Wednesday, 22 July 2009
What I did on my Summer Holidays . . . Part 1
As you all know (how could you not!) we went to Austria during the first part of my recent summer holiday. We had not been going to go anywhere this year really, but a few weeks before my holidays were due we decided to say, "What the heck!" and booked a coach holiday to Austria with Leger Coaches. We chose the "Sound of Music" tour, since both of us had always wanted to go to Austria, and both of us also loved that film, "The Sound of Music." I was so excited and could hardly wait to see all the sights that were in the movie.
It took us about 20 hours to reach our destination, and involved many, many hours on the coach as well as a ferry ride across the English Channel. We drove through France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany to get to Austria and were on the coach over-night. Todd and I did not sleep and were very tired by the time we arrived at our hotel, but adrenaline and excitment kept us going until early evening of our second day out and after a lazy afternoon of exploring the town we were staying in called, St Johan in Tirol, and a remarkably horrible dinner (spag bol that had no bol, and a rubbery vanilla pudding with a fruity flavoured thin watery sauce) we headed to bed and slept like babies until the next morning.
A lot of people complained about the dinner and so our coach drivers started spinning some wheels and from then on they got somewhat better in that they added a salad and some vegetables and also a vegetarian choice to the menu, so that you had a choice of several options each day. Sad to say, most nights the choices were not to our taste and so we ate out 3 of the 5 nights we were there, expensive, but true. At least we got to enjoy the food of Austria! I quite enjoyed the breakfasts though . . . fresh brotchen, sliced cheese and meat, jams, meusli, yoghurt, etc. and the tastiest little plums. I had them every morning, they were so good.
The first day we got to visit several places. First we visited the mountain village of Alpbach, which has been voted “Austria’s most beautiful village” as well as “Europe’s most beautiful flower village”. Picturesquely situated on a sunny plateau 1000 metres above sea level, Alpbach made a picture postcard with geraniums and other flowers adorning the window boxes of the chocolate box style houses. It was just lovely, with spectacular views of the mountain scenery.
From there we went down to the Inn Valley to the smallest town in Austria, Rattenberg, famous for its glass blowing industry and quaint souvenir shops. We got to tour a glass blowing demonstration and wandered about the street, visiting the shops and taking in the beauty of our surroundings. There was a lovely river running along side of the town, called the Inn River and the water was crystal clear. Apparently the water in Austria is the best in the world, having been filtered down through countless layers of rock and mountain.
Our cheeky coach drivers then threw in an additional little trip to Lake Achensee, a beautiful lake which lies amidst some beautiful mountains, surrounded by conifer forests. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful Austrian Lakes and we all enjoyed our visit there, complete with some tasty apple strudel!
Each evening we were free to do as we wanted and after dinner we went for long walks through the town we were staying in. There were two rivers running through the town and it was really very pretty and clean. We did love it very much. There was a restaurant in the town that had live music every night. It was a one man band, but he was fantastic. He kind of reminded me of Elvis. H sang a lot of old rock and roll and ballads and was very, very good.
We ended up there most nights with our two friends we had made on the trip, which we called the two Phil's, Philomena and Philip from Blackpool. They are lovely people and we really enjoyed their company. I think we have made some friends there for life and hopefully this autumn we will be travelling up to Blackpool one weekend to see the Illumnations.
The next day we went to the Krimml Falls and Kitzbühel. I have to say that some of the scenery we drove through to get there was absolutely stunning to say the least. Our coach drivers were very informative each day and very entertaining. They literally taught us everything about Austria that we ever wanted to or could know and they did it in a very entertaining and fun way. We really enjoyed them.
Where the Krimml River thunders down over 1000 feet in three mighty stages, at the foot of the Gerlos Pass, are the spectacular Krimml Waterfalls, which give views many consider to be unsurpassed throughout Europe. It was a healthy walk and quite beautiful to see. The air was full of mist from the spray of the falls and we sure got in our exercise travelling down the trail to see them and back.
From there, we moved along the Salzach Valley and over the Thurn Pass to the internationally renowned resort of the rich and famous, Kitzbühel, where we had some time to explore this beautiful walled town. We had our lunch there and then explored it to our hearts content. Beautiful buildings and flowers surrounded us at every turn.
One of the things I loved most about Austria was the gorgeous Baroque Churches. Filled to the hilt with stunning gilt and gold statuary, the ceilings painted with wonderfully coloured murals etc., I found them quite fascinating and breathtakingly beautiful. I think they were one of my most favourite parts of the trip.
Well, I think I've bored you enough for one day, so I will leave the rest to tell you tommorrow!
I had a bit of trouble with my oven yesterday. It quit working! It's only six months old. An engineer is coming out to fix it on Monday next. Far too long to wait for my liking! We were in need of a new microwave anyways, so yesterday afternoon we went to the Curry's store and bought ourselves a combi microwave/convection/grill oven. I did bake a cake in it, and was so impressed I think I will bake all my cakes in it from now on! In any case after all that hullabaloo I was too tired to make much for our supper and so Todd had leftover curry and rice and I threw together this pasta dish for myself. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy . . .
*Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce*
This is so quick and easy and light. The flavours are intense and gorgeous. It's one of my favourite pasta dishes. The recipe can also be very easily cut down to serve 2 or 3, or even 1 if need be. Todd is a pasta hater and so I most often just make this for myself.
4 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, use a good quality if possible
1 TBS good quality Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red chilis
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder, optional
freshly ground black pepper
a small handfull of basil leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound of cooked pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water for the sauce
Stir together the tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chilis, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
While the tomatoes are marinating, cook your pasta, according to your package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, roll your basil up tightly and cut it into slivers with a sharp knife. (This is called chiffonade) Set aside.
Once the pasta is cooked, stir 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water into the tomatoes, then drain the pasta well and stir it into the tomatoes as well. Stir in the basil and the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Serve immediately.
If you'd like to read about my oven adventure yesterday afternoon, and see what I baked in my new combi/oven, hop on over to The English Kitchen! Mmmm . . . Rasberry Bakewell Cake!