I might be making a mistake in having a go at writing this evening because we had a virtually sleepless night on the plane last night (although, technically, there is no night as you head east because you follow the dawn as you go and the sun shone brightly in our window all the way from Vancouver to Frankfurt) so I have been awake for 39 hours straight at this point.
So…… housekeeping first: I include details in my travel blog that may not, in general, be of interest to my family and friends but these ‘My Trip Journal’ travel blogs are read by many people who are looking for tips and travel information when planning their own trips. My own ‘nearest and dearest’ can skip through those parts and might want to just look at the attached pictures which goes the same for whether you want to read my journal or not - you can just look at the pictures instead.
So, this is another cycling tour – but with a major difference. Instead of pedaling up to around 100kms per day Lee is going to drive the support van (i.e. the Sag Wagon) and Bruce is going to be trying out an e-bike. E-bikes are great – they allow someone who might otherwise not be able to do these kinds of trips to continue to do something they really enjoy. We are a group of people, mostly from Western Canada (and a couple of Americans), who have connected on other trips in the past. We are fortunate to have our Polish friend, Piotr, organizing this trip again (he was the mechanic/scout on our Paris to Istanbul ride and led the Poland tour that we did). He has also organized different tours for some of the other people in this group at different times.
Starting off on a positive note: our flights and connections all the way through to Vienna rolled along like well-oiled machinery! From the taxi arriving at our door in Nanaimo 5 minutes early, to the on-time departure of the float plane to Vancouver Airport, followed by the equally on-time departures of both our Air Canada flight to Frankfurt and the onward Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna without long layovers in between each leg – it was amazing! We even lucked in at Security at Vancouver airport because we were pulled out of the very long line of people right at the beginning of the lineup and had our baggage checked separately then, once cleared, we were able to go around the long lineup – don’t ask me why! It seemed to be a pretty random sort of thing as I had seen this Security person haul another couple of travellers out of the lineup ahead of us and I just assumed they were crew or VIPs or some such. Whatever - it was certainly okay with us!!
We were travelling on a 787 Dreamliner for the first time and it is a lovely plane. We were very comfortable (having sprung for Premium Economy seats this time in recognition of the old bones being on a long haul!) and we settled ourselves in with lots of leg room, wider seats and had an excellent meal (beef tenderloin) on real china with real silverware. The continuous, included bar service is, unfortunately wasted on me nowadays, but I did appreciate the fact that it was available (and Bruce definitely appreciated it!).
I was dismayed, however, to see a mother with two young and very active children sit down in the seats directly in front of us but I was confident they would settle down after having their dinner. Not so! We had just finished our after-dinner Baileys when, feeling pleasantly replete and very comfortable, we were settling ourselves down for a pleasant flight. Then the horror began! The children constantly (and I do mean constantly) did that ghastly, piercing, high-pitched squealing scream ALL THE WAY to Frankfurt! Mum did absolutely NOTHING about it and even turned and smiled at me between the seats at one point and no – I did NOT smile back! Now I’m the first person to admit that I have no tolerance for that particular sound but when Bruce eventually leaned forward and loudly said “He needs a good whack!” I knew it wasn’t just me. (How come it’s the kids like this who don’t, mercifully, just fall asleep?) Anyway, the disturbance was appalling and a flight attendant apologized as we were leaving the plane because it had been so unpleasant for anyone seated in the vicinity of these kids.
On arrival in Vienna we had booked a car through www.viennadriver.com to pick us up which, after research, had come up with the best price for two people from the airport to City Centre. Of course, if there is only one traveler, then the airport train is less expensive but with two people it makes sense to have a car take you door to door and it cost only 27 Euro (the train and a taxi from the train to the hotel would have cost in excess of 30 Euro for two). We are in the Novotel Wien City Centre which is very well situated close to the Danube Canal (as opposed to the River) and the old city.
The Novotel didn’t blink when we showed up to check in early - around Noon – very accommodating of them. We had a nap and a shower then went down to the Lobby where we ran into three other riders who are on this trip. There are going to be about 14 riders plus Piotr riding with them. We have arrived a few days early to get over any jet lag before hitting the road and to do some sightseeing in Vienna which we last visited in 2007 (see my blog for our Paris to Istanbul ride at www.MyTripJournal.com/BruceLi
We found a lovely little restaurant called Ramasuri at Praterstrasse 19, just around the corner from our hotel. It was very busy with the after-work crowd and we stood out as the only tourists in there but the waiter, who spoke excellent English, was very friendly and helpful to us and did not attempt to rush us in any way. The food was also excellent.