Paris - Montmartre and Eiffel Tower

I divide travel into three parts - planning the trip, taking the trip, and recapping the trip with my blog. I really enjoy each part so I’m excited to get to relive it all while sharing it with you here! I just returned from about two weeks in Europe - Paris (again!), the Normandy area and Belgium. I traveled with my good friend Julie, and it was her first time in each of these places. We had a wonderful time in spite of less than perfect weather, and got along great. We have similar interests, energy levels and eating and sleeping habits - all super important when traveling together. We planned to be in France half the time, so ended up staying in two different Airbnb’s. That worked out really well because I picked two entirely different areas of the city which gave us a chance to get to know two areas better than if we had spent the entire time in one spot. Highly recommend this if you’re traveling for at least 6 or 7 days in one place. We stayed first in the 16th arrondissement which is right by the Arc De Triomphe and then moved to the Marais which is in the 3rd. They both turned out to be excellent - exactly what we expected, very clean and no problems at all. 

Most flights arriving in Paris from the US arrive early in the morning, and if you’re staying in an Airbnb or VRBO this can present a problem with your luggage. Usually you can’t check into your accommodations until later in the day, so what do you do with your luggage? I always travel light - just a carryon and a personal item, but it’s still more than you can comfortably deal with especially in light of the world we live in now where there are security checks even entering department stores. So I started looking into our options for our arrival day - so that we wouldn’t lose a day of site seeing sitting in a cafe waiting to get into our apartment. I found a great service that worked our perfectly! It is called Eelway, and it’s kind of like Uber for luggage. We arranged for one of their staff to meet us at the airport in Paris right in the terminal, they sealed our luggage with a tamper proof cord and we were on our way into Paris. You can even have them store your luggage for multiple days, but we scheduled delivery to our Airbnb between 5 and 6PM - or rather 17 to 18😊 Their website says they are available in other major cities but everything I read referenced Paris but worth checking into as it worked out great. Their website is www.eelway.com They have a nice live chat option that I found to be very helpful and they willingly answered all my questions in real time. 

Off to Paris! I’m a huge fan of the public transportation system in Paris. It’s cheap and so efficient. We bought our tickets for the RER and it dropped us off really close to the area we were starting in which was Montmartre. Since the fire at Notre Dame I thought the Sacré-Cœur which is a beautiful white basilica situated on the highest point in Paris would give Julie a similar view as from the towers of Notre Dame. But first we must stop for coffee and croissants! 

I love the sign in the window! All the coffee and croissants in France are great! Still true!

I love the sign in the window! All the coffee and croissants in France are great! Still true!

Previously I hadn’t spent much time in Montmartre. It’s a bit out of the central area of Paris and known for its cabaret nightlife and bohemian artists. The crown jewel is definitely Sacré Cœur and worth the climb up all those stairs to get there. Sacré Cœur is only 130 years old so fairly new by European standards - but still very impressive.

The church itself is free but it’s 6 euros to climb up to the dome. Worth it!

The church itself is free but it’s 6 euros to climb up to the dome. Worth it!

The line to climb to the dome was pretty short so we made that our first stop. It was the first of many spiral staircases we encountered in both France and Belgium.  

A great view of the Eiffel Tower! 

A great view of the Eiffel Tower! 

Next we took the metro to Place de la Concorde, the cities largest square and the start of the Champs-Elysées. The transportation system in Paris is the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so well marked and easy to navigate we easily got from one area to another quickly and cheaply. My recommendation is to buy a carnet which is 10 tickets. You can divide them up between multiple people and only costs 14.90 euros so roughly 1.50 per ride. And Google maps or Apple maps will tell you exactly how to get where you’re going. Sweet! We didn’t get lost once.

We walked down the Champs-Elysées and I pointed out the various sites to Julie. One thing I couldn’t explain was why there was a huge line of people standing outside the Louis Vuitton store and it looked like it was going to rain any minute.  

We’re going to charge you a lot of money but first we’re going to make you stand out in the rain and wait a long time before we take your money. Really people? Pretty sure you can just order online!

We’re going to charge you a lot of money but first we’re going to make you stand out in the rain and wait a long time before we take your money. Really people? Pretty sure you can just order online!

The rain held off and it actually started to clear up. Yeah! The whole time we were in Paris it was unseasonably chilly and rainy, but we discovered that Paris is always beautiful- even in the rain. And it didn’t stop us from doing everything we wanted - and even eating outside! Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. In my opinion it’s best to see the area under the Arc during the day, but come back and go to the top at night when you can see the city all lit up, so that’s what we did. Climbing to the top is included in the Museum Pass and since we weren’t ready to activate our passes we’ll save that for another day. So much history in the Arc.

I never travel without Rick Steves. Sometimes it gets a little heavy but worth it. Rick tells you everything you need to know about the details of the Arc.

I never travel without Rick Steves. Sometimes it gets a little heavy but worth it. Rick tells you everything you need to know about the details of the Arc.

Our first Airbnb was just a few blocks from the Arc so we decided to check it out. It was super cute, clean and easy to find. The owner had left us some info on recommendations for food so since we were starving we headed down the street to have our first French meal. Croque Monsieur with salad please. And a nice glass of local wine.

Make that 2!  Le Touring!  Delicious!

Make that 2! Le Touring! Delicious!

We made it back to the apartment right on time for our luggage delivery from Eelway. That worked out so great! What to do with our first night in Paris? Head to the Eiffel Tower! I tried to buy tickets in advance for the Eiffel Tower, but that proved to be challenging. They open up the dates randomly and even though I was stalking the website everyday when it finally opened up for the dates we would be there, between 11 PM and 7 AM all the tickets for the entire month of May were sold out. Seriously?! I suspect the tour companies get the inside track on when the site will open and they buy up all the tickets and then sell them for 4 times the cost as part of a tour. Just guessing! So since it was starting to get cloudy we decided to give it a shot since Rick Steves says if it rains the lines for same day tickets dwindle rapidly, and he’s pretty much never wrong. This worked perfectly and before we knew it we were up in the Eiffel Tower! I have been up in it twice before but it’s been awhile, and for me it’s always a thrill. I think the graceful metal curves which give it an appearance of lightness are just beautiful. And from any angle.

Our view from Place du Trocadero. Many would say the perfect vantage point. 

Our view from Place du Trocadero. Many would say the perfect vantage point. 

The Eiffel Tower was built for the World Expo in 1889 and was for decades the tallest structure in the world. While that is not still the case it is still the most visited monument and offers an incredible view of Paris. The best view is actually not from the highest point because all you can see then are the roofs. The second level is really the better view.  

That’s a great view of Montmartre and Sacré Cœur! 

That’s a great view of Montmartre and Sacré Cœur! 

Who says you can’t improve on perfection? In the year 2000 for the millennium they added twinkling lights to the Eiffel Tower, and when it’s dark exactly on the hour the Tower twinkles in silver and gold for 5 minutes. It’s incredible! So our last stop was to the Peninsula Hotel for a drink on the roof to watch the Tower twinkle. It was the worst glass of wine I’ve ever had for the ungodly cost of 26 euros but worth it for the view.

We don’t look too bad for being up for like 36 hours! 

We don’t look too bad for being up for like 36 hours! 

A great first day. Check back for post #2 soon😊 

Kansas City is the coolest!

Well I’ve been saying that for awhile, but now you can see for yourself by watching Season 3 of Queer Eye on Netflix. What a great feel good show! The entire Season 3 was shot in Kansas City, and much of it right in my neighborhood. Prior to this season I had never watched the show, but then it’s all everyone is talking about here so I binge watched the whole season, and it was so good I think I will watch the first two seasons shot in Atlanta. I’m adding group hug from the Fab 5 to my bucket list. I love them all! 

Tan, Antoni and Jonathon riding the bus in KC.  

Tan, Antoni and Jonathon riding the bus in KC.  

Outside of my little trip to NYC in February you might be wondering what I’ve been up to. Well I’ve been enjoying much of what KC has to offer, which currently is a lot! At least a lot of what I love. Museums, theater, restaurants, coffee shops, and catching up with all my great friends! Plus I’ve been doing a little free lance work for a friend of mine in the bookkeeping/accounting area. More spending money is almost always a good thing right? And for me that means more money for my travel budget!  After being gone for almost half of 2018 I was looking forward to letting my passport cool a little and reacquainting myself with my own city - but now it’s almost time for me to get back on the road and in the air!

So just a sampling of all the fun I’ve been having in Kansas City, and even if you don’t live here I really encourage you to get out in your own town and support the things you love and want to make sure will continue to be available. 

Food! 

Ragazza has finally re-opened in their new space. One of my favorite restaurants in KC and they have been closed for 6 months moving and renovating a new larger space. Incredible Italian food and right on the corner of Main and 43rd. Reservations necessary. Welcome back!

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Another spot that is more casual that has quickly become a favorite is Parlor. Best description I have heard for it is an upscale food court. Located at 17th and Locust in the East Crossroads it is two levels with a huge bar on each level, 6 awesome unique restaurants, and lots of cool areas to visit with friends and watch sports etc. Open from 11 AM till late so give it a try! 

Lots of healthy options too! 

Lots of healthy options too! 

I love a good crepe and Seven Swans even makes vegan options. Really a food truck but for the winter was located in a warehouse Thursday to Sunday. This is their last weekend in the warehouse because thank goodness it looks like spring is here. Look for them when you see foodtrucks and give it a try!

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Lastly I’ll highlight the opening on the Plaza of True Food Kitchen. It just opened 2 days ago so I have a reservation to eat there tomorrow night, but I have eaten at the one in Phoenix. I have been so looking forward to their opening here as it is a restaurant focused on healthy delicious food - much of it plant based. Since the start of the new year I have been following a predominantly plant based diet and I feel great, but sometimes eating out can be a little challenging so this will be a welcome addition to the food scene here. 

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Museums! 

The museum scene is strong in Kansas City, so I had some catching up to do. The fantastic Nelson Atkins Museum of Art hosted an incredible special exhibit of Napoleons riches. I saw it three times! 

So sorry if you missed it. It’s on its way back to France now. 

So sorry if you missed it. It’s on its way back to France now. 

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art has a cool exhibit currently by Polly Apfelbaum that is bright and fun. And as always totally free.

I didn’t really understand it but it just made me happy to see it. 

I didn’t really understand it but it just made me happy to see it. 

I finally made it to the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio located on Belleview. Considered to be one of the great American painters he was born in Neosho MO and trained in New York. He moved to KC in 1935 and lived and painted here till the day he died in 1975. His home was given to the state by his heirs and you can tour the home and studio for $5. Everything is totally as he left it the day he died. 

Thomas Hart Benton was the first artist ever to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.  

Thomas Hart Benton was the first artist ever to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.  

I love the Missouri Repertory Theater and went to see both shows they have done so far this year, Pride and Prejudice and School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. Both excellent! If you’ve never been to the MO Rep you are missing out. Professional theater at an affordable cost. 

In addition to seeing more great ballet and symphony then I deserve by ushering at the Kauffman Center, a group of my good friends and I had a fabulous time hearing the symphony and enjoying wine together a fun night in January. Luckily there was no blizzard that night so everyone was able to attend. 

Cheers! 

Cheers! 

A special treat for me - my kids got me tickets to Cirque du Soleil Crystal when it was here in Kansas City. I love any and all Cirque du Soleil shows and this one was all on ice! Fantastic! Thanks Tom, Keeley, Matt and Anna!

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Last but not least lots of stops at fun coffeeshops! And every once in a while I go rogue from my plant based diet and have a special treat! Mildred’s is my current favorite spot. 

I can never remember what this little nugget of deliciousness is called but it’s great!  

I can never remember what this little nugget of deliciousness is called but it’s great!  

I have a few more weeks to keep enjoying the sweet life in KC and then I’m dusting off my passport and taking off! Check back soon!

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Top 10 List for NYC

The most common question I’m asked is what are my favorite things to do or see in New York City. When I was asked it again recently I put an actual list together to email my friends that inquired, so decided to just put it up on my blog. So here it is in no particular order😊

* Walk through Prospect Park in Brooklyn on your way to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (usually free on Friday mornings) and then right next to it see the amazing Brooklyn Art Museum. You can also stop in the Brooklyn Library which is right there too. 

* Explore the neighborhood of Dumbo in Brooklyn which is under the Brooklyn Bridge and then walk over the bridge. Or reverse it if you’re coming from Manhattan. Then walk through Wall Street to take the free Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. As you get on the boat stay on the right (starboard) side for the best view of the statue. Then take it back. That’s free too!

* See a Broadway show. My current favorite is Dear Evan Hansen. But see something and then walk around Times Square after the show. 

* Make a reservation to visit the 911 Museum or at least go see the reflecting pools. Then walk across the street to Trinity Church and see Alexander Hamilton’s tomb. 

* Go to the West Side and see the new Hudson Yards by walking on the High Line. Make a reservation to go into the Hudson Yards Stair sculpture (tickets for summer not available yet). It’s free but you will need a reservation. I also highly recommend the Whitney Museum. Right on the High Line and my favorite NY museum. 

* While on the West Side visit the Chelsea Market. It’s very close and has so many cool places to eat, drink and shop. The Food Network films right above it so you might see a celebrity chef! Closed set so sorry no tickets available.

* Walk through Central Park and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of the finest art museums in the world. If the weather is nice find the 5th floor rooftop overlooking the park and enjoy a beverage. 

* Stop at the Plaza Hotel and have a drink in the Rose Bar or Palm Court. Expensive drinks but they give you lots of great snacks. And it’s the Plaza! 

 * Walk down Fifth Ave and window shop.

* Go to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village and people watch. Then go to Soho and eat amazing rice pudding at Rice to Riches and there are lots of other great stores and restaurants. 

* Book a tour at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. So great! Then eat lunch at either Katz’s Deli or the Clinton St Baking Company.  

Well if you’re counting that’s actually 11 - but a few can be combined like the Plaza Hotel and window shopping on Fifth Ave. I mentioned a few restaurants but there are so many great restaurants all over I suggest planning your day around what you want to do and then find a place to eat. You really almost can’t go wrong.

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge. 

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge. 

If you’re interested in more information on any of these suggestions I have done them all and blogged about them complete with pictures so just click on the Archive tab and look for New York City posts.  

I’m not done traveling - just spending some fun time in Kansas City and putting my plans together for 2019. Check back soon! 

Back to New York City!

There are at least two - maybe more - cities I could go to 100 times and never feel like I’ve seen it or done it all. One is Paris, and the other New York. So when I saw that there was a special Andy Warhol exhibit at my favorite New York City museum it seemed like the perfect reason to make a visit. Visiting Tom and his girlfriend Anna was another great reason - so I am going to take a break from my Marie Kondo inspired Tidying Up to do my second favorite thing - recap my travels. My favorite thing is actually taking the trip, but reliving everything through my blog and sharing it with anyone reading is up there too. Like much of the country I have been watching the Marie Kondo show on Netflix, but all that I’ve accomplished so far is making my place look like a tornado has gone through it. Once you’ve dragged every item of clothing, shoes, purses etc out of all your closets, there’s no way I’m just going to put it all back again. I’ve discovered that none of my clothes really bring me joy, but cleaning the cobwebs and dust bunnies out of my closet does! So at least there’s that! Back to the NYC recap😊

Its been a pretty tough winter in much of the country - especially the Midwest, so no surprise that my initial early morning flight to New York was cancelled due to snow here. Luckily I was able to reschedule for a flight later in the day. I missed part of the day I planned for New York, but got to get up at a more normal time and had no trouble getting out to the airport. Anna’s mom Kim had decided after much encouragement from Anna and I to join me for a Mom’s Weekend of fun, so with my rescheduled flight I was actually able to meet her at LaGuardia and Uber into the city together - bonus! It was great to see Tom and Anna and of course wonderful to reunite with my favorite ball of fur.

The sweet and adorable Penny! 

The sweet and adorable Penny! 

People tell me all the time that they get so hungry when they read my blog. I love to post pictures of food and this trip might top it all. We ate at so many great places! You might want to go eat a snack before you keep reading. 

We headed to a cool Mexican restaurant in the West Village for dinner called Tacombi. It was pretty dark inside for pictures. I would describe it as mexican street food. You order taco’s as singles - chicken, beef, carnitas, fish, vegetarian, and Mexican roasted corn to share etc. Great interesting fruity cocktails too. We tried some of everything and shared.

We were so hungry I just got a picture of the guacamole, chips and corn. When the tacos arrived we all just dove in. It was all good. 

We were so hungry I just got a picture of the guacamole, chips and corn. When the tacos arrived we all just dove in. It was all good. 

After dinner Kim and I headed to our hotel in Bryant Park. We had a long travel day and a packed agenda for the next day. We were sharing a hotel room and while we had spent time together before, we had never shared this close of quarters. I had no doubt we would get along fine, and the proof was when we got to our room and pulled out our slippers.

Twins!  Dare I call us Sole Sisters?

Twins!  Dare I call us Sole Sisters?

First on our list Friday morning was a little shopping. My favorite store is UNIQLO and there was one really close to the hotel. Great prices, good quality and pretty basic with a bit of a trendy flare. We both found a few things we liked and then headed over to say a quick hello to Anna at her office by Radio City Music Hall before meeting Tom for lunch at Westville. 

Westville has a couple of locations around the city and they have lots of healthy options. Kim got three kinds of delicious vegetable, Tom got a wrap and fries, and I opted for a brown rice and veggie bowl. They also have some interesting teas. This one was fresh ginger, cinnamon, mint and lemon. So pretty too.

Westville has a couple of locations around the city and they have lots of healthy options. Kim got three kinds of delicious vegetable, Tom got a wrap and fries, and I opted for a brown rice and veggie bowl. They also have some interesting teas. This one was fresh ginger, cinnamon, mint and lemon. So pretty too.

After lunch we headed to the Whitney Museum for the initial purpose of the trip which was to see the Andy Warhol special exhibit. I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite modern artist but I do like his work and know that he was extremely influential for the time. Who hasn’t seen his famous Campbell Soup painting? We got the audio guide and that’s always in my opinion important to get the most out of an exhibit. He worked in so many mediums, not just painting but video, movies, commercials, and portraits. The exhibit was spread out over three floors so took a couple of hours to see it all. From NY the exhibit will travel first to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art May 18-September 2 and then the Chicago Art Institute October 20-January 26, 2020. Check it out! 

Me and my favorite guy! 

Me and my favorite guy! 

After the museum we were so close to the Chelsea St Market that we just had to stop and let Kim see it. I posted stuff on my blog before about it so if you’re interested refer back to my New York posts from August 2018 for more pictures. It’s in the old Nabisco factory and is filled with cool little restaurants, food shops, kitchen stores and odds and ends. The Food Network has its studios above so if you know who the chefs are (which I for the most part don’t) you might see them shopping for ingredients I hear. From about 11 to 2 it’s insanely crowded but if you get there before or after it’s quite pleasant. Right across the street is one of the new Starbucks Reserves. A new upscale concept they started in Seattle (of course) and moving to somewhere close to you hopefully soon. Lots more food options, a roastery and coffee accessories to peruse.

That’s Tom inside Starbucks Reserve. We opted for coffee at the Chelsea Market from the Ninth St Espresso.  

That’s Tom inside Starbucks Reserve. We opted for coffee at the Chelsea Market from the Ninth St Espresso.  

I love the interesting streets of New York. This is right outside the Chelsea St Market facing west. 

New York’s version of the Bridge of Sighs?  

New York’s version of the Bridge of Sighs?  

We haven’t eaten in hours! Time to head back and meet Anna and get to our dinner reservation at Emily’s. Also located in the West Village Emily’s is very popular so a reservation is a must. Tom describes it as Detroit pizza. I didn’t know there was such a thing, but it was delicious! 

We shared a brussel sprout salad with cashews, and a vegetable pizza and one with sausage. It was all delicious. The pizza is square so every piece is an outside slice that has the most amazing crispy cheese. I saw no evidence of a sign that said Emily’s so you just need to apparently know that this is it!

We shared a brussel sprout salad with cashews, and a vegetable pizza and one with sausage. It was all delicious. The pizza is square so every piece is an outside slice that has the most amazing crispy cheese. I saw no evidence of a sign that said Emily’s so you just need to apparently know that this is it!

For dessert we walked to Soho to try out Eileen’s Special Cheescake. A mini cheesecake bakery - what’s not to like?!  Tom was shocked we hadn’t been there before but I assured him I would have remembered.

So hard to choose but I went plain with raspberry on top. Yumm! And the perfect size. 

So hard to choose but I went plain with raspberry on top. Yumm! And the perfect size. 

Saturday morning the Mom’s were up and out the door heading to the upper east side and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kim had not been before and since I like to go pretty much every time I’m in New York she definitely did not have to twist my arm. The weather was clear but chilly and windy so we decided a stop at a cool coffee shop was first on the list. Found one! 

Good spot and after going I started noticing a few more locations around the city. 

Good spot and after going I started noticing a few more locations around the city. 

The Met! Hi Kim🙋🏼‍♀️

We spent most of our time with the  Impressionists.  I could spend hours just walking through the beautiful building. 

We spent most of our time with the Impressionists. I could spend hours just walking through the beautiful building. 

We were there about 2 hours and then headed to meet Tom and Anna at The Plaza Hotel for tea. Yes tea! High tea to be exact, and something I have wanted to do there forever. It was high on Kim’s list too - actually her idea, and I jumped at the chance when it was suggested. Definitely a memory maker. Reservations are essential. 

So elegant! 

So elegant! 

Gorgeous Tiffany ceiling. 

Gorgeous Tiffany ceiling. 

So many wonderful special touches. If you know me at all you know I love to write notes. They bring each guest a Plaza postcard and suggest you write a note to a special someone and they will mail it for you. On the back of the card it says “Once upon a time, before cell phones, guests visiting The Plaza would send postcards, a little touch to commemorate a special stay. Tradition is the new trend, so pen a postcard from The Palm Court. Postage on us.” I LOVE THIS! 💕💕💕💕💕

It was a lot of food. Finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam. Lots of tiny desserts and tea. I ate it all! There I am mailing my postcard💕 

It was a lot of food. Finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam. Lots of tiny desserts and tea. I ate it all! There I am mailing my postcard💕 

We rolled out of the Plaza and headed back to check on Penny. As I said it was chilly so she needed her sweater and booties to take a walk. 

That face! 

That face! 

We relaxed at the apartment and got Kim hooked on The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. I don’t have Amazon Prime but binge watched the first season when I was Penny sitting in New York in August. A little birdie told me Kim went home and has already watched BOTH seasons in their entirety. She’s a smart lady and it’s the best show ever!

Tom and Anna had a prior commitment so the Mom’s went out to a restaurant each of us had been to before but both loved. Market Table  is in the West Village and the food is great. We weren’t super hungry after our lavish tea so shared the amazing chicken entree and a side of roasted broccolini with garbanzo beans. The perfect amount of food. I forgot to take a picture but we did get this one of us signing the guest book.

We’re already planning the next Mom’s weekend! 

We’re already planning the next Mom’s weekend! 

If you’re in New York on a Sunday then the law says you must do brunch. Well maybe an unwritten law but everyone does it. Tom and Anna picked out a place that they had been wanting to try that had gotten lots of great press called Loring Place. 

Very cool open space which is rare in the city. Typically you are sitting almost on top of the people next to you

Very cool open space which is rare in the city. Typically you are sitting almost on top of the people next to you

Just thinking about the food is making my mouth water. Fantastic!

We shared appetizers of apple fritters, tater tots and pancakes with lemon curd. Then everyone picked an entree. Waffles with ham and cheese in the batter topped with eggs, a breakfast pizza that was savory and sweet, toad in the hole with avocado and eggs scrambled with crepe fraiche. And bacon😊 

We shared appetizers of apple fritters, tater tots and pancakes with lemon curd. Then everyone picked an entree. Waffles with ham and cheese in the batter topped with eggs, a breakfast pizza that was savory and sweet, toad in the hole with avocado and eggs scrambled with crepe fraiche. And bacon😊 

Shortly before I should have been heading to the airport for my return flight I got a text that my flight was cancelled. Seriously? That happened on my way to New York, and the weather in both New York and Kansas City was fine. Every flight was booked for the rest of the day, so looks like I’m staying till Monday. I wasn’t too upset - more time with Tom and Anna! 

I needed to get a hotel and the best tip of this whole post is hoteltonight.com. If you find yourself needing a hotel at the last minute it’s a great option. Hotels list their unused rooms on the site at deep discounts - usually half price or better. Not available more than 7 days in advance. I got a nice room at a cool hotel called the Arlo close to Tom and Anna for half the price. That was easy!

Since I had some extra time Tom and I walked back over to the Whitney again to see what we didn’t have time for when we went to see Warhol. I love their permanent collection and they had another exhibit focused on digital art and computational art. Their words - not mine. Interesting! 

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We walked the entire High Line and saw how the new Hudson Yards business development is progressing. I had seen something on TV regarding an interesting sculpture and we saw it at the very north end of the High Line. Turns out they are calling it a vertical park. It will open in the spring and while it’s free you will need a reservation to get in - so I’ll put that on my list for next time.  

Initially called The Vessel, now The Staircase. Final name yet to be decided.

Initially called The Vessel, now The Staircase. Final name yet to be decided.

Back to the apartment to have take out Asian with Anna and over to the Arlo Hotel. A good nights sleep, morning coffee and croissant at a cool coffee shop a block away and I’m off to the airport to return home. Another great trip to one of my favorite places. Thanks Tom, Anna and Kim for such a fun time. I already can’t wait to go back! 

Well Marie that adorable little Japanese lady is nagging in her sweet way for me to get back to finding joy with tidying up - so I’m grabbing more large trash bags to keep filling. I’m planning my next BiG trip so check back soon 😊

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Salzburg💕

Just going to say it right off the bat - we all fell in love with Salzburg. My expectations were high because I had heard so many great things about it, and I was actually there 35 years ago, but only for about 24 hours and it was on a whirlwind tour of 6 countries in 16 days and it seemed we spent most of the time in a bus - because I’m pretty sure we did. I remembered it was picturesque and that’s really an understatement. Being there at Christmas with all the beautiful decorations and those super fun Christmas markets might have made it even more like a storybook, but for those and a bunch of other reasons it’s an amazing, fun and super relaxing place. It also feels pretty small especially compared to Paris and Vienna. You can really walk anywhere in about 20 minutes.

We used our unlimited Vienna transportation passes to get to our train station where we boarded our train to Salzburg. We had purchased our train tickets in advance and through our research found that there are two available options to get to Salzburg. The state run train system called the OBB or a newer privately owned train called The Westbahn. The Westbahn is much more limited as far as where it goes, but provides excellent service to Salzburg at one third of the cost. And really new train cars so that’s what we used. It worked out great. A super comfortable ride and pretty alpine scenery for the two and a half hour ride. 

Cheryl relaxing and enjoying the scenery. 

Cheryl relaxing and enjoying the scenery. 

We arrived in Salzburg and thanks to our friend Rick Steves rode the bus from the train station to our hotel for 2 euro each - perfect! The town of Salzburg is divided by the Salzach (salt) River, with the Old Town on the left side and the New Town on the right. Hundreds of years ago Salzburg was funded by salt, as the mines are quite close. And salt was worth a lot of money - one of the reasons why Salzburg was so powerful. Our hotel was in the New Town, which made me laugh because our hotel was built in the 1300’s! To get to the Old Town you just walk across any number of bridges that connect the two. 

We found our hotel easily and it was perfect. Hotel Stadtkrug was right on the central street through New Town and run by a sweet couple that like most of the people in Salzburg - were very friendly and nice.  The hotel was so quaint but totally updated with technology, bathrooms, comfy beds, etc. The best of all worlds!

Many of the buildings are built right into the mountains that circle Salzburg and right behind the reception desk of our hotel there was a huge rock! No going out the back door here. 

Many of the buildings are built right into the mountains that circle Salzburg and right behind the reception desk of our hotel there was a huge rock! No going out the back door here. 

As usual we’re hungry, so we headed out to find lunch. We weren’t the only ones that thought Salzburg would be great to visit at Christmas time, so one thing we discovered quickly were lots of other people trying to do the same thing. So we settled for putting our names in at a restaurant that looked great and walked around for about 30 minutes until our table was ready. No problem as it was so fun to see more of the darling town. 

Check out the huge rock this building is built into - it’s everywhere! 

Check out the huge rock this building is built into - it’s everywhere! 

A store that sells lederhosen - yep - they really wear them. And those cool alpine hats. This store was not a tourist souvenir shop - it’s the real deal. 

A store that sells lederhosen - yep - they really wear them. And those cool alpine hats. This store was not a tourist souvenir shop - it’s the real deal. 

The huge Hohensalzburg Fortress looming over town.  

The huge Hohensalzburg Fortress looming over town.  

Time for lunch!  Ludwig which had excellent burgers and salads. Lots of great beer too! 

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Burgers for Cheryl and Meredith and salads for Ava and I. Pretty sure we had fries too. The salad was one of the best I’ve ever had - and I’ve eaten a lot of salad in my life. Homemade dressing too. Saving room for the dessert that I’m pretty sure I’ll be having soon😊

There was talk of returning for round two the next day - it was so good!

There was talk of returning for round two the next day - it was so good!

We headed across the bridge to see Old Town. And more Christmas markets! And mulled wine! 

No ceramic mugs though. But still delicious! 

No ceramic mugs though. But still delicious! 

The narrow cobblestone streets could not be more picturesque. And tucked in courtyards and alleys were Christmas markets with so many beautiful things to buy. 

Our wine friend! 

Our wine friend! 

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Time for dessert! My friend Mary Kay had just been to Salzburg and recommended Furst for coffee and pastries so we tracked it down. It was late afternoon and they said they had been unexpectedly busy so didn’t have a lot left, but the apple strudel looked good so we gave it a try along with a delicious jelly donut. No regrets and such a cute place! 

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The girls had been off shopping so came and met us and we all headed back to our side of the river. We stopped at the hotel to relax a little and then went in search of dinner. There was a super cute place really close to our hotel call Zum Fidelen Affen which means The Funky Monkey, and while they were really busy they said if we would give them about 20 minutes they would squeeze us in - done! No one was super hungry since we had a late lunch and late dessert, but they had great soups and salads and wine so that’s what we ordered. And some really great pretzels!

Such a cute warm cozy place. And lots of monkeys around! 

Such a cute warm cozy place. And lots of monkeys around! 

Day 2 - and actually our last day in Salzburg started with breakfast at the hotel. Like a lot of European hotels breakfast is included and often delicious. Our hotel had an awesome assortment of food. A full buffet and they would make you eggs or omelets to order. They had a coffee machine that I would love to have in my home. Except it would kill me because I would be pressing the cappuccino button 20 times a day and never sleep.

Top right is my much loved potica! A walnut yeast bread that my grandmother made and it’s fantastic! 

Top right is my much loved potica! A walnut yeast bread that my grandmother made and it’s fantastic! 

Off to the Sound of Music tour! Yes!! Totally doing it! Everyone loves the Sound of Music - admit you love it! It was released in 1965 but it’s timeless. It was set in Salzburg and is about a real family. Everyone I know that has been to Salzburg says it’s great and even Rick Steves said to do it, so how could we not? There are a couple of different companies that offer it but we went with the biggest which is Panorama Tours. Book in advance because it sells out. They do a tour in the morning and a tour in the afternoon and there were three big busses going at our morning time slot. I was excited about it but I thought it was going to be kind of schmaltzy (excessively sentimental). We all said it exceeded our expectations. For one, it gets you around Salzburg and into the gorgeous surrounding alpine mountains and lakes - so two tours in one. The tour guide was very professional and gave us a lot of the history of the country, the true story of the Von Trappe family (which is quite different from the movie version) and we got to see many of the places featured in the movie. Something that I think is interesting is that the locals don’t understand why Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are so enamored with the movie. Outside of the tours there is one shop in town where you can purchase Sound of Music items. The locals are much more into Mozart who was born there and lived there for the first 25 years of his life. The vast majority of the souvenirs are Mozart related, and you can visit his birthplace and residence - neither which we did. We did walk by both.

 

We are ALL excited! 

We are ALL excited! 

Top picture is the back of the house used in the movie - really just the back yard which faces the water. Remember when the kids and Maria all fell out of the boat? That one! Me with the gazebo (which was built for the movie and doesn’t sit in the backyard of that house) . Bottom left is the real abbey - building with the red bulb on top. Nothing was actually filmed inside since the nuns aren’t open to visitors - but they allowed the front gate to be in the movie in a couple of scenes.

Top picture is the back of the house used in the movie - really just the back yard which faces the water. Remember when the kids and Maria all fell out of the boat? That one! Me with the gazebo (which was built for the movie and doesn’t sit in the backyard of that house) . Bottom left is the real abbey - building with the red bulb on top. Nothing was actually filmed inside since the nuns aren’t open to visitors - but they allowed the front gate to be in the movie in a couple of scenes.

On our way to Mondsee which is the town up in the mountains where the church Maria and the Captain got married in (not for real though) we got to drive past some beautiful villages and lakes. We stopped and got off the bus to take pictures and I think it’s one of my favorites from the entire trip. 

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We had some time in the adorable town of Mondsee to visit the beautiful church where the movie wedding took place and visit the shops and restaurants. 

All the towns are so clean and manicured. Everyone remembers Maria walking down this big aisle! 

All the towns are so clean and manicured. Everyone remembers Maria walking down this big aisle! 

Our last stop of the tour was at the Mirabell Gardens which are beautiful gardens where the whole scene with all the kids and Maria in their curtain play clothes sang Do-Re-Me. 

Top left - the steps they jumped up at the end, Top right - the fountain they ran around, Bottom right - the statues they mimicked, Bottom left - the arbor they ran through. It’s all there! 

Top left - the steps they jumped up at the end, Top right - the fountain they ran around, Bottom right - the statues they mimicked, Bottom left - the arbor they ran through. It’s all there! 

The tour takes about 4 and a half hours but it was worth it! I can’t wait to see the movie again! We stopped for a quick lunch at Cafe Bazar which was in a pretty spot overlooking the river.  

Not a huge menu but the real deal as far as Austrian cuisine. I went with the cheese toast (grilled cheese) and various sausages for the others. Why not?! 

Not a huge menu but the real deal as far as Austrian cuisine. I went with the cheese toast (grilled cheese) and various sausages for the others. Why not?! 

Did I mention Salzburg has great shopping? We decided we needed to do a little more so headed over to Old Town. There are sites and museums to see in Salzburg, but frankly we were a little burned out on them, so passed on everything except attempting to get up to the big Hohensalzburg Fortress. Some of my ideas are good but not all of them, and this was one that didn’t work out so well. I had read that you could take an elevator up to the top of the Monchsberg Mountain and walk over to the fortress seeing beautiful views and homes along the way. Most people just take the funicular from the bottom to the top and then down again after exploring the fortress. That sounded too easy to me. So it took us about 45 minutes to find the elevator on the other end of town and take it to the top.

Pretty view of Salzburg, the river and the fortress from the top of the elevator platform.  

Pretty view of Salzburg, the river and the fortress from the top of the elevator platform.  

The walk to the Fortress was pretty but quite a bit longer than we had expected and it was starting to get dark. By the time we got to the fortress the entrance to get in was closed, and the only way to get in was to walk down and take the funicular to the top. What?

We’re almost to the fortress! 

We’re almost to the fortress! 

So that’s what we did. We walked down and took the funicular up - walked around the fortress and then took the funicular down again. It didn’t have to be that hard! Sorry ladies! They were good sports about it and we did get to see some pretty scenery.

From the fortress. Hey we were just in Paris! And Ava is heading next to Berlin!

From the fortress. Hey we were just in Paris! And Ava is heading next to Berlin!

We need dessert! On to Cafe Tomaselli which was where Mozart used to dine, although it wasn’t called Cafe Tomiselli then.

Having our Mozart moment - packed but still fun. Desserts and wine!  

Having our Mozart moment - packed but still fun. Desserts and wine!  

It was a Saturday night and we had no dinner reservation- our luck had run out. If I come back one thing I will be sure and do is make dinner reservations. Lots of great restaurants but they are small. We tried a number of places in our area and finally found an Italian place we could get into, and the food was actually quite good.  

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Salzburg in the morning, and goodbye to Ava - who was heading to Berlin to meet a friend for New Year’s Eve which is also her birthday! Happy belated Ava! Lucky lady! 

Cheryl, Meredith and I reversed our steps and took the Westbahn train back to Vienna. We said goodbye at the train station in Vienna because they were taking the CAT train back to the airport to fly back to Paris for the night, while I was staying in Vienna for one more day. We had such a great time together!

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Back in Vienna - starting to feel like home to me. I hopped the metro to get to my hotel, which was in a great location right by the Hofburg Palace. I had just gotten it off Booking.com so was hoping for the best. It was a pension hotel which is kind of a cross between a hotel, guest house, bed and breakfast etc. Less amenities than a hotel but I figured since I was only there one night I didn’t need much more than a clean room with a comfortable bed. The Hotel Pension Museum was perfect. Reasonable, great location, clean, quiet and a nice breakfast included. 

My home for the night. 

My home for the night. 

So what to do with my last hours in Vienna. Dessert of course! My favorite pastry place in Vienna is Demel, and while I had walked through with the ladies when we were there a few days ago, we didn’t stop to eat. I needed to fix that ASAP! 

Tea and the famous Sachertorte! A dense chocolate cake layered with apricot jam.  

Tea and the famous Sachertorte! A dense chocolate cake layered with apricot jam.  

Next up the Albertina Museum which is located in one of the Hapsburg residences. I had visited this museum on a previous visit, but when I saw they had a special exhibit on Monet I had to try and fit it in. 

 

The Albertina

The Albertina

It was really cold and windy and since I didn’t know about the exhibit prior to being in Vienna I hadn’t bought a ticket in advance. So I had to wait in line for at least 40 minutes to get in but it was so worth it. The building is beautiful and the Monet exhibit was the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen quite a few Impressionist exhibits that were great, but this was all Monet and I saw pieces I’ve never seen. Plus they did a great job of designing the exhibit using a timeline of his career so I learned much more about his life, his family and his career. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity and also learned about a museum in Paris that is just Monet that I have on my Paris list for next time. A good reason to go back. 

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Inside the Albertina

Inside the Albertina

On my way back to the pension I walked through my last Christmas market. Even though my friend Cheryl is not here to drink mulled wine with, I will have one and toast to her.  

So many to choose from! 

So many to choose from! 

I discovered that they switch the mugs to New Year’s mugs and the pig and mushroom are considered to be their good luck charms - much like the shamrock in Ireland. I looked it up and it’s something about if you have a pig you have everything you need, and the mushroom is lucky because certain kinds of them are rare - so there you go! I kept my mug and brought it home with me. I figure we can all use a little extra luck and hoping it brings me a year as great as the one I experienced in 2018!

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The next morning I headed home. Vienna to Dublin to Chicago and home. Thanks for “coming along” and sharing my adventures! While my Gap Year is technically over my travels aren’t. Check back again or use the Subscribe link on the home page to be notified when there is a new post to read.  

“The life you have led doesn't need to be the only life you have.” Anna Quindlen