Saturday, May 05, 2012

What can I say? I think we are back? Our life has been complete chaos for the last 6 months. I am now halfway done with my schooling. It has flown by, yet I don't feel like I know nearly enough to be taking on that kind of responsibility in one more year. We didn't really get much of a Christmas break because we were moving. And we have done absolutely no traveling.
Finals are here. This is what the next week of my life is going to entail. Only my stack of books is 3 times that high. 

The purpose of this post however is for Joe. I have been a horrible wife. Joe finished school this week. And I didn't even know when his last day was. We didn't go out and celebrate. I didn't ask him how he feels to be a free man. He's started applying for jobs and I didn't even know. I feel horrible. So to my honey, I'm very sorry. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO proud of you. It is something we have been looking forward to for so long, that it literally snuck up on us. Congratulations my love!

We will be going on a very much needed vacation to somewhere that looks a lot like this. No distractions, no worries. Just me and you babe. Let's blow this joint!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fabio!? Do explain.....
So Skywest does these small contract jobs in other airports when the employees are short staffed and this was the first time Joe had actually looked into doing it...and it certainly won't be the last! It is awesome! So Skywest pays for travel time, hours on shift, gives a food allowance and puts us in a hotel. So Joe applied for the Santa Maria position and got it. Sweet! Mini Vacay! Joe left at the crack of dawn on Sunday. I had worked Saturday night so I came home and slept for a few hours, then packed and was on my way to meet up with him. So I was WAYYYYY late. Thank heavens for online checking in! flight left at 5 and I left my house at 3:50. I got to airport parking by 4, then waited for the shuttle. Well, after 10 stops I finally got to the terminal at 4:15 and the security line was past the escalators. I was mortified! Internally I was wigging out, but what can you do? So the line FINALLY started moving through security and I'm going through the maze, finally beginning to relax when I kept seeing this large person out of the corner of my eye. As we kept moving I thought, holy cow, that is an abnormally large woman! So I'm watching this WOMAN walking, totally floored by her size, when she turns around the corner and it's FABIO!! I was laughing so hard! So I pulled out my cell phone and was trying to get a picture of him. He was about 3 rows ahead of me and I kept trying to snap a pic, but it just wasn't working out. I got one that was really blurry but it's the perfect picture. Seriously, Fabio has HUGE PECS, with a purple shirt and long hair....totally thought it was a woman. So as I approached security I put my phone away and as soon as they cleared me I hauled to the last security line. So I'm taking my shoes off etc, when I look up and Fabio is 2 people ahead of me. AWESOME, I'm totally getting a pic with him, who cares if I miss my flight!? So the guy in front of me was SUPER slow. He was re-dressing and I skipped him to get my shoes and such and Fabio leaned over me to get his cowboy boots.....oh my! He wears Joe's cologne! Time stood still as I took a deep breath! I gathered my shiz and looked up to see a young guy trying to get a picture with Fabio. This is my chance! So I tried so patiently to wait my turn, but the old lady taking the pic on the i-phone was taking way to long so I just said to Fabio, "Do you mind if I take your picture?" And in a very polite and seductive response he replied, "Sure!" So I snapped and ran! I stopped at the monitors cuz I had no clue which gate I was in. I booked it to my gate, saw my name on the cleared list and I got in line for the L.A. flight. I looked ahead of me and there's Fabio! How in the world did he beat me here? He was very calm and collected, let me tell you he is exactly as they describe him (I don't really know, I've never read a romance novel) but he is very smooth in his walk and demeaner. Very Suave and huge! He really is 6'3" or 6'4" or something, and still very toned! So a flight attendant was behind me and she nudged me and asked, "Isn't that the model guy?" I replied, "Well, I don't know about that, but it's Fabio. The guy on the cover of all those romance novels." She said, "NO way!! Do you think I could get a picture with him?" I said, "I'm sure he would let you. I got one of him near security." So I showed her and she had me send it to her phone! It was hilarious. So we were the last ones on and as we passed through first class I contemplated asking to stop and get pic with him, but as I walked through first class he wasn't there! I looked up and he was heading towards the back of the plane! Anyway, it was a short and sweet flight and as I got off and went to look for something to eat, I sent the pic to a bunch of people with this title "IS THAT REALLY FABIO ON MY FLIGHT? HELL YES!" And for the next hour it was responding to hilarious texts. But my favorite was hearing from my buddy Bobbie. Here is how our convo went.

Bobbie: I am more of a Jason Statham dirty boy sort of girl. I would probably be able to kick his pretty ass. But, strike up a convo and tell me if he is smart.
Me: Wish I could but he was in the back of plane. Business can't be that good!
Bobbie: Nice that he was smiling at your picture taking, rather than being ornery. Have him give you a signature. Give him a marker and he can give you a tramp stamp!
Me: I was gonna wait for him to get off the plane. I thought maybe I could get a picture sitting on his lap but I don't have the balls!
Bobbie: He'd probably enjoy that. I heard he's a slut.
Me: Yeah well I don't think I could say no, he wears Joe's cologne which is always a guaranteed GRAND SLAM!

Anyway, it was hilarious. I found my next gate, sat and did homework, took a nap, then finally got to Santa Maria at 11:30 that night. It was cute to be greeted with a hug and kiss from my hubby who was working that flight!

Man of the hour! It couldn't get any sweeter. He worked 4 hours a day. 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. then 10:30 to 12:30. The Santa Maria staff were really nice to Joe, they thought he was the shizzzzz cuz where he works, they have 150 flights a day! They thought that was amazing! And he was the most experienced one there. Yay!?

They put us up at the Radisson at the airport which was really nice. Yup, that's the runway out our window. It's a tiny airport with mostly private airplanes. Commercial flights? 3 flights to L.A. a day. Period. Mostly commuters for work.

On Monday we rented a car and went to Pismo Beach. Joe's friend told us we had to eat at this one place, so we walked around enjoying the sites. It was freezing cold though!
On the boardwalk.....watching the crazy surfers.
I have my own rental shop! For those of you who didn't know me....I used to be called HotRod in high school cuz of my maiden name. Joe thought it was funny, he had me stand there for this pic and I told him, "I'm not a hooker!"

We enjoyed lunch at the SPLASH CAFE, the restaurant Joe's friend recommended. Their specialty? 18 years of the #1 clam chowder served in a sour dough bread bowl all for a mere $6.95! The line was out the door all day long! SOOOOO yummy. My most favoritest clam chowder is from Anthony's in San Diego. This one was a very close second! Maybe pushing first cuz of the bread bowl. It's a toughy! I'd have to try it side by side.

The happy couple! After lunch we hit up a Marshall's....I love California. I can always find the best stuff there! They opened one near our house here, but it's just not the same!

Obviously we didn't take our camera. Those are all the pics we got. That evening we ate at Shaw's Steakhouse which was recommended by a Skywest employee. It was pretty good. Very traditional, since 1953.
Tuesday we went and got breakfast, did a little more shopping, had RiteAid ice cream at 10:00 a.m. (we got some looks) then returned the car (expensive rentals there!) and spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel. They canceled 2/3 flights that day, so Joe didn't even really have to work. LAME! Wednesday I came home and went to a BBQ with friends who have yet to meet Joe. They think he's my invisible husband. On my way home I saw the band director from the movie Drumline. I got my phone out for a pic but quickly put it away when he was fighting with customer service. Yikes! Thursday Joe came home. Joe is in his last year of school...for a while anyway. And I told him we are doing these jobs all next summer!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Finally! I can't believe we didn't travel anywhere for 1 year! My mom and I had been wanting to do this trip for a couple years, and I'm thrilled it all worked out for my parents AND for us to go together! This was a combined family history trip as well as my FuN trip before school started. In the words of Mr. Fodor "SLOVENIA MAY BE THE BEST-KEPT SECRET in europe." And we couldn't agree more!

And no trip is complete without doing THIS at the airport. People think having these flight benefits are fun and easy, but let me tell you, it requires a lot of A route, B route, C route planning and a lot of sacrifice!

My pappy. How did my mom have the energy to stay up and take these? Oh...that's right. She was on the phone....AS USUAL. She is never seen without her phone in hand :) Love ya mom!
My mother's twin is really into genealogy and was only able to trace our family back to my great grandfather. They knew from stories that he was from a town called Gomilsko, they thought this town was in Poland. My aunt sent many emails trying to get some informtion , and finally received one email from a woman who informed her that there is also a Gomilsko, Slovenia. There are no microfilms from the former Yugoslavia therefore someone had to physically go to search for family names. Perfect opportunity for a trip! After attending my school orientation in NYC, the 4 of us trekked to Europe.

The closest airport to Slovenia that Delta flies to is Venice. Unfortunately, we had to split up. Joe and I ended up flying into Milan and taking a 2.5 hour train ride to Venice. My parents made it to Venice where they picked up the car rental and awaited our arrival, then we were off!! First stop..Piran, Slovenia.

Piran was a 2 hour drive from Venice. We stayed at the Barbara Fiesa Hotel which was beautiful! Every room had a private balcony that you could sit taking in the gorgeous views! As you can see, it sits on the side of a mountain and behind the hotel is a forest. Gorgeous 360 degrees. My mom couldn't help but test the water.

We chose this hotel because of the views AND the parking availability. This is the view from the front of the hotel. There were a bunch of sailboats and yachts scuba diving, and for good reason. Although ice cold in May, the water was crystal clear.

Slovenia had the typical european breakfast buffets with pastries, meats and cheeses. But don't let the Slovenes trick you. They also had cold fried fish and what appeared to be hot dogs. My mother feeling her SLOVENE blood pumping.....tried it all. No thanks.

We were up bright and early and although you can't really see, we had a beautiful ocean view during our lovely breakfast with the best hot chocolate!
Piran is the birthplace of 17th century composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini. This is the main square named after him, Tartinijev trg.

View from the Church of St. George looking down into Tartinijev trg and the port.

The streets are so small that you have to park on the outskirts and walk into town. The closer you get into town, the smaller the cobblestone streets become. We would know, we tried...... Luckily we made it out with no scratches or dents in the car! Not a bad view walking to the center of town, I must say!

Piran, the JEWEL OF SLOVENIA, is a medieval walled town on a peninsula surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. Narrow, cobbled streets lead to the main square, where it opens up to a beautiful harbor lined with open air restaurants right on the ocean.

The old medieval walls that we got to explore undoubtedly gave us the best view of Piran. And for free! While my mom and I enjoyed the beautiful views...the men watched the local soccer game that could be seen.......boys will be boys I guess.

Scenes of Piran, Slovenia. We found that due to the proximity of Italy and Croatia, the locals spoke several languages, including Italian and English which made communication easy. For dinner, Joe ordered a pizza (shocker!) and the 3 of us ordered the risotto scampi. Although a simple dish, it was the freshest seafood I have ever eaten!

On our second day, we headed to Croatia! Croatia is not yet part of the European Union, so they had pretty tight border control. We of course didn't mind because this meant we'd get stamps in our passports for Croatia and to get back into Slovenia! I always new it was the European vacation hot spot, but I wasn't expecting the weekend traffic to be so bad! Not to mention half of them were bikers. But I have to admit, it's a gorgeous and warm drive for bikers. Made me want to do it too!

These two crazy love birds.....

Our first stop in Croatia was Umag which was about 30 minutes from Piran. If you look at a map, we just drove down the coast and stopped as we pleased. Umag was small but cute. They were having a mini sailboat race at the port.

Next stop....Porec,Croatia. It was founded as a Roman fort in the 2nd century BC, now it's a bustling little place. SUCH A CHARMING LITTLE TOWN! We totally fell in love with it!
We enjoyed a nice lunch in Porec with ocean views, then devoured dessert at a little bakery. Hmmmm, I wonder which plate is Joe's? Onto the next town.......
We drove down to Pula, Croatia for one smokin' reason......the Roman Arena! Julius Ceasar made this area a Roman colony in 45 BC. There were several Roman ruins to see, but we only had time to visit the largest, most intact one. What does this arena have that the Colloseum doesn't? An incredible view of the Adriatic Sea!

This arena was built in 1st century AD and held gladiator games for 22,000 spectators. In the 16th century, the Venetians were going to move it stone by stone and rebuild it to it's original form in Venice. The plan obviously failed and it is now used for concerts, opera's and an annual film festival. Underneath is a small museum where they keep old Roman artifacts and pottery found. Just as we were finishing our visit in the arena, the weather turned stormy on us and we drove the hour and a half back to Piran for dinner.
After 2 short nights, we checked out out of our hotel in Piran and headed into Trieste, Italy. On the agenda were several things to see, but our friend Lola (GPS) kept sending us into the worst possible 1 way streets to drive. Well, our chauffeur (pappa Mo) had enough of Trieste so we were only able to see 1 castle......but it did not disappoint. I could totally live there!

Castello di Miramare was built in 1860. Not only is the water crystal clear, but it even has its own dock!

Ferdinand Maxmillian (who later became the Emporer of Mexico) was a commander in the navy and had this castle built to reflect the wood workings of his ship. LoVeD iT! For the most part, it still houses original furniture and drapery and the exquisite library is still in the original order.

The outside was amazing! Castello di Miramare is also a garden/park which sits on 54 acres. We walked around a small area, which still hadn't bloomed, but I'm sure it's massive and beautiful in the summer time. There were many groups of locals walking through the gardens and all long the pathway along the ocean.

My cup of tea in Trieste, Italy..
From Trieste, we drove into the heart of Slovenia. It was during this drive that we started to see and feel the adventure of Slovenia. We were floored by the beauty of the country. But nothing would prepare us for how ridiculusly awesome THIS castle was.....PREDJAMSKI GRAD.

Predjama Castle was InCrEdIbLe! In all our travels, we have seen pretty cool castles and palaces, but this was the oldest, most originally intact....and nothing else in the world compares to it. This castle is built "in front of the cave" which is the literal translation of PREDJAMA. All the crevices and cave openings are a part of the interior of the castle. Based on how it was built, they estimate it was built in the medieval 12th century and some parts even earlier than that. We were so fascinated by it that we bought a book about the history of it and it says," This building was not dictated by comfort or luxury. Damp, cold and draughts filled everyday life in this castle. The small windows let in little light, but this was outbalanced by the security of the cliff behind the castle and the cave, which offered an exit to freedom. A walk through the castle is designed to be a walk through a medieval day." Over time, this castle was added onto and was used by many and for different functions. This including knightly families, a hideout for thieves and robbers, and was last used by the Windischgratz family as a hunting lodge. The castles current appearance was done in 1583.

In the castle. It's obvious which parts are the oldest, as you're walking around in a cave versus the newer parts which are cement.

Inside it were very simple rooms, on 4 floors. This included a guardroom, a cellar, kennel, archive, several chambers for sleep/living areas, closets, a prayer alcove, chapel, chaplains room, a kitchen, bathroom, knights bedroom, guest chambers, lookout points and of course....judicial chamber and torture chamber.

We hiked in the cave below the castle. It was pitch black and we only had flashlights! There were only a few bats while we were there but our guide said that if you go in the spring time, the walls are covered with bats. The front of the cave was used as the horse stable but then it unfolds into an incredible underworld where they have ONLY discovered 12,580 meters so far.
The picture on the left shows the opening to the underground cave. Follow the wood railing to the iron gate. They still hold medieval tournaments here. How totally awesome would that be!? This was my #2 favorite place of Slovenia!

After all that hiking we decided to eat at the Gostilna at the castle. Gostilna's: far better than any restaurant you will ever visit. Another one of Slovenia's best kept secret. It's essentially a tavern but cleaner, warmer and super inviting. It is family run, the family lives upstairs and they convert the main floor into a homey restaurant. The mom is the cook and the dad is the waiter. That's it. But oh how delicious and AUTHENTIC! Let me tell you, it was the best meal we had! We all ordered gnocchi. It was so good that my mom went and asked the cook how she did it. She took my mom into the kitchen and showed her the ingredients and she didn't use tomato sauce in hers....she uses grated carrots! TO DIE FOR! Oh yeah, we also ordered the apple strudel. So much better than Prague's! This particular Gostilna was awesome, it's not pictured cuz we ate outside but the inside was designed to look like medieval dining days with long tables with bench seats and torches scattered throughout.

After devouring our awesome lunch at the most awesome castle, we headed towards our next destination....Gomilsko. We meant to just pass through enroute to our hotel, but we ended up starting with family history right then!

At first we drove through the small village of Gomilsko. It is very small, there maybe were only 50 buildings which consisted of homes, church, school, gostilna's etc. We found the church easily and my mom got out to make sure it was the right one (we knew the name) but it was closed. So we decided to try to find the cemetery. Easier said than done as the streets were very small and we weren't sure if it was near the church or not so we drove around. And around. And around. We were almost going to give up and head to the hotel when I noticed a small wooden plaque with a really long word "Pokopalisce" and 3 crosses. We followed the sign which took us right behind the church to the cemetery.
As we got out of the car, there was excitement and nervousness at the same time. What are we going to find? What if there is nothing here? So my mom gave us a list of names to look for: Pikel, Kosenina, Novak and del Negro. As we walked around, we discovered that Pikel originally was PIKL and this cemetery was full of them along with Kosenina. But none of the other 2 names. We combed the cemetery twice and took pictures of all the ones we found. It was in this cemetery that we found ADOLF PIKL. In my email I sent from Slovenia I wrote this to my brother-in-law, "We found an ADOLF PIKL. We thought you'd like that, answers so many questions don't it? He was the priest in Gomilsko for 8 years or so (originally from Zalec). No worries, we properly saluted him AND my mom!"

The church my great grandfather attended.
The Pikel in my mom couldn't stop that night. She decided to start knocking on doors. She went from door to door and the home next to the church was where the Priest lived. He spoke no English but let her in. She showed him the few papers that she had with my great grandfather's name on it linking him to Gomilsko. He ended up calling someone to come translate. She came right over to help. As they talked, we found out that she is the English teacher at the school and that her name was Sasha Pikl (maiden). What? Really? We could totally be related! She helped translate the answers to many questions about where the registration books may be. She ended up calling ahead for us so that we may know where we needed to go. She also took the time to teach us how to read/pronounce some of the difficult Slovene words and actually, it became a lot easier to pronounce words once we figured out basics of the language. In fact, a lot of the long intimidating words were easier to pronounce than the short supposedly simple ones. For my own personal reference, I need to list them so that when I go back, I can remember!

Pokopalisce- pokopalishche

Ljubljana- lubiana

Celje- tselia

Zalec- Jalek

hvala lepa- vala laypah

Lasko- Lashko

My great grandfather's house. Two homes away from the church and practically across the street from the school.
The school in Gomilsko where my great grandfather attended. We were so impressed at the upkeeping of all the old buildings. How is it that a place like Slovenia who has only been it's own country since 1991 is already a part of the European Union and appears to have minimal poverty? Granted we did not go into the big cities, but everything about Slovenia is spotless and well kept. Indoor and outdoor.

We then headed to check into our hotel near Gomilsko. We stayed at Villa Aina in Lasko which was up the canyon from Celje. Lasko is a town that produces Lasko Beer. It's a small Villa with 12 rooms, but it's practically brand new. It was beautiful! Europe is known for tiny rooms but this place was massive and had a beautiful modern bathroom...and my favorite? The tile in the bathroom matched the toilet paper! Speaking of TP, I always judge a country by it's TP and I have been known to pack my own....but Slovenia? Freakin sweet on more than one occasion!

The next day we woke up early and were on our way! We knew the name of old towns and their general areas, though now many names have changed since Slovenia became it's own country. So we drove to the general areas, plugged in "pokopalisce" on the GPS and it lead us to 7 different cemeteries. We spent all day combing these cemetaries and taking pictures of all of the ones that matched our names. It was during this time, as we drove from town to town, that we absolutely fell in love with Slovenia. The country was so beautiful, the people friendly and helpful though they spoke very little English. The scenery as we were on top of these mountains at the churches over looking the valley's was incredible!