Hotel Photos: Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna - lobby lounge

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna - lobby lounge

I just returned from a trip to Austria, which always feels nostalgic. Vienna is where I chose to spend time in college - I couldn't believe how grand and stunning the city was. Plus, I have always loved the German language, coffee and cake breaks, and classical music. Vienna was made for me. Today, it isn't trying to be the next Berlin or Brooklyn - there is great innovation and a young spirit, but it really leans into that imperial court feel and coffeehouse culture. I love that. 

The first hotel I stayed in was the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna, in one of the Hansen Suites. The hotel is whimsical and has a hint of French flair - the lobby lounge has pops of color and a huge low-hanging chandelier, while my room was masculine and muted. It's a great choice for Vienna, ever so slightly removed from the city center, but an easy walk to everything you need.

Tiny, Beautiful Things

I became a travel writer/editor because I wanted to live a million different lives. My favorite part of my job is that it lets me step into someone else's shoes for an hour, a day, a week - to spend moments in their ordinary lives that are extraordinary to me. And it makes me think - what are paths they and I didn't take? Cheryl Strayed called these paths the "ghost ships that didn't carry us." 

I am a huge reader but can count very few books as LIFE-CHANGING - "Tiny, Beautiful Things" is one of them. Written by Cheryl Strayed (of "Wild" fame), the book is a series of advice columns that she originally answered anonymously as "Sugar." She answers the most difficult, personal questions of life with endless compassion and complete honesty - and doesn't let you off the hook. 

I read it in the aftermath of what it looks like to take divergent roads when you thought you'd be with someone forever. It completely slayed me, while holding me up. I cannot tell you what this book means to me - and what it has meant to so many friends of mine, as well. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, that you might need to read today: 

  • "Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are....."
  • “Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked across Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me? I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” 
  • “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you'll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
  • "She offers what we wish every mother would: enough compassion to make us feel safe within our broken need, and enough wisdom to hold on to hope." 
  • "Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep."
  • "The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”
  • “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” 
  • "Fear of being alone is not a good reason to stay. Leaving this man you've been with for six years won't be easy, but you'll be okay and so will he. The end of your relationship with him will likely also mark the end of an era of your life. In moving into this next era there are going to be things you lose and things you gain." 
  • "And 'if your Nerve deny you--,' as Emily Dickinson wrote, "go above your Nerve."
  • "Some people will judge and condemn you, but most won't. Our minds are small, but our hearts are big. Just about every one of us has fucked up at one point or another." 
  • "In spite of my fears, I didn't regret having a baby. My son's body against mine was the clarity I never had. The first few weeks of his life, I felt honestly rattled by the knowledge of how close I'd come to opting to live my life without him. It was a penetrating, relentless, unalterable thing, to be his mother, my life ending and beginning at once."

What's Your Cocktail?

So, I don't really like cocktails. I rarely take a second glass of wine, even though the smell of wine makes my head spin with happiness (other smells in this category include: garlic & onion slowly cooking, lemon juice, cinnamon, and parmigiano-reggiano).

But I found a cocktail I love. The "Mr. Pink" is $28 (not cheap) at The Baccarat Hotel on 53rd St in Midtown - and it is a fantastic champagne cocktail. It is now off the menu, so you'll have to ask for it.

You get giddy and tipsy and if you do order one up, you're sipping in a most gorgeous space - huge bouquets of flowers (I love the big globes of red roses), Baccarat crystal chandeliers and glasses, and major people-watching. When you get there, take the elevator to the second floor/lobby level and sit in the Grand Salon area. The bar is seriously opulent so take a look in there, too.

Mr. Pink: Belvedere Vodka, Cappelletti, Fresh Raspberry Syrup, Lemon Juice, Ruinart Rosé Champagne

How To Move

Welcome to Brooklyn Heights

Welcome to Brooklyn Heights

I have moved a lot in my life. Apparently, I still don't know what I'm doing. 

Yesterday, I moved from Boerum Hill to Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood I have always deeply loved. But that's not the point. 

The book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" has been all the rage for awhile now. You are supposed to hold every item you own and see if it "sparks joy." If it doesn't, you toss it. 

Well, as my friend Dayna, an amazing professional organizer, said "You need certain things that won't spark joy, like toilet paper." Exactly. 

And sometimes you can't afford to throw out everything you own if it doesn't spark joy (hello, ten-year-old Target nightstands). You slowly replace those things. 

But the beautiful organic cotton linens I bought at a market in Paris on my honeymoon? Tossed. The relationship is over and every time I looked at them, I thought "Oh, I bought those in Paris with him." I didn't have a negative reaction - but do I need to think that every time I see them? No. On to Goodwill. 

Let's talk about memory boxes. I am a big believer in throwing out REALLY bad photos of yourself. Of course, you need a few photos of the bad haircut from ninth grade or the ridiculous clothing you wore. But in a digital world, would you keep bad photos of yourself? Of course not. Gone. 

I am planning on digitizing all of the old photos I am keeping - I have a million from high school and college. But I don't need hard copies - I will never frame them or blow them up poster-size. Of course, I will keep copies of really special photos. But the rest - tossing. 

Just THROW STUFF OUT. Donate it (like my 150+ DVDs), recycle, or toss it. 

On the day of your move: 

  • Always have a roll of paper towels and a bottle of multi-purpose cleaner. Do you know how much dust gathers in a year, let alone three or more years, even if you have a housecleaner? It's disgusting. You are going to want to spray down your bookshelves and furniture. 
  • Go through your place and collect all remotes, chargers, computers, phones, and cords. Put them in ONE bag. I am currently missing my laptop charger and my Apple TV remote. #dumb
  • I thought I was smart and I'd have one suitcase of clothes packed and one bag of really important/valuable items, like my passport. But then I kept tossing important items into separate bags because so much seemed "important." This turned into, like, ten "important" bags and zero clue as to what is in each bag. 
  • Order pizza on your first night, obviously! Thanks, Front Street Pizza in Brooklyn, for an amazing first-night pie. 

Any tips to add? Do you have a service you've used for digitizing your photos? 

Swiss palm trees, Italian-speaking: Lugano, Switzerland

Sunset in Lugano

Sunset in Lugano

A confession: I love the German-speaking parts of Switzerland so much that I never really cared about seeing the Italian-speaking part, a region called Ticino. I never had enough time and I wanted chalets, alpine meadows, and the guttural, poetic sound of the German language - I've loved the language for as long as I can remember. But on my last trip, I took the train from Zurich to Lugano when I landed to meet Alex as he was finishing a conference.

Italy is so interwined with this part of Switzerland -  Lake Como is just 45 minutes away by car (where we then spent three nights).  "It feels Italian, but it actually works," I texted my friend. I arrived on a rare rainy day and it was still a beautiful sight - paddleboats, swans, the Old Town meeting the promenade on the lake, the mountains of San Salvatore and Monte Brè.

Lugano flower shop

Lugano flower shop

We also took the train 20 minutes to the town of Bellinzona to meet Alex's friends for brunch. The Saturday market was kind of "eh" but the town and castle are super cute.

In Lugano:
Grand Café al Porto:
This doesn't have the totally-cozy-European-cafe feel that I love, but it's still worth a stop (and a cappuccino). Look for the "1803" above the fireplace - the date this historic cafe opened.

Grand Cafe al Porto

Grand Cafe al Porto

Gabbani: A series of gourmet food shops and a small market in Lugano - local cheese & olive bread was a great post-flight, post-train lunch.

Gabbani market

Gabbani market

Piazza della Riforma: The main piazza in Lugano, with the big yellow city hall. This is where I inhaled my jet-lagged, people-watching Gabbani lunch.

City Park: This is such a beautifully landscaped park - gardens to wander, a pink villa in the center of it all, and a promenade along the lake.

City Park

City Park

La Tinera: I was told the best places to eat in Lugano are the grottos outside of town. Since we only had one night, we stayed in the center and ate at La Tinera, tucked behind the main piazza. All the restaurants near the center will have an element of "touristy" and this one was no exception. However, the owner was charming, the wine was delicious, and spring asparagus with two fried eggs=perfect.

La Lanchetta: After dinner, we took a long walk through the city park and found this super buzzy spot on the lake for dessert. A great place to eat right on the lake and I'm guessing we were the only visitors.

Hotel Lugano Dante: I loved this hotel. The room was tiny but among many pluses: a wonderful bed, a small, breezy window overlooking the Old Town, convenient location (7-minute walk downhill from the train station + two-minute walk from the main piazza), super friendly staff, and dog-friendly - made me wish I had my dog!

Plus, a photo from Bellinzona: