Sunday, March 31, 2013

Venice, Italy

Happy Easter!  Husband and I have been on holiday this past week in celebration of Easter and it has been wonderful.  We started our week off with a 7 hour road trip to Venice, Italy.  I have always dreamed of seeing Venice and I'm so thankful we finally got a chance to explore the sights. 

We tried our hardest to do Venice on a budget.  Can I even put those words into the same sentence?  Venice is known for being very expensive but here below are the details of our trip.

St. Mark's Plaza

Whenever I hear the word "Venice" the first thing that pops into my mind are singing men rowing a gondola down a narrow waterway.  I was shocked to learn that the average "off season" price for a 30 minute ride is minimum 80 Euros!  When I was quoted this price I nearly laughed in the guy's face, yet all around I saw tourists paying for this iconic journey but never a local.  Instead of dishing out this kind of cash, Husband and I used our imaginations while aboard the much cheaper water buses. There may have even been some self serenading.

 Water Taxi

The City of Venice knows you have to rely on them for transportation around the islands and it is a hefty price for tourists.  We bought a 3-day water bus pass which ended up being much more affordable than paying for individual boat rides or overpriced water taxis.  When the weather cooperated, we sat in the far back of the boat, out in the open air to admire the views of Venice seaside.

Rilato Bridge 
I probably spent more time than I should have researching hotels in Venice over the span of 3 weekends.  At first, I restricted my search to hotels on the main island, Venice.  Not satisfied with the hotels within our price range, I looked at places on Lido di Venice.  The island Lido is a 5 minute water bus ride from Venice and the boats depart every 10 minutes. Not bad at all!  In Lido we found that we got a better value and amenities for our buck.  

We stayed at Hotel Villa Stella.  I was nervous about booking Villa Stella because it is only rated 2 stars on and  However, on both websites the reviews (171 at the time) were mostly excellent with only a couple not so great ratings.  Husband and I took our chances, put our trust in past customers, and booked.  In the end we were so glad we did because Villa Stella was amazing!

I was extremely impressed with Villa Stella.  On several occasions we I was high maintenance and every time the hotel went out of their way to make us me happy. Our room was fairly large with a king size bed (not too common in these parts), a great breakfast every morning (with freshly made chocolate crepes), provided umbrellas when we did not have our own, sent us up cappuccinos when we walked in soaking wet one afternoon, and the best part...having our own private balcony.  Villa Stella had wonderful customer service and we would stay there again on a return trip to Venice.

 Morning Cappuccinos          

Hotel Umbrellas=Singing in the Rain

In Venice you can spend a lot on a meal or you can spend very little.  Our favorite meal was a 3 Euro pizza counter, Rossopomodoro,  a tiny joint with only two tables.  We just walked in off the street and enjoyed slices of a fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza. 

Husband's second slice- Italian Sausage

Husband and I also loved Trattoria Alle Due Gondolette, a family run restaurant off the tourist's path, frequented by locals.  Gondolette is only open for lunch and the chef cooks a different menu every day depending on what is fresh off the boats.  When Husband and I ate there we had bread, wine, water, squid pasta, sliced beef, orange marmalade tart, and cappuccinos for only 15 Euros a person!  

I wasn't so sure about this at first, but it was delicious!

Sometimes when you are in a new place it can be nice to try local foods.  For our last dinner we actually went across the street from our hotel to a tiny local market.  We bought olives, cheeses, artichokes, and wine.  Husband and I put that with some bread and vegetables brought from home and enjoyed a tapas style meal in our hotel room.  We try to avoid fast food as much as possible on road trips because it is expensive (by fast food standards) in Europe and of course, that whole healthy thing.  To help with this, I always bring along fresh fruits and vegetables on road trips and try to book hotel rooms with mini fridges!

Do It Yourself Tapas!

I know I've bragged a lot already about Villa Stella, but there was an unexpected surprise upon our arrival to the hotel.  They offered us a free water taxi and private tour of one of the glass factories on the island Murano.  Husband and I knew going into our trip that we wanted to visit Murano because it is famous for the glass blowing.  We were thrilled with this opportunity provided by the hotel and the tour was one of my favorite parts of our entire trip!

Murano Glass Factory Tour

The second day in Venice, Husband and I visited the famous St. Mark's Basilica Cathedral.  There was a huge line of people waiting to get into the church, but seeing the mosaic tiles glistening under the lights was breathtaking.  We were there from 12:00-12:30, and then as Husband and I were leaving the church, all of the lights turned off.  Husband and I lucked out getting there when we did because the tiles are only lit for one hour every day.  The church does this to protect the ancient tiles against the light rays.  We didn't know this and could have missed out on the beautiful sight!  

If you ever visit St. Mark's Basilica, make sure to stop into the Treasury. Inside the Treasury, we were astonished to see a thorn and nail thought to be from Jesus' crucifixion.  When you see those artifacts in person, it is very difficult to wrap your mind around what is displayed in front of you.  This was such a special way to start off our Easter holiday!

St. Mark's Basilica Cathedral

The rest of the time we spent walking all over the island getting lost on back alleyways, sipping cappuccinos, and stumbling upon beautiful architectural features.  I think the best way to explore Venice is to get off the beaten path!  You can't get too's an island!

A Typical Venice Bridge Picture

Happy Easter,

Friday, March 22, 2013

Joe Cocker Made Me Do It

Anyone else ever have those moments where you "stumble"  across a song on YouTube and it totally takes you back to another time? Watching a clip from the 80s show Growing Pains lead me to search another blast from the past, The Wonder Years. Hearing Joe Crocker belting out "With a Little Help From My Friends" brought back some pretty nostalgic childhood memories.

I'm pretty certain 20 years ago, on a Friday night just like tonight, I was most likely sitting on my grandparent's couch.  Was it blue at this point or had it been recovered in green fabric?  I'm not sure.  You see Friday nights were the times when my parents would drive my brother and I to Plano for an evening with Grandma and Grandpa.  Our parents would quickly drop us off with a hug and a kiss then head out for their date night.  It always was the same for my parents, Oldtimer burgers and fries from Chili's, my mom's favorite.  For them it was a few hours to talk without us kids, but what was really forming were wonderful memories with my grandparents.

Remembering those Friday nights, I can hear the oven timer inconsistently buzzing, reminding my grandma that the rolls in the oven were burning.  She probably would have cooked chicken fried steak, green beans, and mashed potatoes.  Like a true southern women, there was only watered down sweet ice tea or Caffeine Free (whats the point or was she hiding the real stuff from my brother?) Diet Dr. Pepper to drink.  Eating in front of the television as a special treat, we would watch family friendly shows; ie The Wonder Years.  For dessert in true family tradition, ice cream or even better, a milkshake courtesy of my grandpa. Fingers crossed Blue Bell was on sale that week at the local Brookshires.

As the dramatic adult newscast 20/20 starring Barbara Walters would start, my parents would stop back by to pick us up.  By this point in the evening my grandpa would be "resting his eyes" with his head on the back of the couch.  Hugging and saying our goodbyes my grandmother would hand my brother and I each a snack baggy of Honey Teddy Grams  for the car ride back home.  I guess when you are 9 years old, 15 miles north on 75 is too long of a drive without a snack.  With the scent of leftover burgers filling the car, the silent stars in the night sky, and country music quietly playing in the background, it was the perfect start to any weekend.

Tonight Husband and I are having left over chicken noodle soup, I'm blasting Joe Cocker as loud as the neighbors will let me (I will admit there has been a bit of dancing too), and we are packing for our trip to Venice.  Twenty years from now I hope to look back on a Friday night like tonight and have sweet memories of a time before kids, when it was just us, across the ocean on our own.

Happy Friday,



Monday, March 18, 2013

St. Patrick's Day- German Style

I am a day late...but that is because we were too busy yesterday celebrating;  SO...Happy St. Patrick's Day to ya!

Husband and I celebrated my tiny bit of Irish heritage German style, at the local parade here in Munich.  I didn't really know what to expect because the St. Patrick's Day Parade back in Dallas is a HUGE event every year. (But very spread out over a few miles, Texas sized of course.)

Dallas, TX 2012
Here are observations from our German St. Patrick's Day:
-Only a few people on the subway were decked in Irish flare.
-Hardly anyone brought their own cooler of alcohol.
-Most people had on heavy coats hiding their green apparel.
-There were not 18-wheeler parade floats.
-The bagpipes were awesome.
-Scotland, Australia, and the Norway were also represented in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Huh?
-I saw Braveheart.
-However, I did not see a leprechaun.
-It took 30 minutes to buy one Guinness beer.
-At the after party, the space was so tightly packed of people, that I fled like a Dixie Chick seeking Wide Open Spaces...ditching my friends. Boo.
-None of the girls wore matching shirts with their friends.
-Next year we will go to the parade, skip the after party, and head straight to the Irish Pub for proper Guinness fish n' chips.
*Do to the insane amount of people crammed into Odeonsplatz, despite having my camera, in the event of feeling claustrophobic, I did not take it out for any pictures.  I was not having that crowd.  Feel free to enjoy a little bit of last year's St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patty's 2012
Top of the evenin' to ya,


Sunday, March 10, 2013

FC Bayern

It's not even 5 p.m. yet and all of the following have been made for the week:
-Crock Pot Chili (Dinner Sunday and Monday)
-Beer Bread Loaf (Dinner Sunday and Monday)
-Chicken Noodle Soup (Will freeze until dinner Tuesday and Wednesday)
-Applesauce (Made from Farmer's Market apples about to go bad)
All made from scratch and the best part... no cooking after work for 3 nights!
One Sunday in the future I will attempt a full week's worth of meals but I think 4 is a great start.
......chomp, chomp....
In other exciting sports related news...yesterday Husband and I had the opportunity to attend our very first (possibly only) FC Bayern game!
Back in December we toured Allianz Arena when my football fanatic Danish cousins came down to visit us.  We had a wonderful time seeing the grass "tanning" under giant lamps, the locker rooms (unoccupied...), underneath the player's trap, and the post game conference room. 

I was shocked when the tour guide told us (remember this is in December) that the games were sold out for the entire season up until the last game in June.  I was so bummed to learn that our chances of attending a FC Bayern game were pretty slim.  The tour guide then went on to crush further plans stating that the majority of the 80,000 seats are sold to season ticket holders or corporations.  The FC Bayern tickets are in such high demand that they are not even available to be purchased by the general public. It is not as easy as if you wanted to attend a baseball or basketball game back in the States.
This tells me that football is HUGE around these parts of the world...
This guy is proof there is a football craze around here!
So when Husband was offered to buy a pair of tickets from a fellow coworker, we threw our "Entertainment Budget" for the month of March into the trash and grabbed our chance at witnessing a FC Bayern game in action.  Maybe next month we will finally buy that couch we've been eyeing?!

 Our first European soccer football game!
FC Bayern played against FC Dusseldorf and won 3-2!  Each time a goal was scored the announcer would start a sentence over the intercom and the fans would shout the ending word.
Here's an example:
Announcer: Thomas
Announcer: FC
Announcer: 3 to
Fans: 2! (the score)
Announcer: Danke ("Thank you")
Fans: BITTE! ("Bit-ta")
It was hilarious to hear the fans basically involved in a conversation with the game announcer.  My favorite part was when the entire stadium shouted "Bitte" meaning "You're welcome".  I think "Bitte" has become one of my favorite German words.  Husband and I use it all the time mixed in with our English conversations. It's just a fun word to say! 
Game day in Munich!

Thanks to our friend for introducing us to the FC Bayern song:
Let the good times roll,