Thanksgiving weekend had it's highs (I cooked the turkey and it actually turned out awesome!) and it's lows (burglar alarm went off and the police came). At one point my "low tire pressure" light came on in the car, so we went to Kwik Car and got them all topped off (after trying to fill the tires ourselves, which was a total disaster). But then the light came back on this morning, and I knew it wasn't just the cold weather. So back to Kwik Car I went, and they confirmed that I had a nail in one of the tires. But they weren't allowed (?) to patch it, so I had to drive to a Discount Tire and wait an hour to get the tire patched. This was somehow a free service, but of course they had to tell me that I need four new tires and it would only cost me $750. Um, pass. I think I can get a better deal at like Sam's, no? And who wants to pay for new tires, anyway? Being an adult sucks.
No, not some weirdo from Match.com - the rat that is apparently living in my attic! Let's be honest - it's probably multiple rats. But I like to think it's just one, very large, very loud guy named Miles Standish (shout-out, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving) who will soon be eating the rat bait and go to that cheese house in the sky (preferably dying outside of my house, thanks). I thought (hoped?) maybe it was squirrels - that's how loud this thing is. But the brave Orkin man who came over yesterday to investigate gave me the harsh truth. Which is so gross and creeps me out so much I can safely say I will never be venturing into the attic again. Done. Pass the pie.
Attempting to put up Christmas lights outside, and it's a total beating. No wonder most people either A. have husbands to do this or 2. hire a lawn guy to handle the whole thing. My across-the-street neighbors already have their lights up (they beat me to it! dammit!), and I think they are solar-powered. This got me excited at first, since I have no outlets in the front so have to link up a bunch of extension cords in the back and throw them over the roof (which I did on my own, thank you very much). But the solar-powered lights aren't all they are cracked up to be - they come on early and turn off early (like 10pm). That's no fun - Santa won't be able to see my house! So back to the drawing board. And back up the ladder.
Went on a date Friday night with a new guy. It went better than expected, and he asked me to meet up with he and his friends the next night. He warned me that his friends had been drinking since 2:30, so were in rare form, and he didn't want to scare me off. I told him that didn't bother me, but I didn't want to crash guys' night. He insisted, so I met him at a bar in Dallas. I was expecting a group of like 5 rowdy guys, but it was just him and one other guy, both of whom were very quiet. The guy who invited me was so quiet, in fact, that he barely said two words to me. (Maybe it was HE who was in rare form, I thought.) They wanted to go to another bar in Addison, so I drove to the second spot. Still he barely talked to me, and I decided it was time to go. He walked me to my car, and asked if I would like to drive him home. To IRVING. Um, no. I told him it was really far from my house, and he said I could just spend the night. What now? You don't speak to me all night and then expect me to drive you home and stay over? PASS.
What the hell is wrong with these people. Seriously folks.
The flight home from London to Dallas was like 9 and a half hours, but felt like 13. Seriously - at one point I checked the flight pattern, assuming I had about 4 hours left. And I had 6. DOH. Luckily, British Airways provides a plethora of movies/shows to keep you entertained. In 9.5 hours, I watched:
Inside Out (and cried, much to the confusion of the man sitting next to me)
Pitch Perfect 2
Back to the Future
3 episodes of Big Bang Theory
2 episodes of Friends
And a partridge in a pear tree
I mean what did people DO back in the day. Read a crapload of books? Just drink heavily? Sounds about right.
So as I mentioned, I was fending off a bladder infection while in Europe. Stupidly I forgot my insurance card and was petrified of having to go to some hospital in Hungaria where I didn't speak the language and might wind up losing an arm due to miscommunication. I realized I wasn't drinking much water - mostly because of the whole pay-to-pee thing - so I started buying bottles of water wherever I could find them, and chugging to re-hydrate. But it still wasn't working, so I found a health food shop in Salzburg and wandered until I found the medicine aisle. Now, of course everything was in German, but I finally found a pack of pills that said "Cranberry." DONE - who cares what else is in there! I took the pills to the register and asked if the lady spoke any English. She said she only spoke a little, so I may have made some embarrassing gestures to inquire if these pills would help with a bladder infection. She said yes, so I accepted that and ended up taking every single pill while I was over there. Eastern European medicine: 1, infections: 0. Well-played, Austria.
It's finally coming together for me! The "wiener" in wiener schnitzel refers to Vienna, not to hot dogs! (I know, duh. But I've never had it, so really no clue what's in it.) I figured it out because "wien" is the Austrian word for Vienna, and the operahouse was named Wiener Staatsoper.BOOM.
Another a-ha moment came on the train yesterday. Most announcements on all transportation (buses, trains, planes) are in German, and they seem much longer and more informative than the abbreviated English version they throw in. So who knows what other helpful hints the Austrians are getting - you're on your own, Americans!
Yesterday's announcement made me think the conductor was having a stroke: "v-v-v-punct-oh-beh-beh-punct-at." But then I realized she was referring people to the official train website, www.obb.at ("at" is for Austria). It's the v for w (and vice versa) that gets me. Wery veird, amiright.
Also, I've noticed that people here say "d'schoen" which is apparently short for "danke schoen" (thank you very much). I feel very hip and cool for saying it back, which immediately makes me neither hip nor cool.
That's a wrap, Europe! If the travel gods are with me, I will be back in the USA tomorrow. So ready to see my dog - I have almost gone up to three dogs on the street today just to get a lick in the face. But restrained myself.
Went to Graz yesterday - it was a long 12-hour day, but a beautiful city. Unfortunately, all the stores were closed since it was Sunday, so there wasn't much to do once I got there, but I climbed to the top of the Shlossberg, a fortress on a hill with great expansive views. I would pass places that said "established 1541" and think, "hey - my grandfather might have seen that!" (And yes, I realize that 1943 was much more recent than 1541.) But then realizing his leg had been shot off prior to getting shot down, he probably wasn't doing much sightseeing. (Also due to the fact that this was enemy territory and he would soon be a POW.) But it was certainly cool to be there and know that he had landed not far away.
Since I didn't get to shop yesterday (the horror!), I have quite a few euros to blow today in Venice. Since I fly back to London tonight and back to Dallas tomorrow, today is my last chance. If I must shop, I must.(God forbdid I bring any money home. Although the currency exchange rate won't be very good anyway...) #becauseeurope
First, let me assure you that I am safe and sound and nowhere near Paris. (Well, I'm closer than most of you are, but you know what I mean.) Luckily I have CNN in English at my hotel, so I've been able to follow the story - because since I normally only have wi-fi in the hotel room, I go all day not knowing what's going on. (Or being able to check Facebook - the horror!)
Yesterday was the day trip to Budapest. It was about three hours each way, and after all the news about Syrian refugees trying to get into Austria, I was pleasantly surprised to find not a soul at the border. In fact, we never even had to show passports to anyone, although I'm not sure that's a good thing. Budapest is actually two cities - Buda (the hillier side), and Pest, split by the Danube River. Another little-known fact: Budapest has the third oldest subway system, after New York and London! Who knew?? We had lunch (I was able to get a chicken ceasar salad- again, who knew??) then took a bus tour of Pest followed by a walking tour of Buda. We had free time, and I was finally able to walk through a Christmas market. It was really quite magical - smells of cinnamon bread and mulled wine (which I tried, and although good, I couldn't finish an entire cup). I spent all my forints and then it was time to go back to Vienna. Quite a beautiful city.
Today: taking the train to Graz, where my grandfather's plane was shot down in WWII. Kind of want to grab some soil and bring it back home with me...
I forgot to mention that I went on the autobahn today! Granted, we were in the giant Sound of Music coach bus, so we certainly weren't going fast, but everyone around us was...kind of cool. And also terrifying. #soeuro
The Sound of Music tour was awesome! Thankfully no one was dressed in costume, but they did play the songs on the bus and people did sing along. (I may have joined in a chorus of Do-Re-Mi, not gonna lie.)
We saw the front of the Von Trapp house, the back of the house/lake (different house, who knew), the nunnery, the church where they got married, the glass cabana from "16 Going on 17" and of course the "Do-Re-Mi" steps. Very fun stuff. And a little-known fact: the tour guide told us he rarely gets any German or Austrian attendees because they don't know what The Sound of Music is. Um, pardon?? Apparently a German-language version based on Maria Von Trapp's book came out before SOM, and the Germans preferred the original version so the movie didn't stay in theaters very long. Therefore it's never re-run on TV, etc. So bizarro. I thought maybe it had to do with the anti-Nazi sentiment of the film, but whatevs.
Something random I forgot about: most public bathrooms over here cost money. So if you have to pee, you have to pay. What in the world. And considering I am fighting off a bladder infection (TMI, sorry), all my money is going down the toilet. Literally. HEY-OH
At the train station now, waiting to go to Vienna. Budapest all day tomorrow, but will try to post when I get back.
I get why Julie Andrews was singing - Salzburg is amazing. So adorable, so easy to get around, and so magical at Christmas! I wish I was staying for the Christmas market - opens November 20 - but they were setting up yesterday so at least I got a preview. The old town area is pedestrians only, so you can just wander through the squares and the cobblestone streets, going in and out of little shops, bakeries and cafes, while the church bells peal (seriously - it went on for 6 solid minutes at one point). Pretty incredible. I hiked to the top of the fortress (and it was truly a hike - I was exhausted, sweaty and out of breath by the time I got up there), but totally worth it for the great views of the city. Went to Mozart's birthplace - his presence is felt all over the city, especially on chocolates (?) - and bought myself a nice pink Austrian hat. #becauseeurope
Last night was the three-course candlelit dinner at St Peter Stifskeller, the oldest restaurant in Europe, and it was so lovely and beautifully decorated for the holidays. Our waiter was a big Cowboys fan, which was hilarious, even showing me a picture from Facebook of his trip to Dallas to see a game (!). The musicians were dressed in Mozart-ish attire and were fantastic, as were the opera singers. I kept having to pinch myself, listening to this music and looking around at my surroundings. I sat next to a mother-daughter duofrom Sydney who have been on an 8-week European dream vacation. They have literally been EVERYWHERE, and they still have two more weeks. Truly incredible to talk to them.
Getting to Austria wasn't as easy as I had hoped, however - got busted in every airport security line I went through, and I feel like I was innocent both times. In London, apparently it's not just liquids that have to go in the clear plastic bags, but also creams and pastes? WTF. Plus they said my iPad had to be treated like a laptop, which it doesn't in the US. And then in Austria, I didn't realize that just by changing planes in Vienna I would have to go through security again, so the nice bottle of water I bought in London had to get tossed out. I mean I was already in the terminal! Why security again?? Oh well. Live and learn.
Have bought entirely too many souvenirs and I think I am going to have to leave my Texas flag neck pillow here just to have a chance of getting everything back on the plane. Good times.
Today: Sound of Music tour and then a train to Vienna tonight! #thehillsarealive
So today was a good day. Well, not a good day for my diet. Lunch with a co-worker friend at a little French place, and I decided I had to get the spinach and Gruyere crepes, #becauseeurope. Ironically this was listed on the "lighter side" of the menu, but it was so cheesy that I could only manage a few bites. Still - yay crepes.
Then I went to high tea at Sketch, which. Was. Heavenly. I tried to get in at fancy places like Claridges or the Savoy, but they were booked all month. I watch this Bravo show called Ladies of London, and on a whim started Googling the women on the show while I was here. You know, where they eat, where they shop, etc. (sad but true) One of the Americans has her own lifestyle website, and the latest "London Guide" entry happened to be "Top 5 Places to Have Tea." And Sketch was #1 on the list. My eyes glazed over at the very pinkness of the place, and I knew I had to see it for myself. So I booked a table and once again mastered the subway (er, tube) to get there.
It was only a few streets over from Carnaby Street, another spot I had never been but wanted to see, so I swung by there on the way to tea. For those that don't know, Carnaby Street was the center of the swinging mod scene in the 1960s. It's really cute over there - a pedestrian zone, with cobbled streets and no cars allowed. I went to Liberty London, which, with 6 floors, is almost as overwhelming to me as Harrods, and that's where I had a fun run-in with Mr Manolo Blahnik himself.
But back to the tea party. Because that's what it was. I probably should have sprung for the champagne version, but I stuck with tea. You get to pick the flavor of tea out of a list of about 40, and then they bring a tray of delights: 5 tiny but beautiful sandwiches, two levels of gorgeous pastries, and a scone. For the menu, see here. I ate one tiny sandwich and the scone, and took a bite out of three tiny desserts. I'm not proud of it, but it WAS my dinner...and that makes it okay, right?? The diet starts when I get home. #carbloading
Leaving bright (actually dark) and early for Salzburg - Austria adventures coming soon!
So I have found a cure for my insomnia/jet lag: split a bottle of wine at dinner. Slept like a baby. Ha.
Last night went to dinner with my former boss, who now lives in London. She provided lots of dinner options, and I of course went for the most touristy spot - because of the 360-degree views of the city, duh!
This is the building, and the restaurant was on the 32nd floor:
Oddly, there's an elevator to take you directly to that level, but you're not supposed to push the elevator buttons! Every 15 seconds, the doors close and if you're inside, you get rocketed to the top. Not sure what the point of having elevator buttons is if you can't push them, but I guess it's #becauseeurope.
The views from the restaurant were spectacular. For example:
I mean, seriously. London for the win. We took Uber to the restaurant - turns out Uber abroad is the same as Uber in the US, just with a British accent. Good to know. And speaking of accents, what amazes me about this city is how international it is. Everyone is speaking different languages all around you, and no one bats an eye. Pretty cool.
Today is my last day here before I head to Austria, so I'm living it up: lunch with a friend, high tea, and checking out Carnaby Street and Notting Hill (and of course hoping to run into Hugh Grant). Because my car is coming at 2am (!) to take me to the airport, I will most likely blog tonight about today. Get excited.
I don't think I have jet lag, just insomnia - and it may kill me. I have been passing out cold for like two hours, and then waking up in the middle of the night for three hours before I can go back to sleep. Hoping at some point it will catch up with me and I will get a solid 8 (10??) hours of sleep, but that's neither here nor there.
Grabbed lunch at a local spot yesterday, only to find my corporate card got declined. (Turns out it was a bank issue and all of the travel and entertainment cards were getting turned down. Unfortunately for the Accounting department, all of the execs - and me - are traveling right now, so I'm sure they had some fun emails going back and forth.) I pulled out some cash to pay for my soup, but the nice man behind the counter (shout-out, Antonio!) told me it was on the house. Embarrassing and flattering, all at once. #storyofmylife
Walked down to Big Ben/Parliament last night and had "dinner" (aka yogurt parfait and a latte) - hey, when the company isn't paying, I'm barely eating. Am I right. Tonight, my former boss is taking me to a nice dinner with an amazing view, so that should make up for last night's sad dinner. Near the London Eye I noticed a souvenir shop with these hats in the window:
I mean, I thought about it for a half-second.
On the homefront, I left my sweet Charlie with my friend Jon, and all I asked was that he keep her alive. He sent the following photo yesterday:
Apparently she has taken over his dog Ace's bed, and won't move. She sleeps there and stays there all day. So although clearly severely depressed, at least she's alive. And I'll consider that a win.
Delayed 6 hours out of DFW due to mechanical problems, and found myself in the middle seat of that dreaded 5-seat row. Luckily I only had to go to the bathroom twice in 8 hours. (The 10-hour flight home could be another story.) Watched Trainwreck, and felt bad for the elderly French couple next to me who I'm sure could see the sex scenes and thought poorly of both Americans and American filmmaking. But arrive in London I did, sweaty and disgusting, but alive - and hallelujah, so did my luggage!
I went to Harrods yesterday, mastering the subway to do so. Man it's hot down there. Which means more sweat. Which means today I utilized the hotel laundry service for the first time ever. I'm sorry - 10 days over here plus sweaty clothes equals gross. Problem solved! For dinner I found a cute little restaurant on the bank of the Thames and had a really good salad and some wine. #becauseeurope
Went for a jog this morning - also down the Thames - and got to hear Big Ben chime. Pretty awesome. Planning on going back tonight to get a good pic of - wait for it - Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! - and found a cute sushi place I might have to try.
It always tickles me to see what random American shows are on TV here. This morning? Back-to-back episodes of Third Rock from the Sun. Which, although funny, are so outdated they mentioned President Clinton. And they didn't mean Hillary.
Attempted porridge this morning - thought it would be like oatmeal, but it was grosser - and felt obliged to drink some English tea. Now a thrilling day at work - here's hoping I don't fall asleep at my desk, although I do that almost every day in Dallas so I really can't blame jet lag.
In Vienna I wanted to see the Vienna Boys Choir - but not paying $100 to go to church. So I might just buy the CD. Instead I am taking a day trip to Budapest and will enjoy a day of leisurely sight-seeing in Vienna as well. Kind of excited to see the Danube, not gonna lie. And I am SO coming back with one of these:
Headed to Europe on Saturday for 10 (!) days. Will try to blog while I'm there, but will spend the next few posts previewing my adventures. Going to London for the first few days for work, but will have some fun (i.e. shopping spree at Harrod's) thrown in. Then I'm off to Salzburg, where I'm eating dinner in the oldest restaurant in Europe. Seriously - founded in 803. That's over 1200 years old, folks. #dothemath
It's a three-course, candlelit dinner with live musicians and opera singers performing Mozart. I MEAN. Fairly sad that I'm going by myself, as it would make for a super-romantic date, but still. Once in a lifetime opportunity that I'm going to capitalize on.
The next day, taking the Sound of Music tour. #becausesalzburg I fear there will be people dressed as nuns and lots of singalongs, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And then maybe I'll be all hyped up to come back to Dallas and see Sound of Music. One can only hope.
Went with a friend last night to a sneak preview for some movie, similar to how we saw The Interview. It started at 7 and the invitation said to be there by 6. The line was already crazy long, but we had our passes and got in line with everyone else. They don't allow cell phones, so my friend and I got to catch up on everything. And I mean everything. After an hour and a half, they told us they were full, gave us a pass for a free movie of our choice, and sent us home. What the hell. We should have at least been given free popcorn. #humph
I finally got around to watching Supergirl this weekend, and really enjoyed it. The best part? Casting Dean Cain and Helen Slater as Kara's adoptive parents! Superman and the original Supergirl! Hope I'm not the only one who noticed that. #holygeekdom