Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why do nice things go by so fast?

Due to the fact that Saturday was all raining and wet we had to postpone crucial parts of our trip to Barcelona to Monday and therefore the start of the new week was dedicated to shopping. We met Anja in the morning for excellent breakfast at Café Flamant, close the University and afterwards made our way through Muji, Zara Home and El Corte Ingles on Rambla de Catalunya and Placa de Catalunya, and stopped by the probably most modern and stylish H&M store in Europe located in an old building on Avenida Portal de’l Angel.

After lunch in Bar Lobo, just off La Rambla, we continued walking down Carrer d’Avinyo, a tiny road with lots of nice shops and boutiques as we made the experience that we get to learn a city or area best if we explore it by feet, getting lost every now and then, but as long as we find our way back again, we really know the place afterwards. Hence it should not be a surprise for anyone that also on Monday we walked almost everything - we admit, that we took the bus from Passeig de Colom to Barceloneta! In Barceloneta we enjoyed a drink in Sal Café overlooking the beach and sea – this by the way must be the perfect place to chill in summer – before walking back towards our hotel via Born, Placa de Catalunya and Ronda de la Universitat for a short but absolutely necessary rest.

BCN - Even the garbage truck is branded!

Our local insider Anja who showed us a the city from a Spaniard's point-of-view joined us after work on our last night in BCN for farewell drinks in Bar Dostrece which we kept rather short as our taxi on Tuesday morning picked us up at 0500 to the airport to get back to Vienna on the early morning flight at 0640. Both of us headed straight back to work, are somewhat tired now and sad that the short break is over again. It was a great time with Anja and we are glad that we met her there, as fairly soon she might be back in Vienna again and we won’t have an insider anymore in this beautiful city which combines old architecture and tiny roads with modern design and cool bars and restaurants.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, March 30, 2009

These boots are made for walking

Sunday morning continues where Saturday ended and so we opened our brolly and walked to pick up Anja in her flat and continued to Cafe Olivia, an extremely nice and cosy cafe for breakfast. After breakfast the clouds cleared and we headed on the underground towards Badalona where we watched the ACB league game DKV Joventut Badalona vs. Iurbentia Bilbao Basket in the Palau Municipal D'Esports.

As we had to queue quite long at the ticket desk we just got to our seats on time for tip-off and Markus had to buy the team jersey only at halftime. Verd-i-negra had to make up for the most recent loss at
Tau Ceramica Vitoria, currently leading the ACB, by a huge margin of 34 points and they played very solid and concentrated all game long. Only in the second half the crowd got really going as "La Penya" came up with great combinations and when Ricky Rubio, the 19 year old super talent scored 12 points within 4 minutes to secure a clear 98-77 victory and crown himself game top scorer (coming from the bench) with 15 points.

"Forca Penya" - our support helped today

Once the game was over we headed to Park Guell in the west of the city and from that point on it were only our legs that carried us for the rest of the day. The walk through the park, designed by - guess who - Antonio Gaudi was followed by a stroll down Carrer de Verdi on which we had some refreshments and chilled out in cafe-restaurant Sol i Lluna. We then continued along Passeig de Gran Gracia toward Placa de Catalunya and onwards though the hip quarter "Born" through Barceloneta to the sea. By the time we got there it was 2000 and rather windy and the restaurant we were aiming at - Sal Cafe was already closed. Apart from joggers and people walking their dogs we watched a few surfers waiting for the perfect wave to ride and we then made our way back towards Born and Anja's workplace, the Casa Camper. A few drinks concluded the active Sunday - which was shorter by one hour due to the change to summertime.

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Most of the rain in Spain is falling in England?

Friday night we left Vienna for a long 4-day weekend in Barcelona in and attempt to enjoy warm weather and tasty tapas in this the beautiful city. Upon arrival in the HCC Open Hotel, centrally located close to Placa de Catalunya we met Kerstin’s cousin Anja,who is living and working in Barcelona for drinks in the 7 Sins Bar just opposite her flat. It was great to go out at 2230 and just wear a light jacket as it was so mild.

Saturday morning though, while we had breakfast together in a small Catalan bakery Escribo it started to drizzle with rain lightly. We headed towards La Rambla, stopped by the
Casa Camper Barcelona, a cool design-hotel Anja is working for and had to finally give in to the water pressure and bought an umbrella as it did only stop shortly raining every now and then in order to restart again soon. When Anja started working at 1400 we headed towards on e of the best Tapas Bars in Barcelona, Tapas 24 where we had to queue for 45 minutes in order to get a table. The bar is very well designed, though its only visible once you are sitting there and have time to check it out from your seat. Very friendly staff and excellent tapas have been absolutely worth the time waiting.

The later afternoon we spent in the sea. Unfortunately not the way we expected it and wished it for, swimming, but walking through the
Aquarium, a huge marine zoo by the port with numerous small and large fish. We felt like back in Koh Tao or the Similan Islands diving at times and spent hours inside. It seemed we felt that we would not miss anything outside as rain continued and rather intensified.

Ever seen such a strange fish?

At 2200 we picked up Anja after work again and we headed tor Tapioles 53, a tiny restaurant run by an Australian chef. The restaurant has no fix menu but offers each day different dishes to choose from. It was not typical Spanish food, but absolutely mind-blowing. The setting of the restaurant, in an small former warehouse resembling more a lofty living room than a restaurant made this evening pretty special and made us forget the water coming down.

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Someone used the time machine wrongly

Sunday night Markus travelled with his boss and one of his Scandinavian clients to Warsaw again visiting companies and finding out a somewhat more positive mood within the industries but still far away from economic optimism. The crisis is still visible and tangible, but people got used to it and seem to know now how to handle it.
Enough of winter - we want spring!

While the fact that it was snowing in Warsaw every night with snow even remaining on the roads on Wednesday gave us the impression that the time was turned back and winter is still there it somehow occurred to us these days that the past weeks have been flying by like a blizzard. The last weekend of March is ahead of us. A quarter of the year is over soon. Somehow that’s scary. On the other hand it brings us faster to nice upcoming events like a weekend in Barcelona in the very near future or Sissi & Andi’s wedding and “new arrivals” with friends, colleagues and us lateron in the year.

Kerstin & Markus

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lost in transition?

Today, Friday March 20th 2009 at 12.43 CET we can say farewell to winter and “Welcome spring”. Unfortunately this is only theoretical as temperatures dropped the past few days and we had fresh snow in the mountain regions and even within the city limits of Vienna yesterday throughout the day. It was funny and strange as sunshine and snowfall alternated several times and at the end of the day the snow has vanished again. We do hope very much that this was the last sign and we can unwrap our very own spring-ambassadors on our terraces – tulips we seeded in autumn and have slowly grown underneath protective fleece ever since. It is about time to dig out The Manhattans’1976 record “Kiss and say Goodbye, dedicate it to Jack Frost and let the spring feelings spread!

With the
NCAA basketball tournament underway Markus has plenty of games to watch on the weekend, which he has to squeeze in between more furniture shopping, meeting Mary, Mirko and Valentin for the first time since them returning from their belated honeymoon in Thailand and Markus leaving for yet another business trip with a client to Warsaw with many company visits. Luckily for both him and also Kerstin the NCAA provides online on-demand videos of all tournament games, so he can stay in touch even while on the road.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Madness - Let the games begin

Last night, on Selection Sunday, the US College basketball league's post season has basically been kicked off with the selection of the tournament brackets shortly after the last division-champion has been crowned in the regular season-ending division championship tournaments. While the winner or these tournaments are automatically qualified for the NCAA Championship Tournament (also dubbed “March Madness”), the remaining spots are being filled by an expert team in a selection ceremony.

On Thursday and Friday this week the teams will talk serious in the first round of the
NCAA Championship Tournament. Every game is basically a final and thus intensity of the games will be very high. Whether we will see another game that is only decided after almost 4 hours and after 6 overtimes, like we have had in the Big East Championship Tournament quarterfinal between the Syracuse Orange and the Connecticut Huskies, is rather unlikely, but the teams will show maximum effort every minute of the games.

Let's see whether overall #1 seed
Louisville Cardinals go all the way to claim the title in the Final Four in Detroit on April 6th or whether the Pittsburgh Panthers, for many the best team this year live continue their strength. Coach K, last summer responsible for the US Dream Team in Beijing’s Olympic basketball tournament, is another hot candidate to bring his Duke Blue Devils to the Final Four, but also Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price and Connecticut Huskies, Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners, Tyler Hansbrough & Ty Lawson with the North Carolina Tar Heels or Jonny Flynn and the Syracuse Orange are hot candidate for becoming 2009 NCAA Champions.

Definitely not the road to perdition! The tournament bracket is the road to glory.

To take a look at potential future NBA- or Euroleague players and to find out who will be this year’s NCAA Champion you can watch the games either on ESPN America (available on UPC Digital) or live on the web on a dedicated Video-on-demand site by the NCAA.

Kerstin & Markus

Friday, March 13, 2009

Luxury Life with Marijuana Inc.?

Whenever Markus is not travelling but working from the office – be it in Vienna or London – he can be called a TV junkie. Not that he watches soap operas, reality shows or the children’s programme, but CNBC, probably the best business TV channel globally and closest to the developments in the equity, bond and FX markets is permanently switched on. The TV channel, part of GE, is at the pulse of the markets and provides deep insight with CEO interviews, expert discussions and analysts all over the globe sharing their view on economic data company figures and other events. Geoff Cutmore, Louisa Bojesen, Stephen Sedgwick, Maria Bartiromo, Rick Santelli, Becky Quick, Mark Haines or Jim Cramer (Mad Money) are just a few of the anchor people the financial industry listens to.

Be at the pulse of the markets. With CNBC

During the weekends, when stock markets are closed, CNBC features sporting events like the PGA Tour or Cricket, travel and leisure magazines or luxury life magazines. The latter are on air even these days, when we hear about recession, global downturn and the economic crisis all day long and somehow this does not fit. Very interesting is though a documentation series which started a few weeks ago called “Marijuana Inc.” which – as the name implies quite clearly – is shedding light on the American pot industry. Does CNBC want to tell us something with this documentation? Tough times tend to increase the consumption of alcohol and tobacco – also marijuana?

Check out the programmes, news and opinions of CNBC – bookmark the webpage in your browser – in case you are interested in the global economic developments and business in general.

Kerstin & Markus

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Darwin Year

The late arrival home from London on Sunday evening was followed by re-packing the suitcase, a few hours of sleep and pick up at 0700 on Monday morning for Markus as he had to travel to Warsaw for a 3-day visit to the polish capital with one of his clients. 18 company meetings were on the schedule with the purpose of finding out the state of the Polish economy and the outlook for the companies and their share prices.

It was not surprising that companies and their managers were pretty pessimistic – one has to remember that the Polish currency has massively devalued and lost 11% only this year – and it was eye-opening that visibility was very low. Some corporates dared only predicting the next three months, but not more. Very often we heard that it is crucial to prepare the companies such, that they come out of the crisis stronger. The Darwin Year 2009Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago – is influencing also economies and companies it seems: only the strongest survive.

Evolution - mankind is able to adopt to environmental changes. This man realised it first

The Darwinist approach presented by the companies also motivated Markus to do workout every evening before going out for dinner with his client. Not that it made him stronger, but at least prevented him from adding additional weight but after more than a week travelling Markus is very glad to be back in Vienna where the weight-control and quest for fitness can be pursued much more efficiently.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, March 9, 2009

Shopaholics meet the slumdog

Thursday evening Kerstin, Peter and Lini arrived for a weekend in London and the three got out exploring the city on their own on Friday while Markus was at work meeting clients and helping them cope with the turbulent market environment. The British pound is still at very low levels and thus shopping in London is not only affordable currently but really cheap. With UK interest rates at meagre 0,50% this might not change very fast, but one never knows. So hurry up! The three shopping tourists have been lucky at Mamas and Papas (the girls) and COS (Peter) on Friday.

A french bakery in London - our lifeline for a day of shopping

After a decent breakfast at french boulangerie Paul the four of us tackled Portobello Road market on Saturday morning. We reached there a little bit too late and so it was already extremely busy and crowded, but the perfect weather with sunshine and blue sky made up for the masses. We even found a very nice mirror for our flat and thus the trip to Notting Hill was worthwhile. Apart from Converse Chucks – sneakers we have worn last time as teenagers – we did not find too much more on Saturday but several pairs of shoes on Sunday, a new driver for Markus (will it help his golf game?) and also some nice accessoires for the baby room rounded our appearance as “Shopaholics” up. While we did not find anything at Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store, Peter joined the 30m queue for the till in order to buy a shirt and some perfumes.

Given we made several pitstops at
Pret-a-manger stores, Starbucks and Caffe Neros throughout the days, had a very nice dinner at Gaucho Grill – excellent steaks from Argentina – and lunches at Wagamama and Busaba Eathai our budget also have literally been eaten into.

A sharp contrast to our daytime activities was our visit to the cinema on Saturday evening. We watched oscar-winning “
Slumdog Millionaire” a very moving movie about a Indian boy who grew up in the slums of Mumbai and is being accused of cheating in “Who wants to be a Millionaire” as he is about to win the top price. In a very direct way this movie shows the problems, dangers and brutality of life in the slums and how difficult it is to get out of there. The movie is not “easy viewing” but highly recommendable and absolutely worth the money. It has not hit Austria’s cinemas as of yet, but once it does, go for it!

Having had almost perfect weather on during the three days (only Sunday afternoon Peter and Lini got wet in between shops) our journey home was delayed by more than one hour due to the weather situation. But this could not at all spoil the very nice weekend the four of us have spent together. More pictures you can also find here.

Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spring arrivals - outdoor, in hospital and in shops

The past weekend presented itself as the first sign of spring with sunshine, warm temperatures and typical springsounds - young boys' motorbikes and chainsaws. One would expect to cross roads with these sounds on the countryside - especially chainsaws are rarely used within city limits - but on a lengthy walk through the Prater on saturday afternoon we did hear both of them right in the heart of Vienna and this was the clear signal for us that winter is over soon and we can start looking forward to spring.

Not only nature wakes up and re-starts life after hibernation, sunday also marked the beginning of a series of new life within our friends: Leo, Mimi and Bruno's second son has arrived on Sunday evening with healthy 54cm and 4050g and is such the first one of 4 babies within our group of friends that are currently expected for 2009. We have not had a chance yet to meet Leo, but will soon visit the enlarged family.

The new member of Bella Familia

Tuesday evening Markus supported Austrian Airlines and boarded a plane to London for a business trip and Thursday evening Kerstin as well as Peter and Lini will follow him for a weekend in the UK capital. We haven't got a detailed plan yet what we are going to do, but one can expect a lot of pegnancy outfit shopping and dining. As the British Pound is still pretty much depressed versus the EUR the weekend might either be cheap or we will return with excess luggage.

Kerstin & Markus