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Friday, February 24, 2012

What I Did During My Winter Break...nothing much!

Taking the Eurorail to Vienna, our little compartment, Toga included
Last year, if you asked me what I did during the school's February break, you would had thought I was some sort of nomad. Remember last February I was living in Europe, so all this traveling was luring me. Kids time off from school+Europe= some sort of vacation. So weeks prior to the break, I visited my favorite travel agent, who spoke great English. She helped me to book my whole trip to Vienna, Austria. We were taking the train, and we found a great hotel right outside "the ring," or the downtown area. Days before my trip, my husband tells me that his company needs him to be in New York State, the same week as my Vienna trip. He was never going to go with us, since he had to work, but we had our dog to think about. Since everyone I knew had plans over the February break, Toga had to come with us. Once again, I visited my favorite travel agent, and told her now my dog was coming on my trip. She laughed for a good minute. I think she thought I was absolutely out of my mind. Luckily, the hotel I had reserved allowed for dogs, and I had to buy Toga a ticket to ride the Euro rail, which costs as much as my ticket!
We boarded the train on a very early Tuesday morning. It was fun to ride the Eurorail, in our own little compartment. We traveled through Germany, Czech Republic, and finally Austria. It was a full day's trip on the train, taking more than 6 hours. Looking back, I don't know how I survived, with the kids, the dog, and just me. And I was traveling in foreign countries.
Vienna's City Hall, where we ice skated.
Our trip to Vienna was full of adventure and wonder. We spent four days in Vienna, with our guidebooks and our winter wardrobes (it was cold when we visited). Riley was impressed with the city's transportation system- it was one of the few cities in Europe we visited that had trams, subways and buses. We took the #1 and #2 trams around the "ring" and explored the city in this way; getting off whenever we chose. Maggie's liked the tour of the Schonbrunn Palace, and while taking the tour, we learned all about the Queen, whose name was Sissy, who had a reputation for just doing whatever she wanted, which was rare in those days. At the end of the tour, Maggie got a doll of Sissy. We ice skated under the City Hall lights,which was magical. The City Hall was lit up, there were two skating rinks, and little paths of ice, like roads, that even had stop signs! We walked along the streets where the artist Hundertwasser built and designed funky housing, with trees coming out of the sides of the buildings, crooked sidewalks, and without regard to line symmetry when designing his buildings. It was all very Dr. Seuss and very whimsical. We went to the House of Music, attended a Mozart concert (Mozart is from Vienna), and I didn't want to leave Vienna without exposing my children to the classical music of Vienna. We strolled along StephanPlatz, the city's main shopping district. We were in awe of the architecture, and we found the people in Austria to be extremely kind and friendly and smiley; very different than in East Germany.

Hundertwasser Museum, with trees coming out of the building.
Toga did great on our trip. We took him out with us during the day, and by night he was so tired, he calmly napped in the hotel with his stuffed turtle. When we had lunch, the restaurants would allow us to have Toga with us, and he sat with us at the table. Yes, in most of Europe, dogs are allowed wherever you go.
After coming back from Vienna, we had only 2 days to rest, then we were off to Paris. We were going to Paris for 3 days, and our Paris trip was during the week the kids went back to school after Winter Break. Both Riley and Maggie's teachers applauded me for taking the kids on trips, and since both of my kids are doing great in school, I didn't feel one ounce of guilt for taking them out of school. And they missed a lot of school last year!

Maggie and I, and the River Seine
Before our elevator ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Walking the Marcais district
But, look at all they were learning about the world! We took a plane to Paris (without Toga; he stayed home with Tim). Once we landed in Paris, we were quickly navigating ourselves around the city. I chose a hotel in the Oberkampt district; away from tourists. I wanted to experience and see people that lived in Paris. It was a great neighborhood, but it was about an hour's train ride from the airport. Paris is a HUGE city, and everything in the city is scattered all around. The Eiffel Tower was a good 40 minute subway ride from our hotel, the Arc was about 20 minutes from the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame was a 20 minute bus ride from our hotel. It takes awhile to get places in Paris. We even traveled to Versailles, which was about an hour train ride outside Paris. I loved Paris. There's something about just walking the streets of Paris. There are no skyscrapers in Paris, because of the ground not being able to support the massive buildings, so everything is just so quaint and cute. Each neighborhood had its own distinct personality. We walked through the Marcais district, the Republique, the Bastille and the area around the Arc and the Eiffel Tower. We hiked up the stairs to Montmartre. We saw amazing architecture, including Notre Dame. My favorite part of Paris was the immediate area around Notre Dame, around the River Seine. It was so romantic, with the little bridges connecting the little island that Notre Dame is on.

The people in Paris were so friendly and nice. There's a saying about how rude the French are, but I never experienced it. When we exited the subway, after first arriving in Paris, we looked lost, with all of our baggage and our exposed map. Immediately, a French woman helped us to find our hotel.

Eating crepes in Montmartre
After returning back to Germany, one of the moms from the kids' international school asked me where I was, since my kids missed 3 days of school that week. I told her we went to Vienna and then to Paris. She laughed and called me crazy. She was a woman from India, and she always put a smile on my face because she was always wondering what I was up to. Her daughter and my daughter became friends at the school. One of my favorite people I met there; but this comment made me laugh, because maybe I was crazy for doing so much.
Now, a year later, you ask me: What did you do this year?
At Notre Dame
Absolutely nothing! My energy bank needs to be filled up again. Remember, last year I wasn't working so traveling was my work last year. This year, it's back to work teaching, I really just needed a break and I welcome the nothingness this break. We did a little bit, here and there. Our big outing was to my favorite lunch restaurant, The Whistling Kettle, and then another day, an outing to Crossgates Mall. And I did go out with my friends one night, but that's another story...
One of the days during this break, I went to Job Lots, which is this real bizarre store, that reminds me of a flea market. While there, I ran into one of my friends, who just got back from Honduras. "I found the deal on You need to check it out."
So, I've been on LivingSocial everyday since, and I'm ready to go to an exotic vacation in April. But for February, I just needed to do nothing.


  1. Austin didn't really have a break, but we haven't done too much since we've been back. Or at least, nothing compared to what we did last year! Sometimes I am in awe of who I became while doing all of those adventurous things! I'm glad you feel the same :o)

  2. I know what you mean Brandi- I am in awe of who we became! I am stronger, and more sensitive to world issues. Part of me didn't want to go anywhere during the break, because I don't even where I would go...I want to go back to Europe!!! I feel sad that I never see you guys anymore, with my work schedule. You guys were all like a 2nd family to me... How are you enjoying Saratoga? I really hope to see some of you guys soon!!!!