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    Carnevale in Venice!

    This weekend Andrew and I visited Venice. We knew we wanted to go somewhere good for our last weekend together, before he goes back to the states on Saturday. (So sad!)

    Because we are notoriously last-minute planners, we bought our tickets for the 8:40 pm train about an hour before it departed from the Zürich HB, sans-hotel reservation. We quickly found ourselves on an overnight-train to Villach, Austria, during which we realized we were about to attempt to spontaneously visit Venice during Carnevale — the city's biggest and wildest celebration. Here we are on the train, looking rather relaxed... I think this was right after I booked a hotel (after calling about 20 different places).

    Overnight train to Villach

    The next morning, we arrived in Villach around 6:00 am. Andrew apparently had great sleep, while the train's rocking motion and the loud, unfamiliar sounds weren't as soothing to me. Despite being a bit tired, here's a shot from Villach:

    Villach

    It was a charming town and during our 4 hour "lay-over" we found internet connection at a McDonald's, visited an early-morning farmer's market where I bought a huge block of Provolone cheese, and fed a few pigeons, just for a little childish entertainment. :)

    Villach Pigeons

    At 11:00 am we boarded a double-decker, InterCity bus to Venice. We thought we were pretty lucky to get seats in the top.

    We arrived in beautiful Venezia around 2:30 pm, and took the ACTV Line 1 boat to San Marco. Here are a couple shots from the ferry:

    Venice Grand Canal

    Ferry to San Marco

    San Marco was definitely the most packed area of Venice. Our hotel, Violino D'Oro, was just a block or so away from Saint Mark's Square, a.k.a Piazza San Marco.

    Saint Mark's Square is where all the craziness goes down. People gear up in the most elaborate, outrageous costumes and parade around for all to see.

    Carnevale costumes in Venice

    Carnevale Costume

    Others take a more modest approach and simply wear a small mask or a silly hat... such as this purple-feather rendition:

    Feathered mask

    We eventually caved and bought two of our own. Andrew broke his mask's strap trying to get the thing tight enough around his head. Accidental? I'm still guessing.

    In any case, I think we look like a couple of bad-asses. (Please pardon le French.)

    Carnevale masks

    Yes, this shot was taken in our hotel, but I promise, I actually wore mine in public for a little while. I chose an all-black style, trying to channel Kirsten Dunst's look in Marie Antoinette.

    We had the the most wonderful time during our long weekend walking the streets, visiting the Basillica, Doge's Palace, window-shopping, and eating at tucked-away little Italian restaurants.

    Carnevale 2011

    Andrew Doge's Palace

    Doge's Prison

    Venice Paint

    We were lucky to have this trip, let alone book a hotel in Venice during Carnevale on such short notice. Below, a photo from our hotel room balcony:

    View from Hotel Violino

    And next, my favorite photo from our entire trip so far:

    Venice

    Andrew took this on the crossing shown two pictures above. It's my new desktop background.

    We left Venice late Sunday, but I will always cherish the memories from this trip. And I will always remember Venezia fondly, a little something like this:

    Gondola in Venice

    Kathryn
  • 0

    Attack of the Spammers! Booooooo.

    Okay, so our site is officially getting spammed. Today I turned off the commenting feature for a while, but it's back up now — with the only difference being that we have to approve your comment first before it's published to the site. The only reason we're doing this (and hopefully only temporarily while I try to find a stronger solution) is so our visitors don't see a ton of ugly spam comments below our posts.

    So please, feel free to continue commeting... we will publish your comment within 24 hours (probably even faster), but just be aware it won't be posted immediately, at least for a little while anyways.

    Miss you all back in Texas — you'll be hearing from us soon! :)

    Kathryn
  • 3

    Where We're Going, Where We've Been

    Forest Gump once said you can tell a lot about a person by their pictures -- where they're going, where they've been. Or maybe it was their shoes, I can't remember. Anyways, for my next trick, I've decided to show you a crop of photos that haven't yet made it on the blog. I'll write a little about each photo but mainly it's a pixel show. Enjoy!

    We'll start back in Paris. Our last night we ate at this little french restaurant just down the street from our hotel. I had haddock, which was just salt, basically and Kathryn enjoyed duck confit which turned out to be really good. What grabbed the most attention was this Rene Gruau poster on the wall. I recognized the artist right away because it was he that inspired my design of The Little Black Dress Society website.

    Gruau

    About the strangest food we've come across so far was also in Paris. We ate at a chain restaurant called Hippopotamus which is Paris' Chilis, for lack of a better comparison. However I've never seen this on the Chilis menu.

    Raw Meat

    Note to travelers: order your meat well done, because this is what I'm guessing is rare.

    Back in Zurich, we've settled into a nice work-day routine. We leave the flat about 7:55 and catch a bus to Technopark, which is where Amazee Labs is headquartered. The trip takes about 35 minutes and includes more walking in a day than I usually do in a week.

    Technopark

    Amazee Labs

    Each day at lunch we walk across the street to Puls-5, which is an old factory-turned-mini-mall. Again, vintage meets modern. We have a variety of food to choose from including pizza, paninis, sandwiches and chinese food.

    Puls-5

    On our way to work we often see amusing things. We can't read most of it but we're pretty sure this is an advertisment for a bidet.

    I Love Water

    And toopies are always amusing. This is how a toopie rides in Zurich.

    Toopie on the Tram

    This is how a toopie rides in Texas.

    Jackson

    Two weekend ago, we took a trip to Interlaken by way of Lucerne. In Lucerne we climbed Mount Pilatus (with the help of a gondola). Although construction kept us from the top, here we are at our peak. We had lunch there and enjoyed watching the sledders hurl themselves down the side of the mountain.

    Andrew and Kathryn atop Mt.Pilatus

    The views were amazing, don't get me wrong, but the best looking thing I saw all day was my gondola mate. Dangling 100 feet above the cliffside, she doesn't look as nervous in this picture as I think she was.

    Kathryn in a gondola

    The train ride from Lucerne to Interlaken offered some more stunning vistas. This is how I've imagined Switzerland all along and it truly is a beautiful place. I like to wonder what everybody is doing down there.

    Swiss Countryside

    Alps

    Interlaken wasn't too bad itself. Our hotel room had this small balcony on which I perched to snap this picture at sunset. Tucked in between two sprawling lakes and shadowed by Alps, Interlaken was like nothing we've seen.

    Interlaken

    Our trip to Lucerne and Interlaken has been our favorite so far. But if anybody out there knows of somewhere better, please let us know. I've got one more weekend to travel, so let's make it count! Thanks for following our journey so far and stay tuned for more.

    Andrew
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    92.35 CHF

    That's right, folks! We paid 92.35 swiss francs (CHF) for our groceries on Tuesday, which is just over 97 US dollars! Take a look at our receipt and you'll see how it all breaks down and adds up.

    Zurich grocery receipt.

    That means the winner of our chicken dinner is my uncle, Brett McClintock! Congratulations Brett! Your guess of 92.76 was just 0.41 off, wow — you must have cheated. I'm sure you were guessing in swiss francs, right? You haven't actually won a chicken dinner but it rhymed nicely. I assure you your prize will be much, shall we say... sweeter?

    On top of the price of groceries we also had to buy these special Zurich trash bags. Apparently you can get into some trouble if you throw your trash in "regular" bags, so they force our hand. The strange thing is, they sell regular bags, but I'm not sure why. We paid about $11 for 10 bags.

    Zurich trash bags.

    And what do we do with all these groceries? Well, that night we prepared the hackbraten (14CHF), the gravy (1.90CHF) and the mushrooms (0.95CHF). We ate for a little under $18, which isn't too bad after all. The funny thing is that we had to use Google to help us translate all the german cooking intructions. What would we have done without the internet? Raw meatloaf, I guess.

    Google Translate

    Thanks for playing! We'll chat with you soon. Goodnight from Switzerland and congratulations Uncle B!

    Andrew
  • 16

    Supermarket Sweep, Enter to Win!

    This game is exclusively for our friends back home, so pay attention all you American peeps!

    If you didn't know, Zurich is an expensive city. Last year it was ranked number ten on a list of the world's most expensive places to live. New York City was ranked #29. So you can imagine the sticker shock we've come to expect here, even when we hit up the local grocery store. Tonight we did just that and we've decided to have y'all guess how much we spent. Here's our haul:

    Zurich groceries!

    In case you can't make it all out, here's a list of everything we bought:

    - Shreddies cereal, my new favorite!
    - Frozen bruschetta
    - Fresh mushrooms (0.094kg)
    - Swiss cheese, pre-sliced
    - Hackbraten (German meatloaf)
    - Laundry detergent
    - Three packages of pasta sauce
    - Sandwich bread
    - Roast beef, pre-sliced
    - Salami, pre-sliced
    - Bowtie pasta
    - Colgate toothpaste
    - Toilet paper (16 count, discounted 40%)
    - Chocolate cake (loaf-like)
    - Instant gravy mix
    - Refrigerated prosciutto pizza

    Take some time to look over the menu and with a comment on this post, guess our total. If you're the closest to the actual cost (yes, you can go over), we'll make sure you get a special treat from Switzerland! We will reveal the answer Thursday by way of a comment on this post, so check back soon to find out who won!

    Happy guessing!

    Andrew
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