Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love. Then Eat Some More.

To celebrate Zach's graduation from the UC Berkeley MBA program, we flew out to Italy for a week.

We hit Rome, Florence, Siena and Venice. Zach's favorite city was Venice due to its beauty and charm and the "old-timey-ness" of the canals and narrow, stone streets. In a stunning reversal of her prior sentiments, Tiffany also loved Venice. We determined that the sunny, warm but not hot May weather, combined with the pre-summer tourist season, made for the perfect visiting environment.
For one, glorious week we wandered the classic, cobblestone streets of the Old World, never knowing if the next corner turned into a quaint piazza or reveal a beautiful cathedral. And if we got lost? Invariably there was a gelato and an espresso to comfort us until we found our way.

We also sighted a number of Chinese tourists and had the distinct role reversal pleasure of watching them lost in a foreign land for once, after three years of the Zach and Tiff comic relief show in China.

Here their group scrambles to touch the holy grail of Chinese retail, a non-knockoff luxury handbag. It was accompanied by many oohs and aahs filled with awe and amazement.

A typical evening out in Venice would entail dinner along the Grand Canal, accompanied by a bottle of wine, some cheese and pasta. We couldn't imagine a better ending to a long day of exploring and sight-seeing!

Chinese tourists in Piazza San Marco in Venice, balancing the classic desire to engage the famous pigeons without getting pooped on. The end result? Italian pigeons 1 : Chinese tourists 0.

Here Tiffany finds that the tiny people have fallen out of her pocket. Oh, you didn't know about the tiny people? She never travels anywhere without them.

Outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Tiffany found a long-lost cousin, perhaps?

A typical two-toned marble construction reminded me of Michael Keaton's costume in Beetlejuice.

Oh, did I mention the gelato? It was everywhere, we ate two a day, and it was sublime!

Zach experimented with flavors like melon, milk and frutti di bosco (which was just blackberry, I think, but so much fun to say!), while Tiffany stuck with strawberry and lemon and compared city to city (one in Rome was the best).

The non-stop activity even late into the night outside at Trevi Fountain in Rome.

One of our best meals was at a mozzarella bar in Rome, called Obika. I think they have a branch in New York, and it was a great meal and a lot of fun tasting different fresh mozzarellas side by side. With the accompanying bottle of wine and salumi platter, of course!

Senatus Populusque Romanus - the acronym SPQR now proudly serves as the seal on all the Roman sewer grates. One of us thought it looked really cool and spent the night taking pictures of "Gladiator"-emblazoned sewer covers. The other thought I was a nerd. Can you guess?

Tiffany had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter a confessional in the Vatican church and have all her sins confessed and then expiated clean forever. Unfortunately she slightly misunderstood the instructions and spent the entire time advising the priest on which Perricone MD skin care products would work best for him.

Nevertheless, the whole visit inspired her and she felt a great light shining down on her, imbuing her with a holy glow. Or it could have just been the Perricone MD Cold Plasma lotion that she's been using religiously... (get it? "religiously"?)

Even though the lines are long at the Vatican, there was great people watching and always the chance of spotting the Pope Mobile.

Tiffany descends a very spiraly spiral staircase.

I have no idea what this picture represents, but we couldn't stop cracking up at this picture. Completely inappropriate, by the way, to be caught laughing inside the Vatican...

Not to mention imitating the holy papal sculptures. Yeesh, do we have time for another visit to the confessional?

We did find Tiffany's ancient Latin name, however, Tifernas. It means "the goofy one" in old Latin.

Of course, the food was one of the main highlights, and we ran into a number of open air markets that had great looking produce, including these purple artichokes. One of the great realizations was just how many restaurants would list on their menu some variation of "fresh vegetable of the day" or "whatever fresh thing we can find at the market".

We also noticed early on, while putting away a 3-4 pound bone-in steak monster, that the all-natural, grass-fed beef in Italy left us feeling pleasantly full and not the usual "ugh, I feel disgustingly ill" post-steak dinner sensation.

Italy beef makes Tiffany smile!

One of the ridiculously ornate hallways in the lead-up to the Sistene Chapel. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the Sistene Chapel, and a strict silence is requested. Ironically the guards are constantly calling out, "Silencio! Silencio! Silence, please!" way louder than the crowd whispering.

We examined the massive Colusseum and read about its violent history of pitting animal against animal (like bear vs. lion), and man vs. man and/or animal in epic battles to the death.

Tiffany was not impressed.

A solid brick wall is the only safeguard against whatever vicious beast the gladiator soon finds himself up against.

Small holes in the cement cage reveal the gladiator's deadly foe to be.... oh no! It's the dreaded Tifernas!

We also witnessed a protest march through the streets of Rome. It didn't seem particularly passionate, though, more like taking a day off to join a casual stroll through the city. We continued to see lazy stragglers for another five or ten minutes after we'd walked past the main "protest".

And so, happily stuffed with a week's worth of wine, pasta, gelato and espresso, we rolled ourselves onto a train to head back to Berkeley. We'll be back!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where Did We Go?

Tiffany and I thought that the blog would be over now that we're back in the US and no longer have exciting, international stories to tell you. Really, what could we say about our lives now? Documented trips to Costco and Target?

As it turns out, we received numerous, (politely) angry comments about the death of our blog, which surprised us. So while we won't be able to post as frequently as before, we will still try for periodic updates of our lives. Hope you enjoy this update of our first 4 months back!

As soon as we returned to the US in late August, we had some traveling to do. Tiffany went on a traveling spree through Denver, Chicago, and Iowa (apparently, 4 months of traveling just weren't enough for the girl). At the end of her American tour, Zach broke from his diligent social schedule, I mean, study schedule, to meet up with Tiffany on the East coast. While we were out there, Zach was able to meet up with his friend and ex-colleague from their DC days, Andrew. As you can see in the photo below, Andrew and his wife Amanda are very busy these days with their first kid, a very cute little girl! We went and visited the new 9/11 memorial by the Pentagon.

From DC we drove out to University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, for Tiffany's friend Miriam's wedding. Not only did Miriam and her new husband, Dave, throw a beautiful and fun wedding, they even performed for their guests!
Here Tiffany rests on the steps of a beautiful building on the UVA campus.
The other big highlight of the trip? The sweet ride Zach picked up and got to zoom around in all weekend! Not to mention a stop at an institution, the Waffle House :)
So what is Berkeley's Haas Business School all about, anyway? As Zach quickly found out, it was about "theme parties" and "costume parties", or preferably both. For Halloween, with the election looming, it only seemed appropriate to dress politically. Zach was your everyday "Joe Six-pack", and Tiffany was a (pretend) proud "Hockey Mom", which was so convincing that she actually got berated in San Francisco for supporting Sarah Palin. Extreme liberals as well, it turns out, have no sense of humor.
Zach's school then decided to celebrate the end of midterms with another party. The theme was "Monochrome". We drew many compliments in our matching ballerina outfits, and Zach contemplated a career change to a professional costume-party-goer.
Zach got to see his first 49ers' game in years. The Tom Brady-less Patriots still won easily, and Zach remembered why he hadn't been to a game in years.
Meanwhile, Tiffany was actively involved with the Haas "Partners Club", an organization comprised of the Berkeley MBA students' significant others. Tiffany had some of the international students over to learn how to bake cookies!
Then Zach threw a party for some of his classmates at his good friend Cali's house in San Francisco. Here he is, building relationships, literally, in the form of a human pyramid.
One of the great aspects of business school has been the opportunity to meet all sorts of people. And then convince them to take photos in ridiculous poses... Zach flew out to Omaha to meet with the "Oracle", Warren Buffet. While Zach didn't learn any investment secrets, he did get a once in a lifetime photo with the richest man in America.
And at a Berkeley conference on diversity, Zach met his longtime 49er idol, Ronnie Lott.
Tiffany landed a new job at a greeting card company,, where she is the director of marketing. She utilized her new skills to create our Christmas tree for this year.

Of course, Berkeley wasn't about to let the holidays pass without throwing another party!
And here we are, enjoying Berkeley's wonderfully mild winter!
And finally, we rang in the New Year with friends in San Francisco's famous House of Prime Rib. There's no better way to ring in the New Year than with good friends, lots of champagne, and large portions of red meat!
Zach recently returned from a trip to Israel, so that will probably be the next blog entry in a week or so!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Our Favorite Things

Looking back on our final post-China trip, there were highs (amazing views and incredible people) as well as lows (multiple bouts of food poisoning and 12 hour layovers). But the latter quickly faded to distant memories, as the former became embedded as some of the most incredible experiences of our lives.

As a wrap-up, we tried to narrow it down to a short list of our most incredible stops and experiences by country. Enjoy!

Ganges River Sunrise Boat Ride, Varanasi, India- Seeing masses of people who had made a pilgrimage to one of the most sacred spots for the Hindu religion was moving.
Camel Breeding Farm, Bikaner, India- Our first interaction with the one humped version. How can you not love the friendly, curious creatures? These 'young males' found Tiffany quite intriguing and couldn't help but come check her out at the gate.
Hobbiton, New Zealand- The set may have been partially torn down, but it sure was fun to reenact our favorite Lord of the Rings scenes here!
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand- We can't tell which was our favorite part, cruising over the glaciers in a helicopter or actually landing on the glacier and getting to walk on it. The whole experience was kind of like jumping straight into the Discovery Channel.
Climbing the Harbor Bridge, Sydney, Australia- For Tiffany, the climb up to the top was the worst part of Sydney, but actually being on the top and safely descending it was the best.

Lord Nelson's Brewery, Sydney, Australia- Zach loved nothing better than to end our Sydney days with a nice cold pint and mashed potatoes topped with a meat pie topped with mushy peas. Leaping Tiger Gorge, Lijiang, China- Zach and Tiffany walked off all those meat pies on a two day hike through some of the most beautiful parts of China. This stop had Zach jumping for joy at the beautiful landscapes.
Food Markets, Xinjiang, China-Although it made Tiffany sick, the fruit and other cuisines available at the markets around Xinjiang were gorgeous to wander through and sample.
Kashgar, China- Wandering through the old town of Kashgar made us realize why part of the Kite Runner movie was filmed here. The roads were charming and the people (particularly the children) were gorgeous and friendly.
Gobi Steppes, Mongolia- Helping rescue a 3 month old foal who had lost her mother was incredible, almost like a Mongolian version of 'Bambi' (fortunately, the two of us don't get too emotional or attached to animals...).
Arbud Sands Camp Games, Mongolia- The camp horse hands insisted on us playing a range of 'amped up' children's' games. Zach was in heaven while Tiffany felt the experience was one shade away from Abu Graihb.
Paris, France- After a collective 5 cases of food poisoning, we thoroughly enjoyed putting back on the lost weight through a steady diet of crepes, pastries, and other goodies. Here, Zach enjoys his flower of gelato.
Paris, France- Here Zach bounds around a Paris treasure...
Chateau Andelot, France- We aren't sure what we loved most, our hosts or lounging around in luxury at a true French Chateau.
View from Room at Chateau Andelot, France- It just doesn't get more beautiful than that.
While we were sad to leave all of these incredible places and experiences, we were ready to retire a few things as soon as we set foot back in the US...

Our matching his 'n' hers Salomon travel shoes (the only pair of shoes each of us wore for 4 months)
And our trusty backpacks, which held all of our worldly possessions during our travels:
Stay tuned for one last entry on our life in the Bay!