Vienna Will Steal Your Heart

It doesn’t take long for Vienna to steal your heart. It is a fabulous city with a rich heritage and is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. While my husband and I were happy to wander Vienna’s elegant streets and admire the beautiful buildings, others come to attend a performance at the famous State Opera House or at one of the concert halls to listen to the music of Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven. During the celebrated three month ball season, many come to Vienna to attend one of the extravagant formal balls. My husband and I may not have waltzed the night away but we had a great visit. We especially enjoyed the incredible Imperial palaces of the Habsburg Emperors  that have been transformed into wonderful museums.

The Gloriette At The Schoenbrunn Palace

We arrived in Vienna late in the afternoon after a beautiful drive along the Danube River that runs through the Wachau valley a little more than an hour outside the city. Vienna is divided into different districts with many good hotels in each but for our first visit to the city we wanted to stay in the Innere Stadt (1st district). This historic district in the very heart of the city has a wonderful amount of palaces, museums, and churches to visit. This is also where you will find lots of restaurants and cafes, many on pedestrian only streets, to enjoy after a full day of sightseeing.

We decided on the Bristol Hotel. The hotel is located just across the street from the Vienna State Opera House. The doorman quickly greeted us, took our car and had the luggage delivered to our room while we registered at the front desk. The Bristol Hotel has a nice mix of history and modern comfort and felt very welcoming.

Click on any photo in this article to enlarge and see a slide show.

When making our reservation, I able to choose between staying in one of their classically designed rooms or one of their new Art Nouveau rooms which was my choice. Upon being shown to our Bristol Suite, I was thrilled. Our corner room was filled with light from floor to ceiling wrap around windows that looked out at the Opera House. The living area was not only beautifully designed but was very comfortable with a seating area in front of a bookcase wall with a fireplace and TV, a desk behind the sofa and a small dining table set up with an Italian coffee maker.

The separate kingsize  bedroom also had a floor to ceiling window looking out at the Opera as well. I guess you could say that staying in this beautiful suite made me feel like Cinderella…all I needed was to be able to go to one of Vienna’s famous balls.

The hotel’s location was great as most everything we wanted to see was within walking distance.

On a rainy day…yes, the clouds and rain continued to follow us from Berlin, Prague, the Bavarian Forest and now Vienna, we bought tickets through the hotel’s concierge for the hop on, hop off bus tour. One of the bus stops was right in front of the Opera. The bus tour was a good introduction for our first visit to this beautiful city.

The Karlsplatz tram and U-bahn interchange was just steps outside the Bristol Hotel and was very useful for going to the sites that were not within walking distance, such as the impressive Schoenbrunn Palace.

After a full day of traveling, we wanted to find a cozy little restaurant where we could relax and have a good dinner on our first night in Vienna. I asked the concierge at our hotel and he recommended an Italian restaurant called Sole just off the main shopping avenue that was within walking distance of the hotel.

We were warmly greeted and shown to one of the last available tables in the tiny restaurant. After a delicious meal, the owner, Aki Nuredini stopped by to make sure that we enjoyed our meal and offered us after dinner drinks. Aki, such a warm  and sincere gentlemen, treated us as kindly as the famous opera singer who was dining at a nearby table. His restaurant is a favorite with singers, conductors and musicians that perform in Vienna as well as politicians and actors. I can certainly see why it is a favorite, it feels like your home away from home.

The fine food and the personal attention shown at the restaurant had us returning on our last evening in Vienna for another meal. This was the first time in all the years of traveling that my husband and I returned for a second meal in a city we were visiting so that lets you know how much we enjoyed Sole. At the end of the evening, Aki walked us out and wished us safe travels.

While Vienna is both an elegant cultural and musical destination with fine restaurants, it is also is known for its traditional coffee houses, pastries such as apple strudel and a famous chocolate cake called Sachertorte and Wiener schnitzel. You can have a good meal in a Michelin rated restaurant or at a simple café, there is surely by something on the menu to please your taste.

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My husband and I have traveled to Austria many times spending days in the Tirol and the Lake District. We enjoyed the cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck as well as many small villages but we never visited Vienna. Why did we wait so long…I can’t really say. We only had two full days to visit this beautiful cosmopolitan city and the weather was not ideal yet Vienna captured our hearts. I hope that we get the chance to visit this delightful city again on a future visit to Austria.

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The Bavarian Forest, Jagdhof Röhrnbach And The Danube

The Bavarian Forest, Hotel Jagdhof Röhrnbach And The Danube. While most everyone has heard of the Danube River and tens of thousands of people take river cruises on it every year, the nearby Bavarian Forest is almost an unknown region to most of those same travelers. The beautiful and uncrowded outdoor hiking area of Bayerischer Wald as it is called in German is located in the southeast corner of Germany between the Danube River and the border with the Czech Republic and Austria.

Bavarian Forest   Photo Courtesy of: Tourism-marketing-bayerischer-wald.de

Within a two to three hour drive from Munich, Prague and Vienna, my husband and I decided to visit this region and chose the Wellness Hotel Jagdhof in Röhrnbach as one of ten hotels we would be staying at during this year’s five week European holiday. We knew the hotel would make an ideal base from which to explore the Danube and the well known German towns of Regensburg (73 km), Passau (25 km) and other towns nearby.

The Jagdhof is the only five star spa hotel in the Bavarian Forest and what a nice hotel it is. Located in the center of the small town of Röhrnbach, the hotel is designed with a nice mix of trendy modern comfort and German traditional style. The large lobby is decorated in warm colors with white columns, marble floors and a huge chandelier.

While not the largest room at the hotel, our very large Wellness suite (60 sq. meters) had everything you could possibly want and then some. Decorated in a contemporary country style, the suite had an entrance foyer with a large walk in closet. The living room had a large flat screen TV, a Nespresso machine and a mini bar. The separate  kingsize bedroom had a flat screen TV as well. The large bathroom had a soaking tub, walk in shower, and separate toilet. There were two an outdoor terraces, one from the living room as well as one from the bedroom. This was a room you could definitely call home. Add the wonderful restaurant and modern spa and you might never want to leave the Jagdhof.

In our case, that is exactly what we did for our two nights at the Jagdhof as the weather ended up being rainy during our entire stay. Instead of day trips to explore the nearby towns on the Danube, we ended up spending each day in the hotel’s outstanding spa, the largest in Bavaria. We had walked many a mile visiting the historic cities of Berlin and Prague before arriving at the Jagdhof and it actually felt very nice to just relax for two days.

The spa area is huge and includes both indoor and outdoor pools, six different saunas, a separate ladies spa and large relaxing areas both inside and out.

Jagdhof Buffet

The hotel’s restaurant serves an outstanding buffet breakfast and a buffet lunch with sweet treats.In the evening there is a six course dinner menu with an appetizer buffet and a dessert and cheese buffet that  is included in the room rate. There is a nice bar area where you can enjoy cocktails, wine and beer and there is evening entertainment.

We were sorry that we didn’t get to explore the Bavarian Forest because of the rain during our time in the region but you can’t do anything about the weather when you travel. The sun finally broke through the clouds after leaving Germany. Glorious sunshine appeared just as we neared the Wachau Valley on our drive to Vienna.

The entire region, with terraced vineyards and apricot orchards that slope down to the Danube River, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and medieval castle ruins.  The 22 mile stretch of the Danube from Melk to Krems is considered one of the most scenic areas in this part of Lower Austria.

Danube River

We stopped briefly in Melk, a small town along the banks of the Danube. It’s famous for its 18th century Benedictine abbey which is the largest Baroque structure in Austria where monks have lived and worked for 900 years.

We stopped in the small town of Spitz for lunch at the Gasthaus Prankl. On a rocky ridge high above the restaurant is the ruins of the Hinterhaus Castle. The guesthouse offers a choice of dining on the outside stone terrace or inside the restaurant. At either spot, you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer and have a traditional  meal made from local ingredients.

After lunch, we continued our drive, passing through sweet little villages like Weissenkirchen and Durnstein. On a hill high above Durnstein there are the ruins of a castle where King Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner by an Austrian Duke until a ransom was paid for his release.

Durnstein With Castle Ruins High Above The Danube

The town of Krems makes a good start for a Danube river cruise of the area. While in the valley, you can also do a wine connoisseur’s tour of Wachau vineyards for tastings of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that are famous in Austria.

Terraced Vineyards In Along The Danube

Perhaps you might even want to take one of the very popular guided bike tours of the area stopping at some of the small growers for a wine tasting.  After leaving Krems, it was  just a short hour’s drive into Vienna, our next stop on our holiday.

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As many times as my husband and I have visited both Germany and Austria, this year’s trip took us to new areas. The Bavarian Forest is popular with Germans but almost unknown to foreign tourists. The Wachau Valley, on the other hand, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular with tourists from around the world. With lots of quaint towns along this area of Danube, the Wachau Valley is a very popular day trip from Vienna.

Would I return to visit the Bavarian Forest or spend time along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley again, absolutely…perhaps next year.

 

 

 

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Prague, A Hot Travel Destination

Just hours away from Berlin and Vienna, Prague has become a hot travel destination in Central Europe. Ask most travelers that haven’t been to Prague already and they will say that it is on their bucket list. This beautiful city is filled with Baroque architecture, soaring church spires, cobblestone streets, interesting  neighborhoods filled with art galleries and museums, and has delicious food and great beer and wine, what more could a traveler ask for.

A stroll across the famous Charles Bridge is one of the first things that every visitor who goes to Prague wants to do but that is just the beginning of what this fascinating city has to offer. I would say, put Prague on your bucket list of places to visit and let me show you why.

Click on any photo in the story to enlarge and see a slide show. 

Charles Bridge is perhaps the most photographed sight in the city. The famous  stone bridge, with Gothic towers at both ends and lined with 30 statues of saints, spans the Vltava river which divides the town into two parts. Old Town is on one side of the river and Lesser Town, with its castle high on the hill, lies on the river’s other bank. The views from the pedestrian only bridge are wonderful but be warned, it is swarming  with tourists unless you visit at dawn’s first light.

Old Town Square with the Jan Hus Memorial at its center is home to many of the major sites. The two Gothic towers of Tyn Church can be seen as you enter the square from almost any of the narrow cobblestone streets that radiate off the square. Just before the hour, large crowds gather at the Astronomical Clock which is part of old town hall,  to watch it come to action for 45 seconds. (The clock tower is under restoration until the summer of 2018 but the clock is still visible.)

Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex in the world with its many courtyards, palaces, gardens and sweeping views of the town, has been used by kings and emperors and is the official home of the President of the Czech Republic.

The most dominant feature of Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. It is the final resting place for not only Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors but important saints as well. Perhaps the most well known tomb being that of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Republic and  who so many of us associate with the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”.

Another feature at the castle is a tiny lane next to the ramparts called the Golden Lane. The lane has very small, almost fairytale size houses where servants, guards and goldsmiths among others once lived. Later they were homes to writers such as Franz Kafka who once lived at number twenty-two.

If the weather is nice, be sure to visit the castle’s many beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, the day of our visit, it was rainy and cold.

John Lennon Wall, a graffiti filled landmark is one of the many unusual public art displays in the city. On your walks throughout the city go in search of some of the works of Czech artist David Cerny, Czech sculptor Jaroslav Rona, and others.

There is a debate on where you should stay in Prague. During this visit, we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is in Lesser Town where the castle is located. Proponents call this the quiet side and I would have to agree. While the hotel was very nice, my husband and I would probably stay in Old Town next time as it is very convenient to most attractions whereas we had to take a taxi to many of the places we wanted to visit.

When it comes to restaurants that we thought were very good and would return to, I can recommend three.

U Modré Kachničky (“The Little Blue Duck” in Czech), serves traditional everyday Czech food that has been recreated into sophisticated Bohemian cuisine. It has two locations, one in Old Town and the original one right next to our hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, in Lesser Town. It’s a cozy little restaurant that specializes in duck and wild game. We had a delicious meal there on our first night in Prague.

Divinis, owned by Czech celebrity chef Zdeněk Pohlreich prepares refined Italian cuisine with the finest of Italian products. The restaurant has an excellent all Italian wine list. From beginning to end, the food we had was outstanding.

Aromi, considered one of the top restaurants in Prague. It’s a very nice, modern Italian restaurant where the emphasis is on incredibly fresh fish and seafood simply prepared so the fresh ingredients really shine. Our waiter brought out a huge tray of fresh fish and described each one and how the chef suggested they should each be served. We decided on a whole halibut cooked with a light lemon sauce that was absolutely delicious.

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Whether you want to sit and have a drink at a sidewalk café on the square after exploring Old Town, spend a day visiting Prague castle and its gardens, take a stroll over Charles Bridge to have dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants or go in search of Bohemian crystal to take home as a souvenir, Prague is bound to charm even the most jaded of travelers.

Yes, after my visit to this interesting city, I can see why Prague is a hot destination in Central Europe and I would definitely recommend that you put it on your travel bucket list.

 

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Restaurant Heimlich Treu, A Berlin Hidden Gem

Restaurant Heimlich Treu, a Berlin hidden gem, is definitely worth seeking out. The restaurant’s name, which translates to something like “remain faithful to us but don’t tell anybody” is definitely a delicious secret. With basically no advertising, learning about the restaurant is strictly by word of mouth from those in the know.

With no sign out front on a nondescript street in Berlin-Mitte, unless someone gives you explicit directions, you would never dream that a trendy restaurant lies a short walk ahead. Luckily, we were told by the concierge at the Adlon Kempinski hotel that you have to walk through two courtyards to get to the hidden restaurant. If it wasn’t for the small brass letters spelling Heimlich Treu beside the open door, you might think you were walking into someone’s home.

The restaurant is a large, open room with white washed brick walls accented with  warm earth tones, exposed beams, dark wood floors and modern lighting. Leather sofas, metal chairs, wooden tables and bold art all combine to give it a cozy, casual atmosphere. At the back of the restaurant, there is also a lovely garden in a third courtyard for drinks and dining in nice weather.

The front of the restaurant features the bar where bartenders prepare cocktails that are inventive twists on classics. And what delicious cocktails they are. Arnd Heissen, head bartender at the Ritz Carlton and one of the top mixologists in Germany, created some of the restaurant’s cocktails. He believes that about sixty percent of what you taste comes from what you smell and he’s known for his unusual syrups, infusions and blends he uses when creating a drink.

The Tempting Mule Cocktail

After being greeted by the welcoming staff, we were shown to our table and given menus. While looking over the dinner menu, I ordered “The Tempting Mule”, a cocktail made with sandalwood infused syrup, Cointreau, lime and Grey Goose vodka. It was very good and reminded me of the sweet spicy aromas of Christmas back in New England. My husband had the “Fern Tree” cocktail made with mint, cedar infused syrup, lemon and Bombay Sapphire East, equally good.

The menu, written in German on one side and English on the other, features tapas size appetizers and main courses that are all meant for sharing. The dishes are modern twists on German food as well as some of the newest food trends. The menu only lists the main ingredients (popular in many restaurants now) but that was not a problem as our waiter explained how each of the items we were interested in was prepared.

We ordered four appetizers…scallops, octopus, pork belly and beets. We also ordered the Ibérico pork main as well as sides of rice fries and spicy cold cucumbers. We enjoyed a tasting of four lemon deserts to finish our meal. Each dish was very good but if I had to pick a favorite it would be the octopus (pulpo), perfectly cooked with an emulsion of chorizo and black garlic. It appears that others agree as it is the one dish that stays on the menu, the other dishes regularly change.

Mike Krause, the very personable owner of Heimlich Treu, joined us at our table after dinner. We talked about his restaurant, his creative cuisine and about Berlin in general. He told us about growing up in East Berlin before the wall came down and how different it is today. During our five weeks of travel in Europe, I would say that spending time with Mike and dining in his restaurant was one of the most enjoyable evenings of our trip.

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When thinking back on our experience at Heimlich Treu, it was a very pleasurable experience. With handcrafted cocktails and very tasty dishes that any foodie would  enjoy, what more could one ask for. If an American foodie like myself found out about the Heimlich Treu, I don’t think the restaurant will remain a secret too long. Yes, I’ll “remain faithful” to the restaurant and return if I am in Berlin again. I’m having a little problem with “not telling anyone” so it will just be our little delicious  secret.

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Hip And Trendy Berlin

Berlin, often called “the most hip city in Europe” is also one of the world’s great cultural centers. It’s eclectic neighborhoods are filled with trendy cafés for foodies, it’s bars and legendary clubs attract a young group for all night parties and there are art galleries and vintage boutiques for the artistic and creative crowd. In Berlin’s historic district of Mitte, you’ll find luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, exclusive high end shops, beautiful parks, endless museums, theaters, and cultural events that attract a chic European crowd, all of which makes Berlin one of the most talked about, vibrant and fascinating cities in Europe today.

Brandenburg Gate, One Of Berlin’s Most Important Monuments

As many times that my husband and I have visited Germany, Berlin was never on our radar as it was further north and east from where we usually travel. When our travel plans to Prague had to be altered because of Hurricane Irma, Berlin ended up becoming the first stop on this year’s trip to Europe.

The legendary Adlon Kempinski Hotel, on the famous Unter den Linden  boulevard, and just steps away from the famous Brandenburg Gate, became our home for four nights. We loved its central location in the heart of the historic district of Berlin. We could easily walk to many of the city’s main cultural and historical sites such as the Reichstag and the Museum Island, which is a collection of five truly outstanding  museums that would take days, if not weeks, to throughly explore.

We had a wonderful junior suite located just a couple of doors down from the hotel’s famous Presidential suite. After two days of traveling to get to Berlin, this very spacious and beautifully decorated room was one we didn’t want to leave. That was until we opened the balcony door and saw Berlin’s famous landmarks all around us .

Normally I do a lot of research before we visit a city and know all the sights and restaurants that I want to visit. Since Berlin was an unplanned stop, I relied on the  team at the Adlon’s concierge desk for help and they were terrific. Since this was our first time in Berlin, they recommended we take a hop on, hop off bus tour to get a feel of the city.

We did take the bus tour for our introduction to this famous capital and I would definitely suggest it to any first time visitor to Berlin.

Berlin has 175 museums and during our stay we visited three. The Deutsches Historisches Museum is incredibly interesting, covering 2,000 years of German history. Upstairs covers a period from the 1st century to the end of WWI while the bottom floor covers the 20th century all the way through to the German reunification. The Neues Museum has outstanding pieces from the Egyptian Museum, the showpiece being the famous bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

The third museum we visited was the Pergamon Museum which happens to be Berlin’s most popular museum. Because of long waits at the Pergamon Museum, the concierge at the Adlon highly recommended booking time slot tickets. That enabled us to skip the ticket lines and believe me, the lines were very long.

We saw the famous Ishtar Gate of Babylon with tiles painted in brilliant blues with reliefs of dragons and lions.

Ishtar Gate of Babylon At The Pergamon Museum

There is also the impressive Roman Market Gate of Miletus.

Roman Gate At Pergamon Museum

The museum also has a huge stone Mschatta Façade from one of the Jordanian desert castles as well as an interesting collection in the Museum of Islamic Art. Each room is filled with long buried treasures 2000 years old or more  gathered from Iran, Asia Minor, Egypt and the Caucasus.

We had wonderful meals during our short stay in Berlin. The Adlon has three different restaurants in the hotel. The Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer which has a two star Michelin rating was fully booked during our stay. The Sra Bua, a modern Pan Asian restaurant was closed during our stay but has since reopened. Their more casual restaurant is the Quarré and we had an early dinner there one  evening at a table looking out at the boulevard and the Brandenburg Gate. On our other two evenings, we left the hotel and enjoyed two very different restaurants that the concierge recommended.  Il Punto, which is within walking distance of the hotel, is  an excellent Italian restaurant and Heimlich Treu, a fairly new restaurant, is a true hidden gem. I’ll be writing about it in my next post, I think you will enjoy learning about the restaurant.

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The Brandenburg Gate At Night

Berlin was a fascinating city to visit and if it hadn’t been for Hurricane Irma, it is a city  we probably wouldn’t have visited. I do hope you get a chance to visit Berlin some day. It really is one of Europe’s most interesting capitols and yes, I would agree with all that call it “the most hip city in Europe” as well as being one of the world’s cultural centers.

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Wanted: Apple Technician, Must Love To Travel

Apple Technician, Must Love To Travel…that is what I would love to have at the moment. Social media has changed how we connect with our family and friends while traveling. Years back, souvenir stands and museum gift shops had lines of people buying post cards. In the small space on the back, we would write, “Having a great time, wish you were here”, mail it and hope the recipient received it before we returned home. Once we got home, we subjected our friends to an after dinner slide show of our wonderful holiday.

Writing A Travel Post During One Of My Previous Travel Adventures

Now everyone is sending selfies to their friends on Facebook, instagram, or twitter. I haven’t sent a post card or bought a roll of film in years, my computer and digital camera making all that unnecessary. I even started a blog where I could share my travels with not only my family and closest friends but also with thousands of others here on Back Road Journal.

Sharing Another Travel Adventure A Few Years Back

When I travel, I have a small carry on suitcase that is filled with electronic equipment…charging cords, battery charges, digital camera, extra camera batteries,  two iPhones, an iPad and an Apple MacBook Pro computer so that I can share my traveling adventures with my readers. At each town I stay in, the first thing I ask for is the hotel’s access codes to their internet and where their hotspots are located.

I Never Travel Without My Computer

I Never Travel Without My Computer

During this year’s almost five week trip to Europe, I found out that the one thing I really needed besides all the electronic gadgets I was hauling around, was an apple technician. Perhaps I need to place a help wanted add, “Apple technician, must love to travel”.

Shortly before my husband and I left for Europe, I was locked out of my WordPress Administration page on my blog. I learned that my operating system was too old and was no longer compatible with WordPress so I couldn’t write a post or answer comments. Off to a computer repair shop where my MacBook Pro was updated with MacOS Sierra. Fast forward to the present and I am in Europe trying to share my travel adventures. A new problem developed, my Safari browser wouldn’t work. Luckily a few days ago Apple came out with MacOS High Sierra so I downloaded it into my computer hoping that all would be well.

As you can see from this latest post, my computer is up and running again with this latest operating system but now I have another problem. I can’t use any of the 1000 or so photos I’ve taken on this trip and downloaded into my Mac with my WordPress blog. Thus, I’m writing the short post and using old photos from previous year’s of writing while I’m traveling.

Social Media is driving me crazy…I wish I had about 4000 post cards to let all of my readers know that “I’m having a great time, wish you were here”.

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My husband and I have another week left on this year’s trip to Europe. When I return home to Florida, I’ll be taking lessons on how to use MacOS High Sierra and perhaps then I’ll be able to share all the wonderful sights we have seen on our travels to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Munich as well as spa and mountain resorts in Austria and Germany and a short hop over the border into the Alsace region of France.

 

 

 

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What A Tale To Tell

What A Tale To Tell. First it starts with a Hurricane named Irma. The week before the hurricane made landfall in Florida was one of worry and concern for my husband and I. Our home is only a mile from the ocean and the intercostal waterway and our community lies within an evacuation zone. That means we are supposed to  leave whenever a severe storm is approaching our area. With a fierce category 5 or 4 storm heading in our direction, our neighbors and friends as well as many thousands across south Florida were all making plans on where to go to escape the  approaching hurricane.

Weather Channel Hurricane Irma

We had a different dilemma on our hands. We had made plans months in advance for a fall trip to Europe leaving on Monday, September 11th. We were supposed to drive two and a half hours  south to the Miami airport for a flight on American Airlines to Prague…that being the day Irma was predicted to impact Miami. What were we to do?

I contacted American Airlines five days out but they wouldn’t consider changing our tickets until two days before Irma was supposed to hit. By then, we knew there would be no way of getting out of Miami as every flight would be sold out and future flights cancelled for days. We frantically searched for two days for a new way to get to Prague.

If you’ve ever had to buy last minute tickets on any airline, you know prices can be exorbitant. The cheapest one way tickets were going from $3,000 to over $10,000 a person. Norwegian Air had a few premium flex (totally refundable) seats available from Orlando to Oslo, Norway for $1700 each and we bought them instantly. We now had a way out if American didn’t come through for us.

Finally we received an email to contact American about our flight from Miami. Just as we suspected, American couldn’t accommodate us on any flights from anywhere on the east coast of the United States to Europe so we cancelled the outbound flights with them but kept the return. Of course we had to pay extra as our tickets were now considered one way fares. You have to do what you have to do, like it or not.

New tickets were finally bought that would involve four airlines. We would fly from Orlando on Norwegian to Oslo, on Air Berlin from Oslo to Berlin,  on Lufthansa from Berlin to Prague and then use the last half of our American Airlines reservations from Munich to Philadelphia then on to Miami.

Plans were now in place, we would be leaving five days earlier than our originally planned trip. We would evacuate but we were going further than others. We now had to get our house ready for a hurricane and then pack. We knew just what to do because last year we left for Europe a day before Hurricane Matthew hit Vero Beach. Uh oh, I hope I don’t see a pattern developing!

Not knowing what we would come back to when we returned home, we secured our house the best we could, rented a car on Thursday before the storm and drove to Orlando in the morning. We were on Norwegian’s last flight out of Orlando at 11 P.M to Oslo, Norway arriving about 2 P.M. the next afternoon. After a five hour layover in Oslo, we flew to Berlin, arriving at our hotel at 9 in the evening. It was an exhausting two days but we were happy to be in Europe. We spent four days in Berlin, then flew to Prague to begin our originally planned trip.

We are now in the middle of our European holiday. By the time we will return home, we will have flown four airlines, been in five countries and spent time in the European capitals of Berlin, Prague and Vienna with their world famous sights and museums. We will have also spent time in wonderful small villages in Austria, Germany and France. It will have been a memorable holiday but I think it will also be remembered as the year of hurricanes.

After seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Irma from news reports, my husband and I count our blessings that our lovely beach town of Vero Beach escaped the brunt of the storm. Some sections of our town had flooding, beach erosion caused damage and some homes suffered wind damage. Owning a two year old house built to the latest specs, the only damage our home sustained was to some landscaping so we count ourselves extremely lucky. More importantly, all of our children that live in south Florida made it through the storm safely so our minds were put to rest. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted by this year’s terrible hurricane season.

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I want to thank all my readers who have sent notes of concern, they were much appreciated. I’ve had problems with my computer but it seems to be fixed now. Over the next weeks, I hope to share this year’s travels in Europe. See you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Arugula Chicken Salad With Mango, Blueberries, Pistachios And A Honey Lime Dressing

Arugula Chicken Salad With Mango, Blueberries, And Pistachios tossed with a honey lime dressing is absolutely delicious but best of all its heathy. Quick and easy to prepare, it could become one of your favorite main dish salads with its combination of sweet, savory, salty and crunchy goodness. The freshly grated ginger in the honey lime dressing adds a little zing and is the perfect complement to all the amazing fresh flavors in this light yet filling salad.

Arugula Chicken Salad With Mango, Blueberries, Pistachios And A Honey Lime Dressing

You might not think of a salad for your evening meal but this one is too good to just serve for lunch. The roasted chicken breast used in this recipe can either be made at home or you can use a store bought rotisserie chicken or even several thick slices of roasted chicken from your neighborhood deli. For an almost instant dinner, just buy some already shelled pistachios, a ripe mango, a carton of blueberries and a bag of pre-washed arugula. Once you are home and in your kitchen, your meal will be just minutes from being on the table.

The honey lime dressing is also easy to prepare. Honey, fresh lime juice and a little oil are quickly mixed together with some freshly grated ginger and then seasoned with a little salt,  and pepper…it couldn’t be simpler.

Arugula Chicken Salad With Mango, Blueberries, Pistachios 

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1 6 oz. package pre-washed baby arugula, about 6 cups
  • 2 c. cubed rotisserie chicken
  • 1 mango, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 pint container fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 c. shelled pistachios

Toss the salad greens with the chicken, mango, and blueberries. Add the dressing and gently toss again and plate. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and serve.

Honey Lime Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. honey, more or less
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients of the dressing together to emulsify. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and set aside until ready to use.

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If you are trying to eat a little healthier or want to lose a pound or two, think about having this salad as a main meal. Roasted chicken with sweet mangos and blueberries along with the added crunch of pistachios makes for a light but filling meal. My husband, who usually grumbles if I say I’m making a salad for our dinner, not only loved it but went back for seconds. Once you serve this salad to your family, I have a feeling they will be wanting you to make it again and again. Enjoy!

P.S. I want to thank all my loyal followers who have left so many wonderful comments, wishes and encouragement about my health. I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me and I’ve very grateful.

 

 

Posted in food, lifestyle, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 63 Comments

Foodie With A Lifestyle Change

Hi, I’m Karen and I’m a Foodie. While most people eat to live, I’m one of those that “lives to eat”. If you have been following my food and travel blog over the last six years, you know that Back Road Journal usually revolves around the food I’ve enjoyed during my travels. My laptop and camera have been a constant companion on trips with my husband as I share our latest food adventure.  I’ve also devoted hours blogging about what new dishes that I have created and shared with friends.

I’ve always felt that if you eat the foods that you enjoy in moderation, your weight won’t fluctuate all that much. If I gained a few pounds, I’d watch what I ate for a week or two and quickly go back to my previous weight.  As I’ve aged, those pesky couple of pounds got harder and harder to lose.

What I hadn’t realized was that when you make a change in your lifestyle, it can also make a big difference in your weight. Before our move to Florida two years ago, I took care of our home in New Hampshire as well as our 13 acre property. I was always busy  gardening, mowing the orchard, going up and down on ladders pruning trees and picking bushels of apples. If I was inside, I seemed to always be going up and down the stairs in our antique colonial home and I was constantly on my feet. I used to say that I could eat whatever I wanted all winter because I knew that the few pounds of weight I might gain would be quickly worked off during the rest of the year taking care of our farm.

No more stairs to climb in our new home in Florida, no garden and orchard to maintain meant very little exercise. Instead I was now spending hours sitting at my computer and it resulted in a slow weight gain of about a 1/2 a pound each month. While it doesn’t sound like much, the overall effect was creating a problem I really wasn’t aware of. My husband was the first to bring it to my attention.

I had developed a constant little cough. My husband mentioned it to our doctor and she to ordered a chest X-ray. It was normal and suggested that I see a gastroenterologist as she suspected that I might have silent reflux. That doctor wanted to know if I had changed anything in my eating habits since the cough had originated. While I hadn’t, I did mention that I had gained almost 15 pounds over the past two years.

The doctor said he suspected a problem called GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and that I needed to lose the weight. He thought that the occasional heartburn that I was having would then go away. He also suggested that I have an endoscopy and colonoscopy  to rule out any other possible medical issues.

The day of my “routine tests” as an outpatient at the hospital was anything but routine. During the endoscopy, I stopped breathing, stomach fluid was aspirated through the endoscope into one of my lungs, the tests were aborted and I had to be resuscitated. I was put on a six day treatment of IV antibiotics. I also given a prescription for a PPI (Proton-pum inhibitors) whose main action is a long lasting reduction of gastric acid production.

Fast forward a couple of months and I’m doing very well. I take a PPI pill each evening before dinner and it has worked wonders with the reflux problem. At first I avoided garlic, onions, tomatoes, citrus, alcohol and chocolate. I’ve been able to slowly add things back but I no longer have an after dinner cocktail and limit wine to one glass or two if we dine out at a restaurant. I don’t drink orange juice anymore and limit caffeine to one cup of tea each morning. My one little treat at night used to be a little Hersey’s special dark chocolate bite but I’ve given those up for the time being as well. To complete my lifestyle change, I started walking a mile a day and when the weather in Florida gets cooler I’ll increase the distance.

As a result of the lifestyle changes I’ve made, I’m slowly losing some weight. I’m now one third of the way back to my ideal weight. Now you might be thinking that I’ll stop sharing recipes or taking you on my food adventures but that is not the case. In my next post, I’ll be giving you a recipe for a salad that you will definitely want to make for your friends and family. After that, I’ll be letting you know about our fall trip to Europe and the fabulous cities and mountain resorts we will be visiting.

I’m happy to be back blogging and I hope you will follow along.

 

 

 

 

Posted in food, lifestyle, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 150 Comments

Almond Olive Oil Cake With Brown Butter Glaze

Think of this Almond Olive Oil Cake like you would that little black dress in your closet. Dress it up or dress it down and it can go anywhere. Who needs  to serve a many layered cake thick with icing after a big meal, your guests will probably say “just give me a sliver”. This almond cake, on the over hand, is perfect to serve your guests even after a big Italian meal. I know because not one of my guests has turned down a big slice. They even say “yes, please” to a scoop of vanilla bean gelato on the side.

This moist and delicious cake with its touch of citrus is terrific without the toasted almonds and the brown butter glaze topping but don’t skip it. The topping adds a wonderful texture and flavor to the cake just as your favorite necklace is the finishing touch on your little black dress. The cake is not complicated to make and is a real crowd pleaser. To me, it makes the perfect ending to any meal you serve to family or friends…not too fancy but memorable.

Almond Olive Oil Cake With A Brown Butter Glaze

Almond Olive Oil Cake With Brown Butter Glaze

Almond Olive Oil Cake

Preheat the over to 350 degrees

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil (extra virgin but not one that is too peppery)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon or from 1/4 of an orange
  • 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange liquor (optional)

Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined. Crack the eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk lightly to break the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a little lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 30 – 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts, zest, orange juice and Grand Marnier, if using. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth and emulsified, about 30 seconds. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 30 – 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to make sure it browns evenly. The cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and cool completely on a rack. In the meantime, make the glaze.

Almond Brown Butter Glaze

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice or to taste
  • 1/2 c. sliced, blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling occasionally. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, remove from the heat and let sit. The butter will continue to darken as it sits. While the butter cools, sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice at a time to adjust the sweetness to your taste. Stir in the toasted almonds. While still on the cooling rack, spread the glaze over the top and let it drip down the sides. Let it sit until dry and completely set before slicing.

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This cake was inspired by the wonderful pastry chef, Gina DePalma. She left our world much too young but not before sharing many of her wonderful Italian dessert recipes. You will see lots of adaptions of her wonderful recipes on the internet. I decided to share my version of her olive oil cake as I start my sixth year of blogging as a “thank you” to all of you who have been such faithful and loyal friends here at Back Road Journal. Once you try this tasty Italian dessert, you too may think of it as the “little black dress” among your dessert recipes. Take it to a picnic, a backyard BBQ, a pot luck supper, serve it to your friends at a Sunday brunch or even at a romantic dinner party. If you would like to dress it up a little, add a dollop of whipped cream, a scoop of gelato or with some macerated fruit along side. It is a simple Italian dessert and yet it is oh so very delicious.

“Thank you” and come back to visit soon.

Posted in food, Home, lifestyle, photography, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 233 Comments