Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My first strawberry rhubarb pie.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

He dribbles basketballs the entire 10 miles.

7:11 at the Crim

7:11 at the Crim

Cousins at the Crim

Chillin at the Crim

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh yeah Michelle Obama ate here too

My new fav in Roma

Eating in the garden

Pizzeria San Michele

A Trip to Tuscany

I'm sitting on the train heading to Rome. We spent the last two days (one night) in Siena. We stayed at a nice hotel - it was our most expensive hotel on the trip - but our Florence hotel room was just as nice - but the hotels are a little pricier in Siena.

When we arrived - I told mom we are talking a cab. She seemed puzzled - because we had hoofed it everywhere else. But this is a one city that I embraced a cab in - why? It's a mile and a half from the train station to the city. And did I mention it's all uphill. Now for the most part uphill isn't necessarily a bad thing - but with all of our luggage in 95 degree heat it isn't my cup of tea. Bruce and I did it in 2002 in October and I remember thinking them that it sucked - it would only be worse with it was summer.

When we arrived in Siena it was hot and we had spent our last day in Florence taking in art - the Uffizi and the Academia. So we had been on our feet all day. Our hotel was nice - the air conditioning was a little screwy, but the view as amazing. I guess that's what you get when you are in a walled city at the top of the hill. At the hotel - I turned on the TV while my mom was in the shower and after watching approximately 15 minutes of a race through the Italian Alps (that's running - not cars or scooters) I switched to the first English speaking channel - sky cinema (pronounced Chin-EE-ma.) And of course the movie was what I consider an after school special, starring Jennie Garth (90210) - a girl from desperate housewives and the female detective from Law & Order who has been on the original show forever. The show was about HIV. Jennie Garth is high school substitute teacher who is HIV positive. And a former high school sports icon commits suicide in college only and his brother discovers he had HIV. The desperate housewives girl gets wind and oh know it's revealed she slept with him - just once. Anyways you get the picture - but we were sucked in. Which was good because we weren't feeling the pressure to leave our hotel room in the heat of the day.

When we did venture out - I was starving. We went to a restaurant suggested by our hotel. It was raining - so they moved us into a little - putting us very close to a group of four young Italian men - so close we were practically sitting at the same table. After a while they asked if they could borrow our vinegar and oil - which then led to my mom breaking out 10 of her 45 Italian words. This trick, though somewhat painful to watch (for me at least) seems to amuse all Italians. Which then led to a wonderful conversation with Lorenzo, Stefano, Francesco, Giacomo. Only one had been to the states before - they were college friends from Milan visiting Giacomo who worked for a pharmaceutical company in Siena. They were very nice and made dinner much more interesting. Also splitting a bottle of Chianti with my mom makes dinner interesting too.

On Sunday, we woke up to have a excellent breakfast in the garden. Then we went to mass that Duomo in Siena. It was nice and lasted about 50 minutes. The church was beautiful - and since the sermon was in Italian - I wasn't expected to pay attention - which gave me free rain to look around. However, after mass you couldn't take pictures - we were told to leave immediately so that we could pay our 6 Euros to take more photos.

Instead we climbed up to the Panorama and took pictures of the outside. We left Siena at 2 pm and headed for Rome on the train. We had to switch trains in Chiusi and we were a little nervous because our train from Siena was last - but the good news was the train we were taking from Chiusi to Rome was also late.

[Clearly I am finishing this in my hotel becasue I had to get off the train.]

When we finally got to Rome our instructions said take bus H to our hotel - well that was the next interesting experience. We waited patiently with about 20 people for Bus H for nearly 20 minutes. When it arrived it didn't pull into the right spot. So we went over to the bus and it was filled to the brim, which didn't stop my mom and I and the rest of the people at the bus stop from pilling on. We had our tickets - but couldn't get them stamped because we couldn't even reach the machine. My mom made some friends with her Italian words in the back - they even taught her a new one - a swear word. We had to split up because of our suitcases - I on the other hand was wedged between two cranky women and two men. I don't think I have ever been gropped so much in my life. Needless to say, when we both emerged at the correct stop with luggage, handbags, wallets and money, we were happy.

We got to our hotel to find that no one was there. The hotel is owned by a young couple and there is no weekend evening staff. I had emailed them our arrival, but I accidentally had the time wrong. I thought we were leaving later from Chiusi - but didn't have email access when to correct my mistake. The good news is that Bruce came to the rescue. I was able to call him, he was able to log into my email and get me the number they left me. Thank you technology!

Our hotel here in Rome is the nicest room yet. The people are very friendly and there is free wifi. I find it ironic, the more you pay for a hotel - the more the rest of the stuff costs too! Shouldn't it be included? I guess it's the same in the states - stay at the HoJo - free wifi, the Hilton charges you $15 a day.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Wonderful Evening in Florence

We arrived today after a wonderful train ride. We sat next to a man and his nephew. Vincent & Bryan were from Orange County, California and were traveling with their family. They had just spent three days in Venice and had a similar experience to us. Next stop for everyone was Florence. Vincent was born in Vietnam and this was his first trip to Europe, Bryan just graduated from HighSchool and was also enjoying his first trip. We had a lot of fun discussing where we all had been.

Then we arrived in a very hot Florence - the temperature topped out at 95 degrees, but at
the heat of the day with the sun reflecting off the pavement, it felt like it could have been 105 degrees. However, instead of taking the cab - we decided that we could trek to our hotel. Thank you - Bruce for encouraging us to use carry-on luggage. It's much easier than a full sized suitcase. When we arrived at the hotel - and carried our small luggage up the two flights of stairs - we were in much need of some air conditioning. So we took the opportunity to relax in the cool room and put our feet up - while planning our evening adventure.

First stop the Duomo - which happens to be less than a 1/4 mile or if you are on the metric
system 400 meters from our hotel. We took 463 steps to the topof the dome designed by Brunelleschi - it's actually two concentric domes built from red bricks. It is the world's largest church dome of it's time and there was no supporting frame used in it's construction from 1420 to 1436 - so needless to say it's pretty impressive. We got there just before it closed. The weather had cooled a bit and it was less crowded, plus the light was a little better for photos.

Then we headed to dinner - we were famished because we didn't
have lunch. We went to a little place that was recommended by the guide book we are using Italy for Dummies - (yes it's fun to carry around - the looks you get are great.) The book said we would get a good reasonable meal, and they were right. It was funny because there were several American families there carrying the same book.

After dinner we headed to the river - we enjoyed the piazza outside the Uffizi gallery before hitting the Ponte Vecchio (the bridge known for it's gold shops.) The shops on the bridg e were all closed -but there was a musician that drew a crowd. We enjoyed his music and a little people watching. After a while though, gelato was calling to us, so we headed back towards the hotel.

When we stopped for gelato - westarted talking to a couple from Ireland - who happened to be sitting next to us on the bridge. We started chatting, and it turns out they are both teachers. She teaches English and history, he teaches music. We exchanged emails because she was interested in the International Shakespeare Student Film Festival - that Bruce, Doug and I are organizing. As we were chatting it up and having a great time, a couple from Oregon (Lynea teacher/writer and Jim, yoga instructor) joined in our conversation. We chatted four nearly 45 minutes. It was so much fun - meeting new people. It's part of what I love about traveling.

Then we headed back to the hotel to rest up for a big day of museums tomorrow. I told mom as we were standing on the top of the Duomo - Florence is so different than Venice - but it's also amazing. I can't wait to see what the next part of our trip brings.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Perfect Ending
to Venetian Adventure

We ended our stay in Venice tonight with a Gondola ride. Yes, we had all thought they were a big tourist trap and cheesy, but it was amazing. It was a full moon and just beautiful. Bruce, my mom, Meghan and I had a very romantic ride. Our driver Giovanni had been a gondolier for 35 years. He was quite an interesting man. He approached me as I was wearing my new light up sunglasses that we bargained down from 8 Euros to Five - they are
heart shaped and they blink. My mom has a pictu
re of him wearing them. He took turns on this boat that I would not make in my car without scratching the entire side. He also told us some stories about his life, like the fact that his wife died 3 days ago - I'm not sure that we heard him right, but what do you say to that. Besides the face that he was a total character - the night is cool, the water is still (especially good for those who get motion sickness) and the gondola takes you places that you don't see by foot or water bus. At the end he demanded a picture with Meghan because she was so tall and beautiful and then he stood uncomfortably close to here. Despite the 100 Euro price tag - I don't think any of us are regretting it.

Today, my mom, Meghan and I headed out to Murano to see the glass museum. It was not what I had expected. I guess coming off the Einstein museum that was so stimulating this seemed to just be glass in classes. Interesting but not stimulating. Meghan however did save me. I was bending over to look at some glass in a case and this little girl started to tilt her head to look at what I was looking at - before I knew it Meghan was yanking me away so fast I thought she lost her mind - then the elementary school teacher that she is says - that girl has head lice - we made a B-line towards the door to another gallery. We walked the streets and shopped the stores - I was on a little of a glass bead overload. However, Murano was nice - because it is a smaller island outside of Venice and there weren't as many people there in Venice during the day there are times that you are just wall to wall people.

The day before we visited San Marco's Basillica and the Dulce palace. The ar
chitecture was beautiful and there was some amazing tile mosaics. We walked over the Bridge of Sighs and walked all throughout Venice. We saw the Rialto bridge and the other hot spots. And came back to the hotel around 4 pm because we were hot, sticky and in much need of a short siesta.

We emerged for our
hotel for dinner, and the city had cleared out and cooled off. The water taxi was fairly empty (we got seats) and we trie
d to find a restaurant from the guidebook - but then decided to skip it and we went a little off the beaten path. We had a very expensive - very delicious dinner. However, I was so full afterwords - I am still not sure how I managed to eat any ice cream afterwards - but I did.

It's been an interesting experience here in Venice. It's beautiful.
And unlike many people had told me - it does not stink in the summer. We stayed close to the train station - in an inexpensive hotel, but it served it's purpose - it had air conditioning and was clean. I am glad that I had the chance to see Venice before it sinks - I hope for the people who live here and love this city that it doesn't because it is an amazing place, like no other that I have ever been too.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Alpine Horns, Cheese & 100's of Japanese Tourists

So we headed back to Hotel Edelweiss this year to dine at the Restaurant Edelweiss. It is a basically a tourist trap - it is a pretend German-Swiss Alpine Fondue restaurant with real life Umpapa band. This band plays not only the the accordion, the soprano saxophone, the cowbell, the saw, the bowl (yes the bowl,) the flugelhorn and of course the Alpine horn.

We arrived about 45 minutes early, if the website says open 7/7 days a week it means open 7 days a week at 7. We arrived very hungry at 6:15 pm. We quickly made 7 pm reservations for 8 and then proceeded to try to waste 45 minutes - in the adjacent neighborhood - 15-20 of those minutes where spent eating our appetizers of ice cream/gelato. Then we were ready approximately 10 minutes before they opened.

As we patiently waited the first bus load of Japanese tourists arrived. Then we watched them walk right past us into the restaurant. Luckily we had a reservation (which clearly their tour group did too.) As we walked down into the restaurant we saw three very long tables. The first was filling with the first bus, then the second bus arrived as we were sitting down. As we ordered our drinks the third busload arrived.

Clearly they had pre-ordered too because as they sat down the wait staff (who looked as if they might hate their lives - I swear as the third bus arrived I heard one lady walk by and say oh shit) started bringing them their food. We on the other hand were deciding which delicious buckets of cheese we would order - now most of you would think - Jennie - those buckets of cheese are called Fondue - but we on the other hand know that it's FUN-do.

We went to FUN-do with our new UM-Flint global Cohort. Kira (3/4 Danish 1/4 Norwegian 100% South Dakotian friend,) Emily (of Maryland,) Sarah (who's moving to Chicago,) Marissa (the UT Lawsuit student,) Paul (from Walpole Island) and Meghan (of 7:11 fame) and of course Bruce.)
Kira & PaulMarissa & Sarah

Bruce, Jennie, Emily & Meghan (pictured above)

Then as we waited for our cheese the band started rockin' out. First the cowbells - then the Alpine horn. I am proud to admit that my husband rocks the Alpine horn!! Yes, they invite everyone to try the Alpine horn - Bruce was being shy - but after his perfomance last year, I couldn't let him pass it up (oh yeah - we went there last year.) So he bugrudginly agreed to play if I myself would play. So we got in the line with those from the tourist bus group. And Bruce went last and totally rocked it again - he plays the off to the races song (or at least that is what I call it.) He got applause from the entire restaurant. I love going to these places - maybe this is why I love Frankenmuth.

Last night we ate dinner at Festivus (the Swiss call it the Swiss Day Festival - we embrace the Seinfeld name.) Today, we picked up my mom early from airport! It's our last day in our Geneva - tomorrow we head Venice.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


In 9th grade, I took my first German class in High School with Frau Davis. In our book there was a section on the very tiny country of Liechtenstein, and each of the students had to stand up in class and do a short presentation on the country - with the information we learned from our book.

So here's what I knew before going to Liechtenstein - they had a king, a postage stamp museum and a castle (where the aforementioned King lived.) So of course when we were deciding where to go on our driving trip of Switzerland - I mentioned that it might not be that far to drive to Liechtenstein. And happily Meghan and Bruce agreed. So we rented a pretty sweet Audi station wagon (with a navigation system - which came in handy when driving through a very busy, very under construction Zurich.)

When we got to Liechtenstein - we drove into Vaduz and the first thing we saw was the castle and as it turns out the royal family was home because the flag was flying. Then we found a parking spot. We stopped by the information booth, where they happily stamped our passport for 3 Swiss Francs.

Then we had lunch - and let me suggest that despite being done with pizza do not order the hamburger in Liechtenstein - it's not their specialty by far. Thankfully - Meghan shared her pizza with me. Then we headed down to the stamp museum to see what was happening there and it was pretty much off-the-hook (well it was quiet and small - and free.) We bought a couple postcards and stamps so we could mail some postcards - one that is headed to Frau Davis - because without her there I would never have thought about going to Liechtenstein in the the first place.

After sending our postcards we looked at the tourist map and found what was up the largest hill and went to find it - because our theme for this trip "uphill." We have managed to climb all the largest hills in every city we have visited - I am not sure what this means for Venice. We found some kids selling lemonade and I managed to make a very poor deal for Meghan and bought two 1.50 cakes for 5 Francs - well as it turns out I cannot do math while speaking German. However, it wasn't as bad as it first sounds - my first deal was for three - but Bruce didn't want one.

Then we headed back to Zurich to go to our hotel. However, we booked the Zurich Moevinpick hotel that was not actually in Zurich but 15 minutes outside of the city. Which is where the GPS came in handy - after we called the hotel to get coordinates.

Which then created a change in our original plan which was to hang out in Zurich the next day - but since we were so far out of the city we decided to go see the Capitol of Switzerland - Bern - instead. We went into town - thinking that we were going to see the Bears - well as it turns out that at least one of the bears are dead - and the other bears aren't there. So we wandered around the Old Town and took notice of a very interesting statue of an ogre eating a chubby baby. But it was also August 1st - which is Swiss day and everything was closed (pretty much everywhere) except the museums. It was also about 90 degrees which was very hot. So we ended up going to the Einstein Museum - it showed not only Einstein's life but how it fit into the history of the 20th century. It was not only very air conditioned but very interesting.

Then we headed back to Geneva and ended our day with a fireworks display next to the Jet d'eau. It was quite an adventure and a lot of fun - we waited for an hour to see the fireworks - the whole time Bruce swore that there weren't any - but our rationale was there are hundreds of other people standing looking towards the lake - there has to be something going on. It was a really cool way to cap off a fun day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tagging Alone on the Class Field Trip

Chateau de Menthon Saint Bernard
This is allegedly the castle that inspired Walt Disney in Sleeping Beauty. However, to me I agreed with the tour guide who thinks it's more Beauty & the Beast. The family that owns the castle, and has owned it since 1000 AD, still lives in the castle.
Bruce and I, outside the castle.
Meghan, me and my new friend Kira from South Dakota. She maybe my only friend
from South Dakota.
Picture of me in Annecy, France.
Another shot of the Old Town in Annecy, France.
Bruce and Kira rockin' the hats at the French Hat Shop.
My other new friend Emily - as we made a quick stop for ice cream - before we had to be back at the bus.
Meghan & I posing in Annecy.
the end.

Annecy, France

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Monday, July 27, 2009

I heart Gaudi in Barcelona

So we went to Barcelona for the weekend. We left early Friday and were lucky to arrive to a hotel room that was already to go. We dropped off our stuff at hotel and started wandering down La Rambla - it is a vibrant street with a market (that rocks.) We enjoyed some fresh fruit and some great fresh juices. Then we walked through the old town and explored the shops. It was typical European Old Town with winding roads and you don't know what cool shop or restaurant you will find around every corner. We ate at a Tapas buffet for lunch. They count your sticks to figure out how much you owe - it was 1.60 Euro for inside and 1.75 for outside.

Due to our super early flight and very hot weather, we were exhausted come 2 pm. So we decided to embrace the Spanish culture and take a siesta. We woke from our short siesta and went for a Tapas dinner at a place in La Raval called Bar Lobo - it seemed cool and hip - it might not be - but it fooled me into thinking it was cool.

The next morning we headed to La Sagrada Familia - the cathedral that Gaudi started building before his death - but more than 100 years later it is still not finished. Meghan, Bruce and I decided that we needed to return when the cathedral was finished in 30 years. We also headed to the Park Guell, a park designed by Gaudi, orginally for the rich, but to his disappointment was opened to the comman man - Meghan, Bruce and myself. However, what is amazing like Barcelona and every other city in Europe I have been too is that we manage to find every hill in the city and hike up it. We topped off the night with Sangria made from Champange and Oranges, it rocked!!! I also had Montchego cheese - it was delicious. Wolfgang introduced me to this cheese in Berlin (ironically.)

For instance the next morning we headed to the Olympic Park that was on a hill. We walked up what could be the steepest part of the hill followed by hundreds of stairs. However, on the way down we did find that had we come through the front we could have taken escalators all the way up, but really what fun would that have been. It was worth the hike though - there is something rewarding to stand at the top of the hill and that overlooks the city and know that you walked up the entire way.

We didn't do much shopping in Barcelona due to the fact that the Euro is an international conspiracy against us - in other words the exchange rate sucks and that means I usually stick to building my pin collection - which is under 10 dollars a city.

Then late Sunday night we headed back to our homebase the John Knox Center in Geneva - home to the U of M Flint Global Program. The next trip Zurich and Liechtenstein - a very small country - which is home to a stamp museum and a castle. All which were in my presentation in German 1 class.