March 29, 2008

Flashback: Rome

Here is the final installment of the "flashbacks." Enjoy.
(btw, this entry is longer ...because it's Rome)

Wednesday, March 14

-We wake up around 1:30 a.m this morning to head off to Rome! We're gonna see some sights, eat Italian food, watch out for the pickpocketers and do as the Romans do! As Jesse Spano (from Saved by the if I had to explain) would say, "I"m so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so...scared!"

-At 2:30 a.m., we start driving to the Frankfurt Hahn airport with our helpful guide, Susan (that's the name of the voice we have programmed on the GPS). Except Susan doesn't know that one of the roads we need to drive on is now closed, and she keeps saying, "turn around whenever possible." Oh, Susan. If you only knew the 411. Thanks to some help from the Man Upstairs, we find our way.

-We fly Ryanair, which has hard seats and the chairs don't even recline. Also, you have to pay for any snack or beverage you get. This is only the tip of the iceberg with this company. I'm just glad the pilot was sober enough to land the plane without crashing it.

-Our cab fare from the airport to the hotel was 60 euro ($75 U.S.)! What a rip! Even though these cabs are expensive, i'm still greatful we cancelled our car rental. The people out here drive crazy! These streets are so crowded! Cars pack in three-wide on one-lane entry ramp onto the freeway, they share lanes side-by-side, people are driving on the shoulders like their normal lanes, people are cutting each other off constantly and our cab driver is weaving in and out of traffic like a madman! The driving out here is something you have to see to believe. Utah drivers are great compared to these Roman-folk.

-I GOT PICKPOCKETED! I think it happened on the bus, which is overcrowded with people all up in your personal space. I didn't even notice until a few minutes after we got to the Metro station. Wanna know what they took? A little bag of nuts n' berries out of my jacket pocket. They scored big on that pull (I didn't even bring my wallet. I kept the money in my front pocket, which I've been constantly keeping my hand over).

-We get to the Metro station to buy our all-day pass (four euro each). Ther's an outdoor bar in this station, which is a bit odd. They have a sign up saying to beware of pickpockets. This sign must is their substitute for law enforcement.

-Our subway finally pulls up and we can't believe how dirty this thing is. You know how you watch movies taking place in New York City and the subway trains are all old and full of graffiti? Well, they must come here to Rome to film those scenes (fyi-I've been on NYC subways before and they are nothing like that).

-We got off at the Colosseo (Colosieum) stop and right when we walk out of the station, bam! There it is. I can't believe I'm actually in front of it! There's history all around us. We see a street vendor and end up buying gelatto from him and for a couple of minutes, we're in heaven.

-Almost all the historic sights are in walking distance. Next to the Colosieum are Ceasar's temple, the remains of the old town center and Capitol Hill. The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Camp di Fiori and Spanish Steps aren't too far away, neither.

-After a while, I stop acting so paranoid about our belongings and start to soak it all in. It's an awe-filled walk, stirring up thoughts of what it would've been like to live here in its heyday. As we start walking the streets to the Pantheon, we stop at this Italian place on the corner and order pizza (which they make rectangular and serve slices in long rectangles and fold in half). I start eating it and I'm in heaven for a good 10 minutes. This is the best pizza ever! And its just ham! I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I'll still want the same thing tomorrow. Good times, good times.

-The Pantheon was worth seeing, as well as the Trevi Fountain. As we are getting lost looking for the Spanish Steps, I hear someone yell my name. It's my buddy Greg! He and his ladyfriend finished their Mediterreanean Cruise and decided to stay longer and see Rome. What are the chances?

-While I'm getting us lost, we walk down alley ways full of Italian men, with their suits, hair slicked back, sunglasses on, smoking and speaking Italian. I think they're mafia. Something's going down in this alleyway, and it's gonna be big. We walk past those streets and 15 minutes later, gun shots are fired and tires are squealing (just kidding. They were just businessmen taking smoke breaks, but that's the stereotype that popped in my head. Thanks, Hollywood).-Rome is very crowded. It's full of tourists, small cars, ancient sites, dirt, mopeds, graffiti, the Pope and pickpockets who steal small bags of nuts n' berries (among other things).

-Street vendors here: what the crap? They are everywhere and some are quite pushy. For instance, when we were at the Spanish Steps (waste of time. All you see are tourists sitting on them and no steps) people would forcibly give Ang and Valeri roses and then look at me demanding money. What's up with that? I wanted to punch them all in their faces (not Ang and Valeri, but the vendors).

-We hop on the Metro, last a few stops and get off. Valeri says animals shouldn't even be subject to riding on these trains and we should just take a taxi. The ladies decide they dont want to put up with Rome anymore and want to go home tonight. I think I've seen enough of Rome, so I agree. Looking all around this city, its really old and dirty. It reminds me of when Ang and I drove around Mexico City, except we ain't got no Mexicans here.

-We got to the hotel and can't cancel the reservation, but Valeri isn't too concerned about that. We're determined to get out of here. We can't get a hold of anyone from Ryanair to change our flight, so we take another taxi to the airport.

-The airport and our struggles with Ryanair for about seven hours deserve its own entry, which Ang has already taken care of (in our family forum).

-In summary, Rome wasn't built in one day. But that's all the time I'd take to visit it. And now that I've seen it, I don't care to go back (but I would go back to Italy and see a different town, though).

-Also, we took a ton of pictures here. It was great to see all of these sights in real life.

Ang and Dan at the Trevi Fountain. Apparently, you have to turn around and toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain. They say it's because you'll make it back to Rome if you do. I think it's just a lame excuse for the locals to take more of your money.

This is the place with incredible pizza.

Ang and Valeri walking down one of the many alleyways in Rome. It was actually pretty cool walking down these.

The inside of the Pantheon. I really enjoyed this place, although it didn't have a ton to offer. Oh, and sorry the picture sucks. Can you tell that I took it? (oh, I=Dan)

Ang and Mama Stoddart eating gelato right by the Colosieum. Contrary to her facial expression, Ang and I really enjoyed it (she's just making an angry face on purpose).

March 27, 2008

Flashback: Switzerland

I'm posting this entry from our trip to Switzerland because I can. BTW, our trip to Rome will be the last one of these we post. I promise. Thanks for putting up with this.
That is all.

Saturday, March 10

-Today, we embark for Switzerland. I've been wanting to go to Switzerland for a long time, so we'll see if their rivers really are flowing with milk chocolate and if their homes are made of swiss cheese.

-In order to get to the Swiss land, we must pass through France. It has some nice countryside, too bad everyone wants to blow it up. Oh, and there's a toll road. In other words, we have to pay the French to get out of their country. This is great.

-As we cross the Swiss border, we are directed to go to a station to pay for a pass so we can drive around in their country. What is going on out here? Why are countries making us pay for the "priviledge" to drive there? Doesn't this sound a little desparate to you? Now's the time to take back the streets! We aren't gonna put up with this crap any more! Actually, we end up paying the toll.

-As Kent and I approached the station, we ask the guard behind to counter for one pass. This guy doesn't speak a lick of English, so we're loving life right now. The guard thinks we need to buy two passes, even though we keep waving our index fingers indicating one. We're going back and forth with this guy for at least five minutes before he finally gets a clue. Kent says we should've waved "the other finger" on the way out.

-Wow, Switzerland is beautiful! Around every corner, the view looks like a scene from a postcard. (Also, there are a lot of tunnels at first. I think Will would like this)

-Unlike the Frankfurt temple, this one is visible form the highway, but confusing to get to. We can't get it to pull up on the GPS, but we end up finding our way there eventually. Unfortunately, we end up being a little late to do any sort of temple work (last sessions at this temple are at noon on Saturday). But they let us hang out in the foyer a little past the lobby.

-They sell Mountain Dew in the LDS bookstore out here! Dr. Pepper, too! Yes, brothers and sisters, the church is true in Switzerland! There they sat in their carbonated caffinated goodness on the shelf with other American goods.

-We end up going into old town part of Bern, which is basically a main street full of buildings that are about 500 years old. These buildings are now shops, restaurants and apartments. It's pretty cool, except everything is expensive! The people weren't too friendly, neither. They don't even take euro money here, they still use the franc for their currency. So if you wanna check this place out, get some francs (they are a little weaker than the U.S. dollar).

-Question: would you be interested in paying 19.00 francs (about $17 U.S.) for a burger and fries at McDonalds? The people of Switzerland think you would.

-On our way out of Switzerland, we stop in Straussbourg, France to eat...Italian food! Everyone liked their meal except me. But that's what I get for trying something new.

-Once we finally cross into Germany (thank goodness, too!) I'm driving on the autobahn and everyone else in the car is asleep. You know what that means...ZOOM! ZOOM! Well, we're in a little hatchback and there's four of us in it, so I only top out at 160...kilometers. I don't even think that's 100 mph. I even had the gas peddle to the floor for a solid minute. Oh well. It was fun trying, though.

Dan failing to push 100 mph on the freeway.

A street in Bern with shops. Yep.

(btw, the shops are hidden under all of those archways, I promise).

Ang and Mama Stoddart doing what they do best...being white girls!

March 26, 2008

Another Germany Flashback

Here's another flashback of our trip to Germany. I'm not posting all of my entries because everyone is probably bored enough of this. In fact, I'll probably post one or two more of these later and call it good.


Wed, March 7

-We drove to Frankfurt today to go to the temple and do some sightseeing. On you way there, we encountered a "stau" (traffic jam), which made our 1 1/2 hour trip 2 1/2 hours instead. While waiting in traffic, the radio plays "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly and Angie starts crying because she thinks its the most beautiful song (actually, she hates this song. I have no idea why).

-There are cigarette vending machines all over the place. They're on just about every street corner. I don't think they have a minimum age requirement for smoking, which explains why everybody smokes out here. Even the babies.

-The Frankfurt Temple is hidden within a neighborhood, so you don't see it until you're right in front of it. I like this temple. It looks sorta like the Chicago Temple. Anyway, we asked the temple workers if there was anything that needed to be done, so we did baptisms. Valeri and Ang weren't prepared for this, so their makeup washed off and they didn't have their hairdryer, neither. But they don't need that stuff. My wife is hott!

-After that, we decided to drive downtown to walk around and see the sights. After driving around for about a half hour and not finding a place to park, we decided to just go home. We weren't too impressed, anyway.

-FYI, the cities of Munich and Frankfurt were left in ruins after WWII. Frankfurt decided to tear down and start fresh, while Munich chose to restore. In other words, Frankfurt looks like a U.S. city and Munich kicks it old school, Duetchland style!

-For dinner, Valeri, Ang and I decide to go to an Italian restaurant called Pizzeria Anna, named after Kent and Valeri's first landlord out here (can you believe it? Italian food in Germany! This country also has Chinese and Mexican food, too! Who knew?). Anna is a real Italian, so she makes authentic Italian food. Valeri and Ang split a pizza while I throw down a calzone that's as big as my head. In addition to our food being good, it was cheap, too. Everything here (except the steaks) is under 10 euro. They'll even light a candle on your table.

-Ang and Valeri like it when I talk in a German accent. Just a little something I've picked up while being out here (to be honest, the accent is fake and is only busted out once in a while to spice up conversation).

Ang and I at the Heidelberg castle. The place looked much better before this picture was taken (200 years before, as a matter of fact).

This picture was taken down an alley into one of the main shopping streets in Baden-Baden. We ate at that restaurant located down the way (the green building).

In Baden-Baden, in a tree, off the beaten path (I like this one).
The bakery in Meisenbach that was around the corner from where we were staying. This place had some awesome pasteries and candy. I could live in this place (I don't think Ang would approve, sadly).

March 23, 2008

Flashback: Germany

One year ago this month, Angie and I went to Germany to visit her parents (who were out there temporarily for work). I bring this up because this was such an incredible trip and it's always fun to recollect on vacations such as this one. I kept what I called a "Euro Road Trip Blog-thingy" and felt it appropriate to post some of its entries and pictures. I'll post one entry per blog post so I don't overwhelm anyone and/or bore them to tears.


Friday, March 2nd

-As we boarded our plane to Dallas, we sat in the second to last row. Since our flight is headed to Texas, we were priviledged to have a few native Texans sitting right behind us. These guys are loud. They're talking about thinks I'd expect loud Texans to talk about: hunting and war. Did I mention they were loud? Their accents are cool. Sitting by them was totally worth it when I heard one of them say "git r done" in his loud, southern accent. Good times, but not the good times I would want to experience again.

-Hanging out in the DFW (that's Dallas Fort Worth airport for all y'all suckas who don't know) was a better experience than I thought. We were only there for about an hour and a half. WHile there, we decided that food was to be eaten and it was to be eaten by us. We needed something fast, but we didn't want Mickey D's. Luckily, we found a bbq place! I love bbq, especially bbq that doesn't suck. This place had Texas bbq written all over it. Our smoked turkey sandwiches rocked. Next time you're at the DFW, go to Cousin's BBQ. It will not dissappoint. And if it does, blame Ang.

-So, I've seen two mullets here. And these were good ones. Older guys with their Mississippi Mud Flaps hanging a little past the shoulders. I've also seen older guys wearing suits with cowboy hats. Classy!

-We board our plane for Frankfurt and our plane is huge. This plane devours other planes with its bigness. It's a 777, or as Ang would say, a 2-5-2 (referring to the number of seats in each aisle). Since we're both functioning on about 4 hours of sleep, we figure this nine-hour journey is the perfect time to catch up on sleep and be well rested for the morning in Germany(although I haven't been able to sleep on a plane before).

-About five hours have passed and neither of us can sleep. I've tried to bore myself to sleep by listening to the talk radio stations that AA provides, but I kept finding myself surprisingly intrigued by such topics as the Chinese stock market and the strategies of the National Interior Design Association. Btw, I'm listening the the Japanese rock station while Pants rocks the crossword puzzles.

-Why do we fly American Airlines? Because we're Americans, that's why.

-We get out of the airport and head on our way to the 'rents place. The countryside is beautiful! It's full of little villages with old churches in the middle and an occasional castle. I feel like breakdancing in excitement.

-We arrive at Kent and Mama Stoddart's place. Ang and I like it, but I think John Hancey will prefer to sleep in the car. The doorways are about 6'2 in height and he'll have to crouch down to go up and down the stairs. Indeed, he will feel like Buddy the Elf while at the North Pole. Good luck, John.

Here's a flattering picture of me in Deutchland typing an entry of this Euro blog.

Here's Angie's parent's place in which we stayed.

March 21, 2008

Operation: Wii. The search is over!

Yesterday, Ang and I welcomed a new addition to our family: the Nintendo Wii! We have been trying to find one over the last few months with no success. I was fortunate to find one while on a business trip to Newport at the local Fred Meyer. I guess I showed up at the right time. This goes to show to all of you out there trying to find one of these hard-to-locate Wii's that it is possible. Considering the circumstances, I found it appropriate to pull out my Journey CD (so what if I have a Journey's greatest hits CD?) and rock out to Don't Stop Believin' on the drive home. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Anyway, Ang is excellent at Wii bowling. I can't remember the last time she bowled below a 210. On one occasion, she bowled a strike in every frame except one! She scored a 269! Our friends, Dan and Lori, are the other witnesses of this record acheivement. With that said, she is undefeated in this household. I need to put in some more practice to hang with her.

March 19, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt

On Monday, Rob, Kristi, and Aaron came over for dinner and FHE and a surprise Easter Egg Hunt. I took some videos of it with my digital camera (not that great of quality...). This first one is of Dan rockin' out to Lionel Richie.

This video is of Dan singing and dancing for Aaron. I don't think Aaron quite knew what to think...

It was such a fun night!!!

March 14, 2008

Vacations and trips (follow-up posting)

(Dan speaking)

If you plan on coming out to Oregon and visiting the coast, beware of dinosaurs! Jurassic Park is alive and well in these parts.

That is all.

Vacations and trips

One thing Angie and I enjoy most in life is going on vacation (trips are mini-vacations and count in this category as well. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool!). It keeps us refreshed and reminds us of what makes life enjoyable in the first place. We recently went to the Oregon coast and were very fortunate to have some nice weather, especially during this time of year. As you hopefully noticed, we took some pictures. I wish they did the coast justice. It's so beautiful out there. It's amazing and is something that everyone should experience. The sound of the crashing waves, feeling the slight breeze, looking into endless blue water, I could go on. I just hope the family I have left in St. Louis gets to come out here and experience this (they have never been this far west before).

Welcome to the blog, sucka!

(Dan speaking)
After months of contemplating whether or not to create a blog, Ang decided to take the initiative and create this space. I'm glad she did! Kudos to my hott wife!

The main reason I was indecisive on doing this is because I like to write, but I have some worthless things to write about. I mean, honestly, who cares to waste their time reading about the goings on in my life? It's not like I'm Bono or anything. In fact, why are you reading this right now? Are you that bored?

Anyway, welcome to our blog and we hope you enjoy your stay.