My biggest task (in learning to use Photomatix HDR merging) is how to get a natural looking rendition.
The last image was very close to what I remember seeing at the time and I am pleased you liked it.
I AM sometimes attracted to the "painterly" preset, however. Even though it isn't strictly realistic.
I couldn't resist posting THIS version. Gilding the lily, it may be, but it's fun, ain't it? :o)