Wednesday, August 27, 2008

4-WHEELERS & CRAZY GERMANS

(Disclaimer—Please do not feel obligated to read all of the incessant rambling that follows. I had a lot to catch up on. But I did break it down into chapters for your reading ease.)

THE RANCH
It’s been a pretty crazy month for Nathan and I. We started off with our Larson Annual Week at the Ranch. The last week of July, all of Nathan’s immediate family migrated to Provo Canyon for a fun-filled week of R&R. I take that back….with 6 kids under the age of 8 and all 5 Larson siblings together at once, rest and relaxation may not be the best description of our week. I should say, a fast-paced week of water games, baseball, badminton, mini golf, shooting, eating, and let’s not forget—crafts. That’s right….thanks to our camp director, Ashley, and much to the dismay of every male species present, us girls had a blast making magnet boards and journals! The boys made sure to go on ‘extra manly’ 4-wheeling adventures to compensate for the excess of estrogen present in the house. Erin’s fiancée, Kasey, had the pleasure of experiencing his first Ranch Week with the Larson’s and, let’s just say, we’re a little surprised, and very glad, that he’s still with us. ☺ Then again, he’s sticking around for Erin and not for us, which probably makes it easier. In the end, the week was a great success and we all had a blast. I was mostly relieved that I didn’t end up having to be Brooke’s Labor & Delivery Nurse that week…although it would have been a good story.
Nathan & Kasey after their manly ride
My niece Marley and I have the same shirt!
BUSINESS CLASS SNOBS
On July 29th, at 1 o’ clock in the morning, Nathan and I boarded our flight from Vegas to Dulles. Arriving in Dulles at 11 that morning, feeling a little short of mildly rested, we prepared to make our first attempt at flying on a stand-by ticket to Frankfurt, Germany. We were told at the gate that we were listed on Business Class and that things looked good for us getting on the first flight out. We were ecstatic. We could not think of anything better than a reclining seat with plenty of leg room on an 8 hour flight. But our jubilation was quickly put to an end as the employee at the gate said , in a rather disgusted tone, “you’re not wearing jeans are you?”. WHAT?!!! Since when does it matter what you wear when you travel? I most certainly was wearing jeans because if you expect me to dress nice on a redeye flight and a connecting international flight, you’ve got another thing coming. And I, by the way, did not look grungy. Nathan was slightly more dressed down than I was…but holy cow. So our much looked forward to flight in business class turned into the most tortuous flight of our lives. As we struggled to get comfortable in the front row of economy, it was all we could do to stare at the empty business class seats just behind the curtain. We imagined we would feel pretty similar had we been just shy of making it into heaven. So note to all of you…if you ever fly stand-by on a buddy pass and are hoping to be upgraded…make sure to check out that dress code before you fly. Ugh. And as a side note, if anyone ever actually pays for a Business Class ticket…wear a pair of jeans for us!! Needless to say we were grateful to arrive in the “motherland”…as Nathan calls it, thus beginning our 3-week sabbatical in Europe. We figured things had to go up from there.

THE ADVENTURE

GERMANY
The next 3 weeks were a bit of a whirlwind. We spent the first 2 weeks staying with various German family members. Nathan was such a good sport about sitting around for extremely long meal sessions while not understanding a word. As I’m sure most of you can imagine—at least those of you who know Nathan even a little bit—he had no problem turning each situation into something oddly hilarious…he even had the Germans laughing at him! I will say he made more of an attempt to learn what he could of the German language than I would have in his place. I was really proud of him. He can even identify the names and pictures of my entire German family…down to Great Uncles, Aunts, and second cousins! I think his most shocking German discovery was that a wiener schnitzel is not actually a hot dog! That one threw him for a loop! I asked Nathan to give me a list of his top 10 favorite German experiences and here is what he came up with:
1. Tante Gabi’s cooking
2. Eating Rouladin and catching bees in his glass at the top of a mountain overlooking Anaberg, East Germany (where my ancestors have all come from)
3. Exploring the deep silver mines in East Germany (wearing a very attractive yellow hard hat and blue poncho)
4. Neuschwanstein and all of the beautiful castles throughout Germany
5. Showing off his wheelchair skills for my Omi in the hospital
6. The Autobahn (need I say more?)
7. German breakfast…all 4 hours of it
8. Spending time with Ralph and Sabiner
9. The Rhein River cruise
10. All of the German names…personal favorites included: Ute, Helmut (whom Nate refers to as Helmet), Wolfgang, Boris
So that pretty much sums up Germany for you ☺. We had a blast and I loved introducing all of my family to my husband. The best part is—we didn’t pay a dime for the first 2 weeks of our trip!

Spaghetti Ice Cream in the town where my mom grew up
Neuschwanstein

The little town of Strasbourg right over the French border about 30 min from my Omi's house.

Picnic in Strasbourg

Giant German Pretzels--my favorite!

Can we say, elephant?  Nathan dressed up in medieval armor

German Names...gotta love em

The usual German breakfast.  I love it!

Baden-Baden (cloudy day...sad cause you can't see how beautful it is)

Goofing around

Cuckoo Clock, anyone?
All dressed up for the Silver Mines in East Germany
At the hospital with my Omi
ITALY
How to sum up a week long excursion through the beautiful land of Italy. My parents flew back home on the 11th and we took off for Venice with nothing but our car and camping supplies—oh and let’s not forget our GPS unit…without it we would still be there, desperately trying to find our way home and possibly on the brink of divorce. Let’s just say, Italy was not the most planned trip we’ve ever taken. Frankly, we were flying by the seat of our pants. We knew only that we wanted to see Venice, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and possibly some other cities along that route. As far as where to stay and what specifically to see…we had no idea. We arrived in Venice late one evening and began searching for campgrounds. We had sort of been given an idea of where to find these campgrounds so we weren’t completely lost that night. But a killer headache made finding a pharmacy a bigger priority for me, which, in Italy late at night is near impossible. Luckily I got my hands on some good old ibuprofen and I was a happy camper—literally. We set up our tent for the first time, which, we discovered was quite the old-fashioned tent. By that I mean it was seriously a ‘tent shape’, with poles inside the tent and all. Nathan made the comment that, “if you lived in 1953, we may have your tent.” But we didn’t care at that point. All that mattered was that we had something to sleep inside of. One thing I will say is that European campgrounds are much better than American camp grounds. The bathroom/shower facilities were surprisingly tolerable. Don’t get me wrong, I still bathed my hands in hand sanitizer about every 10 minutes, but I could handle it. The following morning we ventured out and found a ferry boat to take us into Venice. We discovered that Venice’s Subway system was a ferry boat. In fact, they had taxi boats and lanes marked out on the water of where you could and couldn’t drive your boat…the water was their highway. Pretty cool, actually. We spent the day visiting museums, window shopping, eating gelato, and taking a boat around the grand canal. I loved Venice. The next morning we packed up camp and set off for our next adventure—Florence. Now the first hour we spent in Florence I think we should probably not talk about. In fact, I think we’re both trying to suppress that memory. Let’s just say that two Americans in a busy and large Italian city with no plans of where to go resulted in frustration, panic, homesickness…it even got to the point where I questioned Nathan’s manhood. That’s right, I needed him to be the rock…to figure things out…and I blatantly told him to buck up and be a man. Ouch. It was at that moment that our desire to turn around and go home became a focused effort to find an internet café, search for camp grounds, and punch the address into our trusty GPS. 30 minutes later we found ourselves at the perfect campsite, overlooking the entire city of Florence and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany. We couldn’t have done it any better had we planned it ahead of time. It was a fifteen minute walk down the hill into the city. Perfect. The next day and a half was wonderful. We loved Florence. What a romantic place. And seeing Michelangelo’s David was actually more amazing than I had expected. I definitely recommend Florence to anyone visiting Italy. Despite the fact that our campground bathrooms were getting progressively worse, we were starting to figure things out and enjoy ourselves. Before leaving we found an internet café and planned out the rest of our trip…we needed to avoid any more situations like our arrival to Florence…for the sake of our marriage ☺. Pisa, what can I say about Pisa? There really is a leaning tower. It was awesome. We pretty much drove through, parked, looked at the tower in awe for a few minutes, bought some pasta, and continued on our way. Next was Cinque Terra, which actually means Five Lands. The city we specifically went to was called, Levanto. We set up camp there and went exploring. Of course we were unprepared for the massive rainstorm that came that evening, and found ourselves running frantically back to our tent. That evening we shared a humble meal of sandwhiches and tomatoes in our little tent. It was kind of nice to relax for a night…we had been on the run every day and we were pretty tired. The next day we drove to another city of Cinque Terra called Vernazza. These cities are literally built up on the cliffs of the coast of Italy. It’s a breathtaking scene—quaint little villages right on the coast, with nothing but mountains of greenery surrounding them. We spent the day relaxing on the beach there. Well I relaxed anyway. Nathan decided he wanted to blend in with the locals. There were young local kids, girls and boys, jumping off on a dock into the ocean where they would wait for a big wave to come and swell up so high that it brought them back up onto the dock—often in standing position. They did this over and over again…making it look rather easy. So Nathan jumped in. I watched as occasionally his head came bobbing up into sight. He was so close several times but just could not pull himself back up. After about 15 minutes of trying, he swam around to the ladder and crawled out of the water. He’ll be the first to admit that it was about the closest he’d ever come to drowning. He was exhausted, had cut his feet up, and had lost his wedding ring in the Mediterranean. Good thing we only buy Nathan cheap wedding rings cause this will be the 3rd one I’ll have to buy him, and we’ve only been married a year and a half. Maybe I should order them in bulk this time. It was a fun day in Cinque Terra. The next day we made our way up to Switzerland, where we stayed with my mom’s best friend. I will admit I was grateful to finally be able to shower without my flip flops on and not have to set up a tent again. It was quite the adventurous week and as we drove back to Germany the following morning we felt very accomplished and very tired. From there we returned our rental car and found ourselves, once again, sitting at our gate at the airport, praying to be allowed on the flight. And for the record, we were in our church clothes and flew in style the whole way home! Business class was possibly one of the best experiences we’ve had this past month. Definitely the first time in our lives that we didn’t want the flight to end. So now it’s back to reality. A long cross-country drive back to Utah and a bitter-sweet move to Arizona. What will life hold for us there? I guess I’ll have to go to find out ☺.


Venice!
Our lovely tent (with my feet sticking out)
The Ponte Vecchio in Florence--our favorite evening!
My favorite activity--window shopping
The view from our camping ground in Florence--beautiful!
Our arrival in Venice
Cinque Terra--beautiful coastal cities in Italy, on the Mediterranean side.
Cinque Terra, again.  We loved it here.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa--it really does lean!!

11 comments:

rob, jax & max: the harmon squad said...

You make me jealous. Rob and I want to go to Italy soooo bad- hopefully we'll make in this lifetime. But it looks like you guys had fun overseas! And I have to agree the dress code thing on planes is stupid.

Sabine said...

Jess, it was fun reliving our fun vacation in Germany and reading more about your adventure through Italy.
I'm glad you wrote it all down.
Maybe some day Dad and I will take a trip to Italy :o)

We'll miss you sooo much.
LOVE
Mom

Meghan and Tyler said...

Jess, thanks for writing so much. It was fun catching up on your lives for the past little bit. I know you were worried that you wrote to much, but it was so fun to read. Even though we missed you guys a lot, we are glad that you had just so much fun. We'll have to combine our next trip to Europe...or South America. Basically you guys have to be our travel buddies, it's already decided. And of course we'll have to invest in a GPS (it saved our marriage too) :). Have so much fun on your adventure in Arizona and keep us updated.

Marianne Thelin said...

What a fun trip, you are a great blogger! It is fun to read the stuff, I remember camping at the beach by Venice, beautiful warm water, dirty old Italian men:) Of course, I was 13 going on 19 and those men must have been at least 30:)

Glad you had fun, we too can relate to the GPS. Our first experience with that was in Washington DC when Justin and Ashley got married! Best invention ever! Where will you be staying on your birthday, still in Utah? Let me know, Mutti has a card to mail! I love you guys:)

Phil & Jerai Moulton said...

I am so glad that you guys had a great time in Europe. It was fun to read about your adventures and it was great to see you a few more times before you left to Arizona. It was a nice surprise that you were going to back in Provo for a few days! Good luck with finding a job and tell Nathan that Phil and I say hi and that we miss you already!

jodi said...

Oh my hack, what an amazing trip. I would love to do something like that- hopefully someday!

Karen said...

I am so jealous. Looks like you guys had so much fun. I love Germany and it is my dream to go to Italy someday. Miss you!

Kallista said...

That looks like it was an awesome trip. I need to call you and hear all about it. I love all the pictures! Good luck in Arizona. I am glad you guys are doing well. I also loved telling Dave about your business class story. We will have to remember to dress up if we ever fly business or first class!:)

-Kallista

Kristie said...

ooo i like your new background! i forget how to change mine i need you!

The Thelins said...

I'm so glad you finally updated! I've been dying to read all about our adventures. I loved all the stories and especially the pictures. So beautiful. That little town in Germany by the water looks like a postcard! Welcome home. How is AZ? We miss you guys already!!

Robyn said...

What a fabulous adventure! I so want to go now.