Friday, April 29, 2011

Mawage! Mawage is what bwings us togetha today.

Congratulations, Prince William and Princess Duchess Catherine!
(Sorry, I just learned she won't hold the title of "Princess" until Charles is King?)

I have shamelessly been caught up in Royal Wedding Mania since the beginning. Since the speculation started, really, that Wills would marry Kate. I'm most definitely in the huge group of 20-somethings who had a crush on Will when we were tweens and teens. The infatuation is long gone, and I'm just quite happy for him and his lovely, classy, poised, wonderful bride! ;)

***For those of you who don't care, come back next post. I promise this is the only one on this subject. ;) ***

This morning, my alarm blared at 3:55am. I leaped out of bed with a spring I can never muster for a morning run. I hugged my incredibly confused, groggy cat, and then madly searched for live streaming of pre-ceremony coverage.

I was quickly joined online by my BFF, Bethany JO. She, the dear, is in Washington State, so it was 1:00am. We chatted for the next three and a half hours. We spent two of those hours watching a huge horde of British people arrive in the most INCREDIBLE hats. Seriously. Hats. Galore. Why don't we wear amazing hats, I ask you?? Hats that clearly serve no useful purpose! Victoria Beckham's and the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie's hats were the craziest. You can clearly find better pictures all over the internet, but you can see the Princesses on my screen shot:
Screenshot from The Wedding Day

We streamed coverage from CNN, the official Royal YouTube channel (heeheehee), and BBC. Yes. At. The. Same. Time.
The media coverage is incredible. Only a few stalwart souls were awake on Facebook with Bethany and me, but HATS OFF TO YOU, MY FRIENDS.

For those of you in Britain with no timezone excuse: I do hope you were out partying.

Look at Google Doodle from today:
Google Doodle

Love Google!! :D

My sister, Amy, who is in Morocco, joined us online in time for the ceremony. We were struck by the size of the crowds, the beautiful Abbey (which I visited on my only trip to London!), the pomp and circumstance, the boys choir, the organ, the trees (inside), the adorable Queen, the smartly uniformed William and Harry, the cute wee bridesmaids and lovely Pippa, and of course: the gorgeous Catherine. Her dress was beautiful. I am not normally fond of long-sleeved wedding gowns, but hers looked perfect on her. As did the tiara--quite fit for a princess!

Bethany left me for bed around 4:30am her time. I took a break from royal coverage to shower and get dressed for the day. I'm wearing my Easter dress, because it's a special occasion, gosh darn it!

My dress, on Easter:
Easter, April 24, 2011, Caesar Salad
(The salad, which I'm proudly displaying, is my first attempt at making my family's traditional Caesar salad. My grandpa passed the recipe on to Dad, who sent it to me. He even gave me a pep talk Easter morning over the phone before I made it. Never fear! It was delicious.)

Don't worry, I was back in front of my computer in time for THE KISS! The tradition, apparently, for royal British weddings is to not kiss at the ceremony, but to kiss for the first time in public as husband and wife on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. I'm sure you've already seen better pictures online, but here's another screenshot:

It was fantastic. I'm so glad I woke up to watch the historical event, even if it's all a wee bit silly. I do wish it was a US National Holiday like it is in the UK, but I'm off to lab in my bright blue lacy dress for as long as the Caffeine can keep me conscious.

Cheers to the happy couple, and many prayers that they stay strong together!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Night at the Opera! Wien und Praha, Part VII

A couple of years ago, six friends and I decided to expand our cultural horizons and attend the opera. We bought season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Four Fridays after lab, we dressed up, took the train to Manhattan, ate dinner, and enjoyed a world-class production of classic opera in box seats. One of my first blog posts described such an evening. We saw La Traviata, Tristan und Isolde, La Sonnambula, and Il Trovatore. It was a wonderful experience! A couple of us bonded with a researcher at lab over opera. He stated, however, that he "only attends the opera in VIENNA."

So naturally, while in Vienna, I HAD to go!

Vienna has a couple opera houses, but I couldn't wait to see the inside of the Vienna State Opera.
So impressive
Staatsoper broadcasts live outside!

I was willing to spring for an actual seat. A little personal splurge. How often is one in Europe?? No price is too small!

Until one realizes that the cheapest seat left is 100 euros, and one can get standing-room only tickets for three euros.

What kind of grad student can't do THAT math? Standing it was!

April 8, 2011

Three Oxford friends joined me: physicists Edmund and Joseph and archaeologist Amber. My poor Princeton self was outnumbered. It's okay. They are fabulous.

Good thing, too, because after dressing up (natch) and D-traming it down to the Opernring, we chilled in line for over an hour:
The Queue, as it were, in which we waited for over an hour.

I mean, we queued.

Finally we were allowed inside! We were there to see Anna Bolena by Donizetti:
Anna Bolena!!!
Joseph, Amber, and Edmund are happy to be almost at the front!

The premium four euro standing-room tickets for the Parterre (main floor) were sold out, but we successfully purchased three euro tickets for the Balkon (balcony). Next, we ran to the queue for choosing "seats", enjoying the architecture while waiting:
Columns and arches

The Met is beautiful, in a posh, modern way. Die Staatsoper was extravagantly, elegantly gorgeous.

Once we climbed the stairs and waited in line (queued) for about twenty minutes, we frantically tied our scarves around almost chest-high rails to reserve our spots. We briefly pondered whether the scarves would be there upon our return, but concluded that the opera crowd should be fairly trustworthy and honorable.

We then FLEW out of the opera house to find dinner. It was, oh, about 6:30pm, and the doors were going to close promptly at 7:00pm. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how we ended up eating hot dogs and pizza from a street vendor before our night at the Vienna State Opera:
Hot dogs and pizza at a tram stop. Totally normal opera fare.
Classy pre-opera dinner.
(Please excuse my crazy black-and-white printed shirt matched with different-crazy black-and-white printed purse. One can only pack so much when one wants to travel "lightly".)

Amber and I were yawning and truly craving coffee to power us through three hours of standing, but alas, none was quickly found. We skipped up to our "seats", at which point I realized I needed to change my shoes. Yes. I packed a classy black
convertible dress (worn as a skirt here), cute heels, and thank GOODNESS fast flats. In the restroom, I stuffed the heels in my purse and padded back to my spot at the rail in my "hopefully don't look too much like slippers from afar" flats.

Apparently, they had to chase a couple of people off, but no one took our scarves! We were in the back row of official standing spots, elevated slightly above the first row of standers, who were slightly above the stadium seating in the far right side of the balcony. There were screens with the text in English, German, or French for about every two people. Thankfully, I was surrounded by Brits and an Australian. I can't read German quickly enough.
Gotta love the red velvet
Not a bad view!

The lights dimmed, the audience applauded as the conductor walked to his place, and the orchestra played. For half of the first scene, we couldn't see a THING. Anna Netrebko began singing beautifully as a despairing Anne Boleyn, who just realized that Henry VIII lost interest in her, but she was standing out of view. We worried. Deeply.

Thankfully, she moved eventually. The choreography was excellent in that respect--we saw something interesting at least half the time! ;)

The costumes! Ooooh the costumes were brilliant! Beautiful, rich, velvety Tudor dresses and poofy man-sleeves. Purples and reds and blues. Long, silky, brunette hair on Anna and blond hair on Giovanna (i.e. Jane) Seymour.

Giovanna was played by Elina Garanca. She and Anna Netrebko were absolutely amazing. Their parts were both so full of emotion (um, hello, it's a tragic opera) and their voices gave me chills (that's a good thing). They are both coming to the Met this fall for its production of Anna Bolena; I might go see it again. Not even joking. They were that good.

By intermission, my feet hurt. But I was doing all right! Surviving! Yes! We wandered about and got drinks. My champagne was six euros: twice the price of my ticket.
Love it

I found the evening's composer:
Enjoying champagne at intermission.
Opera crowd

We were so glad we dressed up. We'd be quite out of place otherwise. I did see one or two women in jeans, but for the most part, they were all in lovely dresses.

During the second half, my feet complained. Everyone began a subtle, uncoordinated dance, shifting back and forth between feet, leaning on the rail, stretching calves, balancing on one foot... Occasionally, someone sat on the floor and just listened for a while. It was ideal when someone in front of me did this--then I saw so MUCH!

The opera ended as history predicted. Quite dramatically and tragically.

We gave it a standing ovation. ;)

But no seriously, everyone did.

Anna Nebtreko is blurrily in purple, Elina Garanca blurrily in blue:
Anna Netrebko is in purple. She was AMAZING as Anna Bolena.

I must say, overall, three euros was a steal and standing through the pain was well worth it.

So happy to be here!

We caught the U-Bahn back uptown and found some delicious gelato. Ein Kugel Ferrero Rocher und ein Kugel Baileys Eis, bitte! Finally, we returned to our hotel and called it a pretty much perfect Friday. :)

***If you are interested in getting standing-room tickets at the Wiener Staatsoper, this is a good description on how to do it.***

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stomach. Wien und Praha, Part VI

A wee update on my running life: I'm registered for the Philadelphia ODDyssey Half Marathon on May 22nd. However, between the NYC Half and the Vienna trip, I experienced sharp pains in my right shin, bad enough that I visited the doctor. We agreed that I wouldn't run on the trip and would ice it and take lots and lots of ibuprofen. Now that I'm back, I'm gingerly attempting to run again. Saturday's 1.2-miler was fine, though afterward, that same ol' place on my shin was sore. So, I'm continuing to ice and praying that everything heals in time for a semi-decent race. :)

Also: AUDREY is running the Boston Marathon tomorrow!! YOU GO GIRL!

A wee update on my baking life: I just made pretzels! Beautiful, soft, salty pretzels!

April 7th, 2011

During the workshop, I ate breakfast at my Hotel Alexander every morning. Every morning, I happily mixed nuts, granola, canned pineapple, and canned peaches into (most likely whole fat) strawberry yogurt. I drank a big glass of multivitaminsaft (multi-vitamin juice) and several mugs of coffee with milk. A couple days, I was hungry enough for bread with Nutella, too. Delicious. :) I enjoyed sleepy conversations with whichever of the boys (I was the only girl at the workshop) stumbled down at the same time.

Upon arrival at WPI, we'd fill plastic mugs with more coffee and milk, and grab a couple of tasty Viennese cookies for the morning talks. My favorites involved chocolate. Always.

Lunches varied. I'm sorry to say that I actually had a wrap from McDonald's on the day of my talk; I was in a hurry, it was there, it was fast. This was only the second time I've been to a McD's outside of the U.S., I think, so perhaps I'm still okay. ;) My favorite lunch routine was when we ate at a little Italian place (good garlic soup and pizza) and then got espresso (are you counting?).

The fabulous workshop admin lady replaced breakfast refreshments with afternoon refreshments by the time we returned: ALL NEW cookies, and of course, MORE coffee. My favorite afternoon cookie was a Biscuit d'Orange.

All of this was good, but by Wednesday, I was sincerely missing these:
I needed fresh fruit and veggies, so I found a supermarket

Thankfully, there's a supermarket near the hotel! :)

When I returned to my room that afternoon, I was amused to see that the maid realized I was using both blankets and made my bed with both:
The maid realized that I used one bed and both blankets, so she made it up with both. :)

The conference organizer/fearless leader set up dinner for about 25/30 of us at 8pm. I was quite sure I could see a bunch of the city before then, so I immediately set out with my camera.

Just north of the hotel and campus is the Wien Energie power plant designed by Hundertwasser:
Crazy building
Fernwärme Wien (energy plant)
Designed by Hundertwasser
Pretty cool, no?

Turning around and heading back south, I wandered parallel to the Danube (die Donau) Canal until I could cross to the wonderful paved pedestrian path along its eastern banks.

Fernwärme Wien and Donau canal
There's a beautiful path along the river.

I saw so many runners ALL over Vienna. I was quite inspired, and also quite jealous. :) The Vienna Marathon was TODAY! Wouldn't that be a fun one to do?

I crossed back to the western banks...

...and found evidence that spring arrived in Austria and reasons for my sniffly nose! :)
Spring arrived!
It makes me sneeeeeze.

I happened upon the Servitenkirche:

And beautiful, hand-painted signs that Easter is coming:
Easter bunnies!

This is for my dad, the rest of our family, and memories of Muppets:
It's all good fun, til someone loses an eye

Soon, the graceful spires of the Votivkirche rose above rooftops along with the moon:
Votivkirche and the moon

It, like Stephansdom, appeared to be under renovation.

Just a bit up the road was the Rathaus (town hall):
Rathaus and Stoplights
Rathaus (Town Hall)

The bicycle crossing man amuses me:
Heehee Bicycle Man!


Behind the Rathaus was a huge crowd of people, enjoying a lot of booze, while listening to some guy on a guitar.
Pack of drinking people on Rathaus lawn
Who is this guy?

I couldn't figure out who it was, because it was suddenly 7:40pm and I was halfway across town from dinner! Aaagh! Thankfully, a metro stop was right there and the connections were fast. I arrived quite sweaty and disheveled only a couple of minutes late. Score!

The restaurant was called Stomach. It was tiny, but quite lovely. I had a great dark beer, incredible duck with white beans and pesto (made of some delicious green I had never heard of and can't remember), and fried goat cheese with strawberries for dessert. SO GOOD.

One of the physicists, Edmund, brought his Australian archaeologist girlfriend and her two colleagues. I sat at the end of the table with them and another physicist. It was so refreshing to discuss non-physics! We heard fantastic stories of Egyptian travels and sarcophagi being smuggled out in the 1940s in Swedish submarine torpedo tubes and such.

We were pleased to meet the restaurant's adorable kitty:
Dinner at wonderful restaurant, Stomach. Kitty!!
Archaeologists and kitty

Made me miss MY kitty! ;)

There was talk of visiting a Scottish pub (in Vienna) afterward, but the groups got split up and I was glad to go to sleeeeep!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nights out. Wien und Praha, Part V

I'm home now! With Faraday, my nail clippers, fruit smoothies, and regular-sized shampoo. It's the little things.

April 5, 2011

For the conclusion of this day, I bought a week pass for the metro and took the U-Bahn down to the beautiful old Vienna city center. I met Chris and Hannah at Stephansdom (Stephan's Cathedral). This lovely couple are friends of Meg, live in Massachusetts, and were in town for a different conference. We ate at Figlmüller's Weinhaus:

Ate at this Weinhaus with Chris and Hannah!

It was wonderful! We had their house red wine, a delicious pumpkin-seed-oil potato salad, and grilled chicken. Loverly.

Grrreat wine house

After, we walked around a bit and found this beautiful face:

Well hello.

I also got my first view of the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera house):
So impressive


Finally, while waiting for the tram back to my hotel, we admired Astronaut Barbie:
Astronaut BARBIE


April 6, 2011

On Wednesday, after a full day at the workshop, I decided to eat on my own (forgoing the expensive restaurant the group chose) and try to find the Belvedere before it closed. On the way to the U-Bahn stop, there was a small döner kebap shop. I. Love. Döner. Deliciousness. I arrived at the Karlsplatz stop and stepped out to see the amazing Karlskirche:

The Belvedere is not far from the church building, but I couldn't find it. I walked around in circles and ended up in cute shopping areas. I found gelato. It was yummy.

Finally, I returned to Karlsplatz, after the museum would've closed. Sigh. I was about to get back on the train, when I saw the opera house in the distance! So I walked up there.

They were broadcasting Das Rheingold, live from inside, on a huge screen!
Staatsoper broadcasts live outside!

At least fifty people were bundled up and sitting on plastic chairs to enjoy free, high-quality Wagner:
Lots of people bundled up in the cold to watch free opera. :)

I took my dear D-tram back up to the Hotel Alexander. On the way, however, we smelled smoke and stopped suddenly. Several firetrucks were blocking the road, fighting a fire in a beautiful building in front of us. We got out and watched the flames rise from the top and smoke billow around us. When our eyes began stinging and we started coughing, we shut ourselves in the tram. About ten minutes later, the trucks moved and let us by. I hope everyone inside was okay. :( For the rest of the night, my chest was a little tight, but it was fine in the morning. Surreal.