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Report 2015: Alpine Adventures and Other Travels in the Rhone, Rhin and Rhön

By wendy lynn from California USA, Summer 2012

Trip Description: Our family of five traveled from Munich to the Swiss Alps, to Valle D'Aosta (Italian Alps), to Annecy, France (Rhone-Alpes), to Alsace (Haut Rhin) and then finally to Fulda, Germany which is in the Rhön mountains of central Germany.

Destinations: Countries - France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland; Regions/Cities - Alsace, Rhone-Alpes, Valle D'Aosta

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; Adults and Young Children; Small Group: 5 to 9

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Page 1 of 21: San Francisco to Munich

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Wendy and Julia in front of the Glockenspiel in Munich, Germany

Our family of five is in good spirits as we head to the San Francisco International Airport for our 10pm flight to Munich. Julia (almost 15), Alex (9) and Margaret (4.5) are all excited to start our three week European vacation. We have a direct economy flight on Lufthansa and we encounter only a few minor problems once on board.

The first little problem is that Margaret's audio jack is broken, which is a fairly significant issue because this means one of our party will have no movies or videos for the entire 12 hour flight. But we discover that although the Lufthansa earphones won't work at all, we can get one of our own sets of earplugs to plug in so that at least we can get mono to work. We make do and the flight attendant, unprompted, brings mom two glasses of champagne and snacks from first class to compensate for her trouble.

Later in the flight, the same attendant drops scalding tea water into Joe's lap. Luckily Joe avoided a bad burn and the embarrassed attendant offers Joe a $50 voucher from Lufthansa toward purchasing items from the inflight store.

Despite all of our trials and tribulations, little Margaret leans over to Wendy with a big smile and says, "Best. Day. Ever!" We're not even off the plane yet, but this is a good sign for our vacation and makes us all happy.

The rest of the flight goes smoothly and we deboard at approximately 4pm local time (the next day). We make our way through Customs and easily find our rental car. Joe has secured us a full-sized Mercedes station wagon, complete with a navigation system, through the German car rental company Sixt.

It takes a few minutes to figure how to switch the Navigation System to English, but we are soon on our way to the Acanthus Hotel, which is located near the old city center. We arrive at the hotel around 5pm, tired but happy. Munich is sunny, warm and a bit muggy.

The Acanthus Hotel is charming, small and old, located just outside the Altstadt (Old Town) area within easy walking distance to Marienplatz, one of the main tourist areas. The hotel is fully booked, which we know because we see the front desk turning someone away. Luckily we reserved Suite #707 on the top floor.

The room is relatively spacious with traditional decor and a modern albeit awkward bathroom. It's quite hot out and there's no A/C, but there are plenty of fans and windows, and we soon feel comfortable.

Because we are on the top floor, we have a peaked ceiling with multiple dormer windows, which lends some ambiance. A double bed for the adults and each child gets their own single bed. The windows provide a limited but pleasing view over the surrounding area.

We wash up and try to beat jet lag by walking around the Alststadt before it gets dark. We only need to walk about ten minutes toward the old city center and we are able to see the famous Glockenspiel.

By big European city standards, Munich is fine but not overly impressive. It was heavily bombed in WWII and this shows in the newer facades. Even the nicer architectural replicas look a little too new. Still the city is buzzing and filled with the people sightseeing, shopping and dining.

We walk around for another twenty minutes and decide to eat dinner at the Augustiner Biergarten, the oldest in Munich and just a few minutes from our hotel. Unfortunately, all the outside seating is taken and we have to eat inside where it's stuffy and warm.

We're all very hungry. The waiter brings over a basket of giant pretzels and the kids are in heaven. We order beer, schnitzel, sauerbraten and a variety of wurst. Alex's orders knödeln which turns out to be the best dish. The other food is good but not the best German food we've had. Still, the meal makes us feel like we are in Germany starting our vacation and everyone enjoys their cold drinks.

We are unsure of the tipping and in our jet lagged haze, we apparently under tip by simply rounding the bill up -- the typical German way. But here in Munich, things are different (people are wealthy and tourism rules) so the waiter complains! And so we comply. We Google this later and determine that Munich appears to be the one exception when it comes to German tipping rules.

We return to the Acanthus and get the kids settled. Joe and Wendy leave the kids to go to the small hotel bar for a drink. The bar is open 24 hours, and will later be used in the morning as part of the breakfast seating. We have two Augustiner draft beers and relax into the comfortable chairs, glad that the hard day of travel is over and we are about to begin our adventure.

When we get back to the room, Julia is asleep and Alex and Margaret are still having fun. Apparently they made friends with a woman in an apartment building across the courtyard. Margaret is dangerously leaning out the window, waving. We shake our heads, thank our lucky stars that she didn't fall out and get everyone into bed. We're asleep by midnight. Not bad.

As Wendy drifts off to sleep, she wonders when she will awake and whether sleep deprivation will outweigh her internal body clock, allowing her to sleep in a little the next morning.

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