Thursday, April 29, 2010

We are home

We made it home to Jersey.  It is good to be home, but both Mary and I are missing Vienna.  Our trip was too short!  We woke up yesterday (Wednesday) early.  I had to finish packing and I wanted to pick up some things before we went to the airport.  Mary and I went down to breakfast and then headed to the city center.  We bought some laugens for the trip home and had one last look at Stephansdom.  It was such a beautiful day.  It would have been nice to take our time and stroll through city, but we had to hurry.  I also let Mary have one last popsicle while we walked.  The one she gets is so tasty and since we don't have them in the US, I thought she should have one.  We walked to this candy store and picked up some candy for Mary's friends--and of course for her.  No wonder Mary loves Vienna--I let her have sweets all the time!  Ah well vacation doesn't count!

When we got to the hotel our taxi was pulling up.  I hurried up to the room, got our luggage, and checked out.  We were actually super early to the airport.  The British Airways counter wasn't even open yet--oh man we could have spent like another half hour in Vienna--strolling or whatever.  Oh well, better to be early than late.  While we were waiting for our plane, Mary's Leapster died.  I was worried.  Our flight from London to Newark was almost eight hours long!  I NEEDED it for her to be entertained for at least a lot of the time.  Yikes.

We boarded our plane to Vienna and slept about half the flight.  In London Mary and I were on a mission to find batteries.  Not only was able to get her batteries but a new Color Wonder coloring book.  We left her other one at the heurigen.  We also got some mango juice that was carbonated--last one for a while.  By the time we got a snack and to the gate (oh because we ate all five laugens I bought before we even left Vienna--just like I said we would), it was time to board our plane.  Mary was seriously an angel for the flight.  We were able to pick our movies and watch what we wanted whenever we wanted.  I watched "The Blindside," which was so good and Mary watched "The Princess and the Frog" three times.  We also colored and she played with her Leapster.  We both finally fell asleep for the last two hours of the flight.

We made it through customs.  Then of course one suitcase came out first and our other backpack came out last.  Then we had to wait for the stroller in the oversized baggage section.  It took forever!  Finally Skyler found us!  Yay--it was so good to see him.  Mary was very happy to see her uncle!  I was so exhausted, and crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow.  Unfortunately Mary woke up around five am!  I guess she thought she was still in Vienna.  I made her stay in bed until Skyler got up around six am.  She had breakfast with him and he turned on the tv for her before he left for work, so I was able to sleep until nine am.  It was nice.

Vienna was so much fun--it was fabulous!  My first time taking Mary abroad was wonderful.  It was hard and a little lonely sometimes, but it was so worth it.  I had a lot of fun taking Mary to my favorite city and I think she had a lot of fun too.  I realized that I went to Vienna in 2004, 2007, and now 2010.  Looks like we will have to go back in 2013--but for longer next time!  I can't wait for us to see the rest of the world together!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen

Today is our last day in Vienna.  I am so sad and trying not to burst into tears.  I really don't want to go home yet.  I am hoping that the volcano in Iceland will suddenly explode making air travel impossible for at least a couple weeks.  It will be good to be home, but I wanna stay here!  Mary can't decide if she wants to stay or go.  We will definitely be back in a couple years or so for sure.

Today, Mary wanted to go to the Schmetterling Haus (Butterfly House).  We walked to the Burg Garten, which is famous because it has a statue of Mozart.  I have actually never been to these gardens before or seen the Mozart statue up close!  I have seen it from the straßenbahn though (I have clearly figured out how to use the German letters and umlauts in my blog--it only took me a whole week).  I tried to get Mary to take a picture with the Mozart statue, but she refused.  She has not been very good about letting me take her picture at all this trip.  I have had to use bribery for a lot of the pictures I have of her.  She will regret that some day ha!

Back to the Schmetterling Haus.  We got our tickets and went in.  Holy humidity batman!  Yuck!  Luckily it is pretty small so we didn't have to spend too much time.  It is clearly a popular place for school trips.  There were so many school groups that came through just in the short time we were in there.  At one point I moved aside to let a large group of children get by and then a bunch of butterflies started landing on me.  It was so funny because the school kids were trying to tell me where the butterflies were landing.  I was clearly entertaining them.  It was tough getting Mary to leave.  She had the camera and was chasing butterflies to try to get their picture.  She was having a great time.

I dragged her our of there and we went and got some laugens to snack on before heading to the KunstHaus Wien.  One of the guide books recommended it for children, so I thought I would give it a try.  The museum, a former chair factory, now shows the works of painter and designer Friedensteich Hundertwasser.  It is filled with his paintings, drawings, and architectural projects.  Hundertwasser's trademarks are vivid colors contrasting with black and gold, shiny irregular shaped pillars, and no straight lines--even the floor is uneven. Mary and I took the straßenbahn and then walked to Hundertwasser Haus first which is an apartment building that he designed.  Outside the apartment building is a fountain and lots of little hills (again uneven surfaces) in the courtyard.  Mary had a good time running up and down the hills.  We took some pictures and then walked down to the museum.  The guidebook suggested getting there early to avoid crowds, but there was hardly anyone there.  We started looking at his paintings and Mary started being naughty right away.  She was thirsty, she had to go to the bathroom, she was hungry, she wanted a popsicle, she wanted to leave, etc.  Aaaahh!  I wanted to muzzle her!  I finally was able to get her interest in a couple paintings by having her count how many people she could find and how many fish and birds she could find.  That worked pretty good.  The model of Hunderwasser's ideal community also caught her attention.  Finally we went out to the cafe and had some juice--gespritzt of course.

On the way back to the straßenbahn, we stopped at the store so I could pick up some souvenirs and I had promised her a popsicle.  I waited in line and then paid for my items and when I turned to give Mary her popsicle she was sound asleep!  (oh yeah because I brought the stroller today!  Oh yeah I was using my brain today.  It was so much easier and transportation and just about everything in Vienna is extremely stroller friendly.  Much more so than New York city.  I can't believe I waited until the last day to use it.  Geez).  So I took the straßenbahn back to the center and strolled around and window shopped.  It was nice.  Mary finally woke up and asked for her popsicle.  Since I had thrown it away once it became a melted mess--luckily inside the wrapper, I promised her I would find another one.  Once I found one, we walked to the Rathaus park.  When I was on the straßenbahn, I noticed a playground.  I knew Mary would love to play, so I just sat on the bench and watched her run around.  She was so cute.  We played together on the teeter totter.  I hadn't seen one since I was a kid.  Why don't we have those in the US anymore?  This one was much improved since the days of my childhood.  She told me she wanted another kid to play on it with her, so I got off and went and sat down.  She was kind of timid and didn't really talk to the other kids.  She would follow them, but if they didn't pay her any attention, she would give up.  Finally she made friends with another little girl.  They played for a while, running around the playground.  It was fascinating to watch them, because Mary would speak to her in English, and she would speak to Mary in German, but they both seemed to understand each other.  Finally the other little girl had to leave.  Mary was pretty sad.  I pushed her on the swing for a little bit and then we left.

Okay so I have only been to two playgrounds now in Vienna, but they both had a sand area that also has a water faucet.  The kids mix it all together and it ends up being a big muddy mess.  I don't get it.  I mean I can see how it would be great for kids, but as a parent, yuck!  I wouldn't let Mary go near it.  Two kids were wearing these plastic/rubber type overalls that they probably use for when there is lots of snow--just so they could play in it.  At first I thought, well I guess maybe they have it because they are not close to a beach.  However there are beaches in Vienna along the Danube.  It seems very strange to me in a city like Vienna.

We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and then went and had dinner in the MuseumsQuartier at a restaurant called Milo.  I don't think the MuseumsQuartier existed when I lived here.  It is a very hip place with art museums and cafes.  The MuseumsQuartier is in buildings that used to be the court stables, so there are statues of horses on the buildings.  The cafe was super hip and I felt a little weird going there with Mary.    However she was seriously an angel.  We sat outside, but as soon as our food came, it started to rain.  Some ladies helped us carry everything inside.  The food was pretty good and the atmosphere was pretty cool, but I wasn't that impressed.  I think it would be a great place to come and just grab a drink with friends.

After dinner we came back to the hotel.  Ugh I still have to pack and grab a few things in the morning.  Lots to do and I am tired!  I will be happy to be home and get some more sleep.  This is vacation, but we have been on the go.  I always figure I can sleep at home all I want, but I don't get to be in Vienna whenever I want, so sleep is not a priority!  However I really think that a trip to Vienna should be followed by a trip into the alps for some relaxation and a slower pace.  I could see the alps when we were on the bus yesterday and I am pretty sure that I heard them calling my name.  Next time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wachau Valley

When I started planning this trip back in January, I realized that so much of what we would be doing would be all new to me also.  I have never rode the Reisenrad or seen the Lipizzaner horses before this trip.  The one thing that I did want to do again with Mary--but in a new way was go into the Wachau valley.  The Wachau is a section of the Danube valley and it is not only very historic (this is where the Venus of Willendorf was found for you archaeology/anthropology buffs), but absolutely gorgeous!  Some of the most celebrated vineyards in Austria are in the Wachau as well as lots of castles--many are now ruins--and medieval monestaries.  My first visit to the Wachau was with a school tour and the last couple times with a rental car.  Well I am not in school and I hate driving in my own country so the rental car is out--even though it is one of the best ways.  I thought it would be lovely if Mary and I took a boat down the Danube river to Dürnstein.  Dürnstein is a tourist trap town, but I love it.  Many of the buildings date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.  The ruined castle above the town is said to have held King Richard the Lionheart ransome on his way home from the crusades.  After a steep hike to the ruins, the reward is a breathtaking view of the Wachau valley.  The only problem is that the boats from Vienna don't go all the way to Dürnstein until May.  I would have to take a train from Vienna to Krems and then catch the boat to Dürnstein.  Since that would require really good planning to match times and such, I decided to just go on an organized tour.  I am not really a fan of them, but I thought in this case it would be easier.

It was easier, but not really what I thought and I wouldn't do it that way again.  I would actually love to take the boat down and then ride a bike through the valley.  In the summertime there are thousands of people who do this.  The brochure did not give many details about the tour.  A van picked us up at nine at our hotel to take us to a tour bus.  We rode the bus for about an hour to Spitz.  On the bus we met a very nice couple, Sharon and Jerry, who live in San Luis Obispo, but are from the New Jersey/New York area.  I had such a nice time visiting with them throughout the day and Mary latched onto them.  I think she is having grandma/grandpa withdrawal.  Or maybe she is lonely.  She tries to talk to people and kids all the time, forgetting the language barrier.

I had thought that there would be a stop in Dürnstein, but it was just a drive-through.  I was pretty disappointed, but what could I do?  In Spitz we boarded a boat to take up the Danube to Melk.  It was gorgeous and very relaxing.  Unfortunately it was a little rainy.  When we arrived in Melk, it was sunny again and our bus was waiting for us to take us up to the Melk Abbey.  I was a little nervous about how Mary would behave on a tour of the abbey.  I even debated doing it at all since I did it once before, but thought; what the heck I paid for it and we can usually always exit.  We had lunch at a restaurant right outside the abbey.  I was trying to explain to Mary what an abbey is and how it is important to behave and be quiet. (I can't believe I haven't tried to get Mary to watch the Sound of Music yet)!  Melk Abbey is still an active Abbey with about forty monks currently living there.  I basically told her it was a place where Monks live and pray and devote their lives to God.  So Mary says, "oh like those chipmunks movie squeakquel movies that Jackson has?"  I seriously burst out laughing so loud!  Again I tried to explain it to her, but she just didn't get it.

Running laps around the fountain.

Still running...

We entered the courtyard to wait for the tour.  I told Mary she should run some laps around the fountain to get all her energy out--and she did it.  It was hilarious and everyone on the tour was laughing.  We went in the abbey and Mary was so so good.  She did keep asking me when we were "gonna see those monks?'  I think she was expecting to see some singing chipmunks or something.  We finished the tour and headed back to the bus.  Mary didn't even want to sit with me.  Sharon asked her if she would like to sit with her and she did--all the way back to Vienna.  I was kind of hoping Mary would sleep all the way, but she wanted to talk to Sharon and Jerry the whole time.  She is so funny.  I'm just glad that they didn't mind.  She finally fell asleep after we reached Vienna and were a couple blocks from the bus stop.  That just figures!  I didn't bring the stroller because I didn't need it for the tour; however I needed it now darn it.  I carried her for a while and finally she woke up because I kept having to move her around--she's heavy!

This is totally off subject, but as I was walking with Mary sleeping in my arms, I had to walk down underground to cross the street.  There aren't crosswalks because it is a busy intersection, so instead you just walk under the street.  It is also the way to the subway station.  As I am walking, I hear loud Mozart music and I look over and there is a neon sign that says, "Vienna Opera Toilet mit Musik."  Maybe I am easily amused, but I just thought it was so funny to advertise restrooms with music.  Crazy.

Once Mary and I woke up we just walked down Kärntnerstrasse and browsed in some stores.  I bought Mary a little outfit and then some chocolate and best of all--wine!  Wait that sounds like I bought Mary wine.  Oh no, the wine is for me!  Although since the airlines don't allow liquids really anymore it is more difficult to bring home lots of wine, which is too bad because there isn't a lot of Austrian wine in the US.  One time I bought some Austrian wine for around twenty Euros a bottle.  I was later at a restaurant in New York city and saw the same bottle of wine for 120 dollars!!!  So I only bought two bottles to bring home--I hope they make it okay in my suitcase.  I bought some wine sleeves before I left so they should be good.

After the shopping we got some käsekrainers (cheese hot dogs) and sat in Stephansplatz and ate.  There is great people watching there.  Mary found a penny and danced and tossed the penny and ate and so on.  The things that amuse a three year old!  We took pictures of each other in front of Stephansdom.  Unfortunately most of the pictures that Mary takes of me, cut off my head.  Then we got more ice cream and walked back to the hotel.  I feel really sad tonight because tomorrow is our last day here.  Mary and I both agreed that we could stay here forever!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Everyday so far I have not brought the stroller with us when we leave the hotel and everyday I wish I had brought it.  What the heck?  Part of me doesn't want to deal with it, but then Mary keeps asking me to hold her and she walks so stinking slow.  She would probably nap in it too if I brought it along, which would be nice for me to stroll through the city.  I dragged the stroller clear to Europe and then I'm not even using it and I SHOULD be using it.  It would make my life and Mary's easier!

Today we went to Schönbrunn palace.  Schönbrunn was the summer residence of the Habsburgs.  The grounds of Schonbrunn are huge.  It's gorgeous and one of my favorite places to go in Vienna.  I really enjoy the tour of the Imperial apartments, although this tour shows only forty of over two thousand rooms.  I didn't think Mary would enjoy that long of a tour, so luckily I did my research because I have never seen this in a guide book, but Schönbrunn has a kindermuseum.  It was awesome!!!  I really don't know who liked it more: me or Mary.  We started out in the Imperial courtyard.  In the courtyard there are several wardrobes which contain princess dresses of all different sizes for the children and adults to try out (there are also clothes for the boys to dress up in: fancy jackets and three point hats).  Is this my dream come true or what?  I get to dress up like a princess in a real royal palace!!!  Oh and so did Mary. haha.  There was just about everything a princess would need.  There were wigs, gloves, purses, crowns, fans, and even hoop skirts and petticoats!  They also had a sort of throne set up to take your picture on.  I only wore my costume long enough for Mary and me to get a picture together.  Then Mary pranced around and twirled.  She said, "mommy, I think this dress twirls nicely."  One problem: I could not get Mary to take it off.  Finally I promised her that after we finished the tour we could come back and dress up again.

The rest of the kindermuseum was cute.  It was good because the children can touch things and interact.    Although the first room we went into after the courtyard was just a room with a slide--not sure what that had to do with anything, but Mary enjoyed it.  The next room explained the children's hygiene rituals and beauty rituals for the girls.  There were four wigs set up and all these accessories and the kids could do hair.  There was a dressing table that explained make-up in the 18th century.  There was a room that showed the clothing that the  royal children and their servants wore--also in the 18th century.  There was an explanation of the daily routine of the royal children.  There was a toy room, where the kids could actually play with the toys.  The last room was a dining room.  It had all these dishes and pretend food that the kids could play with and practice setting the table.  It was very cute.  However Mary wanted to hurry through the rooms so she could dress up again--the little stinker.  Well so we were back in the courtyard and Mary dressed up yet again.  I chatted with another mom (Austrian) who was so friendly.  Finally everyone else had left and Mary and I were the only ones left in the courtyard.  I made her take off her dress, so we could go outside.  It wasn't easy.

We walked through the grounds a bit and then entered the zoo.  Since it was well past lunchtime we stopped at the wurstel stand and got a hot dog.  Hot dogs here are so good!  Not that they are that different from in the US but here they are brilliant because the hot dog roll has only one small opening on the top.  The roll is filled with ketchup and mustard or whatever you want and then the hot dog slides in.  It is so much easier for kids because there is no mess--it is all contained in the roll.  I mean Mary could walk and still eat her hot dog.  I just think it is so much better than cutting the roll open all along the side.  AND they sell carbonated juice!  Anyone who knows me well knows that I buy sprite for my juice.  I love carbonation, but not soda.  I want my juice to be carbonated or spicy as Mary calls it.  Okay I sort of went off on a tangent there, but I had to get that off my chest.

Back to the zoo; which was founded in 1752 by Franz I.  Some of the animals are still housed in the original baroque enclosures.  The emperor liked to have his breakfast surrounded by his exotic animals.  There is also a large section of the zoo that is a reconstructed Tyrolean farm.  That was great because it was up in the trees and it was nice and cool.  There were just farm animals, but it was nice.  The zoo was a little strange to me.  I felt much closer to the animals than I would in the States.  It seemed like I could just reach out and touch some of the animals, they were that close.  Seemed like a lawsuit waiting to happen.  I thought the zoo was cool because it of the original baroque buildings and Tyrolean section, but overall a zoo is a zoo.  Mary was getting pretty tired by this time.  I was really wishing I had the stroller.  It was pretty hot and crowded also.  There were so many strollers, I was looking at them all longingly.  Some people had rented wagons.  Wagons--what a great idea, only I couldn't figure out where they rented them until we were leaving.  That would have been great for Mary!

This picture isn't zoomed at all--we are really this close!

Mary and the tastiest popsicle ever!

We left the zoo.  I would have loved to walk around the grounds some more, but Mary was done, and I couldn't carry her.  Too bad I couldn't take the wagon out of the zoo.  We made the long walk back to the u-bahn.  Mary was so tired and whiney.  When we got on the subway, she said, "let's just stay on this for a while."  Luckily the stop is close to our hotel.  We came up to the room and just sat for a bit while I tried to figure out where we should eat dinner.  I decided on the Witwe Bolte because it is only a block away and witwe is widow in German.  It also has a "beautiful tree-shaded terrace in a fountain splashed, cobbled square," according to Frommer's which gave it three stars. Doesn't that sound lovely and enticing?

Well it was definitely lovely.  It was a little nicer than I thought it was going to be, but Mary behaved wonderfully.  I was so pleased with her behavior, especially since she had no nap.  I talked to her all through dinner so she couldn't be distracted.  We talked about school, our trip, and her friends.  The food was so good.  All the food that came out of the kitchen looked delicious, I don't think we could go wrong.  I ordered Mary raviolis and I had pumpkin lasagne.  Both were delicious.  It was so pleasant, drinking my gruner veltliner there in the courtyard.  We had dessert and walked back to the hotel.  Today was such a good day!  I felt a little sad leaving Schönbrunn because I don't know when we will be back, but we will definitely be back!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Horses and Wine

Being a single mom is so hard. Being a single mom on vacation is both easier and harder. It is a little bit easier because I have one on one time with Mary. She gets my complete undivided attention and so her behavior is better than at home--because she is getting so much positive attention. I am not saying, "can you hold on" or give me just a minute to finish this." Yet at the same time it is hard because I have no adults to really engage in conversation. I have made small talk with other people we have encountered, but I mean full on adult conversation. Also when Mary is driving me nuts, I can't hand her off to my husband, or friend, or mom and say can you just watch her for a minute so I can look at this or do this really quickly. There are so many things in Vienna that I like to do that I know Mary would not wanna do. I want to go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum and sit and gaze at my favorite Breugel paintings without interruption, without having to tell Mary she needs to be quiet or sit still. I want to linger in a cafe with my Wiener Melange and my apfelstrudel or sit and chat with someone over a glass of wine. Next time I am bringing the nanny! Oh wait I don't have one.

Today Mary and I woke up early because I set the alarm. We had breakfast and then we walked to the Hofburg palace. Unfortunately there were some other children playing on Mary's elephant so we had to keep walking. In the Hofburg is the Spanish Riding School where the Lipizzaner stallions perform. I have never seen them perform and thought it might be something that Mary would like to see, so I bought a ticket. We picked up our ticket and then went in the gift shop. Mary was being pretty good, but there was a large box full of bouncy balls that were just to enticing. Each ball had a different colored horse inside. But everyone time Mary picked one up or put one back, two more would fall out and bounce all over the floor. I helped her put them back and told her to move away and look at something else. I turned my back for one second--you moms know how it is--and I heard lots of bouncy balls bounce all over the floor. The cashier rolled her eyes and gave me a loud annoyed sigh. I mumbled sorry in German and helped Mary pick them all up and we quickly exited the store.

I took Mary out to Michaelerplatz and read to her about the statues in front of the Hofburg. There are four statues of Hercules fighting some kind of monsters. Mary kept asking me why Hercules doesn't have any clothes on. Hmmm...not sure how to answer that one. Finally it was time to go back into the Riding School. I didn't have to purchase a ticket for Mary because she is only three. The drawback of that is that she has to sit on my lap. After studying the seating chart for a really long time, I decided the front row of the balcony would be best because Mary would be able to stand if she wanted without disturbing anyone else. We got to our seat and it was awesome! Right next to the imperial box. We couldn't take pictures of the performance as it can distract the horses. That is kind of a bummer. The show starts kind of slow with the younger horses showing a little bit of what they are able to do. Then the stallions come out and they are gorgeous. They do these jumps and stand on their hind legs. Mary was talking in my ear the whole time and could not sit still. Finally I thought we should leave so as not to disturb anyone else, but she didn't want to and said she would be good. I was glad we did because there was only one last sequence left. It was eight of the horses doing a sort of choreographed dance--it was really cool. Mary sat quietly the whole rest of the show. Hooray! The horses are so amazing and yet I couldn't help but wonder what they are thinking. Mary said to me, "mommy that horsey is sad." When I asked her why she said, "because he wants to run." Do they wish they were running free in a field or do they like performing for the people? Who knows?

After the performance we went and ate the the Spanische Hofreitschule Cafe. We chose a table outside because it was beautiful out. The cafe is in a courtyard in the Hofburg behind the Spanish Riding School. There is a round sort of track in the courtyard in which the horses run around. It is all mechanical so the horses are forced to trot along. After so long it stops and changes direction and the horses stop and change direction as well. Wow that must be how they are exercised. Who knew?  It was pleasant sitting outside in the sunshine and watching the horses trot along. I ordered us spinatknödel mit parmesan (spinach dumplings with parmesan). They were delicious and Mary devoured them. I also ordered apple strudel. It was delicious! However Mary took a bite and spit it out. What?! She didn't like the apple strudel! What's not to like? The cafe was perfect because we could sit outside so Mary could get up out of her seat and go watch the horses. It was very relaxing.

We left the Hofburg and wandered a little through the park to the Rathaus (city hall). Usually they have something going on in front of the Rathaus and I thought they might have something that Mary would enjoy. For example at Christmas time they usually have a Christmas market. In the winter there is iceskating and they even put in fake snow so people can ski. In the spring they once had these giant trampolines. That's what I was kind of hoping for because Mary would love that. However when we got there they were cleaning up some event that was clearly over. So we hopped on the strassenbahn for a bit and then walked back to the hotel. First we stopped at a park that is near the hotel because Mary had been begging me since we got here if she could play. There were some boys playing in some mud. Mary kept asking them why they were playing in the water. They just ignored her. It was so funny because they were bigger boys and she was just following them and trying to talk to them. I tried to tell her that they speak German, but she was determined to talk to them. It was kinda cute actually. I managed to drag her away and then we took a nap.

When we woke up, we walked back to the center. We took the u-bahn and then the bus to Grinzing. Grinzing used to be a separate small wine village, but now it is part of Vienna. It lies at the foot of the Vienna woods. One of my favorite things to do in Vienna is to go to a Heurigen. Heurigen are small rustic wine taverns--sort of like a beer garden--but a wine garden instead. Some heurigen serve their wine in mugs as well. The heurigen celebrate the arrival of each year's new wine by placing pine branches over the door. Mary and I went to a heurigen I had never been to before called "Zum Martin Sepp." It was yummy and everyone was very friendly. Traditionally one would have an assortment of ham and cheeses with his or her glass of grüner veltliner. So I ordered this for me and Mary, but apple juice for Mary and wine for me.  It was so good.  I also ordered tafelspitz (boiled beef--which is much tastier than it sounds--and it was a favorite of the emperor Franz Josef) and a risotto dish that was delicious. Everything was so good and the atmosphere was great. We finished up and walked back to the bus. We took the u-bahn back to Stephansplatz and then got gelato at Zanoni and Zanoni before walking back to the hotel. Good thing we are doing so much walking or Mary would have to roll me home.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Today I am constantly trying to think of a way for Mary and I to move here for at least one year. I could rent out my house--and then I don't know. It would be so wonderful and I think of how good our German would be after one year of living here. But then I think about our friends and family. We would miss them so much--and would Mary be able to live without Jackson across the street? Well I guess everyone would just have to come visit us. Oh and think of all the places we could travel to--much easier than from the USA. I have been dreaming of the day when I would live here again since 1999. Well I will keep dreaming...

I really want to visit Graz. I have never been and since I wanted to do new things with Mary that I hadn't done before, I thought we should go. The problem is that today would have been the best day. We are still a little tired from our trip and we would have had to catch the train at eight or ten this morning. I was a little unsure I was up to tackling even more travel. Last night I decided I would just figure it out in the morning. Well this morning we woke up at ten!!! That meant that Graz was out. Oh well maybe next time. I wanted us to rest, but not quite til that late. We hurried and got ready and went down to breakfast which luckily was until eleven. The ladies doing the breakfast were so friendly to us even though we were late. They kept trying to talk to Mary, but she was super shy. After breakfast we found a camera shop and I was able to buy a new battery charger for my camera battery. It is awesome because it works in the US, Europe, the UK, and the car. However I wish I hadn't had to buy it in the first place. Hopefully it will work with more than just Sony batteries, because I would really like to get a new camera some time in the near future. We'll see.

I didn't really have a plan for us today because of the Graz thing. So we just walked to the center. On the way we walked by the Naturhistorisches Museum, which has a little elephant statue in front. Every time we pass by Mary has to climb all over it and talk to it. She says she will be its mommy and take care of it. Then she has me take pictures of her. Finally I am able to pull her away from the elephant and keep walking. Some young people walked by us, all talking loud. Mary says, "People here are silly." I asked her why and she said, "because they talk silly." She doesn't understand why people don't speak "spanglish" which is what she apparently thinks we speak. I told her we speak English and in Austria they speak German. I'm not sure she gets it. We also walked by the Hofburg and there are a whole bunch of horse drawn carriages. Mary really wants to ride in the carriage, but it is forty Euros for twenty minutes around the city center!!! That is a lot of money for twenty minutes. I really want to indulge her because I want her to have awesome memories of Vienna, but holy cow. I don't love the whole horse and carriage thing anyway. I am thinking about it.

We walked the way I used to walk to school. We stopped at Muhlen Brot to pick up some laugenstange. They are sort of like pretzel sticks, but so much better. I will have to try to get a picture. They are as delicious as always!!! I bought three and Mary and I ate them pretty quickly. I think they are closed all weekend too! I think I should buy a whole bunch on the day we leave and maybe get them home and freeze them. The problem is that I think we would just end up eating all of them on the way home. I showed Mary the Palais Corbelli where I went to school. She was confused. She wanted to know how my school got to Austria. Finally she said, "let's go in that old church." So we walked down to Stephansdom. Mary saw a clown making balloon figures and so I let her get one. Unfortunately I don't think his English was very good and my German is not so good, so he just made Mary a heart. Even though Mary wanted a balloon hat, she was pleased with her heart. Then this girl kept following Mary to try to get a picture. So I stopped Mary and let her take her picture so I could ask her to take our picture in front of Stephansdom. Yay a picture of both of us. We went inside the church. It is so beautiful inside. I wish I could take a picture that would capture just how beautiful it is. Mary quickly lost interest in the church and wanted to go ride the famous Reisenrad (Ferris Wheel).

We rode the subway to the Prater. The Prater is this huge park along the Donau Canal and the Donau(Donau means Danube in German). It used to be hunting grounds that belonged to the Emperor. Josef II opened these grounds to the public in 1766. Now the Prater has a lot of paths through open fields and also wooded areas. There are also a lot of sport activities, such as tennis and golf and there is a huge football (soccer) stadium. We went to the Wiener Prater which is sort of like a cross between a six flags and a carnival. It also contains the Reisenrad. The Reisenrad was built over a hundred years ago and takes twenty minutes to complete one circuit. You ride in these "red cabins." The views of Vienna are gorgeous. Too bad today was very overcast. Before you get on the Reisenrad, there is a museum that contains all these models of what Vienna looked like during different times in its history. The models are inside red cabins and it is very quaint. I think Mary was a little disappointed that the Reisenrad goes so slow. Next we rode the Liliput-Bahn, a little train that goes around the Prater. It goes by all the rides, tennis courts, through the woods, and by some beer gardens. Okay, these beer gardens are brilliant!!! Alongside the outdoor tables are all these bouncy houses for children. YES!!! The parents can eat and actually enjoy themselves and so can the kids! I can think of some places in New Jersey that would really benefit from having some bouncy houses there! Like I said, brilliant!
Inside the "red cabin" in the Reisenrad.

View of Vienna and Stephansdom from the Reisenrad.

Mary eating a laugen on the Liliput-Bahn

After the train ride, which was really pleasant, I decided we should go back to the center. It was a little chillier at the Prater--maybe because it is near to the river? We took the u-bahn back to the center and I took Mary to Demel. Demel is a cafe and cake shop that was founded in 1786. Cafes in Vienna are very fancy, but ordering one cup of cafe buys you hours at your table. There is no rush. As soon as Mary and I took our seat--oh man--her balloon popped. Well that got everyone's attention. I was a little mortified, but no one seemed to mind. There were two older couples sitting next to us who wanted to talk to Mary. Mary was trying to explain the all the things the Easter bunny brought her, but they didn't quite understand and I couldn't quite translate. Finally they asked about where her daddy is. I had to explain. At first I think they didn't think I knew what I was saying when I said he is "tot." But I think they caught on. They were very quiet after that and left shortly after. I think they were amazed I brought Mary by myself. I am amazed with myself too.

I ordered Mary some apple juice and Sachertorte. I had a Wiener Melange. It is sort of like a cappuccino--just Viennese style. Sachertorte is a famous Viennese chocolate cake that is made with a layer of apricot jam. It is a little bit dry so it is served with whipped cream, which in Austria does not contain sugar so it is not sweet. There are two restaurants in the city that argue over who makes the original. One is the Sacher Hotel and the other is the Demel. I think it tastes the same. Mary was starting to get very naughty. I thought since we slept so late she might be able to go without a nap. Not so. I paid and we began the walk back to the hotel. Of course we had to stop at the elephant. We also stopped in this bookstore. I found this book called: "Vienna City Guide for Children." It is such a great book! I wish I had it before we left. It gives a brief history of Vienna in a way that kids would like and then has some great tours that kids would love. We are gonna have to try some of the tours in the next couple days. We came back to the hotel and napped.

When we woke up we went to dinner. We ate at this little restaurant called, "Zu den 2 Lieserl'n." It is known to have the finest and largest schnitzels in Vienna. I ordered Mary schnitzel and potato salad and I ordered myself the roast beef. I also had a glass of gruner veltliner. Gruner Veltliner is one of my favorite white wines. So good! After dinner we came back to the hotel and went to sleep. It was a pretty good day. Again, so many people stopped to talk to me and especially Mary. They always speak German to me, which makes me happy because I must not look like a tourist which I despise, but don't mind. I only wish that my German was good enough to answer in flawless German. Instead it's a mix of German and English. That is why I need to live here!!!

Time to be honest. Mary drove me kinda nuts today. Even though we had a lot of fun together she was also naughty. I was definitely losing my patience. However I thought about it and she was actually really good considering all the walking I made her do. I didn't bring her stroller and I made her walk a lot! I WAS tired and just my legs are taller than she is. So in hindsight, I think I was expecting a lot from her. I will see how tomorrow goes. The other thing is that I really don't love Austrian food. I love Austria, but I am not a schnitzel fan. The restaurant we ate at tonight was great, the food was great, the waiter was awesome, and that atmosphere was super fun, but I just didn't love the food, which was very traditional Austrian. I do love Austrian wine, pastries, and coffee though!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We made it!!!

We made it to Vienna afterall! We arrived at the airport about three hours early. Good thing too. We had to wait in line to check in for over an hour and a half. Terminal B at Newark was crazy! British Airways was trying to accommodate confirmed passengers--like us--and standby. It amazes me how irate people can get sometimes. Some of the confirmed passengers were getting angry about the wait time for check in. Seriously? Some of the standby people had been waiting since Thursday. We made it through the check-in line only to wait almost another hour in the security line. So we came out of security and there before me was a Samuel Adams Brewery. Oh man it was calling my name after all that waiting with a three year old--who was pretty well behaved considering all the waiting but still. Alas I did not have time to indulge--it was already time to board.

I didn't know what I was supposed to do with the stroller. Usually when flying within the US, the airline gives me a gate check ticket. We leave the stroller at the end of the jetway and when we get to the next stop it magically appears at the end of the jetway for us. Well with international flying apparently you bring it on board and the flight attendant puts the stroller in the wardrobe. I like that.

AND I love love love European airlines. I sat in my big cozy seat (in coach) and waiting for me was a goody bag with a sleep mask, socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, headphones, a blanket, and a pillow. Sweet. We settled in and we were off. Mary watched tv and she fell asleep before they served dinner. I had ordered her a special child's meal but the only thing about her meal that was better than mine was that it came with a Kit Kat. Otherwise I think she would have liked my meal better. After that I crashed as well.

We woke up around five am (British time) for breakfast and to get ready to land. Again my meal was so much better than the child's meal. Lesson learned on that one. We landed in London a little after six am. Heathrow was very quiet. I was thinking maybe because of the volcano, but I think it was because it was so early. By the time we were boarding for Vienna, it was definitely picking up. Heathrow seemed so much nicer and not near as crazy as I remembered. Mary and I strolled through some stores. We went to Starbucks and then waited to board our plane. We had to take a bus to a different terminal and Mary was swinging around the pole--like she always does--that you hang on to and sure enough the bus took a turn and she fell on the floor. It must have been pretty hard because she has a serious bruise on her cheek. Great it looks like I beat my child--and at the start of the vacation. Now it will be in all the pictures. Which speaking of pictures--I totally forgot my camera battery charger and my battery is almost dead. I packed so well too and I forgot it. I am so angry at myself! I did find one in the airport in London, but I can't plug it in in Austria. So I guess I will be looking for one in the morning. That is so frustrating!!!

We boarded for Vienna around nine am and again I just took the stroller on the plane with me and put it in the overhead compartment or as they say on British Airways, I placed the stroller in the "locker." Again Mary and I slept and then we landed in Vienna. So I was hoping that with my smart packing (minus the fact that I forgot the camera battery charger--doh) we could just take the train into the city and save some money, but Mary was so tired and so done, there was no way. I was not up to carrying everything and Mary either. So we got a taxi and it had a car seat too. After a short ride we made it to our hotel. It is perfect--in the Museumsquarter--so that is close to everything! I am very pleased with how everything worked out and Mary was so good. She definitely had some moments but overall was super good.

When we got to the room, Mary wanted to go outside and walk around and see everything. However she was so whiney and she just kept crying about things that I thought it would be best for us to take a short nap. Not too long or it will be hard to wake up and get used to the time difference. So we slept a little over two hours. Then we got dressed, freshened up a bit, and left the hotel. I always worry a little that Vienna will not be as good as I remember it. Not so! It is still definitely one of my favorite cities in the world. The weather is gorgeous--mid 60s and sunny. The city is just beautiful--I love it!!! We walked by the museums and through the Hofburg. We walked down Graben and then to Stephansplatz. Mary saw Stephansdom and said, "is that building old or something?" When I told her it was over a thousand years old, I don't think she could quit grasp that. So cool to be here with her, but at the same time I can't really give her an art history lesson. She's just a little young to explain some things to. I am also thinking of Chris a lot because I always wanted to bring him here and show him everything--it is fun showing Mary though. She thinks it's amazing and teaching her some German is fun too.

We ate at this super hip cafe-restaurant called Ella's. They serve "Mediterranean soul food." Okay so we didn't have Austrian food on our first night, but I had a glass of Austrian red wine called a Blaufrankisch. It was delightful. Ella's looked way nice and I was a little worried about having Mary in there, but our waiter was so awesome. He brought Mary some paper and a cup of color pencils and some crayons. He was very patient with my German and let Mary practice her German on him as well. The chef sent out some little appetizers for us to try. Mary's was this yogurty, cucumberish, concoction wrapped in a pastry. She ate them in nothing flat. Mine was sort of like sashimi but on a cracker with a seafood soup. Mary ate half of mine too (I really hope the soup didn't have shellfish--Yikes). She WAS hungry. Then we had this appetizer that was buffalo mozzerella in apricot seed oil (it is apricot season here) and a basil sorbet. So good--it also had tomatoes and roasted bell peppers. Mary thought that the olive was a grape. I tried to tell her, but she wanted to eat it anyway. She just made this awful face and said yuck! She proceeded to spit it out on the plate. Yeah she gets that from me. I love olive oil but hate olives--Yuck! For dinner we both had spaghetti. Sounds boring, but it was really good as well. It was such a nice dinner. I seriously love how Europeans take their time with dinner. There was so much time between each course and you just don't feel rushed. I bought Mary a Leapster to keep her busy mainly at the airport or on the airplane, but she got it out and was playing it. I wasn't sure this was a good idea at the dinner table, but I got to take my time and eat and enjoy my meal and my wine, so I didn't mind it too much.

After dinner, I promised Mary that we could go get gelato. So of course we went to Zanoni and Zanoni, which by the way there are more locations since I lived here. I guess things change after eleven years. Mary picked my favorite flavor--pistachio. What with the olives and the ice cream--she DOES take after me a little bit. So we both got gelato and then walked back to the hotel. Vienna is just as beautiful at night with all the amazing buildings all lit up. As much as I love Vienna, I have never considered it a very friendly city. What a change it is with a child. I would have never guessed, but people stop to talk to Mary (in German of course)--especially when she is carrying a giant cone of gelato, or they even smile at us--gasp! What a pleasant surprise. By the time we made it back to the hotel, I think most of Mary's gelato was dripping down the front of her jacket. I realized I did not bring near enough Shout wipes to last this trip. Oh well. So far I am loving this trip--I did not make this vacation long enough! Of course I may think differently by next Tuesday.