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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Old World Elegance

This is the second year we have traveled to the EU for Christmas. (just got back to japan yesterday) One of the things I love about Vienna, and other spots we have visited, is the elegance and old world sensibility. There are modern conveniences and all the stuff you would expect but there is also a preservation of the culture and a slower pace to things that I appreciate so much.

The photo above is from the Blue Lounge in the Hotel Sacher (home of the famous Sacher Torte) The Sacher hotel is all about old world elegance. Proper pots of tea, hot cocoa served in pitchers, door men, and towel warmers, and a great concierge. All adds up to a relaxing and luxiurious stay.

The Sacher went above and beyond this year and made our christmas so special. On christmas eve when we returned to the room after visiting the Vienna Christmas Markets, there was a chocolate sleigh filled with christmas cookies, and later that night they gave us special christmas slippers when they did our turn down. It was a small thing, but it meant a lot to us. Cozy, comfortable and yet elegant. We are planning to make Christmas at the Sacher a family tradition.

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St. Stephen's Moment

well, we are home, just got in today, and tomorrow I head back into the restaurant. It was a great trip, and it was fantastic to spend such a special christmas with Mom.

I am going through photos and notes to post up- over the next few days, but for now, here is a little video snippet from the gorgeous midnight mass celebration we experienced in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. This is from the choir concert that started off the service. simply gorgeous, and wonderful to attend with mom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

finding Christmas in Bavaria Pt.2

Well, I have been here 3 days, Mom arrived and we have been having a wonderful time. Yesterday was simply magical. It has been a long time since I really saw snow. (Tokyo gets an occasional flurry but not accumulation) But I got my wish for some snowy-christmas-adventures yesterday!

Our hotel provided a service to link up to a sight seeing tour out to the Bavarian alps and to Neuschwanstein. The gorgeous alpine area lies just about 2hrs from downtown Munich so a day trip was very easy. We had a hearty breakfast. The highlight of which for me, was a whole honey comb that you could slice a hunk of honey from and have on excellent homemade bread with rich creamy butter.

the bus set up was a bit hard to understand as we joined the tour, but after it sorted itself out things went very smoothly. Uta was our guide, and though a bit odd she was friendly and informative. On German tours, punctuality is everything! so things moved in a very quick and scheduled pace. The theme of the day was King Ludwig II. Fairytale castles.

We first visited the tiny palace of Linderhof. Very ornate, and quite gogeous. (and very cold!) and then we stopped in a lovely Alpine village of Oberammergau (famous for it's once a decade performance of the passion play of christ- which has been going on since the Plague times.) Oberammergau is filled with lovely Alpine houses and shops with frescos painted on the walls. It is really like walking through a postcard.

But the jewel of the day was finally seeing Neuschwanstien. What an amazing place. And the weather made everything icy, snowy and totally gorgeous. The castle was never completed inside, with most of the decor being done only on the floor of the King's royal apartment. The entire castle, all the furnishings and wall coverings were inspired by Wagner's operas as King Ludwig was a huge Wagner fan.

You take a horse carriage to the top, near to the castle, then a brisk 10 minute walk for the last part. And you are inside. everything is stunning. My favorite room was the king's bedroom which it took 14 woodcarvers 4 1/2 years to complete! I was also greatly impressed by the byzantine inspired throne room.

King Ludwig died under myserious circumstances long before he could see the completion of the castle, and it was open for tourists just 6 weeks after his death!

Back in the bus, and two hours later back to our hotel where we had a lovely dinner and slept the deep sleep of those who spend a day up in the mountains and snow.

--top pictures clockwise from top left-- bavarian snow scape walking to Linderhof/ painted walls of Oberammergau/ Neuschwanstein in the snowy evening/ Bavarian village street.

Tomorrow we are off to Nurnberg.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

finding christmas in Munich pt.1

So last year we started a new tradition. Christmas is NOT a real holiday in Japan. It is not even a day off of work. The Japanese adopted some of the Christmas trappings, but none of the good ones. Mariah Carey "All I want for Christmas" blares everywhere and crazy neon plastic decorations are abundant. But nothing warm, nothing family-oriented, nothing that seems "Christmassy" to me. So last year, I took vacation at Christmastime and my husband and I went to Vienna and Prague where we heard Christmas traditions were alive and well.

It was fantastic.

And this year we decided to do it again, this time my Mom will be joining us too! Which is the best Christmas present ever.

My Mom's side of the family is German, and most Christmas traditions come from there, so this year we choose; Munich, Nurnberg and then Back to Vienna for the end of the trip. Mom gets in early tomorrow morning, but we have been here since yesterday. And the report so far is that Christmas is everywhere!

There is a fantastic Christmas market on Mariaplatz. Hot mulled wine, bratwurst, gingerbread are the market specialties. There are goregous decorations. Window shopping is loads of fun. And I am totally in Christmas heaven. The shot above is a collage of some of the sights this evening. from top left-clockwise.

1. a goregous tree lit up on a darling little back street
2. the main Townsqaure, with a massive goregous traditional tree and the start of a very big christmas market
3. me and santa :-)
4. a beautiful fruit stall

On our first day we also had a fantastic Christmas Sunday Brunch (they do it in the hotel each sunday of advent). More on that later.
time to try hard to go back to sleep in spite of jet lag!
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fish tacos and a dinner guest

I just got back from a short businessy trip to Hawaii to Fujimamas Kona. I was travelling alone this time, and only on the Big Island for a few days. But one stop included an ocean view dinner at the Canoe Club (which has a much better view than it does food!) I had the fish tacos which were filling and ok. The fish was nice, the cold shreaded cheese was a disappointment.

The sunset was lovely and I had time to watch a very cute golden gekko hang out on my ketchup bottle. These trips are much more fun when I can go with my husband. But I got a lot done. Brought back some stuff for the restaurant in Tokyo met with my bosses briefly, and saw the new expanded farm! Including the adorable ducks, dogs, and very nice heritage chickens.

I was busy closing out an apartment we had rented there for the last few months. Nice place. Lovely landlords. (met them through craig's list.) and I got to go book browsing at Borders, and picked up some nice stuff at Costco.

All in all, a good trip, though very short. I hope to get back sometime in the new year.
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