Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Smitten with Schmitten

Now this is a white Christmas (Kitzsteinhorn)
We've skied some pretty amazing resorts while living in Austria -- Bad Gastein, Stubaier Glacier, and Bad Kleinkirchheim -- but nothing quite like the two in Kaprun:  Schmitten and Kitzsteinhorn.  Kaprun is a quaint Austrian town situated on a lake -- Zell am See -- featuring year-round recreation:  365-days-a-year skiing (glacier skiing at Kitzsteinhorn in the summer), mountain biking, hiking, climbing, swimming, and paddling.  I'm not sure if it was because several inches of snow fell during our three days of skiing or because the terrain was unlike anything I'd skied in Austria (certainly a combination of both) since Schmitten is, at least for now, my favorite resort in Austria with Kitzsteinhorn a close second.  The terrain at Schmitten reminded me a lot of the terrain at Snowbird, Utah:  easily accessible and extensive off-piste terrain, steep groomers, and trails unlikely to see a snow cat all season.  Great terrain and fresh snow = great turns. 

Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!
We arrived in Kaprun on Friday evening, skied Schmitten on Christmas Eve, headed over to Kitzsteinhorn on Christmas Day, then hit up Schmitten again the day after Christmas.  We were hopeful and optimistic that we'd arrive to decent snow conditions but were prepared to turn this ski vacation into more of a apres ski vacation -- this hasn't been the snowiest winter in Austria -- so we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived to lightly falling snow that progressively got heavier as Christmas Eve wore on.


On Christmas morning it was sunny, clear, and crisp with several inches of fresh snow...a Christmas miiiiiirrrraaaacle!  (And for the second consecutive year:  last year we also woke to fresh powder on Christmas day.) 
Fresh tracks accessible from a t-bar.  Go figure.
Praise Father Christmas!
Hurry, fresh tracks await!
I'm trying to go that way really fast but I think something -- a snow-covered rock? -- is in my way
This is one reason to be smitten with Schmitten...
...and this another.  The reason, in fact.
Not so graceful tumble in the powder but I skied out of it.  Really.
About to carve up these slopes like a Christmas turkey!
And the chicken, too!
A wonderful Christmas break even if the Abominable Snowman had taken up residence just outside our apartment:
Don't try anything, Mr. Snowman.  We know how to carve.

Frohe Weihnachten aus Österreich!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Patatas Bravas & Mashed Potatoes

This year Lisa and I celebrated Thanksgiving twice:  the first being the Sunday prior when we prepared a traditional mini-Thanksgiving feast and the second being Thanksgiving day when we wandered around Barcelona.  Our pre-Thanksgiving feast featured all the usual items (albeit in smaller quantities) -- slow-cooked turkey breast, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans with slivered almonds, made-from-scratch cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie -- whereas our actual Thanksgiving meal was a couple rounds of mojitos, some sangria, a small bag of potato chips, and, eventually, several tapas dishes.  And instead of cold and dreary weather in Vienna, it was sunny and warm in Barcelona.  The sunshine alone was reason enough to pour forth the gratitude on this Thanksgiving weekend... 
Dusk settling over Barcelona harbor
Then there was the overflowing-with-mint mojito.  Thank you, Cubans.
Mintiest mojito I've ever had
And the indulgent, greasy goodness of a bag of potato chips:  Thank you, American chef behind the creation of the modern-day potato chip.
Potato chips, mashed potatoes -- I suppose either one will do for Thanksgiving day
And thanks to those who didn't openly ridicule our fashion faux pas:  twinners!  
Lapping it up on the tiled, sinewy bench surrounding the Banc de Trencadis at the Park Guell
Also a nod to that which inspired such architectural brilliance from Antoni Guadi:
The La Sagrada Familia Cathedral anchors the city and is still under construction after more than 100 years
This facade is the real deal
The interior of this cathedral rivals that of any other cathedral in the world
Lastly, thank you, Spain, for the genius behind combining fruit and wine and bringing chocolate back to the Old World. 
A (nutritious!) meal in a glass...
Moderately spiced patatas bravas complimenting a sweet and fruity sangria
Spanish hot chocolate so ridiculously thick and sweet...
...it's served in a mini-mug with a spoon.