I am in Europe for a little bit. I have not blogged because I either had a good Internet connection, but no time, or vice versa. I am now on Lake Maggiore at a little town called Gerra for a few days, and watching the rain on the lake (perhaps this is disappointing for other travelers, but for Phoenicians watching a cold rail fall is a treat). This area is an odd one, barely inside Switzerland. Most of the folks are bilingual in German and Italian but most speak Italian day to day and most of the road signs are in Italian. But they price their services in Swiss Francs, so they are no fools. It all seems to work fine and be a source of pride for local residents.
Here are a few notes so far from our trip:
- T-Mobile's rock-bottom international roaming rates appear to be the real deal. I have gotten service everywhere we went and free (if sometimes slow) data. The only problem so far is I can't send or receive MMS (SMS is fine) so I can't send my kids the usual picture travel-log I like to send.
- Until today, XCom Global's European roaming wifi hotspot was great. It worked in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany but failed me in Austria when the separate Austrian unit they sent me turned out to have a bad sim card. They claim the other unit that works everywhere else will work in Austria as well -- we shall see, but if that is true, why did they send me a separate Austrian unit?
- The Mercedes plant tour at Sindelfingen, Germany is great. I could have stayed all day. I have been on a lot of plant tours, and some have been very intimate with the machinery. But those tended to be private tours. This is the most up-close and personal I have ever gotten on a public tour. The tour covered a large stamping plant and a final assembly line. We took the 1:00 English tour, which I think is the most complete one.
- I have never been to Baden Baden, Germany before. A beautiful town with a 19th century vibe, we stopped there only because we needed to stop somewhere not far from Stuttgart. We ate an incredible meal at the Michelin one-star Brennar's Park Hotel Restaurant. Lichtentaler Allee was one of the most beautiful and peaceful public parks I have ever walked.
- Last night we went to the opera at Bregenz (you may have seen it in Quantum of Solace, or you can google the amazing stages). I thought the performers were from meh to fine, but not outstanding. The staging though was gorgeous, probably the most beautiful stage production I have ever seen.