Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Weekly Interlude 33: Winding Down

The Life Ball on Rathausplatz
Well folks, the Great Vienna Adventure is winding down. Two weeks and one day, and I'll be on an airplane heading back to the US of A, right in time for the 4th of July (I expect copious culture shock will be in order). Meanwhile, my classes at Musical Munchkins are finishing up week-by-week, some earlier than others because some days had more holidays than others. I said goodbye to my Wednesday and Friday classes last week, which was much sadder than I expected. BUT: I am determined to maximize my time left in Austria! I'd say I'm doing a pretty good job--keep reading for details.
Dancing at the Life Ball

The Life Ball opening dance
Every year, Vienna hosts the Life Ball, which is a huge charity event raising money for and awareness of people with HIV/AIDS. It was held on the Rathausplatz in front of the city hall, and it was like no ball I'd ever seen before. Nothing tame, nothing regal. Instead there was a red carpet and wild costumes and famous people making speeches--Bill Clinton, for one--as well as musical performances by Ricky Martin, Christina Perry, an American Idol winner I hadn't heard of, and, most importantly to Vienna, CONCHITA! Just to name a few. Then there was a fashion show comprised of dancing and costumes and confident swaggering up and down the red carpet. The entire affair was a celebration of diversity; the fashion show featured clothing from all different parts of the world.

Conchita Wurst
The fashion show at Life Ball
At the end of the Life Ball, Conchita Wurst performed. Wurst was the first Austrian to win the Eurovision Song Contest since 1966, performing "Rise Like a Phoenix," and, while beloved by fans all over the world, caused some controversy with her victory. The singer, named Thomas Neuwirth, identifies as a gay man, but his drag stage persona Conchita Wurst identifies as a "she." Austria loves Conchita, though, and the bearded woman has been featured on the cover of magazines and advertisements these past few months.

At the Schönbrunn Nachtkonzert
Susanna and me at Schönbrunn!
The next Big Vienna Event after the Life Ball was the Schönbrunn concert. Here, the Vienna Philharmonic played an outdoor concert at Schönbrunn Palace under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach, featuring piano soloist Lang Lang. For those of you who don't know, this is a BIG DEAL. As at the Life Ball, I couldn't see anything and had to settle for watching the amazing musicians on a big screen set up to the side. Though it had rained earlier in the day, the evening was cool and clear, and my friend and I enjoyed listening to the music for two hours.

Old City, Innsbruck
The colorful Old City, Innsbruck
What else? Oh yes, I went to Innsbruck and hiked a mountain. Innsbruck is the capital of Tirol, a region in western Austria. The city is nestled comfortably at the feet of the Alps; the mountains rise starkly on three sides, creating a deep basin through which the Inn River runs. While the mountains are beautiful, it actually took me a little while to get used to the them. I felt a little claustrophobic at first. I was out in Innsbruck with Jennifer (who is performing there at the Landestheater) and Lillian. We lucked out with gorgeous weather--clear blue skies, heat, a light breeze--utterly unheard of in such a mountainous region. For four days the weather held like this, and I had time to hike. After taking an Eisenbahn (like a furnicular or little train) up to Hungerburg, I hiked from Hungerburg up the side of the mountain to Seegrube.
A rare shady portion of the hike

You can't tell, but this was STEEP
This was no easy hike. Considering my uncanny ability to accidentally invent my own way up the mountain, it's a wonder I managed to reach my destination at all. Note: when you're hiking and come across two different paths, choose the one with people on it and a clear, graveled route. Don't take the one that looks shorter but is abandoned and marked by uneven tufts of grass, muddy tire tracks, and big rocks. Even if it looks shorter, it will take longer. And that is how I ended up climbing almost vertically up the side of the mountain, cursing the people whisked over my head in the cable car.
Improvising my own path
Looking back along the hike

Another note: if you're climbing UP a mountain, never take a path that looks like it's going DOWN. Chances are, it will NOT wind back around and start heading up again. Don't even ask me how I wasted 15 minutes walking in the wrong direction up a mountain.

Walking for just under 3 hours in 80% glaring sunshine, I finally made it to Seegrube, bursting with endorphins. Immediately pulling out my journal, I wrote this about the view:

The Alps across from Seegrube
Looking down at Innsbruck
"...The snow-capped peaks across the valley are majestic, especially where the light hits. The air looks different up here--hazy, misty somehow. It's truly wondrous...I'm sitting on an outcropping of grass that banks steeply down to the city below. A raven--or maybe a crow?--flew by me, its black feathers sleek in the sunlight...Dirt paths snake around and down the mountain face. I can see colorful buildings hugging the banks of the long, narrow Inn River. The water is the same color of the Statue of Liberty, an opaque, murky green. The air is cool, and a friendly breeze blows insistently. Across the valley, green trees carpet the mountains, giving way to brown and snowy peaks...Innsbruck is Graz meets Salzburg with a splash of Italy thrown in the mix..."
The view from Seegrube

The Alps, bordering northern Italy
Sitting on Seegrube, I experienced one of those moments where I just wanted to share it with somebody. A camera (or at least my camera) can't truly capture the essence of the view, the wonder of seeing the bridge that leads across to the Alps and Italy, of seeing the immense mountains across the valley and feeling as if you are closer to them than to the people on the ground. We live in a magnificent world. I hope my pictures here do at least a bit of justice to the wonder I felt in standing at the top.

Shaky-legged but successful!
I hiked that!
These last two weeks in Vienna feel suddenly like a race against the clock. I plan to go inside Schönbrunn Palace (I never have!), visit the Leopold Museum, go café-hopping, buy souvenirs/birthday presents for family and friends (and myself?), take long walks along the Danube, visit the 16th district and the Vienna Woods, and...I don't know. There's so much to do, so much I've already done. It's not surprising to me in the least that I feel closest to Vienna now that I'm destined to leave it.

People here keep asking me if I'll come back, and I am 110% positive that I'll come back to visit, at least. But there's a pull to America that I cannot ignore, so all I can say is, we'll see.

A quiet afternoon along the Danube

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Weekly Interlude 32: A Brand New Side of the City

I don't think you can say you've really lived in a foreign country until you've made use of their healthcare system. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to say that I have OFFICIALLY lived in Austria!

My medication collection
Three weeks ago, I woke up with a red, swollen eye and the hint of a sore throat. Being a Saturday, there wasn't much I could do, considering that everything shuts down in this country for the weekend. (As though people can't have medical emergencies on a Saturday or Sunday.) My first line of defense was to visit the nearby Apotheke, or pharmacy, and describe my eye symptoms to see if they could give me anything. On Saturdays, some apothekes are open from 9am-12noon and then close until Monday; others are simply closed all weekend long. The rare pharmacy, however -- and luckily the one by my apartment falls under that category -- has a person on-call in the back room. When I arrived at 1:30, I rang a little doorbell, and a woman came out to speak to me through a little window. I pulled out a scrap of paper while explaining (auf Deutsch) that my German wasn't so good and proceeded to to describe my symptoms using all the words I'd looked up: rot (red), angeschwollen (swollen), ein bisschen verkrustet (a little crusty). One bottle of allergy eyedrops later, and I was good to go.

View from Mariatrost, Graz
Over the next few days, my eye barely improved, and my throat grew worse so that it was incredibly painful to swallow. I finally returned to the Apotheke on Tuesday and, after describing my long list of symptoms, asked if they thought I should see a doctor. Yes. Could they recommend one nearby? Yes. Address in hand, I proceeded to walk five minutes further to find Dr. Claudia Dworsak. Thank goodness for Austrian healthcare; for just 50 euros a month, I am completely covered.

The doctor's office was like nothing I had ever experienced. Located in a janky apartment building with overgrown grass and peeling, beige walls, the office was situated up one flight of stairs. I walked into the waiting room, which was basically a small room with many brown chairs and tables and piles of magazines, and headed to the receptionist, who was very friendly. "Someone recommended Dr. Dworsak to me," I said in German. "What do I do?"

Enjoying a wine spritzer at Schönbrunn
The receptionist was very friendly and reassured me that it was alright that German was not my first language. She accepted my e-Card and BAM! I was on the list. I sat down to read Pride & Prejudice and wait for my name to be called through the little intercom in the corner. Nervously, I kept looking around, glancing at the fellow patients, trying to assure myself that I would be fine, just fine. Whenever a new patient walked in, they exchanged a cheerful "Grüß Gott!" with everyone in the waiting room; when people left, everybody shared a pleasant "Wiedersehen!" People spent only 5-10 minutes with the doctor before emerging with a prescription. I had my list of vocabulary -- like die Bindehautenzündung (pink eye) -- within easy reach. I should simply take a deep breath, tear my gaze away from the drab walls, and return my attention to Mr. Darcy.
A lovely birthday breakfast with friends

Finally, after about 25 minutes, my name was called, and I entered a rather spacious room. Dr. Dworsak sat at a desk with a computer, and I was too nervous to look around much, instead sitting down immediately and telling her that mein Deustch ist nicht so gut. She took a brief history, and the only word that tripped me up was "pine" when we were discussing my allergies. Then I described my symptoms, she looked in my throat, declared that I had tonsillitis, and prescribed me antibiotics for it, as well as for my eye. Seven minutes -- all done!

The Mariatrost cathedral in Graz
It was all too simple, but I went with it. Immediately after leaving the office, I headed back over to the Apotheke, where they gave me my medications and sent me on my way.

Life improved immeasurably for a week, but then tragedy in the form of another sore throat hit again. Two days after finishing my antibiotics, the strep throat/tonsillitis returned in full force, and I returned to the doctor. She put me on stronger antibiotics for a longer stint, to be taken more frequently, so hopefully now we've killed off whatever bacteria seems intent on attacking me. I haven't been sick in Vienna all year, nor have I had strep throat since early high school. When it rains, it pours, I suppose!

After it was all said and done, I acquired a rather nice collection of medications to deal with strep throat, sore throat, dry throat, cough, allergies, and pain. A rather amusing souvenir collection, wouldn't you say?

The Graz Opera House
In other news, I went to London again in April and Graz again in May; celebrated my birthday by lounging around, recovering, and watching old movies; and spent some quality time with friends in and around Wien. Vienna has had a remarkably warm spring, so my roommate and I have taken full advantage on our walks through the city. Graz was rather cold and rainy when I went, but that only meant Lizzy and I spent time in museums and cafés. Not a bad alternative, let's be honest.

Beautiful view of Graz
Shockingly, I had the most beautiful weather in London -- four days of solid sunshine and bold blue sky. The highlight of the entire trip (and there were so many!) was seeing Once, the musical, at Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road. I'd bought a ticket for literally the second-to-last row of the entire theater, only to show up at the box office and be informed that I'd been upgraded! And not just upgraded, but upgraded to the stalls: on the floor, front and center, with nobody sitting on either side. I've never had such good seats in my life! The musical itself is subtle and brilliant, with carefully nuanced plot and character development. It's one of those shows where you don't see things sneaking up on you and are left open-mouthed once they do. The music, too, is both folky and deceptively complex. Here is a link to one of the most famous songs of the show, "Falling Slowly," and to my personal favorite, "Gold."
Parliament Square in London

I will admit that I'm completely in love with London. It seems like the opposite side of the same coin to Vienna. One city is small and quiet; the other is massive and bursting with energy. One is traditional and reserved; the other is youth-centered and unequivocally cosmopolitan. One is world-renowned for its opera and classical music, the other for its theater and musicals. They complement each other very nicely.

In six weeks and two days, I'll be home. It doesn't feel like it, but I must say that I am looking forward to summer. (Please don't ask me about my plans beyond that. Not yet, anyway.) After a week of cold rain, the sun is back out here, and (fingers crossed) I'm feeling healthy. Add in a little Innsbruck in June, and it's shaping up to be an excellent final few weeks.

Enjoying a day at Schönbrunn with Eliza

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekly Interlude 31: Spring Has Sprung

A Klimt Surprise torte!
My German has been in rare form this past week. Not only did I mail in my tax forms all by myself (which required navigating priority shipping and a tracking reference), I ordered a falafel pita to my specifications (no eggplant, please) and went to a print & copy shop where I asked how to print off a flashdrive, if the print card was also good for copying, and if I could use my American student ID to get a discount. BAM. I'm not only a foreigner but also competent now, too.

Of course, I'm leaving now in less than three months. Perhaps it's the fact that I "gave up" on my German, which then lifted the self-imposed pressure and thus allowed me to speak more freely. Whatever the reason, it's pretty great. I feel like far less of a fool than I did several months ago!

The Easter market at Schönbrunn
Speaking a foreign language is always difficult, but it is especially so when you're shy (which I am). I wonder, though, how my small-talk skills and general bravery when having to speak up for myself or make phone calls will have improved over this past year. If I can now call for a taxi and handle mailing important documents auf Deutsch, then what will I be able to handle in English? Perhaps I'll talk up a storm to cashiers and librarians when I get home because it'll be such a relief to be able to communicate on such a basic level. Think of the conversation possibilities: The weather! The latest baseball game! The book I'm checking out! Not to mention the commiserating eyebrow raise and chuckle.

Hand-painted Easter eggs
Meanwhile, the Easter season is upon us in Vienna, which means I'd better start going to some Easter markets soon. Though not quite as good as the Christmas markets, the Easter markets feature a wide variety of artisan crafts. Particularly striking are the painted eggs; some are real eggshells, and others are merely wooden eggs, but either way, they're exquisite. Easter is a huge deal in Austria (obviously, considering it's an extremely Catholic country), so Musical Munchkins is giving us ten days off! Since I'm sure everything in the city will be closed for at least five of those days, I'd better make a point to stock up on food, etc. There's nothing like being caught without breakfast when the entire city is shut down (like it is every Sunday).

More Easter eggs :)
I'm in for one more long week before vacation, however. (I can hear my dad snort skeptically at the words long week. I know, I know...) This is my last week of subbing for another teacher, which means four extra classes and a private piano lesson; I'll also have more evenings than usual with Lillian. I realize that I basically only work 20 hours a week, so why am I tired all the time? Is it because I expend all my energy around small children all day? Unfortunately, practicing and running have fallen by the wayside because I always simply want to collapse when I finally get home. It seems rather crucial that I learn to balance this. I suppose coffee can be my last resort.

The amazing roof of St. Stephen's
I've begun learning some new French pieces, though. I love French mélodie; Reynaldo Hahn is one of my favorite composers. My roommate and I are thinking about doing a joint recital in late May, which has given me an incentive to start practicing more faithfully again. I plan to do a French set (amongst others) of four songs by four different composers: Debussy, Hahn, Fauré, and Bizet. Here is Susan Graham singing L'Énamourée by Reynaldo Hahn. I might also organize a set of folk songs or Irving Berlin songs -- or perhaps some combination of both! The idea is to present a light, low-key recital full of music we both love.

And now, it's time to go to sleep so that I don't start this week exhausted! It didn't work out for me so well last week...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekly Interlude 30: Back to the Grind

Lillian is back!
Real Life has resumed -- though many wouldn't refer to it as Real Life, I suppose -- and I'm back to working more than six hours a week. Lillian and family returned from New Zealand in good spirits; most happily, Lillian was overjoyed to see me! (As we were buying flowers on the first afternoon together, she said, totally unprompted, "I really missed you, Susan." Cue my heart melting.) We've had many great afternoons together since, and, as always, the half-hour commute each way provides invaluable writing and reading time.

Musical Munchkins has really taken off, too. This semester, I'm teaching eight classes, ranging from Baby&Me (5-10 months) to kids three years old. The experience is certainly improving my small-talk skills, as I have to constantly chat with parents. (When in doubt, ask if the babies are sleeping through the night or if they're teething.) One of the teachers at MM is spending a month in Australia, so I'm subbing several of her classes, as well; this weekend, I worked eight extra hours! It's been quite the challenge trying to preserve my voice as I talk for hours straight with very few breaks, but I will say that I've been mostly successful.
Looking across the Danube

My voice lessons have also resumed. Currently, I'm working on Beau Soir by Debussy and My Lovely Celia by John Monro (amongst a few others). I'm toying with the idea of doing a small joint recital with my roommate, but choosing rep and learning it to perform in about two months is no small feat, especially when my technique is still growing and changing so rapidly.

The weather in Vienna the last two weeks has been shockingly gorgeous -- about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny! I never realize how lethargic the grey weather makes me until the sun comes out, and then BAM! It's like I'm a new person. I celebrated the glorious weather by running several times and taking some long walks. In fact, some friends and I have decided to run a 10k at the end of May, so I suppose that will force me out of the house even when the weather turns cold again (which it already has, just today).

The Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace at dusk
On another note, I've been writing literally every day for the past month or so, which has been so much fun. I started a story (whose details I'm still keeping secret, for fear of jinxing the progress I've made), and it's not only ridiculously fun to write but also incredibly challenging. I've conducted so much research, and it's been fascinating unearthing the details necessary to create a vivid world. Interestingly, it's not always easy to write every day, but I've made a promise to myself that I'll write something. Of course, it could just be a sentence that I then delete tomorrow, but nevertheless, I've made a pact with myself, and so far I've kept it. Writing so much and so consistently continues to be a huge learning experience for me; I've discovered what sorts of things stump me and which I excel at. The moments where I felt most out of my element have so far turned out to be some of my favorite parts! The story is divided into sections, and after finishing the first one and a half, I realized that I needed to completely rework the first section before I could move forward. Therefore, I gutted the 55-page document and began again, thus creating something even better!

Schnitzel, Kartoffelsalat, und Bier
Kayla's visit last month was awesome and included such highlights as the Belvedere Museum (which houses an extensive collection of Austrian and German art, as well as Klimt's most famous work, The Kiss), Wiener Schnitzel, a ballet at the Staatsoper (Sleeping Beauty), Schönbrunn Palace, and some classic Viennese cafés. A too-short visit, of course, but Kayla fell in love with Vienna in just four days! It's an easy city with which to fall in love, I must say.

The Upper Belvedere
Speaking of which, it hit me last week that I'm leaving relatively soon. I'm flying back to the States in the beginning of July, which gives me just over three months. When I was so miserable and homesick when I first moved here, I thought this day would never come; in fact, I hoped not to make very many friends so that it would be simpler and easier for me to leave when the time came. Let me tell you that this plan completely failed. Not only are my coworkers at MM amazing, but I've met so many incredible people over here, both through MM and Jennifer. It's been super fascinating to talk to dozens of people, all with different backgrounds and stories that led them to Vienna. I'll miss the kindness of these strangers, their surprising interest in my own thoughts and adventures, their earnest and sincere well-wishes. Come July, I am sure my departure will be anything but simple and easy.
The Gloriette at night

So it's with renewed vigor that I tackle the city (and the continent, actually). In late May/early June, I'll be spending a week in Innsbruck with Lillian and Jennifer; I plan to spend the first weekend of May on the beaches of Slovenia with two of my friends. There's so much to do and see! And, of course, now that I'm mentally preparing to leave, my German suddenly seems significantly better...Funny how that happens, isn't it?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekly Interlude 29: Fish and Chips and Crêpes, Oh My!

A view of Parliament and Big Ben
It's time I stopped pretending I "travel" around Europe and call it what it truly is: eating my way across a continent. But tell me, between schnitzel and nutella crêpes, pain au chocolat and torte, how can I resist? At least I walk a lot to counteract the lethal effects of the tasty marillen Krapfen (apricot-filled donuts).

And walk I certainly did during my week in London and Paris! Given that I had so little time in London especially, I really had to take advantage of it. I stayed with my cousin in London and left with her at 7:45 a.m. every day, catching the beginning of morning rush hour. Monday saw me walking from the Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square, up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square; then, when I realized the National Gallery didn't open until 10 o'clock, I trekked over to Mayfair, circled down to Buckingham Palace and St. James's Garden, walked up the Mall, past Trafalgar Square again, over to Fleet Street, across the Millennium Bridge to the South Bank, and finally met up with my other cousin for lunch at Borough Market. Even if you don't know exactly where all those places are located, it sounds impressive, doesn't it? Or insane; take your pick. I was even sore the next day!

St. Paul's Cathedral
My London Museum Tally reads as follows:
  • Courtauld Museum -- my aunt received her Master's from the Courtauld Institute and recommended the gallery. Let me pass on the rec to you! It's small with an incredible Impressionist collection and an exhibit on English and German landscapes. Definitely one of my favorites.
  • National Gallery -- it really is all it's cracked up to be! And even though I didn't have a ticket to the van Gogh Sunflowers exhibit, I still caught a glimpse of the painting through an open doorway!
  • National Portrait Gallery -- once I found the entrance (my unbelievably poor sense of direction never fails to amaze me), I walked through some rooms with portraits from the early 20th century, then headed upstairs to portraits from 1960 and on. Think Kate Middleton, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, Sir Paul McCartney, Queen Elizabeth, etc.
  • Tate Modern -- not my favorite, seeing as I'm not a huge fan of modern art, but it was interesting nonetheless. I was with my cousin, and it's free, so really, what's not to like?
  • St. Paul's Cathedral -- it's like a museum in its own right. By the time I made it after my long walk Monday morning, my feet were aching, and I couldn't will myself to climb up to the dome. But I did light a candle and visit the crypt, so all in all, a few hours well-spent!
Good thing I'd been to London before, so I didn't feel obliged to visit the British Museum again or the Churchill War Rooms. I did want to see the Imperial War Museum, but it's closed for renovations until July.

The Millennium Bridge
Tower Bridge in the distance
On my first full day in London, the same day as the Superbowl, my cousin and I toured the South Bank and eventually met up with my aunt and other cousin at a pub called the Crown & Cushion to watch a rugby match (Scotland v. Ireland). It was my first rugby match and very exciting! It's like football but more interesting (I know, I know, such a traitor) because the action continues even when somebody's tackled or the ball touches the ground. No whistles blowing every five seconds. Later that evening, my cousin and I went to Palace Theater to see The Commitments, a very fun musical (based on a movie that's based on a book) about some Irishmen who decide to create a soul band. Not heavy on plot, but songs by The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin kept us dancing!

Trafalgar Square
Buckingham Palace
What struck me most about London was the sheer diversity of it: the people, the food. Every five feet, I had a new option for lunch -- soup and sandwich, Indian food, traditional pub, Mexican food. As incredible as Vienna is, there just aren't as many options (although it is a smaller city than London, to be fair). Vienna is very elegant and traditional, whereas London seems bursting with energy and youth.

Meanwhile, across the Channel lies Paris -- and my friend Kayla. I hadn't seen Kayla in EIGHT MONTHS, so you can only imagine our reunion. I have very vivid (and surprisingly accurate) memories of my last trip to Paris four years ago, when I visited my sister studying abroad, so I was able to navigate my way from Pont de Neuilly to Saint Michel to get a nutella crêpe on the evening of my arrival. There is really nothing like a nutella crêpe from Paris, especially from the Boulangerie with the blue awning on a side street off Place Saint Michel. (I couldn't find the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery, but the random crêpe place in the middle of Paris I had no problem with.)
The view from Kayla's window

The blue-awning crêpe place
Kayla and I alternated between hanging out in her room (which has the most amazing view of the Eiffel Tower) and going to key sites -- Musée d'Orsay, Orangerie, Sacré Coeur, Eiffel Tower. The man at the ticket desk at the d'Orsay informed me that with my UK passport, I could get into most museums for free! (I believe his exact words when I pulled out my passport were, "Oh, this changes everything.") The Impressionist collection on the top floor of the d'Orsay is incredible, and as a huge Impressionist fan, I fell immediately in love. France seems like the right place for Impressionist-lovers, and I spent hours ogling Monet, Cézanne, Sisley, Manet, and Pissarro. I can't yet afford good-quality art, so I settled for buying postcard reproductions of some particularly striking works, and I plan to frame them when I get back to the US.

The view from Sacré Coeur
Monet's Water Lilies at the Orangerie are breathtaking. There are four per room, each stretching along a curve of the white, oval-shaped walls. If you stand a ways back from them, you can see the water rippling and the light dancing across the lavender and cobalt surface; the branches of the willow trees rustle in a breeze you can practically feel when you look at them. The paintings are, in an understated word, fantastic.

Kayla and me at Sacré Coeur
Sacré Coeur on Montmartre offered incredible views of the city. Back when I visited my sister during her study abroad semester, I wasn't allowed in Sacré Coeur because I was wearing shorts (which were, I'd like to add in my defense, longer than some of the skirts people were wearing, and they were still allowed in!). Inside the cathedral, I was slightly less impressed than I thought I'd be. St. Paul's was much more beautiful, though it's pretty subjective, seeing as the two cathedrals are designed in completely different styles. Sacré Coeur is only about a century old and has far less gilded ornamentation than most older cathedrals. It was nice to finally see the interior, however, given how I've wondered about it for four years.

La Tour Eiffel
Sacré Coeur
Kayla and I also visited the Eiffel Tower. No, we did not go up to the top; instead, we did the Eiffel Tower the way it should be done. Aka, we bought two pastries each, plunked ourselves down on a bench, and admired the tower while eating pain au chocolat and croissants d'amande. So. Tasty. Afterwards, we were caught in a brief rainstorm and took shelter under a little awning in the Champs du Mars park before continuing on our way.

In two days, Kayla's coming to visit me in Vienna. The tables will turn, and I can look all impressive as I flaunt my German skills and navigate us effortlessly through the city (just kidding). And, most importantly, I can introduce her to the joys of Sachertorte and Apfel Strudel, Schnitzel and Krapfen. Because, really, we're only in Europe for a couple more months, and there's still so much to eat before we leave.