Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ski Week Persian Gulf Style

We've had a mild winter in Vienna compared to the USA, but it is a winter none the less.  February school break is called "Ski Week".  Austrians head to the slopes, most ex-pats head to the slopes.  Combined with the Winter Olympics, it is a winter sport frenzy here.  However, sixteen years of living in Arizona has thinned the blood.  We decided on Dubai.  Sun and sand are just a short 6 hour plane ride away and exactly what we needed in order to face what is left of old man winter.

Joyful Beach Bum

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina

Happy Hour

Midnight at the Oasis

We stayed at Fairmont The Palm, my Trip Advisor review and some pictures are here.  Made 2 trips to the Dubai Mall, largest in the world, in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa.  It is the one without the ski slope, but with a full size ice skating rink. And more than 1200 brand boutiques and stores, restaurants and jewelers.  From Bvlgari  to Harry Winston.  Temperley London to Tom Ford.  Laduree Paris to Outback Steakhouse.  Oh and yes, Bloomingdales, Banana Republic and Pottery Barn.  Some scenes from the Mall:


Paris in Dubai

Lanvin, Givenchy and Tom Ford

Time to Channel Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia

Dive into Shopping

Of Course, The Souk in the Mall

Burj Khalifa 

Even the Candy Stores are Gorgeous

Hello Friends!

What Our Budget Allowed

Maybe you are expecting some insights into Dubai's history, culture or arts here.  Fact is, we were complete pool and beach bums and I was a Dubai Mall rat.  Imagine a city that is a marriage between Beverly Hills and Las Vegas.  Throw in a dash of traditional Islamic culture, a pinch of Donald Trump and the Moguls of Mumbai and you've got Dubai.  I'm ready for another go next Ski Week.  Or maybe Spring Break.  But before it hits 120 degrees.  My blood's not that thin.

History of Dubai for Mall Rats

Friday, February 7, 2014

Modernism Before Mad Men

Spending time at Vienna's MAK or Museum of Applied Arts is one of my favorite things to do.  We live steps away and on Tuesday evenings the admission is free.  No better way to spend some "me" time than wandering the exhibit halls filled with furniture, decorative arts, textiles, glass, china, silver and paper.  No yawning people!  Come visit and I'll make a tour of MAK's decorative and applied arts titillating for you!

The newly curated Wien 1900 exhibit consists of three galleries showcasing the continuum of the modernist/secessionist or "Jungendstil" movement in Vienna prior to WWII (1890-1938).  Today, a guided tour brought more clarity to the movement and the complexities of interpersonal relationships between the architects, artists, and designers that put Vienna in the forefront of socio-cultural modernism from Adolf Loos to Josef Hoffman, Otto Wagner to Gustav Klimt.  It's a real Peyton Place of a story, disrupted by WWI and the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the rise of anti-semitism and Hitler's horror, so I'll save the dramatic details until we get together for our tour.  For now, a few snaps of the pieces that caught my eye.

Internet Image MAK

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!"

Feeling like an expert, my friend "V" and I set off for our second trip to TESCO in the city of BrÄ›clav, Czech Republic.  What is TESCO, you ask?  It is a British owned grocery and merchandise outlet and according to Dr. Google, the 2nd most profitable retailer in the World.  Imagine a Super WalMart plopped behind the lines of a former Iron Curtain country.  Since Austria has yet to invite TESCO across her borders, we jumped in the car this week for the hour drive into the promised land of cheap chicken and kielbasa, as well as other savings on food and household items.

We're Off to See The Wizard!
Follow The Yellow Brick Road
Although the Czech Republic is a European Union member, the currency is still the Czech Koruna, also known as the Czech Crown.  The Euro to Crown exchange favors the Euro so even when you factor in the gas expense, the savings add up.  

.35 Euro Cent Pasta
V and I make a good shopping team.  We wander the aisles with our lists, catching up with each other to compare shopping carts and good bargains.  Eventually, we make our way to the last stop before check-out, the meat section.  The meat haul during our combined two visits is impressive.  Packages of chicken breast, chicken thighs, chicken this and that, several types of kielbasa, frankfurters, salami, beef roast and cooked rotisserie chickens.  We bought 5 rotisserie chickens this week, 3 for V and 2 for me.  Two quick and important points about the cooked chickens (1) They are absolutely delicious (2) You pay for them as soon as they are wrapped and bagged in the back of the store.

With our TESCO Shoppers Club Cards and Bank Austria VISAs firmly in hand, we headed toward our separate check-out lanes.  This is where things head south for yours truly.   You're really not surprised, are you?

As I'm loading my 12,000 items on the conveyer, I accidentally put my 2 ABP (Already Been Paid) chickens in the mix.  However, the receipt is stapled to V's chicken, located 4 check out lanes south of my location.  It might as well have been Belarus.  As my check-out process comes to a standstill, an animated phone call to the back of the store begins and wouldn't you know, a line of people start forming behind the remaining 6,000 items on the conveyor.  This is where I decide to yell across the store, "Hey V, will you bring me the chicken with the receipt?"  The evidence arrives and I start swinging the chicken at the clerk chanting "Already Been Paid! Already Been Paid!"  What this means in Czech, I have no idea, but the phone call ends and the goods start rolling.

Thinking danger has passed, I stand poised with my VISA card and swipe it at the appointed time.   Just imagine my surprise when the clerk points to the card machine and says "Peen."

WTF and a chuckle fly through my mind.

"Uh, no PIN" I reply showing her my VISA, "credit card."

We start to back and forth "Peen"  -  "No Pin" and then a little louder "PEEN"  -  "NO PIN"

I even managed a couple of, "NO PEEN! Kredit Karte!" to see if my attempt at a local Czech accent would bridge the language barrier.  No go.  Peen.

The crowd begins to grumble.  The clerk starts conversing with the woman buying a mere 6 items waiting behind me, about me, no doubt.  I just spent over 4000 Czech Crowns and only a peen stands between me and the promised land.  Finally, I think to pull out an ATM card, enter my peen, and all is well.

In the meantime, V arrived to help me bag items, the line surged forward and the crowd remained watching as we navigated our overloaded carts out of the store.  I enjoyed a Miss America moment, smiling, waving, and thanking our new friends for their patience.

Will we return to TESCO?  Hell YES!  Next time, the only crown I'll be wearing will look like this:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

We met friends for dinner last night at Livingstone.  The invitation to satisfy a craving for steak was too good to refuse.  Along with the good company, it was a "no-brainer" way to spend a freezing cold Saturday night.  Walking Dead pun intended.  Mike and I are seriously addicted to this show, and I was feeling zombie-like in the pursuit of a delicious steak.

Enter All Ye Steak Zombies

Livingstone is the "Mortons" of Vienna.  A wide selection of steaks, filet to ribeye, Wagyu (Kobe), Omaha, Angus and Hereford.  A la carte side dishes, minimalist presentation and California wines.  While I felt slightly underdressed, no way was I going to let my fashion faux pas stand in the way of the feast.      

And we did feast.  No time for food pictures, I inhaled my filet.

So now I am wondering why I've blogged about a steak.  Perhaps because I naively expected not to  be bothered by a change in food culture.  I'll admit it.  I'm bothered.  Last night, while discussing the beauty of Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing & Recipe Mix with our friends, I also realized I'm not alone.  It was a reassuring feeling.

Just what the good Doctor ordered.