Venice

Oh Venice. You were the last one left on my list of top three cities to visit in 2013, and it took two years to finally get to you.

You were worth it, stink and all.Venice is every bit romantic as you can imagine, but you also need to come knowing that it is an expensive, often extremely touristy and crowded city.

That’s Venice. Just look how Italian it looks below. Sigh.We stayed close to “the most beautiful bookstore in the world” as our landlord and the owner of said bookstore told us, and it was certainly a strange and novel experience wandering through the overly filled store with a staircase out back made out of books.On the Saturday we had amazing weather with blue skies and I mostly wanted to soak in the canal sites, which were just breathtaking. 🙂Considering it was another cloudy, rainy weekend in Zurich, we were beside ourselves.A little tired, but very happy to be here!At the end of October, it was pretty fresh around 15ºC (59ºF) and 9ºC (48ºF) at night, but we had our jackets and scarves and it was still warmer than it is in Zurich at the moment.We headed over to San Marco to visit Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco during the time slot Kay had purchased online. Thank goodness for that, it was great to skip ahead the lines!The square was already (or still?) a bit flooded with “acqua alta” as the Italians say. It was only 3-4 inches deep in some spots and the effect was actually beautiful, although astonishing.Closer to the basilica, there were risers set up for people to walk on. Kay and I were still happy we both had on gortex waterproof shoes for the more shallow puddles.After the basilica, we climbed the San Marco Campanile bell tower for this amazing view over the city.After the tower we picked up our tickets for the Doge’s Palace that we planned on visiting the next day. Good thing too, because overnight a huge cruise ship unloaded and the ticket line for picking up tickets was packed the next day!After San Marco, Kay agreed to humor me with an absurdly expensive gondola ride, because this was my romantic trip to Venice and we would probably only do it once.

Official rates for gondolas while we were there were €80 for 30 minutes, which really meant 25-30 minutes depending on traffic, or €100 for 30-35 minutes after 7pm. We spent the €80 and tried not to think about what we were doing.I thought it was worth it! I mean, it’s not really worth the price, but at the same time, you just have to do it. There isn’t really another way for tourists to experience Venice from this vantage point and it’s absolutely not the same as walking over the footbridges. Plus our rower pointed out a lot of famous buildings from this new perspective, including the house Mozart stayed in during his time in Venice, city hall, and where George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin got married.Back on land, we waited for sunset in San Marco and then headed for dinner.Kay was pretty tired, but I begged him to stay out a bit longer so that I could take some long exposures of the canals by night.The next morning, our flat was still stinky as ever (combination of cigarette smoke and canal stink), but we’d gotten a bit used to it by sleeping at night. It must have previously been a boat garage because the window in the back led directly to the canal, with boat access for the owner.Below, you can see the window entrance on the left side under the laundry, which hung above the window in the photo above. It definitely looks like they bricked in two boat garages to make way for more living space.Below was the front room of the flat with kitchen, wash machine, and fridge.After breakfast at the flat, we headed over to San Marco again to visit the Doge’s Palace on a cloudy Sunday.The weather had turned quite a bit from the day before, but that was fine because we’d planned to be inside for most of the day anyway.After a long time in the palace though, stuck in some armory rooms at the end, I was pretty tired. Time to wake up with a coffee wine.For the rest of the day we sort of wandered around more before shopping for some street vendor art so that I could have a painting of Venice to match my painting of Paris. I like the idea of filling up our house with romantic city paintings. 🙂On the vaporetto back to the airport, we took the long way around from the southern tip of the city where the street vendors were, so I had an hour to nap on Kay before our flight back.

One of the most interesting parts of Venice for me was imagining what the city looked like hundreds of years ago and how it’s changed with decay, renovation, restoration, and expansion throughout the years. It was fascinating to see the history in the buildings and even old previously usable steps down to the canal that cannot be used anymore due to water levels changing.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend trip and marks the last city trip of the year before our holidays start. I am thankful for how many cities we’ve been able to visit!

Liechtenstein

Having been in Switzerland since 2008, I have visited all of Switzerland’s shared borders with multiple trips to Germany, France, Italy, and at least one stop in Vienna to see Austria, so it was about time to stop by one of the smallest European countries with the 3rd highest GDP in the world.

Kay and I took his motorbike for one last ride before he sells it before school and spent the night at Hotel Turna MalbunIt was one of those weekends that was actually nicer weather at home, but we spent the afternoon and next morning in the sauna and steam room relaxing and reading during the rest periods.

We had an easy dinner and while the staff couldn’t provide GF bread at dinner, they did have gluten free bread ready for me in the morning when I asked for it. I could still order the menu special at dinner and they just modified the soup and dessert to be something I could eat.The next morning we saw a glimpse of nice weather before heading home, where it was cloudy and cold by the time we got back.The hotel and wellness area were “alright”, but for 137CHF a night, they were 3/5. Not bad, but definitely not luxurious. The rooms are pretty basic, but the beds are comfortable. The sauna area was a little underwhelming, but it was fine for what it was.The ride back was pretty cold. I should have put snow pants on or something, because 1.5h on the bike on the highway at 120km/h was COLD. I thought I would never be warm again when we got home, even with all that time in the sauna.Kay made big hot chocolates for us with the rest of the Bailey’s chocolate liquor and we warmed up well after a nice, long, hot shower.

Liechtenstein is in the book and marked the first weekend of six in a row abroad for me, with all my traveling planned ahead. 🙂

A visitor from faraway

A couple weeks ago, Kay got wind that one of his Brazilian friends of the family was going to be in Switzerland for the weekend and might stop by on Saturday morning.

We were planning to go to Liechtenstein for a short overnight trip that Saturday and never heard if they would come or not, but Saturday morning at 9:30am, Kay heard his phone ring and told me to get up because apparently they were almost here!!

Whoops… I quickly washed my face, brushed my teeth, and threw a bra on while thinking “Thank God I cleaned all the pantry items out of the living room the night before!” despite Kay telling me to just leave it after a lazy fondue evening.Luciano, next to me, is an old friend of the family and he is currently studying English for one month in London. My BIL’s friend on the far right picked him up from the airport in Basel on Friday evening and spent the weekend showing him around.

It was a little sad that we did not have more notice, because we probably would have done our night in Liechtenstein another weekend, but it was still really great to finally meet Luciano. I have been Facebook friends with him for around four years since Kay and I got married, but I haven’t been back to Brazil since.He is such a sweet, friendly guy. My Portuguese is still terrible and he was over here to learn English anyway, so we mostly spoke English and he told me some funny jokes that only make sense if you have some understanding of Portuguese and English and the mistakes that can happen.

I hope we can meet him again sooner!

Times are flying

You might have noticed another dip in my writing earlier this month. Time has been passing by extremely quickly and I’ve been working lots of overtime to try and get everything ready for an upcoming work trip which directly follows my and Kay’s crazy upcoming trip.After two weekends away in Liechtenstein and Venice, we head to Fontainebleau tonight by train for Kay’s welcome weekend at INSEAD tomorrow.

We are both pretty excited about this next step before school starts and meeting many of his future classmates, but it’s also a little stressful because we have our two week backpacking trip to Peru directly from Paris and all the timings of flights and hotels are to the T.

We’ll spend tonight in Fontainebleau before heading back to Paris tomorrow night after the welcome weekend and then Sunday we fly directly to Lima and spend a night there before we can fly onto Puno on Monday. What a trip it will be!

When we come back in November, we’ll arrive on a Sunday and then I will fly to Hong Kong the next day for a week for business. Before I know it, it will be late November and time for Thanksgiving with friends!

I am excited for all the travel finally happening this year, but also looking forward to that eventual weekend back in my own bed. Until then, adios! 🙂

Pantry Upgrade

In Zurich, I very much wanted a standalone freezer because our new compartment freezer was tiiiiny and I wasn’t allowed to fill it all with ice cubes and cranberries. (Important things for Americans!)

But back in 2011, Kay thought his job then would maybe send him away soon, so he didn’t want to waste the money on a freezer and carry it up five flights of stairs with no lift. So we never got one, but we ended up staying in that flat for three years.

I actually wanted to get an extra freezer in our current flat as soon as we moved, but again… Kay was pretty down on the idea. Finally this year, I asked for a freezer as my birthday present so that I would be able to make big meals by myself next year and freeze the portions so that I am not always eating the same thing.

Kay agreed and said that we should order only an A+++ energy rated appliance so that it’s a little more environmentally friendly, although honestly this criteria pushed me to order a bigger freezer, so I’m not sure how good an idea that was. I anyway promise to fill it up with yummy gluten free food!After a lot of hemming and hawing, I ended up ordering the freezer myself and stayed home to have it delivered. Thank God that a) it fit in the lift and b) there was a cleaning man around to help the delivery guy unload this.

I had cleaned the entire pantry out the night before the delivery and dismantled the shelves with Kay’s help. We installed the freezer during the week and then on Friday night before our trip to Liechtenstein, I went to Migros Do It on foot and bought 50lbs of shelving to carry home in my arms because I wanted to put the pantry in order ASAP and knew it would be hard without a weekend at home to buy things like this.It’s a tight squeeze, but the freezer is in the left of the pantry with some of the original, taller shelving between the freezer and the back wall, with the shorter, newer shelving to the right. I could even sneak the cordless vacuum in the door frame so that it can still plug in since there is only one plug on the wall of the freezer.I was mildly annoyed at myself that I did not realize how much shorter the new shelving would be considering we have our tall ceilings, but it has the same number of shelves as the older shelving and honestly I was in a IDGAF mood.I believe the older shelving was from Jumbo and the newer was just from Migros DIY, but the Migros wood is much worse quality than from Jumbo. The slats are closer together on the older shelving and smoother, making it easier to store smaller bottles on the shelves.Anyway, after assembly and putting everything back in the pantry that is not trash or to be sold, there is actually quite a lot of room in the pantry even with the addition of a huge freezer.On the smaller wall above I still have room to sneak my cleaning mops in. I might space the cleaning products out more so that they are easier to get to individually, but this is where it’s at for now.After the empty shelf I have cleaning cloths, food shopping bags and paper bags. Below that is cardboard recycling, bound up to go out.Up on top I still have room for buckets and cleaning products that are too tall to fit on the shorter shelf.With the taller shelf set between the freezer and the wall, it makes for really deep shelving. I put all the glass, metal, and PET recycling on the ground back there and hopefully it will be less annoying to deal with than our previous corner shelving, which had a lot of extra shelf legs mucking up space below.On the upper shelves I can store electrical things we rarely get to as well as Kay’s tools.And above are even more bags, because who has a ton of reusable bags?? This girl!Overall, I’m really happy how everything fits in and as long as the floor remains free so I can open the door, which is likely considering Kay is gone next year, I will be a happy camper.

I have already made an entire lasagna and portioned it off into 8 pieces for the freezer. 😀

I also made Kay install a hook on the door so I could store my clothes drying rack there for easy access. I am infinitely less annoyed when I need to take it out of the pantry nowadays.Do you have an extra freezer in your home?