Hard to write about a trip almost five months after it happened but better late than never! I love my Euro Trips… even though I was born in Europe the first time I visited Western Europe was long after I had moved to the United States, and I actually flew there from Australia. I had met some not-so-distant family online in 2009 before I went to live in Australia for a year which logically meant I went to visit them from there… twice. Fast forward ten years later and my gorgeous cousin was getting married, so who needs a better occasion to visit France than that? I won’t write about the wedding it was beautiful! But I tacked on a week-long trip to Germany to educate myself with a few visits to some famous museums and that was an incredible experience. I want to share it here.
This will be a multi-part post focusing on each of my experiences visiting France & Germany… the first time in a long time I went to the countries not to volunteer an event but instead to be a real tourist, and it was fantastic for a change.
- Charade Circuit visit near Clermont-Ferrand, France
- Motor World visit in Böblingen, Germany
- Mercedes-Benz plant tour in Sindelfingen, Germany
- Mercedes-Benz Museum visit in Stuttgart, Germany
- Porsche Museum visit in Stuttgart, Germany
- Auto & Technik Museum visit in Sinsheim, Germany
- Hockenheimring visit in Hockenheim, Germany
- BMW Museum and BMW Weld in Munich, Germany
- Mazda MX-5 Meet-up in Munich, Germany
Since I had nine months to plan this trip I intended to optimize my frequent flyer programs to make the out of pocket cost as little as possible. As a result I relied heavily on two frequent flyer programs my AAdvantage account with American Airlines and IHG Rewards for the Holiday Inn hotel stays.
It’s amazing to me how much bloggers earn through referrals on their web sites like those I often read on BoardingArea.com an idea that sprung out from the forums I used to frequent on FlyerTalk.com I have the hardest time convincing my friends and family to take advantage of offers I think are fantastic. Everyone wishes they could travel more but don’t… so if anyone reading this needs a good credit card referral get in touch and I’ll be happy to share my links to some amazing deals out there. Stop wishing, start traveling more!
Anyway… I was about 1,000 miles short to book a round trip via American Airlines. Not to fret AA has a decent Dining program where one can earn miles for restaurant spend so I hit up a few places for lunch about a dozen times over the course of a few weeks and had the miles posted in my account ready for redemption. My goal was to book flights on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in each direction because it’s a fairly new plane which I did get a chance to try back in 2016 but not enough to form an opinion about it. Originally I was booked on a long distance ANA flight from NYC to Tokyo but they changed equipment on my flight to an old 777 because of battery fires at the time and even then they mucked it up… afterwards I had my plan B to fly Scoot between Bangkok and Singapore but the flight was so late at night and so short I didn’t remember much about it. Anyway, the only options to fly American from the New York area were old 777 and 767’s so I booked my outbound flight via Chicago and return via Dallas… way out of the way to go, but I thought it would be worth it. When it came to the day of the trip because of storms in the Chicago area I ended up re-routing via Madrid traveling on an Iberia Airbus A350 which is also another brand-new plane I was meaning to try and finally had an opportunity to so. It was a decent experience, but cramped.
For hotel stays I signed up for an IHG credit card that offered 80,000 points as a sign-up bonus. Great! It would have been enough to stay a week in France… Before the card even arrived the offer went up to 100,000 so I reached out to Chase and they bumped my offer up. Awesome! The points not only lasted me for a week long stay in France, I managed to stretch them another week in Germany too. With the program the 4th night stay is Free, so I booked 3 nights in Clermont-Ferrand at 15k points/night. That left me with enough points to book 4 nights in Stuttgart, Germany at 20k points/night. And over the course of the next few months I had enough points to book one more night in Clermont-Ferrand at the regular 15k point/night redemption. The credit card gave me platinum status which was handy. The hotels were fantastic too, not too cramped like some cheap European hotels are. They featured air conditioning, and very fast WiFi. Definitely beat the alternative of CouchSurfing or booking some cheap Motel which I would often do on previous trips. Currently IHG is offering a 140,000 sign up bonus which is ridiculous! If I didn’t have the card already I would sign up again.
Though this trip will stretch out across 10 posts I want to foreshadow the trip to South Africa here because the planning for it happened while I was on a TGV train between Paris and Stuttgart. I got an e-mail response about Kyalami 9 hour which meant I quickly started researching my next trip while in the middle of the Euro Trip. I got a chance to try another set of Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s and Airbus A350’s there as well, but more on that later.
I got to be in Germany just a week ahead of the official Oktoberfest kick off so there was plenty of beer I tried along with pretzels at every opportunity I got without the high costs or the typical crowds. Got to meet some amazing locals along the way for which I’m extremely thankful, and I can’t wait to do it again. Funny enough as soon as I got home from this trip I went up to Bear Mountain for their annual Oktoberfest celebration and it was awesome.
Oh and a short PSA for the reader… even though I tend to think of myself as a seasoned traveler I almost got pick-pocketed in Paris. I say almost because the crime was in progress and might have been successful if I didn’t swing my elbow under the chin of an African dude that snuck up behind me sticking his hand in my front pocket where my wallet was as I was going through the Paris Metro gate. Crazy shit, but it happened. So be careful out there!