This morning I left rainy Essen, Germany for sunny Barcelona, Spain. I flew Vueling airlines (affiliated with Iberia), a discount airline that had the best nonstop flight today to Barcelona from Dusseldorf. I think Sunday may not be a great day to fly in Germany in particular. There was one woman at the check in counter for the entire plane full of people. And the way some of the fares work, is that a cabin bag (such as a small roller bag…anything that won’t fit under the seat) has to be checked. I got there early when there were only 30 minutes of people in front of me. But the check in counter only opened a bit less than two hours before the flight was to take off. By the time I’d checked my bags, the line was several hundred feet long. On the other hand, there were few people at security, most of the TSA equivalents were standing around. The security guy though where my bags were inspected decided to check everyone’s bags for what I assume was explosive residue. I still had plenty of time though and the flight was on time. By noon I was in warm Barcelona and at my hotel by 1pm.
After checking in and organizing my stuff, I walked to the Reial Club do Polo de Barcelona to meet the Guille, the son-in-law of members of my club at home. We’d hit once before when his family visited there, and they’ve since moved back to Barcelona. We had a good hit. The tournament is using the same Wilson balls as were used at the French Open and they were good to hit with, a little less flighty than the heavy duty Wilson US Open balls used three years ago. They seemed more durable too.
After hitting, I walked to a gas station to get more water and snacks (all other stores are closed on Sundays) and then back to the hotel.
It was a “hurry up and wait” sort of morning Saturday. I left my Airbnb early, before 6 am (finally saw a sunrise in Spain). Luckily I bought fuel the day before because the gas station at the airport was packed. My fuel gauge was still close to full so I passed. Good thing because I followed the GPS (google maps), not the rental car signs to the airport and ended up first in the drop off area, then in the parking garage (and it was tricky to exit… I owed 65 cents and the credit card payment wouldn’t process at the exit gate.. it took 15 minutes to exit). The rental car return signs are small but once I abandoned GPS I found them and returned the car.
I flew Eurowings to Düsseldorf. It’s a discount airline owned by Lufthansa. I don’t really pack well to fly discount airlines but after figuring out where to check in (tip: take the elevator outside the terminal to the 2nd floor to check in. You won’t be admitted into the arrivals area.) and showing my vaccination card and passport (and paying a bag fee, since one small carryon only is allowed), I was good to go through security. FYI there was a COVID testing spot at the airport and the line was long. Take a self antigen test with you if you aren’t vaccinated or are returning to the USA and take it the day before flying.
Another tip: go upstairs to go through security unless you are traveling to another Baleric Island. There’s an escalator by the front of the terminal.
Once in the terminal the waiting began. We left the terminal 30 minutes late. As is common in Europe, buses took us from the terminal to the plane. In this one terminal there were so many airlines: Eurowings of course, Lufthansa, Ryan Air, Lauda, Norwegian, Wizz Air, Easy Jet and more. Europe feels like one country in some ways but this was definitely an international terminal.
Upon arrival in Germany, unlike in Spain, I didn’t have to show any proof of a covid test or vaccination which surprised me. So the check-in personnel at the airport are the ones validating vaccination cards or covid tests, at least traveling from Mallorca to Germany. And no one asked me how long I had been in Spain. Mallorca is considered a low risk area.
In Dusseldorf is in the North Rhine-Westphalia state, about 45 minutes north of Cologne, is not really a big tourist destination. The airport wasn’t super busy, but was not empty. The rental car pickup is on airport ground but quite a walk. I rented from Alamo and it was on the 7th floor of the parking garage and was pretty much deserted. There were only a few cars there and no line for once.
After driving to Essen, (30 minutes north of Dusseldorf) and I checked into my hotel (and there I was asked for a negative covid test…I showed my vaccine so I was ok). I then went to get my racquet strung at Tennis Point (which recently I believe bought Midwest Sports, an online retailer in the USA..or the other way around). This is a big retailer what sells lots of racquets, balls, shoes, accessories, bags, and clothes. There are different brands than we normally see in the USA, such as Bidi Badu, Ellesse, Lotto for clothes, and there were large numbers of clay court shoes and even some indoor shoes (smooth soled). In the USA K-Swiss doesn’t normally sell clay shoes but there were a large number of them in the store. I bought a can of balls and paid for my racquet and it was on the next stop.
I went to Decathalon to get an exercise mat (about $3), and came across a large grocery/variety store, so of course I had to check it out. It was another large store like the one in Spain which sold everything from washing machines to candy bars, but not quite as nice, particularly the produce. There was more bread but less ham (still a lot) and of course a huge number of yogurt and quark options. The chocolate and candy aisles were larger too. Since I was in Germany I bought some Ritter Sport bars, which were present in large quantity, variety and low in price (about $1-2 for a 100 gram bar).
After dropping off the items at the hotel I walked to a nearby Lidl which happened to be at the train station. I am also near the center where there are some pedestrian streets full of shops and people who were enjoying their Saturday afternoon.
Later today I am hitting at ETUF-Essen where the tournament is set to take place. Weather permitting…looks like there will be some thunderstorms in the afternoon.
On the last day in Essen, I practiced some tennis with Jenny Cerff. After tennis we packed up and loaded the car, then finally decided to walk next door to the Folkswang Museum, an art museum. It’s a nice airy place with some nice art…Rodin, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso were amongst the artists and we saw a photography exhibit (Luigi Ghirri) which was interesting as the photographer had an interesting perspective (for example, taking photos of people from the back, to get the whole scene, and taking photos through windows and fences).
We left Essen for Düsseldorf and tomorrow I fly to Barcelona while Jenny flies back to winter in Cape Town.
Here are some photos from the museum. Can you tell I like Van Gogh?
Today Jenny Cerff and I had a plan (well I had a plan) to go to Düsseldorf, walk the full length of the Konigsallee and then go to the Rhine and walk along it and possibly visit a castle. We made it to Konigsallee and a few streets around it and not much further. We did however cross the Rhein in the car several times due to missing turns! Fortunately it’s not a toll road.
It was another lovely day, and there were again hoards of people out shopping and watching World Cup soccer.
We arrived about 11am in Düsseldorf and left after 9pm when shops were closing. Jenny is a shrewd bargain hunter and found some nice work and tennis clothes and I got a dress. We actually had to talk one dress (for Jenny) off of a mannequin since it was her size and the last one in the store. Below are the before and after photos of the mannequin. The mannequin’s arms had to be removed to remove the dress. Many years ago my Cup teammates and I attempted to undress a mannequin in a German sporting goods store to buy the clothing it was wearing. It was a hilarious moment in a “you had to be there” way (we removed a leg but not the shorts, finally a store employee helped us out). This time it was a smoother process…
We found a huge sports store, the Decathalon. It had everything from girls ballet leotards to bowls to camping gear to tennis clothes under one roof.
It was a fun day and we do plan to make it to the Rhein tomorrow after a morning tennis practice.
Jenny Cerff and I had a good practice this morning at the ETUF club. The weather has been quite nice, with highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 50s-low 60s, and a slight breezes, perfect for tennis. Sabine, the TD took a few photos of us from the club balcony overlooking the courts.
The draws are out and I play a good German player on Tuesday afternoon. The draw is below.
After about a two hour workout, I had a massage and Jenny had lunch, then we hit the Edeka to get ice (no ice at the club at all that we could find), and got back to the hotel. We went out wandering on foot to and Aldi market and then to a DM (something like a small Walgreen’s with organic snacks and no Snickers bars) where I got Saptil, my favorite travel laundry soap…though I did just find out there are laundromats nearby, so finding and using one may be another day’s adventure. We passed a lot of bakeries, which had some really tasty looking treats, but managed to resist. We figured out what this parking sign meant…pay parking.
Most of the stores we’ve been frequenting don’t take Visa, MasterCard or AmEx. They do accept some cards, but not those. So be prepared to use cash at Penny Market or Edeka.
This pretty church is next to our hotel, wedged between two modern buildings.
We are practicing very early tomorrow before going to Dusseldorf for the day to watch a German league match. More on that tomorrow (or more likely on Sunday).
Quick post before I try to get some jet lagged sleep here…
I arrived yesterday into Dusseldorf, Germany (via Frankfurt, from San Diego). My flight was on time to Germany. I had a decent cushion to make my next flight which was good because Customs was slow…we were held up one floor because there wasn’t room to process everyone downstairs. It was a hurry up and wait situation after that…I hurried to my flight and onto the plane…only to wait for about an hour before we took off. But halfway through the wait I fell asleep!
My tennis friend from So Africa, Jenny Cerff landed just before me and we met at the rental car agency. Though we had about the same length flights, she has no time change. I ended up with an automatic car of a brand I’d never heard of but it’s fine, not too big and has navigation.
We checked into our first hotel and then went out to the club, ETUF, which is on a small man made lake. The club has rowing, sailing, field hockey and tennis and is very nice. We wandered around and then Sabine Schmidt, the tournament director and a friend met us, showed us around the club house and we had a drink looking over the lake.
Today we had a good hit in the morning on the red clay. It will take a while to get used to but the courts were very nice. There was no ice at the club so we hit the Edeka grocery store and found a bag of the precious stuff (for my shoulder and Jenny’s drink) and moved to our new hotel, a Mercure which is quite nice. Sabine has negotiated nice prices here.
We then went to a Tennis-Point store which is sort of like a Tennis Express at home, a large tennis store (no Volkl racquets though 😠). We will be back, it has a plethora of clay court shoes of all brand types.
That’s it for now…tomorrow we’ll practice again and perhaps do a bit of site seeing again.