Wednesday, 31 August 2016

In Vienna...

Took the train to Gatwick airport, enjoyed a chicken sandwich and a glass of Merlot at the airport – by the time I was through security it was lunch time – and then I flew off with British Airways to Vienna in Austria. Great flight, the highlight being the Island Bakery biscuits that were handed out by the cabin crew. I was tempted to ask for more, but from bitter experience I knew I didn't want the portion control conversation. Besides, it was only a one hour, 55-minute flight so I wasn't going to starve to death.

The flight itself was amazing – British Airways always is amazing. Clear skies all the way and no turbulence – it's always good when there's no turbulence.

Mr & Mrs Feelgood's home-made cheesecake – excellent
We landed safely and it took me a while to get my act together and find a taxi, having taken the Express train to the centre of Vienna. But eventually I found one, and 12 Euros later I arrived at my hotel, which at first I thought was going to be a little suspect, but within minutes I realised it was – and I get accused of saying this about everything – a really good place.

My room was one of the so-called 'executive rooms' and it's nice. The bathroom door is made of frosted glass, which, for some reason, I like, and guess what? The hotel has everything covered, something I always worry about. Thanks to the threat of terrorism I didn't bring any toothpaste with me; always a problem, and unless I check my bag in to the hold, I'm scuppered if I bowl up with a tube of toothpaste. But I was ahead of the game as I didn't have any toothpaste when I started out. The plan was to buy some when I arrived in Vienna, but of course I forgot. So it's late, I've had a cheap and cheerful meal in a Nordsee outlet close to the hotel – it might well have been my first ever visit to a Nordsee – and I'm back in the hotel wishing I'd remembered the toothpaste. Why is it that hotels NEVER have any toothpaste in the bathroom? They have everything else, even a sewing kit – does anybody ever use it? I know I wouldn't, because I can't sew to save my life. And then it happened! My hotel DOES have toothpaste! Top marks!

There was a minibar – always good, not that I go mad and work my way through all the beers like I might have done in the past, but I like minibars. There are hotels that offer the fridge, but it's either empty or, worse still, locked, and to me that means just one thing: the hotel doesn't trust its guests.

Free WiFi is available – great if you're a blogger, like what I is – and the bed is okay too, although European hotel duvets are just like making do with a paper napkin to keep warm. What is good is the lighting, particularly the desk light; and let's give a bit of credit to the coat hangers as they're not at all unruly and are currently holding my shirts and stuff without complaining or making a fuss.

There's a safe, containing my passport, and there's a wall-mounted television – an LG. They're always LG, but all the stations bar CNN are foreign or dubbed and besides, I'm not a television sort of guy, unless I'm in the USA where the programmes are so bad it's worth watching. More on the hotel breakfast later.

I brushed my teeth, jumped into bed and nothing happened. I was wide awake, and while I might have nodded off for an hour, I awoke at 0100hrs and couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and worked. Yes, I worked! I wrote three news stories (I won't bore you about my job, though). By around 0245hrs I flopped back into bed and I must have got around four hours sleep before the alarm on my iphone shook me awake. I showered, dressed and hit the breakfast room. Wonderful! The whole works! It was all there and why wouldn't it be? Cereal, cake, fresh fruit, tea, fruit juices, croissants, yoghurt. I could have enjoyed a cooked breakfast, and almost did, but my pig detector went off so I settled for what I'd already eaten – which was virtually everything else, including a piece of cake. I like Europe. They eat cake for breakfast in Europe.

Vienna, of course, is a very cultured place; even the buskers here are classically trained musicians belting out Vivaldi's Four Seasons on street corners. There are some pleasant things to look at in the Austrian capital, like St Stephan's Cathedral – a short walk from my hotel – and it goes without saying that this city has a lot to offer. But I guess I'm not going to see much of it on this trip; there's no time to get around the city before flying back to London. All I'm going to see is shop fronts (yes, they're all here, Mango, Zara, a woman's dream, they've even got shops that left the UK a long time ago, like Spar supermarkets where, incidentally, they don't appear to sell any Lipton's Yellow Label tea. I bring that up because virtually everywhere else in Europe it's for sale, but not here in Vienna. I'm sure Unilever has its reasons, but who I am to know what they might be? In fact I'm sure Unilever has it's reasons for not selling Lipton's Yellow Label tea in the UK, but why not, I don't know. Perhaps it is available, but I've never seen it.
Nope, it's not a mosque...and it's in Vienna, not Abu Dhabi

With breakfast over I walked for about 25 minutes, well, possibly 20, and then I reached my business destination. Now I'm sounding like a SatNav. At odd intervals during the day I managed to get out and walk around and on one excursion I found a bike shop selling those 'sit up and beg' Danish bicycles with chain guards, mudguards, dynamos and all those things you rarely see on bikes these days. Even Brooks saddles! I spent time chatting with the shopkeeper and he said that the more upright you are on a bicycle, the wider the saddle you'll need. Now I didn't know that before. I also didn't know that Brooks saddles can soak up water, so if you have one you'll need to cover it with a plastic bag if it looks like rain as, apparently, they soak up the water and remain wet for days. Not pleasant.

I popped into Mr & Mrs Feelgood, a kind of coffee shop with a health slant to it, selling drinks with the word 'Detox' in the title as well as a pretty amazing homemade cheese cake, among other things. I ordered the last piece and a cup of Earl Grey, the only black tea on offer.

All day I've been feeling depressed and sorry for myself and it's made me not want to be here. And the fact that I'm not going to get any time for sightseeing increases my overall 'down in the dumps' mood. I've kind of been looking forward to this moment all day, sitting here in front the computer in my hotel room, the sound of Vivaldi playing somewhere out there (seriously, it's playing now) and chilling out with a bottle of mineral water and a small bottle of Pago orange juice from the aforementioned minibar. It's almost 2200hrs and I'm looking forward to brushing my teeth and hitting the sack.

Normally, when I'm feeling a little more upbeat, I try to find a coffee shop from where I can read my book – currently Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – and I chill with a huge mug of tea and a cookie. But not today, although I did find a Starbucks. Perhaps later. No, all I want is, well, I don't know what I want if the truth be known, but I do want peace and serenity more than anything, so I guess I do know what I want and I'm just kidding myself by saying I don't.

Somebody is out there, in the streets below me right now, this second, playing Vivaldi on a violin. I hope he keeps it up as I'd imagine there's nowt better than lying on my back in bed, 'adopting the position' and hearing the Four Seasons, live, and only a few feet away from me.

One thing I would like to see – and possibly experience – is that Ferris wheel that features in the film of Graham Green's novel The Third Man, which was set in Vienna. I've read most of Green's novels and I'm wondering now whether it was The Third Man that features a hotel room in which there was a painting of the Bay of Naples on the wall. Weird if it is, because here I am in Vienna and only a week or two ago I was in Naples. A long time ago I was on the Greek island of Spetses reading John Fowles' The Magus, now there's a coincidence (which you'll only understand if you've read The Magus).

I'm hoping I'll be in a more upbeat mood tomorrow.

Because the date and time is often out of kilter on this blog, I'll let you know now that today is Wednesday 31 August, it's currently 2155hrs and I'm about to hit the sack. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I should be out there drinking in one of the many bars close to my hotel, munching a Viennese Whirl, perhaps, and listening to Vivaldi. Well, I'm doing the latter right now, but I'll give the bars and the cake a miss. Perhaps tomorrow, but in all honesty, I'm travelling alone, not that I'm complaining, but when you travel alone you walk a lot – or I do. In fact I've walked a lot today and now I'm feeling a little weary, and there's nothing better than hitting the sack when I'm feeling weary, so goodnight all and we'll talk again tomorrow.

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