Sunday, August 29, 2010


One of Kurt's main goals for the last weekend before college football season begins: get a mini keg. Aren't we so ambitious? :)

We hopped on our bikes and rode down to the beer distributor. Kurt had his sights set on a 5 liter Heineken mini keg. He even called the store beforehand to make sure they had a cold one.

Kurt is all about frugality, so we worked out the cost breakdown for the amount of beer you get from the keg. Well, there are 33.81 ounces in 1 liter, making the keg a total of 169.05 ounces which yields about 14 beers. The total cost for the keg was $22, making each beer just about $1.56. Kurt can get a case of Heineken bottles from Costco for just over $1 a bottle. We decided the novelty of the keg was worth it and we were saving the planet by using less glass and cardboard associated with a case of beer!

Transporting large packages: milk crate and bungee cords.

While unrelated to the keg, this is what we did while it chilled some more. Did you know you can buy an HD antenna? Well, Kurt got one the other day and we hooked it up. It only picks up about 20 stations, but they are in HD! So clear! Just in time for football season although, sadly, it does not receive ESPN.

Tapping the keg. Does that pitcher look familiar? Yep, it was imported from Amsterdam.

So happy

The best thing to complement a mini-keg? A cookout in the backyard. Kurt grilled up some burgers while others contributed salads, corn on the cob, and delicious zucchini brownies. Yum!

Spontaneous Friday: the Baseball Edition

In an effort to keep our lives unscheduled and relaxed, Kurt and I began implementing what we call Spontaneous Fridays. Unless there is something important happening that evening, we resist making any plans for Friday until the day of. We also want it to be an opportunity to explore new neighborhoods, so we generally choose a bar or activity we don't frequently visit.

This week, Kurt brought up the idea to go to a Mets game. I've never been and it sounded like a great idea. However, our desire for limited structure in our lives also makes us less than motivated sometimes. The Mets stadium is way up in Queens. It would require a lot of effort to get there. Luckily, there are a couple minor league teams around which are a bit more accessible. Both the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees were playing at home, so we decided it would be fun to take the ferry over to Staten Island to catch their game.

View of Brooklyn from the ferry

I really enjoy taking the ferry. It brings me back to my 2 week stint staying at Courtney's apartment when I first moved to New York. (I can't believe it's almost been 2 years!) The last time I was on Staten Island was for my birthday back in January. It was probably 20 degrees outside! Late August weather is much more pleasant.

The stadium is only a short walk from the ferry terminal. Jenn came and watched the game with us. The Yankees (a farm team for the real Yankees) were playing the Lowell Spinners (I'm guessing a minor league team for the Boston Red Sox).

In the end, the Yankees lost 1-7. It was a pretty uneventful game. It is always more fun to go and enjoy a couple beers and hang out. It really makes it feel like summer even though I can feel the season is slowly slipping away. Pretty soon, the air will grow chilly and jackets will once again be mandatory. One consolation is football season.

After the baseball game, there was a brief fireworks display. We missed most of it because we thought we could hurry to the ferry and catch them from the boat. The show was too short! Oh well....once back in Brooklyn we spontaneously decided to have a drink at Building on Bond, a favorite bar in Boerum Hill. From what I can gather, the bar is run by a design/build firm that concentrates mostly on bars and restaurants. I would like to work for them one day...maybe once I've had my fill of high end residential.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 13: Zurich-Amsterdam-NYC

And so begins our last day in Europe. It was full of mixed emotions. I was sad to leave such beautiful places and ultimately end our vacation ( I couldn't fathom going to work the next day!). However, it was comforting to know I was heading for my own apartment and bed back in Brooklyn. I could return to being settled and no longer have to carry all my possessions on my back.

A wall of beer at the Zurich airport. Kurt was in heaven.

The Zurich airport is clean and modern and light years beyond JFK. I feel like it functions as a public shopping center too because most of the shopping and restaurants are located before you go through security. We stopped into the grocery store there and it seemed like locals were buying food for their week. The airport is pretty extensive, so it took us a while to find where we were going. Eventually, we located the correct security gate (where there was no line) and began stripping down to go through the metal detector. We start ripping off our shoes and the guards laughed at us, saying you only have to do that in America. They were so nice and friendly. Maybe they get more vacation than the sour airport workers at any NYC airport...

At our gate, we enjoyed a nice snack of beer and gummy bears.

Kurt was thrilled to be flying his airline all day (Kurt Lee Martig).

Kurt always makes me nervous when we fly because he covertly takes out his camera during take off and landings. One day we are going to get yelled at by a flight attendant. Until then, I will admit he gets some nice shots. This is a view of Lake Zurich as we depart from Switzerland.

We had a layover in Amsterdam for a few hours. The Dutch are all about tulips. They were selling them everywhere.

Snack #2 of the day was cheese and crackers and a pitcher of beer (I said a few hours!).

Isn't that a nice Heineken pitcher? Kurt admired it quite a bit...maybe even enough to bring it back to New York as a souvenir. He did it under the guise that "Erik will love this!" Maybe we even took the glasses too... :)

Once we boarded our flight from Amsterdam to NYC, we still had quite a long day ahead of us. Luckily, they served us some pretty tasty food. My travelling word to the wise, always get the vegetarian option. You never want to eat airplane meat and the pastas they give you are usually good. Unlimited drinks on KLM aren't half bad either. Kurt and I definitely took advantage of that. At one point, Kurt even went to find the flight attendants in the back to ask for another Heineken. FREE!

We enjoyed a movie together and an episode of Friends. Mainly I just slept. I was exhausted from almost two weeks of constant running around. It was such an incredible trip though. I can't believe we did it (and that we are still speaking to each other once we returned!).

Ironically, we have been back in New York for a month as I write this final post about our travels. It feels like we went years ago. I am lucky to have seen so many amazing places and met so many interesting and gracious new friends. We hit a few bumps along the way but it made the good times that much sweeter. Kurt was an amazing travel partner. I hope he'll allow me to tag along on many more adventures around the world. I'm an excellent navigator!

Ciao grazie!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fashionable NYC

I think I've lost my mind. I bought a fanny pack yesterday! Don't judge me!

Since running is my newest interest, and not a completely useless endeavor, I felt justified in accessorizing a bit. This fanny pack (is it pak?) also has to be one of the most utilitarian purchases I've convinced myself was necessary. I'm sure my mother would be appalled to hear that when I go for a run, I really only have space to store my apartment keys in a tiny little pocket in my shorts. I'm even too cheap to buy an armband for my ipod and carry it in my hand (armband is next on the list though). There is a little voice in the back of my head (hi, mom) telling me I should never leave the house without my keys, phone, id, money, metrocard, maybe even my insurance card! I don't know if I will go that overboard just yet, but now I have space for all them in my slim little belt. I look forward to taking some longer weekend runs, maybe stopping for a coffee on my way home, and even taking the bus! The possibilities are endless :)

P.S. I got the purple one AND it was 20% off!

It's really happening...

Erik, Silvia, Kurt, and I are going to Columbus, Ohio to see the Ohio State Buckeyes play the Miami Hurricanes! We bought plane tickets to Pittsburgh several weeks ago and just secured football tickets today. The game is September 11th in the afternoon. Look out for us on TV! I'm excited to see how the Big Ten compares to the SEC experience. I'm sure I'll have lots of tailgating and stadium stories to report!

Day 12: Monza to Zurich

Claudio's parents kindly took us to the train station in Monza where we had a short ride to Milan. Once in Milan, we had a little bit of a wait until our train to take us to Zurich. We would spend the night in Zurich and catch a flight around noon from there to New York, ending our European adventure :(

The Milan train station is pretty impressive in itself.

The train ride from Milan to Zurich is beautiful, and we were lucky enough to enjoy it twice. This time it was late afternoon, so we got some dramatic shadows from the setting sun.

"The Lizard Bathroom" (i.e. a blatant abuse of green penny tile...I think it might have even been on the ceiling!)

Even though our trip was drawing to a close, it wasn't smooth sailing yet. Our train was not scheduled to get to Zurich until close to 11pm. However, the hostel we had arranged to stay at only held check-in until 10:30pm. Kurt foresaw this conflict and emailed the hostel about the issue before we even left the states. Their response was to call the day we were set to arrive and let the receptionist know. Someone would either wait up a little longer or tell us where to locate the key. This all sounded good and fine, but when we decided to call from the Milan train station, the phone number we had on our reservation was wrong. We thought to look it up online but then Kurt's computer was dead and there is no such thing as free Wi-fi in Europe (except at McDonald's...even then, it's not technically free). Our train was about to leave, so we had to get on it. We crossed our fingers that somehow it would work out in Zurich.

It did not. Once we arrived in Switzerland, we found the hostel easily but, of course, the door was locked and no one was around. We found a pay phone and the correct number and no one answered. Great. We halfway expected this to happen, so we had been working out alternate plans and we moved on to Plan B (I think Plan E was to sleep in the train station until we had to head to the airport the next day). We found a Starbucks, bought a little something, and used their internet to look up alternate hotels or hostels in the area. We made a list of ones that seemed reasonably priced and set off to try them one by one until someone would take pity on us and give us a room. We struck out at 5 or 6 places! Apparently there was some sort of triathlon the next day and most hotels were booked. We were getting tired and I was almost convinced we were never going to find anything. Plan E didn't sound half bad as long as I could take off my heavy backpack!

After wandering around some more, we came across a small hotel we hadn't seen online. Kurt suggested we try it. In all reality we had nothing to lose. There was a cute old man at the front desk. Miraculously he had one room available. We'll take it! I didn't even care how much is cost. I wanted to sleep. He checked us in and we headed for our room. It wasn't anything special (or gross, for that matter). It was a simple room with two twin beds and the what we called "the lizard bathroom." It even ended up being pretty inexpensive. What a day, though!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 12: Italy in HD

I stole that title from Kurt. He's much more clever than I am. Regardless, we woke up on Saturday morning, our last day in Italy, to crisp, blue skies. The storm from the day before had really done a great job of clearing the air. I cannot describe to you how excited Kurt was about the clarity. Apparently, it was hardly ever like that when he lived there and we absolutely had to go back to Montevecchia for the view. To show you the difference, look at the next two pictures. We unintentionally took a photo from the same point, the first from Thursday and the second on Saturday.

Isn't it insane how crisp the mountains look?! The first picture is "normal" for the area too. I feel like I cheated the system a little bit. Kurt lived there for almost a year and rarely saw such views. I was there for a few days and was lucky enough to witness it!

It was such a beautiful sunny morning as we drove to the top of Montevecchia. The rain had even cooled the temperatures a bit. It was such a gorgeous day, it made me not want to leave Italy!

View towards Milan

Foothills of the Alps

After we took in all the gorgeous views possible, Kurt and I set off to visit his first host family and have lunch at their house. The parents, Darrio and Rosi, live in such a fun apartment complex. There was a nice pool and tennis courts practically in their backyard. One son, Diego, lives next door with his wife Clea and their two sons, Tomasso and Filippo. The other son, Matteo, also lives nearby. We had a delicious lunch and I got to hear all sorts of stories from Kurt's exchange.

The visit made me realize how gratifying but ultimately terrifying it would be to do an exchange. I felt so out of sorts the few days I was there. I can't imagine being thrown into a family who you know nothing about and can barely communicate with. You could not have asked for a better starter family but I'm sure it was a trying experience. It must really stretch your ability to adapt and reconsider your comfort zone. I wish I had even been open minded enough to consider such an opportunity. Do you think a family would be interested in a 24 year old architect?! Am I past the age limit?! But I want to live in Europe!

Anyway, after we left the Mascazzini's house, Kurt and I stopped by his second host family's house. Unfortunately, we were running short on time and only his host mother was home. We visited with her and her friend shortly. His host mother really didn't speak any English, so she and Kurt mainly caught up in Italian. I can generally follow some conversations a little bit (especially when I know Kurt's responses) but she spoke so quickly I could not keep up. We couldn't stay long and had to leave to head to Monza to meet Claudio's parents. We were returning the car they trustfully let us borrow and then heading to the train station. Sadly, we had to leave Italy behind :(

FlyNY Showcase and Auction

The evening before our FlyNY kite flying day, we held an auction and showcase at the Center for Architecture. I was supposedly "in charge" of said event but really didn't do much at all. I probably sent a hundred emails to the event coordinator at the CFA and delegated every possible task I could to someone else. It turned out pretty well though.

We held a kite design competition and displayed the entries in the CFA's gallery. Several of the contestants presented their ideas to a panel of judges. Then we had a public design discussion before a winner was chosen from the kite entries. There was wine and snacks and I think everyone had a good time!

FlyNY co-founders Victoria and Aurelie

Rachel, our FlyNY moderator and resident Twitter expert, with judges Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, Nora Abousteit of Burdastyle, and Lauren Cornell of the New Museum and Rhizome

Kite presentations


Rita (far left) is the FlyNY/AFHny director. This event was not possible without all her hard work! She really went above and beyond to pull it all off. Kofi (tall guy) and his volunteer support were in charge of participation.

Our Department of Parks and Recreation cohorts

Not sure whether this was our attempt to "look natural" or my reaction to Kurt telling the photographer, "I'm a model."

It was a fun event but I am glad it is all over! It will be nice to take a breather. Thanks to all our volunteers, participants, and backers for your time and support!

(All images via Niki Leigh's flickr page. Thanks, Niki!)
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