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Living La Dolce Diva – Part 1

So, I lied. I didn’t mean to, but I did.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pChjbl4I/AAAAAAAADSE/Wdv0C3r9zsw/s400/166.1.jpg” border=”0″ />top: 2px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>Last month, I wrote a blog telling about our upcoming trip to Italy. I waxed on about how for once in my life I was going to slow down and smell the roses. That rather than attempting to crunch a Grand Tour of Italy into a week and a half of vacation, that my husband and I had decided to visit just one location – taking it easy, lingering over the sights of Florence, absorbing the culture and romancing the moment. But this intention towards slow traveltowards only studying one site – was a fallacy in my mind before we’d walked out the door, rolling our luggage behind. You see, what I forgot to mention in that particular post was that before we even arrived in Italy, we were taking another trip to visit friends for 4 days and that we allowed an extra 3 days worth of time for taking detours on the 11 ½ hour drive each way from Berlin, Germany to Florence, Italy.to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pBg292XI/AAAAAAAADRk/1sRVNgL5XhQ/s400/024.1.jpg” border=”0″ />The plan was quite simple, really, and though we saw lots more than just Florence as I proclaimed, we really did take time to linger as long as possible at each site visited. The vacation started one day after work, driving late into the evening, arriving at our friend’s front door in Stuttgart Germany as the coo-coo tweeted twelve times and the station wagon turned into a pumpkin. Herr and Frau Stuttgart were waiting “chez them”, dressed in PJ’s and we kissed hello, laughing over a glass of wine before slipping under the covers and awoke to the smell of freshly baked bread the next morning.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pB7QRVWI/AAAAAAAADR0/JJ6Xej1P2xE/s400/092.1.jpg” border=”0″ />For the next two days we lingered at “The Stuttgart Family” house, sitting in their garden, admiring their view, their vineyard and 10,000 rose bushes. On a lazy afternoon we went into town, meandering the Stuttgart Flea Market stalls and visiting antique shops and then spent the evening at a nearby Schloss, listening to music at the regional music festival.

to 10px; width: 320px; cursor: hand; height: 320px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9rPgeA6lI/AAAAAAAADTE/_D6NiN15v_A/s320/Mercedes-Benz_logo.gif” border=”0″ />The next day we drove our black Benz to the Mercedes Benz Museum – a tour that while very interesting to me later came back to haunt WG when I asked him to join me in Florence at the toreferragamo.it/” target=”_blank”>Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Then the next afternoon the 4 of us hopped in our car and drove to the border where Austria, Germany and Switzerland meet at Lake Constance, taking the funicular to the top of the mountain enjoying the wonderful, panoramic view.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pZQJU1AI/AAAAAAAADSM/fSbH1qsqExQ/s400/172.1.jpg” border=”0″ />Perhaps it was that very view that inspired our detour for the next day as WG & I departed on our drive towards Italy. As we crossed into Switzerland, I pulled the Europe atlas from the pocket behind my seat to look up the route our GPS was guiding us on, and realized that with a slight detour we could visit St Moritz, a place I’d never been but always wanted to see. As it was June, the roads were clear from snow and ice for the season and the great glacier pass was open for traffic, though around us as we crested the mountains snow still rested on the ground. From St Moritz, we continued our journey south crossing into Italy and arrived just in time for dinner at Bellagio, on Lake Como.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9paIgm_OI/AAAAAAAADSk/GYeCo4PPSRE/s400/257.12.jpg” border=”0″ />The next day we arrived in Florence, just as planned, checking into our “oh so humble” hotel, marveling over it’s great location and noting that a mention in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die doesn’t guarantee the hotel won’t have mildew in the shower. Perhaps it was because the room was less than inviting that we found ourselves meandering the streets of Florence, leaving early in the day and returning late at night.

to 10px; width: 300px; cursor: hand; height: 400px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pCZuFttI/AAAAAAAADR8/Uyi2EWYb5eY/s400/110.1.jpg” border=”0″ />Mornings were started with a jolt of liquid personality, saddling up to the bar at cafes dotted on the Ponte Vecchio, ordering half-priced cappuccino or espresso (discounted because you drink whilst standing). Sufficiently caffeinated, we dashed to and thro across one of the most amazing cities in Europe. Florence – the birth place of the Renaissance – seeped into my soul, causing a rebirth of my artistic sensibility. We visited the Uffizi, the to/home.html” target=”_blank”>Galleria Dell’Accademia, Il Duomo, and the Medici Chapels, not to mention the Palazzo Vecchio and Mercato Nuovo and Mercato San Lorenzo and to-inet.or.jp/org/orion/eng/hst/gothic/croce.html” target=”_blank”>Church of Santa Croce alongside its famous leather school.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9p5I0-70I/AAAAAAAADS0/fGHAaWCGXXo/s400/357.1.jpg” border=”0″ />We took a walking tour with Art Vivia that was the best walking tour I’ve ever taken and we ate copious quantities of gelato, shopped relentlessly for Italian silk ties and purses made by Florentine leather designers.

In a fit of channeling Fitzgerald, WG purchased a silk ascot for those crisp, fall days we lunch at Lutter & Wegner on the Gendarmenmarkt back home in Berlin. And I worshiped at the altar of Ferragamo, visiting Salvatore’s’ namesake museum dragging WG along in a tit-for-tat moment as he drug me through the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart a few days prior. Naturally, I can’t visit a city without checking out the antique scene so we strolled through the antiques district and spent an afternoon shopping the Piazza dei Ciompi Flea market.

to 10px; width: 300px; cursor: hand; height: 400px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pBxVPxaI/AAAAAAAADRs/CaOgaWHPJS4/s400/072.1.jpg” border=”0″ />And we reconnected, my husband of 13 years and I, on this trip celebrating our anniversary. We held hands and made public displays of affection, kissing on street corners and snuggling on park benches, rubbing one another’s feet at the end of the day when we’d walked too much. As we took our car from the valet to start our return drive to Berlin, we were delighted in knowing that we’d be back to Florence next summer when we take my niece Tessa on a Grand Tour for her 16th birthday. When asked what she wanted to see while abroad, Italy topped her list, much to our delight, and we’re already planning next summer’s odyssey to Venice, Florence, Milan and Cinque Terre.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 345px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pZzw8HVI/AAAAAAAADSc/42ftaxPj-30/s400/257.1.jpg” border=”0″ />to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9paeTO0GI/AAAAAAAADSs/cOZz3unW-6s/s400/269.1.jpg” border=”0″ />In the meantime, with Venice on our mind, we detoured there on our drive home, spending an afternoon in Venice and taking in an early dinner before hitting the road yet again, cutting through the Alps and Austria before returning home to Berlin.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/Sk9pZmU5TQI/AAAAAAAADSU/HXn-0ovl7sM/s400/209.1.jpg” border=”0″ />We may not have stopped and smelled the roses, but it was indeed a sensational vacation. One you’ll be reading about for weeks on end these coming months as I post hints, tips and addresses from our trip, telling tales and sharing divalicious photos of Living La Dolce Diva!

Arrivederci!

The Antiques Diva™

(Seen Right rubbing the brass porcellino which legend says will ensure a rapid return to Florence)

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Earth Day

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Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Today, April 22, is Earth Day – a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment! We all know that “Recycling” is the watch word for Green Living – but did you realize that buying items for your home from antique shops, flea markets and garage sales is the essence of recycling and reusing? You can not only contribute to saving the environment by buying used goods, but you can also come up with snazzy décor and a unique home through purchasing things from the past! What an easy and fun way to live a greener life (and a perfect excuse for a guilt-free splurge!).

Happy Shopping!

The Antiques Diva™

Fairy Tale Charm and Shopping in Cesky Krumlov – Czech Republic

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top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>When The Swiss Miss called last week saying that she, The Little Swiss Miss and her husband, The Pelikan Pen Guy, were planning a driving trip through some villages in the southern Czech Republic I sighed a dreamy sigh and proclaimed, “The village of Cesky Krumlov reads like a fairy tale.”


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Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo buildings dot twisting cobblestone alleyways set against the dramatic Krumlov Hrad (Schwarzenberg Castle). Here the Rozenberk dynasty ruled for over 300 years and apparently they built a room for every year they were in power, for this 300-roomed castle is the second largest in the Czech Republic, coming in after Prague’s famed castle.

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Since the fall of communism, tourists have flocked to this little Bohemian village near the Austrian border to visit the castle and its surrounding area. Hotels, restaurants, great shops and antique stores have followed suit – not missing an opportunity one for serving the revitalization of this river-side town.

Diva Readers Take Note – Vendors often were more open to negotiation in Euro than the local currency the Czech Koruna. Thus come prepared with extra Euros on hand for better negotiation.

Nearby the castle, you can stay (or merely dine) in the romantic Hotel Ruze, a 16th C Renaissance building once used as a Jesuit monastery. Should you want to get a bit further off the tourist path, there are a myriad of pensions to choose from that are still within walking distance from the edge of town. While a day or two is enough time to tour the historic town, the shopping in Cesky Krumlov might just require an extended stay! Among the shops and vendors selling arts, antiques and handicrafts, one gallery stands out from the crowd – that of Miro Pozar.

Miro Pozar is a Czech sculptor whose work has appeared throughout Europe and North America. His face and torso are as chiseled as his sandstone sculptures made from stone culled from nearby quarries. Miro studies the stone in its rugged, raw state and he sees what is not there but could be – crafting the breast of a woman or the weary face of an old man in the veins of the stone. From time to time, the stone cries out for something different – to be made into more abstract art – and Miro creates from the past the future – making sculptures that appear both medieval and modern in their simplicity.

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Often as you walk about town you feel this simplicity – and this connection with the past even as you go forward into something as mundane and modern as a nation-wide chain. Botanicus stores branch across the Czech Republic, and while truth be told I enjoy visiting them in any Czech location, this Cesky Krumlov branch is perhaps my favorite. Fresh lavender dried and tied in bunches decorates the walls while baskets of fresh fruit soaps and cosmetics are placed about the room, giving an air of days long past. The shelves are lined like an old general store with oils, vinegars, conserves, teas and cordials. Each item is organic and made from the finest collection of natural products grown on Botanicus’ own farm in a small rural Czech village.

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The past is felt yet again when lunching at the nearby 16th C mill – Krumlovsky Mlyn (Krumlov Mill). One of the largest Renaissance buildings in town, the thematic restaurant not only offers a giant terrace overlooking the Vltava River where patrons dine to the sound of water churning, but it also houses an antique shop on premise alongside an oddly out-of-place-but-interesting-none-the-less historical motorcycle “museum”. For a real score, antique shoppers will head from here to two of my favorite antique shops in this region – Antique Starozitnosti and Antik Sterzunger.

Antique Starozitnosti (located at Zamecke Schody 8) has an interesting assortment of “perfectly packables” on offer. Antiques and vintage curiosities tumble onto the street, offering pedestrians a peek at the treasures inside. Their prices tend to be higher than some of the other antique shops in town but their inventory caught my attention. I fell head over heels for a pair of opera glasses, a blue glass ink well, a well-loved violin and a collection of vintage cameras.

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The items for sale at Antik Sterzinger (located at Siroka 48) were priced remarkably well. Walking into the corridor of the little shop you know without a doubt that you will find treasures inside!. Though the prices were reasonable to start with, the staff was still open to negation — WG picked up a beautiful alabaster bowl for a song (down from 16 E to 12 E) and I negotiated the purchase of an elaborate turn of the century marble pastry cart – that wouldn’t be out of place at Vienna’s Sacher Café – from 150 E down to 122 Euro. to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/SbtlHXUEjTI/AAAAAAAACuk/KZxcBmcxTSc/s320/Antique+Sterzinger.jpg” border=”0″ />
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Of course, getting this latter piece home proved to be a problem as the vendor wasn’t willing to ship the product (even at my own expense) and after purchasing a statue at Miro Pozar’s our car was filled to the brim with Czech exports. With regret I left this treasure in the store, knowing that it was a bargain as I’d seen a similar cart priced for 1500E in Paris just a year before… so I left hoping that someday when I returned (hopefully in a much larger car) it would be there waiting for me in Cesky Krumlov. Now my only fear is that having told The Swiss Miss and her husband about my incredible find they might beat me to it! I guess that’s a risk The Antiques Diva™ has to take!

Na Shledanou!
Happy Travels and Happy Antique Shopping!

The Antiques Diva ™
(seen at right with WG drinking pilsner in Prague)

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