Today, I still feel at home in Vienna.

For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.
– Simon van Booy

Last weekend, Megan and I met for a semi-spontaneous trip to Vienna! It’s about a 3 hour train ride from BP, and a slightly longer plane ride from Madrid. She doesn’t have class on Fridays or Mondays, and school’s about to start for me again, so it worked out really well!
My memories of the city are tinged by nostalgia and the summer heat: ice cream every day, walks in the park, strangers who took to me, the girl traveling without her parents. I was prepared for the possibility that the city wouldn’t have the charm and luster that lives in my memory, especially in the winter and with the changes that more than a decade inevitably bring to a person and a place.

Stefansdom then ...

Stefansdom then …

... and now.

… and now.

Anna and I arrived on Friday around noon, and took a subway straight to the hotel. One great thing about Vienna is that public transportation there is extremely accessible: every subway stop has an elevator, for example, which makes life there A LOT EASIER when trying to get around in a wheelchair.

Megan arrived shortly after, well-fed by the airline snacks on Air Italia 🙂 We walked around the city center, including a visit to Stefansdom and Peter’s Church. Afterwards, Megan and I saw more of the city by ourselves. We tried to go to one of the cafés that her father recommended, but all of those had a least a step precluding my entrance. Accessibility issues still abound! However, it worked out for the best because we stumbled across a delicious Italian restaurant called Ristorante Sole. The staff there was so considerate, even taking pity on our indecisiveness and portioning our two entrees so that we could each have half. For dessert, we split strawberries with creamy mascarpone.

Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!

Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!

That’s when the excitement really started, though, because as we walked around, we found ourselves on the outskirts of a riot protesting a ball in the Hofburg. Megan and I tend to gravitate towards home before the night owls even take flight. It so happened that the entrance to our hotel was RIGHT in the middle of a crowd of protestors. Fortunately, the policemen deemed us harmless and allowed us to pass through the barriers.

On Saturday, we took a subway to Schönbrunn, the Hapsburg’s summer residence, painted Maria Theresa’s favorite color, ochre yellow.

We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!

We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!

The palace itself is only half the fun of Schönbrunn; its vast grounds include a zoo (with pandas!), rose garden, and paths for meandering.  We walked to the top of a small hill to see this view:

I didn't realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.

I didn’t realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.

After warming up in our room, Megan and I ventured out again for dinner at Café Landtmann and explorations around the city hall. The city hall is a gorgeous building, reminiscent of the gothic style of Duke Chapel.IMG_0793

There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.

There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.

Temperatures were frigid at this point, so we called it an early night again and relaxed in our room.

On Sunday, we went to the Albertina to see the newly acquired collection of Impressionist, Expressionist, and Surrealist art, entitled “Monet to Picasso”.

This Chagall painting was one of my favorites

This Chagall painting was one of my favorites.

Per Anna’s request, we had to to have Wiener Schnitzel (when in Wien …), so that was our mission in the afternoon. That was when the snow started to fall! It was enough to be pretty without becoming an inconvenience like the Snowpocalypse and Polar Vortex of the East Coast.
In the evening, Megan and I went to visit Stephi, an old friend of mine, at her home. It was really nice to see her again and meet her family. I had not spoken to her in quite a while, though she sends me Advent calendars every December! Moreover, Megan and I had just become friends in middle school before I met Stephi, so it was sweetly bizarre to introduce these two people who have been in my life so long.

Stephi suggested we go to Sunday Swing at the Leopold Museum Café, so that was our next destination, since the night was still young, even for us. At this point, there was an inch layer of snow coating the streets, making for a charming winter wonderland as we trudged out. The Sunday Swing was in full … swing… when we got there. I felt transported to the ’20s! The only downside was the thick smoke hanging in the air from all the cigarettes, but perhaps that contributed to the authenticity of the experience.

Monday was our last morning, so we went to see Karl’s church and a peak of Belvedere, but it was too cold and snowy, so we ended up getting hot chocolate and coffee in a bakery underground. 🙂 Warmth and a friend – not a bad way to end the trip, after all.

from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!

from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl at the Albertina. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!

Vienna wasn’t quite as I remembered it, but that ended up being okay. After all, I’ve changed a lot, too. Time has worn down parts of us, circumstances have enriched us, but we are still recognizable.

Today, I am flying to Guatemala!

I am going to Guatemala!!!!!!!!! I got to this airport incredibly early. Dark o’clock, to be exact. I’m sitting here charging my phone right now with nothing to do but to peer out the windows into the dark abyss. So, I decided to download the wordpress app and at least engage in a productive activity 🙂

Yes, one of my best friends is getting married this weekend, and the wedding will be held in Guatemala! I can’t express my feels right now. A friend getting married, reuniting with friends, finally satisfying the traveler in me… So many things! But for now here I am in this cold and scary airport. I feel like this would make the perfect setting for a zombie movie. Maybe dearest Markie can help us with that 🙂

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Today, I’m leaving on a jet plane

… not sure when I’ll be back again, but I hope it will be soon. All my bags are not packed and I’m not ready to go either, but there we have it.

I’ve prepared some music and reading to distract me from the cramped quarters and stale cabin air.  What do you like to do during flights? Sometimes, I watch the in-flight shows and movies provided, but I prefer to come with entertainment of my own. Here’s what I have ready for today:


Garrison Starr’s appropriately titled album, The Girl That Killed September (2007) from Noisetrade, a site with music from tons of great independent artists. Starr’s 2012 album Amateur was one of my favorites from last year. Check her out if you like Brandi Carlile with a little more pop.

 

 

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This classic detective mystery only came to my attention when Robert Galbraith was revealed to be a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.  Obviously, you’ve all read the Harry Potter series, otherwise we wouldn’t be friends (kidding, mostly).  The Casual Vacancy was great, too. I wish I could have stumbled upon it with less bias to have been part of the experiment.

If you’re in the U.S., have a happy Labor Day!

Today, I bring you breathtaking view that President Abe Lincoln sees…

Hai! Quick reminder that our SomethingNavy and Jewelmint Dress Giveaway is ending tonight! If you haven’t entered yet, you have about 11 more hours to do so ! 🙂

Now I promised you the breathtaking view that President Abe sees every night… so here it is ~

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I mentioned that I took a trip to see the memorials/monuments of Washington, DC after my dining experience at Jaleo DC in my previous post.  I have visited the city landmarks multiple times during family vacations as a kid. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of these places at night. What a difference it makes! And how lovely it is! I also didn’t realize that so many people come out at night to see these famous memorials/monuments. Enjoy ~

We started out at the US National World War II Memorial. This is one of my favorite ones to visit with the 56 pillars surrounding the plaza and fountain.  This is also a great place to view the Washington Monument

From the World War II Memorial plaza, you can see the Lincoln Memorial from afar. When you’re actually standing there, the memorial seems like a short walk, but it’s actually quite far (well, I guess it’s not that far… hehe).

After a quick-ish walk, we have arrived at the front of the memorial. We spy Abe.

Whew! What a climb… let’s take a break and look up at the aesthetics of it all!

And there he sits as he gazes out at the lovely city of Washington, DC.

 

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Today, I write about a legenDAIRY experience

For dinner, I fulfilled my #1 mission in HK, according to Jarkie: Going to Australia Dairy Company. From the moment I told her I would be visiting the city, she has urged, reminded, and implored me to go to this place! As all the reviews say, the place was packed, but the service was very prompt. We ordered the food to go because we were in a hurry, and it was handed to us freshly cooked and packaged in less than 10 minutes!

For dinner on Wednesday, I fulfilled my #1 mission in HK, according to Jarkie: Going to Australia Dairy Company. Beginning from the moment I told her I would be here, she has urged, reminded, and implored me to go to this place! As the reviews warned, it was packed, but the service was very prompt. We ordered the food to go because we were in a hurry, and it was handed to us freshly cooked and packaged in less than 10 minutes!

The menu was in Chinese, so my aunt ordered for us. This sandwich had a mishmash of things (egg, ham, cucumber, dressing) that sound normal, but were very tasty in combination. The cold egg custard was my favorite! Perfect consistency and sweetness. You were right, Jarkie!

The menu was in Chinese, so my aunt ordered for us. This sandwich had a mishmash of things (egg, ham, cucumber, dressing) that sound normal, but were very tasty in combination. The cold egg custard was my favorite! Perfect consistency and sweetness. You were right, Jarkie!

Today, I share highlights from Munich!

(Remember those times I promised photos? Yep, me too. Most of these were taken by Gail. For chronological orientation, please see this post.)

Our train left from Keleti, Budapest's Eastern train station. We arrived more than an hour early (I'm seeing a pattern), rail novices that we were.

Our train left from Keleti, Budapest’s Eastern train station. We arrived more than an hour early (sense a pattern?), rail novices that we were.

I boarded  with the help of this handy foldout lift. Thanks to ÖBB, the Austrian rail company!

I boarded with the help of this handy foldout lift. Thanks to ÖBB, the Austrian rail company!

After a 6-hour ride, we arrived at the Munich train station, pictured here. Thus began our 3 day, 2 night stay, with 1 hotel move. We arrived on a Friday evening, and were quite tired.

After a 6-hour ride, we arrived at the Munich train station, pictured here. Thus began our 3-day stay!

Fußball makes its first appearance with this ad featuring Schweinsteiger.

Fußball makes its first appearance with this ad featuring Schweinsteiger.

The city hall on Marienplatz is a main attraction. My impressions were a bit blighted by the overcast weather, but it was still an impressive sight.

The city hall on Marienplatz is a main attraction. My impressions were a bit blighted by the overcast weather.

There were still splashes of color to be found!

There were still splashes of color to be found!

On Saturday, we had lunch at the Hofbräuhaus, first founded as royal brewery, and now a major tourist attraction for typical Bavarian food.

On Saturday, we had lunch at the Hofbräuhaus, first founded as royal brewery, and now a major tourist attraction for traditional Bavarian food. The halls were packed with guests merrily singing, eating, and drinking along to live music. We seated ourselves and had to wait quite a while for our food. I don’t think most people mind, since the drinks flow continuously and pretzel baskets circulate.

One of the sights we visited that afternoon was the Frauenkirche.

One of the sights we visited that afternoon was the Frauenkirche.

The next day, we went to visit the Old & New Pinakotheks, two art museums (1 euro admission on Sundays!) spanning several centuries of paintings. Check out this old-school thought bubble :)

The next day, we went to visit the Old & New Pinakotheks, two art museums (€1 admission on Sundays!) spanning several centuries of paintings. Check out this old-school speech bubble 🙂

Less than €200 for a full lederhosen outfit? What a bargain!

Less than €200 for a full lederhosen outfit? What a bargain!

Today, I write from the motherland!

After a lifetime of hearing about Hong Kong from my mother and relatives, I’m finally here!

It started on Saturday, when we left Frankfurt on a direct,11-hour flight leaving at 22:00.

We arrived early and had 4 hours to leisurely wait at the gate.

We arrived early and had 4 hours to leisurely wait at the gate.

Imagine fear of losing your luggage x 10 and that's what I'm feeling right there.

Imagine fear of losing your luggage x 10 and that’s what I’m feeling right there.


Here’s part of my travel routing: packing up my wheelchair for flight. Since it is stored with the cargo and just generally handled by many strangers in transit, I never quite know what will come out at the final destination. Thanks to Gail’s meticulous packing, it arrived unharmed!
I even had time to video chat with some relatives and Jarkie, thanks to free wifi in the “Fraport” after a month of limited internet data. She told me that my hair was like “Murry Curry’s” (as in, the Nobel Prize winner; what a southerner!;) ). Some people leave flights still looking radiant; seems like I can’t even board them that way!

We arrived in the HK and were greeted by my aunt at the massive airport (there’s even a cinema!). She lives with my Pau Pau (maternal grandmother) in an apartment of a campus dorm where she serves as the faculty-in-residence.  I hadn’t seen Pau Pau since she moved back to HK 3 years ago, and it was even better than I expected to be in each other’s company again. Their home is so spacious by any standards, let alone HK’s, with beautiful views, and we feel so blessed to be here!

Maybe I should've gone to school here... the university sits on the hills of Kowloon, right next to the water, with the mountains in the distance.

Maybe I should’ve gone to school here… the university sits on the hills of Kowloon, right next to the water, with the mountains in the distance.

On the first night, we went to eat at the Chinese restaurant on campus that serves dim sum every day at lunch time! :O A-mazing! (see caption above)

Yesterday, we rode a bus line from one end, a large mall, to the other, the waterfront at Sai Kung.

Pier at Sai Kung

Pier at Sai Kung. My aunt says that this use to be a day trip for the family when they were growing up.

Drying fish

Drying fish

Just a regular day at the fish market aquarium...

Just a regular day at the fish market aquarium…

Today, we went downtown for a buffet lunch and stopped to take in the Avenue of the Stars.

Look at the skyline!!

Look at the skyline! There were a couple of those so-called Chinese “junk” sailing ships.

My father and I, both visiting for the first time, are taken in by the vibrancy and composition of the city. I’m really looking forward to my mother’s arrival in a few weeks to see what she has to say about her memories and current impressions.