<![CDATA[Ageless GlobeTravels - Jim\'s Gems & Stinkers - Blog]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:36:07 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Dining With a Fab View at the Fernsehturm in Berlin]]>Tue, 20 Oct 2015 19:06:31 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/dining-with-a-fab-view-at-berlins-fernsehturm
While looking for interesting activities during the planning phase of our recent trip to Berlin I came across a Viator activity that I knew Susan would enjoy.  We have participated in a number of tours and activities provided by Viator during previous trips and have never been disappointed and this low-key one promised to provide an enjoyable afternoon.  The activity was advertised as “Skip the Line - Lunch atop the Berlin TV Tower”, the Fernsehturm.

The television tower is the city’s tallest structure at 368 m (1,207 ft). Located adjacent to Alexanderplatz, the tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969 by the administration of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) and the Socialist Unity Party.  

The tower was intended as a secular symbol of Socialist East Berlin and was modeled on the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik in the Social Realist Style.  Interestingly, when the sun shines on the Fernsehturm's tiled stainless steel dome, the reflection usually appears in the form of a cross. This effect was not anticipated by the architect and Berliners quickly nicknamed the luminous cross Rache des Papstes, or the "Pope's Revenge".  The tower also has the nickname “The Toothpick”. It is among the best known sights in Berlin and we could see it from most parts of the city.

On the day of the lunch we arrived at the tower a little earlier than our reservation specified and we sat in the small seating area in the base of the tower and waited to be called into the elevator a short time later.  The elevator takes 40 seconds to reach the observation level at 207 meters (679 feet). 

At the Observation/Bar level we checked in at the hostess desk and were guided up a flight of stairs to the next level up and to our table in the Sphere Restaurant. Viator guaranteed that we would have a table at the window and the table was right where I would have personally selected “at the window.” 
The restaurant level revolves 360 degrees every hour which provides for some awesome views.  As a Viator VIP our table was suitably set up for lunch and as previously noted the view from the window, even though the day was a little hazy, was incredible. 
While sitting at our table we were able to see the Reichstag (Parliament Building), the Brandenburg Gate, the Olympic Stadium, the Museum Island (Museumsinsel), the Potsdam Square (Potsdamer Platz) and many other interesting and visually stunning sights. 

During the hour while the restaurant was rotating we also enjoyed a very tasty lunch.  I had Beef Carpaccio and Susan had the Celery & Soya Soup as an appetizer and as an entrée we both had a Beef Tenderloin cooked medium rare which was excellent.  Susan drenched hers in the delicious pepper sauce!

After finishing our meals we walked down one level to the bar located on the Observation Deck.  This level does not rotate but we had already seen all of the sights while in the restaurant and we were only looking for one last drink at the Fernsehturm before we headed back to earth. After sitting at the bar talking about what we had just seen and planning about what we wanted to do next we traveled down the elevator and headed back out onto the busy streets of Berlin. 
<![CDATA[Alt Berliner Biersalon - A Kurfurstendamm Favorite! ]]>Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:49:54 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/alt-berliner-biersalon-a-kurfurstendamm-favorite
During a recent trip to Berlin we came across a terrific café called The Alt Berliner Biersalon. It is on Kurfurstendamm in a perfect location for people watching.  It was near our hotel, the H10 Kudamm, and the café-bar-restaurant turned out to be a very good place to enjoy a beer on a hot afternoon. 

It is almost always crowded but the beer gods must have been watching over us as we always found a great table at the outdoor café part of the restaurant.  We visited this café a few times during our stay and the flow of interesting humanity seemed to never slow on the sidewalk which was only a few feet from our vantage point.

Besides the outdoor café the restaurant also has a rather large indoor facility.  The interior consists of several large seating areas and at least two attractive bars.  We always sat at the outside café and the only time that I saw the interior is when I visited the toilet but I have to admit I was surprised at the size and capacity of the interior facilities and I could imagine that in the winter, this would be a cozy and welcoming place to hang out.

As I mentioned, we never sat inside and the reason for this was not only that we had perfect summer days on this trip to Berlin, but also, we were always on the move going somewhere and the Alt Berliner Biersalon was a great spot to linger while we planned for the next amazing site on the itinerary!

<![CDATA[Cruising With A View of the Alps - Lake Thun (Thunersee) Switzerland]]>Fri, 07 Aug 2015 22:09:49 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/cruising-in-the-shadow-of-the-alps-the-thunersee-in-switzerland
By James Taylor

On a beautiful Thursday afternoon in Thun, Switzerland we decided to enjoy the day cruising on Lake Thun (Thunersee in German).  We purchased first class tickets upon arrival at the harbor for a round trip on the MS Berner Oberland operated by the BLS Schifffahrt Berner Oberland navigation company. 

The company operates over a dozen large vessels similar to the one that we were on along with numerous smaller boats.  The MS Berner Oberland is the largest and newest of their large vessels, it was built in 1996 and it is 57 meters long (187 Feet).  We saw a number of other boats operated by various companies on the lake while we were cruising but none even came close to comparing to the size or grandeur of the MS Berner Oberland.

Upon entering the vessel for the first time we walked around and checked out the bow, stern and sundeck as possible places to sit however the bar which provided great views through the numerous large windows won out for at least the first half of the cruise.  When we purchased our tickets we did not know what the difference would be between the first class level and the second class level. 

I was a happy camper about our decision about which ticket to buy when I found out that a small bar with a great view was in the first class level and people from second class were denied access to it.  I think that the outdoor seating was better in the first class level and the dining tables had tablecloths and were elegantly set.  The second class level was not set up with the same formal elegance.  Of course, the second class level was much busier that the first class levels since the cruise ticket price is much lower.

above photo source: http://www.bls.ch/e/schifffahrt/charter-flotte-berneroberland.php

While sitting at the bar I drank a couple of Swiss beers that were previously unknown to me which was fun.  I had a Rugen Brau Lager Hell and a Rugen Brau Zwickel Bier Naturtrubes and both were pretty good.

The menu offered choices from full dinners to simple lunch items.  I had a pre-made sandwich which was served sealed in plastic wrap, and Susan had soup.  There were not bad but I certainly could not say that they were particularly great either.  The atmosphere on the ferry is what made the meal on the ship memorable.

The cruise stops at several towns on Lake Thun completing a round trip cruise from Thun to Interlaken and back in about 4 – 4 1/2 hours.   The views are spectacular and when we finished our snack and drinks, we headed out to the bow of the ship where we could sit and watch the action on this beautiful lake surrounded by the towering snow-covered Alps.  It was a wonderful experience and we took lots of photos so that you can experience the Thunersee Cruise as well! 

Spiez / Faulensee
We had a fabulous afternoon exploring the Thunersee by ferry.  If Thun is on your itinerary, be sure to make time for a leisurely cruise of its gorgeous lake.  There is nothing like a cruise with a view of the Alps!
<![CDATA[Finding Fondue at Hot Brass in Colmar France]]>Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:46:07 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/finding-fondue-at-hot-brass-in-colmar-france
Even before arriving in Colmar, France, I heard Susan say over and over again how she wanted to go to a restaurant that specialized in fondue.  So after arriving at our hotel, Hotel Le Colombier Suites, we asked the desk clerk where the best place for fondue in Colmar was.  She responded immediately by recommending Hot Brass Restaurant.  She also provided us with directions which we followed later that day.  After walking the relatively short distance to the restaurant, we determined that this was not one of those restaurants that you just happen upon while walking the streets, as it is not on a main thoroughfare, but rather on a quiet side-street just off the Place de Jean d’Arc and is not easily seen from the main shopping street.

However; when you do arrive, you know that you are there.  The front of the restaurant is decorated with some very eye catching design elements.  Patrons have the option of dining inside or on the patio, but we passed on the patio since it was particularly hot and still very early in the evening.  We chose to eat inside with the nice cool air conditioning and we were very pleased to see that the interior was very stylish and comfortable. 

Part of the interior décor consisted of an art gallery as contemporary paintings with price tags hung on the walls.  I really liked several of them and I regret not buying one in particular.

The woman who seated us and served us was very friendly and professional.  Even though the menu was extensive with an assortment of dishes from the Alsace region, as you can probably guess, we already knew what we would be ordering even before we were handed the menus. Fondue!

Fondue Savoyard originates in the region of Fribourg in Switzerland about two hours south of Colmar. The dish was invented during the long periods in which the Swiss shepherds remained isolated in the pre-alpine pastures. These shepherds reused leftover cheese and stale bread to form a nutritious and economical meal. The recipe spread slowly but surely to the rest of the region and neighboring France.

The dish consists of a delicious melted mix of flavorful Gruyere,
Emmentaler and/or Beaufort,cheese, and light dry white wine, served in a communal pot fondue pot (caquelon) over a chafing stand (réchaud) heated with a spirit lamp, and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks which are tipped with chunks of crusty French bread, into the cheese.

Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to other dishes in which a food is dipped into a communal pot of liquid kept hot in a fondue pot: chocolate fondue, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil.  But Susan had her heart set on the traditional cheese version, so we ordered a Fondue Savoyard with  mushrooms. She was delighted with the fondue we received.

We paired our fondue with a wonderful Alsace Pinot.  I don’t think we could have picked a more delicious wine! 

If you are looking for an authentic fondue experience, be sure to stop in at
Hot Brass in Colmar! 
<![CDATA[Hotel de la Paix Lausanne - A Suite With A View of Fabulous Lake Geneva]]>Sun, 28 Jun 2015 20:21:21 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/hotel-de-la-paix-a-suite-with-a-view-of-fabulous-lake-geneva
During our travels I am usually the one responsible for selecting the hotel and room category in the cities/towns that we visit.  So after Susan determined which areas of Italy, Switzerland and France that we should visit during our road-trip through those countries I started my research.  One of the cities Susan selected was Lausanne, Switzerland and I was in full agreement. 

There were several interesting areas in Lausanne that have the type of hotels that we are attracted to and these were in locations where there are a number of nice restaurants and bars/pubs which is important to us.  It was also important that we were within walking distance of the “Old City” and the grand Lausanne Cathedral.

During this planning phase consisting of researching numerous hotel, restaurant and bar/pub internet search engines as well as studying maps of the city; the Hotel de la Paix, easily became my choice.

Upon our arrival we were so pleased to find that the hotel conveniently had valet parking and lots of temporary curb parking for dropping off luggage and checking-in.  This is always very important to us when we are on a road trip!  The large lobby was elegant and the staff members were welcoming and efficiently checked us in. The hotel itself was a mix of old world charm and modern convenience.

above photo credit: Hotel de la Paix website

We had reserved a suite with a lake view and while the room was huge and very nice, the view was truly amazing.  The suite consisted of a very large stylishly decorated living area with a separate sizeable bedroom and a nicely laid-out, sparkling clean bathroom with a soaking tub and separate shower.   The bed was large and very comfortable and we slept well during our short two night stay.  Susan and I have totally different taste when it comes to television programs so the fact that the suite had a TV in the living space and another in the bedroom was greatly appreciated. 
Even though the suite was very comfortable we did not spend a lot of time sitting around in it as we were either walking or driving around seeing the sights or sitting in one of a number of enjoyable cafes, pubs or restaurants.  But when we were at the hotel much of our time was spent sitting on our balcony enjoying a cold drink while taking in the amazing scenery.

The hotel has a very attractive bar off of the lobby that we sadly discovered is closed on weekends and we were there on a Saturday and Sunday night.  However, across the lobby from this bar is a second contemporary styled bar inside the Bistro.  It lacked some of the ambiance of the first one but made up for it due to the friendly, helpful and extremely professional bartender.

above photo credit: Hotel de la Paix website

above photo credit: Hotel de la Paix website
Upon returning to the hotel in the evenings after wandering around the city for hours we would stop at the bar for a drink and would only drink a small amount from our glasses before the lure of our balcony propelled us to finish our drinks there, while thoroughly enjoying the view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

Before leaving the hotel each morning we would take the elevator down to the lobby level where the breakfast room is located in the Bistro.  The breakfast staff was efficient and the food was tasty and plentiful.

The only negative thing that I can say about our stay in the Hotel de la Paix and the city Lausanne, in general, is that we did not stay long enough!  A couple of extra days would have really been nice. The hotel, and specifically the suite, was wonderful and I really mean it when I say don’t miss the chance to stay there when you visit Lausanne.

<![CDATA[Cafe Beau Rivage - Elegant Dining on Beautiful Lake Geneva]]>Sun, 21 Jun 2015 19:20:16 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/cafe-beau-rivage-elegant-dining-on-beautiful-lake-geneva
During a two day visit to Lausanne, Switzerland we stayed at the Hotel de la Paix Lausanne.  It was in a great location and our balcony overlooked Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps which was an awesome view and we will be posting a review of this lovely hotel soon.  First we need to tell about a great restaurant we found called the Café Beau Rivage.

The immediate area surrounding the hotel offered an expansive choice of cafes, restaurants and pubs and we dropped in on a few; however we were up the hill (way up) from the lake front and we wanted to check out what the lakefront had to offer in the way of places to eat and drink.  

After a relatively quick check on our laptop we decided to go to the Café Beau Rivage which is part of the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel.  The café is located on the Place du Port in an area called Ouchy which was originally a small fishing village nestled next to a 12th century castle, south of central Lausanne.  Ouchy is now a busy marina and lakeside resort.

We took a taxi from the hotel to the café and before we had travelled even halfway we both acknowledged that the decision to take a taxi instead of walking, which we had foolishly considered, was one of the best ideas of the day; yes it was that far.

The restaurant seating area, both inside and outside, had a sophisticated yet comfortable feel and we opted to sit outside since it was such a pretty day.  We were seated at a very nice table in an area that provided ample shade from the sun in a cloudless sky.  We could not have asked for better service as this was one of those places that the staff seemed to anticipate your wants and desires and they were there when you wanted them but they were never intrusive.

It would have been very difficult for me to decide on what I wanted due to the excellent selection on the menu except for the fact that steak tartar was one of the offerings and that is one of my favorite dishes.  Susan ordered beautifully grilled Veal Escalope with a creamy Sicilian lemon risotto and greens. 

A short time later while enjoying the view and the exceptional company of my wife a staff member approached the table with a small dish containing a single spoon, holding steak tartar, propped on a very small stylish support making for an elegant presentation. 

Out of the countless restaurants that I have ordered steak tartar this is the first time that I have been offered a taste and asked if I desired any change prior to serving my meal.  This particular dish rates in my top five servings of steak tartar and as I alluded to previously I have eaten steak tartar in many restaurants in a number of countries so as you can see I was thoroughly impressed with the dish.

We finished the meal with our favorite desert.  Scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream with liquor poured on top.  I ordered Baileys and Susan chose Frangelico.  Heaven!  In fact we enjoyed them so much we forgot to take a picture!

After eating we walked along the lake shore and the vistas were amazing.  People were everywhere enjoying the beautiful day and if you’re ever in this area don’t miss the opportunity to be one these people living life large.

Café Beau Rivage is not inexpensive, but it is entirely worth a splurge because this elegant hotel cafe is beautiful, the location is fantastic, the service is excellent, and most of all, the food is delicious!

<![CDATA[Sushi B - A Stylish Modern Oasis in Historic Milan]]>Mon, 15 Jun 2015 16:57:05 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/sushi-b-a-stylish-modern-oasis-in-historic-milan
When we asked the staff at our hotel, Una Maison Milano, in Milan, for recommendations regarding the best places to dine or just sit and have a drink, they suggested the Brera District north of the Duomo which is referred to as the “romantic area” and the area definitely had several very nice restaurants and cafes where one could sit and enjoy views of the beautiful historic buildings of the Brera neighborhood.

To our delight, during one of our subsequent visits to this area to enjoy a few bars and cafes, we stumbled upon Sushi B.  It was a warm day just transitioning to early evening and we were looking for a cool place to sit and enjoy a cold drink and Sushi B proved to be the perfect place.

The part of the restaurant area we passed through on our way to the bar (which was located at the rear of the covered patio) had a number of patrons apparently enjoying the early evening and each other’s company. The restaurant and bar are contemporary in design, Asian in feeling and very stylish.  This modern fashionable appearance was a pleasant change from many traditional and historic looking cafes of the Brera District. 

We sat at the bar which had about 8-10 bar stools and while they were empty when we arrived, they were filled in short order, confirming the popularity of Sushi B.  Interestingly, the bar had a large window at the back overlooking the nearby neighborhood and a beautiful living wall of moss, ferns and vines that lined the side of the patio.

After we were seated at the bar and had ordered our drinks, a staff member set a tray of assorted finger foods with several small bowls of sauces along with chopsticks, on the bar top between the two of us.  These servings included pastry puffs filled with all kinds of delicious goodies, a couple of tuna sushi rolls, two battered and fried balls containing crab and other good things and other tasty morsels.

We were accustomed to having potato crisps and/or olives served with our drinks at other cafes/bars in Milan, so we were delighted with these over-the-top snacks.
While enjoying our drinks, I talked with the bartender and determined that he had the opinion that he made an excellent Mojito, so after finishing my beer, I ordered one. 

Before ordering, he told me that when he made the Mojito, the intent was that the closer you were to finishing the drink, the stronger it would be.  The drink was absolutely beautiful in appearance and I can honestly say that it easily rates as either number one or two on my short list of great Mojitos (and I have had my share of Mojitos!). 

We loved our time at Sushi B and this restaurant/bar is definitely worth looking up if you’re in Milan!

Sushi B - Via Fiori Chiari 1/A, Milano
<![CDATA[Enjoying Biffi - Oldest Restaurant in Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II ]]>Tue, 02 Jun 2015 18:02:52 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/enjoying-biffi-oldest-restaurant-in-milans-galleria-vittorio-emanuele-ii
While walking through the beautifully designed, vast arcades, of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, we decided to rest our weary feet and do some people watching.  We found Ristorante Biffi nestled among the luxury retailers and designer shops.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.

The Galleria is famous for being home to some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan, including our choice, Biffi, founded in 1867 by Paolo Biffi, pastry chef to the monarch), which was the first café in the Galleria.  In fact, it is often nicknamed IL salotto di Milano (Milan's drawing room), due to its importance as a common Milanese meeting and dining place, and we were happy to settle at our table and become part of this tradition!

Built between 1865 and 1877, at the beginning of the famous “Belle Époque”, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world's oldest shopping malls. The lofty glass and cast-iron atrium consists of two glass-vaulted arcades, covering the “streets” and intersecting at an octagon space which is covered by a huge decorative glass dome. 

The four story shop facades and windows are decorated with intricate stonework, magnificent sculpture and the central octagon area is topped with colorful paintings.  This beautiful setting makes a meal at Biffi (especially when sitting “outside” at their atrium patio) even more special.

The staff was professional, efficient, friendly and informative and the food was everything we hoped it would be.  We snacked on delicious Prosciutto and Melon and Bruschetta.  I was even introduced to the regional Pedavena Beer, which was an unexpected treat. 

In 1896, brothers Luigi, Sante and Giovanni Luciani established their brewery in Pedavena, Italy, where they had found plentiful amounts of excellent quality water.  The brewery opened in 1897 and has been brewing beer ever since. Pedavena Beer is said to be a German style Pilsner beer and certainly was refreshing on a hot Milan day!

We really enjoyed our time at Ristorante Biffi and recommend that you stop by to enjoy a meal or appetizer with a view of the fabulous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II !

<![CDATA[Hooray for Spain in Asheville!]]>Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:25:08 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/hooray-for-spain-in-asheville
We recently re-visited Curate in Asheville to try out a few more of their wonderful Tapas!  As expected, they were delicious and the atmosphere was just as lively and fun as it was during our original visit to this favorite restaurant. 

We love sitting at the bar with a view of the
chefs preparing the food because watching the kitchen action is like watching an episode of the Food Network!  Lots of fun! 

This time, we were provided with a great view of the chef carefully carving paper thin slices of ham from a leg of the famous Spanish Jamon from the Black-footed Iberian Pig.

We decided to try another type of jamon, tender white asparagus, juicy grilled Iberico pork with fresh rosemary and tyme and skewered lamb which was marinated in delicious Moorish spices and garnished with home made pickles.  We enjoyed every bite! 
To finish, we splurged on calories and ordered the "Tarta de Pistacho" which consisted of a light sponge-cake, lemon-thyme ice-cream and blackberry coolie.  This desert was the best I have had in years.  It was really delicious.

I have to say...... this is one restaurant we will keep coming back to in order to taste everything on the menu and enjoy the cooking show! 

Read Our Original Post Below:
Curate in Asheville was highly recommended by a friend partly because he knows that my wife loves a good tapas restaurant so we decided to drive the sixty miles to try it out. The menu has a wide and very good selection of tapas to choose from and the restaurant staff are very helpful in describing the various dishes prior to ordering.  We sat at the bar (which is the best location in our opinion!) and had a great view of the busy kitchen action. 

We were in Barcelona in July and enjoyed the food immensely but I have to say that the dishes at Curate were every bit as good as the best tapas restaurant that we ate at while in Spain, if not better.
<![CDATA[Our Home for a Week in Los Angeles: The Embassy Suites, Glendale, California]]>Sat, 07 Mar 2015 19:49:41 GMThttp://ssmeder.com/jims-gems--stinkers---blog/our-home-for-a-week-in-los-angeles-the-embassy-suites-glendale-california
above photo credit: http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/embassy-suites-los-angeles-glendale-BURGLES/index.html

During a recent trip to Glendale, California, we stayed at the Embassy Suites Los Angeles - Glendale for a week.  During previous visits, we stayed at other hotels in Glendale which were more than acceptable, but this time we were looking for something that was new to us.  While doing research for the trip, I noted that the Embassy Suites was very highly rated by TripAdvisor and it was also located in the area we wanted.
We stayed in a "King room with Mountain View" which was arranged nicely with the bedroom totally separated from the living room area and each of the two rooms had a good sized flat screen television.  The king bed was very comfortable and we slept well each night. 

All the rooms were fresh and spotlessly clean which is an absolute requirement for us!
The only negative thing that I can say about our entire stay pertains to the sofa, and this observation was that it felt it was made out of stone.  But that did little to detract from all of the positive aspects of the hotel.
The view of the Verdugo Mountains from the bedroom and the living room windows were spectacular and it didn't hurt that we were on the top floor.
We ate breakfast each morning which was included in the price of the room, and it featured a very good variety of items.  The breakfast service area was sensibly arranged allowing for guests to flow past the omelet grill, the hot food area which offered scrambled eggs, sausage links, breakfast potatoes, pancakes and more.  The buffet also offered fresh fruit, cereals, juices, etc.  Best of all were the urns of hot Starbucks coffee which you could drink in coffee cups or large to-go cups as you chose.
above photo credit: http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/embassy-suites-los-angeles-glendale-BURGLES/index.html

The lobby was contemporary and stylish with a lovely Koi pond strategically placed in the center where you could enjoy the colorful fish and sleepy turtles living in the pool. The lobby area also had a small sundry shop and a bar somewhat secluded which was staffed by very friendly and efficient bartenders.  We ended several of our evenings at this bar, having a relaxing drink prior to heading to our room for the night.

above 2 photos credit: http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/embassy-suites-los-angeles-glendale-BURGLES/index.html

The hotel also provides an indoor lap pool and a workout room, though we were far too busy to try them out.
When we return to Glendale for our next visit, we will be staying at the Embassy Suites Los Angeles - Glendalel again.  I highly recommend this hotel to those of you who will be traveling to the Glendale, California area.