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Even though our ‘Danube Waltz’ trip with @vikingcruises has not been about Christmas Markets specifically, no stop in any town for me was complete without visiting one because there are few things I love more than Christmas in Europe and in particular the holiday markets. Vienna nearly took the prize for my favorite just for the setting alone which I showed one perspective of in Stories already, now here is another. The Wiener Christkindlmarkt takes place in the Rathausplatz in front of the Rathaus, aka: Vienna’s Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus). From @viatortravel, I learned that the building “may pale in comparison to the dramatic neo-gothic towers of the modern City Hall, but the former administrative center is still a charming reminder of medieval Vienna. Although first built in the 13th century, the majority of the present-day building stems from its 18th-century baroque redesign, featuring details like the striking Renaissance portico and the monumental Andromeda Fountain by Georg Raphael Donners. The Old Town Hall housed the magistrate of Vienna until 1885, but today is home to the Museum of the Austrian Resistance Movement, a museum devoted to the Austrian resistance against the Nazis.“ This roots of this particular yuletide market go back to the late 18th century. It moved to its present location in 1975. Estimates place the number of visitors that attend it each year at over 3.5 million. In addition to the stunning location, I loved that this was a market which seemed to sell a fair amount of hand made, local goods instead of only those imported from and made in China as you find in all too many markets and tourists shops these days. 🇦🇹 #MyVikingStory #VikingCruises #visitingvienna #sonya7rii #WienerChristkindlmarkt #rathausplatzvienna #viennaaustria #SonyAlpha

@kirstenalana 72

From Bratislava we traveled with @vikingcruises to Vienna. If you followed my trip to Austria in August, you already know I love the country but this was a city I hadn’t yet visited. Not unlike Innsbruck & Salzburg, it was love at first sight for me. The architecture we saw was mostly a combination of Baroque and Rococo, some of it right next to recently discovered Roman ruins. So the city isn’t by any means a young one and that’s the kind I love the most. There we were, walking down the same streets Mozart once strolled, giving me the chills plus a sense of almost deja vu since that was similar to my experience in Salzburg this summer. The absolute highlight for me, was attending a performance of Mozart & Strauss which included my favorite song. It took place in an old palace that was privately rented out for our Viking group, something any guest can experience as an add on during the ‘Danube Waltz’ itinerary. There’s also the possibility of a visit with the Lippizaner Stallions, the Vienna Boys Choir, waltzing lessons, a Heurigen evening or an intimate tour of the Schonbrunn Palace. No city on our itinerary had as many options as Vienna, making it clear one day isn’t even close to enough. But it was just the right amount of time to make me swoon! 🇦🇹 #MyVikingStory #VikingCruises #sonyalpha #sonya7rii #viennaaustria #austria #visitvienna

@kirstenalana 66

Our stop in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, with @vikingcruises, only lasted a few hours but it was clear to me why people visit. There’s a definite charm to the city from which you can see both Hungary and Austria. In fact it is the only national capital that borders two other countries. We visited Bratislava Castle, which sits 300 feet above the Danube River, for the view out to those other countries as well as the chance to see the city laid out before us. Then we strolled by Baroque city palaces, ornate mansions and Art Nouveau landmarks before stopping to stroll through the various Christmas Markets in the city. I thought this square in particular was the most beautiful with the way the lights reflected on the cobblestones, still wet from that day’s rain. We also learned that gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral was the coronation church for more than 250 years. Eight Queens and eleven Hungarian Kings were crowned there. #MyVikingStory #VikingCruises #SonyAlpha #sonya7rii

@kirstenalana 80

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From Budapest, our @vikingcruises ship sailed through the night and into the next day to visit the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. On the way, we passed through our first lock on the Danube that put us on a man-made canal which runs parallel to the Danube River in an area where the actual natural waterway is part of a National Park. With the big windows on board the Skadi, it felt as if we were living in a snow globe while eating lunch on the ship. Gratifyingly large flakes fell softly outside to merge with the water below us and birds were the only other lifeforms we saw through the drifting white, spots of gray and black riding on the invisible wind. Viking chefs seem to, based on my last cruise and this one, make soup really well. It’s always so good and it’s available for lunch and dinner almost every day. This makes me so happy because I dearly love eating soup when the weather is cold outside! There’s almost nothing better for me except perhaps a hot toddy. So it was that I sat here, savoring my bisque soup and trying to count each and every one of my blessings as a meditation toward happiness. I’ve befriended a fellow passenger who teaches meditation and while I’d love to learn more from her because she’s the most cheerful person I’ve met in a long time, it occurred to me that an easy way to “meditate” is to simply pause and count one’s blessings. There is always *at least* one. And that’s just a part of #MyVikingStory from day two of our #VikingCruise on the Danube River bound for Passau. #shotoniphone #vikingcruises

@kirstenalana 58

Even though we weren’t in Budapest for very long with @vikingcruises, as I said in my last photo, my mother and I fell in love with the city. So deeply in love in fact that as our ship Skadi left for Slovakia, passing under Margaret Bridge, we both felt slightly tearful. I think mum actually did cry! We were on the roof of the Skadi, with a Hungarian song playing over the loudspeakers, shots of a local liquor being passed around that tasted of cinnamon and warmed my throat. It might have been the reason for the water in my eyes. That or the emotion of the moment. I don’t know. If you visit the city, guides will talk a lot about the Hungarian Parliament Building on the Pest side of the river, that I’ve shown in the first photo, one of the largest and most ornate in the world. There’s so much pride in it, built as a result of a design competition, completed in 1904 and currently reigning as the largest building in the country if my research is correct. The Buda side of the river also features many buildings lit up at night so that the city seems to be gilded and floating on a sea of black onyx, rising magically from nowhere. I’ve included a few other photos in this set to show you more from Budapest, including one from the shoe memorial on the banks of the Danube that permanently remembers those who were shot during WWII only to be dumped into the river and forgotten. However they have not been forgotten, as the candles and other tokens of remembrance that can be seen amongst the shoes attests to. It proves that hate and violence may win small some battles but love will always win the real war in the end. 🇭🇺 #MyVikingStory #HelloHungary #VisitBudapest #VikingCruises

@kirstenalana 79

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My mother and I arrived for our ‘Danube Waltz’ hosted @vikingcruises itinerary after dark in Budapest, following a delayed flight that left us with no time to explore the city on the first day and an unfortunate miscommunication over whose turn it was to set the alarm for the next morning, meant my mum and I didn’t get to see as much of Budapest as we hoped to. Nonetheless the dock that our ship Skadi was parked at, under the Chain Bridge, was so well located as to allow us to maximize what time we did have in Budapest to see a good bit of the Pest side of the city before joining an evening outing to the Buda side of the river to experience a local bath house. Almost immediately after stepping off the ship, we found this beautiful covered passageway near the Sofitel hotel and that was quickly followed by the discovery of a Christmas Market with so many hand made gifts, souvenirs and Christmas decor. We didn’t have as long as we’d hoped but we had more than enough time to fall in love with Budapest! Particularly because this passageway, and the city lit up at night, reminded me of my favorite city in Europe - Paris. 🇭🇺 #MyVikingStory #HelloHungary #VisitBudapest

@kirstenalana 47

So funny to pack up & leave NYC for a week of visiting European Christmas Markets with @vikingcruises when it still looks like the middle of Fall in the City. Though I can’t say I was mad about it since if you’ve followed me for a while you know it’s one of my favorite seasons, if not the favorite. My mom came into town a few days before we flew out and she wanted to see all the touristy sights including one of my most beloved: @centralparknyc. She was as wowed by this view as I still am every time I visit this spot. In fact, she seemed to like it better than the Literary Walk or Bethesda Terrace. Close to the SE corner of Central Park, this spot is recognizable by a large outcropping of gray rock that’s easy to climb on top of. I don’t even know how many times I’ve stood here by myself, with friends, or with @dante.vincent but it’s the kind of place which always reminds me how special it is that I am able to call this city home. #newyorkornowhere #centralparkmoments #centralparkviews #autumninnewyork #shotoniphone #iloveny #instagramnyc

@kirstenalana 91

Welcoming December by packing for my mother/daughter Viking River Cruise in Europe. Trying again to pack as light as possible by attempting a capsule wardrobe based on items I was recently gifted by @sezane (FAV brand!! Purse + sweater are still for sale online.) Like my trip to Scotland where I packed based on some items from Barbour, I hope to be able to fit everything I need in my @steamlineluggage Architect case. I just don’t know how everyone does packing light for cold weather trips though. Anyone have some tips?? It’s so funny to me that I’ve been traveling professionally for this long and I’m still a horrible packer 😂🤷🏼‍♀️ Meanwhile, I’m day dreaming of snow falling while we stroll around the festive Christmas Markets, a cup of mulled wine in hand...it still looks like Fall here in the city so my holiday spirit needs all the help it can get. #sezaneparis #sezaneaddict #sezane #steamlineluggage #inmysuitcase • And if you’re not yet subscribed to my newsletter, get on that via the link in my profile. I’ll be doing a giveaway for subscribers only this month. Details to go out tonight or tomorrow. So don’t miss out!

@kirstenalana 51

After our vacation in Scotland, I partnered with @lexususa to do another solo #roadtrip. This time I tested the 2017 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport and while I know I shouldn’t play favorites, I think we did save the best for last! 😝😍 On the road it felt like a crossover vehicle because I was sitting up higher than in a sedan but it handled like a true sports car and yet had the room inside plus the storage in back of a family vehicle. I think I told @dante.vincent more than a few times that it’s what I want to buy if we get a car. Alas, we still live in NYC and I learned the hard way with my second loan from Lexus that parking in NYC isn’t something I can deal with!!! So that will have to happen if we ever move. Anyway, luckily, this experience involved wide open roads, picturesque private lanes, lots of Fall foliage and extensive playlists of my favorite music on @spotify which synced automatically to the vehicles sound system. What did we ever do in our cars before our phones were connected to them?! I have loved the hands-free features of each Lexus I’ve test driven this year and wouldn’t have it any other way now. These three experiences have been a wonderful throw back to the way I first started working in travel, driving! #DriveLexus #ad • But alas it’s time to board a plane yet again this week as my mum and I embark on a Christmas Markets trip to Europe...

@kirstenalana 33

I can’t believe it’s time to let go of Scotland, for now, but it is. My last latergram from vacation in October with @dante.vincent is from our last night in the country at @principaledings on George Street in Edinburgh. The stay was so kindly arranged for us by @visitscotland and I don’t want to say they saved the best for last because I don’t want to play favorites. Then again, Danté and I loved the hotel design by @goddardlittlefair so much that we even wanted to buy some of the furnishings to take home with us!! I couldn’t help but notice that my Architect case by @steamlineluggage looked right at home 😜😍 The staff were so wonderful to us during our stay, going out of their way to help us and even upgrading us to a Suite when there was a snafu at check in. We also enjoyed the chic yet cozy bar where a few rounds of whisky were consumed with a local friend over many stories of travel mishaps and best laid plans gone astray. Despite our trip not turning out in every way we dreamed, I wouldn’t change a thing. There are only two countries in the world that never let me down - and Scotland is one of them. I left a big piece of my heart there when we departed this time. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 #ScotSpirit #LoveScotland #VisitScotland #principalhoteledinburgh #principalhotel #hoteldesign #interiorlovers #steamlineluggage

@kirstenalana 64

It’s funny how @Instagram has changed travel. When I visited Scotland for the very first time, this app was still new. The phenomenon of places becoming “instafamous” wasn’t even the seed of a thought in anyone’s mind yet. That first trip was for the purposes of enjoying Hogmanay in Edinburgh and so my experience was concentrated in or around the Royal Mile, Princes Street, the Gardens and Edinburgh Castle. Fast forward more than half a decade and you surely know how Instagram is now. So when @dante.vincent & I visited Scotland in October for vacation, we’d seen photos of this spot, Dean Village, more times than I can count. Though I’d never been, I felt as if I knew it yet since I didn’t, I was curious to check it out. I wondered if it was in fact as cool as everyone was claiming or if it was just simply as cool as all of Edinburgh is. For a city that’s not too large, it’s a true gem that hasn’t ever let me down. Dean Village was once just that, its own village, separate from the city. Now it’s absorbed into Edinburgh in terms of proximity though I’m not sure how it is legally. Mere minutes from the Castle and the Palace, it feels hours away. No longer a secret as the selfie sticks attested to. But still bucolic. Tranquil. It’s a place where the Water of Leith is heard echoing off ages old stone and flower boxes drip with vibrant blooms even in autumn. If you’re so inclined, you can even pick up the trail that follows the water for a total of 18 miles here in the village. Though sadly, Danté and I didn’t have time. As we walked up the hill back to our car, I wondered what part of the city might be “instafamous” by the next time we visit. And I wondered how the residents of this formerly quiet area feel about their newfound fame... 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 #ScotSpirit #LoveScotland #VisitScotland #HiddenScotland #thisisedinburgh #edinphoto #sonya7rii #sonyalpha

@kirstenalana 38

Though @dante.vincent & I only had one night in Glasgow, it was a really good one with a stay at @hotelduvin and dinner at @cailbruich arranged by @visitscotland. Hotel du Vin is located at One Devonshire, a tree-lined Victorian terrace in the West End of Glasgow. It encompasses five townhouses, now connected, that were built in 1886 and retain their original features such as oak-panelled walls, open fireplaces, sweeping staircases and multi-story stained glass windows. One such window was commissioned by Sir William Burrell who was a resident in 1896. I loved this sitting room closest to the Whisky Library as well as the free standing bath tub in our room which also had these same curved bay windows. The hotel had one of the best porridge breakfasts we had while in Scotland and now that the nights and mornings have turned cold at home in NYC, I wish I could recreate that moment...or the moments spent cozy in a corner booth at Cail Bruich. If you’re passing through Glasgow over the course of an evening, don’t miss the chance to dine here, arriving hungry because the Chef’s menu is extensive, the cocktail list is divine and dessert might just outshine both. I also enjoyed the proximity of Cail Bruich to Hotel du Vin, just close enough to walk to (and on the same street!) but far enough that it was a good way to settle our stomachs for bed, walking home in a misty rain, that sparkled in the streetlights and made the trees glow as if in a fairy land. Sometimes, only one night is needed to fall in love with a place! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 #ScotSpirit #GlasgowLife #hotelduvinglasgow #cailbruich #lovescotland #nextstopglasgow #visitscotland

@kirstenalana 25