Monday, January 30, 2006

J'aime Paris

We met up with Mary and David Z. in Paris last weekend. Elliot was unfortunately grounded in Israel recovering from an ear infection, and was not allowed to fly (but he was with us in spirit).
It was so nice to reunite with family and have a taste of home, and at the same time explore the fabulous city of Paris. We ate well, and our eyes feasted on architecture, people, and art. The weather was cold, but that also meant the crowds were smaller.
(Click images below to enlarge)

On Friday afternoon we ate lunch at "Le Grand Vefour" in Le Palais Royal. It is very hard to describe our experience in words (you must go try it for yourself!) Delicious food, attentive service, amazing food, unique atmosphere, and exquisite food. Did I mention how good the food was?
When dessert finally came we were stuffed, but how could we pass this up! Beautiful and delicious! And they kept bringing extra things too. The meal lasted the entire afternoon. By the time we were finished with lunch it was time for dinner (but we had no room!) We both agree, it was the best meal we have ever eaten.
Inside the Musee D'Orsay, and the same view from the model of it (I think this appeals to me because of the hundreds of hours I put in making models in graduate school)

David Z. with the ladies
Thanks for the amazing weekend Uncle E & Auntie M!!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's the little things...

While living in a foreign country, we've noticed many small differences between here and back home:
Obviously the language is different. A particular thing English-speakers have difficulty with in German is when they squish several words together to make one long word. For example, the sign on this building means "Pension Insurance Institute" A unique Austrian beverage is "Almdudler." (Austria is the only place you can get this, like champagne only comes from France) The closest thing we have is gingerale, but not exactly. "Alm" is a mountain meadow, and the verb "dudeln" means to tootle. So, I guess an Almdudler is a person tootling in a meadow on a mountain. On the street trams it's all the honor system. You punch your ticket every time you ride (or you don't and risk getting caught). They have secret ticket-checkers, and if you get caught without a valid ticket it's a hefty fine. David got checked the other day by a guy in a Mets hat! The money is different
The cars are smaller.
I nervously watched this bag just sit here, unattended, for quite a while. I finally got bored and left it. These days in NYC someone would have said something and the bag would have been carefully removed.
After a big snow, they lean these sticks along the buildings to warn you that any minute you could be covered by an avalanche of snow falling off the roof (not that they'll protect you or anything).
This is getting a bit personal, but it's a difference. We're all familiar with the function of a bowl of water in a toilet... well, how about a shelf instead!

What Americans commonly think of as over-the-counter medicine, is stocked in the aisles of every Duane Reade, CVS, or Walgreens in the USA. In Austria it really is "over-the-counter." One must go to the Apotheke and order what you want (vitamins, aspirin, dandruf shampoo) from a person in a white lab coat on the other side of the counter. We had a laugh the other day when we went to get more ibuprofen and discovered it's only sold in packs of 50 tablets!!! (we brought with us a jumbo generic brand jar of 500 tablets, which is depleting quickly due to David's obsession with freestyle-footbag and his bum knee). The interaction went something like this:

  • Woman behind the counter: How many would you like? They come in boxes of up to 50 tablets.
  • David: Really?!?!?
  • Woman behind the counter: Really.
  • David: Really?!?!?
  • Woman behind the counter: Really.
  • David: Really?!?!?
  • Woman behind the counter: Yes, but you can get 2 boxes.

Woah! culture shock. And, the tablets are not loose, they're packaged more like cold medicine.

The church bells ring quite frequently here. At the top of the hour they ring 4 times plus the number for whichever hour it is. At quarter past the hour they ring once, twice at half past, and three times at 45 minutes past the hour. Who needs a watch!? Noon and 6pm are when they ring them like crazy, and also 10am on Sundays.

Stores are closed here more than they're open. Some restaurants are open on Sundays, but it's a pretty quiet day around here. We sure are spoiled in New York City where we can get anything, anytime, and delivered.

The sign on this door says 'Open: M-F 9am-6pm, Sa 9am-noon' which means that you can't really go shopping before or after work, you have to take time off in the middle of the day, or get up early on Saturday and rush. Hey, it's a good thing Robin's not working! Teenagers rejoice! You can legally drink here before you can legally drive (18 is the legal driving age here).
Another difference involving alcohol is all the old-heads casually drinking a beer at 9am. Nobody thinks anything of it, they're just retired and instead of a morning coffee they have a morning beer. People also commonly have a beer with lunch, something that is totally taboo with corporate America. People just seem more relaxed here, and there's no social stigma around beer drinking before 5pm.

And finally... THERE ARE NO ICE CUBES... anywhere!!!
Anyone for a nice "refreshing" glass of warm Coke?

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Last night we went bowling with a bunch of peeps from David's lab. It's a bit different from bowling back home, but just as much fun. There are 9 wooden pins at the end of the lane. They're small and arranged in a diamond pattern. And there are several different games to play (sort of like with pool where you can play 8-ball or 9-ball, or darts).
Watch out for that wire or you could trip!
This is the contraption we put money into (1 euro for 10 minutes of play) and where you could program which game you're playing so the pins don't get swept away too early. Well, not really "swept away" since each pin is held by a string from above like a marionette, when they fall over the machine tightens the string and they pop up again. Just as in the USA, bowling is a fun group activity where you chat and drink beer and laugh at people's bad shots and cheer at the good ones. We played in teams and Michael kept score on the chalk board. The only thing missing was the ritual of renting the funny-looking shoes with a shot of sanitizing spray.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Winter Fun

We were invited to the village of St. Jacob im Walde with Ingrid, Alois, and Werner for the weekend. We had a snow-filled weekend of fresh air, traditional home-cooked food (Ingrid is a great cook), and good company.
David and Ingrid started a snowball fight outside the cottage we stayed in. A view of St. Jacob im Walde

There were many charming, old farm houses along our hikes

On Sunday we had a long hike to Arzberghuette on the top of a mountain

At the top of the mountain we stoped at the hut to warm up with food and drinks. (We really like this Austrian tradition and agree it definitely needs to come to America.)

The hut had "schlitten" for rent to slide down the mountain. You just enjoy the ride down and then leave the sled at the bottom and the hut-workers pick them all up at the end of the day.