Vienna in Pictures

I haven’t felt like writing reviews much this week so let’s keep going with the picture posts. If you missed them, I’ve done Athens, Rome, Florence, and Venice. Which brings us to Vienna. We had a very short time here but we adored it. If my German weren’t so horrendous, I’d want to live there. Who knew Austria was so amazing?

The awesome overnight train (and complimentary wine)

Mozart Monument

Me and Ben at Schonbrunn Palace (before I lost/someone stole my lovely jacket)

Schonbrunn Palace

Coffee and Sachertorte

The Rathaus

The Opera House

You can see the rest of the pictures here. Prague is up next.

Venice in Pictures

We’ve seen Athens, Rome, and Florence. Now it is time for our least favorite stop: Venice. We’re the kind of people who need to be constantly on the go on vacations and we ran out of things to do in Venice after the first afternoon. We were also homeless for much of the time (big gap between checkout and our overnight train) so we had no base. Hence, our lack of love toward the city. We still managed to get some good photos though. Enjoy.




Rialto Bridge


Through the Rialto Bridge


Gondola Ride


Lots of wandering from bridge to bridge, reading.

See the rest of the pictures here.

So Venice wasn’t out favorite, but I am glad we saw it. Our next city – Vienna – was one of our favorites. Stay tuned.

Florence in Pictures

I have not forgotten about my promise to show you all pictures (I just kind of forgot for a little while). I’ve given you Athens and Rome, so now it is time for Florence.

We adored Florence. We enjoyed everything about the city. And it just happened to be where Ben celebrated his 30th birthday.




View from the Duomo

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Birthday Boy

The Birthday Boy


Boboli Gardens

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti (the Medici Estate)

To see more, click here.

Venice is up next.

Athens in Pictures

Here is what I’ve decided to do about pictures. Since some of you were interested, I am going to post them. But I will just post a few from each city and then a link to the rest of them on Picasa. I’m going to go one city at a time so as not to overwhelm you. And I’m just going to do it on random days that I don’t have other posts. Sound good?


Athens was our longest stop. We were there for 5 days. Our main event was my cousin’s wedding and we were there with other people, so it was very different (i.e., slower) than the rest of our trip. Here are a few pictures.

Temple of Zeus - Isn't it HUGE?
My beautiful cousin and her new husband
At the church
Me with my other lovely cousin at the Acropolis
Not a bad view for dinner
Hydra - I have found my place in life

See more pictures here. Or don’t. Your choice. Next up: Rome.

Did You Miss Me?: A Brief Summary of My Trip

When I went on a three week road-trip in 2008, I shared my trip with you in numbers. Since there is no way I can adequately wrap-up this trip either, I thought I would do the same.

11 773…Miles flown (18,947 km)
2,761…..Miles traveled in Europe (4,444 km)
922……..Pictures left after culling (which means we took A LOT more than that)
26……….Days gone
14……….Churches (this seems low)
12……….Train Stations
11……….Cities (including Oxford and Frankfurt, our first layover city)
10……….Museums (this also seems low)
8…………Books read
5…………Modes of Transportation (plane, train, automobile, bus, and boat)
3…………Day Trips (Hydra, Aegina, & Poros in Greece; Neuschwanstein in Germany; Windsor, Bath & Stonehenge in England)
2…………Friends we met up with (not including my family in Greece for the wedding) – Jer in Munich and Maria in London
1…………Hotel (Athens)
1…………Dorm Room (we *might* be a little too old to share a twin bed)
1…………Souvenir purchased (you should feel very special Zen)
1…………Missed train
1…………Broken camera
1…………Lost Jacket
1…………Husband left behind

Highs and Lows from each city:


  • High: My cousin’s wedding (and the food at the wedding)
  • Low: Lots of waiting around for family in the hotel lobby (cell phones would have been handy)


  • High: Papal audience (my second at St. Peter’s – I saw Pope John Paul II there  in 2000)
  • Low: ???


  • High: Ben’s 30th birthday
  • Low: Climbing hill after hill (finding a low was hard – we adored Florence)


  • High: Gondola Ride
  • Low: Being homeless and having nothing to do the second day


  • High: The “feel” of the city – I think I could live there
  • Low: Our stay was super short (around 32 hours)


  • High: Prague Castle
  • Low: Sketchiest hostel of the trip


  • High: Tie between the day trip to Neuschwanstein and hanging out with our friend from Michigan (and two 60-year-old professors) at a beer hall
  • Low: I had just lost my jacket and I was freezing


  • High:I’m going to cheat here because I loved Paris the most. Musée de l’Orangerie, the Eiffel Tower, the dinner cruise on the Seine were three of my favorite things.
  • Low: It was HOT (like over 100 degrees) and Paris does not have AC.


  • Walking around London with Maria
  • Low: I was exhausted by this point and kind of done sight-seeing.

The entire trip was amazing. Sure, there were times I was exhausted and three-and-a-half nonstop weeks is a long time to spend with one person (even if that person is your husband), but I am so thankful I had the opportunity to take this trip. I know that I am very lucky. I will miss Ben while he is off being super-smart and studying at Oxford, but I do enjoy the time on my own (maybe I’ll actually do some actual reading this year).

I know that I updated you all with photos on twitter and tumblr as I went, so I’m not sure if I should post any here. Would you like to see a few of my favorites? Or would you like links to some pictures for each city?

Finally, I am happy to be home. I am glad to sleep in my own bed, use my own shower, and wear different clothes. I am also happy to get back to blogging and catching up with everyone.

Oh, and Happy Fourth of July to my U.S. readers. 🙂

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I promised a post about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter way back in August when I first visited. Somehow that never happened. Now that I have been there twice more due to the visits of Susan and Emily (I am certainly getting my money’s worth out of my annual pass to Universal), I figured I really better get a post up.

Any Harry Potter fan will enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A lot of thought and detail went into it and it really shows. However, it is only a small portion of Islands of Adventure so I am not sure it’s necessarily worth a trip alone. But if you’re in Orlando anyway, or you’re planning a few days at the various amusement parks, definitely go visit.

There are only three rides and two of them existed before it was converted to Harry Potter. The new ride, The Forbidden Journey, is fantastic. And waiting in line is half the fun. You walk through Hogwarts (the greenhouses, Dumbledore’s Office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and lots more) before getting on the ride. The ride takes you on a half virtual/half actual journey through Hogwarts. You fly through the castle, evade a dragon, dive into the Chamber of Secrets, and soar over the quidditch pitch. They did a great job with it – so much that I actually have to close my eyes when the dragon gets close and flinch when the whomping willow comes my way.

The other two rides are Dragon Challenge (a double inverted rollercoaster) and Flight of the Hippogriff (a mild roller coaster). Those lines are not quite as nice but you still get to see some interesting things. Dragon Challenge takes you through the Triwizard Tournament and Flight of the Hippogriff shows you Hagrid’s Hut.

Apart from the rides, there are the shops you would expect. You can shop at Honeydukes, Zonko’s, Ollivander’s, and Dervish and Banges. And of course, you can buy a butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks, the Hogs Head, and various carts. Some of the stores are combined. Be prepared to spend some money. There are other store fronts lining Hogsmeade/Diagon Alley but they are all “closed.” You can also watch performances by the school choir (w/ frogs) and the students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrong.

My only complaint (aside from the crowds and the heat which can’t really be helped) is that it is too small. I hear rumors that they are going to expand it and I hope they do. The rest of Islands of Adventure is actually kind of lame so it wouldn’t be a loss if they converted more of it.

Those are my thoughts but here is the fun part, the pictures:

Susan and me in front of the Hogwarts Express

Hogsmeade and Hogwarts (you’d never guess it felt like 100+ degrees that day, right?)


More Hogwarts

Hogsmeade and Hogwarts again


Inside Ollivander’s (where Susan was picked by Ollivander to test wands)

The Butterbeer Cart (the butterbeer is so delicious)


Hagrid’s Hut

The Three Broomsticks


I have many, many more pictures but I don’t want to make this post any longer. If you make it to Orlando to visit, let me know what you think.

New York Recap: Days 4 & 5 (The Rest of the City)

The time is here to give you my final New York Recap. You can find the two previous posts here and here.

We slept in on  Sunday and I think that was a very good decision. We started the day at the Bagel Smashery in Hoboken. We got our bagels to go and brought them with us to the Brooklyn Bridge. We joined the crowds walking across the bridge and when we got to the middle we ate our breakfast. It was a little strange sitting and eating above the speeding traffic but we had a good time.

Ben and Me
Emily and Me

After the Brooklyn Bridge, we went over to 5th Avenue for a little shopping. We started at the Apple Store and FAO Schwartz  and when we got there, we saw that there was a movie being filmed. After a brief investigation we discovered it was the Smurfs movie. Emily looked up who was in the movie and found out NEIL PATRICK HARRIS is one of the stars. We looked high and low but couldn’t find him. We did get to see Jayma Mays (Emma from Glee) before we went into the stores but we were a bit disappointed.

And then, when we emerged from FAO Schwartz, there he was. Neil Patrick Harris. My life was now complete.

Jayma Mays

Neil Patrick Harris

Next we went to The Plaza Hotel, Tiffany’s, Rockafeller Center, and Nintendo World, among others (these are just the places that are on my foursquare list).

Ben with Mario

We took a little break at Grand Central Station and then proceeded to Bryant Park and Washington Square Park.

We spent the evening having dinner at La Lanterna and singing at Karaoke One 7.

Day 5

Monday saw our last day in the city. After packing all of our things (and by things I mean books), we headed to Central Park to have lunch. My friend, Nicole, and her boyfriend, Ben, met us there and we had a nice picnic. Nicole and I have been friends since 7th grade – we went to middle school, high school, and college together and she graciously gave me a place to live when I was in San Francisco. She currently lives in Ithaca and we rarely get to see each other, so being in the same place at the same time was a real treat.

After lunch, we went to the Natural History museum where Ben was amazed at the size of the blue whale. This isn’t a great picture of the whale but I had to share it anyway:

It's Huge!

Then we went back to Hoboken, gathered our things, and headed home.

Overall, I had a fantastic trip. In fact, I kind of want to live there. That’s how much fun I had in New York City.

Hope you enjoyed the recaps. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

New York Recap: Days 2 & 3 (BBC & Bookstores Galore)

Book Blogger Convention

On Friday morning, I woke up extremely early and still managed to make it to the Book Blogger Convention with only minutes to spare. That takes skill. Emily had to go to work (boo) and Ben decided to tackle the city on his own (which is also why I have no pictures from the Convention), but I was in for my own treat.

I don’t want to rehash the day too much since others have done a very good job already, but here were the highlights:

  • First up was Maureen Johnson, a YA author I have never read but immediately loved. She is absolutely hilarious. She had the whole room in hysterics. I want to read all her books now.
  • Ron Hogan gave a talk on ethics where we learned that bloggers have apparently just won a war and that we are not to use the term “free books.”
  • The panels were mostly made up of bloggers I don’t really know (although moderated by some of my favorites). I learned some useful things and I hope to use some of that information here in the near future.
  • I got to meet a lot of the people I missed the day before and spend a little bit of time with them. (I loved my trip but if I could change one thing, I would have planned to hang out with other bloggers more).

Dinner and the Strand Bookstore

After the convention, I made a pretty swift exit (sorry guys) and maneuvered my way uptown to meet Ben and Emily. We went out to dinner at the Amsterdam Alehouse with some of Emily’s coworkers and then made our way to the Strand (is there a “the” or not?).

If you love books, you must go to this bookstore at some point in your life. It was actually my number one “must-do” item for my trip.

Ben and I ended up with a few books and a tote bag (because that’s what I needed – more books and tote bags)

But the best part was just wandering the store. I understand why people love it.

Bookstore Tour of New York City

Saturday found us at no fewer than 5 different bookstores with various other stops along the way.

We started the day at Books of Wonder and I think I have found my new favorite place on Earth. Books of Wonder is a children’s bookstore and it is, in fact, wonderful. I could have spent all morning there and I think Ben is lucky I only walked out of there with the four books I did:

Next we went to brunch at Lillie’s Irish-Vistorian Bar and Restaurant, which was kind of strange because we were the only ones there, but our meals were delicious and came with mimosas which is pretty awesome. Lillie’s was followed by Idlewild books. Idlewild groups its books by country and it was fun to peruse the various corners of the world.

Then we went to Three Lives and Company where we actually did not buy any books. It was getting hot and we were in need of refreshment.

So after a quick stop at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, we went to Magnolia Bakery. Another must-do on my New York list. I had a “Carrie” cupcake (like Sex and the City I think) and it was delicious.

Magnolia was followed by bookbook which was another bookstore I really liked but I can’t find a website to link to.

It was 3pm by then so we headed to Times Square to try and score some Broadway tickets in the TKTS line. We were hoping for Promises, Promises but ended up with Le Cage tickets for later that evening.

At that point we went to a cookout a friend of Emily’s was having to rest for awhile. I can’t thank this friend enough for giving us a place to sit for a few hours.

We spent out evening at Le Cage and it turned out to be a fantastic show. It was hilarious and the music was very good. Plus, Kelsey Grammer was in it and we got his autograph as well as some of the other performers’ after the show.

Friday and Saturday were both fantastic days. And I was once again glad that Ben was carrying the backpack because we ended the day with another pile of books.