Euroadventure 2014: Treasure Hunt in Vienna

After three nonstop days in Prague , including a ghost tour, beer festival and torture chamber (I’m realizing Prague in a nutshell sounds a little extreme), it was time for us to make our way to Vienna. I’ve dreamed of going to Austria since I was a child, even before I fell in love with France. The Sound of Music was on repeat, along with Dirty Dancing and West Side Story. What can I say? I have a penchant for song and dance!

Our hotel arranged for a cab to take us to the train station. It looked quite different in the daylight! On the platform I overheard two girls talking about Chilifest and felt fairly confident that they must be Aggies. I know other places have chilifests, but nothing compares to THE Chilifest held just outside College Station in Snook, TX each spring. Just as I saw their Aggie rings, everyone ran to catch the train so I didn’t get to say “Howdy!” but I was still happy to come across fellow Ags halfway across the world!

We were on a morning train that arrived in Vienna around lunchtime. Lucky again, we were able to check in to the Hotel de France early and drop our bags in the room before heading back out to explore. De France has beautiful chandeliers and dark wooded hallways thoughout, giving it a very grand feel. The rooms were a bit dated, but we had a very friendly welcome message on the TV screen!

Our hotel was right along the Ringstrasse, which is the loop around the inner city, making it a very convenient location. We found a restaurant known more for ambiance than food. Nestled back in a narrow alleyway, Brezl Gwölb had picnic tables and friendly waitstaff. Our waitress was a translator for the Army and may even end up in DC next year! I selected spinach fritters with a blue cheese sauce and Dave opted for pork, sauerkraut and more dumplings. From there we made a plan based on our priority sites and their hours of operation.

The first stop was the Imperial Treasury, which housed an endless display of valuable artifacts from over a thousand years, including those of the Habsburgs. The 21 rooms contained jewels, crowns, religious relics and even items claimed to be from the time of Christ, including John the Baptist’s tooth! From the Treasury, we walked through the palace garden Burggarten, famous for its statue of Mozart.

Even though we had been on the train all morning, our feet were tired and we thought that Rick Steves’ Ringstrasse tram tour would be a good way to rest while orienting ourselves with the city. It starts at the Opera House and then works counter clockwise around the city center. Our tickets allowed us to hop on and off within a certain period of time, so we stopped to stroll through Stadtpark, the “City Park” full of musicians, couples, families and windy paths, before hopping back on. The second time we stopped because we had to switch trams, and I took the opportunity to taste the world famous gelato from Eissalon am Schwedenplatz.

We finished the tour and then walked toward St. Stephen’s Cathedral. After spending a decent amount of time walking the perimeter and following along with Rick, we went inside – just in time for my camera battery to die! I got one photo, but it didn’t turn out too well. We walked throughout the city center looking in shop windows and stopping to watch the street artists. One in particular was quite impressive – she had a full piano in the middle of a square!

Finished with sightseeing for the day, we hunted for a place to have dinner and came across a tapas restaurant in another alley. It wasn’t the best Spanish food I’ve had, but it was a change from dumplings, and for that I was thankful. Back at the hotel we had a nightcap and called it a day!

tuesday things : travel tips needed

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In exactly two weeks from now we will be driving to Pennsylvania where we will drop off the pups with Dave’s mom and sister. The next day we’ll take the train to JFK and fly out for Prague, the first stop on our European adventure! I. Can’t. Wait!

Ten days, three countries and at least four cities – we are still working out some of the details. As I learned from my previous stints (France and Italy) though,  it’s best to leave some of the plans up for grabs.

There are a few things about which I don’t want to be spontaneous, and I’m asking for your help. What advice can you offer on the following? Have you learned any travel tips you’d like to share? My own personal travels and time as a flight attendant have taught me quite a bit, but today I want to hear from all of you. (Even if the only people who will leave a comment are Aunt Bev, Olivia and maybe my mom!)

1. footwear – In France I wore my crocs. Not my finest apparel selection, but they totally did the trick. In Italy I wore flip flops for at least part of the trip. You can see them on my feet in the picture at the top right of this page. Who knows how those served any sort of practical purpose … needless to say, I am interested in finding a solid pair of shoes that are both comfortable and stylish. Does this exist? Tell me about the shoes you wear/have worn to travel!

2. currency – Likely I will end up using my credit card whenever possible, but there will definitely be many places that accept only cash. As I said, we are going to three different countries. All speak different languages and use different currencies. That’s three different currencies! (I can’t even concern myself with the languages yet.) How have you handled this in the past? Do you typically change money at the airport before leaving? Do you take cash from the ATMs? Where do you find the best exchange rate, and how much should I plan to have on hand in each country?

3. general tips for Prague, Vienna, Salzburg or Budapest – As I said, we are still working out details. In fact, this weekend I will spend a lot of the time doing some final planning. If you have tips for any of these places, I am open to sites/restaurants/random recommendations. Please leave them in the comments below!

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Woah, March! I can’t believe we are 11 days in and I haven’t written a single word. Last week was a busy one at work, and I’ve traveled the last two weekends, so I have not been able to make the time. There have been plenty of thoughts though, so away we go …

Naturally I was excited to flip the page on my calendar. February was a wonderful month about loving others, but the message for March is to love what we do – or rather, do what we love. This has been a struggle for me, as I have now had four jobs and am still trying to figure out how to balance work and life so that I am happy and balanced. For those who know the secret to this conundrum, please advise.

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Since it is March and I am so beyond over this winter, I have decided to boycott my boots. I hate them and want to throw them in the trash at this point. It is so bad, that I wore flip flops on Sunday because they were the only other shoes I brought with me out of town! Yesterday it was supposed to actually warm up a bit, so I wore my flats. Then I saw a terrifying thing – my pale ghost-like legs. (Do ghosts even have legs? I mean, Casper just floated around like a blob, but real ghosts are more like people, I would think, and therefore would have legs.) I digress.
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scary white legs!!

After being frightened at the sight of my own skin, I decided that I needed to jazz up my footwear a bit. I have been coveting these leopard shoes from a blogger that I follow, yet couldn’t justify the price when I wasn’t sure how often I would realistically wear them. Well yesterday I was in luck, because I found a great pair for $23 at Macy’s. Score! I wore them today and no longer felt bad about my legs. (Or as my mother would say, “these shoes look so cute on my feet!”)

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cute shoes = less concern about scary white legs

Finally, I have some big news to share. We are going to Europe!! A few weekends ago Dave and I booked a trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. He’s never been across the pond, so that makes it all the more exciting. I am well-prepared with my usual travel books – those who have followed since the beginning of time know that I adore Rick Steves – but nothing can compare to first-hand experience from friends. So if you’ve been I want to hear from you.

What did you like?
What didn’t you like?
Where should we eat or drink?
What random tips do you have?
Ready? Go!

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