A holiday in Vienna

This is a hard post to write. My blog is for me to remember the highs and lows of our year in Italy and Vienna was a holiday (slotted in with Nic’s history conference) that holds both highs and the lowest of lows for me.

Life has so many turns and bumps, when you have been clear sailing for a long time and thinking life just can’t get any better the bumps land hard and everything you know to be so turns into a series of free-falling, not knowing what to do or how to stop. I am going to talk about Vienna as the beautiful city it is, however, please excuse my lack of excitement and lack of cake photos…the wheels fell off my holiday before I could eat cake.

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We arrived in Vienna on Wednesday morning, bright and early as we had decided to take the overnight train from Florence to give the boys yet another travelling experience. The train is very easy and if you are short then probably a very comfortable ride, however, Nic and I were wishing we were a foot shorter when we laid on the sleeper beds.

We stayed in yet another Airbnb apartment and I have to say it was excellent. I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision when booking it as it was a bit out of the centre, however, when we arrived and met our host we all thought it was perfect. The place was big, bright and beautifully decorated in a vintage theme. Asta our host was very helpful and left us to our own devices. Perfect.

In the museumsquartier

In front of the monument to Maria Theresa near the Museumsquartier

To fill in the day we decided to take a leisurely walk around the city centre also ignoring the tiredness that was creeping in. Vienna is beautiful, let me state this clearly. The city is very easy to walk around, however, if you would rather use public transport then you have trams, subway or bikes to choose from. I have to say the subway is the cleanest I have ever seen ( I’ve seen a few) and extremely easy to operate, people are very happy to help if you need it.

I’m not sure if it was because we have been living in Florence where you can feel the grime and dirt of past centuries peeling off the buildings, but Vienna seems incredibly clean, bright and new. It was like they had just painted all the buildings ready for the tourist season.

We were hungry after our city tour and it was getting late so we decided to look up a traditional eating spot in our travel guide. Of course the two we thought sounded good were on the other side of the city. The first one was gone, replaced by a craft store (must have been really good!), however, the second restaurant (Figlmüller) which was just around the corner was an excellent first choice for experiencing Vienna, afterall it is all about the schnitzel!!

Max AFTER he'd eaten

Max AFTER he’d eaten

This place was fantastic and the schnitzel excellent. All their schnitzels are bashed out to 34cm of pure deliciousness. The crumbing light, crunchy and morish. Our server recommended a salad to share and this was actually one of the highlights of the trip. The four of us couldn’t get enough of it, the dressing was a perfect combination of sweet and sour. The potatoes were Nic and my favourite, while Alex couldn’t get enough of the carrots…as for Max, he was loving the 34cm schnitzel!

Wiener Schnitzel

Wiener Schnitzel

We rolled out of the restaurant feeling very happy, satisfied and up for a little more walking. Vienna has a wonderful cafe and food scene that I wasn’t expecting, I will have to do a photo journal post just so you can see what I am talking about. Now though I will take you on a photo journey of Vienna so you can see what I mean when I say it really is beautiful. As for museums I can highly recommend the Kunsthistorisches Museum which contains an amazing collection including one of the world’s largest collections of Old Masters.

A side view of Hundertwasserhaus

A side view of Hundertwasserhaus

If you are up for a hike just outside the city centre, then go and check out Hundertwasserhaus, a beautiful apartment building designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This was a favourite of mine.

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While Nic was at his conference the boys and I checked out the Belvedere which is another dramatically large palace that was commissioned by Prince Eugen of Savoy.

Alex loved petting the fish

Alex loved petting the fish

A view of Vienna from the top of the  water animal zoo

A view of Vienna from the top of the Haus des Meeres

And if you are travelling with kids then I highly recommend a morning spent at the indoor water animal house, the Haus des Meeres. Lots of animals to look at and fish to pat and monkeys walking by…not to mention the view of Vienna from the top of this somewhat very ugly building.

A rear view of the palace from the gardens

A rear view of the palace at Schloss Schönbrunn from the gardens

On our last day we headed out to the Scholss Schönbrunn, which is the former summer residence of the imperial Hasburg family. This place is incredible, from the ballrooms to the gardens. The day was easily spent wandering around the grounds and palace rooms.

I will leave you here and write about the food scene next, something that deserves its own attention.

 

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Thanksgiving I Tatti style

The 28th of November was a glorious sunny day here in Florence and what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Why are we celebrating Thanksgiving I hear you ask? Well this is a valid question. You see Villa I Tatti is part of Harvard University and they celebrate the appropriate holidays of both America and Italy. I have always said ‘when in Rome…..’ It is not too far of a stretch to celebrate an American holiday, after all  we enjoyed 7 years of Thanksgivings while living in the States and we also have our token American/Australian citizen, Alex, so really we are just opening a few more doors to the boys’ international lifestyle (a lifestyle they are going to have to fund themselves after this trip I fear!). 

So without further a due, I have put together a few photos of the day to show you the wonderful community we are involved in here and also to see how well Nic and the other fellows are treated while having their year at I Tatti. I will note this is my first time in the belly of the villa and I have to say I like the style, what do you think? Keeping in mind these professors get lunch served in pretty much the same way 5 days a week!

The proceeding start with a leisurely stroll through the gardens to the main villa,

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And when you reach the top one must stop to admire the fabulous view

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After feeling a little underdressed for such a spectacular view and surrounds we head off with the kids in tow (that’s right, we pulled them out of school for the day as we thought……why not!) we adjourned to the dining hall situated in the heart of the villa. I will have to mention that the art collections hanging on the walls are extremely impressive and old so we were asked not to photograph the pieces so I started my photo journal with the festive squash arrangement as I was walking into the drawing room to start the celebrations with a martini bianco!

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At this point we did the quick ‘kids behave, don’t touch anything, say anything inappropriate to any adult you speak to and for the love of god eat with your mouth closed’ lecture, by which gives you somewhat comfort that they will go off and represent the family well…..

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Anna our gracious host organised the kids down the end of one table while the adults looked on nervously as she then proceeded to sit at the head of their table and mingle with them. Alex was sitting right next to her so she was in for an ear bashing that was a guarantee! As you walk into the dining room, the wonderful staff at I Tatti greet you warmly and take extremely good care of your eating/drinking needs…(I’m seriously surprised we even see Nic home for dinner!)

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Lunch started with a delicious pumpkin soup

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I thought this would of been a touch down moment for the boys because it is their favourite soup, however, I would like to add that it was stated ‘It wasn’t as good as yours mum’…..moving right along with big cheesy grin!

After the soup there were quite a few speeches from Lino the Director of I Tatti, enlightening us on the traditions of Thanksgiving in both English and Italian.

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Once he was finished there was a flash of white, a few gasps and two servers came into the dining room with the biggest turkeys I have ever seen! They were so fast I stumbled with the camera and only managed one photo….

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I was sitting close to the door so I snuck out with another lady and had a peek inside the kitchen to see the hard work being done. I was most impressed with the chefs’ carving skills and I have to tell you that turkey was as moist and juicy as they come.

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Once the meat was carved, the plates were over filled with turkey, stuffing, brussel sprouts, potatoes, pumpkin mash and last but not least cranberry sauce (don’t ask how!).

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The lunch was fantastic, relaxed and you couldn’t help but be very, very thankful for being in a room with such lovely people from all ends of the earth.

The lunch was finished with apple crumble and biscotti, however, I scoffed the apple crumble before taking a photo (what was I thinking!!?) however, dipping the biscotti in Vin Santo is a little slower so I managed to remember in time.

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Thank you Villa I Tatti for a wonderful day of thanks, food, friendship and a very memorable day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Roman Holiday

It has felt like an eternity since I was able to sit down at my computer and see what the rest of the world is up to. Since we arrived in Florence just over a week ago we have had no internet connection until about 5 minutes ago!!!

Please enjoy my quick rendition of our family holiday in Rome before I bombard you with the day to day working of life in Firenze…. and just so you know, it feels so, so good to be here, life IS good x

Buon giorno!

It feels like an age since I last posted, but as I look back at the calendar and see our Roman holiday has been and gone in just over a week, and before that we packed up our lives and moved to the other side of the world- a wee break from blogging seems appropriate don’t you think?

 

The flight over was comfortable though hideously long, however, it had to be done. Alex managed 6 hours sleep out of the 18 hours of flying time, which isn’t too bad at all. Max on the other hand is extremely stubborn and only allowed himself 2 hours for the whole flight!! To say he was a bit of a mess 24 hours later would be an understatement.

 

With flights out of the way and the intense summer heat piercing our white winter bodies we set off into the streets of Rome to blow the boys minds. We stayed in the heart of the centro storico which is close to a lot of Rome you really want to see. This is a first for me as I am usually in a run-down pensione up by the station, so to have a little apartment in the heart of Rome was a dream come true.  As promised, gelato was high on the boys’ list of things to ‘do and see’ and we ticked that off the list in the first hours of arrivingImage

 After a wonderful night’s sleep (and really enjoying stretching out) we started the day with sight seeing, pastries and a little walking…actually a lot of walking. The complaints were minimal as the boys were both eager and wanting to see more of the city. Image

Stopping for lunch was most welcome and with a trusting look at the ‘Lonely Planet Guide’ we found a wonderful restaurant out of the tourist trap with fantastic pizza and icy cold beers.

For dinner we decided to make a yummy salad at home as the ingredients were so cheap compared to Sydney food prices, plus I was dying to eat fresh tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella!

I would love to tell you the evening was an affair of laughter, fun and a bottle of wine, however, it was not to be. I added some deli tuna to our tomato and mozzarella salad for an extra boost and soon discovered it did not agree with me. For whatever reason I seemed to have an allergic reaction to the fish and ended up with a beetroot red body, heart palpitations, headaches, vomiting and welts!!

 

Woohooo, oh what a night!

 

Nic only managed welts, redness on part of his body and a headache, however, woke up feeling fine the next morning. I on the other hand wasn’t so fine and the worst thing of all it was Alex’s 8th birthday!!

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 Thankfully by morning the heart palpitations were gone and the headaches were controlled by panadol so I wasn’t a complete mess. Alex woke up to a few presents sitting on the table; so bursting with excitement he ripped into them and thus began a wonderful day for him. He put on a nice shirt, put gel in his hair and greeted the day with enthusiasm as any 8 year old would on their birthday!

 

Pastries we polished off in the morning and delicious panini were eaten for lunch while standing it a thunderstorm (a welcoming relief from the intense heat). By the afternoon all I could think about was bed so Nic took the boys to a ‘time elevator’ where they learnt about Rome in 5D and then ate more gelato!

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 Ice cream cake was Alex’s birthday request so we popped into the corner shop, found a Vienetta, whipped off the wrapping then Alex proceeded to ‘dress it up’ with beautiful sweet local strawberries (thank goodness). A wonderful birthday was had, he was totally excited with his very own ice cream cake, eating two slices while watching Transformers on dvd and I was even happier to wake up the next morning feeling 100% better.

 

It was time to get on with our holiday!

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