Friday, 2 September 2016

Coming home...

Vienna airport. It's one of those places where you don't go through 'security' until you reach the gate. Not ideal in my book as, while you will need a boarding pass and a passport to get this far (I'm at the gate now) there's no stopping anybody from getting this far with a bag of guns and a stash of bombs. Still, if all goes well it won't be long before the cabin crew is handing out those Island Bakery Lemon Melts biscuits with the white chocolate icing – not that I'll be hungry. Right this minute I'm tucking into a chicken with blue cheese panini (EUR6.60) with a little dish of ketchup that I simply don't need. I'm enjoying a beer too, make that two.

The waitress acts efficient, but the service is slow, not that it's her fault, the problem might be further up the line, like in the kitchen. To add insult to injury, a fly has arrived and he's sniffing round my panini. I bet he hasn't got a boarding pass or a passport.

From noon today I was a free man. Free to walk around the city. I headed for the Danube, only to discover that it wasn't blue, but roughly the same colour as the Thames. Who can you trust these days, eh?

I was on my feet for over an hour and somehow found myself on Taborstrasse, a road that deteriorated the further I walked along it; one minute all was fine, but soon there was graffiti, the odd beggar, odd shops – like one selling dentists' chairs – and cheap-looking pizza joints. Eventually it fell apart and was a jangling mess of tram lines so I turned back and walked towards the river, crossed it and found a quiet Italian restaurant, Cavalieri, where I enjoyed a glass of Chianti, a small bowl of pasta and a cappuccino.

Vienna's famous Ferris wheel
There was still time, I figured, to do something 'touristy' so I headed off towards the big Ferris wheel, as featured in the film of Graham Green's The Third Man. It seemed to be very slow so I didn't take a ride and simply stood there watching the roller coasters and wishing I had three Euros in cash to have a go on the Dodgems, my favourite fairground attraction. In the end I decided to head back to my hotel, pick up my bag and then head for the airport and my flight to London Gatwick.

And now here I am, about ten minutes or so away from finally going through security. I'm sitting in Café Bistro Johann Strauss, it sounds more glamorous than it is; the reality is a place selling paninis, Berner Würstel, Gebackenes Schnitzel, cheeseburgers and something called a Vegetarian Wok. Reasonably priced and Suzanne Vega is playing as I write this, or rather a CD of her song My Name is Luka ('I live on the second floor') is playing. It's one of those songs that's always good whenever I hear it, there are many songs like this, tinged as they are with a little sadness, but good nonetheless.

The 1840 Vienna to Seoul is 'now boarding' and I don't envy those travelling on that plane, the very thought makes me want to go to bed. Fortunately my flight is around two hours so I'm not complaining and I can't wait for those Island Bakery Lemon Melts and a cup of tea. There's another flight, the 1935 to Taipei, and the 1850 to Doha (I've been there), a flight to Sofia (in Bulgaria) and, of course, my flight to London Gatwick, which is not a million miles from where I live. There's a huge queue of people ready to board the Taipei flight.

I'd better get myself through security. See you on the other side, as they say.

The Austria Trend Europa Hotel – it's very good
I must give the thumbs up to the Austria Trend Europa hotel. It was very good, centrally located – I mean really centrally located – right next door (almost) to the Stephansplatz underground station, and a couple of stops from the airport express station, not to mention the shops (there's loads of good shops here) and not a million miles from anywhere if I'm honest.

Room 1411 on the fourth floor... very good
The room was good, everything worked, there was free WiFi, a decent television (that I didn't watch) a pleasant bathroom, coat hangers that behaved themselves and, best of all, a very decent breakfast offering, not forgetting an 'executive' lounge that I never used.

If you're coming to Vienna, it's a sure bet and so easy to reach from the airport: simply take the airport express train – the CAT – (16 minutes) to the centre of town then transfer to the underground, keep an eye out for Stephansplatz and it's a very short walk from there.

And if you're the sort of person that likes shopping, then this hotel is ideally placed for you, bang in the middle of all the shops you'll ever need. And that means all the big brand names too, like Zara and Mango and, well, you get the picture.

I'm now through security and it's 1900hrs, but there's no sign of the plane. Apparently it'll be slightly delayed, according to the man who checked me in earlier, so, like everybody else, I'm amusing myself with technology. Most people are playing with their iphones or tablets, but me and one other person (as far as I can see) have our laptops out – both Macs. Some people are reading books, others are distracted by babies and some are just checking through their bags.

Room 1411, Austria Trend Europa, Vienna
There's a coffee machine branded 'cafe + co' and a vending machine selling packaged sandwiches and chocolate bars, but I'm hanging on for those Island Bakery Lemon Melts and a nice cup of tea.

Biscuit of the Week!
The award for best biscuit of the week goes to the Island Bakery's Lemon Melts. Fantastic! A lemon biscuit dipped in rich white chocolate – to die for!

For further information, click here now!

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