Monday, March 25, 2013

I can't control the weather

but I can control my attitude! And though this weather as witnessed throught the window of our car this morning is dismal I'm making an effort to stay cheerful. Even if it's just putting on my super bright, almost neon yellow tights.

What's your trick to stay upbeat?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Today I covet...

I haven't done one of these in a long time. Probably because I've been so overwhelmed with pretty things for a while now. This clutch, made from real wood and leather is a thing of beauty and awe (though I'm sure for those of us who are prone to cruelty free items the lining could be made from faux leather)

wooden clutch

Monday, March 18, 2013

Honeymoon in Vienna Part 2

Part 2 of our trip to Vienna

Public park
After our Fiaker ride early Saturday afternoon it was still sunny so we took this opportunity of the break in grey weather for a long stroll through the public park and to take some pictures of the local inhabitants.

male duck
And then late in the afternoon it was time for a super special date: my very first face to face encounter with a blogger and a friend, Paula from Paula's Diary! I've been in contact with Paula about a month before our trip and she was most gracious and offered to meet up and take us around Vienna. Saturday afternoon we met for mulled wine in an old Viennese tavern. It's more than 400 years old and part of an older region of Vienna. The tavern is actually underground and has some incredibly steep staircase which is only logical but also a bit adventurous. Well the place was very rustic and charming and with such an inviting atmosphere more than made up for the steep stairs.

Sunday was devoted entirely to Schönbrunn Palace. We had cake in Dommayer Cafe in the vicinity of the Palace as recommended by Paula. We were smitten immediately! Unlike the more obvious place our tour guides recommended this is a place that's not packed with tourists and retains its original Viennese charm and atmosphere. Still the waiters wore tuxedos.

We entered the Palace through the side gate and took a loooong stroll through the garden. The place was full of tourists as well as local inhabitants: cute little critters. We decided to skip the Schönbrunn ZOO and opted to visit it on our next trip to Vienna preferably in warmer months.

When we reached the Palace we had the pleasure of seeing a traditional Viennese New Year's market. Unlike in Slovenia it is customary in Austria to close Christmas markets immediately after Christmas, with the Schönbrunn market being a rare exception.

It was lovely to see that all the vendors sold only handmade items made by Austrian artisans such as gorgeous hand blown glass ornaments, wooden toys, ceramic ornaments and household items. The food stands weren't lagging behind either, they served sausages, baked potatoes with rosemary, pancakes and other Austrian specialities as the sign on the board below says wild boar and Mozart dumplings. We both had a light snack and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the so called fast food.

The "fast food" stand
After the quick snack it was time for an invigorating walk up to the Gloriette and down the other side. The place was packed with tourists and Mr. C and I both felt oh so very smug for having had our cake in the Cafe Dommayer beforehand.

 Making the most out of our journey to Schönbrunn we reserved the tickets to see the inside of the Palace till last after the sun went down thus having cleverly used up our time. The interior of the castle was most informative, I particularly enjoyed to see all of the interesting contraptions and utensils the Habsburgs used in their daily lives but quite frankly the park was much more interesting.
And then it was time for another treat. The lovely Paula and her partner Mr. Paula have invited us to their home for dinner. Mr. C and I felt so incredibly privileged and honored by this. They went to great length to prepare a lavish vegetarian dinner for us, that was based on Indian cuisine. Since Mr. C and I don't get to travel that much, I was so happy at the chance to meet both Paula and her beau to get a "feel" at how real Viennese live and how they interact. They were both also so kind at providing us with abundance of information about what to see and where to go that our stay in Vienna was so enriched by it I can't even begin to describe.

Giant Amethyst

 Our last day in Vienna was a bit on the lazy side. We slept in and decided to go into town for some last minute sightseeing before everything closes down in preparation for New Year's Eve. As we were standing in front of the Museum of Natural History and its twin the Art Museum we realized in horror we only had the time and energy for one. So we visited the Museum of Natural history and it was spectacular. Room after room filled with extraordinary incredibly rare and superbly preserved specimens of minerals, semi-precious and precious stones as well as animal skeletons, fossils....
I was overjoyed to be able to visit their meteorite collection which is one of the most comprehensive collection in the world. We even found the Gibeon meteorite, the same meteorite that's been inlaid into our wedding bands.

A beautiful topaz specimen

the Gibeon meteorite
Our New Year's Eve plans were very last minute, we got wait listed at the Palmenhaus cafe and our reservation came through at the last moment. We enjoyed a lavish and decadent 8 course meal and toasted to New Year 2013 in a leisurely manner while the sky above was illuminated by fireworks and the stereo played the Blue Danube. This is Vienna after all!

basil sorbetto gin&tonic
The next day the sky was grey again and Vienna was covered in thick and damp fog. As much as we had hoped for a quick visit to the Prater we were both unanimous to pack it up and go home because the weather simply wasn't cooperating. Prate will have to wait.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and we managed to see and experience so much. Though we kept the focus on sightseeing we also had plenty of downtime as well as a bit of shopping. As I've said in my previous post, Vienna is very expensive and the focus of our trip wasn't on shopping so we didn't really spend any time in the shops or the dreaded malls. I got another bottle of my favourite and faithful scent, Black orchid by Tom Ford. And we also stopped in an old traditional fabric store that has the finest wools as well as men's accessories. They kindly allowed us to snoop around and take photos but since the price of fabric was upwards of 120 € and all the way to a cool 600 € for a meter of fabric the only thing I could afford were a pair of cheerful striped stockings made in Scotland.

heavenly display

awesome umbrellas

lovely woven cashmere

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Honeymoon in Vienna Part 1

*A very long and much belated post on our honeymoon trip to Vienna which we took last year just after Christmas.

Schönbrunn Palace

We decided early on in our wedding preparations to join the New Year's festivities with our honeymoon. The other decision we made was to travel to a European capital, preferably one that wasn't too distant so we could take the car. Neither of us has ever seen Vienna and with just 4 and a half hours of leisurely drive away it was the perfect choice.
Vienna was at the height of its winter tourist season and was packed to the brim. We had a really hard time finding accommodation too! We found a lovely apartment fully furnished but quite out of the center. For us this was the perfect solution, since the apartment also came with a parking place, so we could come and go as we pleased. We took the car to the centre each day and drove home for lunch if we decided to or stayed in the centre till the evening. Like I said, this worked for us, since we (mostly I) are used to certain routines.
Let me tell you in advance that Vienna is a very diverse city with so much to see and experience that it is impossible to pack it all in. The other thing one has to reconcile with immediately is that Vienna is crazy expensive with each museum/gallery entrance fee ranging between 12 and 30 €. Coffee and snacks can easily set you back 15 to 18 € for two people and a decent lunch will range somewhere upwards of 50 €.
The first evening we took a quick stroll through the centre, popped into Stephansdom and had the best tea ever in an über chick newly opened cafe. The Earl Grey tea we ordered was served in a very Japanese manner with candied sugar, rosemary and cranberries small white porcelain cube dishes . Mr. C got candied sugar, cloves and saffron. Lemon balm wasser while we waited.
The next day we visited the Hundertwasserhaus, which incidentally wasn't recommended by either of the two tour guides I'd purchased (Baedeker and Eyewitness travel) but as it turned out was a favourite of mine and Mr. C's as well. A funky, quirky house built by Hundertwasser's plans and later turned into a museum possesses a sort of calming and soothing quality and resonates the architect's philosophy of life.

Lots of plants and greenery in the Hundertwasserhaus cafe

After coffee and lunch we went to see the Opera house which was fully booked till New Year and then Albertina.

The Emperor Maximilian I exhibition

We had another coffee at Albertina which was served with lemon balm water too. Vienna is famous for its coffee houses tradition and high standards of service so much so that in Slovenia we have a phrase "the Viennese school" indicating that a particular cafe or restaurant has a staff that conforms to the highest standards.
The third day we went to Hofburg, the Habsburg's residence which is a massive and impressive structure consisting of numerous buildings housing various museums and other significant monuments. First thing on our itinerary was the morning practice of Lipizzaner horses in the Winter school which was another highlight of our trip. Unfortunately most of the places we visited don't allow photographing, so no pictures of the cheeky horses. We had such a fun time watching young Lipizzaners practicing and it was just amazing to see how strong minded and stubborn they can be and how gentle and patient the trainers are.

One of the numerous  gilded and ornamented table sets

After practice it was time for one of the chief attractions The Sisi Museum which is entirely dedicated to the beautiful and capricious Kaiserin Sisi. We also saw the Silver collection: a collection of household items of the Hofburg as well as the Imperial apartments. Massive and impressive but also very crowded and highly touristic. Wear sturdy shoes and arm yourself with patience and water.

An igenious way to mark the whine carafes: identical metal plates with the name of the wine suspended from a chain

It was early afternoon when we were done with our tour and for the first time since our trip it got really sunny and almost warm. A perfect weather for the corniest of tourist attractions: the Fiaker ride! Since this was our honeymoon after all we went for it and had a great time. Our Fiaker served as a tour guide as well so we got to see most of Vienna's main attractions from an open coach while safely bundled up in a warm blanket.

Ready for our  Fiaker tour: our horses were named Rocky and Rambo
Tomorrow: more sightseeing, shopping and surprise