Saturday, November 28, 2015
Finally we saw the Klimt collection with the golden paintings "The Kiss" and "Judith" as the highlights of the 24 works – portraits, landscapes, and allegorical scenes. Klimt contributed considerably to the international avant-garde’s breakthrough in Vienna. The collection was quite lovely.
We walked down through the baroque Palace gardens filled with sculptures and fountains to the Lower Belvedere where we saw Austrian art from the 1960s.
Our tour complete, we jumped on a tram but after a few stops began to wonder if we were going in the right direction. We got out at the next step, which happened to be near a metro station, and we were soon back at St. Stephen's square enjoying lunch in a very nice Italian restaurant. I had spinach with a special poached "Tuscan" egg. At first I was a bit sceptical, but the egg was really nicely done with some egg foam as well. I was just happy to sit down; wearing new shoes while exploring a new city can be a bit painful.
Revived once again, we window-shopped along the pedestrian shopping area. There are lots of really interesting, different shops in Vienna. If truth be told we were really too tired to try anything on.
After another relaxing afternoon tea and another small plate dinner we enjoyed going to the movies and seeing Spectre, the new James Bond movie, in English. This was a perfect way to finish our time in Vienna, a place we would like to return to.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
The Greek story was performed in modern dress on a dark stage. Although it had excellent reviews it really wasn't my cup of tea. Electra, a nasty sort of person, has disassociated herself from society vowing to avenge her father's death by her mother and lover. When she finds out that her brother, Orestes is dead she vows to avenge the death and tries to win the support of her sister. A stranger arrives who turns out to be the brother, Orestes. He kills the mother and her lover. Electra is ecstatic. Everyone is happy. The audience loved the performance. I continue to have a ‘love and like not so much’ relationship with opera.
On the other hand, we were happy to be back at Ulrich's having another small plate for dinner. This time it was an artichoke in a vegetable broth with thin strips of peppers. Once again it was a delicious meal and a fitting end to a very busy day.
In the summer of 1752, Emperor Franz I, Maria Therese's husband, took his royal guests to the newly constructed menagerie in the park at Schönbrunn Palace for the first time. Ever since then, the world's oldest zoo has been operating in Vienna, and is today considered one of the world’s best.
Soon we were watching the pandas munching massive amounts of bamboo and going for rambles in their outdoor enclosure. Both the inside and outside enclosures had a natural design, with lots of greenery and specially designed things for the animals to play with. We were to find this everywhere. The zoo has an excellent record of breeding animals and has produced three panda cubs.
It was lunchtime so we headed for the old breakfast pavilion. It was at the centre of the zoo’s original 13 buildings, some of which still remain. Inside the pavilion was quite grand with high ceilings, giant ornate mirrors all around the walls and huge chandeliers. I was feeling adventuresome and had semolina pancakes for lunch. When they came they had a light dusting of icing sugar. Even though they were in the entrees section of the menu, I think they were really a dessert; however they were quite tasty.
We watched polar bears, leopards, kangaroos, penguins, seals and lots of other animals on our visit. It was amazing how the zoo's historic charm was preserved while creating modern, interesting enclosures.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
We popped into the Court Kitchen for a look behind the scenes of the Imperial banquets. On display were original copper vessels, pans, and molds, along with old kettles and the warming dishes needed to feed the court's 5,000 members.
In the Hofburg's Stephan Apartments, highlights include more than 300 personal artefacts such as gloves, parasols, notes regarding her strict beauty regime, and the death mask made after her assassination. Other fascinating artefacts include a copy of the dress she wore when moving to Austria from her native Munich as a 16-year-old in 1854, a copy of her coronation gown, and a replica of part of her imperial railway carriage.
Empress Elisabeth's Apartments include her sumptuous Living Room, widely regarded as the prettiest of the Hofburg's many rooms and serving both as a living room and bedroom. This was quite unusual as the bed was right in the centre of the room. Another highlight was the Large Salon, home to a fine collection of Louis XIV furniture and a number of Sèvres porcelain vases, a collection of Romantic landscape paintings, and a marble statue of Napoleon's sister.
We liked Ulrich's so much that we returned for dinner. After sharing a salad I had a couple of small plates. One was shredded cabbage served with quince and a balsamic vinaigrette and the other was a fish and chips with little shoestring potatoes and a couple of thin, thin slices of carp done in a really light batter. Delicious and no greasy aftertaste. I wish all restaurants would cook like this.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Sunday, November 22, 2015
We followed one of the hotel's recommendations for dinner. Ulrich's was only a few blocks away and best of all it was casual, very busy and had a great menu of small and large plates. We started with an appetizer of flat bread and little dipping bowls of avocado, hummus and a beetroot dip. Thus the name dip, dip, dip. This was followed by a wild boar schnitzel in pumpkin seed breadcrumbs. Oh my this was very good. I had been a little apprehensive that the food in Vienna might be huge lashings of meat and potatoes. What a great find this restaurant was. I finished off my meal with a tea infusion made with sage leaves, rosemary and thyme with a little honey on the side. This was refreshing and really tasty. In fact I am going to have some as soon as I finish this. If you have these herbs in your garden I highly recommend you try it.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Unfortunately, our little yellow submarine submersible has been taken away. It was connected to the university's archeological boat that has examined a sunken Roman ship in the area. We had enjoyed watching guests going for a ride around the bay in the submersible.
Life is back to a routine where we either swim or walk. Just the other day we had a lovely walk going from Cadaques towards Port Lligat. The highlight of the trip was watching an octopus swim around and then eventually struggling as it moved a rock that was much bigger than he was. I didn't realize just how strong they were.
We are off on our travels for a few days tomorrow and as soon as we return the beautiful warm weather will end and we will have a tramontana, cold winds from the Pyrenees that bring lovely blue skies, cold weather and very high winds.
Friday, November 13, 2015
We opted for Caffe Florian, the oldest coffee house in the world, which has been in operation since 1720. The lovely espresso was served in beautiful cups along with a very tasty croissant. We had been in Florians before but it was a treat even if very expensive. As a Donna Leon fan it was a place I wanted to visit since her Inspector Brunetti likes to go there for coffee or meals.
The Caffè was patronised in its early days by notable people including Goethe and Casanova, who was no doubt attracted by the fact that Caffè Florian was the only coffee house that allowed women. Later Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens were frequent visitors. It was one of the few places where Gasparo Gozzi's early newspaper, Gazzetta Veneta, could be bought in the mid-18th century, and became a meeting place for people from different social classes. In 1750 the Florian expanded to four rooms.
Unfortunately, it was time for us to retrace our steps to the pier and our left luggage. It was sad to say goodbye to Venice, but what wonderful memories.
We admired the Campanile, the Clock Tower from the fifteenth century, and St. Mark's Cathedral with its domes, pinnacles and bronze horses. By now the walking platforms were really crowded and a carabinieri with full leg waders kept us moving. We passed the Doge's Palace, the seat of the Venetian government from the 9th century until 1797 and the home to the Duke of Venice.
It was lunchtime and we found the restaurant we were looking for after negotiating many narrow, narrow laneways and getting lost in a lovely enclosed square. We were well off the tourist track now. I had beautiful pasta nero or pasta made with black squid ink. It was delicious.
We continued our walk ending up on the Rialto Bridge with its many jewellery shops. Many of them were selling items made of beautiful shades of Murano glass. By now the sun was out and things were drying up quite quickly. We walked down Fondamenta del Vin parallel to the Grand Canal. It is such a lovely walk with all the majestic old palazzos lining the canal. It was time to sit down for a glass of wine and to do more people watching. Besides our legs needed a rest.
Tonight was our last dinner with our friends so we made it a celebratory dinner vowing to meet up in Europe or Australia in the next year or so. I hope we do.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The views were magnificent as we drove through the mountains. We looked down on a famous award-winning vineyard from Nikola Hill. The growing conditions, namely the heat and soil, are huge factors here in making wines that are 15% alcohol and higher. Where it wasn't quite as hot and nearer the sea the wines had a lower alcohol content. While we were admiring this view we discovered some wild saffron just at the side of the road. The flowers resemble crocuses.
It was definitely lunchtime. We looked at a few restaurants in the main square but they seemed a bit touristy. Finally, we settled for lunch at a restaurant on the pier right next to where we picked up our tender. It was a lovely lunch of the best mussels I have ever had in a sauce of garlic, tomato and white wine. This accompanied by lovely frites and a local white wine was a perfect way to spend our last hour on Hvar.