Last year, we went to the IAEA Ball, at the Hofburg palace. It was phenomenally cool, and the setting was gorgeous and fabulous and opulent. On the other hand, I had a terrible time finding a dress, I wasn’t able to get my hair to behave, and I ripped my already frustrating dress in the first five minutes after we arrived. And although it might sound ridiculous to let anything get in the way of enjoying a ball at the palace, all of that really dampened my spirits about the evening and the experience (although I did, ultimately, end up having a pretty good time).
What a difference a year makes! Yesterday, we went to the IAEA Ball again, and this year, we had a blast. After the frustration of dress shopping from last year, I planned ahead and bought a dress online from the US. (I figured, correctly, that even buying a dress over the computer and not getting to see it or try it on before I purchased it would be LESS of a hassle than finding a dress here.) It was a good choice. I got a great dress for a fraction of what it would have cost here and got it successfully altered. Just being able to look forward to having an appropriate, flattering dress to wear changed my entire outlook on the evening. Instead of being discouraged and deflated, I was excited and enthusiastic. I was able to do my hair (on the first try!) in a new, functional style that I really loved, and did my makeup in just a few minutes so that I ended up feeling pretty and put together. And then, the kids were happy and relaxed to be staying with Jo and watching a movie while we went out. We started our evening a little later this year, so we were home to do dinner and bath with the kids before we went out. When we were all together and ready to leave, everyone was happy. It was a great way to start the evening!
We arrived at the palace for the ball, and hit our first (and only) real snag of the evening. Dan had to switch out his ornately tied tie for a bow tie (which, apparently, is part of the required dress for the palace) which he had to buy on site. We chalked it up to getting an extra souvenir and got on with enjoying our evening.
We did a little dancing on a floor that was every bit as crowded and insane as last year, got our picture taken, walked around to survey the palace in all of its splendor (the chandeliers are particularly remarkable) and chatted with some friends and coworkers of Dan’s. We made it back to the main ballroom just in time for the quadrille — a large, complex, semi-organized group dance that one of Dan’s collegues aptly explained this way: “There are long lines of too many people. It’s like square dancing. They give instruction, although not quite enough, and then the music keeps getting faster.” Which is, in fact, exactly what it’s like. It was tremendous fun to watch, but it went on for quite a while and, given the lack of appropriate seating in the main ballroom, I eventually just gave in and sat down on the marble steps to watch. There was something fantastically inappropriate, and yet perfectly indulgent about sitting on the floor, in a ball gown, in a palace, listening to an exquisite orchestra frantically playing manic quadrille music for several hundred partially intoxicated revellers who had no hope of keeping up. I thoroughly enjoyed myself (and I started a trend — I was the first to sit on the steps in my finery, but many others quickly followed)
After that, the crowds thinned out somewhat, and Dan and I got to do some dancing ourselves. We danced until it was late, we were tired, and my feet wouldn’t take any more. We came home to sweet kids who had been asleep for hours and a happy (if tired) babysitter. We had a great, magical evening. It was everything that a ball at the palace ought to be.