After Brussels, my friends and I had one more day together in Antibes. Since I’d hurt my foot and one of my friends had hurt her ankle, we spent most of the day at the beach. Now is the time of year to do that, because most of the time there’s not a cloud in the sky, so you get warm enough sitting on the beach to want to cool off in the water.
My lunch that day, Camembert Farcis: warm Camembert cheese stuffed with ham and vegetables.
That day I finally fully immersed myself in the Mediterranean! At first it was so cold it took my breath away, but after just a couple minutes I was pleasantly surprised to find the temperature perfectly comfortable. My host mom had insisted that sea water has healing properties, so I was hoping it’d help my foot get better faster. I swam out with my roommate until we could no longer see the bottom, and it was so refreshing! But also so incredibly salty! Now I understand why they keep the showers down by the water instead of by the entrance to the beach.
The following day I had to say goodbye to the two friends I’d traveled to Brussels with, as well as my roommate and another two friends from my study abroad group. And the day after that I had to say goodbye to three more. The last two friends who were left in Antibes with me stayed at my host mom’s apartment the night before they flew back to the U.S. My host mom made crêpes with us, and taught us how to flip (“sauter”) them in the pan. We layered cheese and onions between the buckwheat crêpes to make a “mille-feuille” cake of sorts. After that we ate sweet crêpes with Nutella and jam.
Feeling stuffed beyond capacity (actually I probably could have eaten more…), we decided to walk to the beach. We laid on the sand and talked until the wind got cold and the sun started to disappear. I don’t think any of us really wanted to leave, though, because after that all we had left to do was prepare for our flights.
The next morning, after a breakfast of crêpes, fruit sauces (was it apple and pear that day? I forget.), coffee, tea, and orange juice, I walked to the bus stop with my friends to say goodbye. They were on their way back to the U.S., but I still had a little more time in Europe. Later that afternoon I’d be flying to Vienna and then Geneva. Afterwards I’d come back to France for one more night before flying to the U.S.
Once we got all their suitcases to the bus stop, I went back to my host mom’s apartment (gah I keep trying to spell “apartment” with two p’s, because of the French word!) to help her take out the trash and recycling that my roommate and I had collected over the semester (we ended up throwing the recycling into the trash as well because the bins were full, which killed me inside just a little bit – another reason to be happy to go back to the U.S., right?). Then I said “A bientôt” (see you soon) to my host mom, because I’d be coming back one more time so I wasn’t going to say goodbye prematurely, and was off to Vienna!
I’m really happy I was able to travel to Vienna because a friend I lived with last summer has family in Austria, so she was there the same time I was. The weather wasn’t great in Vienna while I was there, but I didn’t mind because they have a big coffee shop culture there so I just went into as many as I could. Starting my first night, because I was walking to my hostel in shorts through the rain, so I figured I might as well stop for dinner, because maybe by the time I finished the rain would let up.
I went to a coffee shop called Café Museum. I knew I’d pass it on the way to my hostel because it was marked on this awesome map (a Use-It Guide – look for them if you’re traveling to Glasgow, Prague, Brussels, Vienna obviously…and a bunch of other European cities I can’t remember. They don’t have every city, but they have a decent amount. The maps are super helpful because they’re made by locals). I tried a traditional Viennese appetizer of rolled ham with French salad (essentially potato salad) inside and goulash soup. The waiter asked me if I wanted bread, and I said sure, but that was totally a mistake because (1) it was another thing to pay for, and (2) the serving of bread they brought me was fit for my entire family! Definitely didn’t finish it all (granted, I also hadn’t worked out for about two weeks at this point because of my foot, so if it wasn’t for that I probably could have eaten it all if I really tried…but still I wouldn’t have wanted to, it was so much!).
One of my waiters was very friendly and started asking me where I was from and how long I’d be in Vienna. Turns out he was born in the U.S., but has lived in Vienna for the majority of his life and doesn’t want to leave. He showed me a good bar in Vienna called 1516 that brews its own beer.
The following day I went on a free walking tour of the city that started in the lobby of my hostel. First we walked through the Naschmarkt, the oldest and largest (only a fraction of the size of Pike Place, though) outdoor market in Vienna, where you can find produce, dried fruits, clothes, tea, coffee, cheese, meat, and some restaurants. The name comes from the word “naschum,” which means “to snack.”
The guide showed us various buildings of architectural and artistic importance, including a couple designed by Otto Wagner, the Secession (as in the art movement, which I hadn’t known about previously) building (a.k.a. “the golden cabbage”), a baroque sculpture representing the earth and the heavens and the holy trinity,
the art university that Hitler was denied from, the Opera,
the palace (which was interesting to walk around because each section’s façade is a different style), a bank designed by Adolf Loos (very modern, with no unnecessary decoration or detailing), and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which has some crazy number of tiles on it (over 200,000 I believe. Also, while researching the number of tiles, I read that each of them was donated by the people of Vienna after the roof was destroyed during WWII – neat!)
Once the tour ended I went to a café for a lunch of coffee and apfelstrudel,
then went to the Albertina Museum. It houses the world’s largest collection of drawings and prints. I saw three exhibits: one about the American artist Alex Katz and one called Dürer Michelangelo Rubens: 100 Masterworks of the Albertine, both of which were temporary, and a permanent exhibit called Monet to Picasso.
Around 5 o’clock I grabbed a bratwurst (whoever says Vienna is expensive has clearly never been to Switzerland. I paid twice as much for a bratwurst in Zurich and it didn’t even come with a dipping sauce or bread like it did in Vienna!) for dinner then headed over to the Opera. When the building was first constructed, no one liked its Italian Renaissance style. One of the architects was so distraught that he committed suicide; the other architect is said to have died of heartbreak shortly after. Nowadays, everyone thinks the building is beautiful, myself included.
When I was in Zurich, I met a guy who had just visited Vienna, and he told me the Opera sells standing tickets for just a few euros. There are only so many, so you have to get there early. The Opera I went to see (Cinderella) didn’t start until 7:30, so I just brought my book to read while I waited in line.
The inside of the Opera was just as beautiful as the outside: tall columns, ornate ceilings, grand staircases… I had time to explore a bit before the Opera started after buying my ticket. The performance was an unusually long one, so I only stayed for the first half, because I was meeting up with my friend at 9:30.
It was so great to see her again! She and her best friend from Estonia and I wandered around for a bit, then eventually grabbed dinner (yes that would be dinner #2 for me) and beer at TGI Friday’s (the only place with food they knew of that would be open that late, but hey, at least there was somewhere open! By 10:30 at night in Antibes you’d just have to go hungry until the next morning). After that my friend and I went to an Irish bar to talk more and grab another drink. She graduated this year, so I asked her about how her last year went. I asked her more questions about next year, though, because she’ll be going to Jordan with the Peace Corps!
The next day my friend was leaving for another part of Austria to visit family, but she offered to meet me in the morning for breakfast and show me a place called Hunterwasserhaus. I’d never heard of it, but the pictures she showed me looked crazy and colorful, so I was curious. We ate at a café that served vegetables for breakfast!!! Peppers, cucumbers and olives with hummus and feta cheese. I could not have been happier after all the bread and cake and chocolate I’d been eating in the morning in France.
The Hunterwasserhaus reminded me of Gaudi’s buidlings that I’d visited in Barcelona. They’re both very organic, and they both incorporate much brighter colors than those of the surrounding buildings. The building is a group of apartments designed by an architect named Hunterwasser (which means “hundred water”). He sounds like quite a character. He didn’t like straight lines; he established in window rights, meaning tenants could repaint their window frame whatever color they wished (though as of now no one has painted over their original colors); he created tree tenants, as in trees that grew from inside to the outside of the building; and he believed that houses had spirits, so in order to ease the transition between one building’s design to the next, he left a bit of the old façade intact.
For lunch I went to Vienna’s oldest and most well-known coffee shop, Café Central (Voltaire used to be one of the crowd there). I almost left when I saw the line to get inside, but when I saw its interior I decided it was worth the wait.
My friend had warned me that the Sachertorte (a chocolate cake) from the Hotel Sacher was dry (thank goodness, because the guide from my first day had said that place had worked hard to get the original recipe, so I’d planned on eating one there), so I ate one at Café Central. It was cooked to perfection, with the right amount of dark chocolate frosting (satisfactory without taking over the actual cake) and a thin apricot jam filling.
One stop I made sure to leave time for was the national library. The library’s State Room is gorgeous, with dark wood shelves holding the leather bound books, and large globes and statues and an intricately painted ceiling. I think I still prefer Trinity College’s, though. Vienna’s was amazing but almost too grand; Trinity’s I could spend forever in and feel completely at home.
My final stop that day was the Leopold Museum, an art museum in the museum quarter.
Before heading to the airport the next morning, I bought myself some nuts and dried fruit to eat for the next few days, because I was going to Geneva, where I knew food would be ridiculously expensive.
The dried fruit vendor I went to was so pushy! He kept trying to give me five times the amount that I asked for. I know I don’t speak German, but I’m quite confident he understood what I meant when I marked a halfway point on the bag. I was ready to be back in a French-speaking country after that encounter.