Driving in Spain

It pays to know how to drive a manual car because in Europe it is much cheaper to rent one than an automatic. We don’t have our own vehicle in Madrid so we rent from Europcar. Zipcar hasn’t added Madrid to the map yet but they are in Barcelona. If you only want to rent a car for a couple hours every now and then in Madrid then you should check out Bluemove Carsharing. I haven’t tried it myself but I know a few friends who really like it.
There are a lot of car rental agencies out there with tempting cheap prices online but we always stick to Europcar. For a while there was a glitch in their websites between their US and Europe sites where you could rent a car with unlimited miles from the US site much cheaper than the Spain site but unfortunately they figured it out and corrected the glitch. Tip: always shop around. Also, renting from the airport and train stations usually adds on an additional cost.
When we rent we always use an American Express card. They have an auto insurance plan that costs $25 per use and covers more than the “packaged Europcar insurance”. Once we even had an accident where the frame was damaged, it would have cost us a lot without insurance (I can’t remember but it was over $400). But American Express covered it all, it just took a long time and some communication on our part to connect the 2 companies to settle the issue.
If you do rent a car, it doesn’t hurt to get your international driver’s license from AAA; It only cost $15. I’ve rented cars without one but you can never be too sure what to expect if you get pulled over.
Driving in European cities can be really annoying, there are a lot of roundabouts but don’t be intimidated. The roads and highways are fairly easy to navigate and it is worth the cost because you have more freedom to travel and can explore all the hidden places off the beaten path that Spain has to offer.


Bike Vienna

Take advantage of city bikes.  Many European cities offer bike rentals for a small fee, even some US cities are adopting the practice finally.  In Vienna the bike paths are not amazing but almost everyone rides a bike there so cars are used to commuter bikes.

So be at ease and rent a bike.  You register online and pay 1 euro to start which covers the 1st hour.  Additional costs are as follows: 2nd hour: 1 euro per started hour, 3rd hour: 2 euros per started hour, 4th – 120th hour: 4 euros for each started hour. Flat fee for exceeding the hours or loss of the bike: 600 euros.  And you can drop the bike off at any Citybike station.

Warwick Valley Chorale

viennaSince the 8th grade I had been singing with the Warwick Valley Chorale.  I was the first young kid to be a part of the group and introduced a huge influx of high school students into the group.  Many of the long standing members must hate me now for it but they may not remember me as the culprit.  I gave up on singing a long time ago but it still holds a place in my heart.

This year I had the opportunity to go see my old choir sing in Vienna because it so happens that my boyfriend’s mom is part of this Chorale.  So we headed to Vienna to meet up with them and it was really wonderful.  Many of the members that I had sung with have passed on but some are still singing and it was great to see them in Austria.  They sang in beautiful churches with incredible acoustics and the crowds were pouring through the church doors.  But besides that the best part was seeing the giant posters and publicity plastered around the city and the subway tunnels.  It was nice to have a little bit of home, so far from home.

Snowy Vienna

Austria during our Semana Santa break was just what I needed.  Being a New Yorker I really have missed the snow.  I have been traveling around for a while and haven’t made it back to NY for the beautiful snowy winters of the north.  This has made me a bit homesick at times but during March we had the opportunity to visit Austria and see Tom’s mom sing with the local choral from our hometown Warwick, in Austria.  Lucky for us and maybe not for many others, it was snowing like crazy when we arrived.

We explored every bit of Vienna while we were there.  It was a short visit but here are some mini highlights.

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Smoking in Airports

vienna airport smokingAustria loves its smokers and smokers love them Austrian smoker booths.

I’ve been cig free for years now but I can sympathize with those who after a 7/9 hour flight can only think of one thing, that next cigarette.  Even as an ex-smoker I was pleasantly surprised to find that in some European airports there are smoking booths for those who need to satisfy the immediate urge.  These booths satisfy the smoker and yet unknowingly benefit the non-smoker because the air is not fully being shared.  Actually, the smoker is getting an enclosed taste of what it is like for a non-smoker on a daily basis (around other smokers).  Whether it affects them or not is open for discussion but I know that this addiction is hard to kick so having a place to smoke immediately after a flight at least helps alter the rage levels of a smoker having to deal with all sorts of airport delays etc..  At many airports in the states you have to wait to have a cigarette until you make your way outside which can take a long time after waiting for baggage etc.

There used to be and maybe still are smoking rooms.  These are gross because all the tar and smoke gets absorbed into the walls and furniture and even for a smoker it can be unbearable to be in an enclosed smoking room with no ventilation.  But these smoking booths, this may be something I can get behind…since smoking may be around forever.