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Our empty first-class ICE car

Odd rail happening. Today we traveled from Heidelberg to Lucerne. It required changes at Mannheim and Basel. Most of the journey was aboard German ICE 73 that starts at 0647 Kiel in the north and rolls into Zürich at 1600 (4pm). In order to get seat reservations on the Mannheim-Basel leg we arrived about an hour early at Heidelberg Bahnhof and stood in line for a few minutes to request the two first-class seats (we have rail passes). After a couple of minutes of peering at his screen the agent said that first-class is sold out on that train.

With a train to catch for Switzerland, there wasn't time for breakfast at Merlin, so we ate at the hotel. The choices were €15 euro per person for a continental breakfast of coffee, juice and rolls; €17 to add fruit, yogurt, and cereal, and €22 for the “full monty,” waffles, bacon, sausage, eggs cooked to order, and so on. We chose the €17 option and ate in the pleasant dining/breakfast room overlooking the Neckar.

I figure being picky is in my job description, so here goes; the OJ wasn't fresh nor were any of the hard rolls. The fruit included no berries, just the usual pineapple and rock-hard melon chunks. The selection of items was extensive but yesterday's baked goods is inexcusable. The previous two mornings at Merlin, at about half the price, the coffee was better, the OJ freshly squeezed, and the bread and rolls fresh from the oven. Half an hour later, at checkout, the final bill contained a breakfast charge of €44, not the €34 I had ordered in the breakfast room. While six people in a hurry waited behind me in the checkout line, the desk clerk left her post to go to the breakfast room to see for herself what I had actually signed for. She returned all apologetic adjusted the final bill (another five long minutes for those behind me) but my suggestion to Marriott is this: It was €10, take the customer's word for it, apologize and move on. And donate your day-old baked goods to a worthy charity.

Departed on time and arrived about 30 minutes early, with nary a bump along the way. Tried to connect to Internet with my iPhone via Lufthansa's new SkyNet in-cabin WiFi. Instructions in seat pocket stated: “opening your browser will take you immediately to Lufthansa's SkyNet portal.” No dice, even though there were “LAN Hotspot” signs in the business class cabin. There is a fee for the service...when available...but nothing in the cabin literature quoted an amount.

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VW Touranwith luggage for two persons

Yesterday we picked up a rental car in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I had booked an intermediate sedan and Europcar offered a choice between an Opel Insignia or a VW Touran. I picked the Touran. It's actually an upgrade in the IXMR category (intermediate special vs IDMR, intermediate sedan).

More about this vehicle category in a later post but I wanted to mention what a marvelous factory-installed GPS it has, far better than the complex monstrosity I have at home in my 2008 Lexus LS460. It is simpler and more intuitive when establishing a new destination, and provides more accurate, easier to follow directions.