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30 years have passed since the world changed

It was an emotional Saturday for me – November 9th 1989 was the night that changed the world. Hard to believe it’s been that long and yet, it feels like it was yesterday!To my loyal readers, befor going on about that historic night, I apologize for the silence on my part for the past weeks. Due to a technical issue with the WordPress app on my phone, I could not upload posts. That is now fixed. No one could have imagined that the wall would actually come down. Yes, Ronald Reagan asked Soviet premier Gorbatchov for it in his famous address at the Brandenburg Gate, but it seemed a pipe dream only.

Then, after weeks of unrest and protests, first a few, then hundreds of East Getmans were allowed across to the West via Hungary into Austria in the summer and fall of 89.

The momentum built and then,!on that fateful November night, the GDR polit bureau speaker made a colossal mistake announcing the border to the west was open immediately.

The gates opened and overnight tens of thousands crossed, hugged loved ones, and celebrated a new word “Freedom”.

I remember this day so vividly as it impacted my Oma and her twin-sister personally. To put this day in perspective, from my vantage point it matches in emotional intensity only two other life-changing events – the day I met Greg and the night my mom died.

November 9 1989 was the first day of something new, a beginning of sorts that, no matter the divisions, enshrined that we are all better off together. Sure there are problems still today, but no one wants to go back to the divided Berlin of yore.

Remember this day and share your story with your friends and family.

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Ode to a bygone era – the IAA Frankfurt Car show is dead

I have been making frequent pilgrimages to this semi-annual event since 1985, including today.

Gone is the grandeur of the powerful German makes displaying their newest models and show cars, complete with engine models and tons of visitors crowding the stands.

Back in 1985 – when Volkswagen unveiled the Golf Gen 2, the world stopped to take notice. It was a big deal!

Not so today. Take Mercedes for example, I almost didn’t recognize their hall when I walked in. This normally decked out space was a mere shadow of itself. Empty uncovered bleachers were visible where ornate displays once stood. I counted a total of 8 cars on display- the rest was virtual reality games and autonomous driving on an ice rink – how real World is that I wonder.

While much smaller than in past years, BMW’s space was innovative and showed courage of its brand design direction. Even though the space is now shared with Opel, Hyundai and Jaguar, there was a vibe at least and lots of cars and technology on display.

Chief among them the controversial BMW 4 series concept ( see photo’s above).

In the end, dropping attendance and a shift by car makers to more controllable events like Pebble Beach are nailing the coffin of car shows closed.

I am glad I got to witness the fantastic days of car shows and I will cherish them. Electrification is tge way to go yet, I will forever remain a petrol head.

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Last chance – Oktoberfest calling!

A basket full of freshly baked pretzels…

to go with delectable Bavarian treats like Obadtza (Brie, butter, & paprika), smoked meats and cheeses, best washed down with one of the five official Oktoberfest breweries special edition beers. That is what awaits you as one of many highlights on my exclusive tour of Switzerland and Germany this September.

It all starts on September 22nd at the quaint Swiss airport in Zurich. The call of an alphorn awaits as we tour my birthplace of Berne, taste and watch the making of Gruyere cheese, ride a paddle wheel steam boat, and hike the Bernese Oberland (optional).

Carefully crafted by yours truly to provide a balanced and well paced experience to a small group of guests, this unique trip is your chance to explore this magical alpine wonderland complete with a ride on the UNESCO world heritage train the Glacier Express.

Our smallgroup consists of gregarious colleagues, acquaintances, and their friends and we are inviting you to join in the fun. It so happens that a few seats remain for this once-in-a-Liftetime opportunity but you must act fast as I need to return unsold spots by end of July.

Interested? Email reneplanettraveller@gmail.com today to secure your spot.

Sharing this post in your circle of friends is greatly appreciated and welcomed.

FAQ:

Trip dates: September 22 to October 1’19

Start: Zurich, Switzerland

End: Munich, Germany

Spots left: 4 ( 5 if a single traveler)

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Caribbean in June – St. Thomas & St.Maarten

A full day at sea later and we pulled into Port Amalie in St.Thomas. As this was my third visit to the island I chose to stay on board. Even two years after devastating hurricane Maria there is still damage visible in this tiny island. It is cruise ship guests that bring economic activity sustaining the recovery and this ships guests was actively supporting it with tons of shopping.

With the cruise halfway done, it is high time to report back on cuisine. The ship has been thoroughly renovated since my last time aboard with updated dining venues (Steamers and Plank) as well as updated Sabatini’s Italian. Last night however, we were treated to Crown Grill steakhouse.

Crab cake followed by fillet and a desert medley all exceeded expectations and were well worth the cover charge.

The night ended with a dance party called 24 carat gold. Passenger old and young had a blast!

Tge next morning we were in the Dutch part of St.Maarten for a short stroll in the tropical heat and humidity.

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Caribbean in June – Princess Cays

After a long rest overnight to sleep off my red-eye flight from the west coast, I woke up safely anchored off Princess Cays – the private island – offering a plethora of water sports; beach loungers and bars ashore. Of course, shopping is never far off on Princess with food trucks and a Caribbean market. Allcan conveniently purchased cashless with the ocean medallion. This new and groundbreaking technology is what sets Princess apart.

Delivers to guests home address before departure, this chip becomes your companion for the voyage. It allows you to order drinks without having to sign papers (a big win for guests).

So far I like it but the full verdict is still out. Anchors up at 5pm and off to St.Thomas we go.

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Caribbean in June

Home just long enough to do laundry and repack and now it is off to the Caribbean for a week aboard Caribbean Princess from Fort Lauderdale with stops in St Thomas and St Marten as well as the private island Princess Cays.

This journey is a sort of homecoming for me as Greg and I sailed in this ship in 2007. I am very much interested how the ship evolved since then as she was refurbished and updated several times since and it is the launch vessel for Princess’ Medallion – a digital assistant (see photo above).

Follow me as I document this week-long journey in the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. Cheers to that with a tequila 🌅!

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Farewell to Crystal Serenity

An overnight short hop across the English Channel behind us and we are safely docked in Dover with views of the famous white cliffs right from our balcony.

All packed, we are now ready to disembark the Crystal Serenity and board the bus to make our way to London Heathrow airport.

Upon reflection, as this adventure is coming to a close, I can say that we will remember it for a long time as we first and foremost were able to spend quality time together in a seamless flow of discoveries, lovely meals, and comfort ashore & aboard. Enjoying Crystal’s thoughtful luxury provided by a team of passionate staff that tirelessly makes even the smallest detail feel effortless was a treat for both of us.

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Aboard Crystal Serenity – Day 6

An early morning of country driving along Normandy coastal routes brought us to the town of Ouistreham where the British landed at the sector called Sword Beach. Views of a lovely chateau along the way inspired French country living dreams in me for a moment. All that movers into perspective as we digested the experience of the sites.

On we travelled after visiting the monument at Sword Beach to the town of Courseulles-sur-mer where the Canadians landed at Juno Beach. By far the most educational and well built memorial site is tge Canadian pavilion at Juno. A quick stop at the cemetery rounded out our tribute to Canada’s effort in WWII .

We continued on the the hill above Arromanches on the Gold beach sector, where a new art installation commemorates the 75th anniversary of the “day that changed the world.”

Our final stop came at Omaha beach and the American cemetery which was completely packed and most impacted by the ceremonies as grand stands and tribunes were being broken down while we visited.

May the lives lost and the efforts exerted by the Allies never be in vain. Our lives today are made possible in all the diversity and freedom only because of all the grade men and women of our ancestors of the greatest generation.

In my humble opinion, nothing brings this reality into light quite like a visit to the grounds where operation overlord took place on June 6th 1944. I recommend it to everyone at least once in a lifetime.

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Aboard Crystal Serenity – Day 5

Safely docked in the picturesque French port town of Honfleur, we had prepared an activity filled day. First we picked up our rental car for tomorrow’s drive to the Normandy landing beaches and then we walked through Honfleur and it’s famous Saturday market with some of the most beautiful white asparagus I have ever seen.

The weather has somewhat stabilized with much less wind and only sporadic sprinkles which made our exploring much nicer.

In the evening, we joined the Crystal Gala event at the Palais Benedictine (monastery and distillery) in Fecamp, Normandy.This amazing venue is the home of the “elixir of life” – a brew with 24 herbs and spices distilled 4 times and aged in oak barrels before being bottled for consumption. Each batch takes 18 months to complete and it is exciting to see that Benedictine liquor is making a strong comeback with new and inventive mixologist creations such as the one aperitif we tasted. (Recipe below).

Beverage aside, the gala evening was themed “roaring 20s and many attendees dressed up for the occasion. The meal was an exquisite Norman feast of local delicacies from foie gras to cheeses of every shape and flavor. Mains consisted of either Atlantic cod or lamb shoulder, each perfectly cooked.

As it so happened it was my mother-in-law Julie’s birthday today and the event couldn’t have been more special. From lovely comedic relief with the 20s troup and violinist duo to the Broadway star Rachel Wood’s performance of “anything goes,” the night was truly special and the setting was out of this world (note the backdrop of the abbey room and the wooden roof construction).

Happy birthday Julie!

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Aboard Crystal Serenity – Day 3 & 4

Strong stormy conditions – not unlike what the Allied troops encountered 75 years ago – made it necessary for our captain to change navigation. Instead of stopping in La Coruna, we sailed on across the Bay of Biscay toward tge tiny British island Guernsey.

While disappointing, this change gave us more time for meetings and to enjoy the fantastic on-board lectures about WWII at tge 75th anniversary of the invasion that changed the course of history.

The opened up time also allowed us to taste the creative food at Nobu’s only restaurant at sea called Umi Uma which is outstanding in freshness and creativity.

Over a mid-day update we learned that weather continued to plague us and that Guernsey was also cancelled. This meant an additional afternoon of sailing before we reached our stop in Honfleur, France. Overall we are having a fantastic time aboard and the days are flying by fast.