06 October 2010

Uh-oh, what did I agree to?

Well, it all started a couple months ago.  We were sitting at home having a nice lunch when CJ said he would like for us to do something together.  Okay, I know what you're thinking.  We do stuff together all the time.  And it's true.  We do.  But what he meant was more along the lines of wanting to set a goal that we could reach together.  And that's how the idea of running another half marathon was born.

This will be my second half marathon, but my first with CJ.  This should be interesting because I am not a runner by nature.  Quite frankly, I don't even like running.  On the other hand, CJ could probably run it right now without any training.  I do, however, respect that it is a challenge.  And I like that I can get myself to do something that I might not enjoy or at which I do not naturally excel.  I was up for this challenge, however, I had one stipulation.  I did NOT want to run this half marathon in Switzerland.

In case you are unfamiliar with the terrain here in Switzerland I will fill you in.  We have a little something known as the Alps.  And even when you aren't exactly running up a mountain, you are definitely going to encounter hills much greater than anything I saw during my last marathon in Cleveland, Ohio.  So we set out looking for a place to run.

Another consideration was the weather.  Since moving, we have not joined a gym.  We decided not to join a gym for several reason.  Even though I wish we belonged, gym memberships, like everything in Zurich, are expensive.  When I go to the gym, the benefit for me is getting to watch the televisions while doing my cardio.  Since I would not understand the German on the television here, and also since I'm not much for lifting weights, I decided not to join.  CJ chose not to join a gym because of their hours of operation.  The gym near our home would not be open early in the morning before he would have to go to work.  And at night, he didn't want to come home after a long day at work only to leave again.  Sooooo, we do not belong to a gym.  This means that all my training (I say "my" because CJ doesn't really need to train) has to be done outside.  This is much different than last time I trained.  Last time I ran the vast majority of my runs on the treadmill.  Call me crazy, but I would much prefer running on the treadmill to running outside.  For some reason, running outside can give me anxiety.  I am very jumpy, and don't particularly like running in new areas.  Plus I like keeping a steady pace.  Although CJ would tell you this still won't be a problem for me, since I have one speed.  :)

So, since I would need to train totally outside, we decided it was best to run a marathon in the fall.  This way it would be over (hopefully) before snowfall.  We started looking into it... and found there were a lot of marathons out there when you can go pretty much anywhere in Europe.  So we looked for someplace that would be a little warmer, someplace where we have never been before, and we chose.... SPAIN!

We found a half marathon on the island of Mallorca, off the southeast coast of Spain.

*Beautiful Mallorca*

Click here to read a little more about Mallorca!!

We will be running it on October 17th.  CJ came up with the great idea that this trip will be my birthday present... if I can survive the run that is.  We will get to go to Mallorca and run then tour the beautiful city and the beautiful beaches.  Hopefully spend a little time here...

Then we are going to head to Barcelona and spend a few more days there!  I am really excited, and this wonderful trip is giving me incentive to keep up with my runs!  So far so good.  And CJ and I are running all our long weekend runs together.  Although, he definitely has to slow down his pace for me.  But, that must be love... <3

I will keep you posted, and look for some great upcoming pictures from our first trip to Spain!!

First Trip Back to The States!

Greetings from Zurich!

We have been extremely busy since I last blogged.  In the last post, I tried to relive our wonderful trip with our friends all over Europe.  But, once we got back home it was back to reality... at least for a little while.  Before I knew it I was preparing for a much anticipated three week trip home to visit our loved ones.  For a while there it seemed like all I was doing was making lists...

1.  Things to do before we leave
2.  Things to take home
3.  Things to buy once we are home
4.  And of course, things to bring back that we forgot the first time around

We flew home on a Friday, and let me tell you, that was a test of my patience.  We ended up sitting on the plane for three hours in Zurich before we could take off.  Why?  No biggie... just missing a part.  Nothing makes waiting on a plane for three hours worse than being able to look straight up the isle to see the flight attendants bringing around an entire cart of wine for those in first class.  Boy, first class was really living it up.  Back in coach, CJ discovered his seat did not recline.  Well, that was unfortunate because our flight was completely filled and CJ had a lot of work that he brought for the flight.  Lack of reclining room was really putting the kobash on his being able to reach his computer keys.  So, being the wonderful wife that I am, I traded seats.  Normally, under the best of circumstances, I am unable to sleep on a plane.  Well, sleep was impossible in a totally erect seat.

Due to our delay at take off, we obviously missed our connection in Philly.  When we finally arrived they had new tickets for us on a later flight.  After racing across the airport to our new terminal, we find that our new flight was delayed over an hour.  Why?  Oh, just no pilot.  But, by this time I was getting EXTREMELY cranky.  And that is a gross understatement.  I don't know how CJ was putting up with me.  Plus, his calm was only agitating me more.  I mean really, how could he still be calm?  But, like the good husband he is, he knew exactly what to do.  He took me to the nearest airport bar, bought me some food and my first American beer!

And so from there, our trip home only improved!  Early the morning after we arrived I got to do something I had been looking forward to for a very long time.  I finally got to get my hair cut and colored!  Since it is outrageous to go to the salon here in Zurich, and I was slightly worried about the language barrier, I hadn't had my hair done at all since moving to Switzerland nine months earlier?!?!  Crazy, I know.  And after beautifying myself again, I was ready to start the visits.

In between all of our doctors appointments and work related meetings we had SO much fun catching up with everyone.  We got to attend two of my cousins graduation parties.  And I might not have believed they were old enough to graduate and go off to college if I wasn't there to see it myself. I can remember holding them both as little babies.  But, I digress...

We made a trip to the Geneva wineries, to enjoy the beautiful weather.  And we got to enjoy eating out with family and friends at some of the places we had been craving.  Well, it was mostly me with the cravings... and so I managed to eat at Chipotle THREE times!!  Awesome.  We also were finally able to drink some of the drinks we cannot get over here.  CJ was really looking forward to drinking the Great Lakes Christmas Ales his family had been stockpiling for him, and I was able to again drink the delicious nectar that is Bud Light Lime!  Oh so much better than I even remembered...

We celebrated the 4th of July!  And we celebrated Christmas in July, since we did not make it home for the real thing.  And another summer tradition that we were able to do was attend a Dave Matthews concert in Pittsburgh.  We had so much fun with our family and friends.  Not only was it wonderful to get to see everyone and get to do some of the things we were missing, but it also felt wonderful to be surrounded by the familiar.  I think most of the time we both feel really lucky and blessed that we get to live over here in Zurich and we get to experience all these wonderful new things together.  But, it can also be really challenging.  When you leave everything and everyone you know, there are definite obstacles.  And even though we are fortunate to have each other, sometimes it is really nice to have that little slice of home for a little while.

For three wonderful weeks, CJ got to relax without work (mostly) and I got to be surrounded by my bestest girlfriends again.  CJ managed to play as much golf as his heart desired (it is FAR too expensive to play golf in Switzerland AND you have to have a registered handicap to even get on a course).  He even squeezed in a trip to North Carolina to visit his brother.  And while he was away, I tried to get in my share of girl time... as if there could ever be enough.

And our fabulous trip was capped off with the wedding of our friends Trevor and Sarah.  It was a great way to end a great trip, surrounded at a huge party with lots and lots of our best friends!!  Even though we were sad to have to go, it was great to have a full three weeks.  And I think we were both a little glad to be back in beautiful Zurich and have some alone time again.  As much as we pretend not to, we really do like spending time alone together.  :)

And before we knew it, we were back to trip planning.  CJ's family will be here to visit us in less than two weeks, and so I am back to making lists.  While they are here we (read: I) are planning trips to Paris and Munich for Oktoberfest.  Due to my OCD tendencies, everything is pretty much mapped, planned, and plotted in color coordinated order, of course.  We are both really looking forward to hosting family and to get to show more people around our turf!  Until next time...


15 June 2010

Better Late than Never...?

Okay, you caught me.  This blog post is so overdue, if it were a library book I would have bought it by now... BAZINGA.  But really, it's time to tell the tale of our awesome spring Euro-trip.  For those of you who didn't know, we were visited by a couple of our very best friends, and together we went off to see what kind of trouble we could get into fun we could have jaunting around Europe.  First stop London!

*London* (click headers to see more pictures)

Luckily for us, we had top notch accommodations in London with another one of our great friends who recently moved there.  And it never hurts to have a local who knows where all the good food is.  We certainly ate our way through London... which was a welcome change after all my complaining about Swiss food.  We visited a great market, had all you can eat sushi (where CJ definitely ate all he could), and half-priced steak.  One great thing about traveling outside Switzerland is that most things seem much less expensive by comparison.

Other than our constant eating, we managed to see pretty much every major site London has to offer.  I could list them all for you, but it might make your head spin!  As anyone who knows me will tell you, if it is historical and humanly possible to see, I am going to try and get there.  I was actually very impressed that we were able to see so much... without too much complaining.  :)  Also, I was sick for part of our trip which made things less pleasant for me.  However, I think I was a trooper - if I do say so myself.  Even though seeing so much meant a lot of early mornings, I think in the end everyone was happy not to miss anything.  I know I always feel really lucky when we have the opportunity to take such a wonderful trip, and want to make the most of it.  And I think this whole trip was especially great because we got to share it with friends!

 Here we are in Trafalgar Square

 CJ and I at Tower Bridge <3

Our London weather was less impressive than the sites.  Even though our pictures don't seem to reflect this at all, it rained quite a bit.  I blame much of my weather disappointment on the weather people, who predicted the temperatures would be roughly 10-15 degrees warmer than it actually was.  I don't think I would have minded the weather quite as much if I had been prepared for it, and knew to pack more sweaters than tank tops.  But oh well...

Other thoughts about London:
  • I don't know how people ever plan their day using the tube.  It seemed like there was always a closing that you never know about until you show up at the tube stop.  But, I must say, the tube by FAR surpasses the public transportation in Rome - which is barely a step above the RTA in Cleveland.  We are just spoiled by our trains here in Zurich.
  • It was phenomenal to hear English being spoken everywhere!  I think it was a welcome change for both CJ and I.  And I have to say, it was very comforting to be able to understand people around you, be able to read a menu or a street sign, or see stores that you recognize from home.  (I'm talking to you Gap... time to open in Zurich!)
During our trip, we even got outside the city a bit to visit Stonehenge.  This was exciting for me, since it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World!  It was beautiful the entire ride there, and as soon as we got out of the bus we were hailed on!  But, we persevered, and got some great pictures of the giant monument brought to us by the aliens.  I kid.

 The boys at Stonehenge - note the poncho!

Even though we got to see and do so much on the London leg of our journey, it is definitely a place I would go back to!  But, we had more places to see.  Next stop, Ireland!


So we essentially traveled the entire Republic in only a few days.  This required renting a car.  First of all, the Irish equivalent of a "van" is certainly not a real van.  There were six of us crammed into a car that had a foldout seat in the third row (next to the luggage).  This trip definitely required some luggage finagling.  We were staying with Will's sister in Dublin, and while we were there we had to just repack the essentials into duffel and book bags so that we could all fit in the car.

The other thing about Ireland is that you cannot be prepared for the driving until you actually experience it!  Thank goodness for GPS.  We were on roads that looked a lot more like paths.  The funny (as in funny after you arrived safe at the pub) thing was that these narrow paths were actually two lane roads that were labeled 100 km/hr.  This seemed insane to us... and was probably the first time I ever saw my friends as cautious drivers!  But, shockingly, no dents, scratches, or accidents.  Whew!  Thankfully our weather was a little better, because I couldn't imagine doing that drive in the rain.

Navigating the road... and the sheep!

Our trip through Ireland took us to:

1.  Dublin - Since we didn't have a ton of time to spend in Ireland, our first stop was of course the Guinness Storehouse.  This place was a must for Guinness lovers, but not the most impressive brewery tour I have ever seen.  But I must admit, even though Guinness isn't usually my drink of choice, it was the best one I have ever had.  And this was probably due to the fact that they serve them extra cold.  Also, the Gravity Bar had an awesome view of the city.  All in all I would have to say though that a trip to Ireland doesn't really give you the sense of how incredible the place is unless you get outside of Dublin and into the countryside!!

  Guinness makes you STRONG! 

2.  Blarney - Going to Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone is extremely touristy.  But, since we were tourists that never bothers me.  Personally, I thought it was extremely worthwhile.  The grounds were really pretty!  And yes, even though I was literally petrified, even I kissed the Blarney Stone.  Although thankfully I had Big Will to hold my legs!!  I was not leaving my fate to the 80 year old man holding me as I dangled over the side of the castle...

 3.  The Ring of Kerry - Really beautiful! Also really busy which tends to slow traffic to a crawl.  We weren't able to travel the entire ring (which supposedly can take all day), because we were headed to Dingle for the night.

4.  Dingle - Dingle, to me, was what I pictured in my head when I imagined what Ireland would be like.  It was so cute and quaint, and the bars were a LOT of fun!  One of the things I miss most living in Switzerland is lack of live music out at the bars, and so I was in my glory!  I think Jess and I made the guitar guys night with our constant dancing and singing along... at least that's what I'm telling myself.

 5.  The Cliffs of Moher - Okay, another MUST SEE!  And I didn't know this until Will's sister Anne pointed this out, but they were filmed for the cave scenes in Harry Potter 6!!

 6.  Galway - Galway was also so much fun!  It was more like a college town with lots of other young people and even more bars.  We even met one of the bouncers who spent time in Cleveland and was a Browns fan!  

7.  Back to Dublin - On the way back to Dublin we stopped at Trim Castle (from Braveheart) and Powerscourt (which were suggestions from my friend Erin).  Both were extremely beautiful and well worth stopping.

It is difficult to say with certainty, because it was such a great trip overall, but Ireland might have been my favorite!!  It is true when they say that the people there are the friendliest you will ever meet.  And even the unexpected things (like when we thought we were lost in the hills with the sheep) were really great!!!

 Might be my favorite picture!!

Overall spectacular, and I am so happy that whenever I want to relive it, I can just ask Will to put on his new Irish outfit:


Really, what can I say about Amsterdam?  Um.  Wow.  Well, do not point at the prostitutes.  Or, as our tour book referred to them... the entrepreneurs.  ;)

When we arrived we were in for a shock.  In all my travels, I had honestly NEVER seen such a dirty place!  I mean, no joke.  I was almost glad the weather was cold, because if it was hot we wouldn't have been able to leave the hotel due to the smell.  I cannot emphasize this enough... it was DIRTY.  Piles of garbage everywhere.  I was about to write Amsterdam off as just a place where they play hard, and so dirt just piles up.  Then on the second to last day we found out they were having a garbage strike, and the trash hadn't been picked up in well over a week.

In the city I was constantly shocked when we saw people who were maybe our parents age or even older.  I am glad to have gone, but don't think I'll need to go back.  And I certainly couldn't imagine going back when I'm Babci's age!!

 Posing with the Red Lights!

There were a few places not to be missed though!  Definitely a walk through the red light district is a must!  And I must admit, the evening *ahem* entrepreneurs were much better looking then I would have guessed!  We also got to tour the Heineken Brewery.  That place was well worth the time and money!  The tour is FAR superior to the Guinness one, and I must admit, halfway through I was really craving a Heineken!

      Extra Cold!!

Anne Frank's House is probably the most well known attraction in Amsterdam, and another must see.  It was extremely heart wrenching, but very worthwhile.  It is hard to imagine the setup from reading the book alone, so being there was eye opening.

Outside the city we went to Keukenhof.  It is an enormous flower garden, and only open about one month the entire year.  It was beautiful, and especially nice to escape the dirty city.  We didn't actually get to ride bikes in Amsterdam, but they are everywhere!!  And that is about all I am able to reveal from our trip to Amsterdam... I have been sworn to secrecy.

The last stop on the tour was back to Zurich.  The Wills were with us here at home for quite a few more days, and they got to experience true Swiss living!  Our bad weather luck did not change once we got home, so although we went up a mountain, it was quite foggy, and they didn't get a great view. Although they did get to experience the terror thrill of sledding down a mountain.

I think they also appreciated one of my favorite things about Zurich... being able to drink on the trains and while walking around the city.  Nothing passes a two hour train ride faster than sharing a couple bottles of wine.  And we do have some great wines here!  Although I think they had some sympathy for us after helping carry all the groceries home.

CJ being the considerate host he is, made our guests some delicious horse steaks!  Yum.  And Little Will and I tried tartar.  He was the only one brave enough to try with me!  In general it was great to have friends here, and to get to see familiar faces!!!  And we will only have to miss you all for a couple weeks more, as our long trip home is right around the corner.  Until then, I guess I will have to suffer through sampling lots of yummy chocolates so we don't bring home any duds.

See you all soon!!!

15 March 2010

Sledding down the side of a mountain... Who could have predicted I wouldn't be good at this?!?!

Hello again everyone! Maybe I am finally warming up to this whole blogging 'thing,' because you are all being treated to another post from yours truly. I know, you're just so very excited. So I won't keep you in suspense. The latest adventure involved SLEDGING. Yes, I proofread. The Swiss do not sled like the rest of us... they sledge.

This is something CJ had really been wanting to do for a while. Me? Not so much. When I read about sledging, the words that stood out in my mind were "huge mountain," "icy slopes," and of course, "helmet." Not really words that inspire confidence. Also, if you know me, you know I am definitely not experienced on the slopes, that I am afraid of heights, and that I generally do not like winter or it's activities. However, not to disparage an activity without ever having tried it, I decided I could make excuses no longer. It didn't help that we had friends that also wanted to go. Three against one.

I grew up sledding down this hill (notice the use of the term "hill"):

*Mill Creek Park*

Saturday we went sledding down this mountain:

*View from the top of Mt. Rigi*

And yes, you sled from the top!

A few very scientific facts to help you get a better picture of the activity...

  1. Rigi is super high (5,895 feet to be exact).
  2. The only thing separating us sledders from certain death (i.e. sledding off the side of the mountain) is some plastic, orange fencing (as seen in certain pictures).
  3. My ability to stop or steer could be equated with that of Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation (aka I couldn't stop OR steer).
There were three sled runs from the top of Rigi Kulm. You take a train to the top, and sled down. Below are some shots from the top before we started sledding:

Taking off down the slope:

The first two runs went smoothly enough...

*Here I am almost running into a snow bank*

*Here is CJ not fairing so well at the same bend*

It was NOT easy to stay on these sleds, and as CJ found out, sometimes it felt like they had a mind of their own!

Here you can see CJ at the top... but, in the next one you can (maybe) see his sled WAYYYYY at the bottom. Off the trail, of course...


After a few (death defying) runs, I decided that I was done sledding... But, I was convinced to give it one last try... on the back of CJ's sled. Since he was MUCH better at controlling his sled, I figured I would be safe going down the mountain with him. I was wrong.

Here we are right beforehand:

And now riding off into the figurative sunset:


However, that scene did not last long at all. But, this one happened again and again:

This was surely my last sled run for the day, as it ended with me getting a sprained ankle! Thankfully, I had CJ to carry me home from the train station (over his shoulder no less... I think people thought I was being abducted)! What a prince. :)

When it is my turn to choose the day trip I am thinking Baden thermal baths sound a little better than sledding... hopefully I can't get hurt doing that!!

10 March 2010

Lugano... and I'm ready to move there!

Lugano, Switzerland. It is a picturesque town in the Ticino region, very close to Italy and Lake Como. Sadly, George Clooney was nowhere in sight. I will need to perfect my stalking skills before planning a return visit. But now I am getting off topic...

Lugano was definitely my favorite day trip we have taken. And definitely my favorite city in Switzerland that I have seen so far!! Honestly, pictures like this, don't even do it justice:

It merged the beauty of Italy, with its Mediterranean feel, with the cleanliness and efficiency of Switzerland. Truly a winning combination. Not to mention the weather. Saturday we left Zurich just in time. It started snowing here early... and as we rode the train we received updates about the bad weather and the public transportation delays. It was absolutely the right day to escape south. By the time the train arrived in Lugano, the sun was shining and we were greeted with temperatures in the mid-40s. On a side note, it is sad that I can consider this warm..

Did I mention the palm trees?

Love, love, love.

Once we arrived, we headed almost immediately down toward the lake. There are staples to be found in most Swiss cities, and you can pretty much count on any town having a crystal clear lake and mountains nearby. Here is a picture of us near the lake (hmmmm, are those mountains in the background? Why yes, they are.):

We went on this trip with a couple friends, Mike and Karolyn (you have probably noticed them in some of our other pictures), and after walking for a little while, the consensus was to grab lunch. CJ found a restaurant that guaranteed us to be the only non-locals. We couldn't pass that up! We ordered some great Italian food and some really great Italian wine... and yes, we were the only Americans, and no, our waiter did not speak English. Good thing Merlot is a universal word. :)

Here we all our cheers-ing to Lugano!

So, I'm sure you are wondering, why are the boys drinking out of bowls? Yeah, we were too. Well, my only explanation for you is that that is how the waiter poured the wine. Also, I have never seen this before... anywhere... in all of Europe. When he came to the other side of the table, I directed him to pour into my actual wine glass.

And even though I think we all would have been content to sit there eating and drinking much longer, it was time to climb a mountain. Mt. Bre to be exact. We went to the very top of the mountain in the middle of the picture below:

If you are a frequent reader of the blog, you know of my fondness for climbing mountains. And I was not in luck, because the cogwheel was closed for repairs. We were able to take a bus close to the top, and then hoofed it. Here is a picture I took of CJ on the stairs... mostly using it as an excuse to rest for a second:

(So add about 1,000 more stairs to this, and you're at the top...)

Even I must admit though, it was an extremely pretty view! And I had no complaints about the walk down.

After returning to sea level, we decided we needed to make the most of such a stunning day. And that can mean only one thing...

Here we are in a cheesy pose with our wine and cigars!

And again! We sat there a while... because none of us wanted such a fun and relaxing day to end.

To check out all the pictures, just click HERE!

Finally it was dark, and time to head home. We kept pushing back our departure, but our train passes were only good until midnight, so we needed to get home (it takes almost 3 hrs.). The great thing about Switzerland is that we were able to relax the entire way back to Zurich thanks to the great train system! Anyways, another awesome day on the books. Until next time...