Tuesday, October 30, 2007

First Week in Italy

Monday was our first real day in Italy, Brett headed off to find the Intel office in Milan and the kids and I unpacked and got settled into our new home. We went grocery shopping, which is always an experience in a new country. The food here seems a little more expensive than Germany. The kids are learning to live without their peanut butter and cheddar cheese, they didn’t have it in Germany or here but they are big on Nutella-a chocolate hazelnut spread which the girls and I love for a snack. They have lots and lots of different pastas here so I think we will eat lots of pasta. They don’t have any ingredients for Mexican food so we will miss that, but while in Italy we will eat like the Italian’s good thing we all love pasta. It was a beautiful day, sunny and much warmer than Germany. We played at the playground next to our apartment and walked around our area. Several people tried to talk to me and I don’t understand anything, not many here speak any English. They called Allden a bambino and the girls bambinas and said bella which means pretty boy and girls I guess. The Italian’s really like the kids blonde hair and blue eyes, since everyone here has dark hair and eyes.
Tuesday we did more laundry, grocery shopping and exploring. I have learned that most businesses or stores close around 12:30 until 3:00 and then open again until 7 or 8pm at night, so when we were walking around the town at 1:30 all the shops were dark and closed, it was weird! We’ll just have to do our errands earlier or later in the day. The people are very friendly here, I just wish I could understand what they were saying, it’s also hard because I can’t ask anyone directions or anything so I feel a little more isolated. I have lots of 2 and 4 yr old conversations through the day and that’s about it. I don’t talk to Brett during the day since I don’t have a phone line at our house, just IM chat every once in a while. So it’s nice to have a little adult conversation when he gets home. Alana LOVES to play hide and seek especially with Brett, they always find the best hiding places. So we played hide and seek in our new home with new hiding places.
Wednesday was rainy and cold so we didn’t get out much. There are no English channels on TV but at least we have a few kids DVD’s to entertain. We also were not able to bring many toys and so their favorite things to do are play on the playground, watch a DVD and color or draw. Alana is getting quite good at writing her letters and she knows how to spell the names of everyone in our family. She is very creative and getting good at drawing too. I have been the travel agent on this trip so I have been researching Italy and planning our weekends here. There is so much to see and do we just never have enough time to do it all!
Thursday we celebrated Allden’s 1st birthday! I can’t believe he is already one year old! He is a very busy boy always getting into everything. He loves pulling things out and off….he pulled all the Kleenex out of the box, likes to unroll the toilet paper, take all the Tupperware out of the cupboard, pull books off the shelf. He is next to impossible to get dressed and change a diaper, always trying to wriggle free! Also he hates things on his feet,he is always trying to get his shoes and socks off, so sometimes we just give up and let him go barefoot. We have to baby proof every place we go and put all the breakable stuff up high. We made him a chocolate birthday cake and got him a couple toy cars, he loves to push them all around the house. He eats lots of people food now and started drinking real cows milk and loves it. He is a big cutie and everyone gives him attention. He really is a joy in our life and we all love him!
We explored the town a little more today and found the public library. Of course all the books are in Italian but the kids still enjoy looking at new books and we make up the story with the pictures.
Friday was a rainy day and we stayed indoors most of the day. However we did find a huge store like a super Walmart with groceries, clothes, furniture so we walked around that store for awhile (still no peanut butter)
Saturday Brett was off for the weekend and we headed to Venice. It was about a 3 hr drive from our house. We drove across the big bridge linking mainland Italy to Venice and parked our car in a big parking garage. We walked to St. Mark’s Square and saw St. Mark’s Basilica and Dodge’s Palace, it was very crowded with people and thousands of pigeon’s. We walked through St. Mark’s it is a huge church! The ceilings had gold and paintings. This is the third church to stand on this site. The treasures statues, icons and the famous horses were brought to St. Mark’s after the 4th Crusade had plundered Constantinople in 1204. Also the Doge’s Palace, the official residence of the venetian ruler was next to the church. We didn’t take a tour since the kids were getting tired of walking around Venice all day. It was a mistake to take the stroller, you have to cross bridges everywhere and they all have steps so boats can go under them. So towards the end of the day the stroller wheel cracked and broke!
Venice was created on a series of mud banks in a lagoon, with canals in place of roads. Venice’s public transportation is the vaporetto, a water bus that travels the canals of the city, the more exotic transportation is the gondola, which are very expensive! The gondola has been a part of Venice since the 11th century. There is a slight leftward curve to the prow, which counteracts the force of the oar, preventing the gondola from going around in circles. All of the gondolas are black, the gondola men wear striped sweaters and stand in the back of the boat and paddle. Today, gondola rides are so expensive they are only taken by tourists. It was neat to see them but we thought it would be difficult with the 3 children (plus very expensive!) So we took the vaporetto down the Grand Canal, it was very crowded! The canal is about 2.5 miles long and varies in width from 100-230 ft wide. Palaces line the waterway, which were built over a span of five centuries. Many of the buildings are faded and foundations rotted but it is still amazing to see this place. After leaving Venice we headed to a more quiet town just outside of Treviso for our hotel and a nice quiet dinner at a pizzeria. We were all tired of walking around all day and the noise and hustle and bustle of Venice.
Sunday we went to church in Treviso. It was a little branch so it was very small, there was only 2 kids in nursery and 2 in primary. Most people only spoke Italian but we did find someone to translate the talks in sacrament meeting. The people were very friendly and we got lots of compliments on the kids we hear bella all the time. After church we walked around the town of Treviso which was really pretty. There was a river that runs through the town, lots of big trees and very quiet and peaceful (compared to Venice). Then we started heading towards home we stopped in Verona. Verona was also a very pretty city and very lively with lots of people out walking around. The city has magnificent Roman ruins, second only to those of Rome. The Arena, Verona’s Roman amphitheater completed in AD 30 is the 3rd largest in the world. Bullfights, fairs, and opera productions are staged here. We enjoyed walking around, people watching and seeing the sites. We arrived home late Sunday night and back to reality to start another week.
Italy is a beautiful place, and we're looking forward to seeing many more sites over the next few weeks. The language will make it a bit challenging but we'll survive. Brett is comfortable with Spanish and Portuguese, but we're realizing that Italian is quite different. Capisci?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The week begins and we are back to daily life, Brett heads to work for his first day in the Munich office. The commute is about 30 minutes and he says the people there are very nice and friendly, also said the cafeteria has great cheap food. The kids and I went out exploring and found two playgrounds near our house. Our apartment is right by a very old cemetery dating back to the 1600’s. We walked through it on the way to the playground and Alana starts asking questions….she said “Mommy how will the people get those stones off when they get resurrected?” She asks at least a hundred questions a day, I try to answer them the best I can. Today she asked “Mommy when will you be a grandma?” I said hopefully not for a very long time! “Where will you live when you are a grandma?” Another day she asked “Can I marry Allden when I grow up?” She is always keeping us on our toes. In the afternoon we took a walk through down town Munich and walked around all the pedestrian shopping streets. They don’t have a mall like in the U.S. but instead have pedestrian only zones with stores along both sides. Everything here is more expensive than the U.S. but it’s still fun to window shop and people watch. There are lots of people walking around everywhere. I get comments on the kids in German and I just smile and nod. Munich is a cool city!
On Tuesdays Brett has many late-night US meetings, so he works the afternoon/evening shift and does something with us in the morning instead. This works out well because some places are only open during the day, and closed in the evening. So Tuesday morning we went to see the Residenz in downtown Munich. This was the former residence of Bavarian Kings, large sections of the Palace were destroyed in World War II and has since been rebuilt. The Palace was huge! There is also the Schatzkammer (a large treasury) that holds many priceless artifacts. My favorite were the Bavarian crown jewels.

(Allden wouldn't let go of our audio tour guide)

(Antiquarium in Munich's Residenz the ceiling had 16 pictures of famous lady's)
When we got back to our apartment there were people in there working, there was a leak in our floor or wall and they were going to have to rip the floor up to do the repair work. This apartment was built around 1850 so I guess you have to expect some major repairs at some point. So we were going to have to move out the next day.
Early Wednesday morning we moved into another apartment the guy owned. It was only about a mile away and twice as big. So everything worked out for the better. The guy that owns the apartment was very nice and apologetic and helped up move everything. It is always a lot of work to pack up and then unpack, it takes a couple hours. The new apartment was built in the early 1900’s and is actually downstairs, this apartment was converted from a bakery production shop. He showed us where they covered up the huge ovens in the wall and there is a door that goes back in to see where the ovens used to be (it’s covered in spiderwebs now and looks really old). The kids and I went out and explored our new area. Of course they found the playground (they can spot one before I do, and once they see it they must play on it). We are right by the Isar River so we took a nice stroll along the tree lined path and enjoyed the nice weather. We then walked to the nearby grocery store-Lidl it’s more of a budget grocery store and it’s good for the basics, but they don’t have everything I am used to finding in a grocery store. It’s always a challenge grocery shopping with the 3 kids and not being able to read labels or find what I am looking for, it’s also a challenge to bag my own groceries and then carry them all home.
Thursday the weather turned cold and rainy so we stayed inside most of the day and prepared for the weekend and moving to Italy. After Brett got home from work we went to the Olympic Park in Munich, it was built for the 1972 Olympic Games. We went up the Olympic Tower in a really fast elevator at 7 meters per second,and looked out at the city. It was dark so we only saw the lights but it was still cool. They had a rock n roll museum at the top that my Dad would appreciate. We also walked around and saw the huge indoor swimming pool at the Olympic Swimming Center. This is where the American swimmer Mark Spitz won his 7 gold medals.
On Friday, Brett took a vacation day off, and we took a drive to the southeastern part of Germany, right on the Austrian border. We drove through the mountains, it was cold and raining. The trip was well worth it when we arrived at the Lake Konigssee it is 8km long and 1.25 km wide. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous! The water was an emerald green and it was surrounded by huge mountains! The fall colors are beautiful! The Konigssee is the cleanest lake in Germany, the boats are powered by batteries to preserve the cleanliness and silence of the lake. We took a boat ride to St. Bartholoma, about an hour 15 min boat ride in amazing scenery. We stopped the boat at Echowand, here our boatman played a trumpet out the window and you can hear the echo play back 1 to 2 times off the mountains. We docked in St. Barholoma for a short time and took a few pictures. This place was up there on our top 10 beautiful places. On our way back to Munich it started snowing!
Saturday we took another day trip and this time went south to Garmish and drove around through the mountains. The weather was freezing and snowing all day. It was a white winter wonderland, it was pretty to see all the trees covered in white. We got out in Mittenwald and walked around the town that is famous for their painted houses. There are murals on the houses and churches everywhere. The kids had fun playing in the snow for a little while and had some hot chocolate. Snow is fun for a day but I don’t want to live in it. I think I would rather have extreme heat than extreme cold (I guess that’s easy to say when you are cold). It snowed all the way back to Munich, we are excited to be in warmer weather in Italy. Our plan was to head south for the winter.
We enjoyed Munich but the biggest problem was parking, Brett would drop me and the kids off and then sometimes circle the area for 30 minutes waiting for someone to leave before finding a parking place. In Italy our apartment has its own little garage so Brett will always have a spot for the car.
Sunday we had a long drive to Italy, it took us about 7 hours, that’s quite a long drive for the kids especially with no DVD player. (It was damaged on the flight to France) We are staying in an apartment just outside of Milan, the city is called Legnano. Our apartment has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a balcony. We are on the 4th floor but at least there is an elevator. There is a playground right behind the apartment and a grocery store within walking distance. Brett’s commute will be longer than desired about 45 minutes but everything in Milan was very expensive. The bathroom here has a bidet which is a new thing for the kids, Addy and Alana said look “a little sink just my size”. The apartment is nice and we will be here for about a month, this will be a good break from all of our jumping around the past month or two.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Switzerland and Germany

We had not originally planned to be in Switzerland for 2.5 weeks but we were not able to find suitable housing in Munich Germany until Oktoberfest was over. So we got to stay in our nice Swiss Ski lodge for a couple more days, which we really enjoyed. We love the mountains!
Monday the kids and I took our usual mountain stroll up the mountain to the play ground and collected flowers and pinecones. Alana wanted to play the hide the pinecone game, she loves hiding games. After dinner that evening we decided to go for a little drive, we drove over to the tiny country of Liechtenstein it was about a 30 minute drive from our house. This country is squeezed between Switzerland and Austria. The country is only 62 square miles and is run by a monarch. A Gothic Castle perches over the capital city of Vaduz. We drove all the way to the border of Austria into Austria then turned around just to say we went to 3 countries in 1 evening! We also enjoyed McDonald’s hot fudge sundaes in Vaduz.
Tuesday we took a drive and explored the other side of our mountain, we took a scenic drive along a mountain pass. This country is so beautiful! I love the little Switzerland cabins in the lush green mountains with cows walking around with giant bells around their neck. We were able to see a lot of the country while we were here but I definitely think this is a place I would come back to.
Wednesday I spent the day preparing to move to our next home in Germany.
Brett took Thursday and Friday off so we could move to Germany. So Thursday we moved out of our chalet in Switzerland and headed to Germany. We passed through Austria on the way there. We stopped at the famous fairy tale castle-Neuschwanstein. It is set amid magnificent mountain scenery on the shores of the Alpsee. The castle was built for the Bavarian King Ludwig II. We parked our car in the village of Hohenschwangau and it is a steep 30 minute climb to the castle so we rode in style in a horse drawn carriage to the top. Walt Disney used the castle as inspiration when designing the Sleeping Beauty Castle for Disney Land. We walked over to a bridge and we were able to get some good pictures of the entire castle. We saw the waterfalls, mountains and lakes in the background, this King picked a great spot for a castle with amazing views! We walked down the hill to our car and still had to drive another 1.5-2 hrs to get to our new home in Munich.
We are right in the heart of Munich within walking distance of the old town and the big sites. We are in a 2 room apartment but it’s pretty good sized about 900 square feet, we are on the ground floor so no stairs, and it has an interior courtyard so it’s not right on the busy street. Finding parking is a bit difficult, and can take 30 minutes to find a spot. It’s about a 30 minute commute for Brett to get to work.
Friday we drove over to Salzburg Austria. It is only about an hour and a half from Munich. Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Mozart. His house is here where he composed most of his boy-genius works. He learned to play the harpsichord at the age of 3, and by the age of 5 had already written his first compositions! Mozart spent much of his first 25 years here. Salzburg is also home to many of the Sound of Music spots (including the stately home, flirtatious gazebo, and grand wedding church). I haven’t seen the movie in several years maybe I’ll have to go see it again. The Hohensalzburg Fortress is built above the old town. This fortress was never really used and nobody attacked the town for a thousand years. We also saw the Salzburg Cathedral, one of the first Baroque buildings north of the Alps. We visited the open-air produce market and had some fresh blackberries. We walked around the town and enjoyed the sites and shops then had dinner and headed home.
Saturday we took another day trip, to Rothenburg, driving along the Romantic Road. Rothenburg is said to be Germany’s best preserved walled town. We parked outside the walls and walked into the town. We climbed up to the top of the wall and looked around, the wall is just over a mile and a half around. In the center of town we saw the Market Square with the town Hall and Towerand then we found the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Shop and Museum. This store was a Christmas wonderland filled with enough twinkling lights to require a special electric hookup, instant Christmas mood music and tourists filling little woven shopping baskets with goodies to hang on their trees. On one wall there were little stuffed animals jerking uncontrollably and mesmerizing our kids. I have never seen so many Christmas ornaments! It was all very expensive but fun to look at! We enjoyed the town and then found a good Mexican restaurant for dinner! We were excited to find real Mexican food with chips and Salsa (definitely not as good as Sorano’s or Matta’s back home) but still good.
Sunday we walked to the church here in Munich. Since parking here in the big city is such a hassle it is easier to walk, it was only about a half mile away. Right before we got to church Addy took a face plant on the sidewalk. She had her hands in her pocket so she couldn’t catch herself, she got a good scrape on her chin, as soon as she saw the blood she started crying. The missionary’s were able to translate for us since everything was in German. We walked around downtown Munich in the afternoon. Most of the shops are closed on Sunday so it was quiet, there were a few street performers that we enjoyed listening to. Alana really loves music and wants to stop and listen to all of them. Our apartment is within walking distance to everything we need, grocery store, bank, playground, sites, restaurants etc. It’s fun for a change, but I would prefer to live in the suburbs and have more space. We have had a fun week!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2nd week in Switzerland

We had great weather most of the week so we enjoyed the outdoors. Alana and Addy love to walk outside and pick the wild flowers around our house. We have a fresh cup of flowers in the center of our table. It is so green here! All the snow from the tips of the mountains has melted now. We go on a mountain hike every day, it’s great exercise and beautiful. I would have a summer home here if I could afford it! It’s so peaceful and quiet up on the mountain, much nicer than the busy city life.
We took the gondola ride to the top of the mountain and the kids played at the playground and we hiked down. It’s a bit easier to hike down than up. The cows, goats, and sheep around here wear big bells around their neck so you can hear their bells ringing from far away. A playground is good motivation to get the girls to hike up the hill. They are willing to hike if they know there is a fun playground at the top.
We had our weekend all planned out but when we woke up Saturday morning we were in a thick fog. We couldn’t see very far so Brett had to slow way down on our drive. We drove through several mountain passes but couldn’t see the beautiful scenery. It was pretty intense driving on steep, narrow mountainous roads. It started to clear up a bit by the afternoon so that we could see a little scenery. We drove down to Zermatt which took about 4 hrs to get there. Zermatt sits directly below the Matterhorn, a peak of 14,688 ft. This town is car free so we had to park our car in Tasch, 3 miles down the valley and take the shuttle train. We had planned to take a cog wheel mountain railroad to the top for the best view of the Matterhorn, but decided not to because of the thick clouds. We couldn’t see the top of the Matterhorn because it was covered in clouds. So we walked around the little resort town. I love the wood cabins here with the bright flowers in all the windows. When we left Zermatt, we had to drive another 2 hrs to our hotel in Lausanne. This town is right on the huge Lake Geneva. We toured the city that evening and then found some food- we had a giant family size pizza - yummy! ($40US for a large pizza!)
On Sunday we drove over to Geneva a big city at the end of Lake Geneva. We saw the Jet d’Eau fountain in the Geneva harbor (one of the world’s largest fountains). We drove around the lake, half of which is in France. The weather was nicer with more sunshine. We enjoyed the scenic drive through the mountains. We stopped for dinner in a beautiful little town near Interlaken, right on the lake. The lake was surrounded by mountains and it was peaceful and quiet. We ate outside on the lake, I would say this was just as beautiful as Luzern and less touristy.
Now I am planning our trip to Germany. We will be leaving Switzerland on Thursday and staying in Munich for about 10 days before heading to Italy.
The kids are all doing great, they are good travelers. They adjust to new places very easily because we try to keep up the same routines and schedules (at least during the week). Alana is at the age where she is asking hundreds of questions a day, she is always learning. Addy is learning and growing every day, she also loves to play outside and do everything Alana is doing. She gets very excited about playgrounds, they have trampolines at the playground here and she loves that! Allden is crawling around and pulling himself up on everything. He gets into everything! He loves to swing and go down the slide at the park. He is almost 1 yr old! Time flies when you're having fun!