Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fun Birthday

It was a great and fun birthday except a little incident with the chocolate that Josh brought home with a bottle of champagne. They took out Ally's tooth! What a tough chocolate!! Guessed when you get old, your body just started falling apart. (Fortunately, we had insurance here and it was easily fixed.) Anyway, I couldn't let a fallen tooth stop me from having a delicious dinner at an African restaurant. In fact, our order was a big platter that included Ostrich, antelope, and crocodile. They were very delicious. Everybody's dish turned out to be great. That was definitely some food I don't know how to make. I am not even sure where to buy Ostrich, antelope, and crocodile...perhaps if we are living in Africa, I would be able to find them in the backyard.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lucerne Switzerland

I saw a picture of Lucerne when I was flipping through a guide book. The picture looked so beautiful that I wanted to see the city in person. Josh was not convinced of visiting 'Lucerne' until his friends told him that the city is beautiful. Unfortunately, we had a not so good weather weekend. The sky was gray and started drizzling in the mid-afternoon. We started our Saturday by walking toward the oldest road covered bridge called Karpellbrüke. Had the weather been better, we would have taken a boat to see the city from the lake. Instead we walked around the old town and stopped at a few restaurants/hotel for Glühwein (hot wine) and afternoon tea to stay warm. We also visited a lion monument that was next to the Glacier museum containng stones from the ice age and fossils that were more than 20 million old. We also came across a very ugly sculpture that I later found an interesting story... the sculpture was so ugly that the mayor at the time had to reveal the sculpture secretly in case there were protesters.

It was a Piano Festival week in Lucerne. There were concerts held in Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern (Culture and Convention Center). There were also free piano shows in the local bars and restaurants. So, we picked a restaurant which happened to be a vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed the music and the candle light dinner very much although we are not vegetarians.

As we were leaving the next day, one little part of sky cleared up just enough for us to see the Alps. It's so beautiful. We took out our camera and snapped very quickly. We just afraid to miss it.

We had a quick stop at the Zürich. The Zürich train station was fulled of Christmas market booths and people. It's so feasted. Switzerland is such a beautiful country. We are definitely going back to visit again...and hopefully in a better weather conditions.

Monday, November 19, 2007


My cooking skills are finally progressing to "baking"! Baking is hard...a lot of mixing, rolling, and fillings. Great accomplishment thought. Here I my BSU sweatshirt and apron. I spent a whole day making pizza and cookies. Josh could not wait to put them into his stomach...he was really funny. Here is a picture of the finished product! No picture for the was in his stomach already...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Luxembourg and Trier

When Josh said, let's go to Luxembourg. My job was to research options for transportation and a hotel. Lucky us, I found a special deal on the train ticket and a reasonably priced hotel within walking distance to the downtown of Luxembourg city. Find the deal, make the trip; that's my methodology.
Luxembourg city is a small but very beautiful city by nature. Its wide canyon, which was full of water/ice, showed the Early Jurassic sandstone formation (water retreat marks). We took a two- hour-walking tour around the old town and the lower town. Our tour guide seemed to be a history buff and had a great passion for the city and his job. He gave us so much historical information.. from the early Roman era and the multiple other rulers; from birds, economics, population, geography, to religions. It was almost overwhelming but totally worth it. There were some interesting stories too, for example, the stature you see on the attention to the leg. If the horse's left leg was up, it meant the person had died naturally. On the other hand, if the horse's right leg was up, it meant the person had died in war. If no leg was up, it meant the person was still alive when the stature was made. Another one was how an Abby got turned into a prison, then hospital, then a prison again, and now to a culture center with free admission. The tour guide also talked about Trier city (a German city by the boarder) which is the oldest city in Germany.

After the lesson, we decided to leave Luxembourg early and visit Trier since we had to change trains in Trier to come home. The first thing we saw was Porta Nigra (the best preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps) before we entered the old town. Porta Nigra is also known as black gate because the gate turned black as it aged. We also visited the Trier Cathedral and Roman bath palace. By luck, we came across a festival. We had no idea of what they were celebrating but it looked fun and interesting. There was a live band, beer booth, and people in customs.

It's always fun when we travel...we never know where we will end up and what we will see.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Road trip in Lorraine Region France

Loved driving the French countryside... especially on the Deutsch Auto Bahn with a convertible. Downside? It was about 45 F outside and cloudy. We were not going fast but...a "scooter" WAS. It had to be going at least 130 km/hr (about 80 miles/hr). A scooter not a kidding.

So... it all started pretty good...we had a convertible, borrowed a GPS from a friend, and printed out maps just in case the GPS went kook. With all that, we still got lost... so lost that we had to call our friend Julia to reconfirm our Chateaux's name and address. (Here are two things you should know about driving in the French countryside at night - dark and no sign or tiny sign if you have eyes of owl.) I was so frustrated and my dear husband was trying lighten up the mood by saying, we might see wild boar since we were in the countryside. I said, why wild boar not deer?? Inquisitive wife as always...hehe~ I had no idea where Josh got the idea of seeing wild boar... Anyway, after one and an half hour of being lost and driving on the same road back and forth we finally found a 'road' --size of a bike path (with no sign) leading us to the right town. And a nice guy who jumped into his car and led us to the chateaux. No sign for the chateaux of course...we could have driven pass it without knowing it's there. Finally, we checked in about 10 pm. We were tired and hungry, so we decided to get some food. We were driving and just so happy that we found our chateaux. Suddenly, we turned happy to stunned... wild boar in the road...there was a big wild boar family - a mom, a dad, and countless babies... Josh was speechless...(I guessed he was just joking when he mentioned it earlier) and I just kept saying "pig...pig..wild's real...they were real...there were tiny pig babies. We probably interrupted their meal or dirt bathing time." Then, the mama and papa wild boar led all the babies crossing the road to hide in the dark. We were laughing so hard and could not stop laughing. That was the highlight of the day after a 5 hour drive which was supposed to be 3.5.

Came back from the dinner and walking to our room without our host was super creepy. It's a real old castle unlike the one we stayed last year (old but been modernized). This one was old too and was kept/decorated in the traditional way. We had to go through two very long and dark hallways to get to our room. And our room was huge and had portraits around the wall. Imaging all the eyes looking at us in the dimly lite huge room...I slept...ok.

So that's the chateaux Autigny-la-Tour...not so creepy in the day! They also had a duck that would follow us around. I called that picture "Josh got a new friend!" Click on "our pictures to share" to see pictures inside of the chateaux and Josh's new friend.

Next night, we stayed at another tiny town, Coussey, since the last one was not available. It was a last minute type of road trip. This one had a very interesting long name - "La Demeuroe du Gardien du temps qui passe" and Chambres D'hotes. It was a cute, warm, and cozy old house. Side notes: The bathtub in the room looked romantic but not very practical. They served dinner also. We had dinner with six other adults and 3 children. It was not much of talking but lots of translations.

Since it's a countryside weekend, we stayed only in the tiny towns, Autigny-la-Tour and Coussey. We also visited the little towns of Neufchateaux and Toul that were not on the tourist book. We just found an old chateaux and decided to drive there and play it by ear after the first night. Well, it's a countryside road trip... how I could describe it. It was green, lots of cow, sheep, and wild boar (we saw a herd of wild boar after our late dinner heading back to our chateaux.)

On the way home, we visited Nancy (pronounces Nuncy in French. We got corrected a few times.) Nancy was a very beautiful city. We only spent a few hours walking around the city. I would like to go back and visit again...but Josh said...there are so many places yet to visit. So...we'll see.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Birthday~

Josh got older and we had a party on his birthday eve!

Cagliari Italy

Although we didn't do much research about Cagliari or the island - Sardinia, the whole trip ended up surprising easy ...even with the public transportation. From the airport to the downtown was only a ten minute bus ride service every half an hour, and it only took us less than ten minutes by foot to find our bed and breakfast. Our host was great...not in a hurry to take money from us but letting us know where to eat and visit.

It took us visiting Italy three times (once in 2006, we visited Rome, Florance, and Venice) to adapt to Italian lifestyle. We ate no earlier than 9pm for dinner! Thanks to our flight schedule it was easy for us to adjust... After we checked in at the B&B we went out for dinner... it was already 10pm. In the next two days, we took short naps or breaks between our explorations and dinners. So...we could finally blend into Italian's (or Southern European's) life style - afternoon nap and late dinner. Nothing could go wrong with Italian food so we picked things randomly from menus (no English menus). We were so happy that the dishes we ordered turned out to be mussels, baby octopus soup, seafood spaghetti, Sardinia caviar spaghetti, various fish, and some we could not recall anymore. I also happened to find a traditional Sardinia sweet that it's made of nuts, raisins, flower, sugar, and whatever to make it taste so good. It smelled so good that we had to get it. We had it with a bottle of wine and a shot of local drink from our host before the nap... It was perfect for a afternoon snack!!

We took a bus to Pula to see Nora (a super old ruin), probably the oldest built in Sardinia. The archaeological area is very well kept and shows the evidence left following the Punic and Roman dominations. Nora used to be considered one of the main landing places in the Mediterranean area, thanks to its strategic position. Today, part of the ruins have still not been uncovered, but visitors can still admire the beauty and the prosperity that Nora enjoyed in past times.

This was one of our favorite trips - wonderful B&B location and host, beautiful city, tasty food, relaxing schedule, and the interesting ruin.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bus Episode

When it comes to taking public transportation, it can be really crazy. Most of time, we don't know which train or bus to take and then... it's hard to tell if it's time to get off. Sometimes, we don't even know where or how to purchase the tickets. Usually when we ask those questions, we get "$%^&@%^&)(*" depends on whichever country we are in.

So...about two weeks ago on a trip to Maulbronn visiting the monastery.... we managed to find the right bus to take but couldn't figure out when to get off. Finally, I asked the bus driver "Maulbronn? Monastery?" He of course replied,"&*()_)(*^%$" I looked at him and looked at the only other passenger left beside Josh and I... and repeated again "Monastery?" The driver kept on driving and ignoring us. Minutes later, both the driver and the other passenger signaled us to get off the bus. After we got off, we realized that the bus driver had to turn around the bus and dropped us off at the Monastery. We should have gotten off the bus a long ago...

Bus schedule can only be suggestions in Italy... If we were in the main station, it's always on time. If we were somewhere else, we could never count on it. And we leaned "why" on the trip of Bari. We found the right bus from the airport to the main train station and another bus to the B&B. We had purchased two ticket from the first bus which we took on a second bus to the B&B. Josh asked the second bus driver if we needed to purchase another two tickets but the bus driver said we were okay (in Italian of course...we just guessed we were okay). We didn't understand why...but we believed the driver. Just when the bus took off from the main station, five or six big guys stood up and said something really loud in Italian and signaled to check tickets. Josh hanged over our tickets and I had my fingers crossed (because in the first bus I saw a Italian poster with 100Euro sign ... I guessed it's a fine if we didn't have valid tickets). My guess was right...and for whatever reason our tickets were valid. Whew!!! We saved two hundred Euro. But the guys behind us were not as lucky as we were. All we heard were very loud conversation and argument in Italian and lots of commotion. One appeared to get a 100 Euro fine. The other seemed to have trouble providing any legal ID document. One of the ticket checkers even asked the driver to stop the bus and got two policewomen (who happened to be walking on the side walk) in the bus to arrest the undocumented guy. Josh and I were like....we got to buy bus tickets every time we take bus. Later, we found the bus ticket was valid for as many buses as you needed in 75 minutes from being punched.

Bari Italy

Flat, lots of olive trees, and unusual houses were the scene from the Bari airport to city center. It was not much too see and I started wondering what we were going to do here.

Next day, we took a super slow and old train (we are spoiled by the German fancy train system) to Alberobello 56 Km southeast of Bari. We were not sure what to expect or to see besides a little description from tourist information office. After a little walk later, we found the so called Trulli*. It was very interesting to see. When we walked around the trulli village, Josh kept wondering if these trullis would have leakage problems since they were built by piling up limestone. It didn't appear that any dirt or clay was used from the outside until we went into the gift shops... he saw that the inside of trulli was nicely constructed with no holes on the roof. It was too bad that the museum was closed. They had weird open hour (generally, people in the south close business between 1-3 in the afternoon) except for the gift shops... luckily... we got some unique souvenir for my roof collection.

*According to World Heritage, "the trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs."

We spent another day exploring Bari's old town which was a fish market way back when. Streets were narrow; buildings were crowded; people's laundry stuck outside of their balconies (I happened to pick a street without the laundry for the photo's really everywhere.) We also found anther roof tile that was originally from the Cattedrale San Sabino and the price was ONLY a thousand Euro. We both decided to pass. It was a raining day and windier by the coast. Our umbrella was totally destroyed at the end of our trip. We ended up spending our time in various neighborhood coffee/bar to avoid the bad weather. Fun and interesting, but not the sun filled Italy we had hoped for!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The wonder land - Netherland

I love Holland. People speak at least 4 languages: Dutch, French, German, and English. For that reason, it's easy to understand why Dutch people's tolerance and acceptance are so high. Not only are they the friendliest people beside Irish, they are the nicest, most helpful, and liberal. If you know what I am talking about...same sex marriage, prostitution (red light district), and marijuana (coffee shop) are legal in Netherlands. We did some window shopping at the red light district and checked out the coffee shop the first night we arrived in Amsterdam. I was like WOW...that was so right in front of my face.

Amsterdam is also spoken to Venice of the North because of its canals. A boat ride with a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate was a great way to see Amsterdam city. Alone the canals, I saw old style compacted Dutch apartment, modern boat houses, tons of bicycle on the streets (We almost got ran over by bicycle several times. Bicycles have right of the way in Holland.) and a lot of bridges. Wondering around the city was also easy too... there were so many shopping areas and markets from most expensive and luxurious brands to cheapest things. Albert Cuypmarket was like a traditional Chinese market (expect for much bigger and longer than what I was used to) that sold everything and everything was cheap from anything you needed in the house to fresh sea food. And the flower market... beautiful tulips. I got to tell you that Albert Cuymarket and the flower market were a housewife's heaven...I wished I live in Amsterdam. I felt in love with Amsterdam right there.

Whichever city we visited, we usually picked a couple of museums to see. Here in Amsterdam, I went to Van Gogh Museum. The more I got to know him...the more I thought what a depressing guy lived such a bitter life. However, that's probably why his paintings were so great. Too bad that he didn't live to see his own success. Then, I went to Heineken Experience to cheer myself up. The entrance ticket included three bottles of Heineken beers and a gift. I didn't realize that Heineken was a Netherlands' beer. I learned more about the beer processes and Heineken history and culture. They even got rides for visitors. One of the rides was called something like - bottle experience. Basically, I got to experience what it was like to be a beer bottle! From been washed, filled up with beer, packed, shipped, and straight to the party animal's hands. It was FUN!

We also visited a couple of small towns Harrlem and Utrecht after Josh's conference. We visited the Frans Hals Museum in Harriem where we learned about the Harriem city and tulip high price market history over Frans' paintings. There was also Grote Markt, a quare where St. Bavokerk and Stadhuis (city hall) were at...and a farmers' market on Saturday.

There were so much to see with so little time. I only got to see a fraction of Amsterdam and Netherlands. I hope to visit the country again in the near future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Maulbronn Monastery (Kloster)

We were in Maulbronn, a little town in the middle of no where Germany. The public transportation to Maulbronn was not every convenient. We had to take a train and a bus to get there. The bus didn't come very often either... it took us more then 2 hours to get home although it's not far from Stuttgart.

Maulbroon Monastery was a significant historical architecture site. It was designated a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Herrtage Site in 1993. It is just like the Pyramids of Gizeh, the Great Wall of China, or the Spanish Escorial.

Look at the color of trees in the picture. Don't you love fall. It's so beautiful.

Oktoberfest (Volkfest) in Stuttgart

It was like a big fair with "six flags" size of rides, many games for stuff animals, and traditional German junk food. Beer tents were as big as a football field with a live band on the stage in each tent. We got there early Saturday afternoon...not many people...empty tables were everywhere. We met up with Josh's work friends in the mid-afternoon. By evening, there were more friends showed up and the beer tent was entirely packed. Live music never stopped and cheers songs was sang in every other song. Whenever the song ("cheers" - Prost in German) was sang, people lifted up their beers and drank. The atmosphere was high and super happy. We cheered with friends and strangers whoever happened to be at the next table. Everyone was standing on the bench... SUPER FUN!! We took a lot of pictures of us and friends...most of them were blurry and goofy... who wouldn't be after our brains and bodies' been soaked and marinated with beer for so many hours. It was super funny the next day when we looked at the pictures. Very good experience and somehow blurred memory.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Photo time

Back from Taiwan! It was a great time, but super hot.

On the left are some pictures from a very interesting day.

We spent the day touring Taiwan...from mountains to hair-style to the next....dress after dress. Yes we participated in the Chinese wedding photo circus.

A whole street in Taipei dedicated to shops selling the whole package... dresses, make-up, tux, photographer...
...the end result. Two photo books, a 24" blow up picture, but best of all we get one super sized portrait....
The goal of the photographer was to get us to do as many ridiculous, funny, name as possible so we would spend extra money...well we bought 33/ not bad for the whole circus day at about $600!

Along the way you get to see a parade of couples doing the 'circuit'. It was very funny! I think our photographer was pretty frustrated that I didnt speak Chinese. He had to hand signal my position :-)

Well, it was a LONG day, but pretty fun....and Ally looked pretty hot in all those outfits.

Click on Our Pictures to Share for more...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

3 Fs

What do Josh and Ally do in Taipei? The answer is "3 Fs - Family, Friend, and Food" We meet with family or friends for lunch, afternoon tea,snack, dinner, or after dinner snack. In the picture, Tony is my main contact with the college friends. He always contacted everyone and made reservation for the restaurant. This time, he was also a tour guide and photographer for Josh and I. We biked around Tam-Sui river and visited Guan-Tu Temple. As you can see the bike on the bottom left of the picture...Can you believe that I even got (rented) a pink bike... cool!

The tranditional antique Guan-Tu Temple... Don't you want to take a closer look yourself... It's really magnificent.

Ally's dad and mom at Taiwan Beer Brewery in Yi Lan. We took a day trip to the east coast of Taiwan and drove by the brewery. We couldn't actually see the beer making process but visited the souvenir store...and brewery memorial hall. It was interesting to know about Taiwan Beer's history.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Little sister

Well you would never guess from the way Celia eats that she only weights about 42KG! Here is her initiation to German cuisine at Lake Titisee in the Black Forest. We are not sure where the anger in this shot comes from, but that sausage is in BIG trouble!

Maybe she should buy a smaller one?

Actually, the bear is approximately the size of her luggage!

Here we all are! Just back from hiking. The scenery was great!
The Black Forest is lightly populated and has miles of trails that are very well marked.

By Josh

Hot, Cold, Hot, Cold...changed in seconds

Crisp air, brisk wind (felt warm to hot in an instant...then cold to freeze in the next few seconds), pricey (about 3X the continent)... that's Oslo Norway... but not all...there are ocean views, tons of art statues, and friendly English speaking Norwegian. Oslo is a surprising artistic city but doesn't have much of old town flavor like other cities we visited. A couple places that we loved the most this trip were the home museum of Edvard Munch (famous paintings such as Scream and Sick Child) and the Vigelandsparken (Vigeland Park).
The park displays sculpture works by Gustav Vigeland whose form extra-
ordinary tableaux of fighting, play, and love. It's quite the opposite of Munch's paintings which were about sickness, jealousy, and death. We took a lot of pictures in the Vigeland can click on 'our photo to share' link to view them. They were incredible.

We also visited Nobel Peace Prize Center, Akershus Slott (castel), Vegeland Museum, and Oslo city hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented.

Great Seafood too!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Our Favorite City - Vienna continues...

They charged $$$ for visiting "Library"... we were like WHAT! LIBRARY? Then the ticket person offered us to take a peak from the library entry. As soon as we saw it, we were like...yeah we HAD to see this. Flash photography was not allowed so the picture is not very clear but you can get a feel of how beautiful it is. The showpiece of the Austrian National Library (1722-35) or Hall of Honor. The library turned out to be one of our favorite things in Vienna.

Stephansdom (Stephansplatz) - beautiful
and interesting church where contained an impressive collection of works of art and buried many important bishops. We took a tour down to catacombs to see where they kept the jars of organs, coffins of bodies, and some public grave yards with exposed bodies. We could actually see piles of bones (not kidding.) Pretty creepy~

Schönburnn Palace and Gardens
We love the garden and zoo (just me) more than inside of the palace. Panda and koala bear are so cute...

We had some more chocolate desserts at the end of our second day...AND the next morning to finish the wonderful, beautiful and "sweet" Vienna trip.

Have I said enough beautiful yet? We love Vienna.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beauty of Paris and Order of Germany - Vienna

The intimate hotel located in the center of Vienna was specially advertised as gay friendly on the website. We choose it because of its location and price. We laughed even more when we saw the "Male ONLY Sauna" sign right in front of check-in counter. I was joking about been discriminated as a female afterwards.

Chocolate croissant, tiramisu, and a coffee... guess which meal of the day I was having .... Breakfast! I was not the only person who had desserts for breakfast. Everyone in the coffee shop was. How lovely to start your day with chocolate and cakes! I love it!!

Vienna has the beauty of Paris and the order of Germany, Josh said. Everywhere we looked, we could not help saying "it's so beautiful." As we turned around and looked behind us, we would again said "'s so beautiful...and so beautiful..." We must have said it at least a hundred times. What would be a better idea than spending an evening enjoying food, drinks, and operas at the Film Festival on the Rathausplatz. There were so many people and even when it rained people just put on their rain gear and continued watching the opera. We enjoyed the opera very much although we had no ideas what it was about...besides the obvious... a lot of twists in the plots.