Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A Viennese Ball

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

The last day in Vienna was certainly the highlight. I decided that I needed to make another try at a museum, since there are so many here and the buildings are as amazing to view as the exhibits. I decided to head to the Belvedere Palace. The building was constructed in the early 1720’s and also has an beautiful and intricate garden. I’ve been there before, but as Klimt is a personal favourite, I was happy to head there again.

Here is a shot of the main upper building…check out those rain clouds! It was a wet day.

I enjoy going through museums at my own pace. I sometimes stay and look at a painting for a long while and other times just blow through the rooms if it isn’t something that interests me or if I can’t process anything else for a few minutes (small brain).

I did brave a modern art exhibit there in the lower building. It was a collection from collaborative artists Arnulf Rainer and Dieter Roth. It was, well, hmmm, well…good to try new things. You can decide for yourself.

Rainer/Roth exhibit

Rainer/Roth artwork

Then off to see Klimt and Moll and Wilhelm List. There was a couple of paintings of young girls by List. They had such a twinkle in their eye and confident poses and a hint of a monkey grin that it just made me think of Annie (although after 4 days away, just about everything made me think of Annie.)

I also spent some time thinking about how I view different forms of art. Without a doubt, the first 20 or 30 years of the 20th Century are my favourite period for paintings. Time and again I think a painting striking and it invariably is from those years, regardless of whether or not I have heard of the artist (usually not). However, the literature of that era often leaves me stone cold (Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and the rest of the modernists.) It wasn’t until the post-modern period (Sheila Watson, Kurt Vonnegut, Italo Calvino) that I really found my groove in terms of literature. (Followed of course by my obsession with Canadian lit.) And poetry is different again. I’m as happy to read William Blake as Robert Frost as ee cummings. And then there is movies. They are my complete off switch, so I can sit through and enjoy James Bond and Mission Impossible as much as The Pianist or Like Water for Chocolate.

Anyway, it was a delight having time and space to think about these things. Now back to Vienna.

I spent the afternoon getting my hair done and even splurged on makeup. (Although after I struck up a great conversation with the make-up artist, who is of Turkish descent but was born in Vienna, the ridiculous number of samples she gave me probably made up for the costs of the sitting.) Markus and I got our ball attire on and were off to the fest.

Here we are in our finery in our hotel room. (The couple of shots people took of us together weren’t good, so you’ll just have to image us arm in arm)

The dress isn't new, but still pretty I think

The dress isn't new, but still pretty I think

And a bit closer

And a bit closer

And Markus

My handsome penguin

My handsome penguin

The ball was at the Rathouse, which is City Hall. We were transported in an historic street car, which was quite fun and special. When we arrived, there was a large Christmas Market in full swing. The lawns and trees were completely decked-out for Christmas, with beautiful lights everywhere and giant electric lamps in the trees.

Here is a shot of a market stall and one of the exterior of the building.

Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlmarkt

Wien Rathaus

Wien Rathaus

We walked up on a red carpet, just to set the mood, and then had a reception in the main hall. The evening was sponsored by Moet & Chandon, so you can just imagine how much Champagne was poured that night. (Whatever you are thinking…double it.)

The dinner and dancing was in the main hall. Incredibly beautiful with three-storey ceilings and massive chandeliers. (I have a new-found love of chandeliers after this trip.)

The main ballroom in City Hall

The main ballroom in City Hall

Here is a clearer day shot from the net.

The meal was fantastic, especially considering they were serving 600 people. The big splurge was on the truffles. There were three on each table, so the scent wafted over the room from the moment you sat down. Delicious. When the main course was served, the waitstaff brought out the mandolins and gave each person a generous helping. Probably $50 worth per person, according to the chefs we were seated with. (For the millionth time that week, I was so glad all costs were included in the event…we aren’t particularly flush with cash right now, and I am still interested in eating and feeding the family for the next few months.)

Our dinner companions were from Ontario, France and London, and I enjoyed each of them. (If Markus and Maria hang on to the hotel for a bit, it would be great to get to visit some of these places. But I’m not keeping my hopes up.)

The organizers had a few surprises for us as well. The first was a 20-minute concert by the Vienna Boys Choir. They really live up to their reputation and were just delightful. There were a couple of soloists that would blow any contestant on American Idol out of the water, let me tell you. And they were probably 10 years old. And then before dessert we also were treated to two singers from the Vienna Opera. Wonderful.

After dessert a 15-piece orchestra set up on the stage and started to play traditional Viennese waltzes. There were 4 young couples in white dresses and black ties who gave a short performance to show how the traditional waltzes looked when done properly. And then we all joined in. Markus and I did our best for a few dances. He is a good leader, so even though I’m a bad follower (control issues), we held our own.

At about midnight the electronic music came on and let me tell you, that was quite the sight. A couple of hundred overworked hoteliers and chefs in long ball gowns and tuxedos going at it to Van Halen and Joan Jett. Too funny! But luckily all of us were sufficiently sauced to just let loose and have fun.

We arrived back at the hotel at about 2 a.m. That was certainly an evening to remember.

Horses and Hilarity

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Day 3 in Wien…In the morning I spent a bit of time just relaxing in the hotel, which was lovely. I then decided to walk through the Ringstrassen Gallerien, which I guess could be compared to Sacs Fifth Avenue in New York. Very high end. I bought Annie a pair of slippers (adorable…and Lori, not pink!!) but other than that,  just window shopping. It is always fun to look, of course.

For lunch we met at the Ambassador Hotel for an wonderful meal that was beautifully prepared and presented. But the best thing about lunch was we were sitting with a couple from the UK who have a property in the English lake district. Markus and I are always scouting out people from the UK, as we both find the sharp, dry  British humour hilarious. Barney and Zoe didn’t disappoint. Fun tales of running a hotel and raising a baby and dealing with a family business. We were having a go at Sarah Palin when I realized that our other table guests were ranchers. From Montana. Oh oh. Luckily for our teeth, they were the new breed of Democrat Montana ranchers (that Barack Obama is a miracle worker.)

After lunch we were given a private showing from the Spanish Riding School, a traditional presentation dating back 430 years. The spectacle of the beautiful white Lipizzans included a demonstration of how the riders train the young horses, and then a perfectly choreographed show of the horses and riders. Very impressive. Pictures weren’t allowed once the horses were on the floor, but here is a shot I took before hand and then one from Wikipedia.

Luxurious setting for a horse show

Luxurious setting for a horse show. That was the Emperor's box with the blue flags.

The horses and riders in action

The horses and riders in action

That evening was free and so Markus and I decided to go with a low-key option of a quiet dinner and then an early night. The night was cold but fresh and we enjoyed walking to the restaurant through the city center. We saw some of the Christmas lights that were going to go up in the city for the season. Here is an example (they aren’t lit yet.)

A taste of the Viennese Christmas spectacle to come.

A taste of the Viennese Christmas spectacle to come.

Well that is it for tonight. I am too tired from yesterday to write about yesterday, so that will have to wait. It was the highlight of the trip, so stay tuned.

Ciao!

A Tale of Two Palaces: Schönbrunn and Hofburg

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Another Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous day. I’m sure it will get boring soon. Right.

After breakfast I had the morning to myself so I made a plan to go to the Albertina Museum to see the Van Gogh exhibit. However, when I walked over the line up was about 200 people deep. I only had about an hour and a half before I was to meet Markus so I scrapped that plan.

But oh did I find a little piece of Hillary heaven instead. The Grand Hotel where we are staying is on The Ringstrasse in the heart of Vienna, so everything is walking distance. I strolled around a bit and stumbled onto the Doroteum Auction House. Three floors of art, jewellery, furniture, silver, sculptures, glass ware, ceramics and jewellery. Did I mention the jewellery? All of it either for direct sale or for auction. The Doroteum was established in 1707, so a little more than 300 years ago. A beautiful setting for ogling the goods.

The furniture and art was mostly from the 19th and 20th Centuries. I’m about as far as it gets from an art aficionado, so the only artist I recognized right away was Andy Warhol. I always find looking at modern art an interesting experience for me. I teeter precariously close to the edge of the general masses who “Don’t get modern art.” (Sorry Andy…kind of like the Jazz thing.) For example, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of canvases which were simply painted one color…i.e. completely blank…being listed for several thousand Euros. Hmmm.

But then I pass something that really catches my eye and tugs on my emotions. There was a series by a German painter, Imi Knoebel, that I kept coming back to. I didn’t write down the name of the piece, but I call it Construction Paper on Bristol Board. Because it basically was a large monotone canvas with a smaller blank canvas of a different colour stuck onto it. The colours were bright and interestingly contrasted and, for some reason I can’t explain, intrigued me.

I also was quite fascinated by the modern art furniture. Not to actually use of course, (it looked terribly uncomfortable) but an interesting focus point for a room, I’m sure.

Anyway, it was a delightful 90 minutes and I have decided that for my 40th I’m going to ask Markus to take me there to pick out a lovely necklace. Because I’m worth it, right?

I met Markus to attend the lunch at the Hofburg Imperial Palace where the Relais & Chateaux conference is being held.

Here is a bit of history about the Hofburg:

The Imperial Palace, which until 1918 was inhabited by the imperial family, was originally a castle built in the thirteenth century, which was extended to a splendid residence in accordance with the increasing power of the Habsburgs and the expansion of their realm.

Today, the Imperial Palace houses the office of the President of Austria as well as an important congress center and numerous art collections.

Here are some shots I took yesterday:

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Some of the gardens around the Palace

Some of the gardens around the Palace

The Hofburg certainly is spectacular and houses libraries, museums, offices and several meeting and conference areas. Each room is incredible and brings to mind the opulence of the empire. For example, here is the room where we had lunch (with a close-up of the chandeliers.)

Just the little lunch room

Just the little lunch room

Sure beats track lighting

Sure beats track lighting

After lunch and a quick change at the hotel, we piled onto buses that took us to the Schönbrunn Palace. Markus and I have been there before, but it certainly is worth seeing again.

Markus and I at the Schönbrunn

Markus and I at the Schönbrunn

Ariel shot from wikipedia

Aerial shot from wikipedia

We had a private tour of the public rooms and learned a bit more about the history. There are over 1400 rooms at the Palace, with only a handful open to the public. The two most well known rulers who lived there are Maria Theresa (with her 16 children, including Marie Antoinette) and Franz Joseph I, almost the last Emperor of Austria who died in 1916, 2 years before the throne was abdicated. Franz Joseph certainly had a lot less fun than the Tudors (if the television series has any basis in reality). He worked up to 14 hours a day and lived in relatively spare quarters with one of the smallest beds I’ve seen.

The tour was interesting and then they opened up the ballroom to us for a cocktail party. I didn’t get a great shot, but you get the idea.

Ballroom at the Schönbrunn

Ballroom at the Schönbrunn

Following the cocktail party we were taken by buses to mystery destinations for dinner. Our bus went 45 minutes out of town to Restaurant Taubenkobel, about 10 km west of Hungary. The Chef has 2 Michelin stars and the menu was certainly well prepared. As I am not the world’s most adventurous eater, I enjoyed some of the dishes very much (marinated rainbow rout with mango and fennel) and others less (goder of pork…that is the throat and the texture just put me off.) It is too bad we arrived at night, as the property is on a lake, which I’m sure would have been very beautiful.

Overall a long and lovely day.

Palais Coburg

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Ah, the incredible decadence of the hospitality elite who cater to the ridiculously wealthy. What a ride these 4 days are going to be.

We decided to take the train from Innsbruck, which is usually a great way to go. However, we were stopped for about 3 hours and so the trip was rather long. (This is very unusual for the train system here.) I actually didn’t mind much, as the views are beautiful and I was able to do some studying for German class.

Our room is lovely and spacious. Glad we aren’t paying for this ourselves, as rack rate is $500 Euros a night, and it isn’t even a suite! The bed is glorious and of course the bathroom is divine. I know the whole thing is completely ridiculous, and a small nation in need could be fed for a year on what this conference spends, but there is also a nasty, evil part of me that just soaks up the luxury. I must have been fabulously wealthy in a past life.

Luckily we arrived in time for the first event, a cocktail party at the Palais Coburg. What an incredible building! It is owned by someone who really has too much money, so they decided to put 100 million Euros into renovating the 60 room hotel. (I’m thinking the payback period is about a century.) Here is a bit of history:

The Palais Coburg was built in the period 1840-45 by Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (1785-1851) on the Braunbastei [‘Brown Bastion’] – a part of the city defences dating back to the 16 th century. It is thanks to this “super-construction” that a large part of the Renaissance fortification, in particular the casemates, have been preserved for us today.

The building is a spectacular  mix of modern and ancient, including a section of the old city wall from the 16th Century being incorporated into the design. There are huge arching brick walls and ceilings, opulent rooms that look like the parts of museums that you aren’t allowed to go into, and the most amazing wine cellar eve

The food of course was incredible. There were stations for all kinds of delicacies, and then a dessert bar and huge cheese spread. Too fun. The servers were decked out in lederhosen and dirndls to add to the festivities.

I didn’t want to trot around with a camera at the event, so here are some pictures of the building from the website:

Palais Coburg

Palais Coburg

The main reception and dining area was set up in this hall

The main reception and dining area was set up in this hall

A taste of how the designers incorporated ancient and new

A taste of how the designers incorporated ancient and new

Another opulent area with even more food and drink

Another opulent area with even more food and drink

Well, I’m off to a museum to see what I think is a Van Gogh exhibit. More tomorrow.

Schloß Tirol Part Zwei

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Great shot of the castle courtyard from our friends at Wikipedia.

Walking through the castle was quite amazing. A direct contrast to our experience from the tourist mecca, Schloß Neuschwanstein. There were hardly any people in the building on this cool autumn day, and guests are allowed to wander though at their own pace.

Markus and I were incredibly impressed with the entire exhibit. I loved that there was a bit of everything that you would expect in a castle museum: paintings, coins, jewellery, chain mail, tombstones, maps, Papal edits to absolve wealthy Catholics, and books. And books. And books. Incredible books about everything you can imagine: torture manuals, lists of landholdings, detailed maps, and directions for how to divvy up the children if one lord’s people (property) married another lord’s.They even had a small display of English travel books about the region from early in the 20th Century.

One interesting room which was completely empty, although you could just feel the centuries of history. This room, known as the temple, (so we were told through the audio system), was the storage room for all of the ruler’s treasures until the seat of power was moved to Innsbruck.

I loved the doorways into the various rooms. Here is a decent shot of one that went into the chapel (you can click on all pictures for a closer look):

And I just had to take this one to show how short the doors were, especially when compared to Markus’ and my modern day height. It barely clears his shoulders! Thank goodness high ceilings were the rage or we would have had a stooped journey through the halls:

Another very interesting room was the kitchen. So as not to disturb the obviously ancient grounds, artifacts were displayed on a raised floor, with certain sections in Plexiglas so you could look down at the original structure. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to make the cook mad with all of the massive knives and scythes lying around.

The curators also made optimal use of the castle tower. They erected a multi-level display around a winding staircase to showcase Tirol in the 20th Century. I thought this wasn’t going to be as interesting for me, but of course the perspective is so different from other NA or European displays I have seen. The mood is quite a bit grimmer when you are the ones that keep losing the wars. One interesting fact I didn’t know was that there was a strong resistance movement in the area from the time Südtirol was taken from Austria and given to Italy. And Mussolini’s aggressive move to populate the area with Southern Italians didn’t help matters. Apparently there were rallies, threats and bombings for several decades.

Besides the fascinating displays and architecture, the other highly notable part of the tour was the views into the valley below. Markus commented that every inch of the mountainous land is used. This is apparent from this shot from the castle (one where you can see the thick walls of the building and a close up to see the incredible stepped farming techniques on the mountainside):

One of the stunning views from Schloß Tirol

One of the stunning views from Schloß Tirol

And a close-up

And a close-up

If you want more info on this incredible landmark, here is a fairly good site, although you have to work through the not perfect translations a bit: http://www.schlosstirol.it/content.php?lang=2

Another Day, Another Castle…

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I am a bit knackered after a long but lovely day. I don’t want to miss a post in November, so I’m going to make my adventure to Schloß Tirol a two-parter between tonight and tomorrow.

Another memorable travelling Wednesday for Markus and me. Today after dropping off the girl we headed out of Innsbruck to Italy. Our destination was the town of Tirol in Südtirol to see Schloß Tirol. (Not the world’s most original naming scheme, but whatever.)

The trip there was less than ideal. Markus, being the sweetie that he is, decided to take me up the mountain pass so I could see the amazing views. Unfortunately, I became desperately carsick from the switchbacks, and then once we reached the summit the fog was so thick we couldn’t see anything. Oh well. By the time we reached the town and parked to see the castle, my stomach had settled, thank goodness.

Although it was a warm and sunny day in Innsbruck, once we hit the border the weather changed, as is common. (The mountains really do a number on the area’s micro-climates.) But it was still wonderful autumn weather in its own way, with calm cool air, appropriately medieval-like fog, and of course the yellows and oranges of the leaves on the trees and vines.

The 15 minute walk from the car to the castle was amazing. The hike started in the lovely little town or Tirol with tourist-friendly but not too tacky shops. The church on the side of the road had a beautiful cemetery; I just had to shoot these incredibly well taken care of graves:

Because I have a thing for cemetaries

Because I have a thing for cemeteries

Once we passed the town we saw yet another castle which I still haven’t been able to identify. Here is the picture though:

Because one castle is never enough

Because one castle is never enough

The fog was too thick to capture an adequate shot of the Schloß Tirol’s exterior (all my exterior pictures are muted and orangy from the odd light), so here is one from the ever-handy wikipedia. (However, this picture was taken in the summer so you don’t get the awesome effect of the fall colours):

The first castle was built on the hill before 1100, with a second phase in 1139 and a third in the second half of the 13th century. Until 1420 the castle was the seat of Tirol’s royalty until Duke Frederick IV moved the seat to Innsbruck. (Südtirol was part of Austria until it was divided up after WWI, and German is still as common a language there as Italian.)

Here is the last picture on the path to the castle. More tomorrow about our visit.

Schloß Neuschwanstein

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Yesterday Markus and I dropped Annie off and drove for an hour and a half to Bavaria in Germany. It was a beautiful Autumn morning and it was great to get out of Innsbruck for the day. Our destination was a castle called Neuschwanstein. It is a 19th Century palace near a small, pretty town called Füssen. It is a bit of a tourist machine, (apparently over a million visitors annually), so I was very glad we went in off-season, as we all know how much I love hanging out with pushy crowds.

The brief history we were told was very interesting. Commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, construction of the building lasted from 1869 to 1886. The castle still is not finished, because in 1886 Ludwig was officially declared insane and then died shortly after; all work stopped when he died. After all those years of work and planning, he lived in the castle for only 4 months. My pictures of the front were a bit wonky, so here is one from wikipedia.

Only guided tours were allowed, so we didn’t get as much time to study the paintings and woodwork as I usually like. But it was beautiful nonetheless. The paintings are mainly depictions of the works of Wagner, a favourite of Ludwig’s. The intricate woodwork in the king’s bedroom was incredible; it took five workers four years to complete.

We also went for a walk to the Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge); here are pictures from the bridge and then one of the bridge from the castle.

The valley below

The valley below

Marienbrück seen from the castle.

Marienbrücke seen from the castle.

As you can see, the fog was already rolling in and by the time we left it was thick and spooky. Very appropriate for our castle tour.

After a traditional lunch in Füssen, where Markus was able to have a tasty Bavarian beer, we drove back to the warmth and sunshine of Innsbruck (the micro-climates here are crazy!)

We bought a book of castles in the area, so more to come I’m sure.

Cute Kid Update for the Grandparents

Thought it was time for some cute toddler updates for the grandparents. You might want to skip this one if you are feeling anti-cute-kid or have had enough of your own cute child at the moment.

This was the conversation in the kitchen the other night.

A: I want some pasta

H: Wie bitter?

A: Bitter?

H: O.K.

A: First you have to cook it. I’ll get you a pot.

H: That’s right Annie!

A: Here you go (handing me a strainer when she couldn’t find a pot as they were all in the dishwasher.) It is a green one! (Everything is green or orange right now, even though the strainer was silver)

H: Thanks!

A: You’re really welcome. (How cute is that!? I love the ‘really’ in there. And with a slight lisp thrown in to shoot it over the cuteness scale…”you’re rweally welcome.”)

Annie’s Germ-glish is coming along nicely. The latest is “I’m too schwer!” said with a big family pout on her lips. Schwer is heavy or difficult, so she really means whatever she is trying to move, usually to somewhere she shouldn’t be going, is too heavy. But we get the point.

I tried to take a good picture the last couple of days, but Annie has discovered saying ‘cheese’ and makes a very hilarious face like this:

Annie saying Cheeeese. Will I ever take another good picture again?

Annie saying Cheeeese. Will I ever take another good picture again?

So here is a cute one from the summer which I don’t think I’ve posted before:

Andy took this one at a playground in Victoria this summer (Hi Andy!)

Andy took this one at a playground in Victoria this summer (Hi Andy!)

Lovely Lunch in Italia

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Yesterday we left Annie with Aunt Suzi, Lili and Rebecca while Markus and I drove to Italy. He wanted to meet with the owners of The Hotel to try to finalize their decision on whether or not he can renovate and run the hotel. It looks fairly positive…we should know for sure by the end of the month.

The drive to South Tirol was beautiful. I adore the Austrian farm houses perched on the sloping foothills of the Alps. We passed ancient churches, and castles that were older still. I still find the time frames of the buildings mind blowing, as I am from a country that is less than 150 years old.

I walked around the little town where Markus had his meeting, and enjoyed the warmth of the last days of summer. It is a very beautiful area; Markus explained that it was part of Austria before they lost one too many wars, which is why everyone speaks German as well as Italian. From the outside, the town seems quite rustic and rural. However, there must be some serious tourists, as there is a large store I poked around in that sells high-end Burberry and Prada (€2000 purses anyone?). I did see a very cute pair of sneakers for Annie, at a mere €115 (multiply by 1.5 to get the Canadian equivalent) with a matching pair for me for €170, but I refrained.

On the drive home we took a short detour to Brixen for lunch. What a great little town! They have an amazing old town with shops, restaurants, cafes and outdoor markets. Lunch at an outdoor cafe was house-made pasta with saffron, chanterelle mushrooms and crab, served with an interesting twist on a Caesar salad (none of the heavy creamy dressing here.) The pasta was so flavourful and not too big of a portion, which was a welcome change from the loaded plates served in NA. After lunch I looked around for a purse to buy, but didn’t see anything I liked. Well, I saw many that I liked but I’m not up for spending $500 on a handbag.

I’m sure these day trips are going to be my favourite part of spending this time in Europe. More to come!

Hillary in old town Blixen

Hillary in Brixen, Italy

Markus at this great old church in Blixen

Markus at this great old church in Brixen

Blissed Out in My New Home

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

It was so strange to arrive at the Innsbruck airport and think “I live here.” Weird. And wonderful.

The trip was both worse and better than expected. The flights themselves were awesome, with Annie sleeping 6 hours on the long haul over the ocean. I think having her car seat really helped her to be comfortable. And Mom was pretty comfortable too, as we had Executive Class seats (three cheers for aeroplan). The leg-room was amazing and I could almost lie flat in the seat. The transfers in each of the airports (Chicago and Frankfurt) was hideous with too many bags, said car seat (blessing and a curse) giving me bruises on my arms as I hauled it through umpteen security checks, being sent to wrong terminals, lost stroller, too many poorly marked elevators, and on and on. But we made it with all of our luggage and some of our sanity, so I count the trip an overall success.

Our first day here was fantastic. After a midnight wake up time for Annie and I (Annie ate 2 eggs and 3 pieces of bread as her midnight snack…she is an eating machine right now), Markus let us sleep in until 10:30. After breakfast we packed a knapsack and spent the day at a local lake. We took the bus (no car, which I don’t think is going to be a problem here) and after a short walk were at a lovely man-made lake with playground, food stand, and a toddler waterslide that Annie went down about 150 times. She had a rockin’ time with cousin Lilli, who is 8. I think that Annie would be perfectly happy if she had a dozen siblings…the more people the better for her. Not a likely wish to be fulfilled by Markus and I, but there is always daycare to meet friends.

Day 2 (after a bit better sleep) was also spent at a lake. This one was mainly docks but there was a shallow area for Annie and another slide to keep her happy. She played for a long time in the sandbox with the other children, so Dad and I were able to relax, read and nap. Lovely.

There certainly is a lot more exposed skin here than in NA. I think I was the only woman under 70 in a one-piece bathing suit rather than a bikini. (Maybe next summer after a LOT of Alpine hikes I’ll make the transition.) The babes and toddlers also pretty much ran around naked, while I had Annie covered up in a long-sleeved, long-legged SPF bathing outfit. Poor kid. But I’m not ready to expose her Nicole Kidman skin to the elements just yet.

Dad has Annie all day today so that I can catch up on my online communications as well as go shopping for necessities. I’m going to wait until some of those afore mentioned Alpine hikes kick in before clothes shopping, but that sure is going to be fun! Mmmmm, European clothes. Lovin’ it!

Hopefully I’ll have some pictures downloaded from the camera in the next couple of days to start sharing. Now, if I could only get the hang of this German keyboard so I can stop spelling my name “Hillarz”. Sigh.

Last Night in Canada

Monday, August 25th, 2008

It is amazing to believe that we are leaving the country tomorrow and, unless there is some unforeseen glitch, will not be coming back to Canada for months.

Annie was in high spirits today. All week she has been leaving a room, closing the door on me, saying: “I’m just going to Austria. I’ll be right back.” So I’m guessing she doesn’t quite understand the concept of distance and time just yet. But on the other hand, she does realize that she’ll see Dad in Austria, which of course she is super excited about.

Ever since she has been a wee baby, I’ve said that Annie has a good sense of humour. I’m not sure how else to describe it except that she gets the joke. Tonight as we were going to bed, I told her that this was the last snuggle (she is trying to follow in Rebecca’s footsteps in the bedtime procrastination department), and that she would have to lie down. O.K. she says, flops her head on the pillow, and in the loudest imitation of a 70-year old man, starts to fake snore by rasping in through her nose and “shhewwing” out through her mouth. We both started belly-laughing so loud we had tears in our eyes. It is great to end our Manitoba vacation on such a high note. It has been a beautiful friend and family filled 3 weeks, but I’m looking forward to the European adventure getting started.

Here is a great close-up shot of Annie’s joy as she is swinging on the green swing at Star Lake that my brother Andy  (step-brother, but whatever) made a few summers ago. (Andy decided that Annie would call him Master Andy instead of Uncle. So Annie was yelling around the cottage “Where is Master Andy? Where is Master Andy?” He is in so much trouble.) I’ll post some other fav shots from the cottage once I get organized over the next few weeks.

Auf Wiedersehen!

My girl loves to swing and green is certainly her colour!

My girl loves to swing and green is certainly her colour!