The internet is a great thing.  Discuss.  Actually, no let’s not go there, let me rephrase that slightly.  The internet has made travelling a lot easier.  Not just for the booking of travel and accommodation, but also choosing where to eat and what to do.  Here is a quick example from last night.

We had not long arrived in Vienna, had unpacked, put the first load of washing on and were ready to eat.  We headed out through the park (as this was the fastest way to get to the city centre).  We had heard that they generally eat early in these parts (i.e. restaurants stop serving at 9:00-9:30) so we headed out earlier than usual but we had no idea where we were going to eat, so an evening of roaming aimlessly around Vienna lay before us.

As we walked though the park we heard music.  “The Beatles..again” Karen commented (there were a few Beatles tracks at Burgerfest the previous day). We headed towards the sound and discovered that “Help – A Beatles Tribute Act” were playing.   I have no idea how long they had been playing before we got there, but we stood and watched them for an hour. (Actually, I stood and watched them.  Karen danced, sang along and told me exactly what album each track came off and whether we have it on vinyl and on US import and whether it was currently sat in the loft.  It’s fair to say that Karen likes the Beatles).  The band were American (or Canadian, who can tell) and looked atrocious with there awful mop top wigs. But….boy could they play.  Even a musical Luddite like me spotted that they were good.  2 could really sing, the other one…well, let’s not worry about him and the drummer in true Ringo style kept schtum.  Half way through their set they explained who they were and asked that if we liked them could we like them on their Facebook page (which Karen dutifully did when we got back later that night).

Now I was enjoying the performance, but my stomach less so.  It was getting on for 7:30 and I was starting to get peckish.  One thing that I have noticed from this trip is that you are never far from wifi.  I even walked into Spar this evening (sorry, Spar Gourmet.  Yeah, who knew they existed) and checked my phone thinking “they will probably have wifi. (They did).  But wifi in the middle of a park?  Well, if I stood near the front of the gig, no.  If I stood in the flower bed by the cafe, yes!  So you can guess where I stood for most of the evening.
So I opened TripAdvisor, clicked nearby, filtered by price (obviously!) and in a few minutes found a reasonably rated, affordable restaurant just 500 meters from the hydrangeas that I was stood on.  A couple more clicks and I got directions.  So when the band finally finished, we headed off and 15 minutes later we were sat jn a great place with great food, great beer and great apple strudel. Not bad considering we had no idea where we were going to eat when we walked out of the apartment.

The thing is TripAdvisor is a double edged sword (as anyone in the restaurant trade will tel you.  Am I right Tibu?). The problem with TripAdvisor is that it is written by people who actually think that anyone cares about their opinion.  It’s written by the narcissistic people who go on holiday and write a blog because they think that their friends are interested on their “witty” and “rye” observations on life.  The comedian Sean Locke once said that Twitter was for people who had to continue a conversation even when everybody else had left the room.  TripAdvisor is the ultimate  tool for the dinner party bore who “must tell you about the fabulous/awful service he had in a restaurant”.  Needless to say, I’m a signed up member.

The main problem with TripAdvisor is that everybody is different and has different standards/expectations.  I’m sure in time TripAdvisor will have better profiling.  All it takes is some simple questions such as:

Is good service to you:
a) One on one waiter service
b) An attentive and friendly waiterc
) They more or less get the order correct.

Are table cloths in a cafe:
a) An absolute must
b) An indication that it’s too expensive
c) What’s a tablecloth?

How important is it that you can sit down in a bar:
a) Imperative, especially with my arthritis
b) If we can get a seat, great, but it’s not a problem if we don’t
C) There are only 2 positions to adopt in a bar;  vertically drinking or horizontal on the floor passed out.

You get the idea.   If they did this, then we could all work out if we have similar ideals.  Today we decided to go on an open top bus trip.  Now I know some of you are already sneering at us, but they are a great way to find your way around a new city.  We looked up on TripAdvisor the best options and there seemed to be some disagreement as to who was the best between the 3-4 operators.  Big Bus seemed to be winning, but one review complained “It’s the usual earphones plugged in for multiple languages affair, seemed a bit short on detail considering the history Vienna has. We passed several interesting buildings that we’re never mentioned in the commentary”.  Err, there are literally hundreds of beautiful and interesting buildings in Vienna, you can’t get an explanation of each of them in a 90 min tour.

Eventually we went for the Big Bus tour and were sold our tickets by a really chatty and helpful Australian bloke who filled us in all that we needed to know and even gave us some tips on places to eat.  We boarded the bus and had a really enjoyable 2 hour trip.  We intend to do the other line tomorrow morning and the “Vienna in the Films” walking tour as well.

When we alighted from the bus our friendly Ozzie chap was there and asked if we enjoyed it.

“Ah you guys online?  Would you mind going on TripAdvisor and saying what you thought, good or bad?  I’m Danny the Ozzie if you want to mention that”.
So now I have lined up to review:

– Our flight to Amsterdam-
Our Prague Accommodation (Very good, but should really mention the 77 steps)
– Our bus trip
– The Beatles Tribute act
– A pan scourer I bought from Amazon
– All the other activities/travel/accommodation which we have yet to experience.

It’s going to make another 3 weeks feeding back on the holiday. So I figure if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.  So if you like this blog, please like on Facebook, retweet it, forward it your friends, print it out and stick it in a phone box, do anything, please, my self esteem is relying on it!

On a more positive note though the Caketion is really kicking off now as we are in the absolute cake heartland of Europe. Today was Sachertorte. There are hundreds of variations of this Viennese classic and the one I had today was quite heavy on the jam, which was nice.  Recipe, as usual, below.

 

Transport Tally
Cars x 1
Plane x 1
Train x 4
Bikes  x 1
Trams  x 8
Boats x 1
Bus x 1
————–
Sachertorte
This chocolate cake is said to be invented in Vienna by the chef Franz Sacher in 1832. It improves if left a day or two before cutting
Ingredients
140g/5oz plain chocolate
140g/5oz unsalted butter, softened
115g/4oz caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 free-range eggs, separated
85g/3oz ground almonds
55g/2oz plain flour, sieved
For the topping and the icing
6 tbsp apricot jam, sieved
140g/5oz plain chocolate
200ml/7fl oz double cream
25g/1oz milk chocolate
Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a deep 23cm/9in round cake tin then line the base with greaseproof paper.
Break the chocolate into pieces, melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally, then cool slightly. Beat the butter in a bowl until really soft, then gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate and the vanilla extract and beat again. Add the egg yolks, then fold in the ground almonds and sieved flour. The mixture will be quite thick at this stage.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Add about one-third to the chocolate mixture and stir in vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
Bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until well risen at the top and the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.
To make the topping, heat the apricot jam in a small pan and then brush evenly over the top and sides of the cold cake. Allow to set.
Make the icing by breaking the plain chocolate into pieces. Heat the cream until piping hot, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted, then cool till a coating consistency. Then pour the icing on to the centre of the cake. Spread it gently over the top and down the sides, and leave to set.
For the ‘icing’ writing, break the milk chocolate into pieces then melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Spoon into a small paper icing bag or polythene bag and snip off the corner. Pipe ‘Sacher’ across the top and leave to set.
Recipe courtesy of: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sachertorte_59630

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