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Eating our way through Europe

August 3rd, 2009 Comments off

We are not food critics so this little story won’t be passing judgment about local tastes and customs.

Well, we do have to mention that that most menus offered pig knuckles, which I resisted at every opportunity, and that in Poland they serve pork lard with the bread.

We ate at McDonald’s twice – but once was legitimate because it offered an international menu with its Greek burger (feta cheese and three, maybe four, black olives). (See, we didn’t have a quarter-pounder.) This was, as I recall, at a highway stop in the Czech Republic.

Jeanne’s favorite meal was the crispy-yet-moist duck in Prague. I remember the cheese-dumpling soup in Strasburg that was awesome. Daughter remembers  the beers, everywhere.

We all raved about the lasagna in Luxembourg, the Chicken House’s rotisserie chicken with all sorts of different sauces in Antwerp and the German potato salad served at the beer garden in Munich. (Well, of course German potato salad has to be good when you eat it at a German beer garden in Germany!)

Desserts were mostly conventional but in France we were delightfully surprised by the bowl of meringue drizzled with a kind of caramel-vanilla sauce.

If you eat with your eyes, take a look at the four pages of food photos in our gallery.

Welcome to Prague, Nevada

July 11th, 2009 Comments off

We arrived in Prague Saturday evening after a thankfully uneventful day — in fact, a good day, considering how it started.

We had filled our water tank in Munich and, in the course of trying to figure out our hot-water problem, we ran the tank dry. So we had refilled it on Friday, and this morning we were going to run the hot water to wash the morning dishes. Not only was there no hot water, there was no water, period.

This was the last straw! The Gormans have turned into magicians!  We can fill a 100-liter water tank and make it disappear a day later without even turning on a spigot!!

For the third day in a row, we called the dealership in Belgium. This time, a real person answered. And he apparently was a mechanic, because when I told him there was no way a water tank could end up empty in a day without even using it, he said yes, there was one way.  He instructed me to look beneath our bed, through a tiny door, where the boiler mechanism for the hot water is.  “It is possible that the water boiler bled the tank empty without you knowing it,” he said. “It would have pulled the water in, and then drained it beneath your Mobi. You wouldn’t know.”

And the solution? “Do you see a red button?” Yes. “Push it. If it releases and goes higher, that is good.” I pushed it. It shot up higher, like an old-fashion car lock. Bingo. “You will be fine now. Fill your tank again. Everything should be fine.”

Since he was helpful, I mentioned that the valve to our wastewater tank could not be closed. I told him that the handle for the open-close valve just turned and turned and turned and never seemed to lock in an open or closed position, and that every time we run water in the Mobi, it pees on the ground. “Next time,” he said, “press the handle toward the plate right in front of it. Squeeze it. That will engage the valve.”  Oh, squeeze the handle while turning it? The snot-nosed kid at the dealership who taught me how to use the Mobi a week ago never mentioned that.

I went outside, knelt on the ground, reached under, grabbed the handle, pressed it and — bingo! again — the handle this time engaged with tension and I definitely could feel it opening and closing, not unlike a fireplace flu. So I think our watewater tank will now hold water.

So, with hot water (we assume — we won’t be trying until after dinner tonight), and a functioning wastewater tank, we set off for Prague. The German countryside was beautiful  — rolling fields of tall corn and other crops, with a backdrop of lush forests, and we drove through small villages with beautiful homes. We wondered what the Czech Republic would be like. It’s not like the countrywide would suddenly change…

We entered the Czech Republic, paid about $20 for a motorways windshield sticker at the border (no need to see  passports or proof of car insurance or anything, just the money, please) and discovered we were entering some knock-off version of the United States. More specifically, Nevada, if not for the trees.

The first billboard we saw was for a poker tournament. The next, for a casino. It was called “American Chance Casino”  but before we could react, we already were past the off-ramp. Then we saw a McDonald’s billboard. And a topless joint called Pamela’s. And another McDonald’s.  In fact, in the next 45 minutes we would pass no less than 10 McDonald’s restaurants. And McDonald’s wasn’t the only English we saw. About a third of the billboards — actually, they were signs hanging across the freeway, attached to overpasses — were in English, which confuses me.

The other remarkable first-hour discovery about Prague, as we drove through town, was the amount of graffiti. It was bad, with only one or two displays of graffiti art, and the rest mish-mash.

We found our campsite for the evening without too much trouble (the address didn’t show up on our GPS but when we pulled to the side of a road near the Prague Zoo to figure things out, a passing motorist pulled over, too, and asked if we needed assistance, and then pointed us in the right direction.)

The campground is one of maybe 10 along a street of what was once, apparently, a very fancy neighborhood with larger  homes and larger back yards.The homes have been turned into B&Bs or hostels, and the back yards converted into campgrounds.  Interesting. We are parked next to a mom and daughter from Switzerland; the other mobis around us are empty, suggesting that their occupants are still walking around the city and haven’t returned yet.

There is only one computer here, in the reception office, so there will be no photos with this post. I’m hoping to grab some time on it when the line thins.  I told the young man operating the office that the owner should invest in wireless. He said the owner has balked, due to cost.  I told him I would pay $10 a night for wireless. He said he gets lots of offers like that.

At this moment, we are sitting outside, 8:15 Saturday night. I’m sipping my rusty nail (scotch and Drambuie), Daughter has her wine (she bought 8 bottles in Germany today because the prices were incredibly cheap), Jeanne her diet Pepsi. We’re in our sling camp chairs, at a burgundy, round plastic table that was sitting nearby that Jeanne grabbed. It’s maybe 65 degrees, beneath an early-evening blue sky.

People all around us are talking. We don’t understand a word. Daughter is getting ready to cook dinner. Later we’ll see if the hot water works.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we will go into historic Prague.  Life is good.