February 26, 2015

The Rickses in Italy - Days 3-5: Cinque Terre

Sandwiched between touring 4 different cities, Spencer and I took a break to the Italian Riveria, specifically Cinque Terre. As much as I relish touring cities from sun-up to sun-down, I thought that a bit of down time would be appreciated. Little did I know how exhausted I'd get during pregnancy - a beach-break was absolutely necessary.

Day 3 saw us waking up BEFORE the crack of dawn to catch our train from Florence to La Spezia. We had a stop in Pisa, but sadly, we couldn't see the tower from the train station. Ah well. From La Spezia we took a tiny local train full of beach-goers to Monterosso al Mare, the Cinque Terre town with the most extensive sand beach (which really isn't saying anything). I didn't quite realize just how tiny the Cinque Terre towns are! You walk for 15 minutes, and you see the whole thing.

For our lodging in Cinque Terre, we went to the local internet cafe and told the owner of the establishment that we wanted an apartment for 3 nights. He called up the landlords (this old couple), the wife gave him the keys by dropping them out of her 2nd story window, and then her husband, who spent all day every day sitting on the same bench underneath the same tree, hobbled over to the apartment to let us in. This entire transaction made me feel like I had gone back in time. How cool to be in a place where all the residents know each other and call to each other on the street! Our apartment was perfect - kitchen with lemon trees right outside (Cinque Terre is known for its lemons), a bedroom that looked over a tiny, historic church, and no internet.

Lemon trees and the lemons Spencer picked (was it legal? we have no idea):

Party in the church's courtyard happening right outside our bedroom window. Sadly, they didn't save us any food.

Our first day was spent exploring Monterosso al Mare and, of course, going to the beach.

New Monterosso al Mare! (We stayed in Old Monterosso al Mare.) Can you believe that water? So stinkin' blue! Turns out all beaches with umbrellas are "private" and cost money; any beach without an umbrella meant it was free. Guess which beach we went to.

Our first full day in Cinque Terre was spent hiking among the villages. Only two of the trails were open, so we didn't hit up the southernmost two villages.

Old Monterosso al Mare - you can see the start of the hiking trail winding around.

From Monterosso we hiked to Vernazza, which is considered to be the most picturesque of the five towns.

Taking a break on the pier was not the worst place to eat a fresh focaccia (another thing Cinque Terre is known for) sandwich for lunch.

From Vernazza, we went to Corgnilia, the only town to not have direct access to the sea...because it's on the top of a cliff!

In Corniglia, we had a lemon granita, which is cold and yummy and absolutely perfect when you are hot, sweaty, and 15 weeks pregnant.

Obviously I was super excited about the granita.

From Corniglia, we hiked back to Vernazza, and then from Vernazza to Monterosso, I insisted that we take the train because again, 15 weeks pregnant and I had been hiking for like 6 hours at that point. At least we got one more sweet photo of Vernazza:

 Our last day in Cinque Terre was spent chilling at the (free) beach, reading, and napping.

Those three days in Cinque Terre were perfect after touring two cities at break-neck speed and before heading off to two more cities, and the hike was one of our favorite activities from the entire trip. If you ever go to Italy, stop over at Cinque Terre - you won't regret it.

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September 30, 2014

The Rickses in Italy - Day 1/2: Milan/Florence

Earlier this year, Spencer and I were discussing where to go for vacation this year as for the first time in our married life, we had the happy happenstance of having both money and time. Initially we considered going to visit Spencer's parents in Japan, but I've been wanting to go back to Europe, specifically Italy, for ages. Spencer was down with pushing back Japan a year, especially since we were planning to do in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in May/June, and this could be our last vacation pre-baby (we figured that if the IVF worked, I'd be in my 2nd trimester, and if didn't work, then we'd have something to look forward to).  Flights were purchased in April, and we were Italy-bound!

Our first stop was Milan. It wasn't initially on my go-to list, but the flights to Milan were hundreds of dollars cheaper AND non-stop (yay for Emirates Airlines!), so to Milan we went. We left New York at 10:30 pm on Thursday night and arrived in Milan at noon on Friday.  We only spent that afternoon/evening in Milan, so we made quick work of checking into our apartment and heading out into the city.

We saw the cathedral, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and meandered about various neighborhoods, which is how we see every city - by meandering and getting lost. Fairly modern and wealthy, Milan was pretty, but honestly, nothing spectacular. If it weren't for the flights, we wouldn't have bothered. Ok, actually, the cathedral was spectacular, and I'm so glad I got to add it to my collection of cathedrals I've seen:

Oh, and we ate the best gnocchi of my life in Milan - freaking melted in my mouth!

Early the next morning, we walked to the train station and caught a speedy train to Florence. Speeds of almost 300 km/hr! Spencer loved it. Again, we were only spending the day in Florence, leaving early the next morning. But let me tell you what, we packed it in saw so freaking much in that short day.

We started with the San Lorenzo market, skipping the touristy goods and going straight to the food section, browsing around until getting sandwiches and lemon soda. Spencer has been looking for lemon soda since he came back from Chile in 2006, and Italy is the first place we've been to that has it! I totally get why he's raved about it all these years.

Again, we meandered about, seeing various sites and generally getting lost. First up was, of course, the Duomo with its glorious dome:

It was hard to get a good picture, but the fresco was astounding.
We didn't climb the tower as the line was insane and I don't do well with stairs. Instead, we headed towards San Miniato on the other side of the Arno. Basically, we heeded the majority of the advice in this article about spending a day in Florence.

The view was worth the hike and eating some gelato on the way didn't hurt.

First of many gelatos, and 15 weeks at this point.
When we went to Milan, I was kinda disappointed. I'd always had this vision in my head of what Italy looked like, and Milan did not match that vision at all. Then, we went to Florence. Oh my. That city is the place of dreams. I mean, you are walking along and bam! A palace. You walk a few more steps and bam! A masterpiece from a Renaissance artist. There were also a billion beautiful churches and even processions out of said churches.

Well, hello, Neptune
Ponytail wasn't part of the procession.
Florence at sunset isn't all that bad either.

The day ended with the best meal we ate in Italy with Spencer's cousin and her husband. No, we didn't see The David or go to the Uffizi Gallery (that's not really our thing and the lines! oof.), but we saw so, so much, absolutely loved Florence, and in the end, were ready to move on to our next adventure - Cinque Terre!

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August 18, 2014

Lazy Weekends of August

This Saturday Spencer and I found ourselves in the glorious position of wondering, "so what do we do today?" For the first time since probably last year, Spencer didn't work a single bit this past weekend (well, he didn't work last weekend either, but he had an insane cold and was mostly out of commission). We were head-over-heels ecstatic to have the weekend to ourselves! However, we were also stumped as what to do. Normally, our summer Saturdays were always go to the burbs and go waterskiing, but sadly, that is no longer an option. So what do we do if we can't waterski? We explore the city, duh.

We got up early and biked down Summer Streets before the crowds hit, stopped at Economy Candy for baby shower favors, and because Spencer was adamant, got dumplings. At 10:30 in the morning. "If I'm down here, I'm going to get dumplings," he said. I passed on them, needless to say. We got home by noon, and after eating and showering, we were like now what?

(Spencer said, "this is problem with waking up early on Saturdays." I told him to hesh up - I have a serious love of Saturday mornings.)

After a bit of America's Next Top Model (judge not that ye be not judged! and yeah, Spencer hates that show), we walked through Central Park and all around the Upper West Side. Like the old people we are, we parked our rear-ends on a bench by the Hudson River and people-watched for a embarrassingly long time. And because no trip to the UWS is complete without a stop at Trader Joe's, we quickly purchased a few necessities, like Meyer lemon cookie thins and wasabi-flavored seaweed. Only had-to-haves, clearly.

The rest of the night included Spencer making homemade pizza like a champ and watching multiple episodes of The West Wing.

Sunday followed in a wonderfully blissful manner - french toast and peaches for breakfast, church, naps, bike riding in the park, more of Spencer making dinner and more West Wing. I basically had to pinch myself all weekend, wondering if it was for real - no work, no demands, just us, doing whatever we wanted. 

Good thing this doesn't happen too often, or we might get sick of each other.  

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August 6, 2014

Unintentional Radio Silence

Writing is something I don't naturally enjoy. Once I'm in the habit of writing, I can carry on like it ain't no thang, but if I ever get out of the habit? Well, I don't write a darn word for almost four months. In an effort of writing again and documenting our lives, here's what we were up to, April through July:

We still exist! Easter Sunday 2014, photo by my sister

April: April saw me working the most I ever have in my entire life (first and hopefully only weekend plus lots of late nights). I got a teeny glimpse of what it's like to be Spencer, and I honestly have no idea how he works those hours on a regular basis. NO IDEA. For Easter we went up to Massachusetts to be with my family, but with a quick stop in Boston! I hadn't been to the actual city of Boston in ages, and then I went two months in a row (March with my older sister and April to crash Spencer's work trip for a night)! Such a cute city. April's most notable happening was that it was my in-laws last month of living in New York. When not at work or in Massachusetts, we spent all of our free time with Spencer's parents, who moved on May 2nd after living in the NYC suburbs for 36 years. After a month in Utah, they moved to Tokyo where my father-in-law is doing legal work for our church, and my mother-in-law is doing service work. (See more of their adventures on their blog.) We miss them terribly, and I'm in denial that they are never moving back here. Sob!

May: We were both still working a lot in May, but never fear, good times were had. We did a fair amount of biking on the weekends, and I ran two races in my quest to do the 9+1 program for entrance to the NYC 2015 marathon. This marked the 3rd year in a row that I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and my gosh, I love that race. I hope to do it every year we live here. Memorial Day weekend saw us in DC for a day for Spencer's cousin's wedding (I was sooooo happy to be farther south for a bit!), work for Spencer, and then more biking and delicious tacos.

June: I was not working a lot in June (just assume that Spencer always is), and it was a pretty chill month. Spencer and I are trying to adjust to spending our summer Saturdays in the city, when normally we'd be with his parents, waterskiing on the lake. Sigh...I didn't run much as I've had some tendinitis issues that needed to heal, so no races. I did go to my first concert in NYC - Ingrid Michaelson at Terminal 5 with a couple of girlfriends. It was a blast, and Ingrid Michaelson was fantastic live. My sister Jenna came into town one weekend with a friend, so I hung out with them a bit, and then we went out to Fire Island another weekend when Spencer's sister Liz was there. Go check out her photos - they are gorgeous. We ate the fanciest meal of our lives, and went to another wedding! A close friend got married at the very tippy-tip of Manhattan, across from the Statue of Liberty with a gorgeous sunset in the background. We then ate and danced the night away, and it was perfect.

July: Again, work was kinda slow, so I found other things to fill my time. I started taking Excel classes after work, learning how to do VBA Macros, and yeah, I watch a lot of tv. For the 4th, we went up to Maine with the rest of my family, where we hiked and ate and saw fireworks and a parade. I always love going up there. I ran race #6 with Kiasa, my friend and running buddy who sadly moved to the suburbs. She was the one who got me through my first Brooklyn Half, and I was so happy to catch up with her. Spencer continued to work, including one weekend wherein he billed over 40 hours. Ouch. I planned a baby shower I'm throwing in August and OUR TRIP TO ITALY. We go in September, and I'm soooooo excited. Other than that, we try to enjoy the city on the weekends - get cheap eats in various neighborhoods, go to free concerts, and spend Sunday afternoons in Central Park.

So that's what we've been up to. I'm excited for August, which always seems like the start of summer for me (due to internships and bar exam in prior summers). Things have already looked up with us attending our fourth Shakespeare in the Park on Saturday and planning to bike Summer Streets this weekend!

P.S. no promises that I'll blog in the next four months :)

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April 14, 2014

I don't know how Spencer does it

On Thursday, I worked from 9 am to 8:30 pm.
On Friday, I worked from 9 am to 10:30 pm.
On Saturday, I worked from 10:30 am to 12:30 am.

Working 39ish hours over those 3 days makes that the most I have ever worked in my adult career. Part of me is proud of it, like it's a rite of passage. I've probably mentioned this before, but I normally work great hours, solidly 9 to 5 or 6 WITH a 1-hour lunch. In fact, my hours are known among my friends for being cushy. And the times I do have to work late (i.e., quarter-end, month-end, or P&I day), I always know what days those will be, and I rarely stay later than 8:30. I had never worked a weekend before. The other part of me is like, never do this again!

Working in the office on a Saturday until almost 1 am? That one was a doozy, right there. The crazy thing is that I didn't actually mind it in the moment. I mean, sure, it sucked big time working on the nicest day of the year. It sucked big time being in the office when Spencer was actually around (something that hasn't happened too much lately). But! I was so freakin' busy that the time just flew. Those 14 hours honestly felt more like 4. The most shocking part of it all, and what definitely made the weekend not as terrible as it could have been, is that all of us stuck in the office all those hours were cordial, helpful, and kind throughout the entire thing. Who on earth is gracious and polite at midnight?! I truly have the best coworkers.

A bizarre side-effect of working until 12:30 was that I couldn't fall asleep until 3 am. Yes, I was zonked, but because my mind had been in overdrive for so long, I couldn't shut it off. My coworkers had the same problem. Guess I had no choice but to watch some Vampire Diaries. :)

Sunday, thank goodness, was another beautiful day, and I didn't have to go to the office. I did oversleep church, waking up at 10:30, thinking it started at 11. In fact, we were meeting at 10, an hour earlier than normal. In my defense, we do usually meet at 11, and please, you think my brain was functioning? Spencer was also extremely exhausted from a very crazy work week and requires that I wake him on Sunday basically every week. So after sleeping in, we went to Woodlawn Cemetery (the most beautiful cemetery I've ever seen), walked around Saxon Woods, and spent time with my in-laws. I was surprisingly cheerful and functional. I was cuddly and chipper! Spencer didn't know what to make of it.

Then, Monday morning came about. You better believe I've been a zombie alllllll day. Doesn't help that we are doing a quarter-end on top of what went down this weekend, meaning lots o' work and staying to the "late" hour of 8 pm. I'm pooped.

And with all this going on, the one thought that comes to my mind over and over again is "How on earth does Spencer do it?!??!!" He works these hours and even worse! Regularly! My brain is so fuzzy - how does he ever concentrate? I'll happily not make quite (ok, not nearly) as much and work my sweet, sweet 40 hours a week.

Spencer, upon hearing this, nodded his head and said "mmm-hmmm!". As he deserves to.

I too want a mausoleum and gorgeous road sign for my resting place.
Waaaaaay back in the day, Spencer made oodles of birdhouses for Saxon Woods as his Eagle Scout project. And guess what? They are still there! Cutie.

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