My husband and I just returned from a trip to Europe to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. If you have kids and you’re like us, most vacations revolved around kids’ sporting activities, a beach house somewhere, or a theme park for a good chunk of years. Empty-nesters now, we are able to return to the travels that we really love. This trip was absolutely amazing and I recommend it to anyone that wants to enjoy vibrant cultures, beautiful views,and amazing food and libations!
Traveling city to city, finding all the galleries and design districts, we found ourselves at a myriad of outdoor cafes, brasseries, patisseries, and biergartens during our in-between moments. I was reminded that food really is so much a part of our culture in every region of the world. Starting our trip in Munich, Germany, we enjoyed our first dunkel (dark) beer at an outdoor cafe in Marienplatz with a great view of the Rathaus Glockenspiel.
The English Garden, which is larger than NYC’s Central Park, is a must see in Munich. We enjoyed the unexpected sight of watching surfers ride the waves in the Eisbach, a small man-made river.
Riding through the enormous park in a rickshaw, we saw many folks enjoying picnics in the sun, including some risking uncomfortable sunburns in the park’s nudist area! We stopped for lunch at the Seehaus restaurant along the lake, where they were preparing trout alongside many more traditional Bavarian specialties.
Braving the Autobahn in a rental car, we traveled through Germany and on to Prague in the Czech Republic. Prague is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Lucky enough to escape World War II devastation, several buildings date back to the 12th century with a few even as old as the 10th.
We enjoyed several good meals in Prague, but our favorite restaurant was Kalina Kampa in the Mala Strana section near Prague Castle. It’s situated on the river with a great view of the Charles Bridge. The decor was fresh and clean, allowing us to truly concentrate on the amazing food coming from their kitchen! We savored the most amazing rabbit and lamb and appreciated the incredibly gracious service.
In every city, I lost Jeff for part of each evening while he went out to capture the beauty of these historic sites at night. This is one of my favorite shots of Prague, but it still doesn’t do this beautiful town justice!
Ever the dedicated photog, Jeff would also rise at 5am and hit the streets to catch the beauty of the architecture at sunrise.
Braving the Autobahn again, we headed south to Vienna, Austria. Vienna brought us back into present day with the hustle and bustle of a cosmopolitan city. Vienna has a healthy mix of beautiful old buildings, including the Schonbrunn Palace, St. Charles Church and a plethora of magnificent museums relaying the history of Hapsburg rule of Austria.
Most of all, we enjoyed the Mumok Museum of Modern Art. and the surrounding plaza packed with charming outdoor cafes. We sampled our first weinerschnitzel at one of the cafes and I must admit that I’m not a fan. I love veal and most anything fried, but the combination was not a gastronomic success for me.
Near to The Mumok, we found a great vintage furniture store named Vintagerie. I fell madly in love with this Italian arc floor lamp with a citron shade. I immediately purchased it for a project I’m working on, but must eagerly wait for it until September because it has a starring role in an exhibit at The Vienna Technical Museum. What a great addition to its’ story!
Next stop - Budapest. Budapest was not as fortunate as Prague to escape the ravages of war. Beautiful old buildings are sprinkled throughout the city mixed in with a lot of newer neoclassical buildings from the 18th century and a fair share of 20th century modernist buildings. Nonetheless, this city is breathtaking and vibrant, exuding an energy that is invigorating.
We also encountered some of the most interesting people in Budapest. Capturing people in their candid moments is Jeff’s real passion. He found many willing and charismatic subjects in Budapest!
Again - so much great food! We had our first taste of real Hungarian goulash at La Fabbrica. The restaurant had the most beautiful brick-clad barrel vaulted ceilings throughout and a most unusual light fixture over the bar! I might have to “borrow” this idea for a future project.
We also enjoyed some of the most delicious italian food at Bottega di Brontolo. Greeting every table in at least six different languages, the owner made wonderful wine pairing suggestions and created a beautiful atmosphere to compliment the unbelievable food! Jeff enjoyed a filet mignon topped with goose liver, porcini mushrooms and a white truffle sauce while I savored a to-die-for tagliatelle al ragu bolognese. Again, I was enthralled by the brick arches of this beautiful building!
While enjoying our culinary tour of central Europe, we also thoroughly enjoyed the continental bar-tending skills. The U.S. has enjoyed a craft cocktails surge, but I’m not sure I’ve encountered any bartenders as masterful as the ones we met during this trip. In the past few years, I’ve become more a bourbon and whiskey fan. I had some of the best Old Fashions, Manhattans and Sazaracs I’ve ever tasted! Adam, at The Blue Fox Bar in Budapest, crafted the most amazing smoked Sazarac served with a light show, an incredible routine of flourishes, and well rehearsed choreography.
Our final stop was Salzburg, Austria located at the foothills of the Alps. This “Sound of Music”, birthplace of Mozart, town was absolutely breathtaking with the old town flanking the river at the base of the hills leading up to a towering fortress.
Before leaving Salzburg, we happened upon the Salzburg Whiskey Museum. Unlike the many other museums that we visited, this was actually a classic Irish pub with a charming and knowledgeable host. We spent several hours learning about and tasting a variety of whiskeys and playing fun new bar games over a few pints of Guiness with our host, Chris. For you Game of Thrones fans out there, we felt like we were hanging out drinking with Tormund which helped alleviate the fact that we missed a few episodes during our travels. This was definitely one of our more memorable evenings!
We were truly sad to see this trip come to an end. While Richmond considers itself a rather “foodie” town, I’m not sure it could live up to all of the amazing meals we enjoyed during our European travels. Many of the restaurants were smaller family owned establishments that prided themselves on fresh local ingredients paired with years of family tradition. You could taste the passion of the chefs who prepared the food and the love of their culture that influenced all of their dishes.
What’s my next stop? I’m off to Napa, California for a real culinary treat! I’m very excited to have been selected as part of the Modenus Designhounds group of designers who have been invited by Zach Elkin, general manager of Signature Kitchen Suite to travel to Napa to visit their brand new Experience & Design Center.
With this talented group of designers, we’ll experience full brand immersion into Signature Kitchen Suite and learn more about the true “technicurean” lifestyle. We are also lucky enough to enjoy some fabulous culinary and wine experiences at Moone-Tsai Vineyards, the Culinary Institute of America at Copia and the beautiful Auberge Du Soleil resort.
I’ve enjoyed visiting the Signature Kitchen Suite showrooms at the last few KBIS shows in Orlando and Las Vegas. Their innovative technology features and their “True to Food” philosophy inspire me to want to create beautiful kitchens for my clients to share with their families and friends. We spend so much time in our kitchens, as they’ve become the heart of our homes instead of the room hidden at the back of the house. I look forward to embracing these innovative products from SKS and bringing back some great product knowledge to share with everyone.
And after this trip to Napa, I may need to create some extra wine storage at the house. Wouldn’t this be a fabulous addition to the dining room?
Check out this video giving you an inside peek at the new Signture Kitchen Suite Experience & Design Center in Napa! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-c1G7TNakQ This is going to be an amazing trip filled with wonderful food and plenty of amazing wine! I feel truly blessed to be a part of this group and I’m thankful to Signature Kitchen Suite for this opportunity.
Want to see more photos of our Europe trip or more of Jeff’s photography? Follow him on Instagram - www.instagram.com/jefferystoner