Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer in America Part 4: New York and then back to Savannah

The rest of the time in NYC seemed to go by really fast. We saw some famous sites...

and we took a day trip to see West Point, Fionn's Alma Mater. That was really cool, and I felt very proud of him :)

While we were in NYC we got the chance to meet up with my Irish dancing friend, Siobhan from Savannah. She's an amazing dancer, and since I was itching to go to a session, she told me I should come to one she regularly went to. It was so much fun! Tony DeMarco, an amazing American fiddle player, led the session along with two other guys named Dan and Sean. Siobhan told him I sang, so he invited me up and handed over the mic. The crowd was really great and they loved my song. Tony asked me to do a second one, so of course I forgot the lyrics to that one half way through ;) They were nice about it though!

I had such a great time, and I had a good time talking to the two younger guys. They've pretty much convinced me I have to make it to the Catskills Irish Arts Week some day! I wish I could've spent more time at NY sessions...a reason to go back? :)

Our last night our lovely hostess Bari and her boyfriend Peter invited us out for tapas. It was an amazing dinner (and wine!) and then we went to a Swing Dancing Festival (at least, that's what I think it was) where the drummer for the Rolling Stones was playing in the band. Crazy!

We had a great time talking with Bari and Peter, and after another glass of wine Fionn finally gave into my pleas to dance. Bari took some pictures, but we were kind of fuzzy! The red blur is me :)

It was our last night in New York and even though I wanted to stay up and talk with Peter and Bari some more, I laid down for one second and fell asleep. Haha I am so lame :)

After an amazing week it was time to head back to Georgia since our wedding was coming up fast! We flew back to Atlanta, where we met up with Fionn's dad. It was so great to see him again! From there I went back to my parents' house, and Fionn and his dad went on a short trip to North Carolina.

Once they got back, we loaded up the car for the drive down to Savannah. Wedding Craziness had officially begun!

So stay tuned for Summer in America part 5: The Wedding...it won't be here for a while since I'm still waiting on the pictures.

Summer in America: Part 3-New York City

When we originally started planning our summer vacation, we decided to spend one week in Greece, one week in New York, and the last week in Savannah for the wedding.

When Fionn had to go Stateside for a month, these plans got all changed (not that I minded spending 2 months back home!), but we still wanted to go to New York. Fionn knew it pretty well since he went to school up in NY, but I've only been a handful times when I was younger so I was excited to do all the touristy stuff :)

A friend of Fionn's parents very graciously allowed us to stay with her while we were in New York. She's a lifelong New Yorker and was an all around amazing person. So funny, easy to talk to, and was full of good advice for where to go and what to see. She and her boyfriend were so much fun to spend time with, we really couldn't have asked for better hosts, or a better home base-Manhattan!

Fionn was very sweet about taking me to see the touristy things even though he'd been to most of them about a million times. :) So, first stop, Rockefeller Center! Since it was late when we started out, we just walked around and saw the city by night.

Our first full day we went to visit the Museum of Natural History. They gave us complimentary tickets for being military, which was pretty cool! We wandered through the museum for quite a while, and saw some pretty cool stuff!

We stopped for an amazing lunch and then took a walk through Central Park, where we found the famed Waffles and Dinges cart. We had to get a waffle with speculaas spread and whipped cream. Ahhhhhh...to die for!

The Museum of Natural History was nice and all, but since Fionn and I are big history nerds, we were WAY more excited about the Metropolitan Museum! We spent ages looking at stuff in there. They even had a house museum that took you through different eras of American history. I was practically drooling and spent ages carefully moving through each room, from the early colonial days to the late 1800s. It was like my 4 years of college had come to life. They also had an amazing Egyptian exhibit. I'm so nerdy :)

After that we walked around some more, taking in the sights :)

The next day we decided to check out the High Line, which was an old abandoned elevated train track they turned into a park. It was such a cool idea and we had a great time exploring it before we headed for the Meat Packing District and then doing some shopping.

One of the things I really wanted to do while in NYC was see Ground Zero. That terrible day had such a profound impact on everyone, and especially as an American, I felt that I needed to see it for myself.

The monument itself is very elegant, and seeing all the names there is so very poignant. It has a very solemn feeling to it, and everyone seemed to respect that. Hardly anyone was being loud or treating it like another tourist attraction. Fionn commented he wished he had worn his uniform to visit this place, and I agreed. It certainly had that feeling.

After visiting Ground Zero we saw the Statue of Liberty (from afar) and a WWII monument. Then we headed toward Wall Street.

Since we were feeling really overambitious, we went to see the Brooklyn bridge and then headed for China Town and Little Italy! And yes, we ate Chinese pastries AND a canoli (supposedly the best in all of NY...)

Ok, this is getting really picture heavy. So wait for the next part!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New friends

This past weekend we decided to stay home and have a chill weekend. Fionn worked VERY hard all week, so we had a fun time sleeping late and spending time together.

My friend Amanda emailed me last week and told me she'd met another couple our age who also don't have kids. This is such an oddity around these parts I agreed we had to make friends with them and bring her into the fold.

We had originally planned to just meet up with her, but then Amanda suggested we have a dinner party and invite the husbands too. So, Saturday night we all converged on Sam and Amanda's house. The girls made Mexican and the guys made small talk :)

The new couple, Carly and David, were so nice! Everyone got along really well and the food was great (as well as the mojitos!). We had dinner and then played this funny card game where you write a word, pass the card, the next person draws a picture of the word, passes it, next person writes a word, etc etc until you get your original cards back and see how far the end result was from your original word. It's like if Telephone and Pictionary had a baby :) we laughed a lot playing that and Fionn revealed his artsy skills :)

After that we just sat around and talked. Both Amanda and Carly have lived in Georgia at one of the Army bases there, and I'm always down to talk about my lovely home state! The guys mostly talked about work, but it was all good. It was really nice to hang out with other couples, and I hope we see more of Carly and David. Amanda and I could use another wife our age around here!

We had a pretty lazy Sunday, and since the weather was so nice we decided to be good Germans and go for a walk. I swear, Sunday is Walking Day in Germany-everyone is out wandering through the woods.

We got a little lost (ok, Fionn says we were NOT lost but I thought we were!) but it was fun to walk through the forest just the two of us. I love the German landscape-sometimes it looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Other than that, it was a nice quiet weekend. New friends, tasty Mexican food, exploring the forest...nice way to recharge your batteries after a long week!

Weekend in Venice: Part 2

After spending all day in Venice on Friday, Fionn and I wanted to do something different. Since the crowds were bad enough on a weekday, we figured they'd be even worse on a Saturday, so we didn't want to go into the city again. From my pre-trip research, I'd heard about the islands of Murano, of Murano glass fame, Burano, famous for lace, and Lido with its lovely beaches. They're all easily reached by vaporetti, the Venetian water taxes, so we thought why not?

When we got to the water taxi stop we noticed that the next one headed to Murano was leaving in less than 10 minutes, so we scrambled to buy tickets and hop on board. Unfortunately, we didn't notice that we had picked the slowest water taxi route, the one that took the loooooooong way around. What we thought would be a 20 minute ride ended up being over an hour!

view from the water taxi

We finally reached Murano, sweaty, dehydrated, and already sick of the crowds. Luckily we managed to find some water and a shady spot to sit, and suddenly Murano was a lot nicer. :)

Murano is pretty small, and since it's known for one thing-hand blown glass, it can start to feel a little tourist trap-y as you wander through street after street after street selling the same things. However, you can really come to appreciate the art of glassblowing. There were quite a few glass sculptures around the town as well as glass blowing demonstrations and a factory.

Glass sculpture

We saw their churches, complete with beautiful mosaics and lots of glass ornamentation, including a huge glass crucifix. We even stopped in the Museum of Glass. We were a little disappointed that we couldn't find a live demonstration, but I left with a huge respect for their art. It's amazing how they can create such beautiful, intricate things.

The glass was stunning, but a little too pricey for us! I bought a pair of blue glass earrings and that was it for the day. We wandered into a residential section, grabbed a sandwich and a Spritz Aperol and thought about our game plan.

We had originally planned on seeing Lido and Burano, but by 3pm we were pretty wiped out from the oppressive heat and masses of people everywhere. So we headed back to Padova, took a nap, and then found a fancy Italian restaurant to celebrate our last night in Italy.

isn't he handsome? :)

Dinner was amazing! We had wine and appetizers and tasty main courses, an awesome dessert and even coffee. We felt very spoiled, but we figured we'd go out to one nice place while we were in Italy since we'd been so frugal everywhere else. It didn't dissapoint! Those Italians KNOW their food! :)

The next day we were back on buses, trains, planes, and cars on the journey back to Bavaria. We had a layover in Zurich, so it was kind of cool to be able to say we'd been in 3 countries in one day!

So I guess I can check Italy off the list... :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weekend in Venice Part One

Fionn got a 4 day weekend, and with his recent super busy schedule, he was adamant that we go on a trip. "Where have you always wanted to go?" he asked.


Of course, "Italy" is a pretty tall order, so I picked Venice. It's so unique and different and I was very curious to see this city. Fionn had been there already, but he very sweetly agreed to go again for my sake. Aww :)

essence of Italy...espresso...

As we flew into Marco Polo airport, the view took my breath away. You could see the city as you flew in, and wow was it pretty. The Adriatic Sea was a pretty blue green and all the snaking tributaries and marshland reminded me so much of my own native Georgia lowcountry. When I got off the plane and felt the humidity and smelled the salty swamp air, it made me feel at home. I instantly knew I was going to like Venice.

To mix it up a little, we decided to stay in the nearby city of Padova, which is about a 30 minute train ride from Venice. We figured that way we could get away from the hoards of tourists in Venice and get a more authentically Italian experience.

We booked a great little hotel near the train station in Padova (Hotel Al Cason for anyone looking for a hotel in Padova) and used it as our home base. The outside wasn't very impressive but inside it was modern and pretty, plus the rooms were great, breakfast buffet amazing, and free wifi-I think we picked a good one :)

Once we arrived at our hotel, we freshened up and then headed out to explore Padova. It's a nice city with the usual small European city attractions- pretty cathedrals, a botanical garden, museums and the like. We enjoyed looking around, taking pictures, and just strolling through the streets. We stopped for dinner al fresco and ate some amazing pizza and an almond cake with custard.

Day Two we were up bright and early so we could have a full day in Venice. Even though there were still a lot of tourists, we were lucky to come early enough that we could mingle with real Venetians out doing their Friday market shopping. We wandered into a very residential neighborhood and were able to get a feel for the place off the beaten path.

Once we started heading towards St. Mark's plaza, the tourist tidal wave became pretty intense. Venice has really narrow streets, and we felt a bit suffocated by the mass of people. It was worth it once we got to the plaza though. The architecture was really beautiful. The line to get inside the tower and the Basilica were not so beautiful...probably some of the longest lines I've ever seen! We thought about it, but in the end decided it wasn't worth spending over an hour in the baking sun. Ah well!

We continued our walk, running across some pretty churches, some guys giving away free hugs, and lots of pretty canals and streets. We stopped in a little shop for some lunch and the famous Venetian drink, the Spritz Aperol (very orange, huh?)

After lunch we wandered through some more neighborhoods, I bought a Venetian mask (go ahead and laugh!) and we just enjoyed getting lost in the city. We went into a few churches and shops, but mostly we just had a good time walking around. That's my favorite way to travel-just wandering around and getting a feel for the place.

And we found a Giorgia boat... :)

By late afternoon we were tired, sweaty, a little dehydrated, and getting tired of so many people, so we hopped the train back to Padova. When we tried to find dinner that night it was hard to find a place that was serving food (it was still cocktail hour at 8pm!) so we followed the lead of some locals, ordered seafood from a local stand, and sat down at a cafe with two glasses of prosecco. I ordered the wine and Fionn ordered the food. :) We had octopus in olive oil with herbs, and then fried anchovies in an garlicky sauce. Simple, tasty, and very authentic. We almost felt like real Italians for a second there! :)

Part two coming up soon!