Summer's Here's: Time to Travel
This is it. The travel season is in full cry. The umbrella tables are out all over Europe. These are days when the mind tends to take trips without the body. Right now it's noon on the West Coast, 9 p.m. in thousands of European cities and villages.
In Munich, waiters swinging half liters of beer and heavy, steaming plates, zig-zag through packed ranks of tables on Neuhauser Strasse in front of the Augustiner.
In Maria Zell, a tiny town deep in the Austrian countryside, the stammtisch of Gasthof zum Alten Brauhaus is bathed in yellow light from a low-hanging shaded lamp. Half a dozen regulars sit quietly drinking beer and schnapps. There are no tourists, in fact, there are no other customers.
At Interlaken's swank Grand Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau, the candlelit Restaurant La Terassa is in the midst of dinner. Every table is occupied. The tuxedoed pianist at the gleaming grand glides through an endless string of familiar tunes. The restaurant's high windows frame the Jungfrau as the great mountain catches the suns last rays.
My body wants to be there.
Later, as I drive by the San Francisco airport, a 747 taxis toward takeoff. It is a flight I know well, Lufthansa's #455, nonstop to Frankfurt. No matter how many times I see an airplane on a runway I want to be on it.
But not today. Today I must return to my desk, fire-up the Mac, crack the spigot and release another trickle from my tiny reservoir of travel wisdom. Pray the drought is truly over.
Transatlantic airfares are at their highest point of the year. It would, of course, have been prudent to have purchased your tickets in March or April when there were a few deals out there, but not everyone can plan that far ahead. For those of you shopping now for seats to Europe in July, August or September, here are a few ideas:
- Start with Swissair. Because you're a Gemütlichkeit subscriber you are entitled to $100 off the airline's best sale fares in Coach Class, $400 off Business Class and $600 off First Class. (Remember, to obtain the reduced price, first book directly with Swissair at 800-221-4750. Identify yourself as a Gemütlichkeit subscriber and reserve at the best fare available. Next, call Shirley at 800-238-0399 who after confirming with Gemütlichkeit that you are a subscriber will issue your tickets at the appropriate reduced price. The lower price applies to everyone in your traveling party.) This program is for Gemütlichkeit subscribers only.
- Have your travel agent try DER Tours (800-782-2424). For a New York-London roundtrip, a fare of $615 was the best the major airlines could offer my son and his wife near the end of June. DER, however, quoted their travel agent a midweek fare of $449 on Air Canada.
- Check with charter carriers like Balair (800-322-5247), which flies from Newark, Orlando, Miami, Bangor, San Francisco and Anchorage to Switzerland, and Martinair, whose flights go to Amsterdam. At press time, Martinair (800-366-4655) was running a special out of Miami for $398 roundtrip. From the West Coast (Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles) in July, the price is $748 roundtrip. Starting August 23 that drops to $698.
- In the Midwest you might try a company called Pleasure Break which is the booking agent for American Trans Air, a charter carrier that flies on Sundays and Wednesdays from Chicago and Minneapolis. At press time they quoted a $489 roundtrip to Frankfurt and a $749 fare on Lufthansa. Pleasure Break does not accept direct bookings so have your travel agent call 708-670-6300. Pay with a credit card, never cash.
Another Reader Benefit
You soon will receive a tempting discount offer for a four-day, three-night stay at the Grand Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau. The program is for Gemütlichkeit subscribers only. The price tag of about $140 per day, per person (includes breakfasts, a five-course dinner each night, upgraded rooms when available and use of the hotels stunning new spa facilities) will be too steep for many, if not most. However, those who travel in that style, or want to splurge a bit, will find this is a terrific price. Compare it, for example, with a similar offer at the Park Hotel Vitznau on Lake Lucerne. A three-night package there is $275 per night, per person, double occupancy. Or you can try the low season three-night package at Baden-Baden's magnificent Brenner's Park Hotel for $392 per person, per night, double occupancy; a price that includes a "beauty day" for two at Brenner's Lancaster Beauty Farm with a spa lunch.
Both the Brenner's Park and the Park Hotel Vitznau are outstanding, luxurious hotels (more than one seasoned traveler has told me Brenner's is the world's best). I mention their package prices not to denigrate either, but to illustrate what a superb bargain the Victoria-Jungfrau is offering Gemütlichkeit subscribers.
How the Other Half Lives
Items culled from a recent issue of the magazine Geneva News:
Switzerland now has a national deficit which is expected to continue through 1996 at a rate of two to four billion Sfr. Some legislators are in favor of a 6.5% value added tax in order to balance the budget. By the end of the year unemployment in Switzerland, mostly women and foreigners trying to enter the workforce, is expected to reach 150,000 to 200,000 less than 3% of the total population. The Federal Council recently adopted a measure raising the unemployment compensation to 400 days at a rate of from 70% to 80% of salary earned. From July to November 1992 saving deposits in Swiss banks increased by 10 billion Sfr., about 1,500 Sfr. ($1,000) per capita.