Friday, October 5, 2012

One Sweet September: Josh & Laura Time

We made it home to the U.S. last week!! It's been a week and a half full of errands to set up the apartment, appointments, jet lag, fighting with the movers who've created a debacle in getting our stuff back to the U.S. from Oslo (our container is sadly still sitting at the port in Oslo, five weeks after it was packed...but, it should be on its way to the U.S. soon), and a trip to meet the puppy we get to bring home in two weeks(!!). 

Anyhow, back before all this madness, we were living it up with two of our best friends from Portland, Josh and Laura, who recently moved to Nuremberg. We'd known for awhile that they were eyeing a move to Germany, and we all hoped it would overlap with our time in Oslo a bit more. However, things didn't pan out until it was almost time for us to go home. At least we got one week of fun in together before we moved home, though!

We flew from London to Nuremberg and stayed at Josh and Laura's for a few days, before the four of us set off on an adventure in Italy. Nuremberg was a lot bigger and more gorgeous than I expected - it was a really nice city.

The city center was full of these pretty buildings.

There was a nice castle in the middle of the city.

And there were lots of Christmas shops with nutcrackers. I really wanted a small nutcracker, but they definitely weren't giving them away (plus, he probably wouldn't have survived the rest of the trip).

Making a wish.

There was a carnival going on while we were there, similar to a state fair in the U.S. (only the carnies weren't nearly as frightening). 

He couldn't resist.

And another one.

Showing off his prize.

The Neverending Story was one of my favorite movies as a kid. This ride absolutely cracked me up - as if they aren't strange enough in the movie, the characters look even more bizarre when they're poorly painted onto a carnival ride.

Other than the carnival, we enjoyed the fine German offerings of Nuremberger sausages, soft pretzels, and inexpensive beer. We also walked around the city, relaxed at Josh and Laura's, and took advantage of having a kitchen for this portion of the journey to cook at home a bit. Laura also took us to the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which was an extremely interesting museum located on the former Nazi grounds.

We also got to spend a lot of time with two of the nicest dogs in the world, Kaya and Porter (and they enjoyed our guest mattress each night before we went to bed).

We hope Josh and Laura have an amazing experience during their time in Germany! Nuremberg was a really cool city, so it seems like they're definitely off to a good start. It was so nice to see them in their new home, so we now have a place to put them in our minds since we have to go so long between visits.

For the next portion of the journey, we all headed down to to Rome. It had been on my list of places to visit, and Josh and Laura really wanted to hit up Italy as one of their first adventures while living in Europe.

The apartment we rented in Rome happened to be near Largo di Torre Argentina. Interestingly, among the ruins of the Roman temples in the square, there's a cat sanctuary for stray cats. We noticed tons of cats roaming the area, and looked it up to see what was going on. We walked by these cats a dozen times during our stay, and felt like we were friends with some of them by the end of the two days there. We nicknamed this one Smudge. There's about a 90% chance that I'll end up ordering us the Gatti di Roma t-shirts on the Torre Argentina website for all of us for Christmas if I can figure out the sizes...

Laura and Smudge.

Portico di Ottavia, just around the corner from our apartment.

The Colosseum.

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. I couldn't get a good pic with the dome in it, but it was amazing.

Don't think this is anything special, just found it when we got lost taking the tram the wrong direction, and liked it.

The Pantheon.

Piazza Navona.

This is pretty dark, but we had drinks at the very picturesque Bar della Pace one night. It was covered in ivy, and we sat outside on the prettiest little square.

Trevi Fountain.

After a couple of days in Roma, we headed down to the Amalfi Coast. Mt. Vesuvius and the city of Pompeii are directly on the route to Amalfi, so we took advantage of the educational excursion and spent the afternoon exploring. It was pretty fascinating.

Pompeii, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

After leaving Pompeii, Josh navigated us along the super curvy road along the Amalfi coast in the early evening, just before the sun started to set. The weather was gorgeous, and we got to see (well, Ken, Laura, and I got to see...Josh had to focus on not hitting another car coming from the opposite direction, or the rock wall we were driving next to) the beautiful stretch of coast in its turquoise glory. After some tricky parking, which involved a man named Mossimo navigating the car through the extremely tiny streets of Amalfi, it was dark out, and we headed out to the main square for dinner. During dinner, fireworks started going off for some sort of celebration.

Amalfi really rolled out the red carpet for us the first night.

Unfortunately, we woke up the next morning to the sound of heavy rain. Like pouring buckets. We only had two full days in Amalfi, so we figured we'd make the most of the rainy day, and have hopefully one more day to salvage the trip (since really, you only go to the Amalfi coast to enjoy warm weather activities).

The rain stopped long enough for a walk and a few cloudy pics.

You can see the potential for the beautiful colors in the water here.

This is what a rough storm does to a normally pretty beach - murky water and rough waves. Ken went down to check it out.

I'm not a car person at all (could care less if I ever own one again), but thought this one was adorable.

The narrow streets of Amalfi.

There was a lemon obsession in Amalfi. The lemon sorbet from this place was tasty.

Duomo di Amalfi.

Ken and I try to make ourselves order seafood when we're by the sea, to really get into the spirit of things. However, we absolutely do not enjoy peeling away the shells of crustaceans. Ken went big with the Frutti di Mare platter here. It was a crustacean shell extravaganza. Luckily, Josh is into that (and sardines), and he helped out.

Laura and Ken enjoying some gelato, despite the chilly weather.

Sadly, we awakened the next morning to buckets of rain again, and realized we wouldn't be partaking in the glorious warm weather activities of the Amalfi coast. So, we spent the day and evening dashing through the narrow streets and alley ways of Amalfi trying not to get drenched, and bumming around the apartment we rented.

Mini soccer ball keg of Moretti.

The only photo of the four of us from the trip - soaking wet after a tasty dinner at Taverna degli Apostoli, a cozy little restaurant next to the steps of the Duomo.

Oh look at that! The next morning was sunny and glorious. Unfortunately, Ken and I had to catch a bus to the train station early in the morning, and Laura and Josh had to head back to Rome with the rental car. 

Ah well, we had a lovely time getting to hang with Josh and Laura, even in the rain! And, we'll always have Rainmalfi memories (thanks Josh - though, I'm not quite sure it's as good as Ken's Catlanta). We're so glad we got one trip in all together before we were once again separated by a huge ocean. Thanks Josh and Laura, for a really fun week! We miss you guys to pieces, especially now that we're back home in P-town.

I will note one thing about traveling in Italy that I'd like to remember: as much as I love pasta and pizza, after two days of eating it, and realizing there are absolutely no other food options in Italy (other than the grilled meats they offer as a second course), I had no desire to ever see another plate of pasta or another slice of pizza again. We were in Italy for five days, and then Croatia for nine days (they have a similar diet). Apparently, I like variety, and even weeks later I can't bear to eat at my fave pizza or pasta places in Portland, which I normally love. Maybe in November.

I'd say the entire week was a Moment of Zen, since we got to hang with some of our fave friends!