Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weather forecast for NYC- daily thunderstorms until August 7

Let's just say I did NOT move from the rainiest country in the world for THIS! Today I spent an extra two hours sitting in a place where I had lunch because it was pouring. And walked home barefoot and soaked because my shoes were too slippery to walk in. Boo hiss. And an empty apartment is no consolation- nothing to do, nothing to unpack, or organize, or read, or watch, and I'm lucky enough for the moments when I steal our neighbor's wi-fi. I know New Yorkers aren't supposed to say this, but I'm bored.

Small city, small world

I had a funny New York moment today, or maybe just a funny life moment. I was waiting for the subway, on my way to get a haircut, when I heard a couple of guys speaking Dutch. One of them sat next to me, and I started talking to him. Yes, I started talking to a complete stranger just because he was Dutch (from Haarlem), and I am sort of Dutch. (Funny that when I was in Maastricht and heard Americans, I usually went out of my way to avoid them.) But anyways, I chatted with the Dutchies for a couple of stops and said "Dooi" and went on my merry way.

Six hours later, in a completely different part of town a half hour away, I was walking to the library when I heard "that's her, that's her, HEY!" And again I chatted with the same two Dutchies about what they had seen that day, where I was going this time, and said "Dooi" and went on my merry way. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moving to New York City

We've been here for a little more than a week, so I suppose it's a good time to mention our first observations before we're jaded and weary like everyone else here. :-)

The move itself was easier than expected. On the way to Europe, Newman scratched the hell out of Nick when he went through the metal detector, so we did all of this planning.... for nothing, because he was surprisingly good this time. Once again, the Germans at the airport fell madly in love with Batman and completely forgot their protocol. It was so funny to see the transformation. They began as stern, stony-faced, uniformed robots with a 25 letter badge ending in "polizei" who are supposed to be finding the liquids I snuck through. But when they see the dog, 4 of them gathered round-- "ooooooooooooohhhhhhh!!!! What kind is he! Oh my baby! Oh so cute! Oh mam, don't put him in the kennel, he can stay out. oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh!!!"

So anyways, we got here easily enough on a Thursday, and found an apartment on a Friday, moved out of the hotel Saturday. And right after we decided to take the apartment, which is mostly unfurnished, we walked outside to find a freshly placed mattress. Insane! As my friend Carrie so succinctly put it, "I never imagined you as unemployed, with a pay as you go phone, sleeping on a mattress you found on the curb!" Believe it. We are pretty lucky, and in a happy spot for the time being. Batman is racking up vet bills and the money is going a heck of a lot faster than expected, so it's not perfect.... this is a good thing- perfection means you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop, right?

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The first week we've spent doing many touristy things, many involving food. One first order of business was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Grimaldi's pizzeria in Brooklyn. We had to wait in line for almost an hour and a half just to get inside and get a seat. It was totally worth it, this pizza will make you want to curl up in the fetal position and die right on the table. We're lucky to have made it out alive.

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View of Manhattan from the bridge

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The pizza!

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There is so much to eat in this city! Unbelievable cookies that taste even better than they look (not my picture)

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We also watched a free movie on a pier near the Hudson River, listened to the New York Philharmonic in Central Park, enjoyed a 5 course French dinner and toured the French Culinary Institute to celebrate Bastille Day, and caught up with old friends.

NYC Culture Shock:
- Seeing a movie at a theater costs 12.50 apiece!!! Weekends before noon it's only $6, so we will be getting up early for any cinematic needs from now on
- They list calorie contents for every menu item at restaurants. This is actually pretty cool because there are certain things that you quickly realize are not worth the nibble.
- We can speak English here! We got so used to English as automatically identifying us as tourists. We didn't even realize this, but we have been speaking to each other in hushed tones for about a year! The first few days we kept saying "Wait, why are we whispering? English is the language here!"
- Free water is awesome. I still buy a drink, I still can't get used to just ordering a water even if that's all I'm in the mood for.
- Lots of people are new to the city: we met up with an old high school buddy and she introduced us to some of her friends, many of whom have been living here less than a year. People here are pretty friendly, because most people are from somewhere else and identify with moving here, and there is a certain amount of openness required to stay here longer than a day or two. (Example: we were chased by a screaming old Chinese man who was wearing a dress and pigtails while pushing a shopping cart)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Greece: Athens

We only spent 2 nights in Athens but had a great time. Our hotel was lovely, and right near the Temple of Zeus and the Athens city gate. The rooftop restaurant where we spent our breakfasts had a view of the Acropolis, and was so lovely we had dinner there too! We spent most of our day walking around the sites, and then at night, went to an open air theater called Cine Paris. Ok, now for the picture binge.

Us at the Temple of Zeus, with the annoying redhead

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Temple of Zeus, different angle with Acropolis in the background

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Temple of Zeus at night, from our table

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Those who say it's a dog eat dog world-- there are tons of strays in Athens, and the little guy was cleaning the ticks off the big guy. What a pal.

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Parliament, where people take pictures near the motionless soldiers. We just couldn't do it, but this guy could!

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Shoes

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Various pictures of the Acroplis and Ancient Agora

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View of Athens from the Acropolis

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There is a lot of restoration going on. It's amazing how much time and detail it takes to restore such massive structures.

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Ha.

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Watching Public Enemies near the Acropolis

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Picture of the Acropolis from our table.

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I felt very grateful taking this picture. We have been insanely lucky, I only hope our good fortune continues in New York City, where I'm posting from!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Greece: Milos

After Fira, we caught a ferry to Adamas, the port town of Milos island. While waiting for the ferry, we met another American couple, and spent a lot of our time in Milos with them. We took 2 ferries during our time in Greece, and they were surprisingly comfortable. They even had wireless internet in the middle of the sea! (In fact, I posted one of the prior entries from the ferry to Athens.) It was also interesting that there is some law regulating food and drink prices on the ferry so they can't rip you off! We only spent 2 nights in Milos. I was glad, because our hotel was awful and I was bombarded by mosquitos. The highlight was our day trip around the island. We got to stop a few times for swimming, and the views were incredible because the island has a lot of large natural formations.

The port of Adamas

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Nick jumping off the boat!

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A colorful town on Milos

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Hoorah for the ferry to Athens! It could hold a bus underneath!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Greece: Santorini

What's the first thing we did as unemployed people? Went to Greece of course! We started in Santorini. We stayed 3 nights in Fira, which is the main/busy town on the island. We also spent some time doing watersports (parasailing for me, scuba diving for both of us) on different beaches around the island, and spent a sunset in Oia, which is the "romantic" and quiet part on the north side of the island. Our last day, we walked down to the port for a cruise to the caldera (volcano) and hot springs. It was amazing- we got to climb to the top of an active volcano and feel the heat coming out! They can predict activity in the short term, so it's safe. It took about a half hour to climb up, and similar to the Eagle's Nest visit, I undertook this climbing adventure in flipflops.

Here is a photo inside the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Fira.

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Gotta love wine on tap!

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Me parasailing over the Aegean

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Colorful buildings in Oia

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Japanese tourists and 2 brave dogs lounging on rooftops in Oia

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On the way up the volcano.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Roma!

Another late entry! About a week before our last day of work, Nick and I headed for a long weekend in Rome. His dad's family was in Rome as well, before going on a whirlwind tour of Northern Italy. We had the days to ourselves and met them for dinners. We visited Rome 6 years ago, but we left many stones unturned, so we had a lot of fun doing the touristy things - Roman forum, Colosseum, etc. It was a short trip, but all the same, pretty amazing to hop a flight for a weekend in Rome for only 20 euros.

Roman Forum with a temporary modern sculpture exhibit

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Italian parallel parking- perpendicular parking! (Colosseum in the background)

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Us at the Colosseum after waiting in line ZERO minutes as compared to the suckers who waited 45 minutes. Tip: buy your tickets at the Roman Forum instead of the Colosseum!

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Derek's visit

Well, this is about a month late, but there is a good excuse. Let me explain. My brother and his friend Kristin visited about a month ago. They hung around Maastricht, and also went to Amsterdam, spent some time relaxing. Here's them near the Maas.

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But during the weekend, the four of us headed on a four hour roadtrip to Groningen, where my ancestors (dad's side) are from. We planned to meet one of our distant Dutch relatives at an airfield for a tour of our family's location. Here is us, full of hope!


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Our relative didn't show for one reason or another, but the funny thing is that we met her ex-husband at the airfield. Apparently, he's the one who taught her how to fly. We didn't let the no show stop us! We drove around the village where we are from and via fate, found a house with the Dutch variation of our name! We didn't knock on the door or anything, just trespassed and took pictures of their cat.

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We had no idea exact who lived there or how we were related to them, but when you drive four hours to the middle of nowhere, you don't have the option to be picky. When we got the photos back, I had them made into a postcard (with help from my coworker!) and sent the card for a very late Father's Day card. So, that's why this entry is late- my dad just got the card last week, and he gets dibs on this story.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Projections

 I thought it would be fun to post what we will miss about Europe and what we're looking forward to about moving back to the US. Then in a few months, we can see how it shakes out, what things we forgot or over/underestimated.

What will we miss?
Our coworkers/friends
Cheap Ryanair flights, and the geographic proximity to different countries/cultures/languages
Buying smaller portions- eg one chicken breast or a half loaf of bread
Being "special" - for better or for worse, being American is a huge part of our identity here and makes us stick out wherever we go
Reitz fries and Pinky waffles
The escape from American media and the constant bombardment of gloom, doom, and advertisements
Being in places with a sense of place and history (vs. chain stores, chain restaurants, chain everything)
Good beer

What are we looking forward to?
Store opening hours- nights and weekends!
Free water, free ice, free refills
Closer time zone to friends and family
Lower priced options for eating out
Going to baseball/football/basketball games

*** edited to add: Netflix and crispy bacon (Europeans eat fatty undercooked bacon)