Monday, June 20, 2011

Lions and tigers and bears...

June isn't over, and we've already had some new and great experiences that I am so excited to share!

First off, on a whim we decided to go to this year's Corpsman Ball. We had talked about going one year just for the experience, just not this year. However, after some talking into, we thought 'why not this year?!' on the day of the ball! Nothing like last minute!

It was a great decision made on a beautiful night!

General Love was a great speaker.

The girls got all dressed up...

...and the guys did too!

My favorite corpsman!

Check out those medals!

Our newly newlywed buddies!

Great times with great friends!

The first hour started off with cocktails (and juice) and fried finger foods, some of which were amazing! I had this fried pepper stuffed with cheese thing. It was goodness. And, ok, I had two. Once it official started, the Colorguard did their thing. Followed by the guest speaker, General Love (sweet name!) and a slide show celebrating our faves- corpsman! The Commanding Officer of the hospital here in Naples said a few words of course, and then the meals began. It was a typical four course meal of Italian deliciousness! The first dish was a meat platter with several cured hams with mozzarella di bufalo (best mozzarella. Ever.). The second was noodles with a tomato base sauce. Third was steak and potatoes. And finally fruit with whipped cream.

I think he likes whipped cream. Actually, I know he does, because that wasn't his!
Caught red handed Stephen!

We really enjoyed ourselves and will definitely go again!

Next on the schedule of new events... Zoo Safari. Or as I like to call it- "Zoofari," I feel like that has a better ring to it, hah!

We decided that we wanted to do more traveling when we returned from the states, and the Zoo Safari in Bari is one place that we could do in a day and that we've been wanting to do for a while. Bari is located on the opposite coast as us, on the Mediterranean side of Italy.

Let's go!

I was so excited to go until we were about half way there, and then I realize I was quite nervous. The thought of feeding non-domesticated animals made me a little uneasy. I know this might seem petty, but that number I pulled on my finger a few months back (when I sliced it) really has turned me into a scaredy-cat when it comes to my hands!

But, I'm not one to back out of an adventure... And an adventure it was! Probably one of my favorites- funny how that works!
But onto the good stuff- those animals were not afraid to come close- and pretty much into our car!
Crazy fearless animals!

At first, out of fear, I would drop the food when they came too close to me, but once I watched the guys do it, I let down my guard. That's probably why you start out with the deer... smart thinking Zoofari people!

Just as I was getting comfortable- Oh, hello lions...
It was really neat to be that close to them, but I must admit, I was watching my back closely- after a picture of course...

We all agreed tigers were so pretty, and they look so clean and pet-able! Key word being look!
I loved that there was a tiger in the tree... again, pet-able looking...

It was really neat to see so many ostriches! They are kind of creepy looking- yet intriguing.
Now that I think about it, I don't think I've seen a live donkey since the Messiah Easter drama days...

When we first drove up to the monkeys they were no where to be found, and then all of the sudden a bunch came running at us. It was actually a little alarming. James rolled up his window because he was afraid one was going to jump in!
Eventually, we loosened up and fed them, and they turned out to be quite cute!
They would pick up the food with their little hands, sniff it and then either eat it or toss it. So cute!

BTW- animals have the right of way...
This too was a little frightening and too close for comfort!

Sweet elephants!

And our new found favorite animal!
Can we keep him?!

They were so lovable...
and hungry!
It's like they use their tongues in places of hands. They would wrap their tongues around the food. It was really neat. Their tongues, though a little slimy, were tough and grip-y.

Giraffe kisses!
(I think he misses his wife a little too much!)

More animals I've never seen in person. Too cool!

Next up- zebras and camels.
As beautiful as zebras are, we decided that they are kind of... different. One came to us but the rest just stood around, mostly just staring.
I wanted to take this one home with me! Gorgeous!

After the safari part, we parked our car and went in the zoo/theme park part. Inside we saw several more animals (gorillas, birds, reptiles...) and rode the monkey train where they come up to the cage and you can feed them. Unfortunately, we completely (and disappointingly) forgot to bring them their fave- peanuts! Or anything to eat for that matter. I felt bad. I think our presence teased them! Oops!

There were also some rides which gave the day some extra fun.

Finally, after walking the park, we decided it was time to eat lunch!

We found a cute little restaurant on the water.

...on the beautifully blue Mediterranean water!
Che bello!

We walked on the beach a little bit before finally heading home for the day.
Oh, and the drive was beautiful too!
I now understand why, as a kid, we always drew mountains as basically just a shadowy outline in the background, because sometimes, it simply looks just like that...
You'll have to excuse me, I grew up in a flat area, haha!

And for your viewing pleasure:

Buona Vacanza!


MAYbe it's time it's time to visit home!

As my cousin Lauren was wrapping up her time in Rome, her mom and sister came out to visit her. So naturally, I had to join the party too! Coincidentally (and conveniently) James and I were already planning to be in Rome on a field trip for an Art History class he was taking.

The field trip was really interesting and I'm glad we had the opportunity to go together. We went to several churches and museums, including one which was inside of the French Embassy!

Our favorite piece was probably the ceiling of Sant Ignazio di Loyola by the Pantheon. It's quite amazing in person, but hopefully this gives you a taste;
Painted by Andrea Pozzo in 1685.
The ceiling is actually flat right above the windows, but it is painted to look as though it's leading into the heavens. Awe inspiring.

If you can even read it... I promise, it's there, in the center...

Another neat thing in that church is the dome. Or lack thereof.
The story is that they wanted a dome in the church, but ran out of money, so the painter made it appear as if there were one.

I took it from this angle, because when you're right under it you can really tell it's just an illusion. Shhh...

After the long day of roaming (hee.hee.), art and, well, more art, we headed over to meet my family! Yay!

On our way, we came across the Spanish Steps and finally got to see them with flowers!
Though I'm still not sure of their significance, but we have two more years to figure that one out!

Infine, la mia famiglia!

We caught up over some gelato and then all went our separates ways. It was just a short and sweet visit, and I'm glad we found time to be with them for bit on their fully loaded vacation!

It's because of days like this that our time here has flown! It was a year ago this month that us two little newlyweds, full of anticipation, hopped on a plane bound for the unfamiliar city to create a new life together... or better yet, a extended honeymoon!

On June 15th 2010, we left the homeland to fulfill our Navy orders to Italy. So, with a year under our belt we were due for a visit home! I had been back home in October to be with my sister for her childbirth, but this would be James first visit back in a year- (well, it was about 11 months at the time).

Since we would have to adjust to the six hour time difference and had three states to hit (well four if you count crossing the state line into VA to see my sister, hah!), we decided to spend three weeks stateside- pretty much all of May we were in the homeland!

Homeland Highlights:

Two Weddings

Some family

Them Keaton boys just being boys!

BFF day in Annapolis!

(And meeting lil Forbes!)

Annual Memorial Day Picnic- boating with my faves!

That was our visit home in a nutshell!
There is a good chance you see most of that more than us at this point, but we love our friends and family so I couldn't skip that part of our May!

Now back to our reality... Viva Italia!


Thursday, June 9, 2011



Being in Germany made me realize that if I had Italian friends, I would learn Italian much quicker. Or, if I lived in Germany, I'd be on my way to a fluent second language.
Of course I can boldly say this because I have neither!

However, I love Germany!
Wait. Actually, I don't know if I really love the country itself, or the fact that we got to spend five fun-filled days with our great friends Laura and Julia, and got to see where they live- finally!

Oh, and having multiple Starbucks fixes didn't hurt...

Regardless, it was so much fun, and I can't wait to return!

James and I flew in separately because he was actually going to Germany for work and took some extra days off for vacation! How convenient!

On day one it was just me and Laura walking around Düsseldorf.
Still enjoying my Starbucks!

We spent that evening walking around the town, and then we sat down for a bite at a resturant called Louisiana. Go figure. Can't complain though, it was quite delicious!

Düsseldorf kind of reminded me of Georgetown (DC). And I decided that one day I might have to live in one of these cute homes along the waterfront.
Ok maybe not. They're way expensive, but a girl can dream!

After dinner, we walked some more and then headed home to see the rest of Laura's family and get some rest! Why does traveling always wear a person out?!

Day two!

James came in that morning, and we immediately got to sightseeing- no time to waste!

We hopped in a cable car that took us over the Rhine river and into Köln (Cologne in English), the main city that Laura and her family live by.

It took us over a highway bridge- a little frightening!

Once over the bridge we walked towards the main cathedral (Köln Dom - pronounced Cologne Dome) and did some shopping on the way on the main shopping stripe.
What's vacation without some shopping?!

Alas- the Dom!
It was more gothic than any cathedral I've seen yet and I think it could be my favorite. It is huge! It's in the middle of the city so you can see it from pretty much everywhere.
After checking out the inside we decided to climb the bell tower.
It's probably the hardest thing I've had to climb since living in Europe- and we've climbed a lot! But as usual, it was worth it!
On the way down we saw a little old man seriously struggling up because he wanted to "be in the sky." So James, trying to be encouraging, told him he was almost there... It's a good thing he didn't speak English because he was probably a 1/4 of the way up and heaving at this point- Oh James! Laura on the other hand was telling him he should turn around, hah!

After catching our breathe again, I was pleased to find the Germany Version of my favorite store:
That's right, TK Maxx!

It was pretty crazy to me because whenever people ask me what I miss about the states, I always mention TJ Maxx- so, I was thrilled!

Now to locate a Euro Chipotle...

Next we got some Starbucks (yes, again!), Brötchen (fresh and delicious German bread) and Berliners (they are similar to fresh jelly-filled sugar donuts) to reenergize!

Let the walking continue! This was one of my favorite walks- we walked over a bridge to get back to our car on the other side of the Rhine River, but from there you had a great view of the Köln Dom AND along the walk there were tons of locks locked to the wire fence where lovers wrote or engraved their names on their locks, locked it to the fence and threw the key into the water signifying their forever love.

How sweet!
There were some crazy locks!

Finally we headed back for a home-cooked German dinner of vegetables, potatoes and sausage! Dinner was of course followed by dessert and what better than gelato! No really, this Italian couple opened up a gelato place right by Laura's home. How convenient!
Es war gut! ("It was good!" Actually it was SO delicious... but that's the extent of my German) So, in honor of the Italian owners we ordered spaghetti ice cream!
It was vanilla ice cream with whipped cream filling and strawberry sauce on top:
Buon Appetito... er, I mean... Bon Appetit!

Day three!

We decided we did enough walking on day two, so today would be a little more restful- boat tour on the Rhine River!

We did have to walk a little to get there, so on the walk we snapped pics by a popular sign which reads "Liebe Deine Stadt" or "Love Your City."

On our walk we also passed by the fountain that is on our souvenir Starbucks Köln mug, so we had to capture that as well:

Finally, relaxation!

We shared the tour boat with a cute little old lady talking on her cell phone like a walkie talkie:
Old people are too cute!

After the tour, we walked by "4711" which is a popular perfume made in Köln.

The perfume runs continuously through this faucet so you can not only test it, but you can smell it all around the inside and outside of the store.
I thought it smelt good...
but I think Laura would disagree...

Regardless, I did learn that Eau de Cologne means "water from Cologne," or Köln- cute!

As the walk continued we spotted a UDO (unidentified driving object)...

While on the train to Köln Laura had been telling us about this tree that people tie shoes together and throw up in the tree, but we couldn't find it. Then on our way home, the train made a stop and when we looked out the window:
Viola! Pretty neat!

Once back at the house, we had another home-made German dinner- soft pretzels with mustard and white sausage (SO YUM!), which is another typical meal (and probably my favorite!), but more from Munich area, in honor of James' grandmother! Laura is so thoughtful!

And then of course, dessert!
Ciao Messicano gelato!

I'm a little embarrassed to say, Day four is a blur... all I remember is what we did that night! Opps!

For dinner we had a cookout, which is apparently popular in Germany. I love BBQs! But first we had to go to the store and pick up loads of sausages and steaks. While at the store we learned a little about their recycling system. In some cases, when you by bottled water you have to pay $.50 extra per bottle, but then when you bring them back to recycle you get that money back. I guess that's one way to teach people the importance of recycling- forced green-ness.
Here's James feeding the bottle recycler.
Good thing James' arm isn't made of plastic...

And the backyard BBQ-

...But why stop the fiesta there?!
Though this wasn't our last night, the rest of our time there would be pretty busy, so Laura's dad and his girlfriend decided that for dessert we should go out for cocktails rather than back to gelato. So, we went out for yummy fruit drinks at a cute Mexican restaurant in the more downtown area where they live.
If you like Pina Coladas!...

Followed by a night drive through Köln:
Love that city and these sisters!

Day five, our last day *tear*, started bright and early! We were picked up by a family friend of Laura's who let James drive his antique Army Jeep to a bakery for breakfast.

Food was good, ride was sweet, driver was HANDSOME!
Random Fun!

Then, since James had yet to see Düsseldorf, we decided to spent the whole day there.

I already talked about Düsseldorf, and it's more of a place like Georgetown/DC where it's just nice to hang out and take in.

Pit stop at a cute lake by the museum:

After much walking around and enjoying the beautiful weather and day in Düsseldorf, we stopped for our last Starbucks, where we met Laura's dad and gf and then headed to a Car show type place.

This one is electric, and while we were outside, it drove up behind me and I didn't not hear it at all so I was just standing there, right in it's way... whoops
I want it!

...and some oldies:

Um, can I get this set up in my house- Cute!

After car shopping we had dinner, and just had to try some more typical German food. I didn't take a picture but we had a Düsseldorf specialty- pig ankle! I think it is one of those things that you "have to try," I'm just not so sure I'd do it again. It was very delicious but really fatty so... yeah...

And that was pretty much all for Germany! After dinner we went back and packed. In the morning we headed out to the base in Ramstein where James had to work for the next week. That was fun, but not much to share as we lived like we were back in American for a week-Burgers and fries, Cinnabon... Mmmm... little taste of home!

By the way, here was my favorite part of the flight:
Flying over the alps! Breathtaking!
Can't wait to blog about going there... when I get there!

Now back Italy...

What has been your most breathtaking view?
Have you tried any "have to try" foods while traveling?