Friday, July 29, 2011

A tragic epidemic is overtaking Europe.......

I think this concerns me so much because Im in the underwear business, but it's always been my number 1 pet peeve when I see girls wearing an ill fitted bra, or in these cases below- THE COMPLETELY WRONG BRA FOR THEIR OUTFITS. I know that European companies make convertible bras, I don't know why everyone chooses not to buy them. I see this sometimes in the states and it's always bothered me, but it's EVERYWHERE here. I started taking pictures and I must have a couple dozen, but I posted the worst offenders below. I packed a carry on size suitcase for 6 months and it included 2 tshirt bras in black and nude that can convert to a racer back if needed, 1 push up bra in nude, a nude strapless bra and a plethora of tube bras in nude, black, hot pink and neon green lace. I know that I have like zero boobs, and it's easier for me than say a girl with DD knockers, but seriously.... Who the hell leaves their house looking like this?! Please join me in condeming this frightening epidemic and put it to rest finally. I'm chalking it up to lack of education. If you can't afford to buy a convertible bra, at least tie the straps together in the back with a ribbon or something. Luckily in Berlin the weather is too cold to wear racerback tanks so I don't think I'll see too much of this here. See the horrific examples below, I'm warning you now, they are pretty graphic:

Hall of fame offender... had to take picture of Bill so as not to be obvious.
This one was the most mind boggling. I think a French fry actually fell out of my mouth because it was gaping open so much as I was staring at this woman.

- Claire

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 18 - The Pompeii disaster pt.2

A view of a street in Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the background.

A person, preserved in volcanic ash, at the moment of their death.

A fresco painting that somehow survived
We wake up early and take full advantage of the free breakfast. We activate. I'm pumped. This day is going to kick yesterday's ass. What I didn't mention about the day before is we used the hotel lobby computer and sat on google for an hour getting very specific directions to the Circumvesuvius train and all the info we needed for Pompeii. We were not going to make the same mistake twice. And the hotel guys directions were totally wrong. It wasn't 500 meters to the left it was 200 meters to the right. Whatever.

So we get on the train, take it 3 stops to Pompeii- scavi and we go in to see the ruins. It was hauntingly creepy and fascinating all at the same time. Seeing all these ruins from Rome to now really puts our place on the human timeline into perspective. Here were normal people living their lives, and in 24 hours their entire existence was wiped off the face of the planet. And Vesuvius looms over this town, so every time you look at a house, or the remains of a temple, it is there in the back drop as an eerie reminder that all our days are numbered. There were thermal baths, the equivalent of a lunch counter where workers would get "fast food" meals, beautiful gardens, people's houses with bedrooms and dining rooms, brothels, temples, a marketplace. And there were also bodies of the victims immortalized in ash. We didn't get to see even half of the town. In order to be back in pozzuoli by 730 we had to get the 150 bus to Vesuvius.

My recommendation would be not to do these two things in 1 day. You could spend 2 days alone in pompeii. So we caught the bus up to Vesuvius and I almost had a heart attack. The curves and turns in the road were so winding, a sheer cliff on the other side of a little tiny guardrail was freaking me out. We were in a huge bus and it was going very fast up the mountain. This was worse than the coney island cyclone and it took a half hour. The bus takes you up about 750 meters and you have to climb the last 300 meters yourself if you want to look into the crater at the top. And that's what we did. We climbed up, with heavy bags, in the blazing sun, on a very vertical and rocky trail, to the very top. It was so worth it. The sheer magnitude of the crater, it's mind blowing. It's hard to describe and I don't think pictures do it justice. The rocks are gigantic and are all different colors. Some are gray, some are red and some are black. Some are a swirl of all three colors. The crater goes down very deep, and is filled in with plants that have grown in over time. On the landscape of the mountain you can see where the lava flow of the eruption in the 1940's decimated the vegetation.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. I turned to bill at one point and was like, you know we are a standing at the mouth of a volcano right? Craziest thing I've done yet....And here's the pic to prove it :)
Finally! A picture of us together... and the top of Vesuvius!
Got the bus back down the mountain, to the train, to another train and back to Pozzouli. Went out to a beach club where I had a very delicious mojito. Then gelato at 2am. Then sleep. Awesome day.

- Claire

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 17 - the Pompeii Disaster pt.1

We had earned a free night from so we decided to get a hotel near Pompeii-Scavi for sat night and come back to Naples on Sunday. Part of this reasoning is we don't want to try and do all of this in one day (which is not possible, as you will see) and Virginia is getting her PhD in Vienna so she and Davi don't see a lot of each other and we wanted to give them some alone time. Davi and Virginia dropped us off at the train in pozzuoli sat morning around 11.
We take the train to Naples central then another train to torre del grecco, which is where our hotel is. Davi had given us a scrap of paper with his phone number on it and on the other side I scribbled the name and address of our hotel with a broken pen, so it was barely legible.
We get to torre del grecco, get off the train and look around. I don't know why we keep thinking we are in NYC where there are cabs, and streets that are labeled with signs and people that speak English. None of these things exist here. We are in a town, in the hills on the coast if Italy. There are no cabs at the freaking train station. Nor is there a map. Why do we keep showing up to places without any plan or directions do you ask? I wish I knew the answer to that myself. But I don't have an answer.
We see a supermarket and go in because we need a toothbrush (our sonic are charger decided to stop working) and when we leave I suggest we follow a sign that says the center of town is to the right. This also doesn't mean that the center of town is like a block to the right. It means it's the general direction and the center could be miles away.
We see a little store and go in and ask the woman if she knows where our hotel is. No one speaks a word of english. She looks at the paper and asks her sons. They all seem to agree that we need to take a bus there, but they don't agree on where the bus is. After they come to a consensus that the bus is around the corner they give us very animated directions in Italian. Somehow we got it and walked around the corner and lo and behold a bus is there. The driver takes us to the hotel and doesn't even charge us the fare.
We check in to the hotel, it looks like it used to be a really fancy hotel but has gone to the wayside in recent years. The furniture in the room is very ornate, very Italian. I'm pretty happy about there being a queen size bed. This is seriously the first time in all my nights in Europe I have slept on a queen size bed. Every other time it's 2 twin beds pushed together. We ask the guy at reception how we go about putting a tour of Pompeii together, as well as a tour of Vesuvius.
Here I need to note 3 things: we chose this hotel because they specifically said they will arrange tours to these two attractions. They also said they had Internet access in the room, but conveniently it was broken. And mount Vesuvius is literally outside the window. It's very close.
He says that we can walk into town and take the Circumvesuvius train to Pompeii or they can call us a cab. That's it. Really? That's your tour planning service? So we ask him where the train in town is. His directions are as follows:
Go down the hill
All the way down
Keep going till you pass a bridge
Go around 500 meters and make a left.
First of all, everyone in Europe keeps giving us directions like, go 200 meters or 300 meters. Wtf is a meter anyway? Do these people keep like little pedometers on them at all times so they know how far a meter is?! How is that good directions?! How about you say, at the gas station make a right. Or an actual street name would be good too.
Anyways, we proceed to follow this guys directions and get totally and utterly lost. It's crazy hot out and we are wondering around for over an hour. At 3pm, so NOTHING is open, it's a ghost town. We do ask a few people we see for directions and try to understand what they are saying but we can't find it. I'm getting super pissed. How is it that we can't find a huge train station in this town? How is this possibly happening? After an hour and 15 minutes we give up, go back to the hotel and go to the pool for the rest of the afternoon. While we are cooling down we make a survival guide for Italy. The order of the most helpful to least helpful people in Italy goes like this:
Most helpful: your friends mother. She will do your laundry, take you out, feed you home cooked meals, give you handmade presents and her friend actually offered to have her husband drive us to pompeii on Monday but we declined because we had already booked a hotel.
Helpful: complete strangers on the street who don't speak any English, but they will go out of their way to see that you get to where you are going.
Least helpful: people who actually work in customer service and speak English. They will give you the wrong directions, shrug when you ask if they can perform a service that is specifically listed under the hotel and if you don't like it then you don't have to stay in Italy. Ciao.
So. Eventually we are hungry. We go back into town around 730 and it is teeming with people. Everyone is out, all the shops are open. We go to the market and get some wine,cheese, bread, meat, olives and peppers and eat in our hotel room while watching a batman cartoon in italian. I actually really like watching cartoons in other languages but that's a different post altogether...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 16 - Tough Life, Naples Edition

I give credit where credits due, this pic was taken by davi's friend elisa,
I think she really captured the moment :)

We start day 16 off right with a proper Italian breakfast- croissants, donuts and espresso. I'm always wondering how people can only eat sugar and bread for breakfast and not be starving, but after the huge dinner we had last night at 10pm I'm still feeling pretty full so that answers that question. Davi's mom comes down with the basket of laundry, pressed and folded. I'm in awe, she's a saint. Everything smells so good from drying in the breeze, like lavender and easy living.

We spend the day at a different beach. I like how the beaches are set up here, they are all privately owned so you pay a small amount, like 3 or 4 euro, but they give you a beach chair and there is a little restaurant with drinks, food and most times showers and changing rooms. No ones sitting on the sand with their towels, it's all class here. You have to pay to get on the beach in jersey and you don't get shit for it. I joke with Davi that he leads an incredibly tough life out here in Italy. He laughs and says its a sarcastic saying they have in his town- it's a tough life. To be fair, he was on vacation the week we were there so he had a lot of free time. Usually he works very long hours at his fathers restaurant. After bill turned into a lobster from the sun we decide it's time to go, and all of us are getting pretty hungry.

We return to the house to eat lunch at 6pm, again I guess that's pretty normal when you eat dinner at 11pm. Davi disappears to his parents house upstairs and comes back with the most amazing thing I've ever seen. His father goes octopus fishing at 5am every morning. His mother cooked up that mornings catch in a homemade sauce. Virgina made linguine to go with the octopus and Davi pulls out a bottle of wine that his father made. Like made in the backyard with his own hands from scratch. And the vinegar that went on the salad was made from scratch too. And this man runs a successful restaurant. How?! How does he do this? I can never complain that I have no time ever again. Of course everything was amazingly delicious. It helps that bill and I are huge Pulpo (octopus) fans.

So after this feast is over, Davi is going out the door to drive Virgina home so she can get ready for a bachelorette party that night and on his way out he says that we should be ready to go to dinner with his mom at 10. What? Dinner?! After all of that?! Bill and I look at each other and laugh. This is why I didn't care about eating Chinese and mcdonalds in Rome, I knew I was going to do all the real eating here in Naples.
We go to a restaurant down the street that is very rustic and small. Davi's mom has her friend with her who doesn't speak english and the two of them are hysterical together. I didn't need to understand Italian to know a lot about what was going on. They were super fun and it made me hope that I have as much energy and life in me when I'm older. They explain that this restaurant doesn't have a menu. They grow everything out in their garden and get their meat fresh that day so whatever they have for specials is what you have to choose from. After the ante pasta Adele (Davis mom) suggests to bill he try the beef and mushroom ravioli and I get the pasta with anchovy pesto. Every meal I have seems better than the last, if that's even possible. The pasta is obviously handmade as it's thicker and the texture is different than box pasta. They aren't serving barilla here. One thing we are learning is you can't refuse dessert here. There is no such thing as being too full for dessert. So we get an array of desserts that are a blur to me now as I'm trying to remember, it was all creamy sugary goodness melting in my mouth with every bite. Then a espresso to top it off, then offers of limoncello.... It goes on and on. We roll ourselves to the car and go to another beach club for samba night. We don't get very far into our first drink when davi gets a call from Virgina's friend who says she had a little toooo much fun at the bachelorette party and is sick outside. I've been there, I think we all have been there, and it sucks to be feeling that badly. So we don't hesitate to help her home and we go straight to bed as well, with very happy stomachs.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 15 - Welcome to the South

We woke up early, had hotel breakfast and 2 cappuccinos. Is it wrong that all I want is a huge extra large venti iced frappe-something from Starbucks? Caught the 10:40 train to Naples which gets us in the same time as the other train we were going to get but was half the price but an hour longer. This train car is more comfortable than the last, there is a little table at the seats and it's air conditioned. I hope we are in the right car, it says class 2 on it. But I guess we will find out when or if they come around to collect tickets.
Traveling by train is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to go. It's more convenient to get to a train station then an airport, you don't have to worry about liquids in your bags and it's a great way to see the country. Oh, and it's a fraction of the price. In total we paid 56€ for the both of us to go all the way from Ancona to Rome to Naples.

The ticket lady comes around and we find out that we are on the wrong train. I thought these seats were a little too nice for 10€. It would be like if we had a ticket to Trenton on nj transit and got on the Amtrak train. We get off at the next stop, which is more than halfway to Naples and wait for the correct train.
Davide said he would meet us at the train station. We didn't really bother to ask where to meet or to give him our train number. So we discuss whether or not this is going to be a problem and right as we are wandering around outside the station Davi and his girlfriend Virgina is with him, pizza in hand.

Naples itself is a dump. Literally, there's trash everywhere. I'm relieved when we start driving out of the city and along the coast and into the hills. I feel like I'm in the real Italy now, there are tiny winding streets that open up into quaint piazzas. Cafes, markets, fruit stands, restaurants. We stop by virginias house so she can get her bathing suit and her neighbors are growing grapes in their yard. Real Italy. We had mentioned to davi that we really needed to do laundry, bill is out of underwear and I'm running low. As soon as we get out of the car at his house he says something to his mom in Italian, who's hanging laundry out on the balcony two stories up, and she's at the door with a laundry basket and takes it all upstairs despite our protests that we can put it in the washer ourselves.

Next we head to a local beach, but stop first to admire the view from davides fathers restaurant. It is breathtaking, as you can all see from the picture above. I dont think it showed in the picture but you can see vesuvius waaayyyyy in the background. We head down to the beach, the sand here is almost black from the volcano ash. I feel as I jump into the bathtub warm water a little bit of cleansing. Maybe it's the volcanic ash, maybe it's the Mediterranean, or just the happiness I always feel being on a beach. We soak in the last of the afternoon sun. Davi explains to us that there are a lot of Americans here that work on both the us naval base and the NATO base. There are also lots of italians who moved to the us then ended up moving back so there are a lot of English speaking people here. We met some of his friends, as soon as he introduced us as Americans they switched over to English without any trace of an Italian accent. It was a little strange to be somewhere that so many people speak American English, as this is usually not the case where we go.
We check on the laundry when we get home and davide's mom is already hanging it out to dry. At first I'm a little scared that the whole town is going to see my underwear blowing in the breeze but she discreetly hung the panties behind the sheets and towels. I tell bill that he shouldn't get used to this because I'm not doing this with his laundry.

We go to his fathers restaurant for dinner at 10, which is an early dinner by italian standards. It's more of a casual place and davi informs us that they brought the cheesesteak back from Philly and it's one of the most popular things on their menu. We have an ante pasta platter and get some cheesesteaks and real Napoli pizza. The pizza is outrageously good, the cheesesteak can't really be called a cheesesteak cause you'll never find something that delicious in Philly.

We round the night off by having drinks at a beach club. People are sprawled out over the sand, a Dj is in the lifeguard booth, and people are actually jumping into the sea wi all their clothes on. I will never be that drunk as to attempt night swimming so we head home around 3 and crash.

- Claire

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 14 - Bill and Claire vs. Rome Pt.2

First full day in Rome...
Wake up early to catch breakfast. The plan is to hit Vatican city, then lunch, nap, and the rest of the site seeing in the evening. So much for plans. We hit the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain and a thousand other unknown buildings and monuments before we even hit the metro for Vatican city. All by 11am. We get to St peters square, shoot some video to take it in, and learn the big line is for the church and the Sistine chapel is in the museum. The info booth guy tells us its  15€ and a 1.5 hr line. We get in after only a thirty minute wait. We start grasping for new adjectives as everything we see here (and in Rome) is more impressive than the last. The path through the museum all builds up to the chapel as the grand finale, but everything proceeding was equally impressive to me. (Don't worry about the dress code signs if you ever go, they're just another revenue stream generator for the museum...)

It was as if every new fresco that was added after big M's used the SC as the bar for excellence. Even the doors to the gift shop were immaculately ornate. Bought my mom a rosary, but had to find the right one. I know they were probably all made in china, but at least buying them here would add some sentiment. Went for the wood with rope as the metal and chain ones looked tacky and cheap.

Left the vatican and headed to McD for lunch. It might sound sad, but considering we never eat there at home we figured we were allowed a free pass. Totally hit the spot. Saw the biggest violator of the racer back bra epidemic (more on that later). They didn't have happy meal toys, but the box had paper cut outs of a Happy Meal box as Dj complete with turntables, records and sound system. Awesome.

We head back to hotel to review our video to date, shot us walking around from my hip at the colosseum instead of the actual sightseeing and pondering. Oops.

Round two... Walk over to the pantheon, hit several other unknown monuments along the way including my favorite which we later learn is the monument to the first king of unified Italy along with the tomb of the unknown soldier. We settle on Chinese food for dinner (such a steal!) then off to the Internet cafe. Learn there was a bombing in Mumbai and unquestionably remove it from our India itinerary.

No comedic bits of insight necessary, this was a day of pure sightseeing. Something we never do, but fully enjoyed.

- Bill

Things we learned about Rome:
Establishing dominance over traffic- there's not a lot of traffic lights in Rome. So crossing the street is a circus act. You have to find the zebra stripes and then literally walk out into traffic. We watched a roman woman do it, suit and heels and everything, and we just followed her. I thought crossing the street in ny was bad, this is downright  nerve wracking. Bill got the hang of it pretty quickly and I just followed him running and screaming OHMYGODDONTGETRUNOVER!!!!!

As far as the tourist areas go, the Vatican was surprisingly well priced. The restaurants were all a few euro cheaper than around our hotel and they have a half price sunglasses guy, to bills chagrin. He paid 10 euro for his at the Spanish steps and right when we got out of the subway at the Vatican there was a guy selling the same ones for 5. It's the creme de tequila from Mexico all over again......

Always order the fizzy water at restaurants so you don't get tap water trying to be passed off as bottled. I don't care about drinking tap water but i don't want to pay 4€ for it. Speaking of tap water- it's actually pretty good and there are fountains all over the city where people fill up their water bottles. So don't spend a ton of money on bottled water, buy one and fill it up as you go. A lot of people do this and if there is a fountain that isn't good for drinking there will be a sign.

If we ever do it again, we will get the audio tour of the Vatican museum. they dont sell stamps at the post office. Weird, I know. You buy them at the tabbaco shops and drop your letters in the mailboxes on the street. We mailed  Postcards yesterday so we will see in about a week if they get delivered or not.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 13 - Bill and Claire vs. Rome. Part 1

Our boat from Croatia landed right at 7am on the dot. We disembarked and went through customs, which was surprisingly easy. The stamp we got in our passport has a little boat on it instead of a plane which is suuuuuper cute. We debated walking to the train station but it was a mile and a half and with heavy suitcases (mine is 16 kilos which I think is around 32 pounds) and being exhausted and sweaty we decided to take a cab. All of our new York city training has left us. We got in the cab and didn't ask how much it was going to be. Rookie mistake that we, of all people, should not be making. We get to the station and the taxi driver rapes us. 15 euro for going a mile and half. Ugh. We buy our tickets and wait for the 8:30 train to Rome.
We got second class tickets because when you quit your job to travel you need to stick to a budget. This meant no air conditioning and slightly cramped seats, but I was excited for a train ride nonetheless. This is the stuff you hear romanticized about in novels and movies, a trip across Europe via train. And it was everything it's cracked up to be. The landscape was quintessential Italy. Rolling hills of vineyards and orchards, valleys with little houses and streams, mountains with winding roads straight out of an Audi commercial, and endless fields of sunflowers. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and with the soothing sound of the chugging train and wonderful scenery passing by I drifted off to sleep. But not before I practically chained my bag to me, Italy is known for thieves and pickpockets. The ride was 4 hours, and around 11am it started to get HOT. the forecast for Rome was 33C which i think is around 98F.

It was starting to get very uncomfortable in the car, the sun was blazing and the windows only open up so much. I started sweating- again. Ive never been so disgusting in my life. I had been sweating in extreme heat for over 24 hours straight. It was really like I was taking a bikram class on the trenitalia train. But I kept reminding myself it was good practice for India and just chill out.

Then we got to Rome. After spending a week in a sleepy laid back beach town in Croatia and our scenic train ride, Rome was like a slap in the face. We were in a big city again and it felt kind of good. We started to load our bags in a cab but the driver was nice enough to tell us that our hotel was in walking distance instead of charging us an obscene amount of money to drive around the block. We did have to wander around a little but we found it and were greeted by an extremely well dressed handsome man at reception. He took one look at us and said "it is hot out, no?" yes genius, it pretty freakin hot out there, and I know I smell like microwaved shit right now.I have to say that our hotel was really nice, when in Rome.... Stay at the Galatea on via Genova. On our way out the guy asked us to leave our key because of the pickpockets. We shrug it off and tell him we are from new York so were not worried about that but leave our keys anyway. We took a shower, nap, and then go get something to eat because we are starving. The last thing we ate was cevapi sandwiches the day before. We are so hungry that we go into the first place we see. Unfortunately we are in the times square of rome so we get overpriced and underwhelming pizza and lasagna. And bottled water that is really tap water. So this is a good tip: when in a restaurant only order the fizzy water. After our sub par lunch we head over to the colosseum.

To be perfectly honest, we walked over to the colosseum, it was hot, we were exhausted and there were hoards of people there so we really weren't all that excited to see it. We only had 2 days in Rome (not enough time by far) so we had to pull our panties up and just do it. Once we got inside though we were glad we came. It's hard to explain, it's smaller than I thought it would be,but large enough I can't fit it all into the frame of the camera. Bill is taking lots of video so I assume we will have that (more on that tomorrow) but the gravity of the place is almost hypnotizing. Here is where thousands of people came to see thousands of people die. It's all still here after so much time, wars, and natural catastrophes. The Romans were really serious about making this stuff last for all eternity. Nothing that is built today will stand the test of time the way this building has. The empire state building? Doesn't have a chance. We build stuff like crap these days. We notice that there are signs everywhere suggesting that people do not climb on the ruins but there isn't one guard in site enforcing this so a sprawl out on a two thousand year old column for a photo op. Bill still doesn't have any sunglasses (he lost them in ny) so he's not having such a good time in the sun, we wander around for an hour then decide to call it a day.

On our walk home we decide to buy some post cards. Upon leaving the shop bill feels someone trying to get into his bag. He turns around and starts yelling at this guy who I noticed kind of hanging around us in the shop. The real new yorker comes out of bill and he's throwing around F bombs and getting in the guys face. All this guy does is just smile and goes "oh I was just trying to pass" and shrugs his shoulders, his girlfriend comes out of nowhere and they run away. I'm kind of pissed. How rude is that?! Like, at least in Brooklyn a guy will pull out a gun and tell you to give him money. It's common courtesy to be made aware that you're being robbed. It's sneaky and disgraceful to rob someone by pickpocketing them. He didn't get anything but it was a good reminder to keep a close watch, and a physical hand, on our bags.

It's around 7pm so we decide it's probably a good idea to go back to the hotel and freshen up then come out later after the sun sets when it's cooler. Of course we totally pass out and wake up at midnight. We do a little tv watching in Italian then go to bed for good for the rest of the night.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 12 - I'm on a boat!

We spent the day before we left on a ship that sailed out to a group of islands in the Koronati National Park. It was an all day trip that took us past amazing cliffs, 2 1/2 hours out to sea we sailed up to an island that actually had a sand beach! Spent a couple hours there then sailed back to Zadar. We never do the group tourist thing but this was fun and relaxing and an activity that was really different for us.

So on Monday we woke up early but our boat to Italy didnt leave until 10pm. We couldn't get a late check out so we ate a big breakfast and checked out at 10am... We then tried to get an air bnb room last minute so we could spend the day relaxing, take a shower, etc... But that didn't happen :(

We then decided to leave our luggage at the  hotel and go into town to kill the next ten hours before we checked into the ferry.  Aside from wandering aimlessly around town, we were able to mail out the first batch of postcards, learn that the cinema had long gone out of business, and ate cevapi (it's their version of a hamburger, but instead of a meat patty, it's spiced minced meat in sausage shape. Six links to one huge bun and delicious). Hindsight would have dictated some more advance research before ordering two of them as one could have easily fed us both. Definitely going to seek out an authentic Croatian restaurant when we get back to feast again on these testaments to ground, greasy meat. Here's a pic:
Sooooo delicious...
With time winding down, finally made it to the Garden Zadar. It's your typical Ibiza/Miami open air lounge bar (white decor, palm trees, chill vibe) except it's not typical of Ibiza or Miami at all. For one thing, they have table service, not bottle service, which IMO is a lost art. Also, the pricing was far from outrageous. No unnecessary jacking of the prices. A beer here cost the same as it did everywhere else in town. The highlight of our short beverage break here was listening to a chilled out cover version of 'Born Slippy' by Underworld. Well, the highlight was the view directly over the port, but amazing views are a recurring theme in our adventures, so we threw Underworld a bone in this instance.

Finished our beers, head back to the bus, get to the hotel, pick up our bags, confirm hotel in Rome, head back to port... We're sticky and sweaty from spending the whole day in 95 degree heat. In direct sun. No clouds. Our next shower is still 18 hours awayand across the Adriatic. When you sign up for adventure, this is what you get.

We board the Jardolinja ferry around 8:30pm, just in time to catch the sun setting from the dock. The guide book quotes Alfred Hichcock proclaiming the sunsets in Zadar as the most beautiful he had ever seen; in our last moments there, his proclamation is vindicated.

Just after 10pm the ferry sets sail and we watch the city, Greetings to the Sun and all, slowly diminish into the night, leaving only the glaring reflection of an almost full moon off the sea as our only reminder that we are in fact, still on earth.

You can see the whole city lit up and fading from view, it's an incredible feeling. You see the voyage happening, taking place. It's more exciting than flying and more breath taking than the most scenic train. If I had hair, the wind would be blowing it. Throw in the dissipating light pollution for the addition of stars newly visible to the naked eye, the same stars that have been there for millennia but you have never seen, and you are reassured of your insignificance in the cosmos. One man and the sea is a recipe for perspective. The Old Man and the Sea is book by Hemmingway. Go read it.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Grocery shopping in a foreign language

I think the biggest no-brainer money saving tip when traveling is you don't eat out. You buy groceries and cook. That's all well and good when you travel within the US and it's pretty standard to have a mini fridge in your room, or maybe even a kitchenette. But in Europe it's not so standard, unless you have an expensive hotel, or rent an apartment. So when bill and I were in Ibiza a few years ago, and the dollars to euro ratio was horrendous- like $1.65 to 1€ horrendous- we started buying things we could make a picnic out of on the beach. As I mentioned before, the beaches in Croatia are all rocks so there's no worry about getting sand in your food which is nice. But buying the food? Difficult. At least in German we know what the words for pig, cow, and chicken are. But in hrvatska? Forget it. I have no idea what anything is. Obviously we saw that salami is salami, but the cheese was a little more difficult. They have a variety of milk products all in the dairy section and it's hard to distinguish what they are when you don't know the word for milk, or yogurt, or a milk/yogurt drink. Or if it's butter, or a weird spread, or if it's actually cheese. And the people in the store don't speak English. So we kind of just stand there for a long time looking at the dairy section and picking things up, putting them back, making funny faces and sometimes we just guess. We had a horrific incident today when we got home and discovered we bought some sort of creamed chicken pate thing that was absolutely disgusting. But the lunch in this particular picture was delicious. Creamy cheese, no idea what kind but it was good, some sliced meat thing and fresh bread. All on the beach with the Adriatic waves coming up to our feet-and nooooo sand! Which is awesome.
Also here are a couple things we have noticed about this place:

All the men wear speedos. No exceptions. Bill is the only guy on the beach in shorts

There's no litter anywhere

Because the beach is rocky these people are well equipped with water shoes, and these foam mats that they lie out on

For some inexplicable reason people dress their children exactly the same even though they aren't twins

There's an unusually high number of amputees. I'm assuming, by looking at their age, that they are casualties of the war in the 90's.

I'm not sure if I'm up on the very latest trends since I left the fashion industry all of 1 month ago, but navy and white sailor stripes are EVERYWHERE DAHLING, EVERYWHERE!

A week in Zadar, Croatia

I have to start by talking about our 4th of July, which we spent in Berlin. It was the night before we left for Croatia so we decided that even though it was raining, we would go outside and do something with ourselves. We left the house without a map, walked over to the Berlin wall memorial that was close to daves house then around the city for 3 hours. Came home, went to the grocery store and got all the essentials for an "all American burger" and cooked them up. I downloaded a fireworks app and put it on while we ate. Amazing time. So then we stayed up all night and got a cab to the airport at 4am, our can driver was a character out of a guy Ritchie movie. He was decked out, rings, high tops, leather jacket. Gold boxing glove medallions hung from the rear view mirror and he was blasting pump the jam, then snoop dog. So anyways, we get to Croatia. It's raining, of course. We take the bus to the city center then another bus to our hotel. By the time we we woke up from our nap in the afternoon it was sunny and hot out. Finally! Weather in the 80's! To make a long story short about the last 3 days, it's been sun, good food and the occasional roman ruins. I love this place. Everything is really cheap, the beer is sooooo good, the beach isn't sand it's all rocks but that has a plus side when you're trying to do a picnic for lunch because theres no sand in your food. The people are really nice, there's a ton of super old buildings, and the weather is HOT! Yesterday we took the bus to Petracane for a music festival, met a bunch of people and ended up hanging out with 2 british guys doing shots of tequila. The end of the night is fuzzy, I remember taking a cab home but I have no idea what time. We made up for it today by sleeping in, then sleeping on the beach, then going sight seeing in the old part of the city. We also booked a tour boat for Sunday that takes you around all day island hopping so that should be fun. They give you breakfast, lunch and drinks and the whole thing was like 60 bucks a person. You couldn't even step foot on a boat for under 100 in new York. We also bought tickets for our boat to Italy. That's right, a muthafn' ship bitches. It's too expensive to fly so we are taking an 8 hour ferry in the middle of the night to Ancona. I had my reservations about this but bill convinced me that we could dress as pirates and go around saying " Arrrrrrrr you going to Italy?!" so that sold me. I mean, who wouldn't do that?

And here is a photo of bill pretending to be the rest of this roman column:


Monday, July 4, 2011

Around the world in 70 degrees?

Or as the rest of the world would know it- 21 celsius. But even that is proving to be a struggle. We were in Frankfurt 3 years ago for a couple days and I have pictures of me in shorts and a tee shirt. I remember it being pretty hot, so it never crossed my mind to even look at the weather for Berlin in the summer. Apparently, it's freezing in July. The 5 days we have been here it hasn't been above 68F/20C and it's been cloudy and raining. It was pouring all day yesterday so we had a pretty lazy afternoon eating sausages and watching Harry potter. I know, a very weird mix. And a quick look at the showed that the normal high for Berlin is only 75F/23C for July and august. I was thinking it would be more like new York where the average high is extremely hot. Just the way I like it. And the other problem is I packed tank tops and shorts. What am I going to do with a suitcase half filled with tank tops and shorts? wtf. If the weather really doesn't get any warmer after we get back at the end of July I'm mailing all that stuff home. I'll need more long sleeve shirts. Hopefully today the rain will hold long enough for us to go to the rental office for the apartment we are subletting from July 25th to sept 18th. I also need to find those travel size plastic bottles so I can put my big bottles of shampoo and conditioner in little bottles. Our flight to Croatia is at 6:15 tomorrow morning, thank god! It will be a balmy 86F/30C There, just the way summer is supposed to be! We spend a week on the beach in Croatia, then ancona, Rome, Naples, Frankfurt (cocooooooooon!)and back to Berlin. The original plan was to travel the world in 80 degrees but I guess we'll have to settle for something slightly chillier. The plus side is that because we are so far north, the sun doesn't completely set until 10pm, so it's a trade off. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note.... I'm still trying to figure out how to attach photos from my iPad to the blogger set up. I would love to share some photos! Sooooo if anyone has any idea let me know. I've been googling it and it seems complicated. There's a lot of really cool things about the iPad but some things really suck.


So in order to post a pic within a blog on blogger from an iPad you have to create a blogger email account, email the photo from the iPad to the blogger email which automatically saves it as a draft, then copy the code that appears when you click "edit draft" and copy and paste it into the blog post that you have already written/writing. A pain in my ass. Thanks apple, and thanks google for really figuring this shit out for the rest of us.

And on that note, here is a pic of me looking disgruntled in front of the Berlin wall on bernaur strasse. Why am I disgruntled you ask? That photo was taken July 4th. I'm in sneaks, jeans, a rain jacket and I'm shivering. Awesome.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Berlin- Part 1

We arrived in Berlin at 8:30am on Thursday morning. To our surprise, it was really cold and rainy which we thought was weird because it was almost July. But that's another story that I'll get to later. We go through customs and then get out the computer to email Dave, but couldn't connect to the airport wifi. So we tried using the pay phone, and even though the instructions were in English we couldn't figure it out. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, yeah....I'm just going to blame it on that. We decide to take a bus to Alexanderplatz because we know he lives near there. The bus pass is 2.50 euro which is pretty sweet and we are doing this whole trip on a tight budget so the bus was def the way to go. We get to Alexanderplatz and start walking around looking for an Internet cafe, which we find above a dunkin donuts. Awesome- I get a coffee, we email Dave. He says he didn't leave his keys at the bakery next to his house because he never heard back from bill, but his landlady could meet us there at 11:30 and let us in. By this time its 10:45, we haven't slept, and I'm getting really tired, and it's freezing and raining. Literally very cold, I had to put a jacket on. We cab it to daves house because we don't want to miss this lady. Get a couple of pastries and wait. And wait. It's after 12. No lady. We leave the bakery and wander around looking for an Internet cafe, find one in the back of a small deli, and squeeze ourselves into the booth. We book a hotel near the center of the city and take another cab there. So we've pretty much blown our budget for the day on cabs at this point, but both of us are exhausted. The kind of tired that only jet lag brings, the kind where your head gets really cloudy and your eyes feel like they are sinking into your head. We check into the best western on neue grunstrasse, bill checks his email to find that Dave had been emailing us the whole time saying the lady was running late. Crash into bed at 1:30pm and sleep a couple hours before meeting Dave for dinner. So all in all, a bumpy day but it's the kind of thing you just have to accept with a smile and keep going. We checked out the next morning, went back to the bakery where a key was waiting for us and made ourselves at home at daves place while he was at work. Friday night we went to a party in a park where Dave, his friend Piet and bill all dj'd. Had a ton of fun, danced like crazy and went home happy. Berlin is pretty laid back. There is no way a person could show up with a sound system and 100 people in a park in new York. Not gonna happen. And there are no open container laws like in NYC either so everyone just hangs out with their beers. So far the trip is a success, its great to see a friends face after 2 years and I spent hours catching him up on all the gossip from home. It's also nice to have someone who knows the city and speaks the language, although bills German is coming back to him pretty quickly. We have today and tomorrow to do some sightseeing then off to Croatia where I'm looking forward to some warmth and sun.