The Merak is my dream bike! They actually make 2 models: a regular and a compact design (Francesco Casagrande rides a compact Merak for the Vini Caldiroli team).
The paint is like a matte finish and has a plush feel to it, you're right it is beautiful. The yellow starburst with a red heart in the middle painted on the top tube is sweet!
Merak with Record group, I don't think there is anything more perfect!
The Prince is beautiful too. You pay for immaculate craftsmanship, stunning paintwork (all the logos/graphics are painted, not stickers) and priceless "feel" of the Pinarello.
I agree, the Trek is nothing special. Cheesy stickers and a mediocre paintjob and the dead feel of carbon. Besides, Kestrel makes better carbon frames.
With Trek, you pay for Lance not the bike. Lance is no charity case, so I put my money where it does me the most good.