Monday, January 30, 2012

A trip back to the States!

We've got to admit... as much we love Italy, it was very nice to come home to the United States and spend some quality time with family. We actually had two important reasons for coming back. Jon had three interviews for a fellowship position for August 2013 and my future sister in law, Rachel, was having her bridal shower and bachelorette party the same week. Perfect timing!

We had a few food requirements while in the U.S. Our first rule was no Italian food! As long as we're living in Italy we will not be having Italian food in other countries. It really just can't compare... not that we're going to be Italian food snobs for the rest of our lives (or maybe we will be?), but why have it in America when we have it just about everyday in Italy. The next requirement was that we needed to have as much sushi, Chipotle or other Mexican food, and bagels as humanly possible. We did, and it was glorious!

Taken from
Taken from

Taken from
We also managed to squeeze in some hibachi on our last night in the U.S.
At Hibachi!

While Jon was traveling from NJ to Pittsburgh, to Chicago, back to NJ for a couple of days, then to Boston, and back to NJ, I was involved in many pre-wedding festivities. We showed Rachel a good time at her bachelorette party with a lot of drinks and karaoke in NYC, and the bridal shower was beautiful with a lot of games, opening of presents, and food.
The bride to be and our future sister in law!
Partying with silly hats!
At the bridal shower, the girls: Rachel, Beth, Cheryl, mom, Rachel's mom.
It was so nice to spend time with family during the week. Dan and Rachel came in from L.A. and luckily everyone else lives within a short drive. It also snowed while we were there... what more could we ask for?!
Dad, Matt, Dan
Matt really didn't like the snow!
Jon's parents
Jon and our nephew Matt.

Cheryl's parents.

At hibachi!
We had a great time. If you're reading this and we didn't see you while we were home, we're sorry! Like any visit, it was too short, but we'll be back again soon!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Munich, Germany

So we went from the land of beater Fiats, Alfa Romeos, and scooters, to the land of BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis. From the land of pasta, pizza, and wine, to the land of meat, potatoes, and beer. Foodwise, I don't think I would survive here for very long, but Jon was in heaven! I think I had more meat in the short time we were there then I've had in months in Italy!

Munich is constantly on the top ten most livable cities lists (and was voted by Monocle's most livable city in 2010) and we could see why. Clean, walkable, bikable, low crime, great public transportation system, affordable housing (so we read), the list goes on and on.
Taken from destination360
After we arrived at our hotel we ate dinner at a fondue restaurant where we cooked the meat, consisting of turkey, chicken, veal, and beef, in oil in the pot and then dipped them in the sauces that they provided. Our dessert was real German chocolate melted into gooey hot goodness with fruits and biscuits dipped in. Very satisfying!
Fondue for the meat.
Duck, a potato ball, and cabbage.
During the day we went to the Englischer Garten (English Garden), which is a very large public park (bigger than Central Park). The name of it refers to the landscape gardening which was very popular in the 18th century. With limited time in the park we only saw a few sites and managed to get a nice stroll in. The Japanese Teahouse was built to celebrate the 1972 Olympics. In the distance we saw the Monopteros, which is a small, round, Greek style temple built in 1832. We also stumbled upon a waterfall that was created in 1815.

Japanese Tea House
Monopteros in the distance
We passed by the Munich Residenz, which is the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs. It is used today for visitors to see its architecture, room decorations, and displays of the royal collections.

In Munich center is the Marienplatz, which is the main central square in Munich and has been used as that since 1158. The New Town Hall is a site to see in the square, and you really can't miss it. The building is gothic and almost looks like it was built from wax drippings from a candle. On the tower is the Glockenspiel. Everyday at certain times it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century using 32 life sized figures and 43 bells. The top half shows a joust in honor of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V (founder of the Hofbräuhaus) to Renata of Lorraine, with the Bavarian knight winning of course. The bottom half shows the Schäfflerstanz (the coopers' dance), a dance that symbolizes perseverance and loyalty to authority through difficult times.

Since we're planning on coming back to Munich in the fall for Oktoberfest we decided to buy traditional German outfits for ourselves. Jon has his lederhosen and I have my beer wench outfit. You can see us all dressed up when we put them on in the fall, but here is a little preview...

No trip to Munich would be complete without drinking in their famous beerhalls. The first one we went to was Augustiner Keller. Inside it showcased a timber theme with big pine tables and benches, and animals (I hope fake, but probably not) as ornaments. The cellar glowed with warmth and the whole place had a very pleasant and relaxing feel to it.

Enjoying a rest
The Cellar
The other beer hall we went to was the famous Hofbräuhaus. This hall is massive with each room bigger than the next. Being that it was a midweek night in the winter we found ourselves seats pretty quickly and ordered beers from a "beer wench" passing by. Beer in this house means you will get a liter of beer... a liter! I had to hold the mug with two hands! Traditional Bavarian music echoed through the hall while Jon and I looked around in amazement.

Very happy!
I needed two hands!
That's a big pretzel!
Lockers where the regulars leave their steins!
More beer?
The artistic shot
Trying to catch up!
We really didn't have that much time here. After all of the beer drinking in the fall for Oktoberfest we plan to set aside another day or two to see:

                  - Dachau Concentration Camp
                  - Olympia Park
                  - Neuschwanstein Castle
                  - BMW museum

We're looking forward to our next trip to Munich! The following are some other pictures from our time in Munich.

In the hotel elevator.

A scene from 1490 in our hotel.

Friday, January 6, 2012


What a unique city Venice is! I've never seen or experienced a city quite like this (Jon's been here before, like all of the other cities we visit!). Small canals run through the city at every turn with small bridges for people to get across. The Grand Canal runs in an S like shape with walking bridges. The streets can be so narrow at times that you have to walk in single file in each direction. There are no cars or scooters anywhere in the city. The mode of transportation throughout the city is by boat or walking. We even took a boat from the airport right to Piazza San Marco and then walked about five minutes to our hotel, which had two entrances: a water entrance and a walking entrance. Amazing.

Our hotel's water entrance.
One of many small canals.

We spent four days in Venice, with no agenda other than to walk around to each of the six different sections of the city and to have a blast on New Years Eve. We navigated through the different streets, alleys, and piazzas, passing gondolas, boats, and many many glass and mask shops along the way. We rode in a massively overpriced gondola through the small canals, passing small hotels and old buildings, and going under the cute bridges.

The Bridge of Sighs

At night.
Of course we can't forget about all of the eating we did...
That's a big calzone!

Ugh... I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

New Years Eve

New Years Eve
While strolling the different sections visited the Jewish Quarter and enjoyed seeing a mix of Hebrew and Italian on the buildings. While here we saw the Holocaust Memorial, which was very moving.

For New Years Eve we had made reservations at a restaurant that offered a 7 course meal for the night. 4 hours and 2 bottles of wine later we made our way to Piazza San Marco where a large crowd had formed (it was about 11:40), a concert was taking place, and people were dancing. We settled ourselves among the diverse crowd and waited for the countdown. Dieci, nove, otto, sette, sei, cinque, quattro, tre, due, uno, Buon Anno! Fireworks lit up the sky along the water and we couldn't help but think how lucky we were to be spending our new year in Italia.

In St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

The countdown.