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from … Friday May 14

After three days and nights in Annecy, we drive back up north, to Genève, via Château Chaumont, to drop off the Clio and to fly to Vienna. CS is very reluctant to do the former, believe me ! — I can see myself having to peel every individual finger off the steering-wheel. Our trip is amazingly quick, and we find ourselves at Genève airport with <gulp !> 4½ hours to spare till our Austrian flight.

Memory: discovering with a kind of outraged glee that the Michelin map for this leg has a quite serious error regarding the number of a road we need to use en route.

Here the truly impressive services of Swissport cut in: the attractive and personality-laden young woman at the Lufthansa, etc., counter of Swissport, having ascertained that there are no other flights with Austrian that day, does not give up. We’ve checked our baggage in and wandered disconsolately through Customs, when a PA announcement summons us. We hurry back to her, to find that she’s booked us onto two feeder flights — Genève to Zurich then Zurich to Wien — which will together take less time than our original direct flight (on a smaller aircraft), and the first one is to leave in about 20 minutes. Even the luggage is in the process of being re-routed — and I can assure you that it most certainly comes off the Zurich to Vienna flight, along with us ! These are both Swiss ‘planes (no longer Swissair) and the flights are excellent; especially the longer one from Zurich to Vienna, during which we partake of the little “meal” offered and are delighted with it. But really, all this is due to the unasked for but really welcome intervention by the young women of Swissport; first, the Miss Personality brunette, who then hands over to a tall young blonde woman with plaits — they’re both superb, and we wish we could thank them.

Memory: being fairly pleased with my handling of all this flying, but wishing I were even better …

So … Vienna. Pleasant young man driving our taxi in from the airport, offering what information he had (limited). Pleased, too, with our sighting of the building in which is the pension we’d booked into, at the far end of the Neuermarkt.

Our accommodation is not perfect, nor anywhere near; but again I mustn’t be too negative and give the impression of a spoiled stay. Such is not the case, although we know we would have enjoyed Vienna much more if we were happy with our digs — that’s the way of all travel. As it is, we walk a lot and see a lot and are not displeased with the city; but the prospect of each night’s “rest” limits the amount of enjoyment we experience.

Memory: buying our first coffee in Vienna, asking for what is listed on the menu as cappuccino and finding that it’s what we call Vienna coffee !   :-)

There is one truly marvellous, absolutely WONDERFUL thing about Vienna, and another very nice thing: the first is that we have already booked ourselves, on-line, into the Sunday morning’s performance at the Spanish Riding School, and the second that we find a totally excellent Italian ristorante very close to our pension, at which we eat on all four nights of our stay.

The Lippizaners are indescribably superb. All I can write is that. If you go to Vienna and you don’t go and see them, you are either a fool, or you have no soul. I weep for their sheer beauty and their intelligence and their willingness to work and how their handlers love them … It is a fact that one is not allowed, ever, to take photos of the performances; but one is either able to remember them as if burned on the mind or should never have been there. (We’re obliged to provide pictures of these glorious creatures taken from a book available at the Spanish Riding School Shop; but we don’t mind being unoriginal, in this case.)

Al Caminetto is at the other end of Neuermarkt, and serves the best spaghetti all’aglio e olio that I’ve ever eaten. They have a Pugliese cook called Angelo, from Bari, and he knows his stuff. They also have a smooth, professional and extremely helpful waiter from Romania (Rumania, if you must), who gives your evening an extra bit of brightness. Go there.

Memory: realising with genuine surprise that the Fleischmarkt area of Vienna, after I’ve believed all the city centre to be the same, is actually quite different … for some reason, it seems to me almost like a different town …

Whilst in Vienna, we buy me a new watchstrap (major event; there were several criteria) and a pair of trousers (VERY major event; to actually be able to purchase pants that fit without any drama and in a clothing shop that stocks for skinnies as well is something very special for this large person). Tempted (by CS, mostly !) to buy outrageously expensive jewellery, but resist; after all, we bought me two pairs of earrings in Paris ! I do very well out of this trip, as you can see; poor old CS doesn’t get anything more than one warm top !

We buy La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday morning and I read of Baggio’s last game with tears … How can a talent like that, seen and enjoyed and marvelled at for so many years, just — stop being seen …? I do miss my Baggio site and the like-minded friends it brought me … Ma è sempre così la vita …

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  The Neuermarkt from our window
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