Friday, February 22, 2013

I Spy Friday and some news!

It's been awhile since I've posted I Spy Friday and I've missed these regular posts.  
It's a chance to check in and share what's been going on this week, no matter how random. 

A reader suggested that I turn it into a regular linky.
What do you think?  Would you participate?

These posts seemed to stop once I went back to work full-time. Suddenly there wasn't much to my week except commute, work and evenings in front of the TV. 

Speaking of which... I have some news. 

Remember when I landed that amazing job after my first London interview?  I couldn't believe how quickly it happened.

I even made you all do the Happy Dance with me.

Alas, it didn't turn out to be exactly what I expected.  

Good organization, nice people but the position was absolutely not for me.  I tried to convince myself to just stick it out, but quickly realized that would never work.  After much fretting and discussion, I decided that it was best to just bow out gracefully while still in my probation period. 

I still have a few more weeks to go.
But in the mean time, I have Fridays off!
Which means that I had some time last week to spend with a new friend.  Gina moved here about six months ago from Canada and I feel like we've been friends for years.

We met up at Covent Gardens and look! 
The eggs are back!!  Remember last year?
I can't believe I'm on my second year here!
(Okay, I'll stop with the exclamation points now.)

We met up at Covent Gardens for lunch at 
I didn't take any pictures of the restaurant
but took about six in the bathroom toilet. Go figure.

I loved the 70's pattern murals on the doors.
And check out Thomas Crapper's Victorian throne, The Venerable.
Definition:  Venerable - Commanding respect by virtue of age, dignity, character, or position.
There you go.

 And I've decided that every toilet should have a wine rack, don't you?
 It will go with my new chandelier.  (I spotted this at All Bar One.)

 After a two hour lunch with much more talking than eating,
we headed over to the Primrose Bakery for a Bloom Gin & Tonic Strawberry Cupcake.
Light and a bit tangy, not too sweet!  Perfectly lovely.

And then, because we weren't quite done with our day,
I took my Canadian friend to the Maple Leaf Canadian Pub for her very first Gin & Tonic.
You can't be an expat in London if you haven't had a G&T. 

The next day, Matt and I went to Leicester Square for dinner and a movie.  Leicester Square is also called Theatreland.  (Whenever you see a big London red carpet movie premiere, it's probably happening at Leicester Square.)

We ate at Chiquito, a Mexican Bar & Grill.
Can you believe this menu? 
Please tell me what is Tex Mex
about this selection?

I think they are confusing Southern with Tex Mex and I have no idea how Peri-Peri sauce fits in.  

I'd never heard of it before moving here.  I thought it was Indian, but apparently it's Portuguese.  Now you know.

Even though it wasn't real Tex Mex, it didn't suck (how's that for a rating system?) and the cocktails were nice.  

After a quick stroll through China Town, we went to see Les Miserable and I got a headache from trying not to ugly cry.  What a fantastic movie!  You have to go see it!  
Again with the exclamation points.  I'll be throwing in smiley faces soon. :)

So, those were the highlights of the last week.

Today, I'm at home again planning how I will be spending my days
now that I'm a lady of leisure full-time underpaid blogger.

And, yes, that is iced tea.  Don't tell Matt as he's banned it from the apartment. 

 We have a trip in April, so I don't plan to start looking for work right away.
 I'm going to take some time off to consider my next move.

I'm also planning to devote some serious time to the blog, writing and photography.
I've discovered something that I really love to do,
so why not see where I can take it.
I realize a few How To for Dummies books aren't going to turn me into a professional blogger or photographer,
but time spent learning new things is never wasted. Right?
Fair warning.  You'll be seeing a lot more of me now.

One last thing, before I sign off...

I'm thinking about planning a Bloggers Lunch in London this Spring.
I was lucky enough to attend two of them last year and they were 
such a great way to make new friends and meet some terrific women.

Would you be interested in joining me?


As usual, this is not a sponsored post.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg

As an awkward prepubescent girl, my two idols were Olivia Newton John and Julie Andrews.
Don't laugh.  What young girl didn't want to be "hopelessly devoted" Sandra Dee
or "a problem like Maria"?  

I had the soundtracks to both movies on big, black vinyl disks.
I would hide away in my room and play them over and over again dramatically acting out each song.
You know you've done it, too.  Right?  Anyone?

 Before our trip to Salzburg, I made sure to express (over and over) to TE just how important
 The Sound of Music was to my childhood.  After all of the conditioning and begging, he was sweet enough to indulge me in the cheesiest of cheesy bus tours The Original Sound of Music Tour.  We purchased tickets the night before from the hotel (37 Euros each) and were assured that we would be picked up the next morning at 9am. 

It was a Tuesday morning during off-season, so we didn't expect to be taken to a large bus and to see every seat filled.  Great minds.  It was a surprisingly young crowd. too.
The bus was clean and comfortable with a bar for beers, sodas and water.   We settled in for a four hour tour of all the local highlights from the famous movie.  

The music from the movie was played all along the way and we were encouraged to sing along, though I didn't hear anyone else.  They were probably singing under their breath like I was.  It was still early.   

Along with some really bad jokes, our guide was full of information about both the 1965 Hollywood movie and the real-life story of Maria and the von Trapp family.  Most Austrians have never  seen the movie, but it brings millions of people from all over the world to Salzburg each year. The movie is very much a Hollywood creation and wasn't even shown in Austria until recently.

The tour was one of the highlights for both of us.  TE hasn't even seen the movie and had no idea how the sites we visited fit into it, but you really don't need to know anything about the Sound of Music to enjoy the gorgeous views of Salzburg and the surrounding lake district.

Our first stop was the Leopoldskron Lake for a view of the Leopoldskron Palace.   If you know the movie, this is the lake where the children took an accidental swim.  The back of the palace was used in some of the exterior shots of the von Trapp family home.  The famous gazebo was once on these grounds, but too many people were jumping the walls to get to it, so they moved it. 

It's now on the grounds of the Schloss Hellbrunn.  Unfortunately, it's all locked up so we couldn't go in and leap from bench to bench like Liesl in the Sixteen Going On Seventeen number.  This gazebo is much too small to be the one from that scene.  It was actually shot on a film set at 20th Century-Fox Studios.

The Schloss Frohnburg Palace was the main building used in the exterior shots of the Trapp villa and is now a music university.  Along the front of the Castle is an alley lined with trees along both sides.  This was where the von Trapp children hung from the trees on their adventurous day out with Maria. 

After a few stops around the city of Salzburg, we settled back into the bus for an hour long trip out into the Lake District stopping for views along the way.  Breathtaking.  Gorgeous.  Fantastic.  Magical. There has to be more words to describe such beautiful scenery. 

We had about an hour in the lakeside town of Mondsee to visit the Mondsee Cathedral where the Captain married Maria in the movie.  The real von Trapp couple were married at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg. 

After visiting the Cathedral, we had just enough time for Schnitzel and shopping.  I've been wanting one of these beautiful Black Forest German cuckoo clocks for ages.  I think my mom had one when I was little and they're so beautiful.  On the bus ride back to Salzburg, the intro to So Long, Farewell came on.

There's a sad sort of clanging
From the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple, too
And up in the nursery
An absurd little bird
Is popping out to say cuckoo
(Cuckoo, cuckoo)

With my new little cuckoo clock resting on my lap, I might have had a moment.
I was suddenly that young girl again, completely charmed by a love story filmed in the most beautiful place and listening to music that carried me there.
Pretty special. Now I just have to figure out the best place to hang my little treasure.  

The bus dropped us off back in Salzburg right next to the Mirabell Gardens.  This was where many of the scenes from Do-Re-Mi were filmed.  Do you recognize the Pegasus Fountain and the steps from the song? 

If you are a fan of the movie, you will love this tour.  It was so much fun and exciting to see it all. 
I'm dying to watch the movie again.  It's been years since I've seen it.  

Have you seen The Sound of Music?  What's your favorite scene?


*This is not a sponsored post.  We paid full price for the tour tickets.   And as usual, all photographs are mine unless otherwise noted.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Salzburg, Austria City Break

If Zurich is the Sophisticate and Innsbruck the Whimsical, then Salzburg is the Classic Beauty.
It is absolutely my favorite of the three.  Salzburg feels pristine, full of character and so put together. 

Salzburg is a classic European city on a river (Salzach River),
full of Baroque Architecture and surrounded by the natural beauty of the majestic Alpine Mountains.  
You feel like you are in the middle of a magic wonderland.

We felt so welcomed.  From the hotel staff to the taxi drivers,
they all expressed pride in their beautiful city and and delight in sharing it with the world. 

We spent hours strolling along the Aldstadt or "old town."  It's such a comfortable city. 
We felt no need to get out the maps and guidebooks.
We just wandered around and soaked up all of the beauty

The centerpiece of the city is the Hohensalzburg Castle (more of that in another post). 
Spread out from the castle are narrow medieval streets full of shops and restaurants. 

Getriedegasse Street is the main pedestrian street. 
At one end you will find the Kirche St. Blasius built in 1330 as a hospital chapel.
If you continue walking along, you will find the house

There are several museums dedicated to the famous son of Salzburg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

TE and his iPhone found the most interesting restaurant for our Anniversary Dinner.
Here is what Fodor's has to say about Stiftskeller St. Peter Restaurant

"Legends swirl about the famous St. Peter's Beer Cellar. Locals claim that Mephistopheles met Faust here, others say Charlemagne dined here, and some believe Columbus enjoyed a glass of its famous Salzburg Stiegl beer just before he set sail for America in 1492. But there is no debating the fact that this place—first mentioned in a document dating back to 803—is Austria's oldest restaurant."

It was pretty awesome and the food was great.  
When you visit be sure to take a trip to the ladies room and have a snoop. 
There are little, private alcoves and banquet rooms that are fantastically decorated.
I found one with a huge doggie bed in the corner and decorated with puppy ornaments, 
just in case you want to bring Fido out for some fine dining. 

On the way back to the hotel, we visited the Salzburg Cathedral
built in 1181 which still contains the baptismal font were Mozart was baptised. 

All major European cities contain these amazing and beautiful cathedrals. 
I hope that I never lose that feeling of awe every time I step foot into one. 

I instantly go quiet.  I don't just mean the automatic tendency to whisper.  
I also mean that my heart and my mind go quiet and calm.  Every thought a soft whisper.
It amazes me how a space can be so soothing.

I think that the City of Mozart is probably my favorite European City so far.
There are so many left to explore.   I'm not sure how they will compare to Salzburg. 

I hope you add Salzburg to your Must See List.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Expat Interview

Hiya!  I'm sorry for the little disappearing act.
After all of the excitement of the new blog design, I think I just needed a little break.
But, I'm back and I have some fun posts planned.

It's long gone now, but I have some London snow pictures to share.  
I'll finish up the Winter Anniversary trip with several posts about Salzburg.
And I can't wait to show you the pictures from the Waitangi Day Pub Crawl & Haka.

You can also also find me this week at Move Guides
I did a two part interview on my experience as an Expat.
I'd love it if you would pop over and take a look.  

Have a lovely weekend!!