Paris day 1.5

Arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon. Did an exchange with a great apartment on the rue des Martyrs, which is one of the liveliest and most delicious places I’ve ever known. Yesterday, I bought 2 interesting goat cheeses (one with truffles and the other with figs) at the fromagerie across the street, some really good bread, some Italian wine (!), a Chinese summer roll with shrimp and pad Thai. I should mention that none of these, except the bread, is easily accessible in Nice. Of course, the temperature in Nice is around 60 during the day, while in Paris it is more like 40. So there are compensations on each side.

Today was fantastic. In the am, I walked to the nearby Galeries Lafayette to see the Christmas decorations.

I ended up buying some pants and a hat as I was freezing. It being Black Friday week, I got 30% off, even though the French have no idea why it is Black Friday.

From there I met some Niçoise friends for lunch at a Moroccan restaurant in the 11th. Wonderful bride’s fingers (flaky pastries stuffed with shrimp), assorted Moroccan salads (tomato, carrot, pepper, eggplant and chickpea) and the best pastilla I’ve ever eaten. Washed down with a Moroccan red that was quite tasty.

From there we went to the Marais to shop. There is a Spanish label that I like a lot and I ended up buying 2 blouses, also at 30% off. Bless the French for instituting Black Friday even though they don’t know why. Then to a Jewish deli where I could satisfy my unrequited craving for pastrami. It’s more peppery than ours, which my friend Annie attributes to the fact that most French Jews are Sephardic and thus like a bit of spice. Don’t know if it’s true but I made a sandwich for dinner with their homemade challah and chopped liver. I’m not in Kansas (i.e. Nice) anymore.

Vienna day 3

I made a dumb mistake, misreading the opening hours for the Museum of Fine Arts which, it turns out, is not open on Mondays during the winter. So Nicole and I took the hop on/off bus tour, getting off at Schoenbrunn palace.

After our tour we rewarded ourselves with the famous Sacher torte at the hotel Sacher. Good but not as good as my mother’s.

It’s been a fine trip and I’m eager to get back to Nice and Ellie. My next jaunt will be to Paris at the end of the month, so expect to hear from me then.

Vienna day 2

Last night’s concert was amazing. Not the Vienna Philharmonic which is currently touring in South Korea, but a string quartet in the smaller Brahms Haal. We were a bit annoyed that we were required to check our coats and even more annoyed to find that the seats were not cushioned, I.e., very uncomfortable. But I finally figured out that there was a good reason for both: the acoustics were simply superb. All the cushioning and heavy coats absorb sound so it was a fair trade off. The program was unadventurous (Beethoven, Haydn, Dvorak) but the musicians were first rate. They are called the Haydn Quartett and I could find nothing about them in English but apparently they are the house quartet for the Musikverein.

Today was also replete with Kultur and food. Breakfast was again over the top.

Our first stop was the Staatsoper (opera house) where I had booked a one-hour recital, which consisted of a very good Austrian baritone, a rather over-dramatic Hungarian mezzo and a lovely Italian pianist, performing selections from Mozart, Brahms, Wagner, Saint-Saens et al. This was also in a smaller hall, rather than in the main opera and once again the seats were uncomfortable. But the experience was lovely. Believe it or not, I was quite hungry when the recital ended, so we wandered into a charming little restaurant away from the center where I had–naturlich–Wiener schnitzel.

From there we walked to the design museum (MAK) to see the Wiener Werkstatte collection. I was underwhelmed by the sparseness of the holdings which were not nearly as large as those at the Neue Gallerie in New York.

Also by this point I could barely walk. We took a taxi back to the hotel where I am now resting up from all my activities.

Vienna

Arrived in Vienna last night for 3 days of art, music and of course, eating. Today started with a huge breakfast at the hotel, with a ton of cakes, cheeses, sausages, scrambled eggs, etc. I’ll photograph it tomorrow but take my word, it was over the top.

Then to the Albertina which has gathered every last Durer in existence, it would seem.

Followed by a walk to the Naschmarkt (the big daily food market) where we wandered for a while and then had a delicious lunch of more sausage and cheese with an excellent white wine and a special digestif of herbs and berries.

Now back in hotel resting up for tonight’s concert at the Musikverein.

And a special happy birthday to Keith. Here is a little gift just for you.