Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Hague and Eindhoven

At ANAC Car Wash in Eindhoven, the Netherlands in preparation for shipment back to the United States

We spent the day taking care of more end-of-trip errands. Jennifer stayed in the Hague to get some rest and did some shopping during the day and I made one last trip to Eindhoven in southern Holland to visit family.

It turned into a very pleasant day here in Holland with good weather and time spent with family. I am looking forward to being back in my normal routine at home but it is a little sad that this wonderful adventure needs to end.

In preparation for delivering the car to the shipper in Rotterdam I decided to have the car washed one last time at ANAC Car Wash in Eindhoven. The evening drive back to the Hague was pleasant with a beautiful sunset and light traffic. A nice way to spend my final extended drive in Holland!

Our last full day will be spent taking care of final trip preparations. By tomorrow afternoon I will have to say goodbye to JCW MCS for about six weeks... I know I'll miss the car when I'm back in L.A.!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

At the Cafe Stobbe

We spent the last few days relaxing and enjoying the fact that we didn't have to go through the loading/unloading routine with our luggage!

Time to rest, relax, go shopping, do some laundry, and in general try to slow things down after such a hectic month on the road.

I did visit our shipping company near Rotterdam to get initial paperwork and logistics taken care of. Everything is going smoothly and I'll have the car until Wednesday, the day before we depart from Schiphol airport.

Jennifer and I then had a late lunch at the Cafe Stobbe in Rotterdam, a great little restaurant where I used to eat regularly when I worked and lived in the area. For a mini review of the restaurant click below:

Cafe Stobbe

From there we headed eastward to the Arnhem area for dinner with family.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Hague, The Netherlands


Spotted by a Mini2.info reader while on the autobahn heading towards the Netherlands!

Well, we're back in Holland and begin our final week of L.A. MINI's "one lap" of Western Europe. It's been a great trip and now I've got to wrap things up and get ready to ship JCW MCS home and get Jennifer and myself on a plane back to Los Angeles. We'll probably try to rest a bit and JCW MCS will likely be used to visit family and friends before being dropped off at the port of Rotterdam.

I just noticed that we were spotted on the autobahn the other day.
Click on this link:
MINI2.info (site is in German!) to see the full text.

Also, http://www.bridgetogantry.com/ has published a small article about JCW MCS' visit to the Nuerburgring Nordschleife. Click on: http://bridgetogantry.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1&limit=4&limitstart=4 to see the article!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cologne, Germany

We wrap up our visit to Cologne today and will make our way back to the Netherlands. Although we did not spend much time in Cologne, we did take the opportunity to visit the massive Cologne Cathedral. It still is the church that most impresses me due to its sheer size. We also spent some time in the central shopping district next to the cathedral.

The Cologne Cathedral (Koelner Dom)

Nuerburgring Nordschleife!

Photos courtesy of http://www.bridgetogantry.com/

One item marked on my "to do" list has always been to drive the fabled Nuerburgring in the Eifel Mountains of western Germany. Of course in my daydreams I drove my own car or motorcycle. Well, today that dream became a reality when JCW MCS turned four laps at the historic, famous, and notoriously long and dangerous racecourse. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on-track even though I didn't push the car that hard. Still, I've never seen that much brake dust on my wheels after such a relatively short drive! My concentration level was pretty high since I had to deal with learning the track (pretty much impossible in a few laps) and dealing with all the fast motorcycles and race-prepped supercars. I've done laps at the Nordschleife on the computer so I had a familiarity with the general layout but all the subtle camber changes and the real "sight picture" all needed to be processed. Also, the utmost desire to bring JCW MCS home to the USA in one piece kept my throttle foot in-check. Nevertheless, I won't soon forget my day at the 'Ring.

Entering the staging area
Parking Lot

Impressions of the Nuerburgring from the Staging Area

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Berlin to Cologne

At the Reichstag, seat of the German Government

At the Brandenburg Gate, symbol of Berlin

Today was spent primarily on the road. We started the day with a rainy morning drive around Berlin. The object was to get a picture of the car at the Brandenburg Gate and to find the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. Because of the weather photo conditions were less than ideal, but we did manage to get a few pics.

The Berlin Wall near the Ostbahnhof in eastern Berlin

After checking out of the Berlin Hilton we drove past Tempelhof Airport. Formerly the main airport of Berlin, Tempelhof is now facing closure. The airport itself is interesting from an architectural perspective as it is an example of mid-1930's German design. It is also an historic location since it was the airport that sustained West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift.

Next, we drove west towards our pitstop for the evening: Cologne. Along the route of travel on the A2 Autobahn we stopped at the former primary auto entry point into East Germany. First we saw the "German Unity" Sculpture in a rest area on the West German side of the border.

German Unity Sculpture

We then ventured to the former GDR Checkpoint that is maintained as a memorial. You can get a better impression by watching the video:

Tonight and tomorrow night will be spent here in Cologne. During the day tomorrow: the Nuerburgring

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


We took a drive around Berlin at mid-day to get an impression of this large and impressive city with its cultural, political, and historical landmarks.

Berlin Drive

We also had a chance to grab a bite to eat with my friend Joerg, an old law school friend and Berliner living and working as an attorney in the city.

Robert and Joerg

Monday, July 23, 2007

Munich to Berlin

Heading towards 130 MPH/220KPH on the Autobahn

Dachau and High Speed on the Autobahn

We spent the morning relaxing at the hotel and waiting for the best time to avoid rain along our route. By the early afternoon we were on the road again and making our way up the spine of Germany to the north from Munich to Berlin. My longest stretch so far on the autobahn, we had a five hour drive ahead.

Our first stop upon leaving Munich was a very sobering and reflective one: Dachau. The name itself has become as infamous as Auschwitz in Poland. To be in a place of such incredible cruelty and one of the greatest examples of man's inhumanity towards man, Dachau was unforgettable. At the site there is a plaque that simply reads: Never Again.

Prisoner entrance with the infamous inscription "Work Sets You Free"

The Gatehouse where all victims entered the concentration camp.

For the sake of a better world may we never forget what happened there.

Back on the road we made our way up the freeway and gave in to the lure of a burger and fries at Burger King after I pulled in to fuel the car. High speeds don't do fuel economy any favors...

I also had my first run-in with the police while parked at Burger King. They blocked my car and asked to see "my papers". They had noticed the odd license plate and being a small town of course, decided that they had better check things out. No problems and they were courteous. Thanks to Jennifer I have a photo of the police trying to figure out all that U.S. paperwork.

"Ihre Papiere bitte" German Police try to make sense of the California Car

Long freeway drives and fast food just seem to go hand-in-hand.

The rest of the day was spent on the road enjoying the scenery of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Brandenburg. We crossed a bridge on the autobahn that served as the former border of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic (Communist East Germany). The A9 Autobahn did not serve as a major conduit between the two nations so the former border caught me by surprise and we weren't able to snap pictures in time. Perhaps the more famous east/west autobahn crossing we'll be able to capture later on our way back to the Netherlands.

We finally made it to Berlin Mitte late in the evening.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Munich, Germany

Yesterday we made our way down part of the Romantische Strasse to the Neuschwanstein castle and then on into Munich. I failed to mention earlier that the "service engine soon" light has been off since we left Salzburg. I think that the extreme heat (40 degrees C!) of southern Europe caused the light to go on even though the diagnostic check showed no issues. Cooler temps appears to have resolved the problem.

Today, the sun was shining so we took advantage of the good weather to get out before the rain came down again. Our first stop: MINI Muenchen located right next to BMW Worldwide headquarters.

Parked in front of MINI Munich

I chatted with Maria, the attractive and knowledgeable MINI representative...

looked around the showroom...

and then drove to the famous 4 cylinder BMW headquarters for a picture.

BMW and Beer

Later in the day we took a guided tour around central Munich to catch a glimpse of sights we would otherwise miss and then Jennifer and I left the keys to the MINI at the hotel and had a fun evening out at the Hofbraeu. See the video to get a flavor of the good times there.

Savoring the Hofbraeu specialty...

Salzburg to Munich

In the Mozartplatz by the statue to Mozart. I hope that the car meets with his approval!

Impression of Salzburg

We began the day by taking a morning drive around Salzburg. We then had Viennese coffee and apfelstrudel at the Cafe Tomaselli, a konditerei that was already open during Mozart's lifetime. A brief shopping expedition along the famous Getreidegasse street (Mozart's birthplace is located here) and then time for one more lunch at the Stiegl Keller.

View from the Stiegl Keller of old town Salzburg

"Mad" King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps.
This castle is the inspiration for and was the basis of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland

We left the Sheraton Salzburg and headed into Bavaria. Our checkpoint would be Neuschwanstein Castle, the model for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle. From there and motoring through some pretty foul rain and hail we made our way to the metropolis of Munich, home of Oktoberfest and more importantly for this car guy: BMW.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Salzburg, Austria

An old student back at the Salzburg Law School again

Today I returned to a place where I spent time studying as a post-graduate student. Salzburg holds fond memories of good friends, high level coursework, and lots of time spent in beer gardens...
I retraced the pathways I used to navigate ten years ago and I find it very interesting to see that I'm ten years older yet the city of Salzburg is exactly as I remember it. I gave my sister a brief tour and pointed out notable locations such as Mozart's birth place, the Mirabell Gardens, and the resting place of Leopold Mozart (Mozart's father) and Constanze Mozart (Mozart's widow). I pointed out a few locations used in the filming of "The Sound of Music" and we also ate traditional Austrian cuisine at the Stiegl Keller which lies just beneath the fortress dominating the old town. It is always enjoyable to spend some time in this beautiful place.

Jennifer at Mozart's birthplace

Austrian treats at the Mozartplatz square

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Superbikes, Supercars, and On to the Alps

JCW MCS at the famous entrance to the Ferrari Factory

Video Impressions of northern Italy

Today we completed our visit to Italy by visiting the Emilia-Romagna region. This area is pretty dear to me as it is the home of Italian automotive engineering art: Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani, and Ducati. The food isn't bad either as the region has given the world such Italian staples as prosciutto di Parma, Parmesan Cheese, ravioli, and more.

Jennifer with our Ducati factory tour guide Natascia

The day began with a tour of the Ducati factory at Borgo Panigale, Bologna. This is my third visit to the factory and Jennifer's first. She was quite excited to see bikes being built and learned quite a bit.

With the original Paul Smart 1972 race bike. Scroll down the blog to see my modern interpretation of this bike.

My MINI does wear a Ducati logo. Here we are parked near the factory.

With a Ducati Factory worker's MINI

Autovanti BMW/MINI in Bologna

I stopped by Autovanti BMW/MINI in Bologna to have a diagnostic test carried out because my "Service Engine Soon" light has come on again. No fault codes were present and that gave me comfort as I had a drive through the Alps ahead. Autovanti did not charge me for the diagnostic test and even gave me a printout (in Italian). Nice dealership.

From Borgo Panigale we drove up the A1 to Maranello, the home of Ferrari. Driving around supercar alley is always a treat and we did spot several new Ferraris being road-tested. Cars were being tested at the Fiorano test track as well.

At the Fiorano Test Track Gate

One big highlight of the day was that our car managed to turn the heads of supercar weary Ferrari factory workers. Another memorable moment from this trip!

After Ferrari we drove up towards Verona and on into the Alps, crossing the Brenner Pass and passing through Innsbruck and on to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the musical "The Sound of Music."

More to come!

Sundown in the Austrian Alps

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Eternal City of Rome

Hi all,

We had hoped to do both Rome and Naples/Pompeii during our four days in the area. However, creeping travel fatigue and the long day spent at the Circus Maximus left us too wiped out to do anything the next day. We decided to take an organized tour around the city's major monuments the day after that just so that we could let someone else do the hard work. Naples and Pompeii will have to wait for another trip.

At the Trevi Fountain

Jennifer lending our tour guide a helping hand

The Roman Forum

This morning I decided to take JCW MCS for a drive around the city to re-visit some of the spots we saw the day before.

I managed to get JCW MCS in some interesting locations in Rome.

One Lap of Rome

At the Vatican

Circus Maximus and Genesis

Our first full evening in Rome was spent inside the Circus Maximus. Genesis performed a concert and there was a massive audience present; I would guess 200,000 but I have read that upwards of 400,000 attended from BBC News. Wow! To be in the ancient location of chariot races with a seat opposite the Palatine Hill where the leaders of Rome erected magnificent palaces made the concert venue truly one-of-a-kind. Directly across from us we could clearly see the remains of those magnificent buildings.

As a Phil Collins fan I was very pleased to see Genesis. The ancient Roman surroundings just made the event that much more special! We had to put up with a lot of dust and a huge number of people and Jennifer was pushed to the breaking point but she decided to stay and enjoyed the show. We knew that opportunities like this don't come too often!

Genesis performs in the Circus Maximus in Rome. Note: musical content is the copyright property of Genesis. This clip is intended solely to give an impression of the event and location.

Between Florence and Rome: Siena and Lake Trasimene

JCW MCS at the inner gate of the city of Siena, Italy

The day spent driving through the Italian provinces of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio was spectacular in its scenery and off-the-beaten-path roadways. We drove out of Florence and bypassed the A1 Autostrada to take in the old city of Siena. The stop was brief but we did manage to get the car pretty far into the old city.

Western Shore of Lake Trasimene at Castigliano del Lago

We then journeyed by backroads to Lake Trasimene in Umbria. A lake that is not fed by any rivers (although the Tiber runs nearby) the water level rises and falls primarily based on rainfall. As a history buff I have been interested in this lake because it was the site of one of Hannibal Barca's great victories over Rome during the Second Punic War in 217 B.C. At Trasimene, Hannibal managed to ambush a Roman army and trap and destroy it against the northern shore. Panic spread in Rome after this attack and just might have spelled disaster for Rome, but Rome soon recovered.

Siena and Lake Trasimene

After leaving Lake Trasimene we entered the province of Lazio and made our way to the eternal city of Rome.