28 July 2010

M,M & K do Z

Mercer's 2010 quality of living survey rates Vienna as the number one city in the world to live in. I like to think me living here helped nudge her into the top spot.

Zurich is number two on the survey.

I think that's because of these folks.

After 3 1/2 days in Vienna, Mrynn, Moira & myself boarded the Zürich-bound overnight train. Like three monkeys in a cage, we nested ourselves down in our bunks for a series of short naps. I'm fairly certain there's no such thing as a full night's sleep on a train.

But zleep or no zleep - Zürich iz a lovely Zity, with a tram zystem that'll get you anywhere (if you can figure out how to buy the ticketz.) It'z a zity full of friendly, helpful Zwiss people, yodeling away and zpeaking English cheerfully to vizitors.

And if you get lost in the surrounding mountains they'll send up a St. Bernard with this on his neck to rescue you. I'm telling you, they're a very helpful people.

Zo, what did we do in Zürich? We had a wonderful neighborhood World Cup BBQ at Michael's church.

We heard Beethoven's fifth in the old city.

We strolled the shores of Lake Zürich where we met a band of Hari Krishnas dancing, singing and throwing free fruit to the crowd.

We hiked along the hilltops on the outskirts of the city where we met this dapper fellow...

...saw some spectacular scenery...

...ate some delicious mountaintop food...

...and took a gondola down towards home just as a wild, windy storm blew in. Maryanne almost s*** her pants in fear while me, Michael & Moira alternately teased and reassured her.

About the halfway point in our hike, we went from the tower in the distance to another tower a couple hilltops away. It was a glorious (though sweaty) day.

Of course the REAL highlight of any trip to Zürich...

...are these little babushkas. Here Moira shows off her new dress as Silas prepares to enter the runway wearing his special World Cup jersey.

World's most patient older brother Juri poses for Silas who spent about an hour snapping artsy shots on Mrynn's camera after dinner on our last night.

Actually that last night was a highlight of the trip for all three of us. The kids had really loosened up with us, and dropped the last of their shy schtick. The sun set, the evening cooled off, the food was delish, the wine & beer flowed and we chatted and laughed as we took our time and really relaxed into the lovely summer night.

You can tell Moira enjoyed herself too - look at those happy eyes!!!

Michael hammed it up (as usual) and Silas even got the nerve up to look straight at the camera! Maybe it was his new haircut?

All told, it was a marvelous three days. Many thanks to Michael & Gabi for juggling three guests, a flooded basement, three kids, a neighborhood party and one cat with style and grace.

Stay tuned for the final installment of The Adventures of M,M & K in which our heroines tackle the city of lights (and by tackle I mean sit at sidewalk cafés and eat cheese.)


p.s. Happy birthday Momma.

23 July 2010

M&M do V (and B)

Sister Maryanne & cousin Moira came for a ten day European holiday. It was the No Cheese Left Behind Tour. Here's the first of many cheese plates above. This one brought to you by the fine people at the Palmenhaus Café in Vienna.

I'd have to go back and check my cheese diary, but I can say with no small amount of confidence that not one day in ten went by that we didn't partake of a fine selection of local cheeses.

Our motto? "The stinkier the better!"

Cheese aside, Vienna once again lived up to all my bragging and put on her best dress.  She made me proud.

The weather started cool and got successively hotter each day.  By our last day site-seeing we started taking refuge from the sun in every church we passed.  One of our favorites was Augustinerkirche which was pretty from both the front...

...and the back.  It was bright, but cool, sporting marvelous gothic arches...

...and this precious little altar to St. Rita, complete with marble blocks saying "Thank you St. Rita" in several languages.  I like to think they're written to my mom.

Other activities, aside from eating all the cheese we could find, included strolling through Vienna's beautiful inner city, lunch at the naschmarkt and visiting Schloss Schönbrunn above.  This was the summer palace for the Habsburg empire and is short on neither grandeur nor history. 

But my favorite bits are the gardens.

The girls taking a rest from the hilly, wooded paths.

Whilst wandering the gardens, I had the genius idea of taking a photo of Moira WHILE SHE TOOK A PHOTO OF ME.  Mindbender, right?  I can't believe no one has thought of that before.  Brilliant.

We spent that night having dinner and drinks with Chris on the Danube Island (Donau Insel to the locals.)  Just off the subway is a healthy cluster of bars, cafés and restaurants, on both sides of the river, connected by a footbridge.  People puttered by on their little rented motorboats, we crossed and recrossed the bridge, a spider dropped in to say hello, the sun set...it was a beautiful night.

And may be the only time we opted for a MEAT platter instead of a cheese.  Probably Chris's influence.

We even made it to Bratislava during the girls' time here.  A mere 45 minutes by train, the girls got to see a whole 'nother country; a provincial capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire; a former Soviet block city; a walled, pedestrian-only old city; and the growth an eastward expanding Euro-zone brings.  And they thought we just went for lunch!!

The whole trip was full of giggles, gossip and gas.  Laughs and heart-to-heart talks.  I'd been looking forward to their arrival for so long that the first few days I was walking on cloud nine.  Getting a chance to show off Vienna to two of my favorite people made me a very happy girl and I am grateful for the opportunity.


Stay tuned for M&M do Z&P!!

20 July 2010

What not to do on a Swiss streetcar

A recent trip to Zurich found myself & two traveling companions riding the city's phenomenal tram system. Though I'm partial to Vienna and will argue its superiority in all things (including streetcars) Zurich's system is still pretty bad ass.

We noticed there were a few rules, which was alright by us. You don't get a world-class, city-covering trolley system without a few rules in place. Pretty standard stuff really. No smoking, no feet on chair. No, ummm, empty pockets? No playing guitar? Ohhhh-kay.

And no...wait a minute, what? Really? This is a problem? Alright, alright, it's your tram system Zurich. Have it your way.

No sawing the tram seats.

I suppose I can live with that.


13 July 2010

Incredible India


One more trip before heading back Stateside....this time I'll be going to India and Nepal in late August!

I'll be meeting up with Flaco who will be moving from Beijing to Houston...we'll meet in India and do a Rajsthani Ramble hoping to avoid most of the Monsoon rains.

(Rajasthan in Pink)

We'll do a day or two in Delhi, before flying out to Nepal. We'll stay in and around Kathmandu for 3 days, including the Gai Katra cow festival.

Then back to Delhi for the overnight train to Jaisalmer, The Golden City.

After 2 days in Jaisalmer, we'll take the train to Jodhpur, The Blue City.

After 2 days, we'll move on to the Pink City...Jaipur.

Last but not least, Agra...home of the Taj Mahal.

Incredible India...I can't wait.

10 July 2010

Destination: Manchester

The time has come. After 18 months of preparation, the Austrian National Lacrosse Team is headed to the World Championships in Manchester, England.

Every 4 years, all the Nations that have lacrosse send their National Squads to the big tournament to crown a champion. In reality, its always going to be the US or Canada, but there are still bragging rights for the rest of the places.

This will be Austria's first time at the World Championship. Pre-ranked somewhere around 27/28 out of 30 countries, we're looking to make a big splash.

Stay tuned for updates....Go Austria!

06 July 2010

A Lot is Happening Around Here People!

Howdy folks. Figured it was about time for an update; things are developing at a breakneck pace here in lovely Vienna. But first and foremost - look at our amazing new blog header! Compliments of the wonderful and talented Alli Arnold. A thousand thanks, Shirl. You truly rock.

Moving on....

Though much of the below won't come as news to many of you, I feel the need to get it all down in one place. Organize my own thoughts and reactions. Call it the need for self narrative.

Might as well start with the elephant in the room...
Yup, yours truly is preparing herself to once again be a blue girl in a red state. The Hub's job peddling lacrosse gear has activated some kind of homing beacon, calling him back to the head office in Houston. Yeah, you heard that right, mothah f***ing Houston y'all.

A friend of ours captured my initial reaction perfectly in this little photo-shopped gem.

I fumed and stewed and mourned for a few days. Even tried throwing myself on the floor and having a good old fashioned temper tantrum, all to no avail. The truth of it is, The Hub is following his dreams, making a living with lacrosse, and I haven't even figured out what I want to be when I grow up so who am I to stand in his way?

And once I got over my own self, I started listing all the positives and you know what? The list actually got pretty long.
So maybe in a perfect world I wouldn't be leaving Europe, but I have things like weekend visits to friends & family, margaritas, all the alt-country I can stand, good tex-mex, Robert Earl Keen and Helman's mayonnaise to look forward to.

Thinking 'bout really embracing this thing and getting myself a cowboy hat & a belt buckle big enough to fry an egg on. Already got myself a pair of shit-kickers....

But still, all this positive vibing aside, you're probably asking yourself "How the hell is she going to transition from the amazing Vienna to Houston, Texas?"

With Africa, natch!

That's right - nearly three months on the dark continent with my Irish travel buddy Suzanne. We'll go from Nairobi to Capetown with a rough overland tour company called Oasis. They have a purpose built truck with a driver & guide and our travel group - about 15 to 20 folks - will be setting up and breaking down our own camp each night as well as doing our own shopping, cooking and cleaning. We'll be visiting 10 countries all told (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia & South Africa!!) I am literally beside myself with excitement. I could go on and on about this trip (just call me Wordy Wendy) but I'll save that for future posts.

Okay - so I'm leaving my precious Vienna and taking my square-peg self to a city full of round holes. But Africa is my big, giant, wonderful consolation prize for which I am super grateful to Suzanne for doing loads of research and organizing and to The Hub for being hugely supportive and INSISTING I go. The only real bummer is spending nearly three months apart from him. I dug around in my bag o' clichés and came up with this.... Parting is such sweet sorrow but absence makes the heart grow fonder y'all.


I'm pulling a Scarlett O'Hara and thinking about that tomorrow....

Sad, husband-missing downer aside - take Africa and mix in a big dose of New York and I'm getting happier and happier. We leave Vienna late August, Chris goes on to adventure in India (his to blog about.) I go to NY and spend a full month in the hot, sweaty bosom of friends and family. How cool is that? But wait, there's more (why do I suddenly feel like I am selling ginzu knives?)

While in NY I'm spending a week with family in the GORGEOUS Adirondacks, a week in NYC and a week on a boat in Fire Island....I'm feeling positively giddy! How lucky can one girl get?

Let's recap...I leave Vienna for NY, have an amazing month there reconnecting with all my homeland peeps, head out for three months of African adventures then return to NY to spend Christmas back in the above mentioned bosom (though in December I expect it'll be a cooler, cozier bosom.) With all that you might think I'd be shouting "Roll on August!!" But wait there's more. (If you act now we'll throw in six steak knives! And a pair of never-dull™ kitchen shears!)

Tomorrow two of my favorite people are coming for a ten day visit!! And after I show off Vienna to them, we're going to Zurich and Paris!

Paris! Life just keeps getting better and better. Once they leave I'll have a couple weeks to get things in order for the big move then another set of visitors arrives! More favorite people! I can't stop with exclamation points!!

I feel too lucky for words. "Ha!" You say. "What about all those words above?!" Well, fair point. I guess I feel too lucky for brevity.

Just know that if I get struck down by lightning tomorrow, I died feeling like the most fortunate gal in shit-kickers.


04 July 2010

Please pardon the mess...

While we're not exactly under construction here, things haven't quite been running as they should. Busy times, visitors and a broken laptop have caused a small lapse in blog activity. So, sorry for the "dust" and in an attempt to keep you entertained (and coming back here despite the mess) I leave you with this hilarious post from a better blogger than I. Enjoy.