though I have a killer quick signal.  *sigh*

We spent a good deal of time Monday afternoon wandering around Salzburg (including a long bus ride into the ‘burbs) looking for WiFi.  We went everywhere with our WiFi finder (read: IPod Touch) scanning the streets and alleys for open signals.  Even tried McDonalds which actually had free WiFi but again, no VPN Passthrough.  Finally, we had to give up for the day and headed back to the hotel out in the non-touristy part of Salzburg.  Wandered around the neighborhood just for kicks, and whaddaya know??  There was a tiny, weak signal named “NETGEAR” near the bus stop.  Immediately, I tried my work computer, and holy moly, the dang thing worked!  I then proceeded to hang out on the corner near the bus stop, working until my computer died, ignoring stares and nodding at the car full of teen boys who honked and waved at me.  Got back to the room after dark and finished up e-mails which don’t require VPN.

After sightseeing today, Charity decided to accompany me while I worked the corner again (haha), but I just couldn’t let her be subjected to that.  I tried finding more discreet spots that still had WiFi, but it just wasn’t happening.  Finally, I decided to just try to find the source of the signal, and lo and behold– it was near a quiet pedestrian/bike bridge over a really neat stream.  We still got stares but not nearly as many as from the busy street.  And we got to watch a family of ducks swim up and down the stream.  We watched an older lady feed the ducks, Charity finished her book while I worked, and we enjoyed watching the sun light the tops of the trees down the stream.  Yeah, it was pretty low stress.

working the corner again...

working the corner again...

on the pedestrian / bike bridge - no, there were no seats...

on the pedestrian / bike bridge - no, there were no seats...

Instead of focusing on the negatives here, I’d like to thank whoever’s signal I’ve been borrowing for the last two days, the same signal I’ll need to borrow again tomorrow and possibly the day after.  As Geggy Tah sang, whoever you are, I want to thank you.  Thank you.  Danke.  Domo.  Mahalo.  Thank you for opening your signal to complete strangers.  Thank you for not locking down your VPN Passthrough so schmucks like me can hang out on that bridge behind you all evening, working.  I really, truly appreciate it.  You’re making me re-think my attitude towards locking down my own signal at home…

And so, here is Geggy Tah, singing my one line.  Yeah, he’s talking about traffic, but essentially, the sentiment is the same.  Danke.