Thursday, January 14, 2010

Venice, Italy

We had a fabulously relaxing time in Venice. Can you believe that we visited Paris & Venice (two of the most romantic cities in the world) within the same week (as in, period of 7 days)? I need to pinch myself. We've got to be two of the luckiest people.

Honestly, I became a little obsessed with this website that is related to Wikipedia called WikiTravel. I read all about other people's experiences visiting Venice. I heard about how heavily polluted with sewage (yuck!) the water is and I was a little disgusted... but... this place is beautiful. There isn't a single car allowed on the islands themselves because the streets aren't built for cars. There are canals everywhere connecting the land together by bridges. The weather was terrible in the beginning, but after about 4 hours of complete downpour and unbearable wind, it cleared up. We had fog/sunshine for the rest of our trip that allowed us to really enjoy walking all over the place. We DID Venice.

A lot of these photos have no significance other than aesthetic. I will have fewer captions on this post. I also didn't post every single photo that I normally do, because I have reached my 1GB limit that Google has given me. I may, gasp, actually have to consider other options or pay for more storage. Ack.

These were taken as I stood at our hotel window. We had the canals directly below!!! Going during the "off" season, we were able to get the room for 65% less than the summer prices go for. It totally pays to vacation during off-season! Plus, there's an even better perk: no crowds!

left: window from our hotel room
right: Murano glass chandelier in our room that was attached by a paperclip. Haha. Pretty cheap!

left: Venice
right: Murano island + Ray & a glass woman

One of many delicious pieces of pizza. Oh, how I wish German pizza had such flavor! thought we were done with food... haha! GELATO time!

...clever way to keep the birds away!

Who can spot the pollution?

A crazy glass piece on Murano island

Here's one of those infamous glass factories they lure you into and never let you leave! We didn't take the "free" shuttle to Murano because the weather was poor and they weren't running during the time we wanted to go. Rain or shine, the Wilsons are troopers! We hopped on a pay water taxi for 8 Euro total (round trip, two people-- it's like their "bus") and had no haggling!!!

left: glass oven
right: Ray + Murano sign (on Murano island)

We paid 2 Euro each to watch a glass demonstration for about 20 minutes. It was a deal... and no haggling! It was really cool because we actually got to see the master at work! These guys are just demo guys who make silly trinkets and then melt them down for the next demo. But, we stayed between presentations and saw the master making bulb covers for a chandelier!

These are the moulds they use to blow glass into and create a neat design on the exterior...

This is the foundry owner actually blowing through the pipe to expand the glass! He's making a chandelier piece. blowing into those moulds

...and creating the fancy edging to curl...

I tried to find information online about this... it looks like a Prison right next to the grand canal!

...a church we entered...

There's a heavy Catholic presence there and lots of churches. I doubt they're all used...

We saw many gondoliers. The truth was... it only started to really "warm" up a couple hours before we left on Sunday afternoon. We didn't want to freeze in a gondola or spend the over 80 Euro to take one!

Here I am standing on the Rialto bridge. This is the bridge and hub of Venice. ...and check out that pizza in my hand! It's the same slice as before, don't worry!

...but for this photo... I actually had to stick my pizza crust inside my pocket! Well, I didn't have to, but I figured there were only so many photos I actually needed with me holding food! This is the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge (btw).

Rialto Bridge. I can just imagine this during the summer. Crazy!

Palace in Vienna. I first saw this at night and was amazed. I love first viewing things at night. Everything is more calm, more serene, more beautiful. Then, I view it again in the light... and this was then. Here's a view of St. Mark's Square.

St. Mark's Basilica-- the water floods so high that the church has platforms to enter! It does feel very uneven to walk in as well (once you're finally on the ground).

left: St. Mark's Campanile
right: belltower in St. Mark's Square

Walking into St. Mark's Basilica. I couldn't take photos... but the ceiling was just incredible.

The ground (flooded) in St. Mark's Square. Here's the problem with water drains; when water level is high, it comes back up to haunt you! Essentially, the city is slowly drowning.

The winged-lion is the symbol of San Marco

I really liked this for some reason. I always dig the statues...

The Church of Santa Maria della Salute

right: that building in the center is legitimately leaning! It's not a camera angle. one point in time, these steps lead down to a platform you would stand on to enter boats. Now, they're underwater and useless.

Wouldn't it be cool to have your front porch as a bridge over a canal?

Look closely. That's sidewalk u-n-d-e-r-w-a-t-e-r!

I'm not sure the Ca' d'Oro (beautiful palace built in the 1400's) was meant to be underwater... was definitely laundry day in Venice
(we love searching around for the non-touristy areas where people are "living")

Hey look, it's New York! Nevermind... just a pile 'o' trash in the middle of beautiful Venice

fog = intense!

...that's the sun, not my camera flash. You can also see a boat that's carrying cars.

whatever it takes!

A military establishment right there on the canals

...and as we were leaving, we were graced with this gorgeous sunlit view!

I also tagged on this the week of journaling so I didn't have to create a new post:

Montag 04.01.2010 (day 112)
Our vacation was so nice because I didn’t workout. I think that is the one thing I hate the most about being an adult. As a child, you never stress over consumption, health, or getting enough exercise. While I don’t obsess over it as an adult either, I feel a guilt and obligation to maintain a healthy body, weight, and mind through it all. I really do see my body as being a temple. I don’t care to workout everyday, but I try to maintain a regimen while I have all this time on my hands. I’d much prefer coach track and run with my students than do workout videos in my miniature German living room. Enough talk about that… I didn’t workout today. It starts tomorrow. I needed one mental health day of no obligations, driving, or exercise. I answered emails this morning and got up to speed on what I hadn’t seen during our vacation. I did lots of laundry this morning as well and that continued until the evening. When Ray came home for lunch, we had leftovers in an attempt to clear out the fridge and not waste anything we purchased. We’re just about cleared out at this point. I cannot believe that next month we’re looking at houses and may place an offer on one! With that said, we’re conscious of our spending and being ever-so-frugal for the next couple months (at least). It’s no fun buying a house if you’re wiped clean afterward! We headed off to work after lunch and had a chance to talk with some of the employees about their holidays. Something I recently learned: Germans call “New Year’s”, “Sylvester”… not sure why. I spent my entire afternoon researching to name the photos I took on our vacation and I am slowly but surely catching up to speed. I started the blog process by naming all the photos from Prague and Dresden and posted blogs for both. I’ve never had so much to categorize in my life! I’m not complaining though… it was so fun to experience that I’m happy to review the fun. We left around 5ish to head home and stopped off at Netto market for a few items—but mainly to cash in our plastic bottles. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the bottles here are worth a ton! If you buy a water, for example, the base price may be -.19, but the deposit is -.25 Euro cents! That’s over 36 United States pennies! For one bottle, that’s a ton. So, we are really good about recycling since they have such high value. Of course, that’s the point for the deposit in the first place. It’s better for the environment, better for your wallet to get the money you deposited back, and better to maintain a clean land. Well, you may also imagine the amount of bottles our family went through during their visit. I got a lot of flack for saving these bottles with the limited space we had in our car (ehhm, Dad!). But, I refused to waver. I would’ve just recycled as we went along and found grocery stores in every city, but unfortunately they were never open due to holiday hours! So, we drove around with a bunch of bottles in our car and had to make room for them and hear them shuffle as we turned corners and whatnot. Perhaps you’ll think I’m cheap, but when I tell you that when we finally took them to the machine today, we got about 10 Euro back just in bottles! That’s almost $15!!! I think it was worth saving those bottles after all. We actually had about 10 that the machine simply wouldn’t take back either, otherwise we would have had about $17 bucks worth. That paid for all of the groceries that we purchased and I received money back from the cashier! Off we went back home after the shopping trip, ate dinner and settled back into our routine. We didn’t do our German homework yet. We’re saving that gem for tomorrow night… oh procrastination is back in full force!

Dienstag 05.01.2010 (day 113)
I was reluctant, but I did it. I worked out this morning. It was difficult. I think it was the amount of donuts, ice cream, chocolate, and cookies I consumed throughout the course of two weeks. They were worth it. I started out with only 25 minutes of workout (usually 30-40 minutes) and cleaned a bit more before checking the usual emails, reading all about the Bachelor and American Idol (that I cannot watch because it’s blocked here in Europe… sad!), and made lunch before Ray came home. We headed back to work and I talked to many more people about our trip and completed the blogs for Berlin and Potsdam. Tomorrow I’ll focus on Altena castle for the first day we spent with Ray’s parents included! We headed home around 6 p.m. to make dinner and do homework. Since my mom was AMAZING and brought us FOUR Trader Joe’s Indian meals from America, I was thrilled to have one for dinner. Just like home. Paired with the homemade Christmas cookies from Ray’s mom and we’re two happy fat kids. We attempted to do our German homework… but we didn’t want to. Sometimes homework is boring and I’m willing to admit that. I am having flashbacks to Spanish homework in high school and the repeater sentences that were mind-numbing. Flashback turned reality. We relaxed the rest of the evening as I tried to scheme how I will watch the Bachelor/American Idol from Germany… or pout. One of the two is bound to happen. German Idol starts tomorrow… so at least I have something to watch. They sing mostly in English, so I’m even more excited. Too bad I’ll miss out on the whole judging part.

Mittwoch 06.01.2010 (day 114)
I got out of bed as Ray was leaving for work. I immediately headed to the kitchen to cook up a few things. First, we have way too many potatoes lying around. We bought a bunch before the family rolled into town because we wanted to have enough for baked potatoes and chili if we needed an extra meal idea. I can never judge very well exactly how much I need of something and usually end up with too much. Too much is better than too few, I think. Anyhow… what to do with all these potatoes! I started cutting and ended up making a big vat of hash browns. I love these any and everyday of the week and it’s a perfect ready-made breakfast item. I also started on some rice to go with our lunch for the day. I cooked up some oatmeal for today’s breakfast, did some dishes, and sat down with the usual emails to respond and catch up with the day’s news. I had enough time to squeeze in my workout of about 20 minutes. For some reason, I’m really sore. It’s the sign of getting older… missing two weeks really does a number on my body when I attempt to get back in the game. Really, the main reason I was short on time was because I was browsing the web and found out that The Bachelor, one of my TV favorites is available online to download from a website that allows outsiders. ABC won’t allow it for some reason. I set my hearts on taking care of that on the more reliable Internet connection at work later this afternoon. After the workout, I got moving with a shower and lunch. We had my version of a taco salad for lunch with some of that rice I cooked up earlier on top. It was delish! After we had lunch, we headed back to work for our 1:00 p.m. scheduled German lesson. Naturally, Sabine arrived at 1:30. The lag gave me time to download The Bachelor for viewing later in the evening (I can watch it online but it videos suck the juice very quickly) and add a couple more blog posts. I managed to post 3 more today. I’m quite proud of my progress. I hope that I can manage to post even more tomorrow. It would be nice to catch up before Venice, but I don’t see that happening. It’s okay… it’ll give me something to do next week as well. After our 3-hour lesson and more fun verbs in chapter 5 (of 8 chapters… trekking right along!), we headed back to our work and my play. We finally left for the evening around 6 and headed home. I decided to use some of those hash browns I had already prepared earlier today and some bacon I had leftover in the freezer along with the pancake mix in the cupboard to make breakfast for dinner. I remember my mom making this when I was a child and it always felt a little crazy to have breakfast when it was evening time. I think it’s fun and I love pancakes and hash browns! I plan to use more potatoes tomorrow by making some cheese potato soup. I need to buy some cheese at the market… that reminds me. I ended up watching The Bachelor and I’m excited at the quality of the video and that I was able to watch it with no commercials! Yippee! I can keep up with the rest of my friends and family who watch it. I am a little bummed that I forgot about the German version of (American Idol) that aired tonight. Bummer. Oh well… overall it was a great day!

Donnerstag 07.01.2010 (day 115)
I went into work with Ray this morning. I usually do on Thursdays because our tutor prefers morning lessons. I am usually bored in the afternoons with spending the entire day in the office, but today is different. I want to blog and I have a lot to add to it! Like I said, I was hoping to get all of the photos from our family trip up before Venice this weekend (and more photos…), but that just isn’t happening. It’s okay. I’ll be busy next week as well. We showed up to work and waited. She’s often late. It doesn’t really matter… because we’re always at the office anyway. We had our lesson from 9:45 until about 12:30. I was pretty restless toward the end and wanted it to be over. Then, lunch. I brought a can of Amy’s Organic Black bean soup for lunch that I got from our friends Andy & Jen when we visited them a month ago. It was delish. Ray headed out with Lothar to their favorite sausage and fry stand. We spent a few more hours at work and left around 6 p.m. We went to Lidl market on the way home to grab some cheese and other items… but cheese was sold out. Oh, how I miss Tillamook cheddar. Cheese here has been a real bust. It has almost no flavor, except the parmesan (which isn’t German anyway). I’d almost rather not eat cheese here. We purchased a few items and headed home to make Cheese (or lack thereof) Potato Soup. It’s my mom’s recipe modified over the years. We loved it as kids and when we lived in the States, I would buy bread bowls at Vons and make this on a cooler day. I can’t say cold. It has never been cold in California as I compare my current living conditions. It’s a tasty soup. The Worcestershire sauce I bought just doesn’t taste right. Oh well. I wanted to use the rest of the potatoes we have hanging around, so I made a huge portion. We ate it tonight and plan on having it for lunch tomorrow as well. It was a pretty good day overall! Tomorrow we’re going to Venice if the weather lets us! Projections of a meter of snow in Germany have been made! Yikes!!!

Freitag 08.01.2010 (day 116)
I went to work with Ray again this morning because we planned to leave early to catch our flight to Venice. I sound so spoiled. I kind of am! I do not mean to throw around our fancy trips like they’re no big deal. I am SO grateful. While I’m grateful, I just can’t believe I’ve seen so much. I was in Paris last weekend and less than a week later, I’m in Venice! These are the two most romantic cities in the world, and I’ve been to both with the most amazing husband I could ever have been blessed with. Okay, back to the day. Pretty normal. I updated the blog a ton and I am almost complete with our parent trip blogs. I only have Paris left to post. Well, Paris and now Venice. We left around 2 p.m. and headed to the Cologne airport. We arrived plenty early because Lothar was worried that we may not make it out due to the intense snow and weather we would be getting in Germany starting this evening. We were fine. The snow must have waited until we left, thankfully! We did some searching at the airport on our Vodafone Internet card (love that thing!), had Burger King for an early dinner, and went through security. This is where things go interesting. Our tube of toothpaste was confiscated. Argh. We must’ve left it in there even though I packed smaller tubes that were the size allowed. I had to throw it away. It was American toothpaste, too. Bummer. At that moment, I also realized I forgot my toothbrush. Again! I forgot it when we visited Luxembourg, too. It’s a habit I have. Since we’ve been taking one bag and merging everything into Ray’s, I, in my sleepiness, put my toothbrush where I always do… back in my bag. But, I didn’t bring my bag. We hopped on the tram and off to our fairly empty airplane. We sat in the first row. We never get that! I had a neighbor, but luckily it was a short flight. We were excited to check out the new German Wings magazine. We’ve flown them many times (they’re a cheap discount carrier) and it’s always been the same magazine. Because it’s a new year, we were hoping for a new draft. We got it! Why is this important? Well, they have a section that encourages you to send them photos of you flying on their airline being fun, or whatever. On one of our last flights in 2009, we took some photos doing the Napolean Dynamite wings (it is German Wings) and sent them in. It was possible to win free tickets—which is the reason I sent them in. We didn’t win tickets, but we did get our faces pasted in the magazine!!! How funny is that! We stepped off the plane, bought tickets for a shuttle bus to Venice (we landed in Treviso), and hopped right on within 5 minutes. We actually hopped on with a bunch of people who just arrived on a Ryan Air flight. The shuttle ride took about 45 minutes to Venice. It dropped us off near the train station and we walked all through the canals to find our hotel. At one point, an elderly woman yelled at us from her balcony that we were going the wrong way. Obviously, she is used to lots of tourism. Then, another lady led the way for us because she again knew we were tourists (luggage, anyone?). We made it to our hotel, the Casa D’Oro (house of gold… I love that I understand a lot of their language because of its similarity to Spanish!) and went up to our room. Small room, uncomfortable bed… but none of that matters! We’re in Venice and our room is right on the canals! Literally, you open the window and we have water below us. Amazing! In addition, there was a bottle of sparking white wine for us. Free breakfast and Internet… and this is my perfect place! We dropped off our bags and headed out to ask the concierge where we might buy a toothbrush. Not brushing, not my thing! She was really helpful and pointed at exact locations within 5 minutes walking distance to purchase one from a vending machine in front of a pharmacy. Fantastic. We set out to find one and we did ! While 3.20 Euro, it was a little spicy, but it was my fault after all. Now I’m a proud owner of an Italian toothbrush that I will be leaving in Ray’s overnight bag from now on. It will be my travel toothbrush. After the purchase, we headed to this amazing square that opened up to a gorgeous palace. This city is absolutely breathtaking. I’ll admit that I had poor visions of it because of the reviews I read online. People loved it, but went on and on about the heavy tourism, smelly streets, polluted water… etc. But, I’ve since changed my entire view. I also had the impression that Paris would be dirtier than it was. It was dirty, but I also think NYC is pretty wretched. We walked back to our hotel stopping off to look at gorgeous glass, boots, and of course, gelato. I WILL get some of that amazingness tomorrow. We bought a piece of pizza to share. Again, amazing. The Germans have this one all wrong. Being so close to Italy, you’d think they’d want to replicate their amazing pizza-making skills. It’s really thin and has almost no sauce (I love sauce)… but it was delicious. I will be eating plenty of that while we’re here. We headed back to the hotel for the evening to drink the rest of that wine. Man, I love it.

Samstag 09.01.2010 (day 117)
Waking up this morning, we were pretty excited. Here we are, in two of the most romantic cities in less than a week and we’re sleeping with a canal just outside our window! Since I hadn’t seen it in daylight yet, it made me even more anxious to get going. We headed downstairs after getting ready for our free breakfast included in our room. Great! It reminded me of all the breakfasts we’ve had when we stay in eastern Europe. Free breakfasts are popular in those regions. After breakfast, we headed out just to walk for a few minutes as we waited for the word on the free shuttle to Morano island. We headed back to the hotel and the concierge told us that it won’t be running today because of the poor weather. Bummer! We heard the other shuttle was around $26 for both of us. Oh well… suck it up, right? We walked in the pouring rain and ridiculous wind to the port and purchased our tickets. We were charged $8 total for departure and return! What a deal! We were even more excited that we’d get to see the island and not be forced into a showroom we don’t want to be in and haggled to purchase something way too expensive. We boarded our boat taxi. It amazed me that this is essentially their bus system. Just like any bus, people have their cards, their routines, their groceries… etc. Except, this was on water! It was pretty crazy to visualize. Since these are all built-up islands, I’m not sure why I was surprised, but I was. We stepped off the boat about 7 minutes later onto Morano. We didn’t know what to do there. We knew they had glass, were famous for glass, and had showrooms. But, it was pouring. Pouring. We had umbrellas, but the wind was so strong that they were useless. We were soaked and having a hard time enjoying the short trip over. We walked around for about an hour before walking past a factory. The guy told us that the show was starting and it cost $2 per person for the show. Awesome! This way, we could see the show and not be haggled. We watched 3 men work. One of them was doing real work, and the others were simply celebrities for us to photograph and “awe” over. The actual worker clearly owned the foundry. We stayed for two demonstrations because we showed up late to the first and hadn’t seen the actual “blow” process yet. The main guy was making parts to a chandelier. It was really interesting and very intricate. It took numerous steps to create one bulb and that was impressive. The “celebrity” guys made two horses (each show we watched they made one) and a vase. It was definitely worth the $4. We walked through their showroom but weren’t haggled or even spoken to. We grabbed a piece of pizza to share and headed back to the main island on another “bus” boat. The rain cleared. Amazing. We had a chance to start enjoying the day at about noon. First, we went back to our hotel to change socks. Ours were soaked from the intense rain. We walked the shops, explored a few churches, the palace, and other fun streets. It was relatively empty and we had lots of time to just enjoy being together. It is a very romantic city, indeed. Ray was really excited to erase his former lonely memory of visiting Venice by spending it with me. I’m more than thankful to be here with him. We walked into one store just before sundown and purchased an ornament. The shopkeeper spoke little English, but was able to speak a bit with us. He had pictures from New York (and the twin towers behind him) and Yellowstone National Park. Finding out I was from Los Angeles, he was really excited because he enjoys visiting, he said. He also showed us the level water rose in his shop over the night. While his shop is recessed (not a good idea in a sinking city!), it had water as high as 1.5 feet in his shop! He was so nice and as we were leaving, he picked up two of his postcards that he usually sells for .80 Euro each and told us they were for our book. What a sweet gesture. We were happy to have given him business. We headed around some more and just walked and walked. We also walked to a lovely gelato place. I love ice cream. Gelato is even better. We shared a mint-chocolate gelato and I was a happy camper! Just before dinner time, we walked back to our hotel and dropped off some of our things and headed out again for dinner. We wanted to experience an authentic Italian meal (sit-down style). We’re usual frugal travelers because we want to see more and have more experiences rather than spend it all on meals, but we knew it had to be done right in Italy. The meals were fine… but portions and prices were high. Though, we don’t regret being able to enjoy a sit-down meal other than pizza. I’m not complaining though… I love the pizza! It is Italy after all! A few funny things about our dinner: I had a glass of Pinot Grigio—and I found out from our bill that it was California wine! Luckily, I had Italian wine yesterday. In Italy. Plus, I can’t blame them. California wine is good. Ray had Spaghetti Carbonara and I had the Pomodoro. For dessert, Ray had Tiramisu. I don’t like Tiramisu, so he had to eat it all on his own. He didn’t seem too saddened. The only thing that I was a little bummed about was that I didn’t get a photo. After dinner, we headed back to our hotel. As I sit here and write this, we’re watching the news and hearing all about canceled flights at Frankfurt because of the massive blizzard (worst in 3 decades in Europe… yikes!). It scares us a bit because we’re flying back into Germany tomorrow. If it’s not clear enough, we may not even take off. That wouldn’t be good at all! Our airport isn’t particularly close to anything… so it could be a really long night. I’m also trying to reserve the battery life because apparently the Italian sockets are not the same as the rest of the EU. We’re left with whatever battery life is on out computer. In case we need it tomorrow for flight issues, I am trying to be super quick with this post. Goodnight!

Sonntag 10.01.2009 (day 118)
All that worry for nothing. I sit here writing as we drive home at 11:20 p.m. What we anticipated to be a huge snowstorm that could possibly delay or worse, cancel, our flight was nonexistent. Sure, there is snow. Yes, we’ll get more. But, we’ll be home for it! We had a fantastic time in Venice. It really is a romantic city. Of course the realist in me also recognizes the polluted water (feces and other lovely attributes) and stench of it paired with a nice cigarette smoke odor. But, I won’t dwell on that. I’ll dwell on the history, the beauty, the detail of the layout, buildings, and culture. We woke up to another great breakfast and left our bags with the concierge. We headed out to explore again. This time, I wanted to explore an area that isn’t really built for tourists. I can just picture the town in the summer. I see photos and Ray tells me what it was like for him when he visited with some Academy friends just after college. While the weather would’ve been nice, it’s warmer than Germany! The entire day was rain-free and we were so thankful. We explored as a huge layer of fog swept over the Adriatic Sea (I can’t believe I have seen so many bodies of water that I had to draw on maps all through my schooling!). We walked by restaurants that I could picture just floods of people waiting to be seated at. We walked along over many bridges and saw children riding their bikes with only Italian natives surrounding them. We crossed an area that was blocked off to anyone other than the Venetian Navy. We had an interesting time trying to find a bathroom. On the entire island (we had been everywhere), I only saw 5 marked restrooms. They even had signs on the ground with arrows. So, when I saw marked, I mean marked. With the amount of tourists they have, that’s not too many. Individual restaurants also have bathrooms, but they also charge a fee. We attempted to find a restaurant we wanted for lunch, but failed to do so…eventually we did. But, I needed to use the restroom. I walked up to one of the tourist restrooms that was marked and they were charging 1.50 Euro for usage! Oh my goodness! That’s over $2 and I just refused. We ended up finding a restaurant that shared its building with Burger King. We perused the menu and decided it would be more cost effective to order a full pizza rather than purchase their “menu” meal. She tried to sell us 4 slices (each ¼ pie = one whole pizza) instead, for 2 Euro more. The menu advertises a whole pie, so we wanted it. She told us about 5 times that we must take it to go. After piling a lukewarm 4 slices into a box (unnecessary), we had to leave. No napkins, nothing. We walked outside and sat on some steps to eat our lunch we’d been ousted with. It made no sense. There were over 100 seats upstairs we could’ve sat in. If we had ordered one slice, we would’ve had a free chair. But, not a whole pie. We couldn’t understand why… and still have no idea. We did enjoy the pizza and our scenery outside. After the fog cleared from the morning, it became an amazingly beautiful, blue-skied day. We were just confused as to why we were treated so poorly having spent nearly 12 Euro at a fast-food pizza joint, after the lunch rush (2 p.m.) with plenty of free tables open. Regardless, we pressed on. We headed back to our hotel to hang out for a bit, grab our luggage, then stop off at the market, Billa. It’s another supermarket chain equivalent to the ones we shop at in Germany. We grabbed a couple sodas, more water, and cookies. With water being only .15 with no recycling tax, it’s so worth it to buy at markets rather than restaurants/vendors. They sell the same bottle for 2.50. We save 2.30 Euro everytime. Amazing. We walked past the train station to where they allow cars. The entire island of Venice is completely car-free. You must physically walk (or boat) to the train station or bus station. We had round-trip tickets to the Treviso airport. It’s not the closest airport (Marco Polo is), but it’s cheap to fly into. For only 18 Euro round trip for two people (1 hour drive), it’s a pretty good deal for less than the cost of a taxi, by far. Whatever brings tourists in! We boarded our flight with no problems. No delays for us… but we did see a delayed Paris flight. We walked to our car, hopped in, drove off, and as I write, we’re almost home. I can see the lights of Werdohl as we drive down the hill, careful not to be above the speed limit and caught by speed cameras. It was an excellent trip. I’m sad we have nothing planned in the near future. Our next plane trip (as of right now), is for the U.S. in February! That’ll be a cold one!

Montag 11.01.2010 (day 119)
Ray headed off to work this morning and I remained lazy. I usually can’t get it together after our fun travel weekends. I imagine next Monday will be a little easier on me (as if my life is hard, haha!) since we’re staying home this coming weekend. I didn’t workout. I did shower, so that’s a victory. I prepared lunch, but Ray never showed. It’s not his fault. I told him that he’s welcome to have lunch out, but because I don’t have a phone for him to call, we rely entirely on email and I hadn’t checked it in time. I had lunch and Ray picked me up after visiting the sausage stand with Lothar and one of the U.S. employees, Randy. We headed back to work, but I had nowhere to go. Our office was being occupied by Ray & Randy (as it should… they have real work to do) and the conference room was busy. I walked around and chatted with some of the ladies in the office and shared the blog address with them. We have more followers! I moved my items into the conference room and was then asked to leave for a meeting. Again… no problem. Real work takes precedence! I then moved into an office with some other ladies and finally into an office of an employee who is currently in India & Dubai for 2 weeks. That’s where I stayed for an hour until our German lesson—when I moved back into the conference room. I felt a little homeless today. Ha! Sabine arrived early but we didn’t actually start our lesson until 4. After, we headed out with Randy to grab some dinner. We parked at the Lidl store and intended to grab some toothpaste (remember… mine was lost to airport security…argh) and head around the corner for Chinese food. The restaurant was closed. We then hopped back in the car towards another city we’ve never explored, Plettenberg. Lothar told us that there was a restaurant on the right and we couldn’t miss it. Well, we did. We missed it. Then, we called Lothar. Just as he called back, we drove by the restaurant he told us about and realized it was also closed. The case of the Mondays. Many restaurants are closed on Mondays. The same is true in the U.S. if they’re a “mom & pop”, but since there are so many chain restaurants, we don’t realize it as much. In Germany, they’re all mom & pop. So, many are closed. We headed back to Werdohl and parked in front of a restaurant that I saw with lights on. The name: Los Trios Restaurant. You’d think… perhaps Mexican, right? I was actually hoping it wasn’t, because German Mexican food hasn’t been of utmost excitement to me (a southern Cali native). To my thrill, it wasn’t Mexican! Los Trios… meaning 3 types of food, Mexican not included. They had Polish, German, and Italian. I also saw some South America in there. The prices were reasonable, the waitress really nice (spoke complete German and not a word of English), and the food was good and filling. The portions were some of the largest we’ve seen in Germany. Very satisfied, we left and dropped Randy off at his hotel and headed home for the night. We spent the rest of the evening on the Internet calling USAA for home loan approval (yeah, less than a month and we’re physically looking!!!)… and we were approved. Yay! We also booked a trip to Bucharest, Romania for the 22nd-24th of January! Since our time is really coming to a close, we had to get one last flight trip in. It was between Portugal & Romania. The price of Romania won us over. Plus, we love eastern Europe and Portugal will be easier to get to from the U.S. and likely cheaper than Romania. After Romania, we’re going to the U.S., Sweden, Denmark, and hopefully Lichtenstein. Other than that, we have no further plans (or time) to visit any other countries on this wonderful 6-month experience. We’d love to meet up with friends for skiing (possibly Sweden weekend) also. It was a late night but very exciting…now… bedtime!

Dienstag 12.01.2010 (day 120)
The good news about today… no German lesson. The bad news… I didn’t go to work so I couldn’t upload the blog or watch The Bachelor! Tomorrow. Ray headed out early this morning to pick up Randy and head to Frankfurt to work a bit with one of the employees there. They had lunch and headed back in the afternoon. In the meantime, I actually did workout today (45 minutes to make up for my sheer laziness yesterday), cleaned a bit, did German homework, etc. Ray arrived home after 6 and we hung out for a bit before heading over to Thuns (hotel/restaurant in Werdohl that everyone who visits stays at) to pick up Randy. Lothar only lives about 2 blocks from Thuns, but it’s icy and dark. We had a great time—almost too long! We arrived around 7:30 and stayed until nearly midnight! For a Tuesday, that’s impressive. Plenty of wine kept the conversation flowing… and dinner did not disappoint. Anya, Lothar’s wife, makes an amazing carrot soup (ingredients: carrots, orange juice, pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, red chili, green onion all mashed and amazing with a top of crème). We also had salad, bread, and spaghetti. Lothar made a delicious seafood sauce (though I had another sauce, I tried it and it was very tasty!) and he made a pesto pasta for me. It was amazing. Anya asked me to come over in the future for cooking. I can’t wait to learn how to replicate that soup. And when I do, it’s being sent to all my friends! Off to bed for an early rise…

Mittwoch 13.01.2010 (day 121)
I had a bad attitude today. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have enough sleep, drank too much wine… or whatever, but I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I set up shop in Ricardo’s office again and didn’t fail to have just about every employee stumble in to mention how much Ricardo has changed! Haha! I was able to watch Monday night’s episode of The Bachelor and was thrilled. I found this great website—well, Ray’s friend Andy found it and relayed this information to me… that allows me to watch (or download) my favorite shows! I have to wait a day for them to be uploaded (and with time change, I am sleeping as this happens) and until I can have a landline connection—otherwise our Internet would be sucked dry from the download. I’m thankful. It was excellent, per usual. It’s such a terrible show and for some reason, I can’t stop watching. Ack. After, I posted the final parent visit album from Paris. It was nice to finally accomplish something… but of course we just visited Venice and I still have to name those photos, research, and post! I like keeping this up to date, but when it gets behind, it can be a bother. My mom and I agree that it’s my form of scrapbooking. When you’re so far behind, it’s more getting things done than enjoying the memories. Though… I’ll say that only having one album to complete, I’m pretty caught up! I should get that done by Friday. I had leftovers for lunch from our dinner on Monday and Ray went out with some of the others to a Greek stand (because the sausage stand was too crowded. Ha!). We had a German lesson from 2-4 and I went back to researching and wasting time. Of course, I could’ve been doing something productive… I also completed most of my German homework before we left at 6. The rest I’m saving for tomorrow morning—just before class. We went home to hang out for a bit before heading back to Werdohl to have dinner at Thun’s with Lothar, Anya, and Randy. We had drinks in the bar first, then sat down for dinner. We were there again until 11:15! What’s with these late weeknights! I am a weakling that is being trained. It was another great evening, but I think tomorrow night will be great to just eat at home and relax on the couch. Randy and Lothar head to Frankfurt tomorrow and Randy leaves Friday. We said our goodbyes and headed back to our adorable little home in Neuenrade.

I'm all caught up! We have a relaxing week ahead... then off to Romania!


Casey (@ Ever-Changing Life) said... [Reply to comment]

We loved Venice in the off season as well. We heard it was dirty, but too us it didn't seem that bad. No different from the rest of Italy really. That most liekly has a lot to do with the fact that neither of us went in the middle of the heat of summer. I'm sure that wouldn't help the smell. What a beautiful place! (Paris is one of my favorites as well!)

Solange, Nik and Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

YAY!!! I'm glad you guys had a great time :) I loved Venice. I was there in the heat of July and it was terribly hot-funny how I don't remember it being smelly. Isn't it just so incredible to have the streets be water??? CRAZY! Their pizza was great :) MMMmmmmmmm.