27 April 2010

22 April 2010


Sunday morning, chez Arnold, was the scene for some perfidious treachery on the part of the National Geographic channel.

Allow me to explain.

We have eight English language TV stations. Each of them is on some bogus international programming schedule, notable mainly for being low budget, obnoxiously repetitive and utterly unpredictable. In the unlikely event you did find a favorite show amongst these dregs, good luck trying to guess when it might come on again. No such thing as "Tuesday nights at 9pm" regularity.

Four of these channels are news, which is all well and good given the normal compliment of channels in this modern world, but feels a bit extravagant when News is taking up half of my options. Alas, it can't be helped.

The fifth channel is BBC entertainment, which sounds good at first, but in actual fact, a mere 11% of their programming is tolerable (Cash in the Attic, At the Auction, an occasional Black Adder gift, The Weakest Link.) The rest consists of shows such as EastEnders and Red Dwarf. My American sensibilities just can not get a purchase on these programs; my consciousness simply slips off the surface as if they were greased pigs.

The sixth channel shows old, awful cop shows: Knight Rider, Kojak, Miami Vice and a host of others that you never even heard of because they only ran for one year in the mid-90's on Canadian TV.

The seventh channel is E! Entertainment Television, or as I like to call it F***ING TORTURE. Seriously....if I ever meet a Kardashian or a playboy mansion girl I will sink my thumbs into her eye sockets so fast she won't have time to scream. I would rather we didn't even have this channel.

Which leaves us with our most promising prospect, English language channel #8, the National Geographic Channel.

Yeah, they repeat their shows ad nauseum and yeah, it's real man-friendly programming - but at least it's quality stuff and beggars can't be choosers, eh? Given the choice of 300 channels I would rarely land on this one, but given the choice of eight it's become a default favorite.

I've sat through shows about the worlds largest cruise ship, the world's largest off-shore oil rig, the world's largest crane, the world's largest air-crane (I didn't even know there was such a thing), the world's longest tunnel, the world's deepest mine and a whole host of other "world's biggest/coldest/deepest" programs. National Geographic specializes in superlatives.

And when it's not mega-works this and mega-works that, it's World War II. I have watched more WWII themed shows than I care to admit. I've had it up to HERE with blitzkriegs, U-boats, Panzer divisions and the Battle of Britain.

So after all the Arctic explorations, massive machinery and battleship Bismarcks, I was pleased as punch to sit down this Sunday morning and find a program that piqued my interest.

A show about the architecture of Christopher Wren in 17th century London. Complete with all those really cool graphics National Geographic usually uses to break down the elements of digging the Channel Tunnel. Interesting & edifying. In the world of eight TV channels, this is what's known as a "Jackpot moment."

I settle down with my tea & oatmeal, ready for some quality Sunday morning lazy time, and here's where betrayal enters the picture.....the fecking show was in GERMAN.

In reaction, I did something rather extreme. I took hold of the remote, wound back my throwing arm....

...and pressed the OFF button. Maybe eight channels isn't so bad after all?


18 April 2010

Schloss Belvedere Needs a Gardener

According to my extensive research (consisting entirely of reading the first paragraph of a Wikipedia page,) Prince Eugene of Savoy [1663-1776] was one of the most prominent and successful military commanders in modern European history.

So it only stands to reason he had a pretty kick ass palace. Ladies and gents, I present to you Schloss Belvedere.

It's so kick-ass that it's got not one...

...but TWO palaces on the grounds. Lower Belvedere for winter living, and upper Belvedere for summer loving. If there's one thing I learned in history class, it's that an ass-kicking military genius prince who saved Vienna from invading Turks deserves a palatial home for each season.

Furthering Schloss Belvedere's ass-kickery are its groovy gardens.

Never ones to pass up a groovy garden viewing opportunity, Chris and I had a wander.

Things were not quite up to par.

WEEDS!! Wtf?

Being former gardening enthusiasts in a past life, we were appalled at the state of affairs. I wondered what Eugene would have made of all this?

I tried to find somebody in charge to talk to, maybe offer a little gardening advice (advance gardeningy stuff like "Pull the weeds" and "Trim the hedges.")

While Chris demonstrated his Edward Scissorhands technique.

All in all, it was a nice day out. We checked out the lobbies of the two palaces, each now being an entrance-fee-charging art museum (remind me to tell you about my Touring the Great Lobbies of Europe idea sometime.) We roamed the gardens and basked in their splendor, despite certain flaws. After all, Eugene had left the red carpet out for our visit, so the least we could do was forgive the visible blemishes and just enjoy the day.

Which we did.


16 April 2010

In which I sing Spring's praises...

Spring has sprung and I am intoxicated. It's been years since I've lived in a four season world and I'd forgotten what spring fever truly felt like.

The sky is break-your-heart blue. I need SUNGLASSES to be outside. A month ago I was wearing a down parka and now sunshine warms my back. I shed layers as I walk in the sun, I am breezy cool in the shade. Outdoor cafés beckon.

Dead things coming alive, sprouting green shoots. "AHA!! We're not dead at all!! We were just PLAYING dead."

I've decided early spring flowers are my favorite (at least until I'm head-over-heels for May's lilacs or June's hydrangeas.)

Magnolia, dogwood, cherry blossom - exploding blooms and raining down petals when the wind stirs.

My blood is zinging and I can't suppress a smile.
I want to be out. I want to be about.
I take walks for no reason at all. I take walks to parks so I can take naps in parks. Spring has a lot for the taking.
A nap in the sunshine, with cherry blossoms fluttering down on me. Is there anything better?

Forsythia knows where I'm coming from. It is unabashedly optimistic, in your face, dare-you-to-not-smile JOYFUL. Forsythia is down with Spring.

Forsythia is not particularly beautiful, it's kind of messy and tries too hard. It comes early and ends early, but man! What a riot of golden blooms.

A harbinger of spring, second only to pussy-willows and crocuses. Forsythia is Spring's cheerleader and I am joining the squad.

I am just in love with Spring.

Yesterday was cold, rainy and damp. But you know what? That's alright with me. Spring giveth and Spring taketh away. I'm certain there will be more sunny days, green shoots and naps in the sunny park. It's the mother of all clichés, but Spring means hope and beauty, youth and promise, feeling alive and a bounce in your step. So I'm soaking up the good vibes and sending them out there, people. See if you can catch some - they'll be falling on your head like petals from a tree.


14 April 2010

A Spring Morning

Vienna continues to give.

Woke up on a recent morning, bright sunshine and crisp air coming through the window. "Let's go out to breakfast honey."

Breakfast outdoors in the city center. Sunshine, people watching, yummy coffee, crusty bread and a plate full of hummus. Heaven.

The hub was quite satisfied with his "English Breakfast" though without a grilled tomato, rashers, sausages and baked beans it could hardly be mistaken for the real thing. I think to the Viennese mind any breakfast involving eggs and some kind of fried pork product constitutes an "English Breakfast." Not being a fried breakfast kind of girl, I couldn't give a fig.

Food was followed by a saunter in the sun, soaking up the rays and our pretty city. Vienna is a good place to amble without design. On this particular morning we passed by the Spanish Riding School, home to the famous Lipizzaner Stallions.

They live here and perform at the Hofburg palace across the street.

We stood and gawked for a while because horses are pretty.

Next thing you know the grooms began rounding fellas up from their stables...

...for the walk across the street to their practice space / performance hall.
Clip clop, clip clop across the cobblestones.

This fella wanted to talk to me but the groom said "A horse is a horse, of course of course, and nobody talks to a horse of course..." and led him away. Pity.

And that was the lovely little unexpected treat Vienna had in store for us on that day. I wonder what it will give us tomorrow?


13 April 2010

Can I call Myself a Writer Yet?

Is it weird that I am excited by...

...my first rejection letter?


p.s. and the answer to the title question is NO, NEVER. Too embarrassing to admit I am even trying. And truth by told, I am just barely hardly even hinting at trying. Thus far I have only dipped a toe in in the river called Try. And not even a big toe. One of the littler ones. Maybe the piggy that had no roast beef?

11 April 2010

Did I Say Thank You?

Recent visitor Kirk Smith, did I thank you enough?

Two boxes down and two to go. I am in cheese and cracker heaven.



09 April 2010

Mixed Message

Below, found in a cobblestone passage behind the winter palace in downtown Vienna. A rack full of hangers, the sign says "Free to take away."

Too bad they bolted the rickety, rusty, bent and broken a-frame to the wall with beefy chain and padlock; that's what I really had my eye on.


07 April 2010

Hot in da Hot Tub!

After 20 years together, Kelly and I have a million jokes between us. There are words you just can't say without teeing up an auto response from the other...one of ours is the word "hot"

At the outdoor cafe':
Chris: Geez, the sun is cooking me out here, its hot!
Kelly: Its Hot in da Hot Tub!

05 April 2010

Protaras, Cyprus

Maybe you're thinking "Where the hell is Cyprus?"...well, lets consult the ol map.

Located in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus is the 3rd largest island in the Mediterranean (Sicily & Sardinia). Its tucked in the corner just south of Turkey and West of Syria.

Its been a favorite with UK sun worshipers for years, and the tourism business is boomin!

We got in around 10pm and immediately met up with travel partners Mike & Patrice from Dublin for a big dinner.

Typical Greek foods including Haloumi Cheese, Moussaka, Olives, Grilled Lamb and Chicken. The owner of the restaurant totally overdid it with the food, bringing items we didn't even order to make sure we got to taste everything. We were all bursting with delicious Greek food...and he gave us a free bottle of wine and free after dinner drinks as well. $65 for all 4 of us! Bargain!

A great start to a vacation!

In the morning we woke up to a warm & sunny Mediterranean day at the beautiful Capo Bay Beach Resort.

The Capo Bay Hotel is in Protaras on the South East coast of Cyprus about 40 minutes from the aiport in Larnaka.
Usually when Kelly & I travel we stay in 1 or 2 star hotels or more often a cheap hostel.

Not this time.....4 stars baby! Luxurious!

The hotel puts on a very nice buffet breakfast with everything from mediterranean fare (see Kelly's Plate) to your typical English breakfast items for the UK crowd (see my plate)

After breakfast we headed out to our reserved lounge chairs armed with sunblock and books.

Easter weekend is just before the start of the "season" so the place was damned near empty...perfect.

It was a wonderfully relaxing day. No phones. No email. Laying in the sun. Pina Coladas.

....and trips in to the indoor pool, sauna and steam bath!

I'm pretty sure Mike & I gave ourselves some sort of heat stroke by exceeding the daily recommended amount of steam bath and Sauna time by a factor of 4.

We also made reservations for massages the next day!

Friday night the plan was to go to Agia Napa (Ay-ah Napa) which is party central during season.
(like below)

Luckily, again...it was before "season"

As it got later more and more people were out and about, but it was pleasantly un-crowded.

The bars that were open had "specials" to attract what business was around....like the 3 liter tower of any drink you want for $20 !

After dinner with wine and a 3 liter tower of some jungle juice, Mike & Patrice were up for some rock climbing as we headed up to the main square.

Whats up in the main square you ask? Well....more bars and clubs...it is after all party central.

The place we ended up at had a "special" of 2 drinks for the price of 1 and a free bottle of champagne...and a bag of chips...all for $20

A great evening....loads of laughs and easy on the wallet!

The next day we had our previously arranged post-breakfast buffet massages, followed by more laying in the sun and trips to the steam bath.

Then out for a yummy sports pub type of lunch and.......

Chelsea vs Manchester United for first place in the league.

The girls went back to the resort at halftime, which gave Mike and I an hour or so for him to continue my football education and to hang out like men.

Chris: Would you like another beer?
Mike: What I'd really like is to get back into the steam bath.
Chris: You know what, you're right...that steam is doing wonders for my feet...they're so dry.
Mike: Yes, I can't seem to moisturize enough. My elbows are like sandpaper!

Saturday night and our last night in Cyprus. We all went to a local Flambe' restaurant and while the girls and I had delicious steaks....Mike, chose to go with a Pork & Camembert jobbie....look how yummy.

A fantastic sunny, beach vacation with old friends...doesn't really get any better.

Loads and loads of laughs, but unfortunately not enough pictures!

to read more about Cyprus click here

03 April 2010


The Riesenrad is Vienna's famous ferris wheel. Built in 1897, damaged but not destroyed during WWII, and featured in a key scene of the film The Third Man - it's a Vienna icon. Clayton, Kerry and I took it for a spin while they visited.

Clayton soaks in the view...

...while Kerry photographs it for posterity.

Bird's eye view of The Prater amusement park.

I can literally see my house from here (long white buildings at the top left.)

World's largest erector set.

Bit of a hazy day for it, but the view of downtown is fairly impressive.

Perhaps the highlight of the ride was the cheesy photos they make you pose for before they let you on the wheel. We had no intention of buying one, but the results made us laugh so hard we changed our minds. Our amazing acting skills just naturally surfaced - look at us as we gaze up in wonder. (Also we are pretty sure the cagey photographer airbrushed the hell out of us so we looked all young and glowy. Smart sales technique.)

A silly little neat fun way to kill a half hour in Vienna and something I've been meaning to check out since moving here. C&K, thanks for being my guinea pigs.