[This is the fourth installment in an series of interviews. Read more here.]
Today's interview is with Susan Werremeyer, the founder of Carlton Werremeyer and one of the top event planners in St. Louis. I've known Susan for a few years and was thrilled when she asked me to plan her family's trip to Germany. They traveled to Munich, Bavaria (Füssen), and the Swiss Alps (Grindelwald). We also included a day trip to Salzburg and a half day in Zurich the night before flying home.
Hi Susan... tell me about yourself!
I am a St. Louis native who loves exploring all the wonderful attractions and organizations that make our city special. I have a soft spot for non-profits and worked with the St. Louis Symphony and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis before striking out on my own to create an event management firm. My team and I manage gala fundraisers for non-profits and corporate events and have been making magic for almost 10 years. I definitely feel like I have job security since most clients give thanks at the end of an event by saying they would never want my job. I am taking that as a compliment…I think.
Why did you choose Germany and Switzerland for your recent family trip?
My husband turned 50 last year and I decided it was time for him to go to Europe. He had always joked that his dream was to visit car factories so we thought Munich would be a good place for the BMW factory. Since he also loves the mountains, we knew the Alps would be a perfect fit and we could have the city tours and then go hiking. We also went to Salzburg for the day which was a great visit.
How were Germany and Switzerland different than your expectations?
I had been to Germany and Switzerland when I was 16, but as an adult it is interesting what you notice. I still noticed the beer…how could you not? I couldn’t believe how many people biked - the bike lanes were impeccable and built into the sidewalks. The bike racks seemed to go for miles and they were always packed full. People biked holding umbrellas and in dress clothes. In Switzerland they had tire pumps on the path and you could refill your water bottle at one of the 1,200 water fountains. I was astounded at how expensive Switzerland was - a simple lunch for three was always over $100.
How would you describe the differences between Munich, Salzburg, Lucerne, and Zurich? Would you want to return to any of them again if you were nearby?
Having the private tour guides in the various cities helped with insight into the culture and we learned so much more that way (thank you, Kevin!). Munich seemed more buttoned up and was a bustling city with incredible museums, Salzburg was very open, friendly and more on the quaint side. Switzerland seemed more progressive since a tour guide took us through the former industrial area and showed us how they were converting former factories to very cool restaurants, jazz clubs, rental venues, etc. I would definitely return to hike in the Alps. So majestic and peaceful.
What was it like working with a travel consultant to help plan your trip?
I will never travel abroad without Kevin! When we were boarding the plane we joked that it would be great to have a hologram of Kevin with us. It was amazing how he texted us in each new city to make sure everything was ok and to make sure we knew our gate changed. I knew if I had to organize the event myself I would have spent way too much time researching and not making final decisions.
I arranged private tour guides for you in Munich, Zurich and Salzburg. Did you find that this was worthwhile? Is it something you’d want to do again on future trips?
YES! I wasn’t sure what I expected from the guides, but they were a walking history book and made the city much more fascinating. We wouldn’t have learned half of the info if we didn't have the guides. Our Salzburg guide knew our son would like these trick fountains on the outskirts of the city and she was right - we would have never found that attraction. We also were able to ask about their laws, government, etc.
What were the highlights of your trip?
I think the Alps and telling my son to take mental photos since we many never see this again. He informed me he was much younger than I was and he would hopefully have time to see it all again…
I know your 9 year old son joined you on the trip. What were the highlights for him?
Having pretzels served at EVERY meal of the day in Germany, the Deutches Museum in Munich and the BMW factory tour, the Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, throwing snowballs in the Alps and coming down the mountain on a scooter bike, plus the luge in Grindelwald.
Where do you want to go next? What’s on your bucket list?
I have never been to Italy and would love to go there. Machu Picchu in Peru, Tango in Argentina…oh, so many places to go.
Thank you Susan... it was a pleasure working with you!