If you haven’t heard of the show ‘Hamilton’, it’s the critically acclaimed musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about one of the founding fathers of the United States – Alexander Hamilton. The casting announcement opened for ‘Hamilton’ in London in December 2016; tickets went on sale January 30, 2017. So in true fashion, my friend and I were at our computers the day, hour, minute and second the ticket sales went out to the public. I waited in a “virtual” queue for multiple hours until it was my turn to snag four tickets for the January 11, 2018 show. January 11th happens to be Alexander Hamilton’s birthday, too! Didn’t know it until after we saw the show. Originally, the first show was scheduled for November 2017, which seemed disappointing at the time to have to wait until our showing in January. In retrospect, it worked out because those who got tickets for November/December shows had to be moved since the production wasn’t quite ready.
So, the four of us got to experience what all the fuss was about. It really did live up to the hype! During the whole show I was in awe of just how creative, catchy, and informative(!) it all was. The choreography was outstanding/demanding, and to think they usually do two shows a day! I don’t know how they do it. I did check out instagram after the show to start following a few of the actors from that night, one of them posted a pic of a box full of “Shack Burgers” from Shake Shack. Maybe that’s how they do it!
Who would’ve thought to make a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, and then think it would work?! If you get an opportunity to see it, don’t throw away your shot!
I met Nicole at an organized meet-up for expats in December 2013. We’ve gotten together several times since and have become close friends over the years. She got engaged to a super nice Austrian guy over a year ago and said that we’d be invited for their wedding. At the time, Hubs and I weren’t sure if we’d still be in Vienna when they planned to get married, but promised that no matter where we were in the world it wouldn’t be something we’d miss!
Over the weekend, we were privileged to be able to share Nicole & Ben’s special day. Their wedding took place an hour outside of Vienna and in a castle no less! Hubs and I were super excited to be able to experience our first German/Austrian wedding. The ceremony took place in the church on the castle grounds. I’ve only ever been to one other Catholic wedding ceremony, which was a shock to me, because it was over two hours long (most weddings I’ve been to up to that point have been non denominational). Hubs explained that there were different levels of a Catholic wedding ceremony depending on how deeply religious the family are (light, medium, and heavy) and the bride told me beforehand that it would be an hour long (medium). The ceremony was especially interesting because it was entirely conducted in German and the priest was the groom’s uncle. However, the priest did give the Begrüßung (Welcome) in both English and German. Nicole and Ben’s music selections included a few modern “pop” selections, like “Rest of My Life” (Bruno Mars), “How Long Will I Love You” (Ellie Goulding), and, Hubs’ favorite of the ceremony, “Top of the World” (The Carpenters) – Hubs likes The Carpenters. All the selections were sung by hired singers. At the end of the recession, all the guests and priest exited the church first and were handed little tubes with bubble mixture so that the newlyweds could be given a proper exit.
After the ceremony, it was cocktail hour in the courtyard of the castle with a traditional Austrian band playing in the background. It was really nice and the photographer even got the entire group into a picture from above the courtyard! My feet were thanking me (I have foot problems and hardly ever wear heels) when it was time to head into the Coat of Arms Hall for the reception. For dinner, it was buffet style. It was one of the most delicious wedding fare we’ve ever had. There were many choices with emphasis on locally sourced foods. They really put so much thought and effort into everything from: dual-language wedding ceremony programs, thank you favors, and having the menu on postcards of places they’ve visited or lived. I think having a photo booth with prop box is a norm these days at weddings and it’s always fun! We got to hear some really bad 80s Austrian music, which is akin to some of the awful songs that have been traditional at American weddings. One of the songs we heard was by Falco, but not the “Rock me Amadeus” song. Yeah, Falco is Viennese. Mind blown! Another difference, but cool, aspect of the wedding is that the bride and groom make speeches thanking those who have come and focused on each table about the relations they have with individuals at the wedding. I thought it was a nice personal touch instead of just the general “thank you for being here” blah blah.
Overall, I just love weddings and this was no exception. A tear or two is always shed as I find it extremely romantic seeing two people so in love and becoming family. It’s unique experiences like these that make living abroad the icing on the cake!
When in Italy, you must eat! And that we did. We were gluttons and could not turn down all that homemade pasta, gelato, pastries, fresh lake fish and other seafood we gorged on. We’re paying dearly for it now that we’re back.
Real Italian food is simple and usually has no more than five ingredients in their dishes. Anything more than that makes it questionable if it’s truly authentic. Things like Fettuccini Alfredo and “Italian” dressing are examples of American inventions. I honestly didn’t know any differently until I visited Europe for the first time in 2008. My taste palette has certainly changed since then!
The food at our B&B was fantastic; the breakfasts were so so good. One evening they offered a home-cooked four course meal and it turned out to be the best meal during this trip to Italy. We were spoiled. Our typical breakfast spread had omelettes, fresh vegetables and fruits from their garden, homemade olive oil harvested from their olive groves, homemade pastries and jams, cheeses, Italian cured meats, and yogurt made fresh every morning. It was a feast that filled our happy tummies until it was time to eat again.
Now, let me get to our best and favorite meal of our stay. The innkeepers offered a four course meal for all of their guests for a nominal fee, which is normal for an agriturismo in Italy. The lake fish caught fresh that morning to the homemade lasagna made with fresh noodles and herbs from the garden were so incredibly delicious. And even after our return, we’re still dreaming about it. Do yourself a favor and eat your way through Italy- you won’t regret it!
When an old high school friend contacted me via Facebook on Thursday saying that she and her husband were in Europe, the conversation went on about their itinerary and so on. When I mentioned it to Hubs around 7PM the next day, he asked where they would be this weekend, “Venice”, I said. Since Hubs has never been to Venice and my friend was this close, we quickly contacted our dog’s sitter to see if she would take him in last minute. Then, we scrambled to book a car and hotel room. All within an hour on a Friday night. I told my friend that we would be making the roadtrip to see her! It turned out that I booked us at the same hotel as they were staying! How crazy was that?
We jumped into the car in the early hours of Saturday morning, dropped off our dog, and were on our merry way to Venice. It took us seven hours, but it was worth it to reconnect with an old friend and meet her other half. We had a wonderful time with them. The following morning, we got an early start to take in all the typical sights of Venice for Hubs, some shopping for me, had lunch, gelato and headed back home from Venice around 2pm in the afternoon, for another 7 hour drive.
Yes, it was a whirlwind trip over the weekend, but it was so much fun! Hubs and I have never done anything this spontaneous before. We are big planners and this was something completely new and exciting for us. Maybe it should become a habit?
After many great finds in the 7th district, it’s beginning to become one of my favorite areas to explore and hang out. It’s a very hipster and young part of town. When you walk into Pure Living Cafe in the 7th district of Vienna, it’s like walking into a place that could easily be the design love child of Rachel Ashwell and Martha Stewart. It’s the epitome of shabby chic. I immediately felt welcomed with the friendly staff and the huge assortment of goodies. For € 7 and some change, I got a big cup of melange (they serve it with whipped cream here) and a slice of Oreo cake. Both were excellent. I love how the pastries here in Vienna are not sickeningly sweet, compared to what you might find in the US. While enjoying my treats and a book, I noticed that they made milkshakes there, too. I immediately thought of Hubs and will be bring him back to try one. You may wonder what’s the big deal about milkshakes? It’s been hard to find someplace that makes a real ‘”American” milkshake, and just the thought of the possibility makes me so excited. I’ll be back to this amazingly cute cafe and may even become a regular, because I loved it that much!
There are two locations:
Pure Living Cafe (7th district)
Pure Living Bakery (13th district- original location)
Mo. – Fr.: 9:30 – 19:00
Sa.: 10:00 – 18:00
Gerstner’s is a famous pastry shop here in Vienna and, therefore, can be a touristy place. It’s no surprise, since it’s situated between St Stephens Church and State Opera House. This bakery opened its doors in 1847 and has quite a bit of history behind it. At one point or another, it catered to the Austrian royal family and other events for dignitaries. In my opinion, their cakes are better than the other popular touristy places such as Demel and Cafe Central. I ordered a slice of “Birnen Schoko-Mousse” (Pear Chocolate Mousse), because I was curious about the flavor pairing. I know most people have an aversion to fruit and chocolate mixed together, but this concoction was quite delicious. It had the right amount of mousse and fruit, plus a nutty flavor too. It paired well with my usual melange. This is a great place for people watching, but there were too many distractions for me to get into my book. An American couple sat next to me and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation about how many boxes of chocolates they needed to buy for family and friends. The lady couldn’t stop raving about the sour cherry strudel, so that will be on my list for next time.
Kärntner Straße 13-15
Mon-Sat 8:30 am – 8 pm
Sun 10 am – 6 pm