Travel Blog: Vienna, Austria

It’s January. Kevin is in the middle of his deployment in Kosovo and I’m missing him lots, especially after the lonely holidays. He has a little over a week’s worth of PTO so to make the most of his time, I’m flying to Europe to see him.

We decided on Vienna, Austria for our vacation because it’s a couple of hours away from Kosovo and we heard winter is a beautiful time to visit the country. I wanted to see history and art. Kevin wanted adventure and schnitzel. Vienna seemed like the place to do it all in a limited amount of time and my airfare? $500 rt.

Seeing Kevin after a few months of deployment made my heart leap. He arrived first and greeted me in the baggage claim area of the airport. After hugging for minutes, we scurried off to grab my luggage and grabbed a fresh orange juice and snack before we made the trip to our Airbnb.

I underestimated the temps in Vienna during January. I’ve never been so cold! We caught the train to the Airbnb and I almost cried walking three blocks to our door. I stopped complaining when we walked into our warm and quaint loft. It was beautiful and cozy. Just enough for the both of us. I loved the design and the cleanliness of it all. Glad we chose this one. It was just a few minutes from the city center with clean streets, Weinerschnitzel stands and horse carriages!

Once we settled in, got our weinerschnitzel and chicken schnitzel with lemon, we set off to tour the sights. Here are the Vienna musts we could fit in a few days:

  • Schönbrunn Palace
  • Palmenhaus – the palace greenhouse
  • National Library – a bit small, but very beautiful
  • Albertina Museum Wein – super fancy and beautiful
  • Naschmarkt – literally the “the eating market,” an open air market with eateries and small food shops.
  • Cafe Sacher – best known for their sacher tort cake, wasn’t a fan in the end

Palmenhaus was gorgeous and made us feel a bit at home. The humid climate they maintain in there brought back memories of home for Kevin. He missed the islands so much. The Albertina Museum was outstanding, there’s a cafe inside with a wonderful menu and we loved the gift shop with Klimt notebooks and merchandise. The architecture of the museum alone was stunning. Inside was warm and toasty and we enjoyed exploring each exhibit.

For us Hawaii folk, we’re all about the food when we travel. We quickly grew tired of the schnitzels and started searching for Asian food, any place with rice or spice. Google led us to Ivy’s Pho, just a minute from our place.

The pho was piping hot, noodles were thin like I like them and the basil was fresh. This was a great break in between fresh breads and pastries. Vienna is all about the pastries and apfelstrudels, which can get a bit bland for those who fancy salty and savory flavors.

The second great place we ate at was Bao Bar. Pork belly baos and kimchee fries gave me that savory, spicy kick I was missing (yes, even just in a few days, I need something spicy).

The last place I must mention for drinks is Miranda Bar. This place was a few blocks from our Airbnb and the bartender spoke English and was very kind to us. She modified their drinks to my liking. Kevin, on the other hand, wanted to try the entire menu. This was the cutest bar I’ve ever been to! All the drinks on the menu were illustrated and the vibe was very girly and chill.

We loved these places in Vienna and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Kevin and I found the city very easy to get around. We took Uber to places we couldn’t walk or when the weather got too cold. Even the grocery stores had such wonderful snacks and food to take back to the Airbnb.

We took a two-day trip to another city…to be continued in an upcoming post…

Breakfast Bowls

IBbreakfastbowlsWhile I’m no stranger to fancy açaí or blended fruit bowls, I never used to put any effort into the bowls I make at home until recently. Honolulu’s açaí bowls are pretty, but expensive, clocking in at $10 and up and if you’re lucky, your granola will still be super crunchy.

I’ve been trying to replicate what I see on Pinterest and it’s quite fun. The ingredients I’ve used for this bowl are spirulina powder, plain greek yogurt, raw chia, grain-free granola, frozen bananas and strawberries (I’ve frozen them myself), a bit of blueberries, macnut milk (I buy the Milkadamia brand, unsweetened plain) and a bit of cara cara orange. I think it’s best to use whatever is in season so you don’t get tired of them.

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Because these bowls contain a ton of sugar, I try not to eat these as much. However, when I do get to enjoy them, I’ll savor every bite. Once in a while, I’ll sneak in a dollop of almond butter to make it a bit creamier.

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When I do feel like buying an acai bowl or a blended fruit bowl, there are three places I’ll go to on Oahu:

Well + Proper

Not the most accessible, but if you follow her on Instagram @well_n_proper, she’ll let her customers know when she’s in. I set a notification for her posts. Her macnut butter is amazing and her acai isn’t so sweet. I love it. She also sells fresh squeezed juices and elixirs.

Jewel or Juice

If I want really good, fresh and crunchy granola, this is the place to go! They make their own granola and sell it on the side if you want to take some home. Their bowls are consistent and very good.

Banán

This place has been around for a while. I used to go to their small truck in Diamond Head to order their soft serve in a papaya with granola and macnut butter. Now they have a convenient location in the walkways of Kahala Mall. Their kiosk is well stocked and they usually have a line and a long wait. Still great, nonetheless.

 

Late afternoons in Mānoa

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It has been oh so chilly here in Honolulu and seeing the clouds hang low, covering the mountain tops behind my office remind me to take a moment to breathe through the holiday rush. Can we all just sleep in for once and enjoy this cool weather?

Hawaiʻi Island

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I flew to Kona this past weekend to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time. I was about six-years-old the last time I went there. My grams brought me one summer to visit her brother in Hilo and he took us around the island. I remember the drive to Kona was so green and lush, we didn’t see any buildings or manicured residential areas anywhere. Hawai’i Island residents used to be spread out, mom and pop stores were the norm and fresh Hawaiian food was the best you’ve ever tasted. Those were the days!

Back to this weekend…we went hunting for the best açaí bowls on the island. The bf’s niece suggested that we head over to Big Island Juice Co. in Hilo. We took the new Saddle Road and passed chilly Mauna Kea to get there. Upon arriving at our destination, we found it was next to a hookah shop and other local businesses. We walked into Big Island Juice Co. and they suggested their signature Dragonfruit Bowl, which they served in a real pineapple bowl, topped with granola, honey, kiwi, and pineapple. It was glorious and oh so melty. The dragonfruit was a bit tart, but the honey and toppings made it the perfect light meal. It was a humid day in Hilo and we needed the refreshment.

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Look at how big it was! Served on top of their branded cutting board. It was actually so melty that my hands were stained pink the rest of the day.

While in Hilo, we also hit up one of my favorite places…Two Ladies Kitchen! I died. They had so many varieties of mochi. I’m usually very picky about mochi, my preference is either traditional plain mochi or with azuki beans. Two Ladies is so good…they stuff full strawberries, grapes, poha berries, and other seasonal fruits into their mochi and it’s even more delicious. I tried to be good and eat only one of each. My bestie in Honolulu requested some so I planned to eat the rest with her…only to realize I left it back in Kona on our way back. #epicfailure

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Here’s a better picture of the mochi that we bought but left back in Kona. I get sad every time I think of it. The box on the left is the strawberry mochi. The plastic container on the right had a variety of manju, blueberry mochi, ube manju, shiso mochi, chi chi dango, and peanut butter mochi.

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Who goes to Kona and doesn’t order Kona coffee? We drank AND ate it later that day. Kona coffee ice cream was so refreshing in the Kona heat. I can’t forget how yummy it was.

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One of the other things on my list was to visit the farmer’s market in Kona. We picked up a fresh Maui gold pineapple, which is super sweet and less acidic than most, a fan for the humidity and lack of decent air conditioning in our car, and I needed a hat (from Cookies Clothing) to hide the messy hair from the long drive.

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I’d like to go back soon and hike down Waipiʻo Valley. We drove through Waimea and Honokaʻa to get there, only to see that you have to hike to get down to the black sand beach below. Shucks. I should have done more research. Oh well, next time!

Palermo, Sicily

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La Vucciria

We arrived in Palermo on a Sunday. We worried that most locals and shop-owners would be at home kicking it with the family, but we were determined to find out where the locals hang out and shop on their day off.

Walking through the streets of Palermo wasn’t as clean as we thought it’d be. The tourist areas such as the duomos, or cathedrals, and the marketplaces were clean. But when you walked through the narrow streets, you notice the linens and laundry hanging above you between apartment buildings, delicates strewn from balconies, and the scene is just a tad bit darker and dirtier than what I had imagined.

I noticed on certain streets, there were little shrines for the streets named after saints, some even carve a figure of the saints out of the building.

We were given a map when we disembarked off the ship. The city is easy to navigate and explore on foot. Our first stop was at La Vucciria. Of course, being a Sunday, everything was closed except for a gelato shop on the left.

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One of the cathedrals we passed on our way towards the marketplace.

I read that Mercato Ballaró, an open market on Via Ballaró, was open on Sundays, so we walked towards it and passed a few intricate cathedrals, one of which we said a prayer for my Uncle who had recently passed that week.

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Olives, spices, and fresh vegetable stalls were the most fragrant at Mercato Ballaró.

We lost our way a bit through the narrow streets and saw locals with green, plastic bags. They pointed us towards the mercato and we found long streets full of blue and orange tents and lots of locals doing their grocery shopping.

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Fresh seafood salad

My Aunt, Uncle, and mom had so much fun looking at the fresh produce. We watched trucks drive in and deliver fresh seafood from the port. Vendors quickly collected their share and prepared the mussels, squid, octopus, prawns, and fish.

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Aunty Reen bites into a fresh focaccia pizza bread.
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Trinkets and clothing can be bought further down Via Ballaró.

Palermo is full of colorful buildings and things to see. Even on a Sunday, we found ourselves stumbling upon great places to explore, such as the Piazza Pretoria, which boasts the precious Fontana Pretoria, an elaborate fountain with scantily-clad statues.

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Shakas from Palermo!
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The absolute BEST calamari in the whole world!

Right outside of the Piazza Pretoria is a yummy restaurant named Pizzeria Bellini. A must if you’re in Palermo! You have the option of dining on their beautiful yellow tables outside or cozy up to a hot, fresh pizza inside.

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When in Palermo, you must dine outdoors at Pizzeria Bellini.

I really enjoyed Palermo. While my family didn’t care for the dirty streets, they enjoyed the food, sights, and how the city embodied everything we thought Europe would be like. The fresh seafood they serve at the mercato and the restaurants is so fresh and rich tasting, you can’t help but order a few dishes to accompany your tasty bellini or vino rosso.

Souvenirs from Spain and Italy

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Aloha!

I’m finally back home in Hawaii. I’ve been so busy since I returned. Work and family are keeping me busy so I put off unpacking and downloading photos until now. I’m going to start this series of travel-related posts with some of my favorite (non-food) things I took home from Spain and Italy.

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The first photo is of a shell dish that I picked up at La Boquería in Barcelona. It was cheap and so touristy but I wanted something from the Mediterranean Sea since it was too cold to dip my toes in it when I was there. Inside of the beautiful shell are clay figurines of things you’d find at the market, or mercato, in Napoli. The busy and grimy city of Napoli was exciting, mostly because of the little things we found on the Via dei Tribunali, a popular street with bakeries, eateries, and tiny shops. Along a side street of Tribunali, we stopped at A. Ferrera, a shop owned by clay artist Ferrara Antonietta. The clay figures were adorable and so cheap. I couldn’t resist buying a few.

The second photo is of a book (and a Barcelona metro ticket tucked in the front) that I bought in Palermo. Pan de Limón con Semillas by Barcelona-born writer Cristina Campos. I wanted something local and from a common bookshop/newstand that locals go to regularly, so I chose this literary gem that is based in Mallorca. I’m going to start reading it after this coming week…after all my projects that I must catch up to.

The little tan journal is something very special that I bought in Florence. After we visited the Duomo, we ventured towards the local market, lined with vendors of all sorts. One of the first vendors, unique as hell, was selling customized real leather journals. He stamped my name inside. I was only able to bring a couple of these back since they were going to weigh my luggage down, but I thought it was the perfect thing to bring back to some special people. The journals were not cheap, but they were worth every penny.

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This third photo is just more of the beautiful figurines from Ferrara Antonietta. Artichokes are all over Italy and they’re served fried, baked into pizzas, and steamed. Their artichokes are also different colors, which I thought was beautiful.

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Ah. This last photo is of a few things I picked up in Mallorca. Shopping in Europe isn’t really my thing…just yet. It is quite possible that I haven’t hit the real local shops, but Zara and H&M are huge with the Spanish. Aside from the mauve fringe earrings on the right, everything is from Sfera at El Corte Inglés, which is a huge multi-level department store in various cities. It’s like a Macy’s, that’s the only type of department store I can compare it to.

Stay tuned for the real travel shots…I have so much to share!

Spalding House

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Floppy hat, House of Aria, top (sale rack), Eden in Love.

Formerly known as The Contemporary Museum, The Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House, is hidden under shady trees in Makiki. Kevin and I drove up to see the new exhibits and unfortunately, the main exhibit section was under construction. We opted to grab a snack at the café downstairs. I had a cup of the tasty vegan tomato soup and he had the flourless chocolate cake.

Once we cleaned our cup and plate, we walked through the garden and took a peek at the soon-to-be completed outdoor surfer exhibit. The artist replaced the tennis court with his version of the ocean and all things surfers encounter in the water.

Admission is free on Saturdays. I highly suggest calling to see if the exhibits are completed before you go…unless you’re only up for a bite to eat.