Easter – or day of much food!

So Wynne arrived late Saturday evening…we watched a little Top Gear, as we recently discovered that they added many seasons to the Netflix library, and Wynne had not seen an episode yet, and then headed off to bed to leave the Easter bunny to hide some eggs and deliver chocolate.

Okay, I think the Easter bunny must have taken one look at our fridge full of raw eggs and ran the other way.  But chocolate found its way into our home.

We put together a little basket for all of us, a fresh tangerine, chocolate covered sunflower seeds, bunny chocolates from Judy, and a bag full of miscellaneous Easter goodies and a wind up bunny for Cleo!

Wynne is not a regular coffee drinker so we tempted her with an attempt at recreating the coffee we had in Vienna with frothy steamed milk, and a little shaved dark bunny ears chocolate on top.

Cleo’s day started out with a walk and breakfast…and then some quality time with a wind up chick…she slobbers it to death and tries to crunch it up!

And then we had more coffee…delicious!

We walked through our neighborhood to the Athenaeum at Caltech for brunch at 1.  To be clear, this was not my only plate…just the first one…the brunch was incredible, including fresh king crab legs, shrimp, oysters, fresh salads, roast beef, leg of lamb, smoked salmon, eggs, waffles, pancakes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and of course desserts!

We walked back home in the afternoon breeze, made some phone calls and decided dinner should be a simple plate of deviled eggs.

We spooned the mixture into the eggs, and topped with fresh dill and a little paprika.  Even Cleo got to enjoy one!

I’m pretty sure that a main reason that WOody looks forward to Easter is for the deviled eggs.  It marks the beginning of deviled egg season…and means that spring has really arrived.

Happy Easter!

Vienna Highlights…Day 4!

Started out the morning with some coffee and then it was off to watch morning practice at the Spanish Riding School.  Unfortunately, our flights home were before the next scheduled performance…otherwise, I would have loved to see the full performance.

It is classical dressage and the horses are all Lipizzaners, a breed from the 16th century of horses from the Iberian Peninsula.  All the horses that are trained and perform in Vienna are stallions and there are only 18 riders of varying levels who work with the horses.  The riding school is the oldest riding school in the world and the baroque building was built during the mid 1700’s.

During the two-hour morning practice, 5 or six riders and horses would practice for 30 minutes, and then would dismount, assistants came in to halter the horses, lead them back to the stables and the riders would leave to mount the next groups of “student” horses.  So over the course of the two hours, about 25 horses practiced various skills and moves.

Although none of the jumps and leaps were practiced during the session I watched – the stallions are known for amazing leaps and jumps…such as the one shown below.  (photo courtesy of The Horsey Lady)

Although a little like watching swimming practice or football practice, as you’re not always entirely sure what is going on – the arena was beautiful, the horses strong and talented and the riders were precise.  Very cool!

After the practice, I met up with Woody near Karlsplatz…after a little confusion…as there are 18 different ways to pop out of the metro station…we found each other and headed for some lunch, walking past the Secession.  A building and artist collective started by Gustav Klimt in response to the conservatism in the late 1800’s.  It is known for the golden cabbage that sits above the entryway.

photo courtesy of this site

We headed toward Naschmarkt – a large open air food market with about a mile of fresh produce stalls, specialty shops, kebab and falafel vendors and rows of small cafes and restaurants.  We stopped at OrientOccident or EastWest and grabbed lunch.

Woody had Orient Toast – apparently a toasty sandwich with a curry dipping sauce.  I went with the Käsespatzle again.  I know…shocking!

We walked around the market…and I wanted to buy and eat everything!

After exploring we began walking back toward our hotel…and made sure to walk past the Joh. Springer Erben store.  he store was beautiful and incredibly classy.  You begin to understand that hunting used to be the realm of royalty and prestige.  There was a distinct lack of “camo”, which I appreciated.  For gazillions of years, hunters have been hunting without crazy-photographic-mossy-oak-cabela’s-nightstalker-brown-and-green-blotchy camoflage…and generally they’ve been successful.

I appreciated the tradition that you could feel oozing from the store.

Woody would like this car…complete with all the contents we could spy in the car.

Must have belonged to an employee of the store!

Palais Coburg was right around the corner…it’s been turned into a hotel…ahem, very nice hotel!  A quick look at the prices, and the most inexpensive (I couldn’t bring myself to use the word cheap) room is a cool €670 a night.  Whoa!  The palace was built on the former defense wall of the emperor’s city.

Woody headed back for some afternoon sessions at the conference and agreed to make it back to the hotel for a dinner reservation our hotel concierge helped us get at Meinl Am Graben…this would be our celebratory dinner for Woody’s accomplishment of European Geosciences Union Young Outstanding Scientist Award.

I’ll post more comprehensive photos on O & C, but we had an amazing meal with a fabulous maitre d’hotel/sommelier/waiter who chose our wines for us (all Austrian, of course) and made sure we enjoyed every moment of the evening!

Dogs welcome…and this one felt like the rolling buffet cart was a perfect little hideout since his people weren’t paying enough attention to him.

It was a wonderful meal, beautiful evening and definitely a moment in Vienna we will remember.

Vienna Highlights… Day Three!

Again…minimal words, mostly pic’s.  Just comment if you want/need more information.

The Michaelerplatz which houses the Spanish Riding School – details in the next post.

The Vienna subway system or the U-Bahn, is very efficient, runs on time(!), and is well laid out.

Finding coffee to go is a bit of a challenge…my favorite chain was called Ströck.  Kind of the Viennese equivalent to a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Order a melange or a kaffe mit milsch…and it’s coffee mixed with frothed milk…perfect.

I visit zoos wherever I go.  It’s a thing about me.  With good weather, I went straight to the Tiergarten near the Schönbrunn Palace.

Fabulous white-faced gibbons who were very happy and did many monkey things, like swing in the branches, jump up and down and poke each other.

I don’t think I had ever seen a cassowary…at least not one of this size.  Apparently they can get to 130 lbs…and unlike the ostrich, their legs and feet look thick and bulky.  After a quick google search…they are commonly referred to as the most dangerous bird in the world.  They kick and charge.

I really enjoyed the zoo, and one thing that struck me the most was the general ‘happiness’ and wellbeing of the animals.  I realize I’m anthropomorphizing here, but all of the animals were active and engaged in typical [insert animal type here] behavior…and appeared happy.  The elephants and keepers were running through their morning routine, which involved a bath, some commands, a treat or two and a breakfast of hay.  I watched them for almost an hour!

The rhinos were having a bit of a tussle, quite exciting!

Then I came upon the goats.  Baby goats.  The ones below are about a week old.

And this mama goat had *literally* just given birth to these two tiny babies and was still in labor with at least one more still in the womb.  I tried to hang around long enough to see it, but she just continued to labor and look quite uncomfortable.

Just a week old, these guys already want to play king of the mountain!

Next up, Schönbrunn Palace which is just a 1400-room imperial summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs.  I toured the inside…but no photos allowed.

Just as I headed through the doors, there was a storm-a-brewin’.  Intense winds and light rains became heavy rain, and I was glad to be inside.

This is the view out the back of the palace looking out into the extensive gardens and up towards the Gloriette.

Some tired feet called for some computer time in the hotel bar with a glass of wine.

We headed out to dinner to Meinl Wine Bar.

Woody had the Grüner Veltliner and I went with the Reisling…both good, but I won!

Woody ordered Beef Tartar with quail egg.

I ordered butterschnitzel…wouldn’t you…?  It was better than expected.  Three medallions of veal perfectly browned and topped with shaved black truffle accompanied by perfectly bright veggies and amazingly smooth mashed potatoes brûléed with a bit of cream. C’est parfait! (I have no idea how you would say such a thing in German!)

There is music everywhere in Vienna.

And our hotel.  Woody found it through expedia…and I can’t say enough good things about the place…it was a perfect home base for a week in Vienna!

 

Vienna Highlights…Day 2

In an effort to get more and more pictures up…I will keep the writing brief…

Fischer is quite a popular/common name around these parts…a bit like Smith.

The whole reason we are here…

Cutting edge fashion!

I think it translates to the biggest floating trampoline in the world…they were only allowing children in…I was sad.

The Danube

Käsekrainer from a Wurstelstand.

The Hofburg which includes the Spanish Riding School, the Sisi Museum and the Imperial apartments all just steps away from our hotel.

Stephansdom Cathedral – we caught a bit of the Sunday service and climbed the east tower for some views of Vienna.

More to come…

 

 

Ok…I buy the ticket.

Vienna – part 1

We’re abroad…just the two of us…in Vienna, Austria.  Never mind that Woody has work obligations for the better part of our week…to me it’s vacation…and I’ll drag him away from science as often as I can.  As I write, I’m sitting in our hotel bar enjoying a glass of Grüner Veltliner and some wasser, which make up the extent of my German language knowledge.  You’re lucky if I can squeeze in a bitte.  We arrived yesterday after a looooonnnnngggg day of flying.  First a 10 hour flight from Los Angeles to London, a 4 hour layover and then on an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna.  Foreign airlines are always a guessing game.  I remember my first Air France flight; I was 11 and we were served filet mignon.  Of course airlines have changed quite a bit since 1990, but I was hoping for greatness with our Austrian flight, especially because our return flight from Vienna to JFK is with Austrian Airlines.

Stepping onto the plane felt a little like stepping back in history…maybe it was the grass green carpet and light blue walls or the incredibly stark and bare feeling of the plane, or the Austrian air hostess uniforms with their red vests, skirts and baby blue neckershiefs.  And then, we sat down.  Woody exclaimed “It’s a little more eastern European than our last flight!”  The seat backs had ZERO cushioning.

It would have made a metallic hollow sound had I knocked, which would just barely have been dulled by the grey pleather cover.  Redeeming factor – exit row seats and an only half full plane  After the 2 ½ hour flight, our backs and necks were aching.

And then I looked out the window…

Then I looked out my window again…it seems the airport really went with the austere bleak architecture of black and straight.

We got off the plane, onto a bus to the terminal, and through customs quickly.  Why quickly…?  Well, you might be SHOCKED to find out that for a week-long trip to Europe, I managed to carry on all my luggage.  A feat I have never accomplished, even for a weekend trip.

Truthfully, I’ve never honestly tried to carry everything on, as I’m sort of against the whole thing (who needs an additional reason to feel annoyed and sweaty and tired while traveling…????).

We hopped the City Airport Train (CAT to the city center and changed lines for the U3 line of the U-Bahn.  Came up from underground and realized we exited the wrong way…and then spent 15 minutes trying to read our tiny maps on empty poorly lit streets and dragging luggage along cobblestones until we found our hotel.  The Steigenberger Herrengasse is lovely.  It feels hip and interesting and it is in the middle of everything in the Inner Stadt, and unlike many European hotel rooms feels almost spacious and I’m not at all concerned about the elevator breaking down and only having 2 square meters of air available.

My photos of our room didn’t turn out half as nice as their marketing photos…so I’ll slip one of their’s in…but I’m loving it, and the bathroom is elegant as well.  I will for sure be enjoying the bathtub while we are here, it’s too nice not to.

After settling in the room a bit, we freshened up and head out to walk around, get our bearings and grab a bite to eat.  Per the hotel’s recommendation, we ended up at an outdoor cafe of sorts, in a tiny alley…something like Restaurant Bierhof, I think.  It had the traditional Viennese dishes on the menu – we were recently educated on the matter by Tony Bourdain himself in one of his recent episodes of No Reservations.  Being famished from a lack of real food and hardly anything ingested below 30,000 feet felt compelled to order the Käsespaetzle with fried onions and side salad…along with a glass of Grüner Veltliner.  Woody ordered the Bacon lentils with bread dumpling.

It was everything I wanted it to be…delicious, cheesy, just the right amount of salty and about 5 times as much as any one person could eat.  We walked around the Graben after dinner to explore and digest a bit.

View of Michaelerplatz and the Spanish Riding School.

More research needed to determine exactly which intricate stone and gold monument or statue this is…stay tuned.

A screen was set up in the large plaza and from the sign we determined that it was some kind of propaganda against meat – maybe similar to PETA – see the Nein Fleisch sign – they were showing videos of cows being slaughtered…and not in the pastoral, happy cows on a farm sense.

To top off the evening, Stephansdom Cathedral as seen at night.  It’s draped on the lower part of the tower, as they attempt to clean centuries of soot and dirt and exhaust off of the Gothic cathedral…but still stunning!  We headed back to the hotel and forced ourselves to sleep to try and sway the effects of jetlag.  Stick around for updates on day 2, which include a Viennese breakfast, Käsekrainer, and a lot of walking.