February 28, 2010

After today, we will likely never take the train to Frankfurt again. What we were expecting was a nice, quick ride to enjoy the scenery and try out public transportation; what we got were rides each way that took twice as long as they usually do because of all kinds of delays (if only our German vocabulary were better, I could say what caused the continual stops). Our anxiety about this was compounded due to the fact we had left Bailey back at the apartment and were doing our best to make it a quick trip and get back to her. The German rail service had other plans. Luckily, Bailey was a good dog and was well-rewarded with some of our chicken dinner. 

Aside from the crummy train ride, the trip into our closest metropolis was quite nice. The reason for our trip: the Seurat exhibit at the Schirn. I had picked up a brochure on it at another of our weekend excursions and put it on our to-go list. We figured a trip into Frankfurt was the perfect opportunity to learn the train system and thought Sunday afternoon, when nothing else is open, would be perfect. It was a small exhibit and didn't take us much time, so we stopped at the museum cafe afterwards to enjoy some refreshments and a bite to eat. Directly behind the Schirn is the Dom in Frankfurt (see photo above) and the Roman ruins (neglected to get photo, but we're talking 1000s of years old), so we walked around to get a peek at it before the wind nearly blew us away and forced us to take cover back down in the train station. Even with a great exhibit, a nice coffee break and amazing architecture, I still think the highlight of our trip was the ad we discovered at the station, and than at every subsequent S-Bahn stop (see my TwitPics).  

With Saturday's errands came another bucket of paint, so my project this week is the office. It's so hard to pick paint colors here with no swatches to take home and test in the light of your room, so I'm hoping it turns out ok. Although anything would be better than what's in there now. It's almost as if they started at the bottom of one wall, quickly learned how much work it was going to be and then gave up in decreasingly dark smears as they went up the wall  (I'll be sure to take before and afters). I'm actually going to attempt to do this room on my own, but I make no promises that my husband won't come home to find me collapsed like a puddle of pudding in exhaustion. Wish me luck ... three meter ceilings - here I come!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

February 21, 2010

The countdown has begun ... 19 days until we go to Ireland! I've always wanted to go, and now we get to hop on a plane and be there in two hours. We're just taking a long weekend, but are splitting our time between a castle just outside the main city (see above) and then into the Temple Bar part of Dublin, staying right along the River Liffey (below). We've gotten some great tips from our new UK friends and look forward to equal parts relaxing in the countryside and exploring the city.

With so many places on our "to go" list, I have a feeling we'll take a lot of these extended weekend trips to get in as much as we can this first year. Next on my list? Prague, Amsterdam, London ...It's a good thing my husband gets a crazy lot of time off, otherwise, what would be the point of living in Europe?!

Other than making our exciting travel plans, I've spent the week baking: lemon cake on Monday and peanut butter banana cupcakes on Friday, and making American fare: fried chicken and lasagna. Oh yeah, and guiltily reading breaking dawn in two and a half days. Ah, the life of an American housewife in Germany ...

Yesterday evening, we joined in our first "international club" get-together, organized by some other expats living here. I continue to be amazed every time I sit at a table and not only listen to the different languages being spoken, but hearing  the accents and realizing I'm in the presence of people from all over the world - France, Italy, Portugal, UK, and even Germany. At time it feels overwhelming, but then you learn something like one of the Germans shared that he happened to be studying Spanish in the same tiny Guatemalan village Russ had done an exchange in while in school, and you realize what a small world it really is. I'm just thankful we get to be in a place where that is so easy to do, and people are so eager to share. In my experience, while CA's population is incredibly diverse, people aren't looking to share with other cultures and mostly keep to themselves; this is a really nice change. Can't wait for the next gathering!

As for other travel plans, we are still working on visiting the States in the summer, most likely August. I will probably come a bit earlier to spend some time with my family and then Russ will join me once he can get away from work. We will be sure to keep everyone posted so we can plan all sorts of outings to catch up! 

And don't forget to put Oktoberfest on your calendar, if you are wanting to come for the festivities. We plan to go for the opening weekend, which is September 18 & 19. Once we have some more information, we will share with friends and solicit interest. We'll be booking soon - hope you can join us!

A special Valentine's in France

February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's from Strasbourg! It's so amazing that we can jump in the car and two hours later, we're in France. No wonder Europeans are so worldly and multi-lingual - it's so easy! The fact that I've been studying German has made my French abilities more or less a joke, but it gets easier. Perhaps we should consider regular jaunts to France, and then I'll really get back in the swing of things. 

Today we just walked around the city center and the Petite France neighborhoods. The freezing temperatures and light snow made it a little tough, but the scenery (and food!) made it worth the effort. The German and French-influenced architecture and Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg were amazing! And it turns out Bailey is just as interesting here as in the states - at least three people stopped us to ask what kind of dog she is (one even assumed we were German, as I struggled to understand her French - yay, we're fitting in!). If only she had European dog manners ...

Along the river Ill in Strasbourg

28 different kinds of pudding-thick hot chocolate - we got banana and orange & cinnamon (some of the most expensive I've had, aside from snobby, upper east-side Manhattan, but definitely the tastiest!)

Cathedrale de Strasbourg

Even the drains are so detailed!

After a tasty petit-dejeuner on-the-go this morning of cafe au lait, a chocolate-dipped brioche (heart-shaped, of course!) and an apple-filled, sugary doughnut, not to mention our rich hot chocolates later on, we decided to head back to the hotel in the afternoon to give all our freezing extremities a break (including the shivering Bailey) and enjoy some bread, cheese and wine we'd picked up in town. Throw in some macaroons and chocolate, and we're spent. Not to mention the fact that we went all out at the hotel restaurant when we got in last night.

Expecting just an average hotel dinner to satiate our late-night hunger, we were pleasantly blown away by just about everything at the Chateau de l'Ile's restaurant. While we played it safe (I was tempted by the lobster with coconut and venison with berries and pumpkin mousseline!), everything was still wonderful, if not Bailey's behavior. The Alsatian wines - we both had a Muscat to start and I had a pinot noir with my beef - were incredible; I would love find some bottles of both to take home. Again, perhaps another trip during wine season is in our future! Perhaps most impressive were the desserts: a roasted pear with vanilla creme, caramelized hazelnut wafer and salted caramel ice cream, and the other a chocolate ball with all kinds of chocolatey goodness inside (see below). Perhaps we'll treat ourselves to some Valentine's breakfast room service in the morning and call this holiday a gastronomical success!

Can't wait for our next trip! Dublin or Prague? Decisions, decisions ...

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

February 07, 2010

know, I know; it's been forever. Almost a month, to be specific. Where have I been and what have I been doing? Well, check out these photos and see the fruits of our labor this past week. (My excuse before last week? Russ bogarting the only working computer we have by staying at work all hours. His record? 4am the following day!) We have finally - FINALLY - gotten our bedroom in order, first with paint, then with our Ikea wardrobes. The painting was an 8 hour project - a marathon session in my vast painting history (I blame the shoddy rollers and 12-ft ceilings). The wardrobes I put together by myself, after giving my poor battered body a few days to recover from the painting. Still a few things left to do (note the missing doors), but we're really happy with the way it turned out - -the color and the fact that, two months in, we can mostly stop living out of suitcases and boxes.


Today we decided to get out of the house and go see something. Since we felt bad about not getting the Boss out for enough exercise in our exhaustion this week, our one criteria was that she be able to join us; and that being Sunday, that it was, you know, open. So off we went for a short trip to Saalburg Römerkastell; basically a big roman castle/fort. Being mostly outside and having dressed for lower elevation temperatures, I tuckered out (and froze) rather quickly. Bailey, on the other hand, had the time of her life - an enclosed space with 2-ft snow drifts to show-pony through. I have a feeling she's going to sleep good tonight.


Not really keeping track of time, I had almost forgot that next weekend is Valentine's Day (as well as our five-months-married anniversary!). Russ decided he wanted to go away for the weekend and we've been trying to decide where. While he originally suggested Amsterdam, I thought that was a city best saved for warmer weather, so we can fully enjoy all of the outdoor activities. I found a great Jetsetter deal on Gilt for a beautiful spot on Lake Geneva (the Swiss side), but it is a bit further away. One of the great selling points is that they allow pets, and since I'm not sure I'm ready to trust a kennel place out here, Bailey's going to have to come with us. Besides, how could we possibly leave this face behind?:

Until next time (and I promise it won't take so long!) ...