Espectacular España: Madrid

Alas, our last stop on our whirlwind Spanish adventure. I’m not going to lie, we came to Madrid for the art, food and shopping!

The Prado Museum was a huge must on our list. But, instead of roaming around on our own, we hired a private guide (our tour group consisted of just four people). Hubs and I wanted to see all the important masterpieces of Velázquez and Goya, but not spend a huge chunk of time just running around or relying on time consuming audio guides. Instead, our guide focused on the history of 25 famous pieces in 1.5 hours. It was a perfect way to enjoy the highlights of the Prado and our guide was so passionate and knowledgable on everything about the artists and paintings we saw. His passion and enthusiasm definitely helped us enjoy and understand the pieces even more. After the art portion of the tour, we continued on to the second part: the food.  Our guide brought us over to the oldest (consistently running) restaurant in the world for lunch: Sobrino de Botín.  We had the privilege of entering the restaurant before it opened to get an all access tour of the place.   All of us had a delicious meal filled with laughter and very full bellies!

(**no pictures or video were permitted inside the Prado, so it didn’t even occur to me to take a picture of the outside.**)

If you’ve followed me on my blog or on Instagram, you know that I post a fair amount of food pictures. So it may come as a surprise that I’ve only mentioned one of our meals in my previous posts in Granada. There’s definitely a good food scene in Madrid. We went to a lot of markets and even tried Venezuelan food for the very first time! Even after 17 days in Spain, we still can’t get used to the fact that dinner time starts at 9pm! But, we did get the hang of having tapas sized portions every few hours to keep our energy up for all the walking (ahem, shopping) we did.

After all the shopping and the Prado there wasn’t much time for too many other things.  We explored Retiro Park and several neighborhoods. My favorites were La Latina and Cheuco/Malasaña areas. I’m a sucker for boutique-y, locally made, handmade, one of a kind type, independently-owned shops and there were plenty of them dotted all around the city! You could say that I helped the Spanish economy a bit with all my “Made in Spain” purchases. We will definitely be back to Madrid for a long weekend soon for more exploring, eating, and shopping!

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Spectacular Santorini (Part Two)

It’s not a trip recap without food pictures! Santorini is the perfect island getaway. Everything is within walking distance and the food was “out of this world” delicious.  Hubs, not usually a seafood person, couldn’t get enough of the Greek mussels.  Neither could I.  We mostly ordered from the starter menus while we were there, so we could taste as many things as possible.  Hopefully our pictures do the cuisine justice:

 

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Tasty Tuesdays: Italian Edition (Part One)

Many friends suggested that I continue with my Tasty Tuesdays while on holiday in Italy. Instead of the traditional posts, I will include everything  that we’ve  devoured in the last few days since being on the Amalfi Coast. We’ve had mixed weather and today was the first day that we’ve experienced a perfectly sunny day. Hubs and I are enjoying everything from seafood, fresh pasta to anything made with lemon. It’s true what they say about Italian food, there are no words to describe how flavorful and delicious it really is. Warning: the following may entice to you make a trip to Italy and eat all the amazing food.

 

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Tasty Tuesdays: Triple Delight

For those who reside in Vienna, know that Joseph Brot is a very popular and can be quite an expensive bakery. They have a bakery in the 1st as well as a bakery/cafe in the 3rd district.  They pride themselves in being organic, using local ingredients, and turning it into something simple and delicious. Not only did I get my usual Tasty Tuesday pastry and hot drink, I had a two course lunch along with it. Not too surprising, everything from my starter to main dish was excellent. And though it was super busy, the service was quite good. My server came by at least five times during the course of the hour. Shocking for Vienna (not an understatement!). Their breads and other baked goods, for take away, can get pretty pricey on a daily basis.  However, I highly recommend going for one of their weekly lunch specials.

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Joseph – Bäckerei Patisserie Bistro (3rd district)
 Landstraßer Hauptstraße 4
Monday-Saturday 07:00- 21:00
Sunday and holidays 07:30- 21:00

Joseph – Brot vom Pheinsten (1st disrict)
Naglergasse 9
Montag -Friday 07:00-19:00
Saturday 08:00- 18:00

Tasty Tuesdays: Tart’a Tata

Tart’a Tata is a cosy (read: tiny) cafe in the 7th. It can be easily missed. I actually went into the Gasthaus next door and sat down before realizing I was in the wrong place. The cafe itself has three tiny tables inside, so I would say that it’s more of a take-away than a sit down to relax and read place.  Regardless, the selection is worth checking out and the Chef Pâtissier is actually French.  I ordered a nice strawberry tart and it was refreshing for a day like today. The tart had just a touch of sweetness and the crust was perfect.  If you frequent Café Français in the 9th district, you may have already had a taste of some of the pastries-as some are brought in from this little gem of a place!

 

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Tart’a Tata
Lindengasse 35 (7th district)
M-S 8:00- 19:00
Closed on Sundays

 

 

 

Tasty Tuesdays: Coffee Pirates

The weather this week has been absolutely gorgeous here in Vienna. It’s been sunny and temperatures in the 50’s, which made today’s outing so much more special.

I’ve passed by Coffee Pirates several times over the last year, with a promise every time that I would try it one day.  Since setting a goal to eat/drink my way through Vienna’s cafes, I finally made it today.  It’s a perfect location between the general hospital and the university-definitely a happening place. You’ve got students in there studying, chatting and hanging out, plus others such as myself-enjoying some refreshments with a book or newspaper.  This place also roasts their own coffee beans and have been awarded, and in addition, a member of Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE). It reminded me of a place called Cama Cafe in Taiwan, which has many similarities. I ordered one of their winter specials called a “dirty chai”. What’s in it you ask? A little bit of chai latte, a shot of espresso and sprinkles of cinnamon. It was super delicious and unique. I would have never thought to put that combination together. They also offer panini sandwiches and some sweets. Another great advantage? It’s in our neighborhood. I wonder how many more great surprise establishments that I’ll find as I continue to explore this city. Happy Tuesday everyone!

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dirty chai with a side of cherry apple crumble

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you can't see it in this picture, but there's a bowl with chalk to the right where you could contribute something on the chalkboard wall leading into the bathrooms

you can’t see it in this picture, but there’s a bowl with chalk to the right where you could contribute something on the chalkboard wall leading into the bathrooms

Coffee Pirates (9th district)
Spitalgasse 17

Hours of operation:
Mon – Thu: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Fri: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sat: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Tasty Tuesdays: Pure Living Cafe

After many great finds in the 7th district, it’s beginning to become one of my favorite areas to explore and hang out. It’s a very hipster and young part of town. When you walk into Pure Living Cafe in the 7th district of Vienna, it’s like walking into a place that could easily be the design love child of Rachel Ashwell and Martha Stewart. It’s the epitome of shabby chic. I immediately felt welcomed with the friendly staff and the huge assortment of goodies. For € 7 and some change, I got a big cup of melange (they serve it with whipped cream here) and a slice of Oreo cake. Both were excellent. I love how the pastries here in Vienna are not sickeningly sweet, compared to what you might find in the US. While enjoying my treats and a book, I noticed that they made milkshakes there, too. I immediately thought of Hubs and will be bring him back to try one. You may wonder what’s the big deal about milkshakes? It’s been hard to find someplace that makes a real ‘”American” milkshake, and just the thought of the possibility makes me so excited. I’ll be back to this amazingly cute cafe and may even become a regular, because I loved it that much!

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There are two locations:

Pure Living Cafe (7th district)
Neubaugasse 68

Pure Living Bakery (13th district- original location)
Altgasse 12

Mo. – Fr.: 9:30 – 19:00
Sa.: 10:00 – 18:00
So:13.00-18.00

A Surprise Visitor

Last year, Hubs, my sister and brother in-law have been sneakily planning a surprise for her to come visit me. She was only going to be here for four full days and has been to Vienna a few years before we moved here. In return, I surprised my sister with a train trip to Budapest for some sisterly bonding on this side of the pond. Since I’ve been before, we did all the touristy things and ate our way through the city. We had so much fun, that I didn’t really want it to end.  I’m so lucky and blessed to have such an amazing relationship with my sister.

Run into Chinese tourists that had us do the typical "Asian" pose

Ran into Chinese tourists that had us do the typical “Asian” pose

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It’s not a trip without including pictures of all the food we devoured in two days. (A lot of our dishes may look very fancy schmancy, but you’d be surprised of how much bang for the buck you get in this city.) Budapest is truly a hidden gem for foodies.

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see that black colored bread? It's made out of squid ink. I didn't have the gull to try it, but my sister said it was surprisingly good.

see that black colored bread? It’s made out of squid ink. I didn’t have the gull to try it, but my sister said it was surprisingly good.

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Tarragon Mousse with sweet crumbs and pumpkin

Tarragon Mousse with sweet crumbs and pumpkin

Tasty Tuesdays: A Royal Bakery

Gerstner’s is a famous pastry shop here in Vienna and, therefore, can be a touristy place. It’s no surprise, since it’s situated between St Stephens Church and State Opera House. This bakery opened its doors in 1847 and has quite a bit of history behind it. At one point or another, it catered to the Austrian royal family and other events for dignitaries. In my opinion, their cakes are better than the other popular touristy places such as Demel and Cafe Central. I ordered a slice of “Birnen Schoko-Mousse” (Pear Chocolate Mousse), because I was curious about the flavor pairing. I know most people have an aversion to fruit and chocolate mixed together, but this concoction was quite delicious. It had the right amount of mousse and fruit, plus a nutty flavor too. It paired well with my usual melange.  This is a great place for people watching, but there were too many distractions for me to get into my book. An American couple sat next to me and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation about how many boxes of chocolates they needed to buy for family and friends. The lady couldn’t stop raving about the sour cherry strudel, so that will be on my list for next time.

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Gerstner
Kärntner Straße 13-15
Mon-Sat 8:30 am – 8 pm
Sun 10 am – 6 pm

Tasty Tuesdays: HimmelBlau

Himmelblau roughly translates into “Blue Sky”.  This extremely cute cafe is located in the 18th district of Vienna and very walkable from our flat in the 9th. In fact, it was really ideal in this balmy 40 some-thing degree weather. Yes, you read correctly. Vienna is having a “heatwave” of sorts for the last week, with temperatures in the 40’s. And having lived through one of the harshest winters Vienna had last year, I may as well have put on a t-shirt and skipped along the way to the cafe.

The cafe itself is pretty small, but reminiscent of one that you’d find in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. I loved the simplicity of it. It must be a popular hangout, because it was packed when I arrived. I ordered a slice of himbeere topfentorte and a cup of melange. A topfentorte is best described as a cousin to the American style cheesecakes.  Looks like part of the family, but it’s not quite the same. It’s lighter and made with a flaky crust instead of the graham cracker kind. Himmelblau’s version was perfect. Light, airy and the right amount of sweetness. The guy gave me a huge slice and I really couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I sat back and continued reading my book on my kindle. Although it got loud at times, it wasn’t enough to distract me from reading and the enjoyment of my treats.

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YAY for non-smoking in the entire cafe!

Such a cute idea for lighting!!!

Such a cute idea of using coffee cups for lighting!!!

Himmelblau (18th district)
Kutschkergasse 36
Mon-Fri: 8:00- 21:00
Saturday and Sundays: 8:00-1800

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