Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Vienna: Days 2-4

Day two of the vacation was probably Jon's favorite day. We started with breakfast at another cafe. [I could really get used to Vienna's cafe culture]. The main event of the day was the Vienna Philharmonic. Jon was not about to drag me to a 3-hour opera even though Vienna's opera is world-famous so this was the next best thing. I may or may not have had trouble keeping my eyes open. This is heresy to Jon, but it was warm in the concert hall, I was jet-lagged, and the music was just begging to lull me to sleep.

Jon, on the other hand, couldn't get enough so I'm filing this one in the success column. It was his vacation too...I guess.





After the symphony, we got back to business with another Christmas market and more fried dough. We just happened upon this market on our way to the subway - it was as delightful as all the others.



That afternoon, we headed to Schloss Schonbrunn, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. It was impressively large and ornate. We toured the rooms, walked around the grounds, and then hit up their Christmas market. I swear these things were everywhere. This one was lovely because they had live music, and you can't beat the backdrop of a beautiful, glowing palace.




view of the market from a palace window.

That night, we had dinner at Plachutta where we ordered the traditional Austrian dish Tafelspitz. It's basically boiled beef, which I know sounds disgusting, but it was really quite tasty. We bookended the day with another cafe stop for some post-dinner dessert.

I loved the boot mugs at this little market. We stopped here for a drink before dinner.
Tafelspitz!
mmmmmm....pastry.
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Day three was also a palace day. Every day should be a palace day. This one was Belvedere, which now exists as more of an art museum. And you guessed it, they had a Christmas market too. Our snack of choice at that one was freshly cut and fried potato chips. Calories don't count on vacation, and I really hope they didn't count on this day.




tea at the palace. chandeliers everywhere. 


We spent the afternoon doing some shopping, hitting up more markets, and buying a new pair of shoes. It's a vacation tradition for me to buy new shoes because all of the ones I brought hurt my feet. I broke down and bought my first pair of Uggs. My feet were so much happier the rest of the trip.


We stopped for tea at the Grand Hotel. There were some diplomatic meetings going on in Vienna while we were there, and I think someone important was about to arrive. The lobby was full of suits with earpieces and reporters. It made for some fun people watching while we enjoyed our traditional afternoon tea.



That night, we had dinner at Steirereck. It's supposedly one of the best restaurants in the world. It did not disappoint, but I was so full at the end that I started to go into food coma a la the Dubai brunch to end all brunches. I guess afternoon tea just three hours before dinner was a bad idea.

i took one sneaky photo of our post-dessert dessert, which arrived partially suspended from this pretty branch.
+1 for presentation.
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Day four was our last day in Vienna. That morning we stopped at Mozarthuas, where Mozart lived for a number of years during his time in Vienna. We had another cafe breakfast and then did some final souvenir shopping before taking the train to Salzburg.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vienna: Day 1

We're back! We've been back for 1.5 weeks now, but I've been buried under piles of laundry and emails. The worst part about a vacation is coming back from vacation. Luckily, the blow has been softened by one of my favorite things - the Christmas season. When I haven't been doing laundry or catching up at work, it's been all decorating and baking and shopping and party planning and even some furniture deliveries. It's hard to complain about any of that.

Now, let's get back to this vacation.

We left on a Friday night, direct from Dulles to Vienna (have I mentioned how much I love living near 3 major airports with direct flights to just about anywhere?). I should clarify that we are talking Vienna, Austria here. There is a Vienna in Virginia, and a trip from Dulles to Vienna, Virginia, is about the saddest vacation known to man. I digress.

Unbeknownst to me, Jon upgraded our seats to business class. This was an excellent decision, and I'm now ruined for life. It was so lovely to push a button and have my seat recline flat for our overnight flight. Of course, I still didn't sleep great, but at least I was comfy!



We landed in Vienna on Saturday morning. We stopped at the hotel to drop off our bags, and lucky us, our room was ready and they had upgraded us to a view of the famed Vienna Opera House. This vacation was already starting off on the right foot. I wanted to take a nap, but the jet lag rule enforcer (Jon) wouldn't let me so we hit the town to explore instead.

a room with a view...
...and a hallway.
After breakfast at our first of several famed Vienna cafes, we hit up St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Imperial Apartments of the Hapsburgs, and the state hall of the National Library. Somewhere in there was a stop at a sausage stand, which included our first mug of gluhwein (mulled wine). And then it was finally back to the hotel for a nap.

i miss the cafes.
the cathedral.



the library was very cool.
heaven on earth.
an elevator with a seat is exactly what you need after a long day of exploring. 
After our nap, it was time for....drumroll, please....our first Christmas markets of the trip. It's basically the whole reason we were on this trip, and they did not disappoint.

Here is a word on the Christmas markets, of which there will be many. They were magical. I was completely enchanted. The lights, the sounds, the smells....oh, the smells. It was everything I love about the holiday season wrapped up in one big package with a beautiful historic building as the backdrop. Because it was early in the season, we were ahead of the tourist rush so we got to enjoy the markets mostly with the locals. The markets are less for shopping and more for eating and drinking. This, I did not mind. There was plenty of shopping to be had elsewhere. We focused our time at the markets strolling with gluhwein, or even better, hot punsch, in hand and stopping whenever something looked too good not to eat. It was like a state fair meets Disneyland, but somehow even better.





giant block of butter. be still my heart.



my first experience with langos - fried dough with a splash of garlic butter. i could eat this every day.
the smaller markets were just as fun, less crowds, more character. 
real mugs - you paid a deposit for the mug, which you could collect upon returning the mug.
it was so much more fun than drinking out of paper cups.
your typical market booth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

castles and christmas markets

You know those times when you just really need a vacation? That's me right now. I've been at my new job for almost 5 months now. It's been a whirlwind as I learn the ropes and start to feel like I actually know what I'm doing. That's still hit or miss, but I really enjoy the work and I really, really enjoy that I can do the work from home....but, I need a break. 

When we first started vacation planning earlier this fall, we immediately thought about warm destinations. That sounds pretty nice right now considering it's unseasonably cold here and pretty much everywhere else in the US, but then I stumbled upon an even better idea: Christmas markets. They happen all over Europe, but are particularly famous in Germany. If you know me, you know that I love Christmas. LOVE Christmas.



I mean, doesn't this Christmas market in Munich just look delightful?




This is the Google Chat conversation Jon and I had when I first made this discovery:


And later after Jon suggested another option:


The rest, as they say, is history. In just over 48 hours (eek!...so much to do before then), we are jumping the pond for a Christmas market adventure. Our itinerary is Vienna-Salzburg-Munich. There will be castles and palaces, music and tours, shopping and eating - lots and lots of eating - mulled wine, twinkling lights, markets and merriment.

I'm hoping to come back with lots of fun Christmas presents for family and friends, and hopefully some treasures for our own home. Of course, when we get back, it will be December and the mad rush to the most glorious holiday will officially begin so who knows how long it will be before I give you a proper update. If you want real time updates, I'll post some Instagram (ktlhardin) photos while we are away. 

Happy Thanksgiving. This year, I am thankful for vacations. Travel and rest are good for the soul.