Tuesday, May 12, 2009

European Road Trip

Last week we got back from a road trip around Italy, Germany and Holland. Although I do not recommend everyone doing this in their first trimester (!), we had a wonderful time and one of my dreams came true, to see tulip season in Holland.

Firstly we drove to Milan and spent one night with our friends Payman and his wife Veronica. Payman is also an engineer (like husband) and used to work with Jason in the Karratha gas plant so we had plenty to reminisce about. I had been off fish for a long time and Veronica cooked salmon for dinner....well it was the best salmon I had tasted and it was delicious. My fish appetite has returned.

The next day we set off through the Swiss Alps (that were still covered in snow and were as beautiful as always) for our ten hour drive to Cologne, Germany. It amazed me how different driving in Europe is where there are road stops every 50 kms. When we used to drive from Karratha to Perth (in Australia) sometimes the next road stop with fuel was 200 km's away.

Lots of singing and eating lollies later on a speed limt free autostrada (very scary), we arrived in Cologne. It was wonderful to catch up with family in Germany and also to do some relaxing. We weren't interested in sight seeing as we had been there numerous times before, however Jay could not resist taking night photos of the Cologne Dom - we think it's the most beautiful cathedral in all of Europe.

The rest of our time in Germany was spent visiting more family, sleep ins in the hotel and ordering breakfast in bed. On mornings when we weren't completely lazy we would get up and go to my beloved Starbucks.

Next on our road trip was Holland. Husband had been to Amsterdam before for work but I had never been and was very curious. Our friends Ryan and Elize live in Amsterdam and we stayed with them. Ryan, an engineer, also used to work in Karratha with Jason. In fact he was our neighbour and is one of our dearest friends.

Ryan and Elize live in a gorgeous apartment overlooking one of the canals and about 50 metres from Anne Frank's house. This didn't mean that much to us until we visited Anne Frank's house and that is when reality hit home. On that very street, just years ago, Nazi's were storming the streets and bombing homes and terrorising Jews, amongst others. It was an eye opening museum which I really recommend (just like I recommend Auschwitz in Poland for everyone to see).

Amsterdam made a funny impression on me. I found it very beautiful with it's canals, gorgeous buildings and cosmopolitan atmosphere. But you could be in a gorgeous street, then seemingly walk two streets ahead and like we did, stumble into the red light district. We stumbled across it during the day so I wasn't as saddened by it as I thought I would be. (I know it's stupid but I get very sad when I see young girls forced (debatable I know) into selling themselves in windows. It was funny in a sense that these girls were there but there was normal looking families just walking past and carrying on with their daily activities of getting from place A to B. After being offered coccaine on the street twice (ummm I wouldn't even know what to do with it, put it in my herbal tea perhaps?) we decided we had seen enough. We walked past all the people smoking marijuana in coffee shops (that is everywhere not just in the red light district) and returned back a couple of streets to the posh side of town again. Very strange, but interesting.

One of my favourite things about Amsterdam was of course to do with food - Dutch apple pancakes!We had pancakes 5 times in Amsterdam and we were there only four days, go figure!

Apart from seeing our friends, the highlight of Amsterdam was driving to a town called Lisse which is famous for it's tulips. Look at what we saw on a random road we drove by!!

One our way home, we stopped in to visit our friends Peggy and Mike in Lake Como. They had kindly offered us a room in their apartment. Peggy and Mike are just a gorgeous couple that I had met in my Italian class in Florence but they had since moved on to Lake Como. When we arrived we soon realised their 'apartment' was in fact a stunning villa overlooking the whole of Lake Como. It was just beautiful and Peggy and Mike (and their two daughters Elizabeta and Nicole) were perfect hosts and we had a wonderful time with them.
Another highlight of the trip: Peggy's dinner that she cooked for us and we ate on the balcony overlooking the view. I couldn't believe how good the food was and Peggy admitted she had been taking private lessons from a chef in town that has cooked for Oprah. So if it's good enough for Oprah, it was good enough for us!

I think we would have had a wonderful road trip anyway, but spending it with friends, both new and old made this trip just even better. It is our last big trip in Europe before we go home and we certainly won't be forgetting it in a hurry.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bambino's/The search for the best tiramisu is over

Ok, so what is your definition of torture?

Here is mine:

Living in Italy and not being able to eat tiramisu, salami, cheeses or the famous Florentine Bistecca, a massive hunk of meat served very rare (sorry my vegetarian readers especially Erin).

But I'm happy to report that the feelings of torture go away as soon as I think about why I have stopped eating all this glorious Italian fare. No, my jeans didn't finally give way....

I'm three months pregnant!!!!!

So on November 15th we will have a Fabio, Luigi or Francesca making his/her debut back home in Australia. Hmmmm well actually if it is a Fabio or Francesca I may have a lot of explaining to do to my Australian husband.....

Today we had our three month ultrasound. It was the most amazing thing we've ever seen. We could see the arms and legs and even the nose bone. One of the arms was curled up in a fighting position - perhaps he/she will be a boxer?? Or it really IS an Italian bred baby and is starting to use arm gestures already to communicate.

You'll know by my year of blogging that Florence has been both wonderful and challenging for us. However for all the butt kicking we received, Italy will now be forever engrained into our hearts as the place we grew our family. It's going to make me look at tags that read 'Made in Italy' very differently!

ps Next week, I promise I will write about our two week road trip around Europe which we returned from on Sunday. We saw the most amazing scenery ever, stay tuned.