Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
After a million-hour return flight to Europe, I experienced jet lag in its most destructive form. It took me about a month to recover, most likely due to the five-hour naps I “accidentally” took each afternoon for a few weeks straight.
Photo #9: Dresden, Germany
After living sans wifi for years, I lived the life with a fully-equipped apartment in Dresden. I Skyped with friends almost daily, hung out with Fulbright friends after work, loved my German roommate (and the fact that she never spoke anything but German with me!) and often lulled myself to sleep at night with KUWTK marathons (homesickness sometimes manifests itself in the strangest of ways).
Friday, July 13, 2012
1. Wiener Badeschiff
The geniuses behind the Badeschiff ('Bad' means bath, 'Schiff' means ship), repurposed this cargo ship, transforming it into a swanky summertime hotspot. Visitors of the Wiener Badeschiff can wine and dine at the restaurant attached (called 'Holy-Moly', which makes no real sense, but if you are familiar with the Austrian sense of humor, it makes perfect sense) and then take a post-dinner dip in the pool. Grüner Veltliner is the Vienna wine, so if you're looking to wind down after a long day of sight-seeing, I'd recommend a glass or two of that. The restaurant serves food until 10:00, and drinks until 1:00 and it's really nice (not in an intimidatingly fancy way, though... more in an awesomely awesome way).
Platzhirsch is a club located in the heart of Vienna, directly on the Ringstrasse. It's ultra-popular amongst crows young and old, though I should warn you that the doormen are selective when discerning to whom admittance be granted. When I lived in Vienna, I went with friends one evening and we were all 'approved' by the doorman, save my friend Erica, who was rejected on account of her open-toed shoes. Stereotypically, this is a common rule of thumb for a lot of clubs and bars in Austria, but it still annoyed us (me so much so that I dramatically challenged the doorman, "Also dann was sollen wir TUN?!", which roughly translates to, "What do you expect us to DO ABOUT IT?!"...Erica quoted that all summer, mocking my overreaction.) It was also here that I met someone who may have been the love of my life; a handsome summer intern for the French Embassy, who made small talk with me as I was leaving one night, and then followed us out to the cab asking for my phone number. I didn't really give him the time of day (or night), which I now sincerely regret. I mean, I could be a Paris wife right now, living off of crepes and Macarons and just being really French. Hindsight is 20/20.
3. Vienna Opera House
Right across from Platzhirsch, you have the Vienna Opera House, which is one of my favorite sights in the city. The inside is magnificent, though I prefer touring it to attending shows there (I secretly think operas are a little boring). I first wrote about the Opera House here (how bees live on the roof!) and then wrote about another trip there here and then here. There are around 60 operas produced there each year and Paris Hilton attended one once, though I'm not sure why. If tickets are a little out of your budget, they sometimes broadcast them outside the Opera House on a large screen, around which audiences gather either on the sidewalks or nearby street cafes.
Pronounced 'Q', Kju serves a much younger scene than Platzhirsch. This venue, being that it's near the Embassy, was a very popular meet-up among the interns. One night, when the group of us were there, Erica noticed a pair of Austrian twin sisters and told them (in German) that they were really pretty. I will never forget the cold stares on their faces, as they rolled their eyes and walked away. Eva, my favorite Austrian in the whole wide world, offered Erica this piece of advice: "Oh, sweetie, you're not in America. You can't say things like that to strangers here."
During the summertime, Rathausplatz offers a free film festival 'til the late hours of the evening. With the gorgeous Rathaus (city hall) serving as a backdrop, this opportunity is a hard one to pass up. Also in the summer months, Rathausplatz hosts an amazing lunch festival in the afternoons daily. As it's near the Embassy, the interns and I used to take the Strassenbahn to Rathausplatz almost every day for lunch (only 2 stops away!) and indulge in some of the best food Vienna has to offer (we're talking Thai food, Spanish food, Austrian food, Vietnamese food -- it's all there!).
Hope that helps! I've resorted to Formspring in hopes that it will facilitate a better question-and-answer system for people with inquiries about places I may have visited (rather than emailing). So far, I've found that I respond in a much timelier manner with Formspring than I do with emails (I think I have some sort of email handicap, which prevents me from replying to emails unless over 2 weeks have passed since the original one was sent), so I'd say if you have a not-so-personal question or travel inquiry, feel free to make it on Formspring.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
We also had the guests, once they arrived, predict the circumference of my sister’s growing belly. The winner of this contest got to take home a cash prize. My dad did not enter the contest, but he looked at my sister one time, turned to my mom, and made a guess. It will be of no surprise to anyone who has ever met my dad that he guessed the correct circumference down to the last centimeter. My mom rolled her eyes when she found that out, and I didn’t blame her. I imagine it gets tiring being married to someone who not only knows everything, but knows he knows everything. We set the guess-jar/cards, money jar and Wishes for Molly on a tablecloth my co-hostess and I had handpainted using Jordan Ferney’s tutorial from her blog.
My mother, who did a really good job of saving almost almost every artifact of our childhoods, sorted through box after box to uncover these baby outfits of my sister’s, which we matched to photos of her wearing the clothes and hung on a clothes line (twine + clothes pins) behind the food table. My sister got to take those home as a party favor, too, of course, for Molly herself to wear.
The morning of the shower, my dad drove to our old house to pick these beautiful fuchsia roses from the rose bushes. (Note: we still own the house; the rose-picking was not an act of theft.) My co-hostess and I covered coffee cans and paint cans with paper, filled them with dirt, and then placed the roses inside. I should specify, though, that my dad was actually the one who arranged the roses, after he noticed that my method or rose-arrangement was not symmetrical enough for his critical engineer-eyes to condone. His method was, admittedly, the better of the two. We arranged the flowers on the mantel next to some canvases with Molly’s first, middle and last name, and paper polka-dot garland.
Using old pink and yellow vintage fabric I had lying around (found it under my bed, actually!), I ripped pieces to string garland from the rafters in my parents’ front room.
My sister might not look happy to be there….but she was.
All of the guests in attendance were most impressed by the cake – not only that it was so thoughtful, but so delicious as well. I swear my mom should go into some sort of bakery-related business…
I found it rather difficult to abstain from filling every mason jar with the sherbet punch, and drinking them all in one sitting.
After all the presents had been opened and all the guests had left, my sister and mom and I sat in the living room, sorting through the gifts, ooh-ing and aah-ing over all the outfits Molly Jane would soon get to wear. My dad and brother-in-law, meanwhile, watched Indiana Jones in the den and talked about fly fishing. And in that moment, all was right with the world.
Monday, July 9, 2012
swimming every day instead of showering
having perpetual ‘summer hair’ (messy bun/bangs pinned) as a result
stopping for a strawberry slush every time you pass a sonic drive-in
knowing the words to way more country music songs than you’d like to admit
having your iphone shut off due to extreme temperatures
never wearing make-up because the 107 degree heat will melt it off your face, anyway
a diet that is high in okra, corn on the cob, and squash from the farmer’s market
hearing a southern accent slip out and thinking, “where’d that come from?”
Sunday, July 8, 2012
And living up, this year’s Fourth did. I spent the holiday at a picture-perfect farmhouse in Arcadia, Oklahoma, where the food was plentiful and the fireworks were a little out of control, as they should be. Let’s just say I kept my sunglasses on throughout the show – in spite of the fact that it was dark – for fear that shrapnel would somehow scratch my corneas. I’m sure this was a very legitimate concern.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I know I've mentioned this before, but throughout my time in Vienna, I lived in eight different homes, in eight different districts. I knew the city like the back of my hand and could recite the U-Bahn, Strassenbahn, and bus routes in my sleep, forwards and backwards. So when people write to me and ask me questions such as the one after which this post is titled, my inclination is to reply, "Let me just meet you there and I'll show you myself".
Ten Things to Do/See in Vienna
1. Tour Schonbrunn Palace.
It's surrounded by thick trees, fountains upon fountains, and the world's oldest operating zoo. The palace isn't so bad itself, either. Plus, it was the site of Mozart' s first concert (he performed there for Empress Maria Theresa at the age of six!). Whether you tour the palace or the grounds (or both!), you won’t be disappointed. But plan to spend several hours here; it’s a time-suck in the most pleasant of ways. See also: the instax version.
2. Stop by a Strandbar.
The Danube River, which cuts through Vienna, serves as the perfect summertime setting for a little after-hours rest and relaxation. The Strandbar Hermann (pictured above) is the most famous of the strandbars ("Strand" means "beach" in German), but there are dozens of strandbars to choose from. You grab a chair, wait for a server to come take your order, sit back, indulge in a cool beverage, and perhaps enjoy some live music, too. It's a low-key, not-so-touristy way to feel like just one of the guys (assuming that "the guys" here are "the Viennese", of course). See also: a really informative post on the Danube River.
3. Get lost at Prater.
Prater....oh Prater. How I love you so. Let me count the ways! I first described on this blog as a less trashy version of the Oklahoma State Fair and it is that, but oh, it's so much more. The Prater Riesenrad (the ferris wheel seen in the background of this photo) is what Prater is known for -- it's been there since 1897! -- but the park is full of other fun rides, attractions and, most importantly, fair food. While the famous Riesenrad was originally built for Emperor Franz Joseph, I daresay the millions of tourists that flock to it every year might enjoy it more. See also: another Vienna post about Prater.
4. Consider visiting Karlskirche.
Karlskirche is located in Karlsplatz, and if you really want to get on my nerves, you can call it "Charles' church". Sure, "Karl" means 'Charles', and "Kirche" is the German word for 'church', but it drives me crazy when people refer to it that way. It should be known as Karlskirche and nothing else! Anyway, if you think the outside is magnificent, you should see the inside. Imagine getting married at a church like this! See also: another Vienna post about Karlskirche.
5. Channel your inner royal highness at the Hofburg Palace.
From the 13th to the 20th century, Austrian emperors resided here in the winter (they summered at Schonbrunn!). Now it's filled with museums showcasing artwork and other imperial treasures. It also currently serves as the President of Austria’s official residence! See also: The Hofburg Palace from afar.
6. Lounge around at Museumsquartier.
Museumsqaurtier is one of my very favorite places in Vienna. It's only been around since 2001, but it's already established itself as one of the world's largest complexes for modern art. When summertime rolls around, the quarter fills up with these signature ultra-modern over-sized chairs, which change in color year to year. Whether morning or evening, the MQ is always filled with people of all ages, whether lounging in the chairs, dining at one of the outdoor cafes, or just passing through. They say that when you're at the MQ, "Art is in the air"; maybe that's why 2/3 of the people who visit it feel satisfied by the courtyard and never even make it inside the museums surrounding it? Bonus: it's located on Mariahilferstrasse, which is one of the best shopping streets in town. See also: a night at Museumsquartier.
7. Check out the Haus her Musik
Confession: I typically think museums are -- brace yourselves -- boring. You can judge me and call me uncultured, and I won't fault you for it. But this museum, I like. It's very interactive and fun and much of it is geared toward children (not sure what that says about me). And, yeah, much like cafes, malls, department stores, tourist shops, etc. -- your dog is welcome! See also: Another nontraditional attraction in Vienna.
8. Sample your way through the Naschmarkt.
In case you needed a reason to wake up early on a Saturday morning, the Naschmarkt is it. Farmers gather fresh produce from their nearby orchards and farms and sell them here on Saturdays. Personally, I find it most enjoyable if you visit on a totally empty stomach, and spend hours grazing from stand to stand, sampling bits of everything. Another tip? The falafel and hummus here is excellent. See also: my first trip to the Naschmarkt.
9. Spend an afternoon at Kunsthistoriches Museum.
The Habsburgs collected a lot of art in their day, and they stored it right here. I toured this museum in 2009 and, shockingly, wasn’t bored at all! It houses a lot of artwork I love (like the Tower of Babel painting) as well as several of Pieter Bruegel’s masterpieces: The Fight Between Carnival and Lent,
The Gloomy Day, The Return of the Herd, The Peasant Wedding, The Peasant Dance, and my all-time favorite painting, The Hunters in the Snow. See also: Another shout-out to the Kh museum.
Tomorrow I’ll share some tips on Vienna after dark!
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
While waiting to board my plane at the Corfu airport, I met two American girls. One was a blonde Southern belle from Mississippi, who had studied abroad in Greece the past semester and had stayed in Corfu, after falling in love with a Greek man. She had to return home to the States – her Visa had run out and her fall semester was beginning in August – and she was absolutely devastated to be leaving the man she described as the love of her life. As she explained this to me, she had tears running down her face and I really felt for her, I did. The other girl I met was also a college student, but from the East Coast, rather than the South. She told me she’d been on vacation with her family but had gotten in a fight with her mom, which resulted in her demanding that her dad fly her home (first class) because she was sick of Greece, and the time difference was making it difficult for her to Skype with her boyfriend, and she just really wanted to get back to the city (NYC), okay?! Resisting the urge to ask her if she was a) some kind of heiress or b) a really pale Kardashian, I nodded along as she explained the ins and outs of life on the Upper West Side, completely mesmerized by her stories, in a “we are such different humans but keep talking, because I have never met anyone as privileged as you, and because it’s all very fascinating to me, and also because I’m still trying to figure out if you’re famous” kind of way.
Once we landed in Athens and had gone through baggage claim, I realized that Olivia Palermo’s twin (the second of the two girls described in the preceding paragraph, of course) and I were on the same flight back to the states. Since she was seated in first class and I in last, we wouldn’t be able to sit together, but we did decide to pair up for the night. We stopped at a bathroom and changed into “pajamas” (the most comfortable/warmest/cleanest clothes we could find in our luggage) and got ready for “bed”. At that point, sleeping in the airport seemed a little fun, I will admit. I took out my contacts, we brushed our teeth and washed our faces, and it sort of felt like a really exotic birthday sleepover or Girl Scout lock-in. The fun stopped there, however, as we discovered there were no unoccupied seats, benches, or non-freezing places to sleep in the entire Athens airport.
We found the coziest patch of tile we could, opened our suitcases and withdrew as many layers of clothes as possible, so that we could make one big giant pallet on the airport floor. I had a brown travel pillow (pictured above), which helped, but that was about it. We locked our suitcases and backpacks, and slept with our arms intertwined in the straps, lest we encounter bandits or thieves or those two German girls from my hostel in Italy. We drifted off to sleep every now and then but mostly, it was a very uncomfortable and long (I mean l-o-n-g long) night. Somehow, 8 am finally rolled around and I tell you what – I’ve never been so happy to board a plane in all my life.
After having flown from Corfu to Athens, I flew from Athens to NYC, NYC to Cincinnati, and Cincinnati to Oklahoma City. The whole trip was over 24 hours in length. When my parents picked me up at the airport, they said they couldn’t believe how a) brown, b) emaciated, and c) pitifully exhausted I looked.
Such is the life in Europe, parents. Such is the life.
And it’s true; throughout my living and traveling in Europe, I’ve been consistently penniless and hungry and, most of the time, pretty downright haggard. And yeah, sometimes, walking through a grocery store and using your phone’s calculator to figure out what you can and cannot afford based on your budget of 8-and-a-half Euros is annoying. And I’ll even admit that collecting German bottles and exchanging them for money isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. But (and this is going to sound cheesy, I warn you) these are the stories that I’m going to tell my children. And these are the memories that are going to allow me to appreciate a well-paying, full-time job. And someday, when I have an overnight layover in an airport, and I spend it in a five-star hotel, as opposed to on a negative-five-star airport floor, that plush bed is going to feel all the more heavenly. I mean, it has to, right?
Monday, July 2, 2012
My last day in Corfu was spent just where it should have been: on the beach. At 10:00 that night, I was scheduled to board a bus to the airport so that I could catch a midnight flight to Athens, sleep at the airport, and then board an 8:00 am flight outta there the following morning to…. America! When I checked out of my hostel that night, I made sure to confirm that the bus departed Corfu at 10:00 and arrived at the airport at 10:40. The hostel receptionist confirmed all of these things, so I packed my bags, a little sad to leave beautiful Greece (and all of Europe!) behind, but anxious to get home and see family and friends.
When 10:00 rolled around (it was still light outside!), the bus pulled up. I tossed my ginormous backpack in the luggage compartment below and climbed aboard. I asked the driver (in English, as I do not speak a lick of Greek), “I’m going to the airport. This bus goes to the airport, right?”. He stared blankly at me and said nothing. I asked again, “Does this go to the airport?”, to which he replied “Ah, port, ya”. I shrugged, thinking “Good enough!” and took my seat.
There weren’t many people on the bus, and the number of fellow passengers dwindled with every stop the driver made along the way. As the bus approached each stop, I made sure to look left and right to ensure that I was not missing the airport. I felt confident that we had not passed it, yet at 10:40, as we pulled up to what appeared to be a harbor on the water, I became very confused and doubtful when the driver announced with a thick accent, “Last stop!”. I glanced around; there was one other passenger on board beside me – a scrawny teenage boy who looked all of 15 years in age. I frantically asked him if he spoke English and – thank the Lord – he did. “Does this bus not go to the airport?!”, I inquired in a panic. He spoke to the driver in Greek, and then turned to me and said, “It does, but you have to tell the driver when you board. You have to let him know you need to go to the airport”. I tried not to shout as I explained to him, “That’s what I did! I asked him if it went to the airport! He told me it did!” The boy turned again and spoke to the driver, who looked at me half-annoyed, half-embarrassed, before answering the question. The boy turned to met yet again and reported back, “He thought you meant port; the place where boats come and go”. At this point, I wanted to laugh, scream, cry, and die all at the same time. The driver continued speaking to the boy, who then translated to me, “He says, in the future, you need to make a hand gesture and an airplane noise when you tell him ‘airport’. Otherwise, he does not know if you mean ‘airport’ or ‘port’.”
I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face upon hearing that statement. It was April Ludgate at her finest.
I then asked the boy – this young, unsuspecting adolescent who had somehow involuntarily become my translator and saving grace – if the driver could take me to the airport. I explained that I absolutely had to catch a flight and that I could not get there from the port; as I did not have a clue as to where I was, and there didn’t seem to be a taxi in sight, not to mention it was now pitch-black outside and I did not feel safe walking. He graciously asked the driver, before answering me, “No. He says this is the end of his route. He cannot go to the airport now. It is too late.”
At this point, the bus driver stepped off the bus, grabbed my bag from the luggage compartment below, and tossed it on the sidewalk. In other words, I was not welcome here anymore.
I stepped off the bus and asked the boy if I could call a taxi. He paused, thought about it, and then said, “No. It would take too long. You’d miss your flight…. Is your backpack the only thing you have with you?”. I nodded and he said, “Okay. Climb on. I’ll take you myself”. Confused, I watched my new little friend jog over to a fence, along which several Vespas were parked, sit down on one, turn it on, and drive it right back to me. I paused for the briefest of moments and thought to myself, “Climbing aboard an unknown male’s Vespa in a foreign country is not the smartest idea. This could end badly.”, before realizing that this kid, who probably weighed 90 lbs. soaking wet, not only posed no real physical threat to me, but was my only hope of getting to the airport on time. If I missed my flight to Athens, I’d most likely miss my flight home to the States and that’d be a real pickle. Once I’d worked through that initial apprehension, I climbed on the Vespa, hugged the Justin-Bieber-size-child around the waist, and away we zoomed from that (stupid, stupid, stupid) port. The wind whooshed by – we were in the city now – and I couldn’t help but laugh. That laughter turned into a fit of hysterics, though I don’t think “my driver” could hear it over the road noise. It was just one of those moments where you stop and think: I am riding around on a Vespa in the middle of Greece with someone I met less than 10 minutes ago; what in the world is going on?! I mean, we’ve all been in that situation at one time or another, right?
When we pulled up to the airport, I reached into my wallet and grabbed every Euro I could find. He shook his head and said, “No. Go! You’ll miss your flight”. I asked, “Are you sure?”. He nodded and put his helmet back on. I called,“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” as I ran inside to check in for my flight.
Sidenote: it might help, for visualization purposes, for you to realize I was wearing my swimsuit, a cover-up, and TOMS throughout this entire debacle.
The Corfu airport is quite small, so it took me about 3 minutes to check in for my flight and find my gate. It was 11:00 then and I had an hour to kill before boarding my flight. Just past my gate, I bought half a dozen Nutella-filled croissants at an airport shop, planning to eat one now, and then another for breakfast, and then bring the rest home to my family the next day.
All 6 croissants were gone before I boarded my flight at midnight. Sorry, family…. Spontaneous Vespa rides really take a lot out of you; what can I say?
Sunday, July 1, 2012
somedays the month gets away from me, and i realize that i’ve forgotten to make an advertising announcement.
today is one of those somedays.
if you’re looking for some ad space to advertise your blog, shop or small business, contact me here by the end of the day, for 50% off regular rates, on account of the such-late-notice-ness. offer is good ‘til the end of the day, your ad will go up immediately, and will run ‘til the end of the month.
(do email me quickly, because i only have a couple spots opening!)
(also, returning sponsors are always given a discounted renewal price, so sponsors who have already renewed this month will not be gipped by this deal!)