Regular readers of this website may recall that I have been fortunate enough to have had a trio of wins this year. There has been the Emmy (yes, I thought I would throw that one in again), the signed Rugby World Cup ball (thanks England for being the first host team to be eliminated at the group stage heavily deflating any value that it has) but the first, and arguably the best, was the trip to Vienna.
For those of you that can’t quite remember the details: IMG provided facilities to the BBC to produce the 60th Eurovision Song Contest for transmission on BBC 1. The 2015 contest was hosted in Vienna due to the previous year’s win by the Bearded Lady: Conchita Wurst. Apparently this hasn’t happened before but it is in the spirit of the competition the Austrian Ambassador hosted a send-off party for the UK entry at the Austrian Embassy. Invitations were strictly ‘invite only’ and along with the BBC personnel, four of us from IMG were invited to attend. As we entered the Embassy we were given a raffle ticket. Never say no to a free raffle ticket: the top prize being two return flights to Vienna on Austrian Airways and two nights in Das Triest Hotel (and a 1 metre inflatable Austrian Airways jet). This is what I won.
We decided that we would like to visit Vienna as the winter drew in and the Christmas markets begun. Therefore, we originally looked for availability at the hotel so that we could visit Vienna at the beginning of December. We also needed to arrange child minding, which would not only include two night, three days of care but taking them to school, picking them up and also taking Éowyn to her first ever brownies meet.
The first part of the equation seemed the easier of the two, however it was not to be. The hotel, Das Triest, despite its 72 rooms, had no availability for the early weekends in December. With my new role I only work one weekend in three, thus I was attempting not to book on the weekend that I was due to work. Therefore, it took a little toing and froing but eventually we managed to book a room for the weekend of the 14th November.
The second part of the equation was much simpler as Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz came to the rescue, driving down on the Friday and leaving on Tuesday afternoon they settled in for the weekend at chez Bagnall. Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz came to pick the girls up from school (they needed to know where to take them on Monday morning) and we showed them the church hall when the Brownies meet. They knew the way into Staines town centre, despite Lucinda’s map from the last time they visited, so all was set for us to leave nice and early the next morning.
We had booked an early flight to take advantage of the majority of the weekend and had prebooked taxis to take us to the airport and pick us up in Vienna to take us to the hotel. We were only away for a couple of days so those extra minutes and piece of mind were all important. So we left the house before any of the Baguettes woke, heading off sans children for the longest time we have been on our own since Éowyn was born seven years ago!
We arrived at Heathrow Airport terminal 2, the home of Lucinda’s previous job and she still knew quite a few people who worked there, so it was a good chance for her to catch up with them. After a good old natter we breezed through security and into the shopping mall that is the modern terminal building. I asked Lucinda and if she missed the airport. She didn’t have to think about the answer: she missed the way it was but not the way it is now and although it would be nice to be P.A.Y.E. she wouldn’t want to go back.
We landed at Vienna airport in good time and quickly found our taxi driver. Not only did we make the right decision in organising a cab for convenience the taxi driver was also very friendly and erudite, illuminating us with the history of Vienna and pointing out landmarks along the way.
We arrived at the hotel in good time, indeed before the room was ready and so we dropped off our bags and headed out in Vienna. The hotel was a short walk from the city centre and so we were able to take in the city without having to rely on public transport.
Initially, we had planned on a lazy weekend, taking advantage lie-ins and no disturbed nights from little nocturnal visitors but we decided that would be a waste of visiting such a beautiful city, therefore we researched the attractions to visit and in doing so found out that there was an exhibition of Edvard Munch at the Albertina. Edvard Munch is most famous for his 1893 painting, The Scream and is one of Lucinda’s favourite artists, therefore the list began.
Saturday, therefore became a day of exploration. We found the lay of the land, including a couple of the early Christmas markets. We also took a boat trip down the Danube canal. This was probably our one mistake of the weekend. The Danube canal was a former arm of the River Danube and a trip down the river Danube sounds may sound like we would be in for a scenic trip. However, the Danube canal is somewhat different. The arm of the River Danube was turned into a canal to protect the city of Vienna from flooding in the late 16th century and since that time has attracted the more industrial side of Vienna. Hence, the trip though nice was far from scenic, unless you like looking at the back of industrial cities.
With no matutinal visitors we eased ourselves into Sunday morning. A leisurely breakfast was a precursor to the only full day we had in the city. Unfortunately, the weather luck of the Bagnalls was in full force. We had hoped that the weather in Vienna would be cold and snowy, or cold and clear, or indeed warm and clear. Unfortunately what greeted us on Sunday morning was typical London weather, somewhat mild (for the time of year), low cloud and persistent rain. We had planned on visiting the Danube Tower to take in the view of the city but with such weather conditions we decided to head straight to the Albertina and the Edvard Munch exhibition.
We had found the Albertina, on our stroll around the city on the previous day and so we could take a direct path and thus avoid getting completely soaked in the process. Now I am not the greatest art lover in the world and do not appreciate it as much as Lucinda but I think I nailed it on the head when I said that Edvard Munch is the ‘Smiths’ of the art world. I appreciate his technique, lots of lithographs and woodcuts and I liked a number of his works and the hidden symbolism but overall it is quite depressing and an exhibition was just a little too much. I can hear the wails of outrage in the art world but that is my view.
We left the Albertina and looked for another place to shelter – a nearby coffee house replete with Austrian cake aplenty. Well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
After filling ourselves with Hot Chocolate and Strudels we again required somewhere else to hide from the rain. The nearby Schmetterlinghaus or Imperial Butterfly house attracted us in. The building itself was very reminiscent of Kew Gardens and perhaps it was the time of year but there didn’t seem to be as many butterflies as in other butterfly houses that we have visited. Nevertheless it was well worth the visit.
The rain eased off in the afternoon and we managed to find the remaining Christmas markets including the Vienna Magic of Advent Christmas Market at Rathauplatz. This was the biggest one that was open while we were there and only not completely magically because of the weather, it really needed to be cold and crisp, with crunchy snow underfoot. Nevertheless it was still a good excuse to get some soup in bread. Yes, it is what it sounds like, a round loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with Goulash soup. Delicious and you can eat the loaf/bowl afterwards.
We had until the early afternoon the following day before having to find our way back to the airport. I am more a fan of natural history museums than art museums and since we visited the Albertina the previous day we decided to take in the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (or the Natural History museum of Vienna). Along with the usual dinosaur bones and ubiquitous taxidermological menagerie it also house the Venus Von Willendorf the oldest known representation of the human form. As someone with an interest in anthropology it was incredibly interesting to see this tiny carved figure.
So after a cultural and relatively relaxing weekend it was time to head back. We arrived back to Staines on the Monday evening so Ezra was asleep, Amélie was in bed, nearly asleep and Éowyn was awake waiting our return. They had had a fun filled weekend with Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz and couldn’t wait to tell us all about it. It seems that they hadn’t missed us too much while we were away which bodes well (Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz willing) for more weekend breaks for Mommy and Daddy.
Two weeks later we took advantage of the other member of the Bagnall family, Auntie Mary. Lucinda and I had been invited to the R.T.S. Christmas Dinner Dance by suppliers of mine at work and so Auntie Mary came over for baby sitting duties. It was a black tie event and it was very nice to dress up for an occasion – something that Lucinda and I rarely do these days. It was an excellent event with good food, John Lloyd as an after dinner speaker and entertainment, including pyrotechnic acrobats, scalextric, video games and dodgems. What was particularly good about the evening was that the fact that the other guests of the same supplier and thus sitting next to me on the table was my erstwhile flatmate and good friend Richard and his wife Salma. We whiled away the night catching up on the missing 12 years and promised not to leave it quite as long next time!
Before I leave you with some photos of our mommy and daddy time, the competition winning luck is rubbing off. At the R.T.S. Dinner Dance there was a raffle and I mentioned to the people on the table my luck at competitions this year. Didn’t think much about it but out of 50 ish tables and 10 prizes our table won 2 – an Apple Watch and a Panasonic Camera. No, it wasn’t me but you have to share the luck around – that’s how it works!
Peace and Love