you don"t need to save the crystal for a special day, even water tastes better in a "Fancy Glass"

Sunday, December 31, 2006

the group

click photo enlarge
So our vacation was basically two parts, some time on our own and a 6 day tour with Maupin Tours. This is my first trip like this. And I would reccommend Maupin as a great tour company. they took care of all the details and it was easy to relax and unwind. Plus there were knowledgable tour guides at each destination that gave us great info that would have been hard to find on our own. The photo above was the group of us, on the tour.

from Left to right.
Blanka our tour manager, Ken and Marie who are from Arizona and spend part of their time living in London. (they had a difficult time as BA lost their luggage!) Michael from conn. who used to be a director for TV and the Ms. Universe pagents, Terri and Carol, two lovely ladies from the North East, behind them Larry, who came to try something new for the christmas holidays, Next to him Dave and Linda from NJ- they were great- had some terrific conversations with them. Then Chris and I, and the two sister, Joanie and Kathleen.

Nice group, lots of fun. Thank you to them all and to Blanka for a terrfic trip.

photo albums live online!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Home and reflections

Well, we returned to Japan yesterday eve. It was a wonderful trip. I will be posting from now reflecting back on the many experiences food wise and otherwise. Also working on my trip journal and will put a full photo album up online.

Today's post- Our Last night in Prague.

on the 26th we had a day to ourselves. The group tour concluded christmas night. And the 26th the other members were off headed for home. And one couple headed for a longer vacation in Germany.

So we got up had a nice breakfast said goodbye to Blanka our tour guide from Private Tours Prague (she also works with maupin tours) and then headed over to the Mucha Museum. I am an art nouveau fan and Mucha was one of the period's Masters. The museum was small but packed full of his work, and photos. Also a great video about him. I learned a lot. Want to get a book now and read more. This trip was wonderful for me, art-inspiration wise. Discovering how much I like Egon Schiele and Mucha. We had some cafe sitting time in front of the Astronomical Clock And then some walking time.

One thing I really wanted to do while in Prague was see the orchestra in some great location. I had a read about a concert on the 26th by the Prague Symphony Orchestra that was to be taking place in the St. Simon and Jude Church. I tried many times to get tickets and had trouble but we heard that you could buy 1 hour ahead at the location. So we set out to find the church. It was an adventure but at last we found it and got our tickets for the 4o'clock show. It was held in the Church in the above picture. The concert was Baroque Christmas. and it was fantastic. First half was small ensemble of Harpsichord, Bassoon, Oboe and Bass and then second have was a larger group of strings, organ, and brass with 4 soloists and full Choir. They performed a famous Czech Christmas Mass. It was glorious. What a way to end our trip.

Baroque Christmas

Ars Instrumentalis

Liběna Séquardtová, Ivan Séquardt – oboes
Luboš Hucek – bassoon
Pavel Nejtek – double bass
Josef Kšica – harpsichord

Prague Cathedral Choir and Orchestra

Eva Forejtová, Pavla Kšicová, Ondřej Šmíd, Tomáš Jindra

Josef Kšica

Johann Sebastian Bach: Trio Sonata in G major, BWV 1039
Jan Dismas Zelenka: Trio Sonata No. 5 in F major, ZWV 181
Jakub Jan Ryba: Czech Christmas Mass “Hey, Master!”

We followed it with a dinner in the Trendy restaurant PraVda and had a nice time. will post more on that later with a full restaurant review.

It was just great. all of it.

Next day 27th we had a train ride to Vienna and a relaxing eve. then flew back on the 28th. arriving in tokyo on the 29th after crossing the dateline.

Good to be back home- but what an amazing experience from start to finish.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas From Prague

Too tired to write much tonight, but had to post up something from our incredible christmas day. We started early with christmas tea and breakfast, then out by 9am to the Old Jewish Quarter... more on that later.

Brunch back at the hotel. And then to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Amazing place to spend christmas.

Dinner then the Opera at the State Opera House of the Czech republic. More details soon, but wanted to post up a photo collage of St. Vitus! what an amazing glorious church.

Ended the night with a lovely phone call home to mom who I miss very much.
Merry Christmas, 2006!

Monday, December 25, 2006

happy holidays and a hope that we will give peace a chance in 2007

Today was our first full day in Prague, it was filled with historical gorgeous views and moments and a lovely christmas dinner this evening. But I want to take a moment tonight on christmas eve to wish for peace in the world in the spirit of the "Lennon Wall of Prague" that I saw today as we were walking through the little quarter. This peace graffiti I saw above was a small part of the wall, with a big message.-

And I add to that message tonight as well with a wish on this christmas eve for
"peace on earth, goodwill towards man"

About the Lennon wall...

John Lennon's ideals for peace thrived under totalitarianism at Prague's 'Lennon Wall' and helped inspire the non-violent "Velvet Revolution" that led to the fall of Communism in the former Czechoslovakia.

by Ron Synovitz

Czech Republic; Dec. 8, 1998 -- The "John Lennon Peace Wall" stands in a quiet square amidst the baroque architecture of Prague's diplomatic quarter. Though Lennon never visited the Bohemian capital, he was a pacifist hero for the Czech subculture during the totalitarian era. In the decade following the collapse of Communism, the Lennon Wall came to represent not only a memorial to Lennon and his ideas, but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the repressions of neo-Stalinism.

Shortly after Lennon's death in 1980, under the ever watchful eyes of the Communist secret police, an anonymous group of Prague youth set up a mock grave for the ex-Beatle. The event was spontaneous, much in the same way that fans in New York City had gathered at Central Park upon hearing of Lennon's death. But unlike the gathering in New York, mourners in Prague risked prison for what authorities called "subversive activities against the state."

Prague's mock tombstone was, in fact, a recess within a garden wall that forms the backside of a 14th century churchyard. At the time of Lennon's death, western pop songs were banned by Communist authorities and some Czech musicians who played the music were sent to jail for the offense.

But the threat of prison couldn't keep people from slipping into the square at night to scrawl graffiti epitaphs in honor of their underground hero. The Communist police tried repeatedly to whitewash over the graffiti but they could never manage to keep the wall clean. Paintings of Lennon began to appear along with lyrics of his songs. The wall quickly took on a political focus and, inevitably, developed into a forum for grievances against the Communist state. Even the installation of surveillance cameras and the posting of an overnight guard couldn't stop the opinions from being expressed. Lennon marches also started to take place each year on Dec. 8. Those marches ultimately became linked to dissident protests on International Human Rights Day -- December 10. Participants in those early marches say they were channeled through a gauntlet of uniformed and plain-clothes police. Many were jailed or beaten for joining the marches.

Some of the writing on the Lennon wall during the 1980s was inane but much of it was quite profound. A running battle developed between the police whitewashers and dissident graffiti writers until November, 1989 when Communism collapsed in the former Czechoslovakia's non-violent "Velvet Revolution."

It has been reported that the French ambassador, whose office looks directly upon the colorful wall, telephoned Prague's municipal authorities late in 1989 and asked them not to paint over or interfere with the graffiti.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

in and around the Hofburg in vienna

We arrived in Prague last evening after a really wonderful journey here that included a stop in a wine growing town, a wine tasting and a fabulous local lunch. But there is still so much I have not written about from our time in Vienna, so I am going to keep working forwards even though this was a few days ago.

On the 21st, we spent the morning in and around the Hofburg, which was the downtown palace of the Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire. We walked around the area with a local vienese guide Ingred, who told us some of the history of the area and explained the different architectural styles. Then we had a fascinating tour of the Treasury- where they kept the vestments and crown jewels. It was a pretty amazing collection. The jewels and hand stitched robes, gloves, etc were overwhelming, just as was intended when they were used to demonstrated their power and wealth over other visiting royals and politicians. the various Crowns were really quite gorgeous. Ingred was a terrific guide. One of the main features I think of going on a tour is that the guides can give you so much information. She was really wonderful. Very matter of fact and funny.

the photo above shows (from top left) one of the horse and carriage teams that are all over the Hofburg area. I think it is so cute that in cold weather the horses have "ear-socks" the next picture is a view of one of the main gates leading into the hofborg complex, below that is a hand stitched vestment of one of the processional robes, and to the bottom left, a lion sculpture and highly decorated inner gate that went to the building housing the treasurery.

It was a lovely morning, and we had a small lunch on our own at a great traditional cafe near the Sachar called the tirolerhof cafe. (by the way the hofburg is VERY close to the Sachar hotel which has a fantastic location!) For some more background on the world famous Viennese cafe tradition read here. Below the photos show the gorgeous interior, me studying the map of Vienna, my Einspanner (espresso and whipped cream) with Chris' Local beer, and a fantastic sandwhich that we shared that was the speciality of the house. Rye hot sandwich with Ham, local cheese and onions. tasty!

fun little side note

The Sacher Hotel has it's own little Smart Car! so cute... and check out the license plate. These cars are tiny but great, and you can park them anywhere. They are a joint venture by Mercedes and Swatch.

Friday, December 22, 2006

My Sacher Christmas Tree

I am sure that they put up this tree just for me!
this is the christmas tree in the Hotel Sacher Lobby- Truly Gorgeous and real.

with the tour group in vienna

We checked in the Sacher Hotel right in the center of Vienna two days ago. Haven't had great internet access, my only complaint about this gorgeous 5 star old school hotel. We met up with the tour group we will be traveling with. Nice folks and our tour manager from Maupin tours is a lovely woman named Blanka Lukes from the Czech republic.

This was the tiny welcome sacher torte that was in our room. two of these plus chocolates and fresh fruit. Our room has a Chandelier! actually two of them. Nice furniishings and our window terrace looks right out on the goregous state oper house which is right in front of the hotel. Staff is very professional and the service great. Nice food too. The breakfast buffet is unbelievable.

On the 20th- the day we checked in, we did not meet up with the group until the late afternoon. So in the morning we went on a walk around the area around the hotel. Bought chris some very nice shoes, and went to see the Roman Ruins! it was an amazing though small exhibit, deep under a building. Very small display but quite interesting. The man selling tickets looked like he had been underground in this tiny museum since they discovered the dig!

We walked and taked and ended up for coffee in the famous Cafe Central- more on that later. it was one of my favorite interiors of the coffee houses we have visited so far. This one was the hangout of Trotsky back in the day! The Landtmann had better coffee but this one had a gorgous interior, high vaulted ceilings and great food.

Met up with the group and went to the City hall (rathous) christmas market, then met up for a reception and dinner with the whole tour group. Chris and I are the youngest in the group. Lots of older folks. But they seem nice. A bunch of crazy characters really. There are two sisters who remind me a lot of my mom and my aunt peggy. There are two older lady friends traveling together. A couple from New Jersey who seem quite nice, two sep. gentleman traveling on their own. One is an opera lover and has already bought tickets - he went to Don Carlo last night. and then the couple who are Maupin Tour regulars. they are nice, from arizona, and have a house in england but their luggage was lost and they are having a tough time.

Dinner was at the Sacher, nice but not fabulous. The breakfast food has been the best so far actually and the famous Sacher torte of course.

more on the Hofburg and other tour highlights to date soon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

a pause and cross post

Yes, I am still in Vienna! but I wanted to take an only- travel- post break and instead mention some local stuff AND how much I LOVE reading the food blogs around the holidays. From Thanksgiving all the way to New Years the food blogs are a celebration around the world of holiday foods from various cultures, religious traditions, and family customs. It is a lot of fun and great food for the imagination.

I want to try to get to a cookbook store around the corner from our hotel today. Babette's . I passed up on it yesterday assuming that it would be all german books, but found out after in the guidebook that they have lots of english books as well.
this review from chubbyhubby's vienna guide

Babette's, named after the fantastic food film Babette's Feast, is a wonderful little cookbook bookstore just a short walk from the Naschmarkt. In addition to the great range of books, there's a small counter which serves snacks, soups and whatever else the owners feel inspired to make each day.
17 Schliefmuhlgasse, 4th
Tel: 585 51 65

Back to the blogs...
one of my favorites is 101 cookbooks. And this morning I got up and read about Heidi making Cranberry Jam! - I recommend you check out her site and browse both her cookbook collection on the right hand menu links and her list of recommended food blogs on the left.

Another of my favorites is Chocolate and Zuchinni - a Blog from a french woman, it is a food bloggers institution over there. The DailyKos of the foodblog world. I also have been reading Orangette since I started in the foodblog world. Love her writing style. (though today she is talking about brussel sprouts of which I completely disapprove of!)

there are thousands of foodblogs now and they are fantastic. Hope you will take some fun surfing time and celebrate the holidays with the food bloggers.

long christmassy day

well, we decided to save the roman ruins, and instead headed out shopping. We did regular st0re shopping, looking for shoes for chris, and sweaters, and for me a dressy outfit for our concert night later this week. Success on the dress and the sweaters. No luck on the shoes.

had a late lunch early dinner at a bar/pub place called Centimeter. He had pork schnitzel and pomme frites, I had turkey schnitzel. totally huge portion. we should have shared one. Had a nice hiefe-weisen beer, and then headed back out.

We went to Spittleberg Gasse, a little back street area where there are great art shops and this time of year a fun winding christmas market... more arty booths, and lots of yummy foods.

scored some treasures... Fair trade chocolate, honey-gummi bears, Lebuchen (ginger bread) and then the hot punch and hot wine when we finished up. A great way to keep toasty warm. Headed back to the hotel with a bit of a chill but rosy cheeks!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

my new hat

It is cold here... so one of the first orders of business yesterday was getting me a hat! I had a great hat for a few years but lost it last winter in a restaurant in ebisu...

So we were browsing one of the many viennese christmas markets- and of course since Santa was running this stand- I found a hat I love! warm, cozy, a bit excentric. and keeps my ears quite toasty.

today we are off to do some shopping and browsing and cafe sitting in a different area. Breaksfast was good again. tea was tasty. and we are off...

my first weiner schnitzel

we went out to dinner last night at a typical nice neighborhood Vienna restaurant and had WEINER SCHNITZEL! the place was chosen by our DA Austria Friend (democrats abroad) Kristin S. And it was just perfect. Small local place in the 9th district, on a quaint little side street.

we started with a traditional dumpling appetizer, and a beef, goat cheese and pumpkin seed oil dish. Then came the schnitzel. It was terrific- but too large a portion after the apps. I will have it again in the next two days or so I hope- and this time I won't spoil my appetite on the starters though they were quite tasty.

Before going to the restaurant we walked around a christmas market not far from the hotel. Lots of artisan crafts. This time, instead the hot red wine, I tried the orange punch with rum. It was very delicious. I imagine it would be great for a sore throat.

Today- we are planning to go to an excavation of roman ruins. and hopefully another cafe. The Central- which was a trotsky hang-out.

Afternoon and the Landtmann

We got up today, had a great breakfast at our hotel. more on that later. Then we went to the Leopold Museum in the MQ. Wonderful afternoon of art and talking and more art. Took a leisurely stroll passing through the Maria Tereasa platz christmas market, and off to the LANDTMANN cafe.

the Landtmann was recommended by my DAJ friend Linda G. It has been around 133 years. I read a little about it in the guidebook too. Anyway- totally lived up to my expectations. I had an Einspanner which is an espresso with a huge dollop of whipped cream, chris had hot spiced wine. Then we split a baked apple filled with nuts, raspberries, cranberries, and surrounded by vanilla cream.

We stayed for a while- broke out our sketching stuff and did some drawing. Lots of fun to think about drawing after the 5 day RBR workshop we took. I sketched a man at a table nearby and the glasses on my table.

After a nice long walk back to the hotel, arm and arm which is the custom here and soooo lovely. Tonight we are going out to dinner with Kristin S. from DA Austria. She says typical viennese dinner spot. So I am really looking forward to it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Arrived and Drank!

We arrived safe and sound. Austria airlines had nice food but the seats were horrible! I was quite stiff and sore after 12 hrs. We checked in to the Hotel Das Triest and then walked down to the city center a bit.

Stopped at a little cafe, restaurant and started off our vacation with Vienna Beer for my hubby and Hot spiced wine for me! C had a local goulash and bread for dinner, I had a sandwich with ham, mozzarella and pesto mayonaise. then walked a bit and looked at the lights.

Great long night's sleep and now we are up and on our way to breakfast!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

well- we are on our way

sitting in the narita united lounge cruising on the wireless... very tired. it was a busy couple of days building up to leaving. We are just one plane ride away from vienna.

Our first couple of night we are staying in Das Triest- a hipster kind of boutique hotel. then we joining the tour group and check in to the Sacher Wein. I think I will sleep well on the flight today as I can hardly keep my eyes open now.

feels weird to be leaving the restaurant for christmas, but my team is great and I am positive they will do a good job.

Chris says many folks he has talked to have said that Prague is better than Vienna... But I really think I am going to LOVE them both. We packed some warm clothes. And I am looking forward to having some spiced warm wine tonight after we check in.

Tomorrow I think we will go to the Leopold Museum, and we are meeting up with a Democrats Abroad Austria Friend Kristin Smearl for dinner. She lives in Austria and has promised to take us to a nice local traditional place.

more after I arrive.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

More on the Krispy Kreme Debut- How the best doughnuts in the world are made before your eyes!

  Posted by Picasa

Fancy Glass Exlusive -Breaking News- Krispy Kreme Comes to Japan!


Jeffy and hubbyness and I got up extra early yesterday to head over for the JAPAN debut of the hallowed Doughnut Institution Krispy Kreme! We waited for about an hour before they had the ribbon cutting ceremony (there were real doughnuts hanging from the ribbon). The CEO even came through the line with samples! Delicious! I bought 3 dozen to take back to share with my Staff at Fujimamas! YEAH! Krispy Kreme has arrived. Jeffy is kind of scary when it comes to Krispy Kreme, I saw him in 10 in 30 mins once... seriously. he is the one who altered us to the Opening event. It was lots of fun.

By the way they really are the best darn doughnuts in the world- Rejoicing here in Tokyo! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mele Kalilkimaka- Merry Christmas in Hawaiian

If I wasn't going to be in Vienna for xmas this year, another great thing to do would be to be at the new restaurant our company opened in Hawaii. Fujimamas, Kona --- Just got their christmas menu from the chef today. And it sounds so yummy and festive. Should be a really lovely christmas meal there.

They are making some wonderful seafood, and lots of other terrific stuff. You can read all about it at the Fujimamas Foodies Blog. Aloha!

Monday, December 11, 2006

things I am looking forward to #8

We have been reading our guidebooks at night before bed. Prague has a fascinating history- and lots of castles, palaces, royal homes - some structures dating back to 973! I really enjoyed reading about the Prague Castle- and look forward to seeing it in "real-life." there is even a Prague Castle Webcam... looks hazy today but still green!

Oh- and I am VERY excited to find this Czech Christmas Page!

Friday, December 08, 2006

experimenting with and podcast/audio blogging

Thursday, December 07, 2006

things I am looking forward to #7

apparently I am in for some fantastic cafe- life during our vienna adventures. Vienna is essentially the home of coffee house culture. And i will be sure to go to the Cafe Central

Once the favoured haunt of Leon Trotsky, the Central was, for many years, the café where Vienna's intellectuals came to linger and decide how to put the world to rights. Nowadays, it's tourists rather than revolutionaries who dominate, eagerly looking for a taste of Viennese café society. The interior is certainly impressive, having emerged from a brief closure in 2002 for renovation. And, while coffee, cakes and strudel are fine too, they can't quite match the splendour of the architecture itself.
sounds like just what we will need to warm up after walking around the goregous city and christmas markets in the december chill. A friend also recommended some other cafes. I am making a list. if anyone knows other spots we should go, leave a message in the comment thread!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

new sanno brunch / dessert

we went to the new Sanno Hotel today, a military hotel in tokyo for usa service folks. My husband is in the VFW ( Veterans of Foreign Wars) and we got invited to an event there in cooperation with the VFW and the Royal British League. There was a massive amount of food. Made to order omlettes, roast beef, bacon, pancakes, waffles, sparkling wine, etc. etc. etc. And the a whole table of desserts. Since this is the holiday brunch they had Christmas cookies that were fun. And I tried the Capuccino Mouuse dessert as well.

It is strange to see such a big, over done American style buffet service in Tokyo- where portions are usually small and overeating is rare. This was full on- over the top- buffet madness. They had a huge christmas tree and santa for photo ops as well.

My omlette was good. The tea was terrible- American coffee culture was well represented- but we had luke warm watered down brown liquid masquerading as tea... oh well.

Full for hours - later. but fun. Posted by Picasa

things I am looking forward to #6

On the 22nd, on our Vienna part of our tour, we will have the morning off to explore but from the afternoon we are in for what sounds like a pretty special late afternoon, evening at the Schonbrunn Palace. We will have a tour, dinner and then a concert of music by Mozart and Strauss.

found this little description on the web. and also a general page with pictures.
enjoy a delightful dinner in the Café-Restaurant Residenz followed by a concert in the Orangery of the Schönbrunn Palace. In the festive baroque atmosphere of the Orangery you can enjoy musical treats by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss.
This experience can be rounded off by visiting the sumptuous rooms of the Palace Schönbrunn. In this case you set off for the Palace tour at 4.15 pm and from 6.30 pm on enjoy an exclusive menu in the Café-Restaurant Residenz. The festive concert in the Palace Orangery at 8.30 pm forms the crowning glory as the end of your evening.

things I am looking forward to #5

just got our tour package from Maupin Tours today - in a nice big ups box. two faux leather tour document pouches, and the actualy final intinerary... which leads me to this very exciting "thing I am looking forward to..." on the night of the 25th Christmas, we are going to be at the prague state opera house! seeing La Traviata...

la traviata is a bit of a tradition at the State Opera House.
Verdi’s La traviata has figured on the repertoire of this opera house ever since its foundation
one of the first "dates" (sort of) when my husband and I began the transition from Just long time friends to lovers, was at the opera in NYC. we saw the barber of seville... so on our romantic, dream, winter vacation I think that going to the opera on christmas is just perfect.

you can take a little virtual tour around the opera house here.

I really can't wait. but what will I wear???? yikes!