• Playing Nice!

    Budapest, Hungary…I covered this town today! I hit the ground running with ambition…

    Since Budapest is so spread out, I took it on recommendation, to employ the services of the dreaded open top tour bus! There are many different companies to choose from and they are set up conveniently all over the city…they include tours by bus and boat and are red, bright green, pink, blue, you name it…

    This really gave me the opportunity to see EVERYTHING from both sides of the Danube as well as actually from the Danube! It was comprehensive and a great way to capture the sights and history of the Hungarian capital. There is so much to see; the castles, churches, monuments, and bridges!

    I must say what struck me today: what is wrong with tourists? Why do people loose their manners and mind when traveling? Pushing, shoving, space invading…I really laughed many times today watching a little Japanese woman push aside a large German man, or a loud French woman knock a girl over for a seat, or the Swedish teen stepping allover this Italian woman who dropped her hat! What’s the problem? I think people are so fixated they forget we are all in this together! I am a New Yorker, so I get aggression, but this is vacation! I rarely do group tour activities but today gave me a better glimpse into people’s behavior!

    Slow down, take in the beauty…Chill and relish the culture…Relax, the sights are not going anywhere!

    I am loving Budapest, now I just wish everybody tried to love one another a bit more…






  • Night Vision!

    Budapest, Hungary…the historic sights along the Danube are illuminated at night allowing me to do a double take at this wonderful city. The sound of live bands at cafes become the soundtrack for the amazing view and people waltz in the open air dance halls that some parks become after dark. I really am enchanted with Hungary and the traditional goulash, stroganoff, and strudel on every menu just adds to the appeal!

    I am sitting at an orange and yellow canopied cafe along the banks of Budapest’s prized river and soaking up the sights. My dinner of Sirloin Stroganoff with amazing dumpling like noodles brings me back to my childhood…delicious! It hits the spot like some kind of comfort food.

    A stroll allows me to thrill at the view and it’s all I need to end this first day in Hungary!





  • Watch Where You Walk!

    Budapest, Hungary…I was so mesmerized with this city, I got in trouble! I was walking and taking pictures that I accidentally walked right into a commercial…

    Milka chocolate was filming a commercial on the street and I walked smack dab into the middle of it…guys screaming at me in German…whoops! I thought it was funny, but they didn’t…And there were the live lavender cows, too!

    So funny.





  • The Hills are Alive!

    Salzburg, Austria…pretending to don my best Lederhosen, I headed on a day trip to the home of “The Sound of Music”…

    The 2 1/2 hour train journey cut through some very scenic parts of Austria and seeing the rolling hills and gingerbread houses that dotted the countryside really set the right note. I was singing all the Von Trapp tunes to myself the entire journey!

    Blue skies disappeared after arriving, but the cool 60 degree air was a joy after the relentless heat of Vienna. I feel like I just stepped into make believe…Salzburg looks like an Alpine movie set…like a postcard of what you think it should look like! But it’s all very real…I immediately start imagining how magical it must be after the first snow or the joy when Christmas carols fill the streets! It’s that kind of place, where you are drawn to fantasy and your mind races…

    It’s a small and quaint old town…music is an important part of life here…concerts occur daily and today is no exception! Girls walking around in dirndls, men in Lederhosen, and skilled violinists mix among tourists in awe. Many just linger at picturesque cafes for hours just taking it all in!

    I walk to the perfectly manicured Mirabell Gardens, where the Von Trapp children learned to sing, and then along the ritzy shopping street Getreidesgasse admiring Christmas decor and Easter ornaments. I look up and see the castle-like fortress, Festung Hohdnsalzburg…from where you can see the famous nunnery from the film as well.

    What a joy! To make things even better, Salzburg is home to every imaginable pretzel! Huge pretzels: traditional, chocolate, cheese, you name it…I end my storybook day with a huge cheese pretzel…I hear the horse drawn carriages tap by and the sounds of music in the distance and call it a day…a very magical one!








  • Hot on Mozart!

    Vienna, Austria…I made my way via train to Vienna or Wien as it’s called here. The four hour train ride was easy enough and all went smoothly. Upon arriving in Vienna, the train station was a bit confusing and with it being Sunday, the tourist info point was closed…I found my way to the taxis nevertheless and on to my hotel.

    The city is extremely hot! A brutal 90 degrees and it’s sweltering…I notice that typical of European cities, all the stores are closed with it being a Sunday!

    I arrive at the hotel and it looks like a dump! Oh no! Up a flight of winding stairs with overstuffed luggage was no easy task…I enter the hotel and it’s a designer gem! It reminded me a bit of my apartment in NYC, nothing from the outside but really unexpected inside…The Hotel Shermin is absolutely beautifully designed and decorated and I am relieved. I am ready to cool down and relax a bit before heading out…the room is totally my style in shades of gray and I immediately go looking for the air conditioner…I throw open every door, shutter and fling open the drapes…YOU GUESSED IT! No air conditioner! I guess it usually isn’t this hot…just my luck…I guess I didn’t read the fine print! I get a fan for the room and decide to go out and look around…

    Vienna is HOT! Cooling misters are on all along the wide streets and people are looking for relief huddled underneath them…I am right in the middle of the action. The city has a very German vibe as I walk through Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz. I love the wide thoroughfares lined with cafes and Mozart everything. I feel especially sorry for the guys dressed as Mozart in this heat! The Cathedral at Stephansplatz is magnificent with it’s brightly tiled roof and the use of gardens at other sights are a great compliment to the grand buildings.

    I see everyone either feasting on tortes of all kinds or hotdogs (wieners) that are sold on every corner! I love a hot dog! I go for a bratwurst as it reminds me of growing up with my mother’s German food! It’s delicious, but I am taken by the clever way it’s served; they take the roll and cut off one tip and insert a long hot rod in it, that makes the hole for the brat, then in goes the mustard and finally the wurst! It’s like the bratwurst is totally encased in the bun, no falling out! Thats clever…sometimes the simplest thing excites me!

    Tonight will be a challenge sans air conditioning, but travel is about surprise and sometimes compromise!







  • From Top to Bottom!

    Prague, Czech Republic…I notice the throngs of tourists filling this town all are drawn to the same sights…their pictures are of all the same guide book designated things…like they are going down a checklist; clock-tower, check…statue, check…bridge, check…etc…

    Are they noticing some simple things that give this place it’s unique charm and individual character? The sea of terra-cotta colored gabled roofs, the ornate moldings on simple buildings, the little brook that comes from nowhere with a water wheel, the vintage barely-there colored buildings, the moss laden cobblestones, and so on?

    These are the things I am enamored with! It’s all in the details! From top to bottom, Prague is cluttered with unique details that are enthralling me…I love all of this town’s sights from it’s grand ones to it’s small ones, but my designer eye really appreciates those that others may just overlook!








  • Meat & Potato Time!

    Prague, Czech Republic…Bye Bye Beach hello historical city of beautiful sights! After arriving from Greece, I made my usual stop for a local SIM card for my iPhone and I was ready to get oriented…no list, no agenda, just roam! It was a heatwave of 90 degrees and it’s sweltering and the Czechs are not used to heat like this!

    It’s overwhelming as I look around and see the sights, the churches, the arches, the cobbled walkways, the beautiful squares in every direction. Like a Renaissance painting or a Shakespearean movie set, Prague is a real step back in time. I took in the charm of old town and was shocked by the number of small museums for every imaginable thing; chocolate, torture, you name it.

    The Mediterranean diet I have been enjoying is definitely gone; usher in the potatoes, sausages, and gravies! I love Potatoes and never met a pork product I didn’t like! But the heavy Czech cuisine is meant to balance a lot of beer drinking, which I do not do…In one of the squares, a fair is set up selling traditional Czech food and I zero in on a traditional dish of potato gnocchi like dumplings, cabbage, and ham mixed like a salad! Eureka! Three things I LOVE! The feast begins…it’s really good but super filling on a hot day!

    I finished my walk by crossing the majestic Charles Bridge and then realize I am on sensory overload! Prague is mesmerizing and tomorrow I will refocus to make sure I don’t miss something that today’s aimless roaming may have overlooked!







  • Water, Water, Everywhere!

    Venice, Italy…I set the alarm for 6 am this morning to watch the magnificent sail into Venice! The cool air and cloudy skies were a welcome change of pace from days of boundless sunshine and soaring temperatures.

    Venice assaults you with historic beauty, ever present smells, a crush of tourists, and the singing of gondola drivers. It’s an overload on the senses…some moments amazing and some overwhelming!

    Getting lost in the winding streets is a must…the best designer clothing shops, exquisite fine jewelry, Italian crafted leathers, and of course Murano glass blown into every imaginable thing all abound down unsuspecting alley ways.

    I made my way thru St Marks Square to the Rialto Bridge and then a much needed rest stop at the Italianate Danieli Hotel overlooking the Grand Canal. Throughout the day, I marveled at the Carnival masks and decor and see people buying it up in droves…what will they do with those masks back home?I guess they are just caught up in the moment…

    I passed on a gondola ride this visit and thought a delicious Italian lunch Venetian style sounded perfect! The concierge recommended “Corte Sconta” and said I would love the seafood & pasta…navigating my way there was definitely a challenge but after finding this little gem, I was seated under a trellised ceiling filled with a bounty of grapes. The setting was perfect and the food was even better! Seafood made with Venetian flair; carpaccio of fresh tuna for starters followed by homemade pasta of red snapper and eggplant and tagliatelle with anchovies. These mild anchovies gave a rich salty taste and were an incredible compliment to the pasta. I hate anchovies but loved this dish! It always pays to step out of the norm and leave your comfort zone behind!

    The wonders of Italy never cease…








  • Lost in Space!

    Today is a big WOW! I am strolling thru what looks like Mars or some sci-fi set for a futuristic movie feeling like somehow I have been transported into OuterSpace. I am not lost, rather I found the nirvana of modern and forward thinking architecture in of all places, Valencia, Spain!

    I am walking around having to pick my jaw off the floor at every turn…I am at the site of Ciudad De Las Artes Y Las Ciencias (the city of arts & sciences) not far from the old town center of Valencia. Museums can be boring, but not here!
    Creativity is king…we can do anything with imagination. Spain is a testament to this and this country has sparked so much inspiration with it’s blend of old & new! This is beyond sightseeing, this is a religious experience for anyone creative or anyone who appreciates creativity.

    Architecture so perfect and symmetrical yet like nothing you have ever seen! Whitewashed and glowing under the intense sun, there is something to see at every angle.

    Rent a bike and enjoy a ride around this amazing complex labryinth of curves and angles. Duck under arches and pillars and test some of the acoustic wonders this place holds!

    I loved the kids playing in inflatable balls in one of the lagoons.

    Valencia is the birth place of Paella, but I will remember this place for opening my eyes to so many design possibilities!