Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More earthquakes in Italy!

This morning we had another large earthquake in northern Italy. At about 9AM there was a 5.8 magnitude quake that was centered a little farther north from the last big one 10 days ago. I was on the bus on the way to my lessons this morning, so I didn't feel it. But when I arrived at the building, everyone was outside. It was strange... I learned there was an earthquake this morning and understood why everyone was outside.

Then, this afternoon in one of my lessons, we felt another earthquake hit. It felt pretty serious and the building was swaying a bit, so we were told to evacuate the building again. This aftershock was a 5.6 and centered in the same area as the one this morning. The epicenter of these earthquakes is about 200 km away from us (124 miles), so it wasn't as strong here, but it was enough to scare everyone.

After waiting outside for about 15 minutes, we were allowed back in the building. Not long after that, we were told they were closing the office for the rest of the day for security reasons. They expect aftershocks all afternoon and into the evening, so they wanted to make sure everyone was safe. This area is not known to be a seismic area, so the people are really confused as to why this keeps happening. There is potentially a new fault line in the area. All of those historic towns that are being crushed, its just sad. I hope these large earthquakes don't continue... It's not fun!!

Here is a link to some pictures from the local paper, Corriere della Sera:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

23 weeks and counting!

Holy cow, am I really 23 weeks along already?? I guess time will only go faster as summer arrives and I get closer to my due date in September. The past two weeks have been really great- a lot of time with friends, and a little bit of travel. The next month will be even crazier with travel (Tuscany, Norway, and the US), so I need to rest up!

At 23 weeks I feel really healthy. A little tired this week, but that's to be expected. It seems like Bambino has been growing a lot in the last 48 hours, and is supposed to be about the size of a large mango. I feel everything inside of me stretching to make room for him/her. Last weekend in Montagnana was really fun because our friends were able to feel Bambino move! The looks on their faces when they felt the little kicks was fantastic and it was fun for me to be able to share that with them. They just couldn't believe it and were so excited.

Other than feeling healthy, I have had some pains in the past couple of weeks. I keep waking up in the middle of the night, around 4-5AM, with pains in my hips. At first I thought it was the way I was sleeping with all of that extra weight when laying on my side, but I think it's my hips adjusting to make room for Bambino. Pre-pregnancy I had pretty narrow hips, so I was expecting them to widen. Actually, I was hoping that they would!! Delivery will be a lot easier if they can widen a bit. But, the process isn't so fun... Last night I had to get out of bed and walk around the apartment a bit to loosen my left hip. I may have to start keeping tylenol next to the bed!!

In addition to the hip pains, I have also had a strange pain in my middle back on my right side. It's always in the same place. There are a few things that could be contributing to this- my purse and bag with teaching files, Bambino, slouching... But I think it's just something that comes along with pregnancy. I just try to sit up straight as much as possible and that helps, but the end of the day is when it's the worst. In the evening I just can't get comfortable. Hopefully this will be short lived! But again, tylenol may become my best friend if it gets any worse! For now though I'm just trying to stretch a lot and avoid any pain meds.

Cravings... I've been craving white peaches! They are starting to be in season here in Italy and I am so excited!! They are like eating candy and soooo delicious. Summer is the best because of all of the different kinds of fruit available here. I can't wait :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An unexpected, but exciting weekend in the country

This past weekend we went to the country with our friends Ilaria, Francesco, Marina and Andrea. Ilaria’s family has a house just outside of a small medieval town named Montagnana and she invited us to stay for the weekend. What an incredible weekend!! We now understand why the people of Milan retreat to the country whenever possible- beautiful flowers everywhere, history, nature, it's quiet, and green! It was a nice break from the never ending concrete and noise of Milan.

The yummy pasta!! The city also has amazing prosciutto.
Francesco found some armor that's his size...

We ate at small restaurant named Palio, and they had the BEST pasta! Pennette and Bigoli are the local specialities and they are soooo good. We also went up into the tower of the medieval fortress at the city gate, and had some amazing views of the city. Ilaria also organized a tour of Villa Pisani. This Villa is the current home to a senator for the Veneto region and the house only opens one weekend a year- the weekend we visited. The house was built in the mid-16th century by a famous architect Andrea Palladio. The ground floor is pretty much the same as it was at that time (with the exception of electricity), but the second floor where the family lives has been updated with new kitchen amenities and a beautiful modern bathroom. It was strange to see the new designs blended with the medieval designs. The family has enjoyed travel and had many souvenirs from their trips- beautiful Asian vases, Ivory tusks, even a bear rug! Literally… a bear skin on the floor, head and all! The fur was surprisingly soft.

On Saturday we also went to the Duomo of Montagnana. The church is beautiful and enormous! Josh and I were very impressed with this particular church- it wasn’t ornate like the Duomo of Milano, but it had a very calming and impressive effect on me. We lit a candle in memory of Josh’s dad, Danny. It was an unexpected, but touching moment.
The Duomo

That night, Ilaria invited her local friends to her house for a big BBQ. This was so special to me! Spending time with our Italian friends, making new friends, and enjoying the moment, it was amazing. Everyone was so nice and fun! They gave us recommendations for places to visit, and also let us know of an American grocery store in Vicenza that I’m VERY excited about visiting!! The food was amazing- a HUGE fillet, ribs, local sausages, grilled vegetables, etc. It was quite the feast!
Andrea and Francesco
Sunday was a little crazier with some unexpected surprises… We woke up at 4AM to a huge earthquake hitting the area. It was a 6.0 (although some reports say it was a 6.1), and there was a 5.1 aftershock later that afternoon. There was major damage sustained to the local historic buildings (not in Montagnana) but in other cities. Poor Marina was scared to death after the initial earthquake. She was shaken for the rest of the day. It was scary to wake up in the middle of the night to the bed shaking and everything around us rattling. The window curtains were swaying like there was a breeze coming through, and the windows were rattling. Luckily there wasn’t any damage to the house except one broken window on the porch. It’s not attached to the house, so it’s something that doesn't need to be fixed immediately.
The hostess, Ilaria

All in all, it was an exciting weekend in the country! Thank you to Ilaria and her parents for inviting us to their country home! We look forward to future visits to the city and hope to get back soon!! And for the rest of you, Montagnana is a really great medieval city in Northern Italy- I would recommend making this a stop on your next Italian visit if you enjoy old medieval cities within the original city walls. It's fantastic!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Keukenhof Gardens

The Keukenhof Gardens, the most visited tourist destination in the world! Apparently it’s also the largest garden in the world. What an amazing place! You can easily spend all day wandering around on the paths and enjoying the beautifully cultivated flower beds. Getting there is easy- from Schipol Airport you can take the Keukenhof express bus (line 58 I believe). There are no stops and it will take you directly to the gardens. The bus ride is about 45 minutes from the airport and goes through some amazing flower fields and cute little towns.

At the Keukenhof you can rent bikes to see the site, or you can just walk like we did. There are a few buildings on the property where different displays are created out of flowers. We entered one building that had an orchid show and it was absolutely amazing! Orchids are my favorite flowers, so I was in heaven. If I could have a room in my house just for orchids I would! Unfortunately, Josh couldn’t wait to get back outside to see the tulips and other flowers.

Some of the coolest flowers we found

The day is best described in pictures, so here you go! Enjoy!!

The orchid building

Josh's favorite flower bed

They had some amazing color combinations!

Some of the fringed variety

Break time! Chocolate milk for me...

... and beer for Josh. He was happy!

This was my favorite section of flowers- right by a little pool

some strange sculpture in the pond...

I loved these dark purple flowers

Monday, May 14, 2012

The worlds biggest party... and garage sale

Queens Day!!
On the way to the hotel in Vondelpark

April 30th is the world's biggest garage sale, and seems like the world's biggest party. All of the Netherlands comes out to celebrate the previous queen's birthday. The current queen decided to keep celebrating her birthday on the same day, so it has become a national holiday... and a big street party. It's a day when anyone can claim a spot on the sidewalk and sell whatever they want. People brought out their old shoes... old clothes, even pastries baked at home. It was the craziest garage sale/street party I've ever seen, and everyone is dressed in orange. But it was soo much fun!

The party outside of our hotel- they had a DJ and BBQ set up

part of the garage sale

The inner part of the city is completely shut down to cars and trams for the day, and the only way to get anywhere is to walk. This was unfortunate for us because over the weekend we stayed at Dan and Stephna's house outside of the inner city, and we had to move to our hotel in the downtown area. We had to walk all the way from their house to our hotel which is usually about a 30 minute walk. Well, since we were carrying our luggage and there were so many people on the streets, it took us two hours to get to the hotel!! We had to stop a few times for me to have a breather, and of course we had to eat lunch. But, luckily the weather was fantastic- sunny and about 75 degrees :) After getting to the hotel we hit the streets and enjoyed all of the craziness. At some point we found Lew and walked around with her until she had to catch her flight back to Munich.

After such a crazy night (the night before- Queens Night- is just as crazy as Queens Day), and a crazy day, the city was pretty much asleep by 8PM. By the time we finished with dinner around 9:30, everything was completely torn down, and people were back in their homes. For the next two days I think the city was nursing a hangover because the bars were empty, and no one was around! It was a really interesting experience and I would LOVE to go back next year for the party! What a fun day!

One of the street spots- throwing eggs at the people behind
the board! This guy got hit in the forehead!

We found some more 0% alcohol beer :)

Goldie Gopher even showed up at the party! Or is that Alvin??

One of the areas with a street party

There are a lot of garbage cans around the city... but this was
the aftermath of the day. Garbage was everywhere.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A birthday celebration for Lew in Amsterdam

On the weekend of April 30th-May 4th we went to Amsterdam to meet up with my friend Laura and a few of her friends from Munich. It was a birthday celebration for Laura- she just celebrated the big 3-0. Hopefully she doesn't mind me saying that! But she did mention all of the things that we have been through in the past decade and it got me thinking... A lot can happen in 10 years!! My 30th birthday is coming up in a couple of months and it’s fun to think of all of the things I have accomplished in the past ten years. I digress...
Old Gouda... mmm

So Amsterdam! We arrived on Friday and spent the afternoon with our friends Dan and Stephna who recently moved there for work. We then met up with Laura for some amazing Thai food at the Bird in the Chinese quarter. Wow, it was amazing! Josh had a red coconut curry and I actually liked it! Typically I don't like curry, but this was so good. I'd love to bring Julia there to see if they really have authentic Thai food :)
Pickled herring

going for it...


Friday was pretty low key, and so was Saturday. The weather on Saturday was cold and a little rainy, so we decided to hit up the Albert Cuyp Street Market where the boys tried the pickled herring.  Dan wasn't sure what he thought of the pickled herring... I think he's still trying to decide if he likes it. The quote of the day, “show me your waffles!" Later on during the weekend that quote took on a whole new meaning, lol. Josh wanted a picture of the waffles we purchased at the market and that was how he got Dan and Stephna's attention. And by the way, the waffles are delicious!!

"Show me your waffles!!"

Brouwerij 'T Ij
After the market we made our way over to a brewery in a windmill called Brouwerij 'T Ij where we ate some terrible beer cheese, and the others enjoyed some good Dutch beer. Eventually we met up with Laura and her friends for drinks at a really cool little pub called the Aren's Nest. It was a fun little spot to try some great Dutch beer. They even had some 0% alcohol beer for me- Bonus! For dinner we found a great Argentinian restaurant and I had the best steak I've found in Europe! No joke! It was sooo good, even though they had to cook it all the way through for the preggo lady... Even Josh approved. The restaurant was called Manzano and is on Rosengracht in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. If you make it to Amsterdam and are craving a good steak, I would recommend this place!

Birthday beer at the Aren's Nest- they had 0% alcohol beer!! :)

Captain Dan!
Sunday the weather cleared up and even the sun came out! It warmed up a little bit which was perfect because we had plans to go out on the canals for the afternoon. Dan and Stephna rented a boat and we toured around the canals for a few hours. It was so much fun! Forget doing the guided tours of the canals when in Amsterdam (unless you want to know exactly where all of the historical buildings are). Rent a boat. It was only 50 euros per hour for ten people. Talk about a good deal!

my favorite canal of the day- there were so many flowering
trees, it was beautiful
Amsterdams version of Tower Bridge

Monday was crazy!! It was Queens Day and city came out to party!! Tuesday was great too- Josh and I went out to the Keukenhof Gardens. We have a lot of pictures from Monday and Tuesday so I'll do separate posts for them. Stay tuned...

I think they were testing this one for Queens Day