Saturday, November 11, 2017

the best spa ever!!! and other parts of romania...

in an effort to get to country #40 before my 40th birthday i had to get to romania before the school year let out.

i had tried to go in february, but had to stay behind to take my italian language exam. (btw, i passed!)

so on another random weekend in may, i jumped on a cheap ryan air flight to bucharest.

i had received some recommendations from a friend who taught in bucharest for several years, and one of her suggestions was a huge spa that had been built outside the city.

after the requisite stop at starbucks for coffee, we found a taxi and made our way out to the spa.


this spa, therme' bucharest, is quite frankly, amazing.

there are three parts to the spa and their prices are tiered. basically, the galaxy area is a water park full of fun water slides and wave pools. then there is the palm, which includes the area featured above. it includes this large pool with a large drink bar, a couple mineral pools, and a few other areas. the third area, elysium, includes multiple saunas. the cost for elysium includes the palm and the galaxy areas as well.

you can pay for the top tier entrance for three hours for 75 lei, which is 16 euro or 19 USD. if you stay longer than three hours, you pay for the additional time on your way out. towel rental is 16 lei, 3.5 euro or 4 USD.

we just loved this spa and ended up spending nearly the entire day there.





we made arrangements with our taxi driver from the spa to take a day trip the following day to peles castle outside of bucharest. we worried that this decision was not our smartest, but decided that all good travel stories come from some risky moves.

after storing our luggage at the town's very convenient luggage lockers. these are unmonitored, easy to use and handy for those with late flights. (however, it seemed that a local without proper toilet access might have also used this small storage space as his toilet, so beware.)

peles castle is located in the carpathian mountains about 80 miles outside of bucharest. i had seen some pictures and it was just so picturesque that i had really wanted to see it for myself.





our driver and his wife took us to a local restaurant and helped us order traditional romanian food.




during this trip we spent very little time in the city of bucharest, but we did wander about a little with some of our few extra moments.

view from our airbnb

what a deal!




cute window art
travel tips:
- take flip flops for the spa. without them, you'll have to buy a pair before going in.
- taxis were difficult. we used the taxify app to finally find a taxi. there were others around, but they were all unmarked and that made us nervous.
- we stayed in this airbnb. pretty good. i'd stay there again.
- prices in romania, like most of eastern europe, are pretty low! makes it a very affordable travel stop!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

muuuuuuuunich!

in march i headed back to munich for another visit. i had made arrangements to visit an international school in the area for a couple of days and then spent the weekend in the city. munich has always been one of my favorite european cities since having visited there first back in 2011.

while in munich i was able to take a tour to nearby neuschwanstein castle. this castle had been on my radar for awhile, but i had never taken the time to get there.

construction of this castle began in 1869 by ludwig II. the castle is quite dreamy and photogenic from afar. it even served as the inspiration for the castle in disney's sleeping beauty.





after hiking up to the castle, i had a little extra time for some apple strudel and a stroll around the lake.



before leaving munich i had dinner with a friend and the meal was so good i'm still thinking about it! if you're ever in munich be sure to head to an nam and have the summer rolls. you'll receive a full on arrangement of goodies to customize each and every roll for yourself!

this was so delicious. 
travel tips...

pretty sure that i used radius tours for the trip to neuschwanstein. while this tour was fairly annoying...it turned out to be a good choice. usual transport for this tour is via train, but there was work happening that day and the company was able to substitute a bus. once you arrive at neuschwanstein you don't have to stay with the tour, just show up for the scheduled time for the castle entrance- this was a plus.

i stayed at hotel eder this trip. i liked this hotel, but the area directly around it was a little sketchy at night as it is fairly centrally located.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

manolos in milan.

back in february we had a long weekend and i ended up staying in milan because i needed to take an italian language test so that i would be eligible for the carta di soggiorno this fall. this means that i will be able to live in europe, even if i am not working. right now, i have a permesso di soggiorno, which must be renewed every two years and is conditional on employment and such, so the carta is more permanent. you have to have lived in italy for 5 years and take an italian language test.

happily, i passed my test! 95%! the required level of italian is pretty low, but it was a test of listening, reading and writing, and i'm proud that i have achieved some level of language skills.

so while i was in milan (and many of my friends were traveling), i tried to stay busy and went and saw my friend, jenna's, new baby, dalia. i went and had lunch with my italian teacher at her apartment. i took a day trip to a small little town south of milan. and i went to the manolo blahnik exhibit that was here in the city for several months with my co-worker and friend, odaliz. if you've ever watched sex and the city you must know of these famous designer shoes.


Untitled
newborn dalia

Untitled
inside palazzo morando

loved this one!


a pink version of Carrie Bradshaw's famous shoe



from there, we went to the new marchesi cafe that had opened recently inside the galleria. it is above the Prada store and i had seen it several times in social media. it just looked so fancy. 

it was very nice, but two snacks and two glasses of wine cost 50 euro, so i don't plan to return! there are equally delicious desserts available in milan for a much friendlier price! 







i do love all the rounded windows.

paying for name and location

but, there's always something to do in milan, whether it's checking out an exhibit or a discovering a new restaurant, and that's one of the things that makes milan such a great city to live in!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

a solution to our problems!

living in a foreign country has its quirks.

and discovering those quirks makes expat life so very interesting.

so let's discuss our current 'quirk' that many of my teacher friends are contemplating.

unless you have a doorman or you are at home 24/7, you can not have packages delivered to your apartment.

so, we've been sending packages to our school.

and, we've been told to stop.

boh.

i mean, i guess it was getting a bit out of hand. i've heard rumors of a toilet seat and even a hot tub.

yes, you read that right!

and they are taking the security of the school seriously these days (of course) and hundreds of packages a week is a lot to deal with.

but how will we live without being able to order anything we want on a whim?

well, it seems that amazon has a solution for at least some of these first world problems.

part of their delivery options now include a service called amazon locker.

all around milan businesses have been set up with these bright yellow lockers.



amazon ships your package to the locker and you receive a code via email to retrieve your package.



i tried it out this week.

and it was AWESOME!

when checking out, look for an option under your stored address(es) that allows you to choose another location. it should look something like this:


i selected the amazon locker, named tamara (they all have names), at the pam supermarket on viale sabotino.

but there are plenty of options all around the city.

some locations in central milan

you can enter your code or scan the barcode off your phone.



and the locker with your package pops open!



it was so cool! and so easy!

#highlyrecommend

you have to pick up your package within 3 days or it is sent back to amazon and you're account is credited back.

so, while not everything comes from amazon, a lot sure does!

have you tried amazon locker? let me know what you think!


Monday, February 6, 2017

renew your US passport...by MAIL!

did you know that you can renew your US passport by mail in Italy?

considering how the bureaucracy runs around here i was amazed to learn that this was possible.

thankfully a coworker had done this before and was able to help me along.

and now that i've successfully accomplished this feat i can offer tips for those needing to renew in the near future.

you'll want to check out the consulate website for all the details, but here's the overview.




if you meet the requirements above, collect these items:


  • form DS-82
  • your current passport
  • a new passport picture (make sure to meet the American requirements...photos from a photo booth aren't going to cut it)
  • a money order from American Express or the USPS, or a cashier's check from an Italian bank (I got mine in US dollars before leaving the States in January.)
  • form for the courier service to return your new passport (this is the one linked for Milan)
mail all these items to the Consulate nearest you. i sent them via Italian mail with the raccomandata, which means someone must sign for it. it cost just over 8 euro. 

i sent all this whole package off in the mail on january 10, crossed my fingers and said a little prayer. italian mail isn't known for its efficiency! 

two weeks later, on january 24th, i hadn't received the signature slip back yet from the post office and i must admit, i was starting to panic. 

had they received my passport? was it lost in the depths of the mail system?

i emailed the consulate. asked if there was any way to know if they had received my passport. this was their response.



and my heart sank.

and i started to imagine all the hassle i was going to have to go through to declare my passport lost and how many hours i would have to sit at the consulate. 

ugh.

and my old passport is full of all those amazing visas and travel stamps that i have collected in the last decade. 

double ugh.

i went to lunch and told everyone my nightmare. and they all decided they would send positive vibes to my passport!

and when i got back to the computer after lunch i had another email from the consulate!

bless their heart. positive vibes for the win.

deep sigh of relief.

so it took just fifteen days to get my new passport mailed to me. 

#happydance

your 'old' passport gets holes punched in it and then it's yours to keep

Have you ever renewed by mail? I wonder if this service is available at other locations overseas. If you have a passport success story, please share! 


Saturday, February 4, 2017

lately...

seems i'm getting pretty good about blogging quite a bit and then not. at. all.

whoops!

so, let's see...

back in december i made "gingerbread" houses for both my friends and family to decorate.

when my friends decorated the houses here in milan we watched "elf" and i had to be fairly creative when i bought stuff to decorate with. it seems that italy and the eu have more restrictions on the chemicals allowed in food so there are not as many candies with bright colors like in the us, so i bought pasta, dried beans and peas, and the decorating sugars and candies that i could find.

Lindsay throwin' shade

Kyle taking care of Lindsay's attitude problem!

in the us, chemicals in food, bright colors, no problem. we eat it all!

Danielle won the family voting!

Kevin and Melissa took over for Cece when they arrived!

Cece and Dad getting started

Neal was a great sport and was quite determined to decorate his house thoroughly!

i ended up winning the facebook vote of my friends' competition! i swear i didn't rig it!

let's see...what else?

this adorable gingerbread latte was made at my local coffee shop. come and visit and i'll take you!

i loved this airline treat so much while traveling that i may need to order some.

danielle and i worked to color this gigantic poster from caravan shoppe over the christmas holidays.

my family and i planned our alaskan cruise for this summer. thankfully everyone survived.

We're spending 7 nights in Alaska on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. 

i bought these faux suede leggings and have fallen in love. i may never wear anything else again.

i've been cooking a bit. in january i made this (amazing!), this and these. so my spiralizer has been getting quite the workout. if you don't have one, i highly recommend it! makes eating those veggies much more interesting!

i also picked up this, this, and this while in the states. trying to make a little more effort in the makeup department from time to time and these three picks have all become favorites so far!

i have lots of travel planned in the coming months...so hopefully there will be more posts coming soon!



Saturday, December 31, 2016

the *expat* reaction to trump.

happy new year's readers!

here's a post that's been sitting in draft form for a bit. if any of my italian readers find mistakes in my translations of the headlines, please let me know!

-------

i was happy to be alone.

i put my earbuds in and kept to myself.

i wanted to blend into the background.

if someone heard me speaking english, they might identify me as an american.

and i was embarrassed.

you see, it was the morning after the US election, and while it hadn't been determined officially, we woke up to see several important states swinging red.

trouble was on the horizon.

i felt sick the entire day.

there were some tears being fought back at lunch table among my coworkers.

i should probably tell you that the typical expat, one who packs up their whole life and moves to the opposite side of the world has a pretty open mind. they believe in diversity and acceptance and freedom and choice.

because it is these things that make our lives in a different country possible.

i was asked that day by an italian..."how did this happen?"

and now the most common question is "what do you think about trump?"

ugh.

here are some of the headlines from the italian papers after trump was declared president-elect.

"President for all"


"The fist of Trump"


"America turns a page: But what is behind the surprise triumph of the anarchic Trump?"



The delusion of New York
Hillary: The country is divided.

many of my coworkers lived in europe under the bush presidency and said the view of americans was different and that difference was clearly felt.

so we shall see what the future brings.

i hope for the best.

but i am worried.

how will trump's decision making affect the world? and how will that transfer to my daily life as an american abroad?

only time will tell.

---------

are you an expat? i'd love to hear about your experiences during and after the election!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

the best spa ever!!! and other parts of romania...

in an effort to get to country #40 before my 40th birthday i had to get to romania before the school year let out.

i had tried to go in february, but had to stay behind to take my italian language exam. (btw, i passed!)

so on another random weekend in may, i jumped on a cheap ryan air flight to bucharest.

i had received some recommendations from a friend who taught in bucharest for several years, and one of her suggestions was a huge spa that had been built outside the city.

after the requisite stop at starbucks for coffee, we found a taxi and made our way out to the spa.


this spa, therme' bucharest, is quite frankly, amazing.

there are three parts to the spa and their prices are tiered. basically, the galaxy area is a water park full of fun water slides and wave pools. then there is the palm, which includes the area featured above. it includes this large pool with a large drink bar, a couple mineral pools, and a few other areas. the third area, elysium, includes multiple saunas. the cost for elysium includes the palm and the galaxy areas as well.

you can pay for the top tier entrance for three hours for 75 lei, which is 16 euro or 19 USD. if you stay longer than three hours, you pay for the additional time on your way out. towel rental is 16 lei, 3.5 euro or 4 USD.

we just loved this spa and ended up spending nearly the entire day there.





we made arrangements with our taxi driver from the spa to take a day trip the following day to peles castle outside of bucharest. we worried that this decision was not our smartest, but decided that all good travel stories come from some risky moves.

after storing our luggage at the town's very convenient luggage lockers. these are unmonitored, easy to use and handy for those with late flights. (however, it seemed that a local without proper toilet access might have also used this small storage space as his toilet, so beware.)

peles castle is located in the carpathian mountains about 80 miles outside of bucharest. i had seen some pictures and it was just so picturesque that i had really wanted to see it for myself.





our driver and his wife took us to a local restaurant and helped us order traditional romanian food.




during this trip we spent very little time in the city of bucharest, but we did wander about a little with some of our few extra moments.

view from our airbnb

what a deal!




cute window art
travel tips:
- take flip flops for the spa. without them, you'll have to buy a pair before going in.
- taxis were difficult. we used the taxify app to finally find a taxi. there were others around, but they were all unmarked and that made us nervous.
- we stayed in this airbnb. pretty good. i'd stay there again.
- prices in romania, like most of eastern europe, are pretty low! makes it a very affordable travel stop!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

muuuuuuuunich!

in march i headed back to munich for another visit. i had made arrangements to visit an international school in the area for a couple of days and then spent the weekend in the city. munich has always been one of my favorite european cities since having visited there first back in 2011.

while in munich i was able to take a tour to nearby neuschwanstein castle. this castle had been on my radar for awhile, but i had never taken the time to get there.

construction of this castle began in 1869 by ludwig II. the castle is quite dreamy and photogenic from afar. it even served as the inspiration for the castle in disney's sleeping beauty.





after hiking up to the castle, i had a little extra time for some apple strudel and a stroll around the lake.



before leaving munich i had dinner with a friend and the meal was so good i'm still thinking about it! if you're ever in munich be sure to head to an nam and have the summer rolls. you'll receive a full on arrangement of goodies to customize each and every roll for yourself!

this was so delicious. 
travel tips...

pretty sure that i used radius tours for the trip to neuschwanstein. while this tour was fairly annoying...it turned out to be a good choice. usual transport for this tour is via train, but there was work happening that day and the company was able to substitute a bus. once you arrive at neuschwanstein you don't have to stay with the tour, just show up for the scheduled time for the castle entrance- this was a plus.

i stayed at hotel eder this trip. i liked this hotel, but the area directly around it was a little sketchy at night as it is fairly centrally located.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

manolos in milan.

back in february we had a long weekend and i ended up staying in milan because i needed to take an italian language test so that i would be eligible for the carta di soggiorno this fall. this means that i will be able to live in europe, even if i am not working. right now, i have a permesso di soggiorno, which must be renewed every two years and is conditional on employment and such, so the carta is more permanent. you have to have lived in italy for 5 years and take an italian language test.

happily, i passed my test! 95%! the required level of italian is pretty low, but it was a test of listening, reading and writing, and i'm proud that i have achieved some level of language skills.

so while i was in milan (and many of my friends were traveling), i tried to stay busy and went and saw my friend, jenna's, new baby, dalia. i went and had lunch with my italian teacher at her apartment. i took a day trip to a small little town south of milan. and i went to the manolo blahnik exhibit that was here in the city for several months with my co-worker and friend, odaliz. if you've ever watched sex and the city you must know of these famous designer shoes.


Untitled
newborn dalia

Untitled
inside palazzo morando

loved this one!


a pink version of Carrie Bradshaw's famous shoe



from there, we went to the new marchesi cafe that had opened recently inside the galleria. it is above the Prada store and i had seen it several times in social media. it just looked so fancy. 

it was very nice, but two snacks and two glasses of wine cost 50 euro, so i don't plan to return! there are equally delicious desserts available in milan for a much friendlier price! 







i do love all the rounded windows.

paying for name and location

but, there's always something to do in milan, whether it's checking out an exhibit or a discovering a new restaurant, and that's one of the things that makes milan such a great city to live in!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

a solution to our problems!

living in a foreign country has its quirks.

and discovering those quirks makes expat life so very interesting.

so let's discuss our current 'quirk' that many of my teacher friends are contemplating.

unless you have a doorman or you are at home 24/7, you can not have packages delivered to your apartment.

so, we've been sending packages to our school.

and, we've been told to stop.

boh.

i mean, i guess it was getting a bit out of hand. i've heard rumors of a toilet seat and even a hot tub.

yes, you read that right!

and they are taking the security of the school seriously these days (of course) and hundreds of packages a week is a lot to deal with.

but how will we live without being able to order anything we want on a whim?

well, it seems that amazon has a solution for at least some of these first world problems.

part of their delivery options now include a service called amazon locker.

all around milan businesses have been set up with these bright yellow lockers.



amazon ships your package to the locker and you receive a code via email to retrieve your package.



i tried it out this week.

and it was AWESOME!

when checking out, look for an option under your stored address(es) that allows you to choose another location. it should look something like this:


i selected the amazon locker, named tamara (they all have names), at the pam supermarket on viale sabotino.

but there are plenty of options all around the city.

some locations in central milan

you can enter your code or scan the barcode off your phone.



and the locker with your package pops open!



it was so cool! and so easy!

#highlyrecommend

you have to pick up your package within 3 days or it is sent back to amazon and you're account is credited back.

so, while not everything comes from amazon, a lot sure does!

have you tried amazon locker? let me know what you think!


Monday, February 6, 2017

renew your US passport...by MAIL!

did you know that you can renew your US passport by mail in Italy?

considering how the bureaucracy runs around here i was amazed to learn that this was possible.

thankfully a coworker had done this before and was able to help me along.

and now that i've successfully accomplished this feat i can offer tips for those needing to renew in the near future.

you'll want to check out the consulate website for all the details, but here's the overview.




if you meet the requirements above, collect these items:


  • form DS-82
  • your current passport
  • a new passport picture (make sure to meet the American requirements...photos from a photo booth aren't going to cut it)
  • a money order from American Express or the USPS, or a cashier's check from an Italian bank (I got mine in US dollars before leaving the States in January.)
  • form for the courier service to return your new passport (this is the one linked for Milan)
mail all these items to the Consulate nearest you. i sent them via Italian mail with the raccomandata, which means someone must sign for it. it cost just over 8 euro. 

i sent all this whole package off in the mail on january 10, crossed my fingers and said a little prayer. italian mail isn't known for its efficiency! 

two weeks later, on january 24th, i hadn't received the signature slip back yet from the post office and i must admit, i was starting to panic. 

had they received my passport? was it lost in the depths of the mail system?

i emailed the consulate. asked if there was any way to know if they had received my passport. this was their response.



and my heart sank.

and i started to imagine all the hassle i was going to have to go through to declare my passport lost and how many hours i would have to sit at the consulate. 

ugh.

and my old passport is full of all those amazing visas and travel stamps that i have collected in the last decade. 

double ugh.

i went to lunch and told everyone my nightmare. and they all decided they would send positive vibes to my passport!

and when i got back to the computer after lunch i had another email from the consulate!

bless their heart. positive vibes for the win.

deep sigh of relief.

so it took just fifteen days to get my new passport mailed to me. 

#happydance

your 'old' passport gets holes punched in it and then it's yours to keep

Have you ever renewed by mail? I wonder if this service is available at other locations overseas. If you have a passport success story, please share! 


Saturday, February 4, 2017

lately...

seems i'm getting pretty good about blogging quite a bit and then not. at. all.

whoops!

so, let's see...

back in december i made "gingerbread" houses for both my friends and family to decorate.

when my friends decorated the houses here in milan we watched "elf" and i had to be fairly creative when i bought stuff to decorate with. it seems that italy and the eu have more restrictions on the chemicals allowed in food so there are not as many candies with bright colors like in the us, so i bought pasta, dried beans and peas, and the decorating sugars and candies that i could find.

Lindsay throwin' shade

Kyle taking care of Lindsay's attitude problem!

in the us, chemicals in food, bright colors, no problem. we eat it all!

Danielle won the family voting!

Kevin and Melissa took over for Cece when they arrived!

Cece and Dad getting started

Neal was a great sport and was quite determined to decorate his house thoroughly!

i ended up winning the facebook vote of my friends' competition! i swear i didn't rig it!

let's see...what else?

this adorable gingerbread latte was made at my local coffee shop. come and visit and i'll take you!

i loved this airline treat so much while traveling that i may need to order some.

danielle and i worked to color this gigantic poster from caravan shoppe over the christmas holidays.

my family and i planned our alaskan cruise for this summer. thankfully everyone survived.

We're spending 7 nights in Alaska on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. 

i bought these faux suede leggings and have fallen in love. i may never wear anything else again.

i've been cooking a bit. in january i made this (amazing!), this and these. so my spiralizer has been getting quite the workout. if you don't have one, i highly recommend it! makes eating those veggies much more interesting!

i also picked up this, this, and this while in the states. trying to make a little more effort in the makeup department from time to time and these three picks have all become favorites so far!

i have lots of travel planned in the coming months...so hopefully there will be more posts coming soon!



Saturday, December 31, 2016

the *expat* reaction to trump.

happy new year's readers!

here's a post that's been sitting in draft form for a bit. if any of my italian readers find mistakes in my translations of the headlines, please let me know!

-------

i was happy to be alone.

i put my earbuds in and kept to myself.

i wanted to blend into the background.

if someone heard me speaking english, they might identify me as an american.

and i was embarrassed.

you see, it was the morning after the US election, and while it hadn't been determined officially, we woke up to see several important states swinging red.

trouble was on the horizon.

i felt sick the entire day.

there were some tears being fought back at lunch table among my coworkers.

i should probably tell you that the typical expat, one who packs up their whole life and moves to the opposite side of the world has a pretty open mind. they believe in diversity and acceptance and freedom and choice.

because it is these things that make our lives in a different country possible.

i was asked that day by an italian..."how did this happen?"

and now the most common question is "what do you think about trump?"

ugh.

here are some of the headlines from the italian papers after trump was declared president-elect.

"President for all"


"The fist of Trump"


"America turns a page: But what is behind the surprise triumph of the anarchic Trump?"



The delusion of New York
Hillary: The country is divided.

many of my coworkers lived in europe under the bush presidency and said the view of americans was different and that difference was clearly felt.

so we shall see what the future brings.

i hope for the best.

but i am worried.

how will trump's decision making affect the world? and how will that transfer to my daily life as an american abroad?

only time will tell.

---------

are you an expat? i'd love to hear about your experiences during and after the election!