Vienna

On Dec. 15-17 I took a mini trip to Vienna.  I found a flight deal on EasyJet for direct flights and went for it.  After all, a huge reason why I moved to France was to take advantage of short trips like this!  I booked a great AirBnB apartment.  It was slightly pricey but in such a good location; walking distance to so many things I wanted to see and given my short time frame, I knew it would be worth it.  My flight was slightly delayed out of Geneva but upon arrival at the airport, it was super easy to get into the city.  It was a little confusing to find the the right street for my AirBnB and my phone GPS wasn’t working but a nice lady helped me and pointed out the way.

My time in Vienna was very short so I researched ahead of time and plotted out a rough itinerary.  I looked up museums, shops, places to eat, reviews, etc. I got to my apt by about 6:30pm on Monday and was leaving by Wednesday afternoon.  One reason why I chose to go to Vienna this time of year was to see the world famous Christmas Markets.  I bought a 24-hour transit pass so I immediately headed back out to the biggest and well-known market, the Wien Christkindlmarkt at the Rathaus (City Hall).  I also hit up the highly recommended Spittelberg Market, which is much smaller and set up in narrow, old streets.  Where the Rathaus Market is very commercial, the Spittleberg Market is much more intimate with unique, handmade crafts.  One yummy thing I ate at Spittleberg was this deep fried potato thing.  I was hungry and there was a long line for this so I decided to wait.  Whatever it was, it had to be good.  The line moved fast and once you had your food in hand, you could brush a garlic-butter on it.  Delicious.

I knew I’d be eating a lot so I was very good in the weeks leading up to this trip.  I cut out bread, cheese, sausage, wine, french fries at the cafeteria, etc.  I’m glad I did because not only do I feel better, I lost some weight!  Even with all the eating I did in Vienna, I balanced it with a lot of walking.  On Tuesday I was up early and out the door to be at Cafe Central for breakfast before 8am.  I’d found it online and expected it to be crowded but it was practically empty save some regulars and a few tourists.  The interior did not disappoint but the breakfast was sub-par, not even worth taking a picture of.  Fast forward to a late lunch–after 2:30pm and I hit up Figlmüller, a restaurant famous for it’s Wiener schnitzel.  I got a table no problem and ordered the house specialty.  I’ll let the photos do the talking but it was really good!  A surprise was the side salad, that I got mainly as the token “healthy” item to go with the fried schnitzel but it was delicious.

One thing to note, it was tough switching gears from speaking French to speaking basic, simple English.  I took one year of German in high school which did little to help me beyond “hello” and “thank you”.  Thankfully many Viennese people speak English, so it wasn’t a problem.

Here’s some more things I saw and did:  Albertina Museum, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (climbed 343 steps of the South Tower), War Museum, Demel pastry & chocolaterie, Karlsplatz Christmas Market, and ate Vietnamese food, something I can’t get in Annecy.  From the onset I wished for more time in this beautiful city with so much to see and do, but in the end it was just enough and I had a great time.  Auf wiedersehen, Wien!

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From Paris, With Love

In May in France we had THREE 4-day weekends.  It just so happened that three holidays landed on a Thursday, so Friday was an “RTT Obligatoire”.  I don’t remember what RTT stands for but my work office was shut down.  Perfect opportunity for me to take my first trip.  I decided to go to PARIS from May 8-10.  It’s about 3h 45 min by train including a few stops early into the ride then direct to Gare du Nord.  I did some quick research and found a small apartment on AirBnb, bought  tickets online, arranged for friends to check in on Cleo, and I was all set to catch a 5:30 am train.  I live a 5 minute walk to the station.  Right after the 3rd 4-day weekend we had one 3-day weekend.

I’ve been to Paris a handful of times, usually for work, and I’ve seen most of the major attractions, some a few times over.  This time I wanted to cater the trip to specific things I wanted to do and see, such as Père Lachaise Cemetery and a unique store called Deyrolle.  You’ll see what I mean in my photos.  I also wanted to eat some non-French food and *gasp!* see a movie in VO.  “VO” means “version originale”, the film in it’s original language.   No dubbing though there are likely to be French subtitles.  You’re probably thinking, “What??  You’re in Paris and you want to sit in a theater and see a movie?”  Yup, that’s right, the life of an expat.  There were a lot of VO movies to choose from, unlike Annecy.  I ended up seeing Captain America:  Winter Soldier.  Yeah!!  The theater was a letdown from what I’m used to in America.   No butter popcorn, only salt or sugar popcorn, no stadium seats and a dismally small screen.  I’m talking about one-third the size of screens in the US.  Oh well, I still had a good time!

I also arranged to meet Lino, the father of a college friend, and his wife Kathryn for lunch at Les Éditeurs and a visit to the Musée d’Orsay for the Gustave Doré exhibit.  Lino and Kathryn own an apartment in Paris and split their time between Paris and Vail, CO.  I’ll subscribe to that plan!  When we got to the museum, there was a huge line waiting to get in.  Add to that it was raining, a holiday, and almost the last day of the exhibit.  Lino, being well versed in these things, bought tickets online ahead of time and we were able to enter through a separate entrance with no waiting.  I love the Musée d’Orsay.  It’s a former train station built in 1898-1900 and it’s a beautiful setting for a museum.  There was also a highly acclaimed exhibit called Van Gogh/Artaud:  The Man Suicided by Society.  More info here http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/events/exhibitions/in-the-musee-dorsay/exhibitions-in-the-musee-dorsay/article/van-gogh-artaud-37162.html?cHash=4e6f66cb2b  While it was great to be there, the museum was so crowded it was hard to enjoy the exhibits.

I did a TON of walking.  I also took the metro a lot.  It’s the best way to get around if you want to cover a lot of ground.  By the 3rd day, I had gone through almost 10 tickets so I bought a day pass.  My legs and feet were sore by the end of this trip!  One place where I spent a lot of time was Père Lachaise Cemetery.  A lot of famous artists, writers, and performers are buried here including Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison.

I want to mention that May 8 was VE Day, which stands for Victory in Europe Day.  It marks the surrender of Nazi Germany’s armed forces.