tWe had ambitious plans this Christmas morning of going to Schonbrunn, checking out the Versailles-like palace and grounds, then exploring the Hofburg complex back in Vienna in the afternoon. Two palaces in one day is possible of course, but I kept forgetting we weren’t in our 20s anymore, something my lower back pain stubbornly kept reminding me of. Before anything else though, part of the plan was to have breakfast in Sisi’s old playground and the most appealing option was the Gloriette, a building separate from the main palace and that commanded a gorgeous view of the skyline. As expected there was a price to be paid for that view – the trek from the main gate entrance and uphill to the Gloriette was a tad too much for a holiday morning, I was huffing and puffing, dripping nose and sweaty all over by the time we got there. It also didn’t dawn on me that a reservation would have been nice to have as when we got there the place appeared packed. After a few moments of hesitation, luckily we got a nice, relatively quiet table – followed by one surprise after another. The first was that there were live classical music performers right next to us, and not soon after sitting down we were given flutes of bubbly. I started getting worried and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into – given the alpine-level prices we’d encountered the past few days, I wouldn’t be surprised if our impromptu breakfast cost 100 Euros a head. After looking around the beautiful room, the fog lifting and the morning sun streaming through ceiling-high windows, the thought that emperors did the same thing as what we were now doing, violin and piano music wafting softly in the air, it seemed as if nothing else mattered at that moment. We picked up our glasses and toasted each other to a hearty Christmas morning. It was a nervously wonderful way to start the day.