Saturday, September 29, 2012

Culinary Delights, Home & Abroad

I came back from sunny Sofia yesterday and have just finished washing my dirty laundry and unpacking my suitcase. I've already mentioned here that I really like the city, but I don't think I've praised the incredibly tasty Bulgarian tomatoes enough. Seriously, they are a-ma-zing! I'm not usually a tomato aficionado, but that's probably because the types you get elsewhere, even if you go for expensive and organic, are only so-so in taste. In Sofia, however, every single one of my colleagues from different countries agreed that they would be happy just with a starter or salad as long as it contained tomatoes. We went to several really nice restaurants with amazing meat and fish dishes as well, but the tomatoes are what impressed us most. Unfortunately I only took a slightly blurry picture with my phone, but you get the idea what mozarella with tomatoes looks like there:

The English menu calls this big, fleshy type "pink tomatoes" and indeed they are somewhat pale, which elsewhere would be a sign of inferior taste. Trust me, they may be pale, but they are so tasty that you realise what kind of "plastic" masquerading as tomatoes you've been eating all these years. Personally, they remind me of the incredibly delicious tomatoes from my granny's allotment plot when I was a kid. In fact, all vegetables I tried in Sofia were outstanding and so were the dairy products, but those tomatoes are simply a league of their own.

What I love most about autumn and the fact that I'm not going near VIE airport for more than a week is that I can indulge in one of my favourite hobbies, baking. I love baking in all seasons, but in the heat of summer I often can't bear heating up my kitchen some more. I picked a bag of apples in my parents' garden last weekend and therefore decided to try a recipe with apples. I went for one I had torn out of an Australian newspaper supplement. It's called "spiced apple tea cake" and I just tried a piece: yum!
Wishing you all a great Saturday night (with or without "fever") and Sunday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Colours

Today one year ago I was on the plane to Sydney, where spring greeted me with rain. I missed all of autumn last year and perhaps for this reason I'm really looking forward to it this year despite the glorious summer we had.

I enjoyed a lovely weekend in Klagenfurt with my Dad (Mum's on vacation) and below are some photos I took with my phone (because I shared all of them on Instagram). Strandbad Klagenfurt (photo #3) was as deserted as it looks on Saturday afternoon, but it was lovely to soak up the mild rays of the sun and go for a swim. 19° is not cold in my book and I actually much prefer cool water to bathtub-temperate one for swimming. Few people seemed to agree as I had the lake to myself, more or less.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Meet Flocki 2.0

Yesterday I picked up Flocki's successor (Flocki 2.0) from the car dealer. I received the obligatory bunch of flowers, posed for a photo and drove off with my new treasure. I have yet to get used to the quantum leap in technology (remember, the original Flocki was a 1995 vintage without AC or other mod cons), but have liked the experience of driving him so far.

According to my research, he's made in Japan (with complimentary radiation?) and called Ractis in the Japanese market. Well, personally, I prefer his European name, Verso-S as Ractis makes me think of a rash in your nether regions or something equally unpleasant. This is probably what Toyota's marketing masterminds thought as well and therefore rebranded it for the overseas market.
Here he is, shiny white like his predecessor:
The first excursion was to a Hofer supermarket...not very glamourous ;-)
Now in Dubai, driving this type of car would equal coolness-factor-suicide, but as I don't have a car-fetish (nor the type of budget that allows you to buy a Porsche or Ferrari without blinking) and deliberately wanted a Japanese friend again, I'm very happy with my choice.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Blame the Rain

I was determined NOT to go shopping in the BTC center in Ljubljana this time, but when I went for a walk on Wednesday night I got soaking wet once more and in the usual pattern sought refuge in one of the malls there. By the time I got back to my hotel, my umbrella just about having not torn apart from the winds that accompanied the deluge, my clothes and shoes were completely drenched. Since I couldn't get the towel-drier to work, I had hope for the best with regards to my clothes and stuff my shoes with face towels (there was no Kleenex dispenser and not enough toilet paper to waste it on that) to prevent having to pack wet stuff into my suitcase the next day:
I didn't buy much and all I got was on sale and brands that I can't get in Austria. I bought pyjama pants and a matching top at Etam, that are both comfortable and lightweight, so perfect for travelling. Sorry for the white balance failure:
There was a Müller drugstore branch there as well and I discovered reduced nailpolish (because I, um, hardly own any nailpolish, as we know) of OPI's Nicole line, which I had never seen in Europe. I bought a pretty red ("Kourt is red-y for a pedi") and deep emerald green ("Khloé had a little lam-lam") from the Kardashian Kolor collection:
The stickers came off without a trace, by the way...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting There

I'm back in Ljubljana, where I'm once more staying at the Plaza hotel in the city's "BTC ghetto", pretty far away from the centre. Remember my complaints about the lack of a bathtub or kettle? Well, at least the latter has been remedied since my last visit and I was rather pleased to find this in my room:
Housekeeping has yet to be trained to take away used cups with soaked teabags in them (as left behind in my otherwise cleaned and refreshed room today), but it is a major improvement.

On my first visit, I was more or less the only visitor at the hotel, but they must have since signed deals with Asian tour-operators as the hotel is now full of bus-loads of Chinese-looking people and individual travellers are asked to take breakfast in a comparatively small "fenced-in" section of the dining room.

The weather is always worst when I'm in Ljubljana on business and right away I was greeted by a pea-souper of a dense fog this morning that was reminiscent of winter fogs in Klagenfurt, the unofficial capital of foggy weather...

Monday, September 17, 2012

New City, New Adventures

While I still have some pretty cool pics on my SD card from Dubai (indoor ski slope, anyone?), I would lag behind forever what with my, erm, jet-setting-lifestyle at the moment, so I recommend that you take a peek at the instagram pics in the sidebar if you feel so included.

So now I'm in Zagreb, Croatia's pretty capital. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but this is my first visit. Interestingly enough, most Austrians probably have been to the Croatian seaside at some stage, but very few of them have ever been to Zagreb on a private visit as opposed to a business trip. Well, I guess I live up to the cliché, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to see the city on business anyway. It is a place with quite a few things to discover, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, which I'd like to pay a visit to next time.

I'm staying in the stately Regent Esplanade hotel in the city centre, which couldn't be more different from last week's 5* hotel. K&K splendour from outside:
...and inside. So much stone (marble, granite, etc.) has been used for interior decoration, they must have chopped up whole quarries. The same holds true for expensive woods of which whole forests seem to have been put to good use: 
Bathroom floors and sinks are also made of stone. Oh, and L'Occitane goodies are among my favourites in hotels. I hate it when they give you cheap quality products in fancy looking packaging:
My "royal" bed and grandfather chair below. I wish they'd added a kettle, too, but probably they couldn't find a gilded one so decided to leave it out...
Yesterday, I got a guided city tour by two of my Croatian colleagues and we were lucky with the weather and excellent views as well.  Being me, I took dozens of pictures and here are some highlights:
entrance to the Cathedral
paricipants of the "Zagreb Time Machine" programme, where people enact local legends from the past and tell their stories to tourists, handing out free maps and brochures and posing for pictures with them: great idea!
The roof of St. Mark's Church
...once more, seen from Lotrščak Tower
Graffitti, same tower
You didn't seriously think I wouldn't find any shopportunities in Zagreb, now did you? My shopaholic radar sniffed out an Illamsqua flagship store and it would have been rude not to grab up something, so I settled for a pretty eyeshadow in "Slink". For the uninitiated: Illamasqua is a cult make-up brand that is not sold in Vienna. I don't like its packaging (reminds me of Anna Sui's a bit, which I don't really like either) but have heard good things about its quality and colour pay-off, so have high hopes on this purchase, which I got to replace a shimmery champagne-coloured eyeshadow that I had in an LE Bobbi Brown palette and couldn't repurchase.

Tomorrow, I'll get a lift to Ljubljana with a Slovenian colleague. A friend of mine recently remarked that I didn't really need to go on vacation any more what with all my business travels. Well, he has a point as I'm really enjoying the fact that I get to see new places on company money and am not one of those poor bastards who never get to see more than the airport, taxi and conference room. In fact I feel really privileged to get to stay in nice hotels in the city centre with the added benefit of local colleagues who take time to show me the hotspots and take me out to nice restaurants. There's also time for plenty of retail therapy so I really get to tick all boxes that equal "quality time" in my book.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Small Heel for Woman, High Heel for ME

Who knows me, knows that I don't do heels, really... like ever. A moderate kitten heel is the highest you would see on me, so I don't know what made me suddenly decide I could do with some additional hight. When I bought my woven flats earlier this year at Högl, I had tried on some platform heels while waiting for the Gazelle to hunt for her prey. I was surprised how comfortable they were, in particular the suede version. Well, yesterday, when I went to Mariahilfer Str. in order to get some coffee and pop into Interio, I first got side-tracked by Vero Moda's "25% off everything" sign and bought a pair of black skinny jeans, or jeggins, there, before I decided to check out Högl's autumn/winter collection. Well, I tried on this pair of shoes with a middle-height heel and was amazed how comfortable and "walkable"it was:
Hardly a high heel, but quite a revolutionary addition to my (embarrassingly large) shoe closet. The platform version, while not uncomfortable either, I know would give me a back-ache, but these are very managable. The funny thing was that the shop assistant when I got talking to her, undecided about the colour, pronounced the shop name the French way with a mute "h", like eux-gllll. It is an Austrian brand, but who knows, the founder might have some French connection. Must do my homework. As I mentioned in my previous post, this used to be a "granny brand" in my mind and it was not until last year that they revamped their collection and opened shops in prime locations. Here's a close-up of the heel:
*Gives self slap on shoulder* for buying grown-up shoes...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Look What I Found on My SD Card

...and have uploaded onto YouTube: a short video of The Dubai Fountain in action. In addition to "romantic" songs like these, the repertoire also includes Michael Jackson's Thriller and other popular favourites:

The time difference betweek Vienna and Dubai might only be two hours, but I got up quite early and am feeling very knackered. More soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Could You Smell the Burning Plastic?

Hi, it's your favourite (hopefully) Shopaholic abroad.

I'm still in Dubai and made it to the Dubai Mall last night. It's 20 km from my hotel, but thankfully taxis are very cheap here so you can concentrate your budget on the actual shopping. By the time I arrived back at the hotel, my arms were literally sore from carrying around my bags and my legs were tired from having walked kilometres (!) in there. Here's the bags:
 ...and here's the booty. Stuff from Bath & Body Works (I'd been really excited to set foot into that store after hearing all the US Youtubers I'm subscribed to rave about it, but to be honest the packaging looks very cheap and the smell beats any Lush store. Not in a good way), a striped shirt from Banana Republic that I'm already wearing today, bright red corduroy trousers from Gap, a denim skirt with belt and a really nice lime green top from John by John Rocha (Dublin memories!) from Debenhams and nailpolishes (3 for 2, Barry M) from Boots.
This is where the taxis drop you off (and it's not that easy to find the pick-up spots which are nowhere near)
The sheer size of that mall is hard to describe, but the fact that there are about 1200 shops might give you an idea. Naive me used to think that our Designer Outlet in Parndorf had gotten huge, but it is a little village corner shop in comparison. You can spend days (yes, plural) in there and still not have discovered everything. The floors are so shiny and spotless you could eat off them and the AC is actually a pleasant temperatures that doesn't require 10 extra layers.
Just to make it a bit more OTT still, they've added a huge skating rink as well. Just because, you know, you want to go skating in a desert state, obviously:
There's also Dubai Aquarium which is located at Dubai Mall and shoppers get a free sneak peek "from the other side". Again, Vienna's Haus des Meeres is a little goldfish bowl in comparison:
There are many interesting features to discover, such as this "curtain" of butterfly stencils:
If it weren't for the many traditionally clad shoppers and the fact that everything is written both in English and Arabic, this mall could be in any country. Then again, not really:

Monday, September 10, 2012

First Impressions of Dubai

Hello, dear friends of the Interweb! I am currently in Dubai, where it's a sweltering (and surprisingly humid) 41° outside and probably about 15° inside. I'm reminded of Sydney with regards to the arctic office experience. Speaking of office, the Firm's Dubai branch is aptly located in "Internet City":
In case you were in doubt that this is Internet city, you have the "@" sign to remind you...
Buildings and palm trees surrounding the office...

I arrived really late last night and spent an hour in the slowest Passport Control queue I've ever experienced so didn't arrive at the hotel until after 1 a.m. local time. And what a cool hotel it is! Forgive the flood of pictures, but I want to share some of its poshness with you. I mean, I've been to quite a few fancy hotels recently, but this is in a different league. My boss, who's here as well and a returning customer, is actually so in love with their corporate scent that he asked what it was (basically supposed to resemble green tea). Smell - which is thankfully confined to public areas, not the actual rooms - apart, the rooms and everything else are amazing:
Flatscreen TV, desk, name it:
I wish my bathroom at home was half this size (not in view: huge bathtub on the other side).
I'm in love with the shower...
Nighttime-view from the balcony:
As the hotel actually overlooks Dubai marina and there are yachts right underneath my balcony, you must have a yacht-shaped "rubber ducky" in your bathtub, right?
Likewise much appreciated: Nespresso coffee maker and capsules including my favourite flavour, "yellow" (never bothered to remember its real name):
There were originally 3 single-wrapped dates, but I had already eaten the third one when I took this photo:
All in all: not shabby so far!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

If I Had Known!

When I came home from work on Friday, I found a letter from Diners Club in my postbox, informing me that I won back my purchase made with my Diners Card the previous Thursday, thanks to their Donnerstag ist Dinerstag ("Thursday is Diners-Day"... doesn't nearly have the same ring to it in English) prize draw:
Not bad! I hardly use this card as it's not that widely accepted, but I sort of wish I'd bought something more pricey than a bottle of champagne for € 25.99 (as a gift) that day. Then again, perhaps only the small purchases are refunded anyway...

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Frequent Flyer

As you'll probably have gathered from my recent posts, I've been travelling quite a bit and actually will continue to do so for 3 more weeks. Is it tiresome? Well, yes, it is as it's not vacation, but work, but to be honest, it always has some element of a vacation, too. 

I get at least a sneak-peak of places I would not have visited otherwise that probably allows me to experience the city in question in a more authentic way than a Japanese tourist on a "Europe-in-a-week" package trip would. After all, I am taken out to lovely and authentic restaurants by my charming colleagues (mostly male), my hotels are mostly in the city centre and there's always time for some sightseeing and shopping. I've discovered bargains in Lithuania (linen scarves!) and Bulgaria (stylish and super comfortable plastic shoes) that I have purchased for friends and my Mum, too, on the second visit. Let me know if you have any orders ;-)

What I absolutely hate other than the time lost travelling to and from the airport and waiting around at departure gates is unpacking. I really effing hate this. My flat tends to look like the scene of a bomb explosion for at least a day after I've opened my suitcase as I can't motivate myself to repack, refill and iron (washing dirty laundry is quick and painless enough) for the next trip. This might be an as-yet-unexplored niche for the service industry - I'd be happy to subscribe to professional unpackers and mess-removers.
What is strange due to the mix of "my" countries is that, with the exception of Slovenia, they are not part of the Euro-zone. As I'm off to several days in Dubai on Sunday I got some UAE Dirhams. They look quite exotic:
My hotel in Dubai has direct access to one of Dubai's biggest and fanciest shopping malls. Dangerous! Whether the hot guy with the aviator glasses on the website is included in the deal, I have yet to find out...

I'm well prepared for my next flights, by the way thanks to my fancy (and ridiculously expensive) Bose noise reduction headphones. They really make a difference even though they don't completely cancel out squealing kids or other noise of the speech-variety. The Empress pitched them to me successfully and convinced me that I had to have them.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Missing Link...

Today, I popped into Tchibo in my lunch-break. Yes, I also bought something (a set of organic cotton vests; one black and one white). As Amica once so aptly remarked, Tchibo "knows to create need for something you didn't even know existed", which explains why at least every second Austrian household must own such must-haves as a pineapple-slicer or apple-peeler as introduced to the market by Tchibo...Today I saw a "handbag alarm" and this gem, a "baked-potato pot":
Come on, did you know this existed? It's a safe bet and a clever Marketing-ploy, really: most people like baked potatoes and associate them with happy feelings and visits to the Christmas market. Wouldn't it be great to be able to make them yourself? At home? Not just in any old pot, but a special baked-potato pot? In a week the price will be reduced to 15 EUR or something along those lines and then these pots will be gone...

(In case you are questioning my sanity: this is something I definitely am NOT planning to burden my kitchen cabinets with.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


So I'm in Sofia right now. This time, I'm staying in a different hotel than on my last business trip. I actually noticed it when I was here the first time with my Mum and, walking past, thought the hotel looked cool. It is called Les Fleurs, which says it all, really. There are flowers everywhere, down to the towels and toilet paper. Unfortunately, they haven't really adhered to the "form follows function" formula. Taking a shower without scalding yourself is a challenge and even if you've mastered switching to "normal" handheld mode as opposed to rainforest mode you're rewarded with a final drenching from above when you've switched the water off. Also, there is no (!) place whatsoever in the very spacious and very stylish bathroom to put your cosmetics bag.
That's what the hotel looks from the outside - pretty floral, right? Try not to be distracted by the Christmas decorations...I guess they reckoned it was no use, really, taking them down as Christmas comes every year...
 The bed...vaguely floral with glass installation. Not in view: artificial flowers in the corner.
 The bathroom (cool tub!) looks more maritime from that angle...
...but if you look into it from the bedroom, you see the flowers on the shower cabin door.This is the evil shower that is rather hard to operate unless you want the raiforest-get-my-hair-wet mode.
 The sink is decidedly floral as is the bathroom door. I wish they had swapped the decor for a moderately sized shelf on which to put toiletries, though.

Speaking of flowers, I bought one pair of these Chanel-inspired plastic shoes with camelias for myself and one for my Mum:
Two years ago I passed on an almost idential twin of the black/white pair in Nice as it was about €40 or something and I wasn't willing to pay that much for a plastic summer shoe. I've been haunted by that missed shoportunity ever since and as these beauties were only €6 it didn't take me long to fork out my Leva (24 of them for two pairs). On my last visit to Sofia I actually bought a similar pair (pink with bright blue bow) and knew how unbelievably comfortable they are. The only drawback is the horrible plasticky-verging-on-toxic smell...
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