Monday, January 13, 2020

Vienna, Austria; Ritz Carlton and Museums

*Vienna, Austria Part 2
The following are beauty posts inspired from my visit to Vienna, Austria:

     The second part of the week we switched hotels to explore another part of Vienna. We moved over to the Ritz-Carlton. We were told to check-in inside the Executive Lounge, called Club Level. This. Lounge. Was. Amazing. Okay, I know I said that about the last lounge, but this was like a Michelin star restaurant & lounge with a bar! An open bar. The food choices looked like pieces of art. Thankfully they were labeled because I called them things like "Fairy Garden in a jar" haha. We were greeted by the warmest and caring staff. By the end of the stay, they felt like family. Actually from the beginning of the stay. Ms. Gwendolin Glueck, RC's Brand Relations Coordinator, sat with us and learned about our trip and about Briella's Journey. The kids were given their own special check-in and packets filled with activities to do right away. There was also a questionnaire for them to fill out about all of their favorite things so that the staff could spoil them! They had a treasure hunt that let them explore the hotel and even had a prize upon its completed return. The Ritz also had a wonderful children's area at the end of the lounge. This was so great because it allowed us parents to have adult time and conversation while not having to worry about what the kids were doing, they were in the same room. We were able to eat and drink and able to really enjoy the little moments while the kids were forever occupied with the open candy bar and toys. I was in complete awe of the strawberry champagne bar! What?! This was heaven. They also had an impressive full bar with top-shelf everything and automatic wine pouring machine with 8 different bottles of wine. All included when you reserve a room with the executive lounge! I am not much of a drinker these days, but I did enjoy a glass of strawberry champagne. When in Rome..

Automatic Wine Machine

     When we walked into the suite we found balloons! The first stop was the purple balloons tied to a Ritz Kids bag that was full. It had a Ritz Kids rubber duck, a children's set of amenities, and color bath salts for the girls to enjoy the extra-large tub. There was also stuffed lions for each of the kids to keep and an activity book with a guide to Vienna for Kids. The book was tied with ribbon! All the details were beautiful. Then we found child-sized plush robes and slippers for each girl, plus another nice Ritz Kids tote, similar to a smaller beach bag.  Adorable. The red balloons led us to the living room where there was a coffee table full of surprises! There were three slate plates filled with candy! One for each of the girls & then one for the adults. Pure indulgence. They were filled with local desserts that were fresh and amazing. Also left was an envelope with a card inside. It told us that we needed to go to the spa where the staff had a surprise for us, that they had made a reservation for dinner the next night at their Steak House and that Ms. Glueck would be giving us a tour of the historic hotel that was once palaces. There was nothing more that the staff at Ritz Carlton could have done to make my girls more excited to be here and to feel pampered themselves. We were all on cloud nine. This was the nicest hotel we had ever been to and the staff in every direction went out of their way to make sure you had a memorable stay, not just a great stay. When the girls passed the front desk, they were given cake pops! There was candy and water in the entryway, which was great from coming in from long walks, we could easily grab a cold water, "nine gas" meaning no bubbles, or still water, the water we drink in the states.
Front Desk cake pops

     The suite was perfection. It had a kitchen area with a table, a living room with its own bathroom, a double balcony with views to die for including St Stephan's Cathedral with the chevron roof. along with the furniture and decor on the balcony...the candlelit lantern gave it a touch of intimacy and it was the perfect glamorous spot for conversating once the children were asleep. The bedroom was gorgeous. It had steps up to the terrace. The furniture was gorgeous, nothing like hotel furniture. There was even a vanity in the room. The bathroom was probably bigger than Aubrey's bedroom at home. There were three separate areas to the master bathroom. The toilet room, the shower area, and then the sink and bathtub room. Glorious. The girls each had their own bed again which was unexpected and so nice. 

     We changed into our swimming suits and hurried to the spa. When we arrived, they had reserved the pool for us and they must have seen my Instagram because the staff had arranged pool floats for the girls! The pool was quite luxurious and calming. There was underwater music playing Mozart! I mean, have you ever heard of underwater music?

Before bed, we decided to have a jacuzzi party for the girls. I took the balloons in the bathroom and used the colored bath salts to turn the water purple and added the Ritz rubber duckies and the kid's amenities kit, which was designed to look fun for children. Their robes were hung up and I laid out their slippers for after they got out. We eventually added bubbles to the purple water and even more fun was had. I literally felt like we were living the life of celebrities.  They got in their swimsuits and straight to the hot water. There was so much laughter and was seriously the most perfect moment. I have never seen my girls get along together and have so much fun, together. I attribute it to the staff for going over and above to make sure my girls had the best stay of their lives. The #RitzKids club was like no other and made them feel like celebrities. It was truly the most perfect day for our family, everyone had so many exciting things to do, see and eat! We went to sleep that night feeling like Kings (hehe, our last name is King.)

     I could never have imagined that the next day would in fact be a more over-the-top perfectly amazing day! Brian and the girls ate breakfast in the morning in the Club lounge with Ms. Glueck joining them. I was sleeping in due to a migraine, so we got a late start to the day. We set off walking to the Museum of Natural History. Along the way, we found so many fun historical sites! Mozart lived and died in Vienna. Beethoven also called Vienna home and composed many masterpieces there. There were many tributes to them.

The history of the earth and the breathtaking variety of nature can be practically experienced at the National History Museum of Austria. 20 million objects: From insects to gemstones and minerals and pterodactyls, the Habsburgs united everything under the roof of this museum near the Imperial Palace. Numerous taxidermy specimens of animals that are either extinct or threatened with extinction make the collection all the more valuable.

     Inside the museum, they did not allow you to take pictures, but we had received permission to film for the web series ahead of time. I have never had so much fun at a museum before! Brian says I should become a geologist because I spent hours in their minerals, gemstones, rocks, and meteorite rooms. They had a collection, wait, they had every single rock ever known to man (probably). And I do not just mean rocks. These came in every color of the rainbow and had beautiful finishes and sparkles all over them! This collection is one of the most comprehensive and valuable of its kind to be found on the European continent. Each one was labeled with where it was found in the world. We enjoyed going around each display and finding the ones that were from home! Can you believe that? Minerals and meteorites from Missouri end up in a historic museum in Vienna, Austria. Fascinating. Some of the meteorites were too incredible for words. Looking at them, it is hard to believe that they are naturally made. Some looked like crazy pieces of a ufo or things I do not have words for. What do you think about these "meteorites?" How are they so perfectly shaped?
This one is crazy. So perfectly square and metal looking.
The large one was found in Missouri!

     Guess who was super stoked to find her ancestors had an entire exhibit?! This girl! I have taken an AncestryDNA test that showed neanderthals are some of my ancestors (on my mother's side😂.)  There was an interactive booth where you could get 'neanderthaled'. It blended a picture of you and a neanderthal of similar stature. These were so, so funny, we couldn't stop laughing. They are so real looking! We had a lot of fun posing next to our fam and guessed what kind of poses we would have if we were neanderthals-enjoy these beauts. 

The following are mashups between our faces and a neanderthal. Who is who?


In case you were curious what our family looked like in typical Austrian clothing.....

The "Rosetta Stone"
      There was an exhibit that included the Rosetta Stone. I was so impressed and we spent a lot of time showing the children. We had seen a similar stone at the Louvre, but not the Rosetta Stone. I bent down to take a photo with the girls and the stone, swinging my purse towards the side and it tipped me off balance and I bumped the Rosetta Stone! It freaking wobbled and I swear it was in slow motion. I got so dang lucky that it didn't fall. I would be the one that would knock it over. I remember hearing about a boy who broke a priceless statue at a museum and the museum had to sue the parents and their homeowner's insurance for an insane amount.  As it was wobbling I was sure that was getting ready to happen to me. I had a similar experience on a back-to-school night meeting Aubrey's theater teacher. Their classroom was full of props and there was a life-size Barbie box, the ones that the dolls come in. Of course, I did not read the sign & hopped right in as Aubrey was scolding me & made Brian take a picture. Getting out I tripped and almost tore the box as I fell. Both situations turned out fine. To make the story even funnier, later in the trip we remembered this story, but both thought that the actual Rosetta Stone was in the Louvre so we googled it. Turns out the real Rosetta Stone is in a British Museum. Apparently what we saw in the Louvre was an Archaic writing tablet, the first document written on a clay tablet, from 3300 BC. The Rosetta Stone is the first clue to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, written in stone.  So I only almost knocked over a replica, phew. 
     One of the reasons this museum was on my list of to-dos in Vienna was that it had a real Diplodocus skeleton, which was an incredibly huge dinosaur and Briella loves dinosaurs. Like the length of a football field huge. Jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, huge. There was also an Allosaurus from Utah and was 150 million years old. Mind-blowing. I am pretty sure the Allosaurus was the one that terrified me in the original Jurassic Park movie when I was a kid. There was a full-size Pteranodon, Briella loved watching the cartoon Dinosaur Train so she was very familiar with them! (The P is silent.) The museum was awesome enough to create an animatronics model from the cast of a real Allosaurus- it screamed and roared and scared the bejesus out of Briella (and many more young children there.)  I guess she wasn't expecting it to move, because once it did, she came running towards me with her hands on her ears.

     There was an odd exhibit of like every creature in the world, from squirrels to a billion different type of birds, bears, lions, pretty much felt like everything that ever lived on earth-at any point. It was their real, stuffed bodies. Then we came into a grand hall. It had giraffe skeletons, sharks, and all kinds of things, but the most amazing thing there was a freaking NARWHAL! What the heck! I thought they were mythical creatures like unicorns, I truly had no idea they were real. A great story I have to share; Briella was inspecting the teeth inside the jaw of a shark on display....she must have looked a little too close because she was scratched by the teeth and screamed that the shark had bit her. Imagine her call to tell the grandparents that she had been "bitten" by a shark. We will always remember "that one-time Briella was bit by a shark" :) These types of memories are the reason we are here!

Check out this crazy skeleton! It is an Archelon Ischyros, a turtle skeleton found in Kansas, 80 million years ago. It is almost 15 feet in length, the largest known turtle skeleton, ever!  The animals lived in the sea..that was Kansas 80 million years ago!!!!

     We found a cute outdoor cafe on the walk back to the Ritz. It was nice to eat at an actual European cafe for the first time this trip. But we all ordered pizza, although it was very good.
We had to get back to the hotel because we had a schedule of fun things planned, courtesy of the Ritz. We all had
time to cool down and rest a bit (it was a hot walk home,) bathe and dress for dinner. I dressed the girls in coordinating outfits and they looked just adorable. 

     Before the tour of the hotel, the four of us went up to Atmosphere, the rooftop bar with killer panoramic views of the entire city. We were there in the summer so it was filled with gorgeous pink flowers. It was an insta-worthy picture in all directions. Such a chic place to enjoy the city. If you visit between mid-November and Christmas, you will get to enjoy the rooftop in the evenings as the highest Christmas Market in Vienna. Christmas season-themed cocktails, hearty delicacies, and stands of Christmas decor. Christmas Markets in Europe are a special thing. I have it on my list of must-dos, so if you can, definitely check it out and let me know how it was!

     Our personal tour from Gwendolin was such an added bonus. I can appreciate the hotel so much more knowing the history of the building and city. The Ritz Carlton Vienna was once actually four separate palaces that are now connected and now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.  Vienna is a city full of palaces. It was also a city surrounded by walls until 1857 and was meant for nobles. It's where anyone that was anyone would have a palace built, similar to having a to die for Beverly Hills, Malibu, or NYC address. You can still see the distinct four different types of architecture and decor in different areas that used to be the different palaces.

     After the tour, we were escorted to Dstrikt Steakhouse where we had an amazing evening. The girls behaved so well.  It was Aubrey's first time eating a steak! If there was anywhere in the world to eat one, this would be the place-a fine dining European steakhouse guarantees that the meat is the best of the best. There was a steak knife selection presentation, seriously! The chef came out with a large assortment of steak knives for those who ordered steak to choose from. Apparently, there are many high-end brands of steak knives. Aubrey picked the most boring one as it looked like the same knife we have at home, while Brian picked some ridiculously huge one. I had a salad and risotto and a side of mashed potatoes. I ordered mashed potatoes everywhere I go! It's just my thing, a mashed potato connoisseur. What a job that would be! Everything we ate was so flavorful and delicious. I splurged and ordered the "Dstrikt Special" drink and it was so beautiful! Everything edible is like art here! At the end of the dinner, we were surprised with a full-size Vienna Cheesecake, not just a piece. It was topped with gorgeous berries and was rich and creamy. Apparently, Vienna is known for their cheesecake, and rightfully so! We made so many #rcmemories just at this dinner! The atmosphere was very, um, what I call instagramable. Fun, high-end furniture, and themed decor. We visited the lobby bar so Brian could grab another drink and us girls enjoyed all the luxe seating and had a bunch of photo ops. Aubrey enjoyed the candy buffet they had out in the lobby. All the candies were red and Briella is not allowed to have red dye. I wasn't sure if they contained red dye or if they were naturally colored, so I just had her skip it and wait for her candy in the room or Club Lounge. 

Aubrey at the entrance candy bar 
     When we arrived back at our suite, there was a sign that said Be aware of the animals. What in the world?! We entered and the kids ran through a streamer wall that had been built at the entrance. We were blown away. The staff had decorated our suite while we were at dinner! The #RitzKids program is so extravagant. There was a large and colorful tent set up in the living room filled with tons of Ritz Carlton linens and pillows and sleeping bags. It just looked like heaven. I would sleep there. There was even a Ritz fishing pole with a pretend fish on the line! So many origami animals had been placed and hung everywhere. It was any child's dream come true! The staff left the girls a couple more surprise gifts including bubble wands. This stay made the girls feel so special and like it was just for them. VIK- Very Important Kids. It really makes a huge difference on vacation if the children are excited! How will we ever be able to vacation at any other hotel than the Ritz Carlton with a Club Lounge suite ever again?! (RC Lake Tahoe and RC Chicago, you're on our list!) These kiddos are SPOILED. They played around in the streamers over and over, Aubrey taking many "boomerangs" (a photo/video app thing the kids do these days.) They camped out all night and had the time of their lives.

While they were camping, we went to the balcony and was able to enjoy each other's company without the usual commotion and business of the children. It was right at sunset and we lit the candle inside a lantern on the outdoor table, the Ritz has created the perfect ambiance. I have never found a place where both parents and children are both taken care of so well. It's either usually geared towards the kids or parents, but not both! After the girls were asleep, I took a relaxing hot candlelit bath. The bathtub had the most luxurious bath pillow to rest on and there was a potted succulent and candle in a lantern, on the ledge of the bathtub. It was nothing like a hotel bath. Everything was so five-star and elegant. If you do not get to live a lifestyle like this, then you definitely need to splurge on a family trip to a Ritz Carlton. These kids had more fun here than at Disney World plus the adults get just as spoiled, a win-win!

     The next day we set out to find the Museum of Illusions. Another Instagramable picture spot! There were so many stations that we all enjoyed. This was a perfect attraction for all ages. It taught the girls about depth perception, illusions and how to work angles and was a great sensory place fro Briella. This was by far the place we took the most photos. Every scene was its own picture spot! Definitely a trip favorite. They actually just opened another Museum of Illusions in Kansas City at Union Station and I am super excited to take the girls there! The company calls it a fitness center for the brain. 

After playing around at the museum, we kind of just wandered around the city,  wherever it looked pretty, nothing specific guiding us. We found The Hofburg, a massive Baroque Palace. I thought it was cool that there were stations outside where you could fill your water bottles with complimentary water. The skies were turning grey so we hurried along towards the hotel. Along the way, we ran into a rose garden, the people's garden. There were 400 different types of roses and over 3,000 rose bushes and oh so many colors!! We ran around taking all the photos and then it started to rain so we ordered an Uber and went back to the Ritz.

     This was our first time in Eastern Europe and we completely fell in love with Vienna. We agreed that we liked it more than Paris because it still had all the old historic charm but was very clean! We are so excited to go back to Vienna and also to visit Budapest, Bratislava and Prague. We had hoped to be able to visit all of those cities this trip, but there was just so much to do in Vienna!

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