Summer outing: Starbucks

We’ve spent 2+ weeks of being housebound with various illnesses, but today we made our first trip out of the house of our summer vacation.  Destination: Starbucks.

It may not seem like the most exciting, educational or cultured of choices for an outing with the kids, but, for the first trip out in weeks, it was a good choice.  The kids have wanted to get out of the house and do SOMETHING for about a week, and I’ve held off because Liam wasn’t yet quite better, and I didn’t want him to get sickER again before Benjamin’s birthday party last weekend.  Also, Benjamin has gotten a stuffy nose and a cough over the last few days, so I didn’t want to push him, either.  (I’d rather spend our summer inside watching movies, but give the kids the rest they need, than let my frustration about *still* being stuck inside keep me from taking care of my little guys if they need to recuperate from something.)  I wanted to get out of the house, too, especially because the weather today was just so beautiful (perfect blue sky and about 75 degrees).  I just needed to pick a destination.


Benjamin was actually the one with the idea.  I go out (or try to) twice a week and take an hour to drink a coffee and read a book, usually at Starbucks.  The boys always want to come with me, and I almost always say no (because as sweet as they are, and as much as I sincerely enjoy their company, two hours to myself every week is the minimum I need to keep my sanity).  Last week, Benjamin REALLY wanted to come with me, and he suggested that “sometime soon” he could come along.  When I asked if he’d mind if Liam came, too, he thought that was “even better”, so I tucked that idea away and decided to pull it out the first day with great weather that I couldn’t stand being stuck in the house any longer.  And today was that day.


The boys really wanted to ride the bus, so we did.  (I love hanging out with my kids.  To grown ups, the bus is just transport, but to the kids, the bus is a grand adventure.)  When we arrived, Liam got a lollipop, B chose a cookie and I had a coffee.  I had the boys order their items themselves (Liam loved it, B was nervous, but did great) and they got to choose our table.  (Another great treat for a 2 and 4 year old.)  They chose a table for two, and sat across from each other, and I sat next to them.  It was a very grown up adventure.


We really had a great time.  It seems like such a small thing, and kind of a trivial adventure, but for three people who have barely left the house in 2 weeks, it was excellent.  We even stopped at the drugstore on the way home and did a little shopping for the house.  A fun and functional journey — perfect!


Over the next couple of weeks (until our big vacation at the end of July) and then, for the last few weeks of August (after our big vacation) it’s my plan and intention to go on a variety of outings with the kids.  Our collective energy level will determine how adventurous we are — more trips to Starbucks, or a day at the zoo?  We shall see.  For today, it was GREAT to be out in the sunshine, enjoying a little bit of Vienna with my boys.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

As much as I love Starbucks, I’ve been feeling left out — they didn’t have any of the typical US autumn offerings here, and I was thinking that Vienna is probably too cool for Starbucks’ traditional red holiday cups and tasty wintry drinks.  I’d kind of resigned myself to paying the price of giving up my usual coffee holiday merriment in exchange for spending a wonderful, festive holiday in one of the most Christmassy parts of the world.  (It’s a rough life — oh, the sacrifices I must make!)

But today, I went in to Starbucks, and they had the red cups and Christmas drinks!  I know it’s a little thing, but thinking about Christmas has been making me really miss home lately, and this was just a little, familiar thing that made me smile.

There’s a lot to smile about in Vienna right now, though, and it’s absolutely impossible not to feel wrapped up in the Christmas spirit — already.

The first of the Christmas markets open this weekend, and preparations are well underway.  Trees are going up, lights are being strung, wooden stalls are being filled with wares, boughs of pine are decking the aisles, giant chandeliers are being hoisted (literally) into the sky.  Nothing is quite ready yet — the stalls and booths are roped off, and the lights aren’t on yet (mostly), but even so, I feel the excitement and the anticipation of the Christmas season already.

IMG_2407Walking down the Graben (a huge pedestrian shopping area downtown) this evening, and looking at all of the (as yet unlit) decorations, I actually got a little teary.  It’s already so beautiful, and I’m impressed and amazed by the city-wide feeling of festiveness and imminent merriment.

When I came home and walked through the front door, I heard the Christmas music that Dan had put on while I was out.  Some of it is music I grew up listening to at the holidays, some of it has been added to Christmas more recently (mostly by my sister) but all of it means HOME and HOLIDAY to me.  It made me very, very joyful.

I’m very excited about Christmas, but I also miss my family.  I’m not sad, but I so badly wish that I could share all the magic and wonder of this experience with them.  They mean so much to me, and they ARE Christmas to me.  I am here, eagerly anticipating the Christmas season in Vienna, but my heart is split between here and home.

A free cookie

Yesterday evening, I took Benjamin out for some “B & Mommy” time.  I usually go out, twice a week, on my own, for an hour, to get a cup of coffee.  Lately, when I go, he’s been asking to go with me.  I’ve been planning to do more things, just he & I — now that he’s in school, it’s rare for us to spend some time together when I’m not also wrestling Liam.  So, yesterday, we went together.

We went to my usual Starbucks for “coffee” (I told him he could either have hot chocolate or warm milk).  I walked, he rode his bike.  He was so excited to go out in the dark on his bike, and to go with me to get coffee.  We had a really nice trip over, and when we were in line, and B was debating his options, he caught sight of the cookies in the case.  He decided that rather than warm milk or hot chocolate, he’d really rather have a cookie.  When it was our turn to order, I asked for his cookie, and the manager, who was standing beside us, leaned over the counter and whispered something to our order taker.  Then he turned to us, “I think, since yesterday was Halloween, we’re going to give you that cookie for free.”  Benjamin was pretty excited (even though he has no real financial stake in his cookie supply).  I thanked the manager, and so did Benjamin.  He replied, “No problem.  Besides, you’re in here almost every day.”

In my defence, I’m really not in there every day.  I go in twice a week, that’s it.  (I swear.)  But, to a Starbucks crew in the center of the tourist section of Vienna, I imagine that an English speaker (trying to be a German speaker) who comes in regularly over the course of six months is pretty memorable.  (Everyone there already knows my orders — extra impressive because I don’t get the same thing all the time, but they know the choices I select from.)

My first thought was, “Wow, in Vienna, of all places, I’m a regular at Starbucks.  Yikes.”  It’s a little predictable, and a lot American.  But, in thinking about it, I’ve decided I don’t mind.  I like my Starbucks.  It’s isn’t about the coffee — I don’t require my normal American drinks or anything (the things that I get I could get anywhere in Vienna, anyway).  I do love the location — it is the only place at Michaelerplatz where you can sit outside, drink a coffee, and watch Vienna.  But even more, the people there are really great.  They’re friendly, they’re helpful, they let me practice my German on them, and they’re never impatient or irritable when I resort to English.  They’re good at what they do, too — tour buses literally unload in front of the shop, and I’ve been impressed, on several occasions, with the skill and ease with which they deal with the orders (and the myriad languages they’re faced with).

So, I’m ok with being a predictable American who’s a regular at Starbucks in Vienna.  I like it there.


A grande soy chai is still a grande soy chai

Today was probably our busiest day so far:  we looked at two apartment possibilities in different parts of town, Dan went by his new work to get some of the paperwork started and out of the way, we went shopping for non-food grocery items (which here you don’t buy at the grocery store), we went to the bakery (one of my new favorite places) for a loaf of bread and we had the cleaning lady come by.  And that was all before dinner, and in addition to the normal activity of life in a new place with two little ones.  Whew!

It was a very busy day.  With all of our activity, and the fact that Liam isn’t quite adjusted to the time change yet, we’re exhausted.  By 5:00, when we were finished with all of our errands, I was completely drained.  We were headed home and were discussing whether we should stop to grab a little something to treat ourselves on the way home.  I was too tired to walk the extra few blocks, but Dan went, and he brought something home for me:  a grande soy chai, from an actual Starbucks.  Even at home, I would have enjoyed and appreciated something like that after a long day.  But there’s something extra special about having a little treat from home when we’re so far away.  They make it a little less sweet here, but otherwise, it’s so familiar:  the taste, the smell, even the cup (it’s written in English, too!).  Because even though we’re having a wonderful adventure, and it’s great to explore all of the things that are exciting and different, it’s comforting to experience something warm and familiar at the end of a long day.