We started our day early with breakfast out. We wanted to be sure to introduce Mina to Cafe Landtmann — a place we’ve often enjoyed, especially for their decadent coffees and delectable desserts (even for breakfast), as well as their fantastic location and view of the Burgtheater and Rathaus. We left the house early enough that on the way out, when B got a little too exuberant in the courtyard, we had to remind him that it was early on a Saturday. And when we got to the restaurant, we were among the earliest diners. We enjoyed an excellent breakfast, including breakfast dessert (strawberry tart, truffle cake and even ice cream).
It was another pretty quiet day in Mina’s adventure. She joined me in taking B to school this morning, but before we left, as I was grabbing a bite to eat in the kitchen, she looked beyond me, out the window, and exclaimed, “What the heck is going on over at the Rathaus?!?” Which is weird because we can only see the very top, and unnerving because anytime anyone exclaims about something behind you it triggers a little of a horror movie feeling.
We’ve had a couple of days so far during Mina’s visit where we didn’t do anything overly remarkable. Sunday, the day she arrived, we visited an Easter Market. Tuesday, we went to the park and on a long walking tour of Vienna in the dark. Wednesday, we explored the sights along the Ring, took a break in a cafe and went to see a movie (just me and Mina went to see the movie). So, actually, I guess even those days were pretty busy.
Today, we *really* took a break. Liam, Dan and Mina slept in. Dan, who is still sick with a bad cold, stayed home from work again today. I took Benjamin to school for his Easter party. (We were going to keep him home this entire week, but his teachers really didn’t want him to miss the Easter party, so they specifically asked us if it would be possible for him to attend today, which I think is fantastic.) Benjamin had an excellent time at his party — the Easter Bunny visited the school while they were out playing in the garden, he found an egg during the ensuing Easter Egg hunt, and then he came home laden down with a parcel full of treats.
And . . . that’s it. That’s what we did today. We hung out, introduced Mina to the Backyardigans, ate cookies, put puzzles together. We all took naps. We got to show Mina a little bit more of what a “normal” day here is like (although our typical days don’t include that much resting or the Easter Bunny visiting the school). This afternoon, Mina got to see what our apartment is like in the rain (Mina, like me, like my mom, thinks this is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, not a disappointment). It was a nice, quiet day. Back to adventure tomorrow. Maybe.
As we did yesterday, we decided to change our plans when we got up this morning. Again, we had intended to visit Schonbrunn, but the forecast was for clouds (as it turns out, we’ve had sunshine almost all day) and we were worn out from our late tour around the city, so we decided to put Schonbrunn off until Saturday. That left us, for the second day in a row, without any major or concrete plans. And, for the second day in a row, our day didn’t suffer for the lack of itinerary at all.
Yesterday was a big day of sightseeing. I actually didn’t realize how much we had accomplished yesterday until I sat down last night to go through all the pictures I had taken throughout the day. We saw and did a lot — we hit all of the major 1st district spots in one day, with two kids it tow. Impressive.
But it meant that today we were all worn out. We had designs on taking the Strassenbahn out to Schonbrunn to see the Easter market and the palace, but there was no way that was happening. We *could* have done it, but we lacked the motivation. So, instead, we went to the park. We took the boys to the Rathauspark playground and let them swing, slide and play in the sand. They got a chance to run around and stretch their legs and just do kid stuff, without taking too much out of the grown ups, which was perfect.
This evening, though, we were feeling up for a little more adventure and took my neighbor up on her offer of a walking tour of the oldest parts of Vienna. She grew up here, attended school here, and is raising a family here, so she has a lot of information and a neat perspective on the city. We didn’t start our tour until after dinner, and we weren’t planning on taking the boys (Dan was going to stay home and put them to bed while Mina and I went on the tour) but after our late and enthusiastic trip to the park, their naps were late and long. Since they had only woken up a little while before dinner, we opted to take them with us instead.
We had a lovely, busy and very fun day showing Mina around Vienna. We took in all the major sights of the 1st district — we saw Michaelerplatz, the Hofburg, stopped at my favorite Starbucks for a melange, walked along the Graben, visited Stephansdom, (went home, took a nap), saw the Rathaus and walked around the Volksgarten. Then, as a perfect finish to a very thoroughly Viennese day, we had dinner at Cafe Central.
The Easter Markets opened in Vienna this weekend. I’m really excited about it – not only are they full of fun things to see, enjoy and eat, but they’re a very strong reminder of the best parts of our earliest time as residents of Vienna. Not first when we arrived, but just as we were getting familiar and comfortable with the city, the markets were being set up, and we enjoyed some of our first leisurely weekends exploring them.
Mina is on her way! Tomorrow morning, I will drag myself out of bed (we do the Daylight Saving Time switch tonight), to the train station and then to the airport to meet her. If Benjamin is up, he’ll come with me (he really, really wants to, but I can’t imagine that it’s good for anyone for me to actually wake him up to take him, so he’ll only come if he’s already up). I absolutely cannot wait and desperately hope I don’t oversleep (because these are the things that stress me out).
Right now, my sister is on a plane, getting ready to take off to fly to see us. It’s her first trip to Europe, her first international trip at all, and she’s doing it on her own. I think she’s a little nervous. I understand. I did the same trip, also my first trip to Europe, also alone, two years ago. (I was coming to visit Dan on a business trip to see if I could imagine us moving our family to Vienna, which, evidently, I could.) I also know that she’s like me (more than a little) and the logistical details of such a trip are bound to cause her some anxiety. I remember being worried about all of the steps along the way — negotiating passport control, finding baggage claim, finding my bag, getting through Customs, finding and meeting Dan. Travelling alone is intimidating enough — more so when it’s not something you’ve done before and a million times more when you’re trying to do it in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.
She’ll be fine. But still, I’ll feel better when she’s here, and I can see her and hug her and talk to her IN PERSON. I hope B is up and gets to come to the airport to meet Mina. The boys can’t wait to see her and I know she can’t wait to see us. I can’t wait to show her our place and Vienna and all the great things we’ve found about living here. It’s Mina’s Big Adventure, and it starts now!
So lately, we’ve been doing a lot better about watching less tv at our house. February was one big, long, tv-watching fest here — we were all taking turns being sick, and nothing keeps the kids quieter (so that they can rest, or so I can) than a few hours of Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi or Olivia. But, since we’ve all been feeling better, the days have been getting longer and the weather is warmer, I’m trying to cut back.
I wish I could say that we were filling that time entirely with trips to the park or the zoo, art projects or story time. We do all those things, certainly, and they’ve all taken some of the space in our day that was recently occupied with tv. But we’ve also been filling some of that time with video games — and I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than tv.
There are just some things that I love about this country — there are some things that they really do right here. (Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things I love about home too, I’m still proud to be an American and whatnot.) But seriously, these people know how to take a vacation.
I was at Starbucks yesterday evening, and I was chatting with the barista. She’s about my age, and has a little girl, so we have a fair bit in common. She was asking how I was doing, since she hadn’t seen me in a while — but that was mostly because she’s been on vacation. “Where did you go?”, I asked, and she replied, “Oh, just at home. It was only 11 days, but it was a great holiday.”
Only 11 days.