Friday, December 21, 2007

a pain in the...

HEAD.seriously. what's with this whole having headaches four out of five days thing?

it's not fair.

even if it's more than likely allergy related, it's annoying and bothersome... not to mention that it makes me think of arnold, "it's not a tuma!" i understand that i am allergic to most of arizona, but that's not my fault, so stop taking it out on me.

headaches: if you're reading this... leave me alone. find some other poor, unsuspecting head to bother. you left me alone in spain, so leave me alone in the usa. it's america. where we have freedom... yes, even from headaches, so please stop taking away my freedom.

oh, except, please don't go find some other poor, unsuspecting head b/c that's just not very nice.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

some bangs.

erica's masterpiece.

sorry, erica... it'll never look this good again. except for today b/c i'm not washing it just so i can keep your stylin'.

she's awesome, and if you're in phx, you should go to her. well, she's in scottsdale, but still, phx metro area peeps should go.

she reads my blog. she told me that she's addicted... b/c it's like reading a children's book.

what does that mean?!

i don't know, but i'm taking it as a compliment.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

a day of two firsts...

yesterday was a BIG day for me.

1) it was the first day in 3, yes - three, months that i blew dry... er, blowed dry... uhm, used a blow dryer on my hair!

sorry, erica... your last masterpiece hasn't been treated so well. erica is my hairdresser, and she's the best around. unfortunately, the last time i visited her was before hubbs and i left for spain, so it's been awhile. and in spain, i didn't have a blow dryer, and i wanted to wait until we got our visas to buy one. stupid, i know. today, i won't even wash my hair - all in preparation of my big date with erica. it's like a reunion. at 430pm, my hair will be shampoo'd and cut by the best around. woot. and then, erica, i promise - i'll treat my hair better: i'll use product, i'll blow dry, i'll tease. (i understand that to some of you this sounds like i'm preparing to treat my hair worse, but trust me, it looks SO much better once erica fixes it, so i try to keep it up... for a few days at least!)

2) it was the first time i ever made cookies on my own... i even used the kitchenaid stand-mixer by myself. !

don't get me wrong: when hubbs and i lived with his 'rents before we moved to spain, the m.i.l., hubbs and i made cookies probably once a week, but i was always in the background just following orders. last night, however, hubbs went to rent the bourne ultimatum, and i made the cookie dough while he was gone. m.i.l. was there for kitchen emergencies (like, "what's 1/2 of 3/4." okay, sounds more like a math emergency.), but i really made the cookies pretty much solo... and they were delicious.

p.s. today was a day of firsts, too... it was the first day in our marriage that i allowed hubbs and i to eat cookies and milk for breakfast. they were that delicious, and now they're gone. don't worry though: i insisted that we have a piece of fruit too!

Monday, December 17, 2007

the last european installment...

except i'm in phoenix.
deal with it.

so we arrived in dublin on friday, december 7th, with "all" of our luggage. fortunately we had booked a hostel the week before (since i had been to dublin once prior and knew that it was a tough place to find somewhere last minute... especially with as much luggage as we were hauling!)... we booked at globetrotters / the townhouse of dublin through (through much painstaking effort, as we needed security and a private room for all of our baggage), but we didn't know if we were on the townhouse side or the hostel side... the price would indicate the former, but the website didn't say, which would indicate the latter. when we arrived, we entered through the hostel side, which had some serious security. to enter, one had to be buzzed in only after being peeped by the reception-desk-fella through a security camera.

we passed the concierge test (apparently, that means not pointing a gun at the camera), and we were greeted by the nicest reception-desk-fella (receptionist sounds too feminine to me) ever. no, really. ever. trust me. he even sang to us, "oh, i wish, i wish i was a fish / 'cuz then i'd swim away." irish ppl really are the coolest. no joke. on a side note, he also told the guest before us that if he didn't show his hostel card upon arrival, he'd be murdered... what a jokester.

turns out, we were on the townhouse side, and we received an upgrade to a room with a bathroom (we paid for a private room w/ shared bathroom)... what a bonus! except that unfortunately one of the hot water heaters was broken, so we had no hot water, which meant asking for a key to a different room when we wanted to shower. still, this place was awesome. we loved our hotel. we loved having english on the television. we were exhausted... so we watched some tv before grabbing late-night grub (friends to be exact). when we finally decided to find food, it was late, and ireland is not like spain (where dinner can begin as late as 1130pm), but somehow we found abra-kebab-ra (thanks to the recommendation of two irish girls who originally thought we were irish). we saw some interesting things that night including (but not limited to) half-naked girls without jackets in 40 degree weather and a drunk guy playing a prank on a cop who could've arrested him. good times.

we were tired, so we went to bed. seriously, the whole trip is somewhat of a blur b/c i was just so exhausted from the previous week. we definitely had fun, but we were tired. we took the hop on/hop off bus tour to stay out of the rain on saturday, which i had done five years ago, but i have zero memory, so it was fun. we visited the kilmainham jail, which was super rad b/c it once housed some seriously important political prisoners who had big parts in the irish independence. i forget what it's called, but the form of the newest part of the jail (photo right) was the inspiration of the modern shopping mall... creepy. oh, and the old part of the jail (photo left) had no windows... which made it ridiculously cold... all in hopes of not spreading diseases. instead, let's just freeze the prisoners to death!

what else (sorry, but it's been a while, and i have a really bad memory)? we ate delicious fish and chips at a couple of different places. our hotel offered a delicious full irish breakfast every single morning, and we indulged happily (of course, i didn't eat the baked beans, but hubbs sure did!)... and if you go on, the only thing past guests talk about in the million reviews is the breakfast... it's that good. no, really. trust me.

unfortunately, sunday night came, and we had to get ready for our flight on monday morning. at 10pm, i looked at our flight info to confirm the 11am flight time... only to realize that we had a 9am flight time, not a 11am flight time. ugh. seriously, that meant that we had to be on the bus to the airport at 6am, which means our wake up call came at 5am, which means we missed out on our last delicious irish breakfast of the trip (breakfast starts at 7am).

fortunately, we made it to our plane on-time, and all was well... especially since we went through u.s. customs in dublin. no, really. it's true. we have u.s.a. stamps in our visa from the dublin international airport. random.

we had a 7.5 hour layover in new york city, so we decided to take advantage of it. it only took us 1 hour to stow our backpacks and 2.5 hours to travel to and from times square... but we were able to see the bright lights, enjoy the invigorating cold and mist of manhattan in december, and most importantly see the tree and ice skating rink at rockefeller center. did you know that my life is the coolest ever? no, really. ever. trust me. oh, and we got some new york slices just in time to be back at the airport so our flight could be late and a lady could yell at me for standing in her way in front of the magazine selection in the airport store...

even with the late flight, we arrived in phx early where my lovely mom and tony picked us up... at 1130pm. goodnight!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

interesting luck.

my body woke me up at 630am with no hopes of going back to sleep... what a cruel joke. i guess that's what happens when you turn your sleep schedule upside-down by traveling half-way across the earth. on that note, hubby's still asleep.

anyway. so much time has gone by, so i have stories.

can i get a "woot, woot?"

okay, so last thursday was a BIG day... hubbs and i had to pack everything and clean everything and still find time to say "hasta luego" to our buds. early in the afternoon (after most of the packing was done but little of the cleaning), we headed out for some tostada (toast -- mine with jam and butter, hubby's with chopped tomato, olive oil and salt). on our way, the cathedral bells were going mad, so we had to investigate... we knew that it was a holiday (something about the three kings), but we had no idea what it meant (other than that hubbs didn't have to work). anyway, when we found the cathedral, there were tons o' people outside surrounding a platform carried by ten or fifteen people that carried a statue (or mannequin) of (what we think was) saint nicholas (the actual catholic saint). it was pretty gnarly b/c the ppl holding the platform were moving it back and forth (i think to make st. nick dance?). what's more is that there were like ten or fifteen women and girls dressed in traditional valenciano dress and then three gigantic statues (paper mache, i think) of the three kings (i think). of course, we didn't have our camera, so you just have to take my word for it that it looked like a big deal.

and we never did really investigate b/c we still have no idea what was going on.

anyway, we passed most of the afternoon away at the port with our tostadas and our bud ingvild. we headed home with just enough time to clean the floors before heading out to the big parade (which, luckily for us, passed by the end of our street!). it was pretty crazy, and we had no idea what was going on -- we only figured out that it had something to do with the christians and the moors. the parade was the s l o w e s t moving parade in the history of slow-moving-parades. no, really. take my word on this. while at the parade, we said bye to our beach bud, ingvild, which was sad...

moment of silence (ya know? in remembrance of our bud who's still in alicante).

afterwards, we headed to jose and cecilia's piso where they quickly invited us to stay for dinner... we accepted. then i asked to use the internet. this is when the fun came crashing down. no, really. trust me.

so the reason i had to use the internet was to check on the luggage rules/restrictions/limits on ryanair (which i praised in my last swiss post)... someone had warned us that the limits were less than that of a non-budget airline (which tends to be 50lbs/23kilos per bag, and each person gets two checked bags). she thought that their limit was 15kilos per bag, so we would have been 16 kilos over each... well, i checked... and the actual limits were 15 kilos per person. yes, per person, not per bag... which means that each of us were over the weight restriction by about 31 kilos... it only costs 8€ ($12) extra per kilo over the limit...

let's do the math: 62 kilos over x 8€ per kilo = 496€ or $750.

seven hundred and fifty dollars.

we paid five hundred dollars for our tickets home (from alicante to dublin and from dublin to phoenix).

let's just say that finding this out at 10pm the night before the flight was a bad idea. to top it off, we were at the house of friends... we were invited guests... in a hectic situation... where steffa needed some time to freak out. oh.boy.

fortunately our buds are totally cool, and they totally understood our pain... they gave me some time (to pace outside in the cold) and held off on serving dinner until i came back in like a mad woman laughing about our ridiculous situation. hubbs and i tried to think of new method after new method of how to get to dublin sans $700 in excess flight costs... at the end, our solution seemed simple: dump as much as you can and pay for the rest.

once this was decided upon, dinner was FANTASTIC. and seeing as how it was already 1am, we were starving. we enjoyed the rest of our stay, which stupidly lasted until 230am...

friday, we woke up early, as we had to dump half of our belongings (which though seems a little sad, it's just stuff, and we have way too much stuff as it is), finish cleaning the house, meet jose and cecilia for breakfy to give them some of our stuff (that shouldn't be thrown away) and then meet with our landlord to exchange keys for a returned deposit... all before noon.

we were rushed to say the least, but we made it back to our lil' piso just in time to meet our landlady... everything was great, since we're not crazy hooligans who trashed the place. juany asked us how we were getting to the airport (assuming by taxi); we told her that we would take the bus; she was shocked b/c we had SOOO many BIG bags; she offered to take us to the airport out of the kindness of her heart; we accepted times ten; we gave her a delicious swiss chocolate bar as compensation; we arrived at the airport five hours early... check-in starts two hours before the flight leaves... hubbs weighed our bags anyway; we were still 40 kilos (over 80 pounds) over, but that means we dropped 20 kilos, so we were happy.

when we were finally allowed to check-in, we played DUMB. "but we thought it was 15 kilos per bag!" the lady felt for us... she only said that we were 25 kilos over... we only had to pay 200€ ($300), which basically meant that we had paid to fly on a regular airline (ie: british airways) instead of a budget airline (ie: ryanair).

has anyone ever felt so lucky and relieved? i don't know.

off to dublin.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

yes, ppl as ridiculous as me exist..

is the first week of december really almost over? will i really only have two weeks in phx in which to do all of my holiday shopping?

well, okay, the second question doesn’t really matter b/c i always do all of my holiday shopping in the last couple of weeks…

it’s not that i love adding to the holiday stress by waiting or anything crazy like that. i'm just a really bad gift buyer/giver, so i procrastinate and stress over what-in-the-heck i am going to get everyone on my list before ever hitting the mall or gift shop. i want to get ppl something that they want… not something that i want. and b/c of this, i am awful at finding thoughtful gifts, which is why it is even more pressing that i know exactly what everyone wants/needs. i love thoughtful gifts b/c of their thoughtfulness, but i'm just not all that thoughtful. no, really. it’s true.

to top it all off: i am an awful gift receiver. that's right: i'm bad at the gift giving and receiving. how is that possible? you would think that the lack of gift-giving-forte would stem from an overwhelming sense of entitlement or selfishness or me-me-me attitude… that’s just not the case (well, it is sometimes but definitely not around the holidays). when it comes to gift receiving, i am ridiculously insecure about my gift opening abilities. will my enjoyment of this gift register with the gift giver? will they comprehend my appreciation? will i be able to handle standing in the spotlight for all forty-five seconds of opening one gift?!

this problem has caused me some embarrassment at my in-laws… well before they were my in-laws. since hubbs and i weren’t married, we would spend christmas with our own families and then meet up later for our gift exchange… for the first year (maybe two), it was our own personal gift exchange, but after a couple of years, the parents wanted to get in on the gift-giving action (we have incredibly giving parents), so all of the sudden, i would head to his house to do our personal gift exchange when suddenly i would be expected to sit opening gifts with six eager faces staring back at me… the pressure, i tell you! it became somewhat of a joke, as they would wrap presents forty-two times and then put them in bigger boxes… ya know, to extend the hilarity… or the embarrassment.

i do feel that i've gotten better over the years, though, so that’s good, but i still haven’t progressed in the gift buying/giving arena… maybe one day, i guess.

so where did thsi come from? well, i'll tell you. last night, my bud ingvild and i were doing some christmas shopping for her fam (sorry my fam, but i just don't have room in my suitcases -- boo!) when i passed by a storefront with an awesome thing in it that i thought would be just perfect for my dear, dear, dear sister… seriously, i love, love, love it, but will she? it'd definitely make for a difficult gift exchange if she didn’t, but i really think she will.

have you ever had this moment? what did you do? what would you do? b/c i'm gonna go check it out again, and if it’s as perfect as i remember it, i'm buying it…

throwing caution to the wind, that’s my style (yeah right!).

update: so before i posted this, i went and checked on said item, and the store doesn't even have it... well, other than the one in the window... maybe i can find it in dublin?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

new coats and a beachy day

oh man. today is awesome… no, really, like the most awesome around. gnarly, wicked, ridici-dope (thank hubbs for that one). i decided this morning that i needed a little walk… it looked nice enough outside, but we can barely see the sky from our piso, so you just never know when clouds are coming… i went anyway, and i am so glad that i did. the day was glorious, magnificent, beautiful. the most perfect december weather ever (very similar to phx, really, but alicante boasts a beach!), so i walked down to the beach. apparently, i was not alone in my sentiment b/c the beach was pretty busy for an early afternoon tuesday in december. now, the beach wasn’t as packed as a summer day, but there were at least thirty people sunning (a lil’ chilly for me to wear a bathing suit, but kudos to them for rockin’ bathing suits in december).

while walking and taking random photos, a thought came to my mind: picnic on the beach. i had some grand ideas of surprising hubbs at work (come lunch time) with some empanadas, cokes and a blanket… but then i got to thinking that maybe a lunchtime surprise on the day before his last work day wasn’t such a great idea. i have no idea why it wouldn’t have been a great idea, but forty-two reasons came to mind, so instead, i went home and let hubbs make the decision when he arrived.

what can i say? he love-love-loved the idea, so we grabbed some to-go lunch and ate on the boardwalk in the glorious, oh-glorious sun… then we took a nice stroll on the boardwalk.

yes, today was the kind of day that made me wish we could never leave.

we leave for dublin on friday and then for phx on monday (like how i pretty much stole a line from hubby’s blog?). so since we’re leaving, and we have no idea when we’ll be back again, we decided a couple weeks ago that we’d each get a shopping “allowance” before heading to the u.s. i guess it’s kind of like a consolation prize or something. well, this past weekend, we rocked our allowances… well, hubbs did. i still have quite a bit left of mine (ha!)! as you can see from the photos, we both bought new coats (just in time for dublin!) – hubbs went for the professional, grown-up look, and i opted for the lumberjack look… i think our new coats fit us quite well.

anyway, my ax is waiting. see you soon!

Monday, December 3, 2007

a swiss ending...

oh, how sad i will be when this post is over… well, kind of anyway. once it’s over, i actually have to start thinking of something to post. weird. not for long, though, b/c we’re headed to dublin over the weekend and then to phx come next monday. that’s right, just one more week… more on that later in the week.

so, now we’re back to switzerland… to the end.

i have togo back to sunday in basel... just before hopping the train to zürich, we checked our email at the ymca hostel; hubbs received an email from his sista, mrs. dub, with some awesome news (10a).

now, back to monday... hubbs and i allowed ourselves to sleep in on monday morning… seeing as how we were both kind of sick, it seemed like a good idea. we were out of the zic zac by noon and lacked an agenda. i love vacations without five-million things to do (but then i love an agenda too, so really, i just love all vacations).

zürich was freezing. we were both cold, which was amazing b/c hubbs is never-ever-ever cold. first thing we decided to do was walk by the water (a river flowing into lake zürich… i think). saw the craziest things – swans and ducks on the water. don't birdies fly south for the winter?! i know that the calendar doesn’t say that it’s winter yet, but the weather definitely does… the water must’ve been freezing, but the little guys (& gals) were swimming along just swimmingly… and they were cute.

we randomly found a radicool train station that i know nothing about, but hubbs does, so maybe he’ll post some photos and tell you about it… all i know is that it looked like a spaceship, but in a cool way, not in a trek-y sort of way. after our super swiss lunch (mcdonald’s), hubbs and i saw a chocolatier from heaven, so we had to go in… and buy some chocolate, obviously. fortunately, the girl spoke english, so we were able to pick out delicious chocolates based on our faves (except they don’t make mint – holy cow, that’s strange!)… so we got a mixture of nougats and truffles and milks and darks. yuuummy!

we found ourselves out of the chocolatier and into a park where hubbs looked at his watch and said, “phew, we’re right on-time! it’s zurich’s married-couple-chocolate-picnic-in-the-park time!” (obviously, i knew well before this, but this statement just re-emphasized how perfect that boy is for this girl!) so we sat on a park bench, laid out our chocolates and indulged. wow, there has never been a more delicious chocolate… ever! hubby really wants to see who knows us best, so here’s a pop quiz: which chocolates were our favorites? we went to the same chocolatier in basel on our way to the airport and picked up some little pieces of heaven for the plane ride… can you guess which ones made the cut?!

anyway, after our chocolate picnic, we wandered through the park and beyond the park… and beyond the main city… and beyond the museum that would’ve been perfect for us had it been open (darn mondays – photography, architecture and media?!)… all in search of one neighborhood with some funky architecture… well, mainly in search of the freitag store. if you have never heard of freitag, do yourself a favor, and check it out. freitag is a messenger bag company (also purses, wallets, mac book sleeves) that makes their bags out of tarps from shipping containers, seat belts and air bags. the bags are unbelievable, and if i don’t ask for one for christmas, it’s only b/c i'm waiting until i find the perfect design of hawaii five-o for me (there are some awesome ones, but not the one for me… yet)! the building is phenomenal – it’s a bunch of train shipping containers stacked up. if you’re brave, you can climb through four additional containers and end up on the top lookout… obviously, i didn’t make it, but hubby did, so he might tell you about it. anyway, like i said, i didn’t end up with a bag, but hubbs ended up with a wallet (at the urging of me). anyway, next to the chocolates, freitag was the highlight of zürich for me, and i am now obsessed.

after freitag, we walked back towards the center of the city… through the funky architecture neighborhood… through the train station… where we decided to hang out and have dinner. seriously, christmas markets are the bomb-diggity. we had some delish brats. plus, we were able to check out the booths and the beautiful swarovski tree (which reminded me of my dear aikey)… just in time to make holiday time seem like the holidays (all of our swiss adventure did this for me).

our day wasn’t extremely eventful, but it was fun, even exhilarating. we were exhausted, and we slept well… tuesday morning, we were back on a train to basel (where we bought ourselves some “for the plane” chocolates) and then on our way back to alicante.

random aside: if you’re ever in europe and want to travel, check out ryan-air (a cheap british airline) b/c it’s super economical, and it boasts the title of “most on-time flights” in all of europe. our flight home was thirty minutes early… how is that possible?! (if you want to say that they exaggerate the times, i am totally fine with that. i would actually prefer that to be the policy for all airlines, so then you’re never late!)

end switzerland.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

it's not over yet?!

this swiss story is getting to be novel-length, and i kind of apologize… only kind of though b/c i'm super stoked that we have so many stories to tell from such an awesome adventure!

on sunday, the plan was to head to zürich, which is only a one hour train ride from basel, and a train comes three times every hour… obviously, our timeframe was flexible. we decided to take a stroll near the rhein, as we had barely spent any time there, but really, there isn’t much to do right there, so the walk was pretty short, and we moved on pretty quickly! we were told by our new aussie and canadian friends that we needed to walk through the basel christmas market (from what i hear, there are christmas markets everywhere in europe, but basel seemed extra christmasy, so we figured, why not). the market was adorable – the booths had awesome goods (from clothing to swiss army knives to candles to ornaments). we didn’t buy anything, but we vowed that we would come back early on tuesday from zürich to eat some delicious market food.

why couldn’t we just eat while we were there, you ask? good question. well, since we had to eat, and we no longer had a kitchen, we decided to take the swiss tram to FRANCE for lunch! aussie michael told us how to get there, so we went… and, man, did we indulge! the town is the teeniest, tiniest town imaginable. the tram stop was “leymen,” so we guessed that that was the town name, but who’s to say what it really is! on the tram ride, we were “busted” by the tram patrol b/c we didn’t really know how far our free transportation passes would take us… b/c just after the one french stop was another swiss stop, so we figured that our passes would be good… we were wrong, so one stop before our stop, we had to get off the tram to buy “one stop” tickets, and then we had to wait a half hour for the next tram to come! it was COLD! we walked for a few minutes before realizing that the ticket machine wouldn’t take our five-franc piece, so we were out of luck on the buying-tickets front. some people walked up to the tram stop, so we tried asking them questions… they said that they spoke either dutch or german (i'm sorry but “deutch” sounds a lot like “dutch.”), and they were surprisingly rude to us! hmpf. that's what i say to rude people. fortunately, there was another guy waiting for the tram, and he was quite helpful, and he taught us that you can buy tickets on either side of the tracks, so our five-franc piece worked after all… thank goodness!

we arrived in leymen in the early afternoon, and the town was dead. it's really, really, really small, though, so i guess we couldn’t have expected the hustle and bustle of a big city. straight off the train, we didn’t see any restaurants, but we figured that we’d walk a bit… and as luck would have it, we found a cute little restaurant. we went in; they accepted credit/debit cards; we asked to be seated… we were the youngest people in the place by about forty or fifty years. just in case we didn’t look out of place enough, though, we were looking pretty shabby in our jeans and t-shirts in comparison to the nice sunday attire of the older french people. when we looked at the menu, it was amazing how we couldn’t read anything, and it was almost more frightening than trying to read german, since we had been attempting that for a few days already. now we were attempting french, and let’s just say my head was hurting from confusion! thankfully, the lady who seated us knew english, so she described the menu of the day – we both ordered it. the meal started with frog leg soup – a cream soup that was the (hands-down) best soup that i've ever had in my life. yummy. and no, you couldn’t tell that the meat was kermie. the main entrée was veal curry with cooked fruit (pear, peach, pineapple and grapes) over rice. it was pretty good… the best part was the peach with the veal curry. sounds weird, but was super tasty. dessert was yum-o (i have never really watched rachel ray, but i've been told that she says annoying things like that all the time… i wanted to join the club.) – vanilla ice cream with a pear, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. i probably would’ve never paired (haha) pear with ice cream, but it worked, and i give it two thumbs up!

after our more than expensive lunch was over (yes, even more expensive than switzerland… somehow we found the ritzy restaurant in the ten person town. oh well, it was worth it and such a fun experience), we snapped a few photos of the french countryside before heading back to basel more exhausted than ever.

somehow i have forgotten to mention that though i was slowly beginning to feel better, i was still ridiculously tired (probably from staying up until 2am the night before). to make the situation worse, though, my poor hubbs somehow came down with a cold. poor fella. needless to say, we were burning ourselves out, so we were both looking forward to the hour train ride to zürich!

when hubbs was planning our swiss adventure, i politely requested a private room in zürich (since it was really expensive regardless of hostel-style or hotel-style), so hubbs obliged and found the zic zac rock hotel. yes, that’s really the name. yes, we were super excited to stay at the rock ‘n’ roll hotel. yes, the hotel disappointed big time.

the hotel was pretty much ghetto. all the rooms had band themes (ac/dc, guns ‘n’ roses, elton john, the clash). of the 40 or 50 rooms, we knew all but five or six of the bands… guess what room we got?! … one of the bands we didn’t know; you guessed it. saga. have you heard of saga b/c we sure haven’t! anyway, the carpet was disturbingly dirty and the floor wasn’t exactly flat, but the bed was cozy and the blankets were warmer than warm, so it wasn’t all bad. want to know what made our room the “saga room,” though? two records on the wall. i am not joking. this is too good to make up. there were seriously two records by saga hanging on the wall… then one totally-fake gold record of midnight oil (whom though we’ve heard of, were slightly confused as to why their record was in the saga room) and a young photo of the grateful dead (again, whom we’ve definitely heard of…). yeah, saga!

anyway, we did a bit of looking around sunday night, though not much b/c we were sick and sleepy… but we did enjoy our dinner of brats/hot dogs and french fries at a place called “brats and snacks” (or something like that). seriously, yumtastic. before hitting the hay, we enjoyed an episode of flavor of love on mtv. i never watched it in the u.s., but it wasn’t dubbed over in german/french/spanish, so it was a winner in our book!

the last installment tomorrow or monday. trust me, it’ll be good b/c we had the best chocolate ever… no, really, ever, and we took pictures.

see you then.

p.s. if you haven't seen it yet, hubbs posted a non-swiss blog... but there's a swiss one on the way soon... i promise.
p.p.s. happy six-month-iversary to my dear hubbs!

Friday, November 30, 2007

i thought you went to switzerland?

oh, how i did you all a disservice yesterday… i forgot to introduce you to ‘rhode island.’ rhode island broke up the international-hostel-party at about midnight on friday night asking if anyone knew if there were beds open. we just recommended that he head to the fourth floor where the employees were sleeping (the office is only open until 11pm), so he went up, and they told him that he couldn’t stay… so he came and sat with us. just sat. we were having conversations; he was staring. he tried a couple of times to start new conversations, but i was the only one who ever answered him. the kid was just weird, and he was from rhode island, hence the nickname. just an fyi: once the office closes, the only way to enter is to use a key – obviously, r.i. didn’t have a key, so someone let him in… well, after a while, he told us that he was going to sleep on the couch in the basement but leave before the office opened at 730. turns out, that’s not what he did. the poor american ended up rooming with this guy by chance, as his other roomie came in with r.i. at two in the morning, took r.i.’s passport number and money and then didn’t come back until the morning… so poor carl (american’s name) had to stay all night with crazy r.i. (not to mention a guy who was passed out in a chair with an empty bottle of vodka sitting by him).

okay, now i feel better. you had to meet rhode island. so we’re on to saturday! hubbs and i woke up early on saturday to go to weil am rhein, germany (a little teeny town just across the swiss-german border). believe it or not, this little teeny town is huge for tourism b/c of the vitra design center – which started out as a chair factory (producing ray and charles eames chairs), then turned into a chair museum (in a frank gehry building), and now boasts buildings by a few other a-list architects making it a huge arch-geek (and arch-geek-wife) attraction.

when we hopped off the bus, i was absolutely amazed. i had never seen anything so beautiful in my life than the gorgeous german countryside. seriously, GORGE. hubbs and i spent a little bit of time taking some choice photos before realizing – omg, it’s soooooo cold! so off we scurried into the frank gehry-designed museum only to realize that we made it right in time for the noon tour (which is a blessing b/c the tours are two hours long, and there are only two of them – at noon and at two). we stood outside waiting for the guide, and i literally thought that my toes were going to break off – i don’t know that i've ever been colder in my life. thankfully, it wasn’t raining. the tour of all the buildings is half outside, so i actually thought multiple times that i might have to head inside and forgo the rad tour, but fortunately, we were inside just enough for my toes to thaw. the docent was actually really cool and according to paul, “she really knew her stuff,” so the tour ended up being totally worth the freezing cold.

so, after about four hours in germany, we hopped the bus back towards basel with hopes of making one more stop in weil am rhein (a second zaha hadid building), but we had a couple problems on the bus that prevented this: 1) the bus driver had a big, burly friend who wanted something, but we had no idea what since we didn’t speak his language and 2) we had no idea where to exit the bus to get to the building. fortunately, there was a group on the bus who could help us (aussie michael, german michael, norwegian runa & marte). apparently, the burly friend of the bus driver wanted our money b/c our free transportation tickets are only good on the swiss side (which is only true half of the time b/c carl didn’t have to pay). when i realized that aussie michael lived in basel, i asked him if he could help us find the zaha building… he had no idea, but he had a better option (or so he said). he was just about to take his norwegian friends to see the “novartis campus” for an architecture tour, and if we wanted to go with them, we were more than welcome, and we’d be more impressed with it than the vitra design center. well, i didn’t care either way, but i knew that hubbs wanted to see the zaha building, so i turned to him, and he quickly agreed to the tour! (to our moms and dads: we know that you taught us not to talk to strangers. we haven’t forgotten. it's just that this seemed rad, so we couldn’t pass it up.)

if you don’t know what novartis is (i was totally with you before this adventure), i'll kind of tell you. novartis is a HUGE pharmaceutical company, and i mean HUGE (at least the campus is, anyway). apparently, the two biggest pharmaceutical companies are in basel, and they both have amazing, amazing, amazing campuses, but you can only get in if you work there (or if an employee takes you on a tour). i had no idea what to expect, but hubbs seemed super stoked, so i knew that i'd be in for a treat… after a few tram changes, we entered the security building and got ridiculously-official badges for our tour… and that’s when i realized that aussie michael wasn’t kidding. the campus was spectacular! seriously, hubbs will go into detail (hopefully this weekend) on his blog, but there are a ton of a-list architect buildings that are just amazing. the grounds are beautifully landscaped – with parks and amazon rain forests. incredible. there is a koi fish pond that made me think of my dad’s koi fish pond, but these koi fish are somewhat special (i have no idea why), but they cost twenty-thousand-francs each! the fish are SO expensive, that novartis leases them (which seems odd b/c each building had to cost like one hundred million)! apparently a few months ago, someone stole one of the little fishies (i can only imagine how much trouble the caretaker got into)! anyway, from frank gehry to sanaa to diener & diener to other architects that hubbs will tell you about, the buildings were phenomenal. to top it off, amazing artwork adorned all of the walls, and fabulous furniture furnished the buildings (from a-list artists, obviously). we were only allowed inside aussie michael’s building (and he thinks his building is the least cool), and we were amazed. to work in that cool of an office building must be amazing! the whole campus is outrageous. if it were opened to tourists, novartis would make even more billions annually b/c it’s an arch/furniture-geek haven! when leaving, aussie michael quizzed us on how much money novartis pays out in monthly salaries… eight hundred million… monthly (hard to believe, but i'm gullible, so if it's not true, i don't care!)! other interesting tidbit: german michael was telling us protesters frequent the novartis campus due to animal testing, but apparently, the protests are super organized. the heads of the protesting groups call in advance and book pseudo-appointments explaining when they’ll protest and on which campus. organization is key (i guess).

anyway, the michaels were insanely generous, and we felt so lucky to get such a treat on our swiss adventure… we beamed all night (and i’m pretty sure that hubbs is still beaming today!). we finished with the amazing tour at about 630pm realizing that we didn’t have lunch, and all of the sudden we found ourselves starving, so we headed to the grocery store and then back to the hostel to make some din… and pretty much automatically, our international-hostel-party rejoined to discuss all of our exciting adventures (ours being the most, obviously). somehow, rhode island showed up again, but he merely walked by us. thankfully, he didn’t stop to “chat.” the night was just as fun as the day with all of our new bffs (aka: new facebook friends).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

swiss miss steffa shares day two

this is some wicked-crazy hair that we saw on the tram... just thought i'd share.

if day one wasn’t enough detail for you, get ready b/c i'm back with more exciting tales from the land of chocolate and cheese (do you like ween? i like ween.)

so friday was day two, and it rained all day. i was still all sick-like, and i didn’t really sleep thursday night b/c of coughing and congestion… so can you guess what our first stop was on friday?! to buy ricola (please, say it only in the sing-song way), of course. i really wanted the cranberry flavor, but hubbs insisted that those are more like candy than lozenges, so i opted for the yucky eucalyptus instead (they’re not that yucky, but they're not delicious like cranberry.).

friday was an architecture kind of day, but i'm not really going to get into that b/c hubbs promises to write extensive blog posts on all the arch-geek stuff that i don’t know about. on that note, we did a lot, a lot, a lot of walking in the morning. if you know nothing about basel, (like i did before we went) you probably don’t know that it is an amazing architecture city. there is one firm in particular that’s pretty amazing (and i'm pretty sure there are others, but i only know the name of one -- still, i deserve some credit for knowing the one), and we saw lots of their buildings – herzog and de meuron. pretty amazing stuff (well, except for the soccer stadium… it’s pretty ug-tastic if you ask me.).

while searching for h&d buildings, i saw the coolest little-kid park. seriously, i wish that i were ten so that i could play on it. it looks like a house burnt down, and rather than demolishing the rest of it, they built a park. love it. anyway, on our way to one of the buildings, we realized that we were not headed in the right direction… and we had walked pretty dang far out of our way (or so we thought), so we decided that now was the time to learn to use public transportation (if you stay at a hotel/hostel in basel, you get a free transportation pass for the length of your stay – which is amazing!)… as soon as we learned, there was no turning back. public transportation was our new bff for the remainder of the trip (in basel, anyway).

for lunch, we decided to hit up the grocery store and grab some local foodstuffs from the bakery area… i couldn’t tell you what most of it was, but it was delicious. i know that you probably think that we’re really, really, really cheap, but i don’t really care – i'm not into paying $40 for lunch and dinner every day. that’s just silly.

after lunch, hubbs decided that we needed a less strenuous objective for the late afternoon (c’mon, i was still sick.), so we headed for the contemporary architecture museum (or something like that)… the exhibit featured pancho guedes, a portugese architect. i thought it was super-rad. art museum exhibits tend to bore me, but this kept me quite interested the entire time, which was nice… there was a separated contemporary art exhibit that was a little kooky, though… what can i say, i just don’t think of hanging birdcages on a wall as art… anyway, i thought the museum rocked, and hubbs was utterly disappointed… ain’t that the way?!.

oh boy, i really hate to be the party pooper, but i was feeling pretty bad -- like poop, so i had to be a party pooper -- on friday, so hubbs and i went to the pharmacy to get medicine number three – cough syrup. it's caramel flavored, which is kind of delicious and gross at the same time.

anyway, for dinner, we headed back to the grocery store and picked up some pasta and veggies, which we cooked in the kitchen… and, man, it was delicious. the veggies were a little weird, but since i couldn’t read the back, i had to ask some people to read it for me, which made us a couple of friends. while eating, a few other people came around, and after awhile, there was a little hostel-international-party—with 3 americans (us included), 3 canadians and 1 aussie. okay, so not a party-party and not all that international, but it was fun to have people to hang out with… especially since the other american was an architecture student from cal-poly-san-luis-obispo who’s currently studying in italy… how serendipitous! oh, the two arch boys were in arch-geek heaven b/c no one else understood a word of what they were saying!

ooooh, this is about to get long. i have one more friday story -- it's an interesting one, so i recommend reading it.

so we hung out in the dining hall for a long time with our new bffs when a large group of spaniards came in. they were pre-partying before going out on the town… they got a little loud, but the dining hall is totally closed off to the rooms, and we didn’t mind – they were having a good time… oh boy, was there drama, though! there was a small group (of what i think were eastern europeans) who were way older than the rest of us… they were pretty sloshed, but no one paid them any attention. until they started throwing temper tantrums. they started getting really loud, which made everyone quiet for just a second – just in time for one of the older women to let out the loudest fart ever… kind of weird. we all chuckled a bit -- i guess that we're all ten at heart, and i should've played at the park! so then, one of the ladies got up and started yelling at the spaniards in spanish saying that they’re rude and other craziness then she stormed out. then our lil’ group started gossiping about the ridiculous situation, which led the crazy-sloshed man to storm out and slam the door. it was nutty. then we went about our own business, the spaniards went out for the night, and the old weirdos walked outside – flipping us the bird on their way! ha! all i kept thinking (and saying) was, “ugh, i know that these loons are going to be in our room. they're going to murder us!” by this point, we hadn’t washed our plates yet, so poor hubbs had to go into the kitchen with the loons to do this (sorry, but there’s no way that i was going in there!)… right before we all went to bed, the crazies went into the kitchen and broke some bottles or glasses… this is when i ran.

fortunately, we didn’t share a room with the locos, but we did share a room with the spaniards, and to say that they were a bit rude when entering the room in the middle of the night is an understatement… we asked them to use the individual lamps instead of the main light – they laughed at hubbs and told me no. oooooh. burn.

oh, well. we both slept that night – what a blessing.

anyway. this story could take all week. hope you’re up for the challenge.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

switzerland... just the beginning.

i don’t know that i'm going to be able to do our latest adventure justice… it was that good.

just in case you haven’t been following: hubbs and i planned a trip to basel, switzerland with hopes of hitting up zurich and maybe small towns in germany and france. now, here’s the story.

if you remember correctly, i was sick last week. our plane left on thursday, and i tossed and turned all wednesday night thanks to some wicked congestion (unfortunately, said tossing and turning kept hubby awake). before hopping the bus to the airport, hubbs and i stopped into a pharmacy where i picked up some antihistamine – which turned out to be somewhat of a miracle drug in the first couple of days. we arrived in basel on-time, exhausted and hungry. we kind of got lost on our way to our ymca hostel but were able to see the city which simultaneously pumped us up and further exhausted and hungered us. seriously, basel is the cleanest and most picturesque city that i've ever been to. seriously.

fyi: if you ever go to basel and need cheap accommodations, check out the ymca hostel b/c it is amazing – seriously, the nicest hostel that i've stayed in (with a kitchen, free internet and private rooms available). trust me, if you ever end up in switzlerand, you’ll want to find cheap accommodations b/c switzerland is the most expensive place i've ever been to… no, really. i know that i'm cheap, but switzerland is ridiculously expensive (we learned that welfare pays out a minimum of 3k swiss-francs monthly… which would be somewhere around $33,000 annually. that might be higher than the u.s. annual income average.).

anyway, after checking into the sweetest hostel ever, we headed out to find some grub. every single restaurant we passed cost at least $20/entrée – trust me, we love doing the nice dinner thing every once in a while, but we were too tired and hungry to enjoy that nice of a meal… which led us to mcdonald’s, where we walked out in shock – a value meal cost $10. yes, that’s in u.s. dollars. yes, that includes a 16 oz. drink and a medium fry. yes, that’s almost double what it costs in the u.s. obviously we didn’t want to eat at mcdonald’s in switzerland anyway, so we went to the pizza/kabob restaurant next door… it turned out to be the american restaurant in a chain of “international” restaurants called “sam’s”… we ended up getting a peter-piper-style pizza and a shredded-lettuce salad and a large coke for $40. turns out, mcdonald’s probably would’ve tasted better and would’ve cost less! what's funny is that we had a kitchen in our hostel, but we were too tired to want to cook. plus, when traveling, eating out is the bomb-diggity… we just should've done more homework on where to eat in basel before our first night!

despite needing food, sleep and a larger bank account, we LOVED walking through the city. seriously, switzerland looks like disneyland, and according to us, disneyland is the happiest place on earth. basel is the most picturesque place that i've ever been to (have i already said this? if so, it's b/c it's totally true)… basel is GORGE! (i learned a new word from a friend whom you'll meet later. gorgeous = gorge.) and we went at the perfect time, too b/c it is the perfect city to get you in the mood for christmas…

anyway, back to the story. basel gets dark super early (which was kind of nice b/c i didn’t feel as guilty for being sleepy early on every night!), so we bought some chocolate (and perused the local grocery store, which is always a fun way to get to know a new place) and headed back to the hostel… this really has nothing to do with the trip, so please excuse my weird aside… i just want to make sure you understand what hostel-life is like (take the good and the bad!). where we realized that we had a weirdo for a roommate (we were in a room with 8 bunk beds, so we could’ve had up to 6 roomies). seriously, this guy was laying in bed when we came in and the shot up and asked us, “what nationality are you?!” we were both taken aback, but hubbs answered, “american” anyway… when asked so harshly, i would’ve answered “canadian” only because americans aren’t always so popular (this is a tip that i was given by my professor before studying abroad – in fall 2002.). anyway, we followed suit and asked where he was from, and he responded, “tennessee.” except, we knew that he wasn’t from tennessee b/c he had a thick accent… turns out, he said, “tunisia.” i woke up to praying in arabic on friday morning at 7am, which was a bit intense considering our weird encounter with our tunisian friend the night before… after praying semi-loudly for thirty minutes or so, our roomie left, which allowed me to sleep. here's an admission: the guy really creeped me out – starting with “what’s your nationality.” after making a few friends the next day, i realized that it wasn't just me... everyone thought the guy was really creepy b/c on first meeting him, he'd spurt out, “what’s your nationality." i recommend not doing this when you meet people.

okay, this is way too long. looks like you only get day one today. the trip gets much more eventful and fun, though, so tune in tomorrow… hopefully i can get through two days… maybe.

ugh. i have to include another part of day one before i end this rambling… basel is SUPER bike friendly, which is a huge plus in my book! at all times, there are bikes just chilling on the sidewalk not locked to anything except for itself. i was amazed by this b/c while going to the u of a, three bikes were stolen in four years… and they were seriously locked up.

fyi: swiss chocolate is the best invention on earth.

steffa's note: thanks to the hubbizzle for catching my "swiss franks" error. d'oh!