Thursday, March 31, 2011

Candies and Comics...

A few rainy days back, diplo-baby and I checked out the Mel Ramos exhibit at our beloved Albertina, a retrospective on pop art.  It's a colorful exhibit - "diet" art as I like to call it - and it blurs the intersection between art and advertising.  Consisting of primarily pin up girls and comic book heroes, it's just what the doctor ordered to brighten up a dreary day, and a small collection of black and white Roy Lichtenstein's rounds out the afternoon.

Catch it until May 29th.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vienna Black Book: To the Brunch Table...

When the weekend hits and the mornings are slow, the number one question I get is "where should we go for brunch?".  Now, when winter days are rainy and dreary, the answer to that is to go to anyone of Vienna's grand cafe's.  Make yourself comfortable since you'll be there for awhile -  first for coffee and eggs, then to read the paper, then for a light lunch, then do read your mail and magazines and then to wrap up with a final coffee.  That's how the Viennese do it so I suggest a try - before you know it, the afternoon has long gone.

But if you're in more of a US style brunch mood, these have become our favorite places for their lighter atmosphere and great food:

1.  Motto Am Fluss - you've heard me wax poetic about this place before but the bottom line is that it's one of our favorites.  By far the best croissants in town, and dishes that range from traditional eggs, to the best burger in town, to my recent favorite for the waistline, the "Light Haus" (poached eggs, spinach, cottage cheese, avocado and vegetables).  A DJ spins variations on songs you already know and huge windows let in lots of light of the Danube Canal.  Check downstairs for their take-away bakery.

2.  Orlando di Castello - also a favorite on our hit list, this place is just fun, with their all white decor, cherry printed wall paper and antropologie-like platter coat hangers.  The staff can be flighty but food always delivers - the caesar salad or toast soldiers are usual favorites.   Croissants and pastries are highlights here, and you can also check out their bakery in the 19th.  Closed on Sundays.

3.  Le Bol - During our first year here, there wasn't a weekend where you couldn't find us here, though now our horizons have broadened somewhat.  One of the only places in Vienna with a legit salad menu (tougher to find than you would think), and great french inspired cafe dishes.  Try out the communal table Le Pain Quotidien style on a rainy day but in the sunshine, beeline for the terrace which literally doubles their surface area, since it can get a bit stuffy inside.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Austria-isms: Bygone Babylon...

Things don't change much here in Vienna, so when they do, it's immediately noticeable.  I was finally back at the airport this weekend seeing off my parents after a hiatus - after all, no constant business trips when you're on maternity leave - and noticed something amiss near the luggage area.  Why was I in the luggage area? Well that's because the Vienna airport must be the only airport in the world left where you can cross into the terminal even if you're not a passenger, just by showing your diplo-credentials.

But back to the issue at hand...what was missing was the ginormous poster of the Babylon girls as you cross the security barrier.  These ladies greeted me on nearly a weekly basis in my traveling days over the past two and a half years, basking in their impropriety in this four foot by eight foot poster.

For the non-Viennese who frequently mistake this is as a Victoria's Secret type of establishment, Babylon is basically a high-end brothel that bills itself as a high-end entertainment club, or whatever nonsense euphemism they call it.  It's right here in the first district, attached to one of the finest hotels (Palais Coburg), making no secret of its location or purpose.  It attracts a real who's who of the Austrian and international political scene, which explains why there was generally never enough momentum to shut this place down (or at least remove the flagrant advertisement from the airport entry way) despite investigative exposes on Austrian TV about human trafficking and its high calibre clientele.

Even more kooky was that the photo for the poster was shot on the steps of the KunsthistorichesMuseum in the stealth of the night, when the museum thought they had signed for on to host a fashion shoot.  He he he.  A bus of ladies arrived (who are not actually employed by Babylon), stripped down to the bare minimum and next thing you know, this view greeting every person transiting through Austria's capital.

Ladies, I'll miss you and the completely outrageous fact that you were there in the first place, but this is one change that's for the better. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Home Sweet Haus...

Just returned from our lovely week in the mountains, and just like last year, we spent the time with family at the Haus Hirt, a funky little boutique hotel that makes you feel like you're staying in a friend's very cool house.

And this year, I have to say, I appreciated it all the more for their child friendly but not child obsessive vibe.    No need to cart in too much gear, the hotel has already thought of a lot for you.  Legit baby beds, monitors, a fleet of joggster all terrain strollers, baby sized robes, all weather cream and all sorts of other sundries are already on hand for you.  And the hotel manages to separate out people with kids from people sans, without making those with feel like a pariah ("oh, perhaps the kids would be more comfortable in our wintergarden?").

Eveline and Ike are the equally funky proprietors, always greeting you in the morning and evening with smiles and genuine concern.  And Aveda spa is on hand but book at the front desk to avoid the surly spa director...And what really stands out at Haus Hirt is the food - rooms come with halfboard "wellness" cuisine - lots of choice but unlike most places that offer board, this is food you really do want to eat.   

Rooms are small but there are lots of common areas in the hotel, and the hotel really makes an effort to provide lots of activities to choose from: off piste skiing "mit Klaus", snowshoe hikes, yoga and the like.  Now if we could only find a reason to go back sooner rather than later...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jet Set Baby!

We're back from skiing all limbs intact and with a little vitamin D on the cheekbones, and while we were away I made the mental transition to being okay with saying good-bye to Vienna in just a few months (time for another bucket list!).  I'm not saying there won't be tears, but it's time to start looking forward.

What great timing then to come home to this super cool inspiration board from Joni at Lay Baby Lay.  We never did a nursery here in Vienna since diplo-baby would only be here for a few months, but we'll have make a home for her in DC that's fitting of all her nascent diplo-ness, but is also something that we can take to future posts to come.  Now that DB is developing a bit of personality all her own, I wrote Joni with this very conundrum and here is what she came up with, focusing on gaining portability but not sacrificing any style.  Sweet but not too saccharine, and in themes and colors that will grow with DB over the years.  I can't wait to get started on bringing it to life!  Thank you, Joni!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Diplo-style: Ines de la Fressange

Who wouldn't want a field guide to Parisian Chic? Ines's pick's are so timeless that not only do they work on her, but also her daughter.  All I have to say is that I hope I look that good in a black mini skirt when I'm in my 50's...

Photos of Ines and Nine by BenoƮt Peverelli

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Diplo-style: Springtime in the Park

This little ensemble caught my eye in the March issue of Monocle - very diplo-appropriate for many an outing.  In fact, the whole lot of pieces featured on Spring Fashion and shot in Japan's Fukuoka Park (if it's Tyler Brule, it's Japan, and all the more timely now) was very diplo-savvy.  I can't find the shoot online but I'll keep looking since it really was a well chosen set of spring pieces.  I'll scan it myself if I have to.  In the meantime, enjoy this sneak preview...

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Remains of the Maternity Days...

Who would have guessed that time with diplo-baby would have flown by so quickly? Fourteen weeks down and only two left to go before it's back to the grind.  Although I've always envisioned myself as a working mom, I'm definitely not ready.  

Nonetheless, I'm determined to make the most of the time that's left, both in terms of spending time withe diplo-baby, but also for catching up on those odds and ends that keep my sanity intact - here's what's on the list: 

1.  Drive an alpine highway with my mini-family with peaks still snowy.
2.  Make like Dr. Freud and walk the ring every day of the last week with diplo-baby.
3.  Clean out all of my drawers (desk, dresser, nightstand and hallway) - need to get organized for back to work! 
4.  Take a nap next to diplo-baby just because.  
5.  Read my book club book - A Scandalous Life, Autobiography of Jane Digby...
6. ... and finish The House on Green Dolphin Street - it takes place in DC during the Mad Men era, and it's part of my efforts to start getting excited about returning stateside even though right now I'm not.
7.  Have dessert with diplo-baby at Cafe Demel - remarkably, although I've been to the confectionary lots of times, I've never actually sat down there.
8.  Order a few pieces to refresh my spring wardrobe - my trench coat just arrived but I can't just wear that all spring.  Presumably I should wear something underneath it.
9.  Organize our calendar for our remaining time in Vienna - three months will be up before we know it!
10.  Have a gelato with diplo-baby in one on Vienna's parks in the sunshine.

And last but not least, MAIL OUR BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS! For crying out loud, it's about time.

Photography by Claire Morgan.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Off to the slopes!

Diplo-family and I have packed up the car for our longest outing yet - like any Austrians (or Austrian residents) worth our salt, it's time for an annual ski outing, and for us it's to the slopes of Bad Gastein.  I'll be out researching what to see and do of course, but in the meantime, there are a couple of posts lined up that I've meaning to post up for a while now.  We'll be back live in a week!

Friday, March 18, 2011

For Japan with Love...

Better one day late than never - participating today for Japan...Participate in the relief efforts via ShelterBox, and for more info, check out Utterly Engaged.

Diplo-style: Angelina Jolie, Venetian Tourist

I'll close out "Venice Week" with some shots from The Tourist.  I haven't seen it myself, and frankly regardless of it's apparent awards acclaims, they say it's not much of a movie.  Who knows? It's shot in Venice... does it matter?

Love her or hate her, Angelina is sporting some diplo-classics, and against the gorgeous backdrop of Venice, these looks are winners for decades to come.  Especially the white dress/camel shawl combo that would be at home at any diplomatic function.  Sophia Loren cat eyes are de rigeur for any Italian look, and I've included a photo of the original herself as a tribute.  Ciao, Venezia!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Venetian Feast...

Diplo-husband has declared enough with the Venice posts, but I still have one more before we wrap up.  Most people will tell you that Venice isn't much for dining, and that can be true.  But if you look beyond the usual haunts, you can actually find some excellent restaurants both from a food quality and service perspective.  Over three years, we've managed to gather some faves:

For Lunch on a Sunny Saturday:
Al Muro e Vino - As this restaurant is located in the Campo Bella Vienna, we have a natural inclination to like it.  But the owner serves up a fresh plate of the day on Saturdays outside and eight euros will get you a plate of it, as well as a glass of white wine.  Aperol Spritz and cicchetti can be found inside - the people watching is excellent during Carnival, and if you're coming from the Rialto market, it will be right on your way.

For Lunch on a Sunny Sunday:
Le Cafe - This is another place where people watching is half the fun as this Campo attracts all sorts of street performers and musicians which make for built in entertainment.  The menu is simple but good - I always tend to stick to the crepes, and the bakery serves up their desserts.  Waiters clad in brown sweaters speak English and have a great sense of humor.

For an inexpensive lunch on the go:
Pizza Stand, Calle delle Ostreghe, Right by Campo San Maurizio -  Honestly, I don't even know the name of this pizzeria - it's a little storefront that sells by the slice, for 2.50 euro a slice no matter the flavor.  Recognize it by the inviting aroma of wood-fire oven crust and  the mob of people crammed in the little foyer.  Pick up two slices and a drink and then enjoy in the Campo.

For an afternoon pick-me-up:
Rosa Salva - A bakery, cafe and restaurant all in one.  There are several locations around Venice, but while you're there, pick up some pastries and S cookies for the road and then wave the bag around local Venetians for street credibility.

For a sparkly aperitif hour that doubles as dinner:
Al Prosecco - It's a bar named after prosecco - what could be better? Perhaps only a bar named after Champagne.  Not only does the Prosecco flow freely, they do a legit job with the cicchetti during apertif hour so that you could easily make a meal out of it.

For a modern Venetian dinner:
Linea D'Ombra - gorgeous water front location with a terrace when the weather is nice (largely at lunchtime) and a minimalist interior for evening, this restaurant has been featured in lots of articles.  The food is first class, book a table early on or have your concierge help you out.

For the tragically hip dinner:
Centrale Lounge - On a side canal, this place is a bit creepy Venice meets some of the only mod action in town.  Even with the hipness the food is quite good and interior design definitely something to take note of.

For great pizza, decent beer and a warm atmosphere:
Antica Birraria La Corta - It used to be a barn to house bulls, but when the Austrians rolled into town, they established the first brewery in this 16th century building.  Fantastic pizza and a gorgeous courtyard in Campo San Polo for the warm weather with reasonable prices too.

For a great pizza when you run out of money:
Al Nono Risorto: Right under a sottoportego, this place can be a bit hard to find but worth it.  Great pizza and not to shabby pasta dishes, the food comes cheap but is of great quality.  Plus this place is on the way to the train station if that's how you'll be leaving town.  Note, they only take cash but you won't need much.  No website for this one, that's how low key this is.
Sottoportego  de la Siore Bettina
Calle de la Regina
2337 Santa Croce

And a nightcap no trip is complete with:
Harry's Bar - Warning, like Florian's, if you come here acting like a tourist, you'll be treated like a tourist.  That's the long and short of it.  Harry's isn't for everyone - it's got no view, it's got high prices, it hasn't been renovated anytime in my lifetime, and service can be variable.  That being said, it's steeped in history and there's just something about it that relives another era with their white jacketed waiters and veneer clad walls.  Come in, order a bellini, enjoy the olives and relish the fact that when you come back, whenever it may be, Harry's will still be there waiting for you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gondola, gondola!

What can I say? I have a soft spot for gondoliers...I think it's the striped shirts - like a mariniere, but more...muscular.

In Venice there are 400 bridges and 400 official gondoliers, although many of them have apprentices (the young upstarts with the ragazzo hair sporting faux diamond earrings that you see rowing around) to cover shifts as needed, and then as the original gondolier passes away, he passes on his status as official gondolier.  Much ado has been made about the new female gondolier on the scene - it turns out that she hasn't yet completed her gondolier schooling so she's not actually out rowing yet.  I asked if the gondoliers thought she would find work and it was left at "We'll see...".  We'll see indeed.

Photography by The New Diplomat's Wife.
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