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Forging a Dynasty

It’s our final day here in Vienna and we are heading slightly out of the city to visit Schönbrunn Palace. Referred to as ‘The Summer Palace’, it’s where the Habsburg’s spent the warmer six months of the year when they were not holding court at The Hofburg.

After a hearty breakfast, we take a cab past the industrial and more run-down outskirts, to what would once have been considered countryside and where it would have taken about three days to reach by horse and carriage. It takes us only 20 minutes by car, and as we round our final turn, suddenly there it is – lit up in all it’s glory by the mid-morning sun.
Continue reading “Forging a Dynasty”

A Viennese Whirl

It’s a beautiful, crisp cloudless morning and we opt for omelettes at breakfast time in a vain attempt to soak up some of last night’s alcohol, but everyone is still feeling pretty delicate as we head out into the early-afternoon sun.

We amble along just behind the town hall to a quiet little row of buildings where the Rueff Dance School is located. We head up a  stone spiral staircase and are welcomed into a lovely little studio with a colourfully decorated waiting room. There’s a waggy-tailed dog who comes to greet us and collect some belly rubs, her affectionate nuzzles helping a little with the hangovers.

There’s no-one else here save us, for our activity today is private Viennese Waltz lessons.  Continue reading “A Viennese Whirl”

Walking in a Wiener Wonderland

It’s a couple of degrees colder this morning and we’re all slightly shivery as we arrive at The Albertina to begin our walking tour. Our guide today is a lovely gentleman named Wolfgang (yes, like Mozart) and he begins by taking us up onto the roof of the gallery so we can look out across the city of Wien – what the Viennese call Vienna in their native German tongue. He points out the famous Vienna Opera House, which was built around 150 years ago and was the first major structure to be built on the now-busy Vienna Ringstraße, which also plays home to the Civic Hall and Parliament building. This boulevard was where the old city walls used to stand before being torn down by Emperor Franz Josef, Vienna’s longest reigning Emperor, and part of the Habsburg Dynasty that ruled over Austria for over 600 years. Continue reading “Walking in a Wiener Wonderland”

Oh, Vienna

Today we are up before it’s light, only slightly marred by the effects of last night’s wine consumption, to head to the airport and jet off to Vienna.

Austria’s capital is our chosen destination for celebrating the baby bro’s 30th birthday, and as none of us have even been before, we are all pretty excited (despite the hangovers).

It’s a short two hour flight and we take off as dawn is breaking and land mid-morning – the whole day still ahead of us. The airport is in the industrial outskirts of the city and so we hop a cab to our hotel which is central.

Once we leave the smoky chimneys behind we are greeted by strange trees whose leaves grow in little blobs, reminding me of a child’s painting, and apartment blocks in varying shades of cream and yellow, their windows framed by ornate stucco trims. keeping us company on our ride is the great Danube river, not so blue today, but rather a murky green.   Continue reading “Oh, Vienna”

Islands in the Stream

3am and its raining in Plymouth. The sort of relentless downpour that makes you think the gods have been angered, their fury cascading in bucketloads from the dark and brooding sky. We are soaked through by the time we arrive at the airport -bleary-eyes and overtired but excited to be jetting off to Venice this morning – Italy’s floating city.

A few short hours and we are descending over The Dolomites, their snow-dusted jagged tops casting great angular shadows into deep ravines and crevasses, playing tricks on my eyes. We touch down on time in Marco Polo Airport, where the local climate reveals winter sunshine and clear blue skies; it’s not necessarily warmer than home but thankfully a whole lot drier and brighter. We make our way down to Alilaguna – the public water transport service – heading for the orange line which will take us into central Venice. 

Continue reading “Islands in the Stream”

Black Beauty

Today it’s time to head out to wine country. Luckily for us, Alba is not only home to amazing food, but also happens to be located in the Piedmont region, whose hilly area, the Langhe, is a major wine production province. Yesterday we dipped our toe in the water with Barolo, which left me slightly underwhelmed, and so I am pinning all of my hopes on today to be completely wowed by what Italy has to offer when it comes to wine. Continue reading “Black Beauty”

Drops of Jupiter

Today is our first (and only) full day here in Milan, and so we rise early to make the most of the time we have. Continue reading “Drops of Jupiter”

Day Tripper

So today I’m up before 7 (and on a weekend no less) as I have an early morning summons to be detained at her majesty’s (passport office) pleasure.

Continue reading “Day Tripper”

Wheel of fortune

I adore fairy stories. The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, even Disney. They’ve all been a staple part of my reading diet circa ‘a long, long time ago’. Hence how I find myself here this evening, at a concert about a fairy tale. When my friend invited me to join her for this Hallé orchestra event, she knew I’d say ‘yes!’ straight away given our current mutual obsession with ‘Once Upon a Time’ a TV show featuring all your favourite characters as they battle evil, cross realms, and fire off copious amounts of magic spells. Continue reading “Wheel of fortune”

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