With having spent five days in the great capital of Austria, I have a few opinions. No surprise.
The Boutique Hotel Alma. Third time is a charm. We stayed in other hotels, which I will mention further on, but this is the one we should have stayed at the entire time. It is in a perfect location within a short walking distance to one of the main transit hubs, numerous restaurants, markets, shops and the Canadian Embassy (important for us). The Alma was extremely clean, very quiet, reasonably priced, included breakfast and WiFI and, the staff were knowledgeable and friendly.
Once you have been in Vienna for a few days, you will certainly appreciate how nice it is to find really friendly people. I like to think that I am fairly accepting of personality diversity in different countries and cultures and, I’m certainly not looking for a lynching but, for example, the Dutch tend to be indifferent, the Russians are suspicious, the Irish are happy, the Germans are festive (I could go on…) but, the people who we dealt with on our trip to Vienna were a little unsettling because they were either really nice and helpful or… kinda mean. I mentioned this to a friend of ours who has been living there for the past year and she completely agreed. ”It’s their way.” I guess one can get used to almost anything but, trying to gain assistance during our travels in Vienna was really either a hit or a miss.
The Wiener Riesenrad. A giant ferris wheel that was originally built in 1897! So cool, great history and an amazing view of Vienna from the top. The great wheel is surrounded by a Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, a few other carnival rides, a park and a nice walking route along the canal. Easy to get to and fairly vacant, at least during the inclement weather season. I think we may have thwarted some amorous plans of the young couple who got into the huge gondola before us but, too bad. It was a great ride.
Wiener Schnitzel with curry sauce and Gluhwien…. available e-ver-y-where… no explanation required.
Public transit is good. I would recommend the 24 hour all-you-can-possibly-do pass.
Grinzing! A great little village on the outskirts of Vienna that is accessible with there regular public transit (Tram 38). Amazing food and wine and the really great Austrian village-type atmosphere that we are all looking for.
The Schönbrunn Palace. It was a nice palace as far as palaces go, I guess. Honestly, there was nothing outstanding about this one. The history was fairly typical and mundane, it was highly commercialized and it’s a little out of the way. The biggest annoyance: after getting out there by bus, paying the entry fee and trekking across the courtyard, we were told that we could not take photographs! There had to have been at least four check-stops that I cleared with my tripod and camera before I saw the dreaded sign with the big red slash through a camera. I approached one of the information desks to politely clarify and was told that, indeed, no photographs within the building. I asked why and I was told that it would damage the art. Really? So, I can take pictures without a flash, then? No. No pictures. So, one must wonder, does the photo-ban have anything to do with the extensive gift shop that each visitor must exit through to leave the premises? Things that make you go… hmmmm…
Unless this is your first palace ever, not worth the price of admission.
I would be remiss to neglect to mention a really terrible hotel that we stayed in. The master travel plan is generally to book at least the first night or two via hotels.com, booking.com or expedia.com and, after getting the lay of the land, we will find a hotel that better suits our needs. The plan usually works but, this time, not so much. My lack of investigative prowess left me vulnerable to the gentle, fatherly nature of the evening desk clerk at the Hotel Post. That man is the only redeeming quality in that entire hotel. The management of the Hotel Post would be well served to keep him around as a gentle-natured smoke screen to camouflage the true, tragic nature of this establishment. What a sh*thole! The Hotel Post is dirty, noisy and an establishment that has no respect for the safety and security of its patrons. There were renovation workers immediately outside of our window as of 0730 in the morning and we were not provided with curtains to offer some privacy. Worse yet, our room was immediately next to the workers’ access door and, at some point, they were given an access key to our room to use our toilet. It was obvious that our comings and goings were noted since, on the second morning, a worker walked into our room only five minutes after my husband had left for the embassy. A shock to both the worker and me: I was still naked in bed when he walked into our room. My husband and my complaints fell on deaf ears at the front desk. The daytime desk staff would not allow us contact with a manager and would not take any responsibility for the huge breach in safety and security. He merely stated that it wasn’t his fault that the worker walked into our room as he was “stupid.” We immediately left the hotel to find another place to stay and, fortunately, found the Boutique Hotel Alma. I have spent the past couple of months trying to contact a manager at the Hotel Post with no success. My emails of concern are not responded to and, when I have called, I have been informed that there is no manager on site. I’m really not sure how they run that place. It really leaves a sour taste.
So, my overall assessment of Vienna is that, given the choice, I likely would not return but, since I know I must, I will arrive as a slightly more informed and cynical traveller (I hate the cynical part). I will better utilize their public transit to see more of the surrounding area rather than hang out in the city.
Go once, take some pictures, check it off the list and move on.Learn More
After a very large amount of time, that I am not willing to divulge, I have a fairly workable website once again. What was wrong with the other one, you ask? Absolutely nothing! However, I decided that I want to be able to send eCards of my photographs and I want you to as well (if you are so inclined). Networking and all that.
That was the beginning.
I use SmugMug for my main photograph galleries and it is a really great hosting site but, though you can send an email with a selected photo, you can’t send an actual eCard. Also, many (read: most) of my photos are not of the style or calibre to be uploaded to a site where people could potentially buy a huge, very scrutinize-able (new word) image. So, since I am currently trapped in Bryanskaya on another work assignment, hosting yet another Russian bacteria, I have tons of time on my hands, so I started to do a little research.
Everything starts with a google search:
I am the World’s Best Googler.
Though I had over a million available solutions at my fingertips, lucky number six caught my eye; Fotomoto. The tagline had the words “magically” and “simple”! Two of my favourite words! This was obviously the place for me. On further investigation, not only is Fotomoto a free service but, it also works seamlessly with WordPress and, well, tons of other things. Fotomoto does, however, have a list of themes and galleries which will work even more seamlessly than what I had. So, of course, I had to change things.
But, before I changed anything, I did the responsible thing and went to Kelby Training where Mr. RC Concepcion was able to tutor me in the Fotomoto way in less than an hour.
Next step: found a new improved theme. It went something like this:
Download then Zip then Upload then Install then Activate and then… What a Mess!
I love the theme but, apparently, it did not love me; or my banner, menus, header or galleries. So, I learned code. Well, not really. What I did learn after hours of trial and error was that certain numbers could be tweaked by certain values to shift things around a little. I made no commitments without clipboard-ing or screenshot-ting the previous, partially functioning version first.
Next step: install and activate Fotomoto.
Another little problem. Totally a user problem; Fotomoto is amazing. Fotomoto marked all of my images as available for purchase, download and eCards. That’s what I wanted, right. Wrong!! I have been writing on this website since 2007 and, things have changed a little over the years. Many of my past stories have used pictures that don’t belong to me like the time I compared my daughter to Linda Blair and had a headshot of Regan in all of her possessed glory or, when I posted a picture of the World’s Coolest Toy. The context that these pictures are used in is fine until I put a price on them. So, a few more modifications were required.
After that, I went through all the photos and deleted the ones that should not have been there in the first place.
At this point, all of the photos that sit here on my blog posts were working perfectly. However, the photo gallery I had was not. It had a slide show capability that just didn’t seem to be compatible. I had come so far, no sense in stopping.
I tried three different free gallery plug-ins for WordPress with no luck at all. May have been another user problem.
Back to Google:
Tripwire Magazine gave me a multitude of attractive options (some of which I had already tried and failed with) but, after reviewing some of the choices, I did come to the decision that I would be charged for not being an HTML coder. Twenty-five US dollars later, I easily downloaded, uploaded and installed a gallery plugin that works beautifully. The only setback was that I was unable to figure out how to convert the existing pictures over so, at that point, I deleted the current galleries. Fresh start, I say.
I still have some work to do (much to my dismay, Regan is still available as an eCard) but, I am at the point that I know I will not have to delete my past five years of Internet presence.
And…. Mission Accomplished: my photographs can now be sent as eCards right from this site and, bonus, there are a few purchase options, too.
This one is going to all the teenaged girls I know who still so that silly thing with their face when they pose for profile pictures.
I call it… Duck Face.
Every once in a while, I flip to the page in my blog admin stuff (most of which I don’t understand) that reports what words or phrases have been entered into various search engines to land people on my site.
My favourite so far:
ice planet deer
My sincerest apologies to the searcher, I have no idea how you ended up here and I’m pretty sure that I don’t have those… and I don’t know what that is… and it is taking some kick-ass amount of personal restraint to not Google “ice planet deer”.
Glad you dropped by. Thanks!Learn More
“They grow up way too fast.”
I have heard this so many times over the past twenty years or so and have really never paid much mind to it. I have always been of the opinion that life today is exactly as it should be at this moment. Is that complacency, acceptance or have I always just been satisfied with where I was at?
My youngest, the boy… Liam… has just graduated from high school. He is starting his post-secondary studies 6287 kilometres from home and I only have two weeks left with him at home, taking into consideration my work assignments and his buddy vacation. I don’t know if he’s ready but, I’m not. He has grown up way too fast.
Only recently, he was born; almost a month early but almost 8 pounds. He had the darkest eyes I had ever seen and a tuft of hair that reminded me of Gumby.
Suddenly, he was nine months old and starting to walk. He was so small and so unprepared for the world that was a half metre higher. I built high wall shelves and discarded the book shelves that he could so easily climb; laughing all the while.
Suddenly, he was talking. Though, graciously, his first word was “Mom”, his first string of words was “I do it”. Fiercely independent and completely trusting of the world as he knew it.
Suddenly, he was eighteen months old and getting his first stitches, thanks to his attitude as expressed above. While I was making dinner, he dragged his high chair to the front door so that he could climb up and reach the lock. The high chair had wheels. One helicopter bandage, a trip to the emergency department and two stitches to hold together the cut on his forehead. He still has the scar.
Suddenly, he is almost three years old and I took him on the Jaws ride at Universal Studio in Florida. Afterwards, he told me that he would never like sharks. He never has.
Suddenly, he is four years old and showing off his Chicken Pox-riddled body, and smiling; two months before the vaccination became available.
Suddenly, I am called to the Principal’s office to be told that he has never had a Kindergarten student in his office before. Liam refused to sleep during nap time. Naps were for babies and, as anyone could see, he was not a baby.
Suddenly, his training wheels are coming off of his brand new bicycle because they never really touched the ground anyway.
Suddenly, he is five years old and poised and ready at the top of a hill on his mountain board, grinning. No fear.
Suddenly, he is nine years old and we are moving into a new home. A neighbour knocks on our door, introduces himself as a kids’ baseball coach and pleads to have Liam join his team. While we were moving in furniture, Liam had picked up a baseball for the first time and was throwing with the neighbourhood kids. The coach stated that he could not teach natural talent. Baseball became one of Liam’s passions.
Suddenly, he is ten years old and spending hours at his Great-Grandomother’s bedside chatting with her. He knew she was dying and he said that it was good to be talking with her. Soon after, I told him that he didn’t have to see her in her casket but, he insisted. He later said that it freaked him out a bit but, she looked good.
Suddenly, he is eleven years old and embracing our next move. He has tried, and mastered, downhill skiing in three trips to the mountain. One of those trips involved a ski patrol evacuation but, he was not deterred. His sister and I are both jealous of his natural ability.
Suddenly, he is twelve years old and voted best Junior Air Cadet for that year.
Suddenly, he is thirteen years old and named best Junior Baseball Umpire for that year. His closest friend and mentor has died from osteosarcoma and, over the past four years, he has learned that Wendy’s burgers are a great post-chemo meal and, spending time with a friend near the end of his life is difficult but important.
Suddenly, it is the eve of his fourteenth birthday and he has one night alone. I am on a work assignment 400 kilometres away looking for a fabulous birthday present for him when I receive a phone call from the local RCMP officer. He informs me that, thanks to Facebook, Liam’s secretly planned, small gathering had resulted in the police having to chase over forty teenagers from my house. He will likely never drink rye and root beer again.
Suddenly, he is fourteen and we are moving again. He helps to place his pets into new homes and turns his gaze towards a future adventure in Europe. I felt so fortunate. Any other fourteen-year-old would have laden guilt upon his parents for moving him away from his friends; his security. He was so mature and… reasonable.
Suddenly, he is seventeen and he has integrated well into a new world. He has been on a photography trip to London. He has played baseball in Egypt, Germany, Belgium, France, The Netherlands and the Untied Kingdom. He has skied in Andorra, France and Bulgaria. He has learned (but not mastered) French, Spanish and German. He has, however, mastered canal boat driving and has embraced the responsibility of keeping up his own boat. He has learned how to apply to universities and how to manage the acceptances and the rejections.
Suddenly, he is arriving in a limousine at his prom. Numerous graduates have arrived before him, posed for pictures and walked into the venue. Liam stepped out of the limousine, approached me, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, “I love you, Mom.”
Take that, Stepford Moms!
People often speak of that moment, that brief second in time, that they have an epiphany. This was mine.
Though I still feel as though there are a million things that I have to do; that I have to tell him before he goes, I knew at that moment that something had worked out okay. Despite my numerous parental stumbles over the past seventeen years, Liam is a great person.
Liam is ready.
I’m not.Learn More
I’m so proud of my little girl. She has donated her hair twice now to be used to create beautiful prosthetic hair pieces for young girls who have lost their hair to cancer or alopecia.
Don’t ever think that you have nothing to give to those who are struggling!
Who wants your hair? Little Princess Trust in the UK, Locks of Love in the US and Angel Hair in Canada. If you are elsewhere, Google “hair donation” and you will find quite a few choices or contact your local cancer association and they will give you some contacts.Learn More