Portofino, Italy

Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea

Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

Portofino is such a picturesque Italian seaside city. We took a ferry boat over to Portofino from Santa Margarita. You can easily find these ferry’s and what I just found out, you can go to multiple cities – like Cinque Terre. You can also hike into Portofino from Comogli or San Fruttuoso (a must see). I hear the hiking isn’t for the light at heart BUT you can see some really cool WWII bunkers on top of the mountains. We have promised ourselves that the next time we go to Italy, we are going to hike to all of the cities. I can’t wait!

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A big shout out to my girl, Jill Rodgers. She just became a Registered Architect. I am so proud of her!!

ROMA

Hanschen Klein's ColoseumWell dang-it, it happened. My true love for Italy was reunited. I said I wouldn’t return for a while, and then, inevitably,  I always go back to that beautiful romantic-beast of a country. But what’s even better, my truest of loves – fell in love with it too.

IMG_2943 Unfortunately, my love cannot be shared with the Italian airlines, AlItalia. This was the last time we saw our bags… until 5 days later. Yep, we’re going to have to have a little chat.Hanschen Klein's ROMAOn another note, if you find yourself with 48 hours in Rome and you’re overwhelmed with all of the options of things that you can do… I have a fool proof first-timers trip to Rome. You’ll hit the high points and you won’t feel like you missed out on anything too historically significant.

DAY 1 (Full Day): Wander the town — There are a few things that (in my opinion) you absolutely have to see – along with every other tourist. Let your first day be the day that gets you acquainted with the city. Must see’s: Fontana di Trevi (throw your coin into the fountain), the Pantheon (because, shame on you if you don’t!), the Colosseum (go in if you have time, but if not – do a pass by), while your over that way, check out the Arch of Constantine and walk through the Roman Forum (or pass by it and look through the gates), and eat some gelato near the Spanish Steps.  This would definitely be a full day and also a cheap day. The only things you would have to pay to see are the Colosseum and the Roman Forum — and that’s only if you choose to go in!

Hanschen Klein's Pantheon

The Pantheon

Hanschen Klein's PantheonDay 2: Tackle the Vatican — Whether you’re catholic or not, you should check out the Vatican City. Why, you might ask? Are you kidding… you know you want to see the Sistine Chapel by means of the Vatican Museum. Don’t lie to yourself – you do. Let me help you out here — BUY YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE. And that’s for every major museum in Europe. I had never been to Italy during the high tourist season, so I never knew how much of a necessity it really was to buy your tickets in advance. The typical wait time is between 1-2 hours. No joke. Maximize your time – buy in advance and skip the lines!!

HanschenKlein's Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

HanschenKlein's The Vatican

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Interior Walls inside the Vatican

If you’re up for it, climb the stairs to the top of the inner dome and then take another set of stairs if you want to go all the way up and look over the entire city. It’s 5 Euro’s to take the stairs and 7 to take the elevator. Do it. But don’t if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. The walls do tend to curve and lean a little. It’s also one-way, so it’s difficult to go backwards once you start.

Hanschen Klein's Piazza NavonaAnd once you’ve exhausted yourself, get some vino and sit down at a nice restaurant at Piazza Navona.  And for all of you Dan Brown fan’s… this is the fountain where the bad guy attempts to drown the last cardinal. I love this city. Give yourself time to get lost and discover new things around you. Live it and Love it.

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Peace and Love Throughout the World

Plano, Illinois: The Farnsworth House

The beautiful, the magnificent, the work of art — The Farnsworth House. Have you ever been to a place and been in awe of what stands before you? I’ve been fortunate enough to have it happen to me a few times. It happened again, when I went here, to Plano, Illinois. It all started when we went to celebrate my fathers 60th Birthday with my brother and sister -in-law, who live just outside of Bloomington, IL. I was thinking of what we might be able to do in the surrounding area and I thought to myself, “What in the world are we going to do in the middle-of-nowhere Illinois?” And then I got to thinking, there is a Masterpiece in the middle-of-nowhere IL! Thank goodness I remembered. It’s such of work of art. I would hate to put my experience into words because I felt like it was so much more than that – like trying to explain a perfect meal, a piece of art… or something along those lines.

We took a Docent Tour that we had to book in advance and as we were the last group for the day, we were able to stay a bit longer and enjoy the grounds and ask questions. Definitely the way to go if you plan on visiting. They don’t allow pictures on the interior, which is a bit of a shame because I can’t show you in pictures the massive amounts of design that went into the space. Even the jamb’s in the door were well thought out. This piece of architecture was a marvel at the time it was constructed in 1951 and is still ahead of its time today. Here are a few of the pictures that I loved. Let me know if you have any questions. BTW, it was absolutely fantastic. My entire family (both those in design and completely outside of design) enjoyed the trip. I think for any one person it helps explain what truly extraordinary design can accomplish. The perfect balance between function and form – a true masterpiece.

Photo taken by NoelR

Photo taken by NoelR

Photo taken by NoelR

Look at those happy design nerds!

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I’m so thankful I got to see some pretty wonderful people this weekend: my bestie, my dad and talked to my mom and my other bestie. AND this weekend I’ve spent the first 24 hours in my new house… have I mentioned that I have now “lived” here for 4.5 weeks!!! Yes, I have been just a little busy.

Photo taken by NoelR

Okay, so we’re not just design nerds… we just nerds.

 

Austria: Where the Hills are Alive

Ok, so maybe it has been too long since my last Austria post… but I wanted to finish up with the last leg of my trip where we stole away to the mountains. This is the Waigrain Region of Mountains in the town of St. Johann im Pongau. It’s better known as a ski resort town but I got to thinking that it would be a shame to be in such a beautiful country, known for it’s lovely mountains, and never actually see any. So we went to see them.

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There is no better time to take ridiculously silly pictures than when you are on a long train ride. So on our way to the mountains we took these… only my bestie can really appreciate how weird I really am and still love me for it. I hope they make you laugh as well.

c/o VLRS

The view. Isn’t it beautiful?!?!  We stayed at the lovely Edelweiss Hotel,  a delicious 4-star (all natural and green) resort. They were incredibly helpful, they picked us up from the train station (free of charge), fed us incredibly well, and were there whenever we needed something. I can’t wait to go back there!!

c/o VLRS

… the spa.

… and a video!

We did actually do some hiking! We were really fortunate because the resort actually had a trail that we could start hiking on — so we didn’t have to take a bus or anything like that to get to the trail head. So that was really nice. The leg out was mostly uphill so it made coming back extra easy. I got this hair brained idea that we should get off the train, take a trail and start hiking immediately and then stay in a farm hut along the trail… and in my head it was going to be beautiful and picturesque and not difficult at all… well let me tell you, I am so happy that we didn’t do it. Staying at a resort was definitely the way to go!!!

Anyone else notice the deer stand?

Gangsta Paradise? It snowed 6 inches the night before we arrived. The day we were hiking, temperatures were in the low 70’s. Needless to say, everything was melting — but we had a good time in the snow while it was there.

I can’t wait to go back. It was so wonderful. Here, I am jumping for joy. I love the mountains. I love the fresh air. I love “getting away from it all”. AND, I love my bestie for agreeing to go anywhere in the world with me… even if that means we have to go hiking…

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Today I am thankful for: it being Friday and getting to see my Dad tonight!! Woohoo!!

Spread the good word.

7th Annual Sloss Furnace : Stokin’ the Fire BBQ

So I took a little break from blogging. It takes a little while for me to readjust to the US when I’ve been out of the country. Until last night, I was happy to report that I was sleeping regularly through the night… until my allergies woke me up at 3 a.m. It’s amazing what you can get done between the hours of 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Anyways… tonight was the kick-off to the 7th Annual Sloss Furnace: Stokin’ the Fire BBQ Festival. Our team: Blue Creek BBQ will be entering in Chicken, Ribs, and Butt. We had a test taste tonight and it was DE-LISH. The day of the competition is always a different story… tension is high and adrenaline is pumpin’. I am, of course, there for moral support. And I do it so well. A longer photo-filled post is to come. I thought I would leave you with a few goodies from the night.

Today I am thankful for: seeing Uncle David. He’s one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. There’s nothing better than a good old Southerner cookin’ you some mighty-fine BBQ. Oh I can’t wait for tomorrow. Come out and see us if you are in the area!

Shanghai, China: Taikang Lu

I was talking to a shop owner and he told me where their other store was located and I asked him to give me a landmark it was close to… he said, “how long have you been here?” I said reluctantly, “2.5 months” and he said, “well then you should definitely know about this place by now…” A little affronted I was determined to make it over there before I headed out of town and y’all he was right.  I should have known about this place! This is what one write up had to say about the place:

If you’re in the mood for some shopping but are tired of touts shoving fake watches in your face, head to Taikang Road. A walk down the road lets you see local Shanghai life at its best: street vendors selling pancakes and fruit, kids scampering about and women hanging up laundry. Then find alley 210 and wander down the lane. It’s full of shops and cafes selling everything from traditional Chinese qi pao dresses to funky silver jewelry.
At first when we got off the subway, we were like — what’s all the fuss about? But you quickly start poking your head down alleyways and start snaking around the small neighborhood that’s filled with local boutiques, cafe, and restaurants. Forget the French Concession, this little area is way cooler. I’ve never been good at picking up nic-nacs for people when I travel — but if I were, I would pick them up here. Some things are a little pricey, but they’re artsy… so naturally, that makes the price go up. But it’s a great place when you’re in search of a gift. I think. So… check it out.
Today I am thankful for: 2 milk teas! I love that stuff. Oh, I’m really going to miss it!

Beijing: National Center for the Performing Arts

Today was our last day in Beijing. I can only say that I’m a little relieved. Why, you ask? Well for several reasons. Beijing is a bargaining city. We had to bargain for a taxi, ice cream, art, food, bathrooms(j/k) … etc. It gets tiring. And worst of all — you don’t know if you’re getting screwed over or not. The first time we went to get a taxi he started off at something around 400 RMB!! I found another guy and got him down to 100 RMB. Actual cost = 75ish RMB. It’s rediculous how much people will try and take advantage of foreigners.  So enough with it — I’m happy to be back in Shanghai.  PLUS — I’m a modernist. I sick of the old stuff. You can have your Forbidden City. Out with the OLD and on with the NEW!! This, my friends, is the National Center for the Performing Arts. aka It’s an opera house. The coolest thing about it is that there is not a direct entrance to the building. The whole thing is surrounded by water. I don’t even want to imagine how they figured out their code safety regulations (if they did)…  It’s by French architect Paul Andreu and the building is known to the locals as “The Egg”. If you do decide to go there, it would probably be much cooler at night or at sunset when it’s all lit up inside. But it was still decently cool in the daytime with all the smog too.

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In other news… I watched two goofballs take Blackmail pictures of themselves. I told them that they had to make this their Christmas card!

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Today I am thankful for: having been on a plane. On our plane ride tonight we had a bunch of first time flyers. They were cheering like it was a roller coaster. They cheered at take off, gave ewwwes and ahhhhh during turbulence and gasped at landing. Good Lord, people! Get out more!

The Great Wall

Today we went to The Great Wall.  There is an old saying here, “Not been on the Great Wall, not a great man”. We came on the perfect day. It was absolutely gorgeous. I was so happy to be out there. We hiked to 22 towers and I think could have done 22 more. It was incredible.

We could not have asked for a better day. While it was hot… there was also a really nice breeze.

Today, my toes were at The Great Wall. And they were very happy about that!

Now, I’m gonna leave y’all with one thing — ROLL TIDE. Is it football season, yet???

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Today I am thankful for: my grandfather’s 90th birthday. Grampy is 90 today. I wish I could be there to celebrate with him. I am also thankful for my wonderful friends — this time last year, I lost one. AND I am thankful for my certain someone. Happy you-know-what day. I love you, babe. You rock my world.

Beijing: Yesterday + Today

Yesterday we saw so many cool things. And today we had another full day. I’ll have a longer update on each event later… for now… I’ll just update you in pictures. I hope that’s okay. Tomorrow is another big day. No fireworks for us, I don’t think — however, there will be a really great wall. Above is the CCTV building by architects Rem Koolhaus and Ole Schreeren from OMA.

We also got to see the Olympic Birds Nest by architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron — one of my favorites!

Earlier in the morning we went to the Temple of Heaven and Earth and we walked around the extensive parks and heard a bunch of old people singing. I’m learning that old people sing a lot in these parts. It’s really kinda nice. I took some cute pictures of the kids. Aren’t they precious?

And then later that night we went to the Night Food Market. My Pop’s would have been all over these oysters. And all of the other strange things they had there.

We played it safe and stuck with the fruit. They put sugar all over my watermelon. It was still delicious. We were happy. AND the night market made all of hard work of walking around the city worth it… it reenergized us.

And then today, we had a girls day. We went to the Summer Palace and had a lovely time. That place is so huge!!! I wish I could say we covered all of it but I think we would be lucky to say that we covered a 1/3 of it. Oh well. Life is Good.

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Today I am thankful for: my bargaining skills. I’m getting really good at it. Helen (my Popo) comes out and does her thing. Tonight we were looking for socks. Found some — and the lady told us 3 for 298 yuan. We told her that she was freakin’ crazy and said that we only needed one. She goes down to 100 yuan. Say what? I don’t think so. We walk away (the best tactic of them all) and then they come chasing after us. 50! 50! No way — I say… ok, ok 20!!!! 20!!! We all turned around and said 20??? Hmmmm…. Let’s go for 5.