Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Last day in Paris, then Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam:

It's all been a blur. We have now been in five different cities in three weeks. Languages are spinning around in my head as if I were a translator at the United Nations.  Although I have learned "thank you" in all these countries, I still mix them up and go back to my safety: ENGLISH.  Thankfully, these bright people speak multiple languages and shockingly they do not see Americans as dumb and ignorant.  They say that there is no need for us to speak other languages when everyone in the world speaks OUR language.  No wonder we are an arrogant people.  We have met taxi drivers that speak more than five different languages.  I feel stupid.

Our last days in Paris: We decided to have out last lunch at the The Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, a large historic landmark that holds museums and exhibitions.  It is a beautiful piece of architecture that also houses a wonderful restaurant in one of its buildings.

We had a lovely lunch of scallops, salmon and my favorite: foie gras.

We passed on dessert because a trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to Angelina!

 There was never a lull in the pastry eating.  I could not leave without making this trip to Angelina, which is on the Rue de Rivoli.  Angelina is an institution having delighted tourists and residents with their pastries and hot chocolate since 1903.  My parents and I first went there in 1962 and I went again with my sister and cousins about ten years ago.  Their hot chocolate is so thick that a spoon can easily stand up in it.  Perhaps it is the mountains of fresh whipped cream they serve alongside this heavenly drink.  The hot chocolate is ORGASMIC!!  Years ago I brought bags of this cocoa back with me to the states.  My sister asked me to bring a few bags home for her on this visit.  SORRY Patti...they now sell it for $25 a bag.

Of course we did not split a dessert

I have been to most all the museums during my European travels so I am a little burned out on art.  I do, however, like to find other museums of interest.  We went in to this one and loved it....despite all the dead animals.  It was interesting to see all the weaponry and the cute "stuffed" animals :)

 We then headed off to the Shoah Museum in Paris.  You are first greeted by the Wall of Names which symbolizes the 76,00 Jews deported from France to the Nazi concentration camps.  Only 2,500 of those people survived.  France only officially acknowledged the Vichy government's role in this horror in 1995.  I found the museum fascinating, complete, and of course extrememly sad.  They have a beautiful memorial of a Jewish Star honoring all those lost during that time in history.  Worth a visit!


We arrived early Saturday evening..hungry.  We had a recommendation for a restaurant named Plachuttas, which has been named one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world.  Everyone that's anyone has been there: movie stars, rock stars, Bill Clinton and now, The Doigs.  Everyone goes there for the tafelspitz which is a soup with boiled beef, marrow,  and vegetables.  They also bring sides of spinach and potatoes.  It doesn't sound so great, but believe me,   it is a dining experience. I urge you to click on the link and read about it.  There is a process to eating the meal which will be explained in the link.

our dessert


Let's continue on with the pastries...naturally.  Vienna has this competition with Paris as to who has the best pastries.  Hopefully my Viennese friends won't read this, but Paris wins by a landslide in taste, although they both make exquisite looking sweets.  Vienna invented the Sacher Torte.  Has anyone ever eaten the Sacher Torte at Costco?? (yes, I really asked that).  Well, honestly, I think it beats out this highly recommended pastry shop in Vienna. 

a pastry chef making the famous sacher tortes

Although I rarely mention it, we are actually in Europe because Steve is lecturing on DATA JOURNALISM  . zzzzzzzz <WAKE UP!!!>

Okay, so our wonderful and brilliant host in Vienna was Martin Kotynek,  who is an investigative editor for Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper much like the Economist.   He is from Vienna but works in Berlin.  He was nice enough to arrange lectures for Steve in both places as well as being our tour guide in Vienna.  He did a fabulous job.  But there is my Martin story:

Steve and Martin at one of the many stops we made on our cold day
We got to Vienna on Saturday night and it was snowing and freezing.  Martin had agreed to tour us around the city on Sunday.  Have I mentioned how much I hate the cold?  Saturday night as the snow fell HARD and the wind blew...HARD...I mentioned that perhaps I should stay at the apartment while he toured with Martin. Steve ASSURED me we would be going by car around town.  How could we possibly walk in this weather?  Sunday morning arrived.  When we met Martin outside the apartment in this heavy snowfall, I asked where his car was.  He said he left his car at the train station and we would be WALKING!!!!! IN THE FREEZING SNOW!!!! AND THE WIND!!!! Pulling my scarf and hat and gloes and hood tightly around we, we started out on our 4 hour trek around windy, cold Vienna.  Surprisingly, it was lovely tour although I could not feel my legs or feet.  Some interesting things we saw:

The library

beautiful interior

Pestsaule: Finished  in 1693 as a promise to God if God ended the plague. God did.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral completed in 1160.

inside  Saint Stephens
 I put this in there as an honor to Steve. Exterior is made of porous limestone so every 5 years they are cleaning and replacing pieces.  Mozart was married here and they also held his funeral service here.

I was numb at this point and finally talked the boys into stopping for lunch.  Martin took us to Gasthaus zur Oper, a restaurant owned by the son of the chef and owner of Plachutas.  Steve was determined to eat weiner schnitzel.  I was expecting or WANTING something smothered in gravy.  No gravy, but it was good, albeit a little dry.  The soup was yummy!


The soup and the big guy next to me kept me warm!

Berlin: There is nothing to say about Berlin except YUCK! I don't care what anyone is dreary and depressing and I never wanted to leave the apartment. So..I didn't leave the apartment.  Well, I did leave twice.  I walked to the grocery store. (I couldn't live without wine)...and there was a cute cafe directly across the street. I got soup. Ok, to be fair, I really didn't give it much of a chance, but we weren't in the most vibrant of areas. (are there any?)  Stephen spent hours lecturing and I spent my 2 1/2 days.....relaxing...reading 3 books....consuming 3 bottles of wine. I'm got outta there!!!!  It NEVER stopped snowing!!

This was in our backyard where we were suppose to relax and drink our morning coffee. Right!


Yes, we have arrived in this beautiful city and we will be here for 8 days.  The apartment is INCREDIBLE and is situated right at Nieuwmarkt which is spitting distance from the red light district and surrounded by "coffee" bars (a.k.a.hash bars.)

Too much to write about and this has gone on wayyyyyy too long, so I will be back in a few to talk more of our adventures in Amsterdam.  To date, we have not entered a hookah bar (but plan to) and we have both been invited to join a beautiful blonde hooker who was beckoning us from her window. We declined.

More later.....I am going to make soup for Steve..who is sick, all "liquidy" and yuck..because it continues to be THE COLDEST WEATHER EVER RECORDED IN EUROPE'S HISTORY!!!
The very last time he will be kissed by me until he recovers!!!

p.s. two cool newspaper pictures:
Miami Herald (Steve's old employer) found at the Berlin airport

found at an antique news store in Paris