Monday, April 25, 2011

The Delights of Vienna - A Favorite

I hope my first travel article whetted your appetite for some interesting, good quality, and hopefully inexpensive travel. Now let’s go traveling.

A couple of years ago Mary Ann and I decided to go to Vienna, Austria. We are sort of working our way around the fringes of Europe. Prior to Vienna we have visited Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Israel and Egypt, mostly on separate trips. Our style is go to one country and try to spend some quality time rather than doing all of Europe in one 14 day blitz. I suppose we will eventually get to the heart of Europe so we can visit France, Germany, the Netherlands, etc. Oh, so many trips and so little time!

Right I digress, back to the story of Vienna. We prefer to travel in the fall as the summer tourists are gone, the weather is good, and often prices are reduced. In my surfing on the internet (and with the touting of Arthur Frommers BudgetTravel) I came to love the website This is a “sell on the internet only” travel agency that puts together inexpensive fly-drive (airplane tickets and rental car) and city tours (airplane tickets, 5 days in a hotel, daily breakfasts, and a half day city tour). We actually booked for early November so we were between the summer tourists and the winter skiers.

This was the second time I had booked a trip on the internet and there is always a degree of fear when you commit the VISA card and don’t have a real person to yell at (or sue) when things go bad. I was amazed about as everything they promised happened and usually faster and quicker than promised. The itinerary was confirmed within hours, if not minutes. The materials, hotel and city tour vouchers, and real honest to goodness airline tickets on scheduled airlines arrived within a week.

I would note that by living in rural Washington State, Mary Ann and I fly out of Seattle, so we always pay extra as usually travel deals are quoted out of New York or other East Coast departure cities. Most air and destination deals will have a reasonable add on rate depending on your departure city. From Seattle we usually pay $150-$200 extra, which is normal for West Coast departure cities. The airlines used by are regularly scheduled airlines, not charters or discounters. We flew American Airlines to Chicago and then Sabena Belgian Airlines to Vienna. Coming home we flew Swiss-Air and American.

Arriving in Vienna we found our hotel to be delightful. It was probably 150 years old with about 45 very large rooms and a wonderful breakfast room. The hotel was about 4 blocks from the ringstrasse, the major circle boulevard around the old part of Vienna. Our first full day in Vienna we scheduled our pre-paid half day guided city tour, so we could get our bearings, and decide where we wanted to return to. We purchased a weeks pass for the trams and subway so we could easily get around. Most European cities have an honor system where they only randomly check tickets or passes. In Vienna we were never checked. Apart from selecting all the attractions to visit, my most important task on our trips is to make sure the “world’s greatest shopper” doesn’t go overboard. I just hate carrying big pots back on the airplane! Actually, we usually limit our buying to small gifts and street art (no frames!) that all pack easily.

The highlights of Vienna included, to my amazement that the Viennese take their dogs everywhere, including restaurants, stores, and markets. It was quite a surprise to have a dog sniffing your leg when you were having dinner in a very elegant Viennese coffee house! They really like their dogs. We spent one of our days taking the train to Salzburg which is just as beautiful as the pictures show. By the way, although we traveled in early November, the weather was sunny the entire week with the temperatures in the high 60’s. Our big splurge of the week was orchestra seats for the Nutcracker Ballet and the Vienna Opera House. It was a real once in a lifetime experience.

Even with the two long flights the trip was a restful, exciting, and fun holiday. Not having to change hotels each day makes for a very convenient vacation. For a week “off the bench” it worked out great. Oh, by the way the combined cost from Seattle for the two of us for the package, including a hotel upgrade was $1786.

Next time, how about an impulse trip to London or a New Years celebration in Paris?      (Published Summer 2002 in the ABA Judicial Division Record)

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