Aug 12, 2011

Vienna, Austria

I've been to Paris but otherwise I've never been out of the United States (with the exception of Canada, Mexico & the Caribbean but those don't count).  What made me pick an Eastern European country for my 1st trip abroad I'll never know.  Vienna Austria is on the border, a short drive from Hungary & Slovakia.  I would have loved to explore those two places but I had only realized how close we were when the cab driver was giving us a geography lesson on the way to the airport to catch our flight home.  Lesson learned - look at a map before venturing to a new place :)

Vienna is a beautiful city - most of the buildings are made of stone or marble and most have statues on them.  On the corner of the buildings, on the top of the buildings, in front of the buildings - pretty much statues everywhere.  The statues are mainly of people (some people had tails & wings).  I don't speak German (which all the signs were in) but I read Neptune - which in Roman mythology is the god of the sea so I guess the tails made sense.  Some of the people on top of the buildings were warriors, with their charriots & horses.  Anyway lots of people statues, no gargoles. The main square is amazing - with cobblestone walks & quaint shops.  Lots of street performers (which I thought were cheesy) but they kept the kids entertained for quite a while.  Their favorite was a man who put bowls on one foot, while standing on the other & flipped the bowls onto the top of his head - he got up to about 6 bowls,  then a cup onto the bowls, then a spoon into the cup.  He made quite a bit of money while we were standing there - our kids loved putting change into his tin cup :)  Back to the city - there were water fountains & outdoor cafe's.  We walked around the main square for hours and when we got tired.  We hired a horse and carriage to take us around.  It's fun to walk around the city on foot but it's amazing to see it by horse & carriage.  Some of our favorite sights were St Stephens Catherdral; the Rose Garden (400 different varities) & the Spanish Riding School.

That night we asked the concierge if she could recommend a great Italian restaurant - I know we were in Vienna but I was in the mood for Italian.  She recommended Da Capo - only a few blocks away from our hotel.  We decided to walk & enjoy the evening.  We walk into Da Capo & here is how the conversation goes: Can I help you.  Yes - table for 4 please. Do you have a reservation?  No. right here.  She goes & gets the manager.  Can I help you.  yes - table for 4 please.  Do you have a reservation.  No.  Oh...pause....he puts his finger on his lip, with a hmmming sound & actually looks us up & down.   Okay follow me (I guess we passed inspection).  He leads us down these dark steps into the basement & I'm starting to get a little nervous.  We get to the bottom of the steps & I am actually breathless - talk about ambiance.  You can see all the old wood beams in the ceiling, the walls are old stone.  To the right there are a few tables with flowers & candles on them.  To the left you can see people cooking.  It was amazing! I ordered lasagne, the girls ordered pizza & my husband ordered chicken parmiigana.  My Mom is Italian & she makes the best lasagne ever.  I love lasagne & I've ordered it at every Italian resturant I've been in for the last 25 years.  I've never found anything even remotely close to my Mom's but this OH MY WORD - it was an explosian of flavor in your mouth that you didn't want to stop.  I tried not to moan while I ate but it was impossible.   As we walked home that night - hand in hand, as the girls ran & jumped off the sides of buildings singing & laughing.  I felt really blessed!

Day two - we walked back through the square, had breakfast at an outdoor cafe  - did some people watching.  Did some souvenior shopping - the girls found these mozart violins that they adored. Of coarse, now they want to take violin lessons & give concerts :)  Music is big here - Mozart, Shubart, Hayda, Strauss & Mahler are all composers from Austria.   We saw were Mozart played his 1st concert.  The Opera house is pretty neat - on the outside the have statue heads of all the greats. We decided to go see the Imperial Palace (where the emperor & empress used to live).  We did the grand tour & it was interesting.  Maria Theresa was empress at one time - she was Marie Antoinette's mother.  Marie Antoinette was born there & married off at age 15.  There is a statue in the garden of a man holding a womens head - not sure if that has an relevance or not.  The had a restaurant there - so we stopped to get strudel - you can't go to Austria without getting strudel.  It was very yummy!  We decided to check out the garden while we were there. So glad we did - it was our favorite part. They had a zoo, 4 mazes, a flower garden, a pond & 2 different monuments (one of which was quite a hike). 

Day 3 -  it's a short day today, as we have to fly home so we decided to do some fun kid stuff.  We found a place that was a cross between a local carnival & a theme park.  The 1st ride we picked was a roller coaster - we strapped in & off we went.  As I came to the 1st corner & thought we were going to fly off to our deaths - I thought to myself....i wonder if they have the same safety rules as the US? maybe I should of checked that before I strapped in! I pretty much screamed the entire time.  My throat was raw by the time the ride was over.  From then on - we stuck to the ferris wheel, pony rides & candy floss (that's cotton candy to all you Americans :)   They did have Madam Tussads wax museum there and although I thought it would be boring we decided to go. We sat on Sigmund Freud's couch, we sat at Obama's desk, we got pictures with Will Smith - it ended up being a lot of fun.    As the day was coming to an end  we decided to go back to Da Capo one more time.  We got the same treatment by the same host & manager but they seated us just the same & I ordered the same thing & was awed by it a second time.  Perfect ending to a perfect trip. Gute Wien Bye! Danke fur ein tolles Wochenende!

Aug 8, 2011


I grew up watching the Wizard of Oz.  My sister loved it & every year, no matter what - we had to watch it.  When I found out Wicked was playing at the theater in London - I knew I had to go.  The big night arrives & I spend an hour doing my hair & changing my clothes. I was very excited, it was my 1st trip to the London theater. We get there about 15 minutes early & decide to get a drink from the bar.  As we are waiting in a crazy long line, I'm looking at all the bottles lined up on the shelf.  Everything is elegant & classy - then as I get closer I see something amazing..........a slush puppy machine!  For all of you who knew me as a kid - I loved slush puppies.  One summer they had a promotion, for every slush puppy you drank you got a paw print & with so many paw prints you could get a shirt. By the end of the summer - my friend, my cousin & my sisters all proudly wore our slush puppy shirts. So - there I stand 25 years later, all dressed up in the London theater - sipping my strawberry slush puppy. We had fantastic seats - middle section, towards the front.  The show starts & I have no idea what to expect - oh my word.............the music, the costumes, the singing & dancing...all amazing!  They showed you how the tin man, the scarecrow & the cowardly lion all came to be and I absolutely loved that the wicked witch of the west ......wait for it.......wasn't really wicked!    That's right folks - everything we believed about her was just a misconception :)  All in all - it was a fantastic evening that I won't soon forget.