Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

October, 2011

October, 2011
Chess in Lausanne, Switzerland

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Since Austria...

After screaming in on the Saturday before Easter (this time with the right baggage) we opted for the more reliable Gatwick Express to take us home.

Once there we switched gears, left kids with pizza and sitter and headed off to the pub for dinner with our visitors. After a lovely meal and good company, we enjoyed the ambience and an after dinner drink at the Warrington.

Easter Sunday donned with sleepy kids (and then of course the Easter bunny had visited, hid eggs, etc.) so our Mass plans moved to noon and we arrived 10 minutes prior to beat the rush for a pew. No need to worry; the place was practically empty.

As we waited we felt a presence close behind and low and behold, it was Father hitting me up to read. Apparently his Easter Mass Lector had just emailed to cancel. (Who cancels on Easter without finding a backup? It’s only the most important day of the year in the Catholic church…).

So there you have it: my lecturing opportunity came through in a big way. I was the first and second reader. And as I glanced up from my spot on stage I did notice the pews filled up, so the level of apathy isn’t entire.

From Mass we hit the Clifton Pub. Doesn’t that sound great…a belt of religion followed by a pint. And one wonders why more people aren’t Catholic.

There we met Mike, Liz and boys and had a lovely traditional English Sunday roast for our Easter meal. We were offered a choice of roast beef or lamb with roasted or mashed potatoes, veggies, etc. All good. And we shared a couple desserts – sticky toffee pudding, banofee pie.

Then we wandered to the famed Beatles crossing to snap photos of the Wilcoxes. Actually this was our first time contributing to the traffic backlog; generally we just breeze through the crossing and no doubt spoil plenty of photos and video footage en route.

Easter Monday found the Wilcoxes en route to Paris while we headed down to the Quilt Exhibit at the V&A. It’s a great exhibit; we all did the audio guides and learned about quilting throughout the ages – its artistic applications, contributions to the home and economy, décor, status, craftsmanship, preservation and more.

Then we mosied over to Covent Garden area for Tex Mex at Wahaca. First time we’ve had decent Tex Mex cuisine in nearly two years, I think. It was cheap, cheerful and kid-friendly, too.

The rest of the week both kids were off school so we plugged in some Swiss Cottage swim lessons (I’m determined to work that credit down!!!).

And Claire did pony day on a lovely, warm day; she was one of a very small group so got to be more hands on, which she loved. She’s been sporting a wealth of information about the various horses, their personalities, habits, roles, etc. at Westway Stables.

We ended the day dyeing eggs. (This we would have done earlier but I had a difficult time finding non-brown eggs. Eventually Ava and I landed some pastel-colored eggs; these are produced by some rather artistic chickens, I guess. They worked quite well for the dyeing, actually resulting in more vivid hues.)

On Wed. we headed to Islington, a new part of town for us, where we attended Little Angels Theatre, a very intimate venue with wooden benches. We got to pick our own seats so found ourselves in the front row. The kids loved it – a production called “Who’s been sitting in my chair?” based on Goldilocks. One very talented actor did all the speaking parts, effects and puppets, using a very cleverly designed stage to make seasonal and scene changes throughout. The level of talent for such a wide array of theatre is astounding in this town.

For lunch we hit Giraffe, which is great fun for the kids, then to the library for a load of books as the day had become rainy, good reading weather.

Thursday our friends returned from what sounds like a great visit to Paris. We made our way to swimming and then McDonalds for the promised once-in-a-blue-moon fried lunch (bribes for swimming!). We took our food to go after listening to a nasty attack on the staff by two young men with their pants hanging down practically to their knees. (Who deemed that style attractive and when is it going to die?)

The two threw racial slurs at the staff, then trash. I’ve yet to figure out why no one called the cops. Given we’d already committed to the food we moved as far away from these weirdos, grabbed our bag and ran.

Our afternoon entertainment was “Legally Blonde” – the kids’ 2nd West End production. And great fun. The two dogs featured in the production were highlights.
After scoring stuffed souvenirs priced entirely too high we made our way home for a farewell dinner w/ the Wilcoxes.

On Friday they departed early, the kids and I had a relaxed lunch and park time with friends. Nice to soak in the sun.

Joe and I ended the week at the National Portrait Gallery with the Irving Penn (an American photographer well known for his portraiture) photography exhibit. We then caught a very informal bite at the Stockpot, a local Soho joint that’s very cheap and cheerful, and clearly popular among the non-heterosexual crowd. We followed that with dessert at another similarly diverse spot.

And on Saturday, which boasted spectacular weather, we took a picnic to Primrose Hill and perched on the hillside with numerous other Londoners. We then hit a very busy playground and stopped at St. Johns Wood High Street’s new gelato shop for free ice cream!

Sunday I read at Mass…common theme of late. Then onto Marleybone market with Ava for lots of spring produce, some free flowers (always good to shop with the 5-year-old crowd) and plenty of samples.

Monday it was back to school/work for Joe and Claire. Ava and I got to play a bit more as Abercorn kicked back into gear on Thurs. On our list: bike and shoe shopping, carpet cleaning. The latter was critical given Ava and her friend Ava managed to leave hand prints on the stairs after a recent paint fest. NICE.

I went to “The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters” exhibit with a friend last week. It was fabulous, with “over 35 original letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, on display; together with around 65 paintings and 30 drawings that express the principal themes to be found within the correspondence.”

We were there forever given it was a mob scene (pretty much the same as when Claire’s class went, though they had 30 minutes and we had three hours).
On Friday I hosted my book group, wherein several of us discussed Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. And over the weekend my dear friend Patty visited so we got to catch up. We spent some time wandering Greenwich on Saturday, and on Sunday we all trooped up Tower Bridge for great views of London and insight on the building of the bridge, its use, how it works, etc.

This week ash continues to keep planes out of the air, which has us wondering about guests and our upcoming plans to visit Amsterdam…

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Happy Belated Easter, all! We hope everyone had a nice holiday. Plenty of chocolate, I trust.

All is well in our corner of the world. We thoroughly enjoyed Austria, though day 1 I told Joe it was trying to kick us in the tush. Well maybe I used a little stronger language…

First, we learned our Lipizzaner performance had been cancelled due to continued cough issue. BUMMER.

Then we left our hacienda. We were picked up by cab because we thought that would be easiest/most expeditious. In future, Gatwick Express all the way… Cab rolled right along until we got a few miles from Gatwick and then it took 20 minutes to go one mile. Ugh.

So we got to the airport 1 hour 20 minutes before flight. Still ok if you hustle, keeping in mind customs and security. BUT there are north and south terminals at this particular aeropuerto and we had no instruction for either SO rolled the dice and tried north. Wrong. This entailed getting back in cab and driving to south terminal (big airport).

You people who make fun of small airports like Bozeman’s would be the first ones begging for something you could traverse on foot quickly in such circumstances.

Once in the correct terminal the line to EasyJet was ominous. BUT thankfully we did have speedy boarding so were able to skip the line, hit security and eat. Then I noticed the sign that said it takes 20 minutes to get to gate 30, which was our gate. At that time the departure list said our flight was boarding.

So we hustled it to 30. Thankfully the 20 minute walk was clearly estimated for someone out of shape and heavily burdened with luggage sans wheels. We had no problem getting there in a timely fashion and on board to find seats. EJ does the old Southwest maneuver: make a mad dash for a seat and it’s yours.

A short while later we were in Salzburg, grabbed our bags, which came off together and were on our way.

Once at Hotel Auersperg we putzed around a bit, decided to unpack before heading into the city centre and low and behold found a lock on one of our suitcases…Not our suitcase.

So Joe headed off with the twin of our bag back to the airport; the kids and I unpacked the other bag (which had all of Joe’s clothes; kids and I were of course packed in the one MIA).

And yes, kids’ stuff and my stuff fits in one big bag and Joe’s stuff, well, it fits in another big bag. What is wrong with this picture? Now I can see you all imaging we three wearing same clothes day in, day out. While I do pack light – sometimes to a fault – we do all have clean clothes to last and given we were doing one week in Austria, we were in good shape. That is, had we had bag in hand.

From our room the kids and I wandered down through Salzburg, over the bridge, through the old sections of town and to our restaurant. It was carved into the side of a mountain, as are many of Salzburg’s buildings. Very cool cave interior, very cosy and warm with wooden tables, candles and the like.

A short while later Joe showed up with the right suitcase in tow. Let’s just say the other one was chauffeured courtesy of Weber family to its rightful owner in some city miles from Salzburg.

Our waitress didn’t speak much English; we have a deficit of German. Therein were we surprised when the kids’ food showed up. We expected salami, cheese and ham (all served separately). Instead we got a pizza with said ingredients. Kids adjusted.
I ordered the goulash, one of the area’s specialties (very tasty). Joe had the best dish – stuffed pork dumplings.

First day in Austria: no disasters but definitely bemusing.

Second day in Austria: nothing like the first.

After a buffet breakfast ranging from bacon, croissants and freshly squeezed carrot/apple juice (that’s way too healthy for me) to pickles, olives and several different types of REALLY good cheese, rolls, salami and prosciutto, plus cereals, fruits etc., we were picked up and delivered to a tour bus for our “Sound of Music” tour. Having just watched the movie, we were all prepared to burst into song and climb the hills. Well ok, listen to some music on the bus and get out periodically for photos.

Some of our stops included the gazebo (which Hollywood made look much bigger), the Von Trapp houses (the real one and the Hollywood one), the train station where which they departed (as opposed to the Alps they hiked over), the church where they got married, the Abbey where Maria lived (different building than the site of the wedding), the lake the kids fell into…

It was a gorgeous day, we got to see great views and sites around Salzburg and in the countryside and we sampled the famed Sacher Torte.

Afterward we wandered through the Mirabelle gardens (see below)

The Mirabelle Palace was built by Prince Arbishop Wolf Dietrich in 1606 for his mistress, Salome Alt, and her children. It was converted to the baroque style in two stages. First, in 1689 a new palace and garden were designed by Fischer von Erlach. Second, Lukas von Hildebrandt remodelled the garden between 1721 and 1727. The central axis of the garden is aligned on Hohensalzburg, the castle on the other side of the River Salzach. It has a central fountain, an outdoor theatre and a marvellous sculpture collection. Mirabelle has a key position in the town, near the river and between the old town and the commercial new town. It is also, as Jellicoe observed, draws upon the surrounding landscape. It is a beautiful place, always full of people and more redolent of the atmosphere of a Court Garden than most of old Europe's extant Hofgartens. Mirabelle Palace is used as a registry office and elegantly dressed couples contribute to its courtly air. Mirabelle Garden and the summerhouse at Hellbrunn were used in the film of the Sound of Music about the von Trapp family.

We then hopped on a different bus for a tour of one of the area’s Salt Mines. This one was a working mine in Bavaria, Germany, so we crossed the border and enjoyed the scenery en route. We soon found ourselves donning navy blue overalls with stripes that light up under fluorescents.

Next, we piled on trains with numerous other tourists, going down dark tunnels into a mountain.

After disembarking we went through various parts of the mine, listening to presentations about salt mining. At two junctures along the way we got to slide down wooden slides – were schooled to lift our feet and let go, and that we’d automatically come to a halt at the bottom. Sure enough, we slid rapidly down and came to an abrupt end. Rivals the Disney experience (well the slide part anyway).
At another juncture we crossed a pool of water on a boat. And to return back up to catch the train we took one of those caged mine elevators. In between we got to see a laser light show depicting salt crystals in layers of sediment, various pieces of equipment (modern and retired) used for different aspects of the process, demonstrations of how much salt an average adult consumes in a year, etc. We even got to taste a bit of VERY salty water. Which Ava loved. Each of us left with a tiny shaker of salt for a souvenir.

From our mine we were retrieved by bus and taken to a little Bavarian mountain town for a little free time. The kids found some painted wooden eggs for souvenirs and we wandered around the shops, took photos, etc. Spectacular setting: mountains all the way around, one of which plays host to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus).

About the Eagle’s Nest – it’s a chalet-style building which was an extension of the Obersalzberg complex built by the Nazis in the mountains near Berchtesgaden. The Kehlsteinhaus was an official 50th birthday present for Adolf Hitler. Nicknamed Eagle's Nest by a French diplomat, it was meant to be a retreat for Hitler and a place for him to entertain visiting dignitaries.

The Kehlsteinhaus is situated on a ridge at the top of the Kehlstein mountain (6,017 ft), reached by a spectacular 4 mile long and 13 ft wide road that cost 30 million Reichsmarks to build (about 150 million euros in 2007, adjusted in line with inflation). It includes five tunnels but only one hairpin turn and climbs 2,300 ft.

The last 406 ft up to the Kehlsteinhaus are reached by an elevator bored straight down through the mountain and linked via a tunnel through the granite below that is 124 m (406 ft) long. The inside of the large elevator car is surfaced with polished brass, Venetian mirrors and green leather (the elevator is still used daily). Construction of the mountain elevator system cost the lives of 12 construction workers. The main reception room is dominated by a fireplace of red Italian marble, presented by Mussolini.

A significant event held at the Kehlsteinhaus was the wedding reception that followed the marriage of Eva Braun's sister Gretl to Hermann Fegelein on June 3, 1944. The event was filmed and amongst others Martin Bormann can be seen there. The building is also often called "Hitler's Tea House", but this is a misnomer. Hitler did not treat the Kehlsteinhaus as a tea house, and the location he visited daily for afternoon tea was actually the Mooslahnerkopf Teehaus.

Although the site is on the same mountain as the Berghof, Hitler rarely visited the property. It has been suggested he only visited the Kehlsteinhaus around 10 times, and most times for no more than 30 minutes. However he did receive the departing French ambassador to Germany André François-Poncet there on October 18, 1938. Perhaps because of the lack of close association with Hitler, the property was saved from demolition at the end of the war.

The Kehlsteinhaus was subsequently used by the Allies as a military command post until 1960, when it was handed back to the State of Bavaria.

After leaving our bus behind we regrouped at the hotel, then sought out the Stiftskeller St. Peter, another restaurant carved into the mountainside. Great food, lovely setting – beautiful, ornate rooms where frequently Mozart concerts are performed for diners.

I had the spring menu – lovely goat cheese appetizer, soup with stuffed beef pasta (probably my favorite course), pork and melted chocolate torte for dessert.


Today we had another delicious breakfast; I’m all about the cheese. I’d also taken my second early morning walk – lovely city to wander early in the day, while Joe and kids snoozed.

Yesterday I’d gone up to the Fortress overlooking the city, today up to a Nunnery on another hill. (Salzburg’s history is steeped in Catholicism, including some powerful and big spending Archbishop whose mistress had more than a dozen children. Ah there’s no end to scandals in the Catholic church is there? I can say that; I am one. A Catholic, that is. Maybe scandalous, too.)

After breakfast we were picked up for a tour around town – this time in a van. Our driver gave us a good historical sense of the area, we drove by all the key historical sites, particularly those related to Mozart and were left at the bottom of the funicular.

Before going up in it (elevator type thing on tracks that would take us quickly up to the fortress without any complaints from 5-year-old legs) we stopped for a pretzel (in Austria a pretzel is like a loaf of bread w/ salt on it – fabulous) and checked out the Dom:

This site has hosted a Christian church since 774. The original was replaced with a late-Romanesque structure built in 1181-1200.

The Romanesque cathedral burned down in 1598 and Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich took advantage of (some would say caused) the destruction to demolish the rest and make plans for a grand new cathedral to reaffirm Salzburg's commitment to the Catholic cause in the face of the Reformation.

However, Dietrich's overthrow prevented the completion of this project. The present cathedral was commissioned by Archbishop Markus Sittikus Count Hohenems and designed by the Italian architect Santino Solari. It was consecrated in 1628 by Archbishop Paris Count Lodron.

Then up to the Fortress, where we checked out some great views, the marionette museum and state rooms. Huge museum with tons of treasures:

Salzburg Fortress (Hohensalzburg) is the icon of Salzburg and the largest fortress of its kind in Europe to have survived intact in its entirety.

Hohensalzburg was built by Archbishop Gebhard in 1077. Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach (1495-1519) presided over an extensive expansion of the fortress. Its greatest attractions for today's visitor include the medieval Princes' Chambers and the Fortress Museum.

The origins of the building, now almost a thousand years old, can be traced back to the time of the Investiture Controversy, the dispute between the kings and the Papacy over the investiture of bishops. In the course of the conflict, Archbishop Gebhard von Salzburg, who sided with the Papacy, ordered the construction of the defensive installations of Hohensalzburg, Hohenwerfen, and Friesach in his territory. This first stage in the development of Hohensalzburg Fortress came to an end under Gebhard's successor, Archbishop Conrad I (1160-47).

For centuries, the archiepiscopal fortress retained its role as a refuge for the ecclesiastical rulers of the diocese of Salzburg. For example, the archbishops withdrew to the fortress when Salzburg and its lands were caught up in the upheaval of the Hungarian War and the Peasants' War. It was during this period that the main building was extended and the arsenal and granary created. The fortress owes its modern appearance to Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach (1495-1519), who had it extended and commissioned the lavish decoration of its interior. Ornamental paintings and skillfully crafted Gothic carvings can be admired in the Golden Hall and the Golden Room. Fifty-eight inscriptions and the famous coat of arms are additional reminders of his rule. Since the days of Leonhard von Keutschach, the lion that is the symbol of the fortress has held a beetroot in its paws. The last significant structural modification to the fortress was the construction of the impressive Khuenburg bastion.

Throughout its long history, Hohensalzburg has never been captured or successfully besieged by its enemies. The only damage suffered by the fortress was relatively insignificant and occurred during the Peasants' War. Malevolent peasants managed to gain control of a cannon and fired straight at their overlord's residence from the Kapitelplatz square in the city below. To this day, the dent left in a thick column of Untersberg marble bears witness to the only direct threat to leave its mark on the building.

During periods when there was no direct military threat to the city, it was used as a barracks and prison.

After heading back down the mountain we stopped at an outdoor café to soak up the sunshine and share a wienerschnitzel. I then peeled off to hit the museum of modern art, kids and Joe sought out some ice cream.

We met up a bit later to attend a marionette performance of “The Magic Flute.” Too bad I didn’t realize until well into it that the story was relayed in the abridged version on a screen to the side…(I thought Joe had a twitch which made him keep turning to the right).

Before dinner we collapsed at the hotel for a bit, then hit Alt Salzburg for our last evening meal in the city. A very traditional, quaint little restaurant in the heart of Old Town where we had great service and very good food. Again, weinerschnitzel for Claire. I had stuffed nudeln (sp?) with crayfish – very nice dish, Joe had duck. We all left happy and made our exit as a big group of what looked like concert attendees made their way in.


This a.m. I got up for a final walk around the city, stopped in at the Church of St. Sebastian. Lovely. Behind it is the cemetery where Mozart and others of fame are buries so I walked through. It’s also lovely, packed with markers, family plots, statues and memorials.

And then we left for the train station, which is in a state of repair. After discerning we were waiting for the wrong train to Vienna (the slow one) we hightailed it to a different bin and a couple hours later arrived in the big city.
Our Turkish cab driver had only good things to say about Vienna, gave us an overview on the sites around our hotel and told us which cafes to hit.

After settling in we made our way to the center of town and took a carriage ride. Nice, relaxing, if a bit bumpy way to see many of Vienna’s gorgeous buildings and streets. From there we hit St. Stephansdom, checked it out then climbed the 340 or so steps up the North Tower.

The motivation for climbing all of these European towers, domes and monuments is of course due to the great views, appreciation for the work that went into some of these historic buildings, etc. And frankly because we can. Let’s face it; if we end up back here in our 70’s we’ll be doing bus tours and climbing a max of 30 stairs while moaning about the impact on our knees.

About the church:

The Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) in Vienna has survived through many wars and has become a symbol of Vienna's freedom. The Gothic cathedral was first built in 1147 AD and its most recognizable characteristic, the diamond-patterned tile roof, was added in 1952.

The first church to occupy the site of St. Stephan's Cathedral was a Romanesque church, which was replaced by a larger Romanesque basilica in 1147. A major fire in 1258 destroyed the basilica and construction on the present Gothic cathedral began in the early 14th century.

The cathedral suffered damage during the Turkish seige of 1683 and again in the closing days of World War II, when fire from street fighting leapt to the rooftop.

The cathedral was reopened in 1948; the roof was repaired and decorated with ceramic tiles donated by Viennese citizens in 1950.

Among the important events that have occurred at St. Stephen's are Mozart's wedding in 1782 and his funeral in December 1791.

The tower we climbed rises to 450 feet and is named Alter Steffl, "Old Steve." Originally built between 1359 and 1433, it was reconstructed after severe war damage.

The Dom’s Pummerin bell is one of the largest bells in the world, cast from a cannon captured from the Turks in 1683. It rings out over the city on New Year's Eve.
The "O5" carved into the stone outside the cathedral's massive front door has important historical significance. The 5 stands for the fifth letter of the alphabet, E. When added to the O it makes OE, the abbreviation for Österreich (Austria). It was a covert sign of resistance to the Nazi annexation of Austria.

After our climb we all needed sustenance so we found the acclaimed Café Central and had coffee/drinks and desserts – apple strudel for me, chocolate cake for the kids, some decadent chocolate drink for Joe.

Sugared up we wandered a bit, then had dinner at the Palmenhaus, a wonderful restaurant in an arboretum. Gorgeous, lofty place with lovely palms here and there – very good food, too – we shared the Palmenhaus starter (big capers, prosciutto, cheese and salad) – lovely olive tapenade. And we also shared the mixed seafood grill. Fabulous fish and grilled veggies.


This morning I took a walk around Vienna, found myself on the city’s major shopping street. A little window shopping and some great smells wafting from all the bakeries.
Back at the K&K Maria Teresa we started with another breakfast of plenty; Claire was happy: crispy bacon, croissants and nutella. Ava’s again gone in for the sliced peppers, salami and pickles.

Lovely blue sky day and we were off by bus for a tour around the city, then to the Schunbrunn Palace (summer palace of the Hapsburgs). It’s immense and painted in the color of royalty – gold.

Our guide took us through several of the rooms, gave us some great sound bites, we all oohed and ahed over the fancy furnishings, décor, etc.

In our free time we wandered the market out front of the palace and the gardens in back. Back on the bus we got some insight on life in Austria today…kids go to school until noon, lunch at home, university is paid for, as is healthcare. Retirement at 65 and 50 for women and men, respectively, paid at 80 percent of salary. We’ll move here when we’re decrepit. Of course none of this is free – taxes up to 50%.

After being dropped off at the Opera House, center city, we walked to Nashtmarkt for lunch – a long strip of market shops (lots of food) and restaurants. With the nice weather we opted for a German sidewalk café and had bratwursts and more schnitzel. Then we wandered through more market stuff and hopped a cab down to the Danube. No boat cruises just yet so we headed to nearby Prater Park for the infamous Giant Ferris Wheel.

Of course that was our first order of business – it was built in the late 1800’s so feels a bit rickety but that didn’t cause us much pause. Our rectangular “car” had a wooden plank seat in the middle, which we shared with several other Ferris wheel friends. Great views and the perfect, clear, sunny afternoon for it.

We then wandered further into the amusement park, found the ponies and stopped for rides. Then onto the train for a spin through the place – it’s HUGE. And aren’t all amusement parks the same world-over? Tacky w/ cheap plastic lights, bored attendants, deep fried food and a wide mix of visitors. I think the kids are much more excited about the thrill rides these days…bummer their parents' stomachs aren’t quite up for the excitement.

From the park we hit the Vienna underground – quick and easy to use – and collapsed before dinner. I sought out the hotel sauna. It was fiercely hot; after turning it down and (cardinal sin) letting some air out it felt less like a roasting oven.

For dinner we headed to Wiener Rathauskeller, which I guess I assumed to be a very casual publike restaurant near the hotel. Low and behold we found ourselved in the basement of the very gorgeous, stately Rauthaus and the restaurant was beautifully decorated, very elegant and ornate.

We had a lovely meal. I had the very traditional Austrian noodles and cabbage (which sounds non-descript but done by the Wiener Rathauskeller chef was amazing), Joe had steak, kids: wienerschnitzel.


This morning was chillier; thank heavens for really good coffee. Off we went to watch the Lippizaners train. We didn’t hear any of them cough though…

We watched two different groups of riders work their gorgeous, graceful white horses through various gaits and dance moves. Set to music, it was lovely and very relaxing and in a very auspicious setting – amazing chandeliers, ceilings, paintings, etc. decorate the walls of the arena.

Naturally we didn’t leave without a souvenir – a Lippizaner toy set for Claire, purse for Ava.

We then perused the Treasury – amazing amount of Hapsburg and Church wealth on display – crowns, jewelry, coats of arms, robes, decorative swords, various religious symbols inlaid with jewels.

Then we were on to the zoo! Back to Shonbrunn Palace, the time via tube, we stopped by for a bit at Ankar, Austria’s most prevalent bakery. Good sandwiches.

A few hours of admiring hippos, tigers, lions, aviaries and being grossed out by rats and insects later, we found the elephants (which true, are hard to miss) and bathroom. Thus marked our fill of the zoo. Back in our neighborhood we opted for ice cream and hot chocolate. Then we collaped before our last dinner in Austria, this time at Glacis Beisl, just a block from our hotel.

It was another good food stop. The sign outside was a bit dubious but after going downstairs and entering into a lovely area packed with outdoor tables, I was encouraged. The inside was lovely – lots of skilights and windows, lovely wooden tables and candlelight. And we had great service. I tried the goat terrine, which Ava liked. The calvados apples and berry sauce accompanying it were particularly good.

My main was a peirogi dish – very tasty. Joe had kid goat after learning the lamb included organ meats. And kids…well schnitzel all the way.


On our last day in Austria we hurried over to the Zoom Children’s Museum for a 90 minute kids’ art workshop, where each child donned blue or red overalls and made projects in a big studio. Ava made a cool basket among other things, Claire a cool collage, also among other things. A lovely woman served as their interpreter/instructor.

And then to the airport, EasyJet and home via Gatwick Express!!! Much more predictable return.

At home we caught up w/ our guests and their adventures, then we adults headed off to dinner at a traditional English pub and dining room (literally the place is called The Dining Rooms) while the 4 kids had pizza with our babysitter.

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
Largest mosque in India