Sunday, January 26, 2014

2 Fat Girls on a Volcano Top 100 Things to See/Do Before You Die:

1. South Rim of the Grand Canyon
2. Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
3. Walk up Monmarte and watch the sun set over Paris from the steps of Le Sacre Cour
4. Hagia Sofia of Istanbul
5. Walking tour of the Coliseum
6. The Scarab beetle ceiling, King's Palace, Brussels, Belgium
7. St. Paul's Dome at night, as seen from the Millenium footbridge, London
8. Albuquerque Balloon Festival
9. Anne Frank's House, Amsterdam
10. General Post Office, Dublin, Ireland
11. Wander through Venice on foot
12. Have tapas on the waterfront in Barcelona
13. Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
14. Viennese New Year's Eve Concert
15. Mirabel Gardens, Salzburg, Austria
16. National Finals Rodeo, Las Vegas
17. Leed's Castle, England
18. The Greek Amphitheater ruins of Taormina, Sicily
19. Stay overnight in the monastery of Assisi
20. Cruise the Seine on a summer day
21. Live Theatre in London's West End
22. The Library at Ephesus
23. The Kentucky Derby
24. Sunset tour of the canals of Venice
25. Windjammer Days, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
26. Try Limoncello in Capri
27. Walk up the Acropolis to the Parthenon
28. Throw a coin in the Fountain of Trevi
29. Eat chocolate dipped Belgian waffles in Le Gran Place, Brussels
30. Dromoland Castle, Ireland
31. The Musee D'Orsay, Paris
32. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
33. Valletta, Malta
34. Marsala salt mills, Italy
35. La Familia Sagrada, Barcelona
36. U.S.S. Constitution in Boston Harbor
37. Punting on the Cam, Cambridge, England
38. The Leaning Tower of Pisa
39. The Black Fort, Inishmore, Ireland
40. Michelangelo's David, The Uffizi, Florence, Italy
41. Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
42. Empire State Building, New York City
43. Cloud Gate, Millenium Park, Chicago
44. Napa Valley, California
45. Sydney Opera House
46. White Cliffs of Dover
47. Alaska's Inside Passage
48. Niagara Falls, Canada
49. Mount Haleakala, Hawaii
50. The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
51. The Pantheon, Rome
52. The Golden Gate Bridge
53. Barossa Valley, Australia
54. The rust colored sails of the Hooker boats, the Claddagh, Galway, Ireland
55. The Cliffs of Moher
56. Notre Dame, Paris
57. Schoenbrunn, Vienna
58. The Burren, Ireland (closer then the moon, same landscape)
59. The Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve, Kenya
60. The Space Needle, Seattle
61. Yellowstone National Park
62. The Tribune Building, Chicago
63. The Statue of Liberty, New York City
64. The Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece
65. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Nursery, Nairobi, Kenya
66. Big Ben
67. The Vienna Christmasmarkt at Rathausplatz
68. Melk Abbey
69. Jackson Pollock at the Peggy Gugenheim, Venice
70. The Eiffel Tower at night
71. Palazzo Ducale, Venice
72. Amalfi Coast
73. The Karen Blixen House
74. Leopold II summer palace, Tervuren, Belgium
75. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
76. Pike Place Market, Seattle
77. The Lipizzans performing at the Imperial Hofburg Palace, Vienna
78. The Salza River, Salzburg
79. The Belvedere, Vienna
80. Tuscany, Italy
81. Charleston, South Carolina
82. San Diego Zoo, California
83. The monuments of Washington, D.C.
84. The horse tetrad inside the second floor of Basilica San Marco, Venice
85. Savannah, Georgia
86. Newport, Rhode Island
87. Pompeii
88. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
89. Steel drum music in the Bahamas
90. The Summer Music Concert on the island in the Danube, Vienna
91. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
92. Fanuiel Hall, Boston
93. Independence Hall, Philadelphia
94. Frank Llyod Wright's Monona Terrace, Madison, Wisconsin
95. Leuven, Belgium
96. Stefansdom, Vienna
97. Vancouver, British Columbia
98. St. Augustine, Florida
99. Bruges, Belgium
100. Mt. Etna, Italy

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wanderlust Melting Pot

As I muse, I sit immersed in a Viennese bathtub full of bubbles, drinking a full bodied Spanish red wine from a glass acquired at a boutique Virginia winery. I am reading an Italian memoir; Tuscan to be precise. My iPhone is belting out Edith Piaf from iTunes Radio, and my very American husband pops his head in the bathroom to ask if I need a top up on the wine. I tell him thanks but no, that he should finish the bottle if he likes.
And it strikes me, how there is so much to see but yet sometimes the layers of experience layer over one another, like Mille foile or a gauzy dress that you can almost see through.  We have just booked our trip to Portugal for our friend, Jules' wedding. And I have been looking forward to having some time to plan our spare time during that trip. So far we have arrived only at the fact that our five and a half hour layover in Brussels gives us time to catch the train and lunch at Le Gran Place. Jon has never been, and I hope to have a moment to stop at Neuhaus, my favorite chocolatier in the world.
To this day my dear Swiss friend, Silvia, and I argue over who has the best chocolate.
But I find myself contemplating the adventure of house shopping in Tuscany, even though we are still furnishing our apartment here in Vienna, as well as making mortgage payments on our house in Charleston, SC.
According to my TripAdvisor profile the other day, I have only seen 12% of the world. How can that be possible? I have been to 4 continents! How will I ever see everything I want to see, and have the career of my dreams as well as a wonderful and happy marriage? I need more lives, like a cat!
And oddly, at the same time, I think of all the places I have listened to Edith Piaf, and the crazy On The Globus Go adventures mom and I had in Italy, and it seems like I have already lived lifetimes.
Jon and I met this darling couple on our safari in Kenya. They were retired and traveling the world boldly. They had seen a lot, been places we haven't, and yet they were so excited for all we had seen and done, for our exciting lifestyle of adventure.
It is something I have to remind myself of, rather often, because like anything, it is easy to get bogged down I how hard the day to day is. But I believe it is like that anywhere, so I hope to enjoy everything this opportunity has to offer, and to try to ignore the difficult days. 
For example, I found out last week that my PhD, in Holland, will be largely based in Bioengineering. I have no experience or training in Engineering, but those who knew my dad are laughing with him about this!
So for now, we will try to keep living the dream, for as long as it lasts. And we will try our best to chuckle at the many, many bumps in the road.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

And so the New Year Begins...

Here it is another year, and the Twitter feed is full of people asking what travel destinations, bucket list items, and new year resolutions everyone has planned. All that is well and good, but what about enjoying the season?  I know there is a lot going on, but everyone seems so rushed to move on. What happens to all those great moments we spent, celebrating the Christmas spirit and ushering in the New Year? Do they just get lost in a sea of checking items off a list? Isn't the point of having memories being able to pause, look back, and reflect on those special moments?
Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of travel destinations in mind myself for this brand spanking new year.  We will head to Portugal for the wedding of two dear friends, and we are planning to head back to the US to visit Jon's family in December.  No doubt there will be many more trips throughout the year: I have my heart set on showing Jon some of Italy, and we are dying to visit Prague.  Skiing would be fun as well, since we are in Austria and all. 
But I think it is important to fully take the time to cherish these moments we experience in life. For example, last night my mother, my husband and I made our way through a misty evening in downtown Vienna to the dramatically lit Palais Auersperg. We were ushered into a vaulted oval performance hall lined with rose marble walls and exquisite crystal chandeliers, where we listened to an orchestra featuring a famous antique violin known for appearances at the esteemed Viennese Philharmonic Silvester.  At Intermission we sipped champagne and strolled among the oil paintings on display, undaunted under lavish chandeliers. 
The performance featured an opera duo as well as a ballet duo, and Jon was really enthralled by the opera pieces. At the end of the evening, there was a last piece that featured the opera singers, who had been singing in Italian. This last song was fast and in German, and involved champagne toasts, but I think it was an Austrian tradition, kind of like their version of Auld Ange Syne.  
We headed home to check on our nervous yellow dog and were met by a constant barrage of fireworks. They were everywhere, flickering against the night clouds, sounds exploding all around.  As midnight came and went, people set so many store bought Roman candles off from the street that we could see them just sitting in our 2nd floor living room with the blinds open.  We popped some tiny bubbly bottles that Santa had left in our Christmas stockings and rang in the new year watching the crazy fireworks with Castle on in the background.  For New Year's Day we have tickets to a hockey game near the house, and we are starting our own tradition of New Year's shrimp cocktail and split pea soup with ham. 
This holiday season has been fun, but I think next year we will make some New Year's plans to be out of the city.  The trains apparently don't run, so you have to leave early or drive yourself. And as I much as I enjoy fireworks, I think last night we all felt like it was a WWII reenactment.