Can’t Afford a Vacation? You Can Still Get Away – Here’s How

Amsterdam museumpleinYou paid the fall tuition bill. The a/c compressor conked out. And your lab ate the bedspread, again, requiring emergency surgery. Your vacation plans? Better luck next year.

Don’t put away the suitcase yet. It’s still possible to take a day (or two) away and recharge before the leaves start falling and the Subaru needs new tires. Continue reading

Goodbye, Hilton. Hello, Couch?

During my semester abroad I was shocked when the doorbell rang. It was early afternoon and the flat was quiet. The only visitors we had received were the neighbors complaining when there was a noisy, late-night party. I opened the door tentatively and was surprised to find one of my roommate’s fraternity brothers standing in the hallway.  He explained that he was awarded a Watson fellowship to study the dinosaur exhibits in European natural history museums. To extend his meager budget, he asked if he could crash with us and save his hostel money. Nuestra casa es su casa; I ushered him in. We enjoyed his company and he enjoyed our sofa and shower for a couple of weeks.

Would you consider staying on a friend’s couch while vacationing?

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The Life Continental: One Big Happy Table

During my travels in Bavaria I was surprised that most of the restaurants featured family-style seating. You would expect such a convivial dining option from Italians or Spaniards – but Germans? I’m sure it evolved as a practical measure to get patrons seated, served and out the door as quickly as possible.

For Phase Two of my 2013 summer staycation, I wanted to replicate that dining experience, so I searched for family-style service and was disappointed to turn up zero results in the tri-state area for restaurants. Entrepreneurs, take note. Last year it was BBQ restaurants. This year? Burger joints. Next year we definitely need family-style dining.

Seeking an alternative, I purchased tickets for a farm-to-table dinner, hoping for a communal dining event and was thrilled to arrive and find long, draped planks under a tent, instead of individual tables. And booze. And a beautiful summer evening.

It felt like Munich minus the dirndls.

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Munich Beer Hall Throwdown: Hofbrauhaus vs. Augustiner

He’d lost his Tyrolean hat at some point during the evening but didn’t seem to notice as he lay in my lap mumbling, “Bella. Bella.” Since I don’t speak German and his English was poor, he decided to throw out some Italian, the international language of love.

Steins of beer on a table in a Munich beer hall

Litre steins of beer, served up with warm pretzels at a Munich beer hall. Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC

Looking for an authentic beer hall experience in Munich? Try the Augustiner brewery for a chance to get up close and personal (maybe a bit too personal?) with the locals. Continue reading