Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Venezia



I have to admit, I was on the fence about a trip to Venice. I know that sounds incredibly spoiled, but it was rooted in a few other people’s opinions of the city. I had heard the food stunk (how can that be possible in Italy?!?), the canals stunk, the buildings were rundown and the city was overrun with tourists.

Okay, so point by point- I had one disappointing plate of pasta, but that was at like 1am. Can you get that great of a meal anywhere at 1am? Maybe twice did I even get a whiff of the canals that was unpleasant and really it just smelled like the bay. Some of the buildings are rundown, but in the most beautiful way. I really thought it just added to the aura of this mysterious and unique city. There were tons of tourists- tons…but what do you expect in such a treasure of a city? I didn’t feel the crowds took away from our experience.

I will say my only complaint is how rude shop owners are there. This was pretty much across the board and I found it disheartening since I’ve always found Italians to be so kind and welcoming. I don’t know, maybe Venetians are rude by nature, but I find it highly unlikely that this isn’t the result of having to deal with tourists nonstop. I can’t imagine the amount of Moreno glass they’ve had to sweep up.

So aside from snippy shop owners…I HEART VENICE!

I really had to tell myself over and over that it was real and I wasn’t riding around some theme park. It is such an incredibly romantic city. We really loved it and had such a great time although we actually did very little. It was just one of those places where you are content to just be.

We caught up with our fellow Georgia girl and celebrated her birthday with lots of yummy Italian vino. We took a few trips up and down the Grand Canal, shopped, toured St. Mark’s Cathedral, went to the top of the Campanile to see Venice from a bird's eye view and were even lucky enough to catch Nora Jones perform live in St. Mark’s square. We didn’t actually attend the concert, but like many others just popped a squat in the square outside the security fence, bought a couple of beers and listened under the moonlight. It was amazing.











We also, of course, did the quintessential gondola ride…





No matter what you hear- Venice is a stunning city and truly one of a kind. Should you ever get the opportunity to visit- you should. Period.

We’re finally in “real time” now that I’m officially caught up on weekend travel updates. This weekend we’re off to visit friends in London. Can’t wait to catch up with them!!

It’s also going to be awesome to finally see more of London than a very expensive airport hotel room.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vienna


Our second weekend with Pablo we made our way to Vienna or “Wien”, as it's called in German, which by the way can be very confusing to non-German speaking tourists looking for their flight information on the departure board at the airport.

When I think of Vienna I think of composers, operas, art and opulence. I was not disappointed. The city is chock full of ornate architecture and palaces, museums upon museums and you can’t swing a stick without hitting a guy dressed up like Mozart trying to sell you tickets to a concert.

We hit a couple of palaces, both the Hofburg and the Schonbrunn. I have to say the history of the Hapsburg family and their reign was pretty interesting. Their winter and summer palaces (although only a few miles from each other) gave you a clear sense of their wealth, their importance and even a glimpse into their personal lives. Photos weren’t allowed in the apartments or much of the tour, which didn’t really matter since sockhead me decided to forget my camera battery inside its charger in Germany on Friday. I was at the mercy of my very short-lived point and shoot battery for an entire 3 day weekend so I had to be choosey to say the least.



We wandered around the city quite a bit and visited a few churches. We, of course, went to the Stephansdom, but I have to say the Karlskirche was most impressive since it provided us with a very unique view of the church. They had an elevator and scaffolding that took us to the very top of the church’s dome. It was pretty spectacular to be up there and for me also very scary. After the elevator you had to walk a few flights up to the very, very top. By the time I reached the end I was shaking like a leaf. How they painted the fresco up there in 18th century with 18th century quality scaffolding I will never know and kinda don’t want to…



We had planned a trip to Budapest, but the weather was bad so we opted for a trip to the Vienna Woods, or Wienerwald. We visited a nunnery which was the old hunting lodge of the Crown Prince and also the site where he murdered his 17 year old mistress and himself (see, their history really is interesting!) and the Heiligenkreuz Abbey which is the second oldest Cistercian abbey in the world, being occupied since 1133. The trip ended with a tour of the Seegrotte underground lake. The largest underground lake in Europe, it was formed when a blast led to an underground spring leaking into the gypsum mine. The mine was interesting (and cold), especially since during the war had been used as an underground Nazi airplane factory, where over 20k Jewish prisoners had been used for labor. It was a misty day, but nice to get out of the city and into the lush Vienna Woods...



We spent our last day squeezing in as much as we could, even splitting up in the MuseumsQuartier to check out different exhibits. Pablo chose the Modern Museum to see Haring and we went to the Leopold to check out Scheile and Klimt. Can you come to Vienna and not see a Klimt?? Well, I guess Pablo did, but we didn't miss out...



Many consider Vienna to be the cultural capital of all of Europe and after our weekend there I’d be inclined to agree.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

amsterdam


Pablo arrived on Thursday morn and Friday afternoon we set off for Holland. Amsterdam is such a progressive city while still being so ridiculously quaint and charming. I adored it.

We spent the weekend wandering in and around the canals, visiting palaces, churches, monuments, the flower market, the Heineken brewery and a couple museums- all while patting ourselves on the back for mastering the public transportation system. Okay, so we didn’t actually master it, but we did really well and if you knew this threesome's history with public transportation you’d realize what a huge bonus this was for the weekend.

We were there for the World Cup Final and Sunday the city was glowing orange with football fans. We chose to get out of the city center itself and avoid the real mania. There was just something about a crowded field full of drunk, probably high (I mean, this is Amsterdam) and crazed football fans that just didn’t appeal to us. We watched the game at a pretty tame pub closer to our hotel. Aside from someone throwing a huge firecracker into our near vicinity that resulted in at least a 20% hearing loss, I thought the fans took the loss pretty well.

Going to Amsterdam also allowed me to fulfill two of my practically lifelong desires; to see the house where Anne Frank and her family hid in the secret annex and to go to the Van Gogh museum.

Walking through the annex and into Anne's bedroom where her actual posters and cutouts are still on the wall was an emotional and somber experience to say the least. But, it was also hopeful to be there, to see all the work her father did to bring her story to light and the work the foundation that bears her name still does to continue fighting racism and bigotry worldwide.

I fell in love with impressionism and in particular with Van Gogh’s work as soon as I was exposed as a young girl. Although so much of his work is hideously commercialized and you can buy anything from a purse to a shower curtain with his irises or sunflowers on it I’ve never stopped loving him.

The museum houses around 200 of his works and offers an incredible view into his life through his correspondence with his brother, Theo. I got to see my two favorite paintings and even a few I had never seen before. I was in heaven!

It really was just a great weekend...











and having my two favorite people in the whole world to share it with only made it that much better.

Round 5

In case you haven't heard we're headed to IRELAND next round!!! We're beyond thrilled to be staying in Europe for another 2 months.

The friendly people, the pubs, the road trips, the culture, the scenery and oh my- the Guiness...we're going to absolutely love it there!

We lead a blessed, blessed life and we just couldn't be more grateful.

Dear Ms. Handel- You suck.

From a recent interview with Karen Handel:
Q: Do you view committed gay relationships as being less legitimate than committed heterosexual relationships?

A: As a Christian, I view relationships and marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Q: But what about the legitimacy of the relationship? Do you have any gay friends? Do you know gay couples?

A: Of course I do. Are we going to spend our whole day talking on this issue?

Q: I want to know how you feel about this.

A: I’ve been very clear. And you know, as a Christian, marriage is between a man and a woman. I do not think that gay relationships are — they are not what God intended. And that’s just my viewpoint on it. Others might disagree with that. But I would also hope that if you look at what is happening in our state, we’ve got issues we need to be focused on in Georgia . We have a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. And it’s something that I supported wholeheartedly. We have that, and let’s get dealing with the other issues that we also need to deal with in Georgia. And the press can help with that. (Laughs).

Q: Frequently, folks in the Legislature kind of threaten to — there are always rumblings in the Legislature that they may outlaw gay adoptions. You’re against gay adoption.

A: I am against gay adoption. But remember — I mean, if there is legislation on that, certainly I will follow that and look at it. But in the end, ultimately courts are going to be the ones to have to make the decision on that and it’s always in the best interests of the child. Do I think that gay parents is in the best interest of the child? No. But we do have our court system that deals with many and most of those issues.

Q: Would you favor outlawing gay adoptions?

A: Yeah, I would consider that, absolutely.

Q: Do you know any gay couples with children?

A: Not that I’m aware of.

Q: So you think gay couples are less qualified to function as parents than straight couples?

A: I think that for a child to be in a household — in a family in a household with a situation where the parents are not married, as in one man and one woman, is not the best household for a child.

Q: Is it better or worse than a single parent household?

A: Doug, I’m really trying to be straightforward with you but I’m not going to debate all the nuances. I’ve made it abundantly clear that I think that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that’s what I believe, and I don’t know what more you would like me to add to that.

Q: I guess I want to know why you think gay parents aren’t as legitimate as heterosexual parents.

A: Because I don’t.

Q: (Pause) Well, I realize that.

A: Well, Doug, we’re not going to spend the whole day discussing this issue. And you know, it ’s really kind of disappointing — we invited you on this (leg of the bus trip).

Q: I know.

A: So we’re going to need to move on.



You don’t think it’s in the best interest of a child to be adopted by a gay person??? I assume you think that our foster care system where children are tossed from one foster family to the next is in the best interest of the child.

How about as a candidate for Governor you actually concern yourself with doing what is right for the parentless children of our state instead of just pandering to your hate-mongering party and bigoted constituents??

Oh and Karen…maybe you should read this article in Time:

"The authors found that children raised by lesbian mothers — whether the mother was partnered or single — scored very similarly to children raised by heterosexual parents on measures of development and social behavior. These findings were expected, the authors said; however, they were surprised to discover that children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

football- german style


we headed out to the local stadium to watch last night's semifinal world cup game. it was germany vs. spain and these fans were nuts. it was of course all very sad when they didn't actually win, but it was fun to celebrate and try to pull the team through with tens of thousands of fans...







netherlands is in the final with spain this sunday and we'll be in amsterdam cheering them on. of course that will actually mean that spain will take it since i'm a total jinx for world cup teams.

this also means all my spanish friends (and i have more than i realized) should actually thank me for them getting to the final instead of threatening bodily harm and denouncing our friendship ;)

gooooo netherlands!!*

*which actually translates to "viva espana!!"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dear Ms. Lingle, You Suck.

Urgh, this is not representative of the aloha spirit of Hawaii. Their governor just vetoed a bill that would have granted civil unions to same-sex couples.

Ms. Lingle stated:

"I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-gender marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially marriage by another name."

I thought Republicans didn’t want same-sex marriage because “marriage” was their sacred and traditional religious institution. It isn’t a civil rights matter, they aren't trying to discriminate- they just don’t want their traditional “marriage” to be touched by us gay lepers, lest it will surely fall apart. By the way, how's that divorce rate looking these days??

I suppose I should be glad to read that a Republican actually says what they all really mean-they don’t want to recognize our rights as citizens and taxpayers. They want to deny us our civil liberties and deny our families the legitimacy and protections that their families are afforded- no matter what you call it.

So I suppose I should say kudos to you, Ms. Lingle, for at least being honest. I’m all for calling a spade a spade...a homophobe a homophobe...a bigot a bigot.

welcome to koln

Thanks to a couple of flight delays we arrived at our hotel here in Cologne after midnight on Sunday... er, I guess that’s technically Monday.

Anyhoo, even being exhausted we couldn’t help but be blown away as we pulled up, like right up, to the Dom Cathedral. Wow, it's just spectacular.

Cologne had also just celebrated Pride and leftover revelers where swarming about as we unpacked all 832lbs of luggage from the taxi. Rainbow flags in hand, glitter and ribbons…I couldn’t imagine a warmer welcome to this city than seeing happy, out loud and proud gays after living 8 weeks in an Arab/Muslim state.

Between being in a tolerant city again, being able to order beer with dinner and having this as our next door neighbor…



I think we’re going to have a nice little 4 week stay here.


***um, that picture was taken from our hotel room window with no zoom. unbelievable.***

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lisboa



Too short was our time in Lisbon. As is the norm with our in-between location trips; our trip to Portugal was sort of on the way while being sort of out of the way thanks to our routes through Paris and of course weighed down with every single piece of luggage we have with us.

Even so we had a lovely time in Lisbon. I think you would be hard-pressed not to in such a lovely city. Imagine San Francisco with its idyllic location on the water, its bridges and hills- then add European charm, architecture and all that grandeur of yore and you’ll get a pretty good idea of Lisbon.

We spent the weekend exploring a fairytale castle deep within a misty mountain forest, watching boats in the seaside village of Cascais, fighting the gusting wind at the most western point of continental Europe, strolling mosaic covered sidewalks in the city center and fell quickly in love with fado, the traditional and beautifully mournful songs of the Portuguese…







Lisbon has taken Madrid’s top spot in European cities for me. It will have a lot of competition this round beginning with Amsterdam with my two fave people in the world this weekend. Obviously I'm beyond thrilled to have the bestie coming to visit. Just 2 days away!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Can't get enough of me?

So I’m not really much of one for self-promotion, but I am one for promoting great websites so let’s pretend that’s really what this is all about.

If you are engaged, know someone who's engaged or if you’re just a sucker for wedding stories you need to check out www.equallywed.com. Equally Wed is THE wedding mag for LGBT couples planning upcoming nuptials.

Our lovely and ├╝ber-talented friends founded it earlier this year and have been kind enough to let me write some honeymoon pieces for them. Oh, how I wish it had been around when we were planning our wedding! It’s an amazing magazine and an awesome tool for those getting hitched. Their summer issue is up today.

If you’re a woman with a passion for travel you need to check out www.pinkpangea.com. It’s a great new site with real stories from women who take on the globe one city at a time. It has great advice, travel ideas and maybe even a few words from a couple of girls in the world you may know. I love the idea of women travelers helping one another. Love it! BTW- if you want to contribute to the site let me know and I’ll send you an invite.

There’s another online magazine with an upcoming issue that I hope to be coming out very soon. Its young, it’s hip, and for some reason they actually wanted me to write a travel feature for them. Kidding, kidding. It’s a great mag and as soon as their latest issue is up I’ll repost here.

Let the perusing begin!