Wednesday: Vienna

We had a quiet day in Vienna this Thanksgiving eve.

We wanted to go to a coffeehouse this morning, since Vienna practically invented them in the 1700s. People would sit around and drink coffee and read or write or talk to their friends.

The oldest Viennese coffeehouse is Cafe Fraunhuber, but we didn’t know that when we walked in. I was looking for a place to have breakfast and we wandered in there.

It was old, that’s for sure. It doesn’t look as though it has been updated much for decades. Back in the 1780s, Mozart and Beethoven would come into this coffee house to entertain the customers with their piano music – not both of them at the same time, of course. As I enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs and some good Viennese coffee, it was interesting to imagine the two composers had spent time there.

We headed to the center of the city where there were many people put and about. We went into the gigantic St. Stephen’s Church and then headed to a couple of holiday markets which are fun to walk around. They all have different foods and interesting gifts for sale.

photos: hot chips on a stick at a holiday market; the coffeehouse we visited; a mulled wine mug. You can keep it or get a refill in it. Or both.

Sunday: Alba

Today was the International White Truffle (or as they say here: Tartufo Bianco) Festival in Alba. We spent a good part of the morning and early afternoon there until the crowds and then rain became too much.

The festival had all kinds of food – boar roasting on a spit, chicken, ribs, kebabs – and plenty of other selections. It was too early for any of that, so we checked out the games set up around the city center. All of them looked as though they had been used for decades – worn, but still good-looking Skittles tables, bows and arrows, a dart board, ring toss to win bottles of wine, and many other games that seemed well attended with prizes, mostly wine, handed out to winners. It was fun to watch.

We made our way to the truffle tent, where dozens of vendors were selling their white and black truffles. It takes forever to make a sale since they add the cost each truffle individually and they have to wrap them carefully. There is an official judging area for those who are skeptical about the value of what they bought. So there were lines of people everywhere and the whole place was very busy.

(We bought just one truffle with the plan to slice it up – there’s a special truffle slicer in the kitchen drawer here – and mix it into scrambled eggs, as suggested by our host.)

The tent, although huge, became so filled with people that it was impossible to walk, so we left. We continued to walk around the streets for a while but there were people and umbrellas everywhere.

Eventually we got out of the rain and came back to enjoy the tartufo scrambled eggs. They were very good.

photos: white truffles for sale

below: a game of Skittles. I watched for a while but didn’t see anyone win.

wild boar cooking

Monday: Lyon

Today was a beautiful Monday, close to 80 degrees and sunny. We took advantage of the nice weather (it is supposed to rain all of tomorrow) and walked around Lyon for most of the day, checking out some shops and enjoying the architecture and the old city.

It is remarkable how many restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries are here – one right next to another – and they seem to be thriving. It is a beautiful old city.

photos: 222 steps going up ( and down)

below: peanut butter, apple, walnut toast for breakfast

beautiful old buildings are throughost the city.

Wednesday/Thursday: Saint-Emilion

Our castle room is fantastic! What a lucky find on Airbnb.

Our hosts, Annick and Pierre, run the vineyard here and it has been in the family for four generations – five now that their son is out of college and actively working in the business.

We enjoyed a tour of their impressive wine-making operation where wine is still made traditionally – quite a tedious process from what we observed. Some of their equipment, like the numbered vats where the wine ferments – were made in the late 1800s. They produce about 45,000 bottles of wine annually. We tried some from 2016, 15, and 14, and liked it a lot. Yes, of course we got a few bottles to take with us.

Our small room in the castle is almost unbelievable, with ancient stone walls and very old solid wood furniture. It is much warmer here than in Ireland but the castle is probably naturally cool all the time. (It does not have wifi or television, and electrical outlets are scarce.)

Annick dropped off a fresh baguette and her own jam this morning and I met up with her after my run into town. (I thought I had woken up just before 7am, but with the time change it was actually an hour later. I guess I was tired after our long drive yesterday.) She is a schoolteacher and told me kids have school from 8-5 just four days a week, off on Wednesday.

We explored Saint-Emilion, full of many wine shops, cheese shops, and plenty of restaurants. The streets are very narrow and ancient, and sometimes tricky to walk on with their sharp, jutting rocks. It is beautiful and charming to walk around and very interesting to drive around. Grapes are harvested this time of year and workers are in the vineyards getting the job done.

photos: above – the door to our castle room.

below – wine vats from the 1800s, still used

bottles of wine produced by the vineyard

Monday: Dublin


It is a rainy day in Dublin but we still made the most of it. First, I was happy to see a 24-hour gym directly across the street from where we are staying. I was there at 6am and on the rower for 45 minutes, my first good exercise (aside from a ton of walking) in a week. It’s a nice place and well used. Tomorrow I’ll remember a towel!

I sat in a nearby coffee shop after that and was happy to read my book before going back to the hotel for breakfast. It’s always interesting to see what Breakfast Included ends up meaning, and this was a fine selection of coffee, tea, and cold food.

We walked to Trinity College after that, where my traveling companion/husband saw the Book of Kels (I had been there before) and the very impressive library there. I walked around the city and popped into some shops before meeting up with him again an hour later.

We walked to the river and checked out some places near there, then had lunch as it poured outside. We went back to the hotel where he left me so I could do some work.

photos: above – a pigeon staying warm on a light. below – breakfast; gym rower is perfectly positioned under a nice cool open window