Sunday, May 4, 2014

Resurfacing...

Yes, I know, it has been an unforgivably long absence.  I do apologize, and I have reasons to offer you, dear reader.  But I think instead of using up precious time on reasons, you will understand when I begin to tell you where it is I have been all this time...
First there are all the recent travels:
We have been to Jaidhof to commemorate the opening of a beautiful equine physiotherapy center on a gorgeous Austrian Spring day, when we also strolled through Krems, and courtesy of a colleague of Jon's, took a short but scenic drive along the Danube with glimpses of the renowned Wachau Valley.
Next we flew to seaside Portugal, by way of Frankfurt, where we were caught unawares by an extended layover.  What better to do,then, than to hop the train into town and take a walk by the river before settling down at Roemerplatz for some cliche but delicious Frankfurters mit Sauerkraut and Hefeweizen. (My advice here: skip the Handkase mit Musik).  We saw the Roemer Dom, a beautiful church of St. Francis, and many fantastically quaint historic buildings, all in all making up a layover far exceeding even the best of airport accomodations.
Next up we connected into Porto, where our hotel was less than impressive but entirely adequate.  After sleeping in a bit we headed for the marina to meet the bride and groom and fellow wedding goers for a cruise of the Douro River on a perfect sunny day.  We were naive, at this point, not to realize what all was in store for us.  As we boarded the ship white port was waiting on ice as an aperitif, along with local delicacy appetizers of ham on specialty bread and a gorgeous spread of tropical fruit. After cruising for about an hour the sit down lunch commenced, with a wine tasting of three additional Portuguese wines, including the esteemed vinho verdi, and herbed pork with the best warm cabbage salad I have ever eaten.  Dessert was champagne to toast the happy couple and scrumptious chocolate cake.  Several of us then elected to walk back to the center of town, and cross the bridge to the Port Caves, where we experienced a delightful tour of Sandemann from Luis, in Portuguese no less, but with the added luxury of our personal translator and colleague friend, Paulo Steagall.  After sangria in the shade, we went in search of dinner, which for the seafood lovers was a baked salted codfish, called bacuahlao.  After another flight of wine tasting we were all done for, and we wandered back to the hotel for some very necessary beauty sleep.  The wedding was the following day, and after some sunshine at the pool midday, we readied ourselves for the marathon that was to come.  The wedding was lovely and the company was excellent - we all danced until 4am when bed began to call...  Sunday was a chance for us to see the countryside at a barbeque courtesy of the groom's family.  Naturally there was homemade wine and smoked sausage to try, as well as classic baked beans and a multitude of other dishes.  Our last day in Porto was relaxed; Jon took on the duty of tourguide and did a great job by the lot of us. We ate Francesihna at the Majestic Cafe, walked to the Lello Bookstore to see Harry Potter's staircase, saw the sea, and rode the streetcar. We wandered the gardens of the Cristal Palais, strolled and photgraphed our way through downtown, and sampled the local shrimp and bread stew.

The next day we headed back to Vienna with yet another stopover, this time in my old haunting ground of Brussels, Belgium.  Jon of course had never been, so we hopped the bus and found our way to the city center, where we got Jon a Belgian waffle with caramel sauce from a street vendor to tide him over until our imminent arrival in Le Grand Place.  As always when walking to the Grand Place, he was taken aback by the narrow winding streets that prevent any glimpse of the majestic square until suddenly you are smack dab in the middle of a postcard scene.  We found a sidewalk eatery and ordered the must have, carbonade flamande with pomme frittes (they are Belgian, after all, not French!) and a round of Leffe beers (my alltime favorite).  Back at the airport after lunching, strolling, and photographing, we still had time to buy the best chocolate in the world, a box of Neuhaus truffles.

We made it back to our cozy flat in Vienna that night and slept like logs, because we knew the adventure was still in full swing!
In the interest of length and mystery, I think I will leave this as a bit of a cliffhanger and postpone the rest of the recent travel stories and exciting news for another day...