Mooser Hotel Slopeside Luxury St Anton

Austria is a country known for extraordinary skiing. Those fortunate enough to have enjoyed the famous slopes also know that the resorts are renowned for festive après ski parties. Now, there is something new in the idyllic village of St Anton, a boutique ski hotel that epitomizes luxury.

Some might consider buildingan exculsive17-room hotel right next-door to one of the biggest après ski parties in Austria, outrageous. However, with long-term vision and a commitment to the local area, The Mooser Hotel opened its doors to guests, for the first time in December 2011.

das MOOSER Hotel-St.Anton am Arlberg- Image-4-Entrance, Pictures Patrick Säly

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European Ski Tour Exposed

Thus far, the 2011 ski-season has not been stellar in most of Europe.  The majority of resort areas are suffering from lack of new snowfall and warm temperatures (“une tempête de soleil“).  The net result, is crowded slopes and neige-dure (a nice way of saying hard-packed, icy conditions).  Ginger and Nutmeg have been doing some skiing in the past few weeks, and they thought you would want their feedback on the resorts. Here are a few highlights and overviews from the European ski tour:

Ischgl, Austria:

The tiny village of Yscla, was once a remote farming village, it has been converted into a mega-resort with; 238 km of ski trails, 41 cable cars and other lifts and 32 grooming machines. The owners have spent 200 million Euros upgrading the facilities on the hill in the last 10 years, and it shows. The lifts are new, the lodges are well appointed, and in some cases very modern in design. The combined resort of Ischgl-Samnaun (Swiss side) is one of the largest in Europe, if you believe their web site.  Ischgl has clearly been developed to meet a tourist need, with lots of variety in accommodation. There is a permanent population of about 1500, although it is hard to envision where they actually live, in the sea of hotels.  This resort has a reputation as a party spot and according to Ginger it does live up to that grade.  Here a a couple photos of Ischgl by day and night…

Ischgl Views


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Which is the best Coffee Capital Paris Vienna or Brussels

Nutmeg says hands down Vienna is the best Coffee Capital.  You will find decent coffee in all three locations, Paris has already been mentioned (02/23 Don’t tell the French Italian coffee is better), Brussels is decent with many options for Italian expresso or café au lait.   However, the Viennese have created an entire culture around the “coffee-house” which generally involves a smoky bar or quieter lounge. Legend has it that soldiers of the Polish-Habsburg army, while liberating Vienna from the second Turkish siege in 1683, found a number of sacks with strange beans that they initially thought were camel feed and wanted to burn. The Polish king Jan III Sobieski granted the sacks to one of his officers named Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who started the first coffee house. After some experimentation, he added some sugar and milk, and the Viennese coffee tradition was born.

In Vienna, there are plenty of sweet choices to go along with your coffee.  The two most delicious and famous are the Sachertorte and Applestrudel.  Legend has it the Sachertorte was invented in the kitchens at the 5-star Sacher Hotel.  It is definitely very good although Nutmeg is not sure if it is the best.  The Sacher Café closely guards the recipe; in fact it is apparently locked in a vault.  Not to worry though you can find a very acceptable version on Epicurious.  The only issue in Vienna is they still allow smoking in restaurants so look for one with a non-smoking section…or no people.

Nutmeg’s vote:  Vienna is the best coffee capital.

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European Capitals Dining options in Paris, Vienna and Brussels

If there is one thing that Nutmeg and Ginger love to try it is food.  The truth is you are not going to starve in any of these great cities; the array of options can be overwhelming.  In all three cities Paris, Vienna and Brussels there is no end of options for international cuisine.  Each city offers fresh farmers markets, local produce retailers and many ethnic specialty areas.  In turn, each city has a large inventory of what Nutmeg likes to call the dreaded “overpriced and underwhelming tourist traps”.

With the internet, it is easy enough to search for good to great restaurant options in any city. Zagat is a reliable resource and a bit more established in Europe than Open Table.

The other strategy is “roll of the dice”; this means taking some time to look at the menu (price and limited variety), the décor (lighting levels and table settings) and the number of diners (never try an empty restaurant).  Here are some recommendations based on this strategy:

In Vienna:

Nutmeg and Ginger tried Indochine 21 night the food is influenced by South East Asia and the décor by Thailand and Vietnam.  This place scored highly on Nutmeg’s list as the lighting levels were appropriate and the smoke levels low – oh and the food was very good.

A funky place to check out is Urania was built according to the plans of Art Nouveau architect Max Fabiani (a student of Otto Wagner) at the mouth of the Wien River and was opened in 1910 by Franz Joseph I of Austria as an educational center with a public observatory. It was named after the Muse Urania who represents Astronomy. The bar/restaurant is perched right above the water.  The menu is not extensive but the food is decent and the service prompt.  If you are not hungry just go for a drink Urania is a great people-watching scene.

In Brussels:

A great find was Toscana 21.  This tiny restaurant has been open about three years it is located just of the Place du Petit Sablon. The menu is limited in size with a focus on Tuscan specialties.  Momma is the chef, her son Lorenzo and his wife (training opera singer) run the show out front.  We had an antipasto selection with great pecorino cheeses and a selection of specialty cured meats.  The main course pastas (all homemade from scratch) were fantastic.  Ginger had a goat cheese and honey stuffed tortellini in a cheese, pear and poppy seed sauce.  Nutmeg had “nude gnocchi”; spinach and ricotta dumplings without the outer shell – they were like little cloud puffs.  The food was fantastic and Nutmeg will not be trying these at home.  She will be booking another trip to Tuscany though!

So the bottom line is you are never hard-pressed to find good and great food in these European cities.  Use whatever methodology you like (internet, word of mouth, roll of the dice) but Go and Explore!

Wonderful Vienna Austria

This blog post is out of order (and late) our trip itinerary was Paris-Vienna-Brussels, however the weather and the sites in Vienna were so engaging that Nutmeg had no time to write, so the best is last. Nutmeg and Ginger both like Austria and agree Vienna is wonderful, for slightly different reasons:

Nutmeg loves the fact that the Austrians seem to have combined the Swiss and German efficiency with fantastic architecture and cuisine that embraces the borders with Hungry, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

Ginger loves the fact the Austrians serve schnitzel and spatzle in many variations.  In addition, there is copious draught beer and the locally produced wine is very drinkable.  He also loves the fact that the country has some really great skiing and they love to Apres Ski.

We visited Vienna the capital, it is a magical place, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. The population is about 1.7 million, there is a good road system including a ring road (Ringstrabe or Ringstrasse) designed and built in the 1860’s (eat your heart out Calgary).  This is a bike friendly city there are bike lanes everywhere, it is obvious that this is highly utilized as a commuter option.  Vienna has tied Vancouver for one of the world’s most livable cities.

Vienna was founded around 500 BC, originally a Celtic settlement. In 15 BC, Vienna became a Roman frontier city (Vindobona) guarding the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes to the north. In the 13th century, Vienna came under threat from the Mongolian Empire, which stretched over much of present-day Russia and China. During the Middle Ages, Vienna was home to the Babenberg Dynasty, and in 1440, it became the resident city of the Habsburg Dynasties. It eventually grew to become the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a cultural centre for arts and science, music and fine cuisine. It was occupied by Hungary between 1485-1490. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman armies were stopped twice outside Vienna. In 1679 the bubonic plague struck the city, killing nearly a third of its population.

In 1804, Vienna became the capital of the Austrian Empire and continued to play a major role in European and world politics, including hosting the 1814 Congress of Vienna. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Vienna remained the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city was a centre of classical music, for which the title of the First Viennese School is sometimes applied.

Vienna has a large museum inventory including: Albertina, Leopold Museum, Natural History Museum, Belveder, Modern Art Museum and countless others.  Unless, you are planning to stay for months in Vienna you need to really target what you want to see.  Nutmeg and Ginger visited the Albertina; it has permanent collection, the Andy Warhol Cars temporary exhibition and a section of Hofburg staterooms.

On top of the art scene there is music and lots of it, ranging from the beautiful Opera (Staasoper) and Music Hall (Musikverein) to many small venues for local and international acts.  It may seem obvious to some readers given this country was home to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Shubert so the appreciation for music has a long history.

The Vienna Tourism group does a great job.  You can purchase a Vienna card for 18 Euro; this allows you to take advantage of entry, food and shopping discounts within a 72hr period.   Vienna Tourism has established some self-guided walking tours covering 6 different districts. Not to be missed are St Stephen Cathedral, The Hofburg Palace and gardens, The Parliament Building and the Town Hall (Rathaus Platz).

Kids and Adults should see the Spanish Riding School.  It actually is still a riding school! The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the only institution in the world, which has practiced for over 430 years and continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école.  You can go in the mornings and watch them practice, the cost is 12 Euro and you listen to lovely classical music while they practice, although you are limited in to viewing only what they are practicing at the time.  They have shows a few times a week.

So Vienna is manageable, interesting, affordable and generally fabulous.  Go and Visit Wonderful Vienna!

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