Our 2014 summer trip started out, as usual, as a vacation rental for our whole family (10 of us, three generations) in the south of France. This time it was the way-south of France—the island of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon. It is a very mountainous island, flat only along the Mediterranean coast, and rugged inland. One can drive easily along the former, but only slowly and carefully on the latter.
We landed in Bastia, a charming port and tourist destination, where we could renew our one-month-per-year French telephone and pick up our rental car. After one day there, we drove south to Porto Vecchio, where we made rendezvous with our family and took possession of our rental house, a beautiful big place above the town—modern, comfortable, a pool, and very good wi-fi (a most important feature nowadays). The view was magnificent.
We had a splendid week looking around together, shopping for wonderful food for our dinners, and, especially, spending time on the superb sandy beaches, which have excellent facilities as well as very swimmable water. We did not find Corsica terribly interesting, however, lacking in really interesting sites to visit, local weekly markets and other things to do, that we are used to in Provence, Dordogne, and the rest of southern France.
One excitement was the loss of our younger daughter’s duffel bag that had all of her and our younger granddaughter’s clothes—and the four days it took the airline to find and deliver it! Fortunately, Porto Vecchio is a small town but a major tourist destination, so there was an immense Casino supermarket, which sells almost everything, and where they could get some quite nice clothes to hold them over. And, as usual, the food in French supermarkets simply outstrips anything at home.
At the end of our week, the family separated. There are many ferries connecting Corsica with ports in Italy and southern France, and we took one on the Corsica-Sardinia Line from Bastia to Livorno, then by car on to Florence, one of our favorite cities in the world. We had only one night this time because we were en route to Vienna. Even so, it was a delight to wander around the magnificent Piazza del Duomo area again (spoiled somewhat by the countless vendors of chintzy souvenirs whom one could not escape).
We were excited to see Vienna after thirty-five years, and with due cause. It is a beautiful imperial city, and the center, “the ring,” maintains the feel of the late 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire. The buildings are beautiful, the art is impressive, and the southern German/Austrian food something that I love. In addition to the world-famous Kunsthistorisches Museum, we saw, at the Albertina museum, an extraordinary exhibition of modern art taken from the 800 superb paintings donated by one man. And the name Vienna is synonymous with music, including, of course, Mozart. Even at the very end of the season we were able to attend a concert by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra in the magnificent Golden Hall (and in 18th century costumes, no less). There was also a summer-long nightly “Film Festival” outdoors in front of the beautiful city hall, which was less about film than socializing and the three dozen food booths run by that many Viennese restaurants. I was happy to have so many opportunities to speak German again.
We really enjoyed re-experiencing Vienna, and our stay at the Hotel Hansen Palais Kempinski, a truly grand hotel. There is so much to see in and around this great city; four or five days would not be too many to see it in depth. Thus ended the first half of our 2014 vacation.
To plan your European vacation, you can reach out to Suzanne Allswang