Dashed hopes of a Boxing Day Sale

Woke up extremely early this morning, obviously still on Eastern Standard Time, way too early for breakfast. Should get up and write but won’t!!! There is a slight breeze blowing the curtains allowing very crisp air to  filter through the open window.  Perhaps it snowed during the night, with that thought I leave the warmth of the bed to peek into the lane to hopefully see a layer of white, no such luck. Instead the scene that greets me is a wet slate roof with mist swirling around the chimney stacks and a silent lane below, an old world wintry scene, but snow would have been better! Oh well, we’re still in beautiful Vienna and perhaps at the Boxing Day sales we’ll snare  a bargain.

After breakfast we wander the streets of Vienna and decide to “do” the touristy things, including riding the Ring tram, a yellow tram specifically for tourists, until the shops open.. Confident the stores would open today I keep checking my watch for the time, don’t want to miss those sales!!! Every city has a Boxing Day sale, don’t they?

Back to the tram if someone is interested in pricing!! The tram cost 7 euros for 30 minutes or 9 euros for 24 hours, naturally we opted for the 24 hour ticket. It works in a similar way to the Hop On Hop Off buses except it’s fully enclosed and only skirts the city area.

Whilst waiting for the tram a young man wandered past looking a little lost. He came back and asked, in a heavy french accent, “do we know where the imperial Hotel is?” Now, I remembered seeing the sign for that hotel on our walk to the tram stop, but my mind was ticking over, where was it? “I think it’s down that way” I replied pointing in the direction he had just come from. Off he strode and as I stood there looking at our surroundings I noticed the imperial Hotel across the road. Oops, better not give any further directions. Although I knew I’d seen the hotel!!!! A short time later the young man walked by again, this time on the phone and heading for the hotel!!!! He didn’t look up as he hurried past us, thank goodness. How embarrassing!!!! Ty was highly amused as my sense of direction is not one of my strong points.  I’m the person who turns the map upside to read it  or has to check the hand my watch is on when I’m told to turn left!!!  Ty wouldn’t let me forget this little mistake…..

It was now after 10.30 am and shops hadn’t opened, except for souvenir shops, so this would be day 3 without shopping! Wasn’t sure I could get through another day without retail therapy. On my first trip to Vienna I’d purchased souvenirs and didn’t feel the need to buy more so I followed Ty and Maryanne into the touristy shops but didn’t make buy, tried on hats, watched others try on hats.

Vienna is a very beautiful city, even in the morning fog and dampness with church spires partly covered by the mist it has lots of charm. Fabulous cake shops and chocolate restaurants are everywhere and the minus temperatures were perfect for imbibing the odd hot chocolate or yummy cake. Fabulous for the waistline a well……..Although one observation made on our wanderings was the Viennese seem to have a fascination with pigs, stuffed toy pigs, meringue pigs, marshmallow pigs, all shapes and sizes of pigs staring out from cake shop windows and street stalls.

cake shop pigs

cake shop pigs

One well-known cake shop/restaurant is Restaurant Sacher and given it was way past lunchtime we decided to combine lunch and afternoon tea. As we turned the corner to the Sacher Hotel we were met by a line of people. The line snaked from inside the hotel  onto the footpath and beyond. Ty suggested we find somewhere else to eat but the line didn’t deter me. Maryanne was also happy to wait in line. We could end up with lunch, afternoon tea and dinner!!! A friend had told us about the Sacher so it was on my list of places to go and I wasn’t going to risk walking away and not making it back.

The line moved quickly and it was soon my turn to step inside the foyer of the restaurant. It was good to be in the warmth, able to defrost at last! Ty and Maryanne still had to wait outside till the line moved forward. Eventually we made it to the front of the queue and before being ushered to our table we had to visit the cloak room to drop off coats, coats, backpacks and other bulky items weren’t allowed in the café. It was 1 euro for each person to retrieve their personal items and everyone had a coat, scarf and earmuffs to deposit!! Once this formality was completed we were shown to our little table in the verandah area. The surroundings were very quaint and quite pleasant even though it was crowded with tables, chairs and people.

As you would expect the hotel is very old world with decor and furnishings to match it’s era, lots of gold etchings on ceilings and walls and Louis 14th style chairs and lounges. Very ornate indeed.

The menu was quite extensive and reasonably priced. The most famous item on their menu is the Sacher Original Torte. Yes, I’d be having a slice of that but first we need to choose a lunch item. Maryanne and I settled on a prawn and smoked salmon dish, Ty chose a prawn salad. A wine waiter came along with the wine list and we duly ordered a glass of Champagne to compliment our dish. When the meal arrived we were pleasantly surprised, it was well presented and not too large, just the right portion size for the women at this table who intended to have dessert. Ty’s dish on the other hand was a little larger with a good amount of prawns. The main meal was delicious, an excellent choice all round.

Whilst sipping wine and eating our delicious meal the line to enter the restaurant had grown considerably longer and the outside temperature was dropping rapidly as the night sky rolled in…..it was only 3 in the afternoon. Still no snow falling.

Hmm, looking too long at the extensive dessert menu could make the choice of what to have extremely difficult, just as well I’d decided on the famous Sacher Torte before I left home….and I’m sticking to my choice. A person has to try it, that’s what they’re famous for.

The Torte arrived positioned in the middle of a large plate dusted with icing sugar and chocolate fancy work. It wasn’t a tiny piece of cake either. Taking up the spoon I slowly scooped a small piece of cake and placed it in my mouth, mmmmm, absolutely divine  melts in your mouth. More cake on the fork this time with a small amount of cream, “oh yes, this is good’ I said to my companions. Maryanne agreed. Ty couldn’t because he had chosen Apple Strudel. Silly person, imagine an amazing array of fabulous cakes on offer and choosing Strudel.

Even the coffee was good, nothing negative to say about the food or customer service and would thoroughly recommend it as a ‘must do’ when visiting Vienna. Certainly don’t be put off by the queues.

When we left the Sacher it was almost dark and only 4 pm, it feels so much later.

We spent the rest of the evening wandering the streets, watching the people milling around the plaza. Being harassed by the touts trying to sell us classical evenings or castle tours. Not interested sorry, we’ve already satisfied our urge (if that’s what we had) for the classics, old world churches and palaces.

We were a little hungry, must be due to the extremely cold weather making our bodies work harder to keep us warm. Hmmm, wonder how long it will take to chomp away at my excess fat, perhaps if I wore less clothes it would work faster and harder. Unfortunately with my luck my body would gain extra padding to keep me warm and not use the fat I have!!!!! Best keep all my extra clothes on.

Even though Wiener Schnitzel was on the menu the first night in Vienna it was time to have it again. Can’t have enough Wiener ……or can you?! We were close to our hotel so rather than head for Figlmuller Restaurant we tried a local place called Wiener World – the name alone should have told us to move on…..we didn’t. Too cold and tired to walk any more blocks we checked the menu outside, looked ok so we stepped in. First impression – it looked tired and old but never judge a book by its cover we allowed the waitress to seat us. Ty chose Schwien schnitzel whilst Maryanne and I went the Wiener. Not a lover of pork really.

A glass of Chardonnay was Maryanne’s choice tipple whilst mine was Sauvignon Blanc. Both can only be described as rough!!!! Ty made a sensible choice opting for Coke zero.

A family of rather large proportions were seated next to us so we became a little worried about the possible portion sizes. Our fears were realised when three large plates were set down in front of us overflowing with large pieces of crumbed veal and chips with a small amount of salad. I was gobsmacked, here sat 2 females, not looking remotely like lumberjacks (or did we in all our winter gear) with a meal in front of us that would have been more suited to Mr Lumberjack just back from a day in the forest. “Hello, hasn’t anyone here heard of portion control?” I wanted to shout out. It was a huge meal!!!! The family beside us also received the same portions which the man of the family demolished before I had time to cut my second bite size piece. My appetite disappeared very quickly after that even though the meat was delicious. I have to say the porker, sorry, the man at our table, my husband, demolished his schwien schnitzel although he ate at a steadier pace than the man next to us!!!! Feeling very guilty about the waste on my plate I had to forgo dessert!!!! A good thing given we only had a hop, step and no jump to our hotel.

So be warned if you visit Vienna – Wiener World is for lumberjacks and people with very large appetites with extremely large appetites, not for gentile folk. It feels a bit like a fast food restaurant inside however, It was a very popular place.

Still a little jet lagged so bed early again tonight. Perhaps the shops will be open tomorrow ‘cos this little duck is starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms………

misty street scene

A camera, a blanket of snow and Central Park

ImageThis morning we had our second photographic tour; around Central Park. It had snowed the day before so the park wore a patchy blanket of snow. It was one of those “aaahhh” moments for me even though it was freezing – it was so pretty.

To join our tour we took the Subway from 50th St to Central Park, the red line going uptown (for those contemplating a trip to NY). The NY subway is fast, frequent and interesting. More subway stories later though. It was only one stop to 59th St and a short walk to where we were meeting Troy and Maryanne. We were early so took the opportunity to take a few photos of our surroundings whilst being hassled intermittently by Pedi cab drivers wanting to take us around the park. One in particular kept coming by and asking if we wanted a ride, we laughed and told him he must have a memory issue as there weren’t that many people here at 9.30am on a bitterly cold morning and he’d already asked us 2 minutes ago! I suppose he thought if he kept asking we’d eventually give in.

Four squirrels were out playing in the snow and only stopped moving if a dog wandered past. A dog walker with 10 pooches of varying sizes passed by and we were amazed at how well behaved the dogs were, all walking in unison, no arguments or nipping at each other’s heels. On the other side a little dog walked by wearing a lovely beige overcoat and little bright orange booties…..it walked very gingerly lifting each foot in an exaggerated fashion; obviously the booties were not an accessory this pooch had chosen.

Maryanne and Troy arrived at our meeting point and we continued on to General Sherman’s statue at the other end of the park to meet Rob, our photo tour guide. Rob was lucky enough to be our guide 2 days in a row…..he mightn’t think he was lucky though. The Central Park tour was a 3 hour walking tour with lots of different subject matter to photograph with Rob critiquing all our camera work. He took us through the manual settings of each of our cameras and told us the best settings to use for each subject. The winter park scene was quite spectacular as I’m sure the summer scene would be with all the greenery. The park is quite amazing with bridges and arches, sporting complexes, a bandstand and many walkways. The lakes and water features also presented a pretty winter scene. There were underpasses with buskers playing, one archway had a choir singing Christmas carols. The park was man made, is still evolving and spans a massive area. We walked through many areas of the park to photograph set subjects, even though it felt like we’d walked the entire park we had hardly touched a small portion of it. We started at general Sherman’s statue on one side and ended the tour across from the Dakota Building. A small square section of the park, I think….as most of you would be aware, direction is not my strong point….so I couldn’t tell you whether we were on the North, South, East or West side of the park….sorry about that!!!

Rob, our guide, wore jeans and a light hooded jacket, no gloves or scarf so by the end of the tour his hands were shaking and his voice was affected by the bitter cold. We were wearing that many sets of clothing it was hard to walk at times and here was our guide dressed for a cool autumn day. The question had to be asked “Aren’t you cold? It’s freezing and you’re hardly wearing any clothes.” The answer “it’s difficult to be rugged up with gloves and scarves when I have to help with camera settings and take us through the instruction book”. We all nodded in acceptance of his answer. Each one of us thinking the same thing…we’d find a good reason to stay indoors!! Even though the skies were blue and the sun was shining it was still extremely cold but we were thankful it wasn’t raining or snowing like yesterday.

After the tour four frozen and hungry individuals made a b-line for the Time Warner shopping centre. The eateries on the lower level were overflowing with people so we headed upstairs to the 2nd level and were lucky enough to nab a table. Well, should say we hovered over a table where a young guy was packing up his books. Maryanne and I stood close enough to ensure we could claim the table ahead of any other contenders. Yes, it was like a game of sorts and after walking for the past 4 hours we were entitled to that table and the seats!!!! I was ready to tackle anyone who dared try and take it from us.

Maryanne ordered soup for lunch and when, after a long wait, opened the container only to find it was lukewarm, we talked her into taking it back and asking them to reheat it…..Yes, I know what you’re thinking but no one can eat lukewarm soup. When the soup came back it was boiling, we thought they may have made it even hotter on purpose!! Tables and chairs were so much in demand that just looking like you were getting up had others rushing over to take your place. The saying ‘would you jump into my grave as quickly’ comes to mind.

Maryanne and Troy transferred to the Crowne Plaza (where we were) this afternoon which meant a couple of hours relaxation time for us whilst we waited for them. Once they checked in Troy wanted to visit the M&M store across the road so three of us trotted over to the store. Can you believe it – we had to line up further up the road, “this is mad, I can’t believe I’m lining up to enter an M&M store” I laughingly said to my companions, “I don’t even like M&M’s particularly”. I was amused at the lines to get into the Hershey chocolate store at the corner of our hotel now I’m standing in a similar line!!! The store is 3 floors and was packed with people, we could hardly move, troy likened it to an Ikea store!!! Perhaps that was because we were walking round in circles or so it seemed. Given we were in the store I felt compelled to purchase a small bag of M&M’s, I don’t even like them that much but after lining up to get into the store and then fighting the crowds on every floor of the store I couldn’t leave empty handed could I??

As we left the store the numbers of people on the street had increased considerably and it wasn’t NYE yet. That evening we left our hotel to go to dinner….we’d decided something light was in order for dinner…..ok, where to go? We headed to the other side of Times Square to see what was on offer but we could hardly move for people. Every eatery was jammed with people; McDonald’s had crowds lined up on the street trying to get in and inside was a sea of people. There was no choice but to keep walking, further and further from Times Square, trying to find a place that wasn’t packed to the hilt. Eventually, after an hour of walking, we came across Rosie O’Grady’s and it wasn’t as busy as other places so we went in. Within 10 minutes we were seated at a table ordering drinks….

Troy seemed to have a disarming effect on the waitress, so much so she couldn’t think straight; instead of bringing more drinks she brought another basket of bread rolls. Eventually his glass of wine arrived in front of him. We thought we might order dessert so asked the waitress for the dessert menu. A short time later the waitress arrived with every dessert available on a large tray. We all took one look and I decided against it, seeing large dishes like that will always dampen my appetite.

All too soon it was time to step back out into the cold night not before we take another 10 minutes to put all our scarves, ear muffs, hats, coats and gloves back on. Takes ages to undress and redress when you step into shops or restaurants. Needless to say and I know this will shock everyone, I haven’t purchased any clothing at all…..nothing, nil, zilch!!! The thought of taking off all these clothes to try on other clothes then put them all back on again fills me with horror. Actually, since arriving in New York I haven’t bought much of anything, including souvenirs. Note to self; must rectify this problem.

Stepping back out into the street the bitter wind hits us in the face, so icy anyone would think we’re in the arctic. The crowd on the streets has thickened considerably since we went into the restaurant, my goodness, if this is the day before NYE NY will be at a standstill around this area tomorrow night. We have to push ourselves through the crowds to get back to our hotel on Times Square. This many people in this small area is a little scary.

Finally we make it to the front door of our hotel….it’s almost 10 pm and we left the eatery around 9 pm, almost an hour to walk 3 or 4 blocks. How mad is that? So far I’m really enjoying this city, it’s a great place, so much to do and see. Right now though, it’s time to get warm and go to bed ready for another very busy day and night tomorrow. Hopefully I will sleep longer than 4 hours – still waking up at 3.30 or 4 am which, as you can imagine, is really annoying.

Goodnight from me……happy New Year to everyone welcoming the New Year before we do.