1.They’re fast. If you think France’s TGV trains and the London-Paris Eurostar are the only high-speed rail routes in Europe, you are way behind the times. Europeans have been developing high-speed routes all over the continent for the past few decades. Depending on the route, high-speed trains in Europe travel 125 to 200 mph. Here’s a list of the major high-speed networks in Europe.
2. They can even be faster than flying. While jets are still a lot faster than trains, and thus more time-efficient for trips longer than about 600 miles, there are many city-pairs where it’s actually faster to take the train when you consider total travel time – i.e., getting to the airport early for heightened security checks; travel time to and from the airport instead of a city center train station, etc.
3. Intermodal connections can be very efficient. Some key gateway airports have built-in rail stations right next to or underneath the terminals where travelers can easily transition from air to train travel. At Frankfurt International Airport, for instance, travelers can connect to trains going all over Germany and beyond, including the nation’s high-speed ICE network. And French National Railroads has a TGV station at Charles de Gaulle Airport. You can get information here on all the major European airports with rail stations.
4. They’re comfortable. Seats are generally bigger than airline seats, with plenty of legroom – especially in first class. Many trains have bar/buffet cars; for first class travelers, meals and drinks are included in the ticket price, and may be served at your seat or in the bar/buffet car. Increasingly, European trains have on-board Wi-Fi. And you can sleep on some trains: For longer rail journeys, some routes operate overnight with trains that offer private sleeping cabins. Here’s a list of Europe’s night train.
5. They take you to the heart of town. Airport stations aside, European rail terminals are generally in the center of cities, so you can easily get to or from your hotel with a short cab ride. In fact, there are usually some hotels within walking distance.
6. Forget about delays. While a big storm can play havoc with airline schedules, trains keep operating through all kinds of weather. And they’re not subject to the kinds of air traffic control congestion that can disrupt on-time flight operations. In terms of operational efficiency, about the only thing that can (and sometimes does) disrupt train travel in Europe is a labor strike.
7. They can be quite scenic. You won’t see much of Europe from the air, but trains bring you up close to alpine vistas, dramatic forests, majestic rivers and other things to see through those big windows from the comfort of your seat. Here’s a list from Eurail of some of Euriope’s most scenic train routes.
Sometimes, the train is a more reasonably priced option. It might eliminate the need to rent a car. And hotels should be within easy walking or Uber distance, as they are in many famous cities, like Washington, DC, Seattle, Vienna, Munich, Tokyo, and London.
Sonoma County’s signature grape varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Those also happen to be two of the predominant grape varieties grown in Champagne, so it makes perfect sense that this coastal region should produce traditional-method sparkling wine.
Sensing the promise of California viticulture, many Champagne companies descended on Napa County in the mid-20th century to try their hand at American sparkling wine. Sonoma didn’t get quite as big of an influx, but there is a European sparkling-wine presence here nonetheless: The Champagne house Piper Heidsieck founded Piper Sonoma in 1980, and in 1986 the Spanish cava company Freixenet arrived on the Sonoma side of Los Carneros to launch Gloria Ferrer.
The county’s two other dominant bubbly houses — Iron Horse and J Vineyards — are all-American, and date back to the 1970s and ’80s, respectively. While J sold to Gallo in 2015, Iron Horse remains owned by the family that founded it. A handful of other notable Sonoma County-based bubbly brands — Ultramarine, Under the Wire, En Tirage — do not operate tasting rooms.
But plenty of other Sonoma wineries dabble in sparkling wine production, with delicious results. After all, the preponderance of two of Champagne’s favorite grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, make the prospect nearly irresistible for a winemaker. –Esther Mobley
California Champagne-method sparklers tend to use traditional Champagne grapes, too: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A third grape, Pinot Meunier, is often used in Champagne but is less common in California. And some trivia: Schramsberg does have a little bit of an obscure white grape called Flora, a cross of Gewurztraminer and Semillon, that they use in their sparkling wine.
For me, cost is an issue, as it is with any wine. I refuse to pay ridiculous prices for my every day wine. Special occasions are okay for a splurge, but my every day budget is around $10 to $20.
And there are many good wines to choose from. Trader Joe’s is particularly good in this price range. And so is having friends in the wine business!!!
My brother and I are going to a Giants game tonight at ATT, make that Oracle Park in the city. Most of the time, we welcome leaving the Valley heat and heading to the cooler Bay Area weather. Here is the most common weather related quote through most of the past century.
Anyone who’s ever spent the summer months of July or August in San Francisco knows that weather can sometimes dip down into the 50s and 60s. Sure, you’re in California but the summer months in San Francisco can often feel like the fall in New England. The summer months are so unseasonably cool here that there’s a witty quote often credited to Mark Twain in which he says, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” Funny, right? The only problem is, Mark Twain never said it. According to the fact-checking website Snopes.com, an extensive review of all of Twain’s writings and private letters can find no instance of the great American author ever saying such a thing. In fact, the origins of the phrase are completely unknown.
So, we will leave home in the late morning, in shorts and polos. When we arrive in the Bay Area, we will have our sweaters, down parkas, and long pants. It is all part of the charm of this great state. And it is a reminder of the days when our Dad drove us up to Candlestick for a Sunday day game. We often had dinner down at Fisherman’s Wharf before heading home. Those were some great memories with our Dad. Each time we go together, reminds us of those great days. Thanks, Dad!!!!
Speaking of long pants, how about a pair of Levi’s? The right field wall at the ballpark is called Levi Landing, for good reason. Here is why.
A native of Germany, Levi Strauss found success in America by selling dry goods. In 1853 he moved to San Francisco to cater to the growing number of gold prospectors that were flocking to the city each day in search of fortune. Strauss saw that the pants the prospectors were wearing couldn’t hold up under rough conditions, so he decided to create something that was more durable. He teamed up with a tailor by the name of Jacob Davis and together they patented the first “waist overalls,” as Levi’s jeans were initially called, in 1873. His iconic “501 jeans” would first be sold to the public in 1890. Strauss passed away in 1902 but today just about every person owns a pair of jeans, thanks to him … and it all started in San Francisco. Side bar: Ironic that Walter Haas, then owner of Levi Strauss, was owner of the rival Oakland A’s across the bay for many years.
So, we will weather the storm in our Levi’s, and enjoy some great seats. My brother’s high school classmate gave us her season tickets for this game!!!! So, a big thank you to KH!!!!
And last but not least, did you know fortune cookies were born in San Francisco?
Fortune cookies did not originate in China. Fortune cookies were first served at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in the 1890s. They were made by the San Francisco bakery Benkyodo. No one knows for sure how the cookies made the leap over to Chinese restaurants, but by the end of World War II they were popping up in restaurants all across the country.
So, while you are sweltering in the heat, or lighting your fireplace, we will be at the game, misquoting Mark Twain, wearing our Levi’s, and feasting on x rated fortune cookies. And maybe a crab sandwich and a few beers. Perhaps this game will be among the last for some of our hometown heroes, like Mad Bum.
We will drive up Friday, take BART into the City, and have our crab sandwich. After the game, we will BART back to the east bay and stay overnight. Then a quick breakfast with my buddy, Mike, before returning home. It will be a quick overnight trip.
I had an office here back in the 70s, as well as access to a company apartment, which I did not care for. The office was in Mission Circle (Mission Valley area), near the shopping center, and most of the time, I stayed in a Mission Circle hotel. It was only a ten to fifteen minute trip over to the San Diego Airport. Not many people know that San Diego has hosted two world’s fairs, the 1915 and 1935, well before I was born. I was responsible for setting up the professional relations department, which included peer review, provider relations, and quality assurance for our company.
Downtown San Diego, where I will stay on this trip, is the home of the revitalized Gaslamp Quarter, home to snazzy bars and restaurants. And the new Petco Park is easily within walking distance from downtown hotels, the harbor, Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza, and the San Diego Convention Center. Both of my sisters have some history here. One, lived just up the road in Del Mar with her husband Norm, and their two now grown boys. My youngest sis graduated from San Diego State here in the 70s.
Obviously, the climate is a big deal here, as San Diego enjoys one of the most temperate climates in the world. The population of 1.4 million would not trade it for the fog of the Bay Area, or the humidity of the east coast (or the smog and traffic of LA). Median income is about $70,000. It is also one of the ten safest cities in the US. Tourism, the US Navy (largest employer), and the port are San Diego’s big three of commerce. The border between Mexico and San Diego is the busiest international border crossing in the world. But be careful if you decide to cross!