Thursday, December 29, 2011


At the beginning of December, I spent a long weekend skiing in the Alps with some friends. This was my second alpine skiing adventure with the first being in 2009. I love the Alps. Howwever, when it comes to the actual skiing, I am way out of my league. I do have some really great friends though and they really helped me with tips and support through each run and I knew when it was time for me to train myself on the baby slope.

I love that I rented tiny skiis and bought myself some hot pink pants for the occasion. One of my favorite things about skiing, aside from being in the mountains is the style. I'm not sure it's exactly ski fashon but the style is very fun for me. Much like I have always liked bathing suits and the associated ocean style which is sort of similar despote the weather differences. 

Then there is Apres Ski which is really so much fun even if the bar is filled to the brim with sweaty, drunk Germans and the music is rediculous with a capital R. This bar was screaming for VMJ BTW, too bad we were never old enough for Apres Ski back in our college ski trip days.

Going with a large group of friends is also part of what makes a ski trip for me. I still don't consider myself a skiier but I promised my friends I would go at least one weekend a year to work on it. 

And really when I think skiing is not my sport, I remember the mountains and I am totally committed to one weekend a year. 

Sadly, I think my non-skiing husband would have a terrible time if he were to come skiing with me because I am still a beginner and struggle to keep myself motivated after day 2. I think we will try it together at least once though as long as he promises to wear a helmet. On this trip, I had a wipe out  that taught me the reason for ski helmets.

I also LOVE slying over the Alps. In my old job, I got so excited to fly with Swiss Air because of the georgeous views on the way into Zurich. I really should plan a summer weekend in these mountains to fully appriciate them.

Fun Fact: Ischgl spreads across Switzerland and Austria and at least one ski trail is over 20 km long!

Spending vs. Saving - where to draw the line and should I pay attention to the inflation rate?

This post is kind of all over the place in that train of thought thing I do. If you are looking for a more straight forward post, move along, this is not it. Sometimes, I just don't have structure. I'm currently outlining 3 versions of a research paper so my capacity for structure has been exhausted today. Appologies.

I have a pretty simple system of money management that I learned at a young age from my parents. It works like this. Get money (gifts as a child than income), put most of it into a bank account and leave it there. You are able to keep some cash on hand for spending based on income and needs but mostly save just in case. In hind sight, I don't see my parents operating this way and it really only makes sense when you are a child and don't have expenses like rent or an income which is direct deposited into your account. So, I've honestly adapted a bit to a much more simple version. Get paid each month, direct deposit all income into bank account, direct deposit a smaller portion into savings account which is untouchable. Visit ATM weekly for spending money, pay for things with debit card, keep a mental note of account balance. Check bank account every 6-8 weeks to be sure you are not running out of money. This is a TERRIBLE system but it sort of works. The point being is that I tend to focus on saving money as much as possible while still living my life. I aim to live below my means for as long as possible and hopefully build up a bank account to support owning a beach house one day in the near future.

In 2009, I challenged myself to not shop for a whole year and it really changed my outlook on needs vs. wants. It also took the excitement out of "retail therapy". At the time, I had recently took a new job which resulted in a decrease in income and wanted to be able to continue taking weekend trips so I cut out shopping in order to afford flying. Now I see the exercise, had long term positive effects on my spending outlook.

To the point, I have been holding out on owning a smartphone for some time since I was on a pay as you go type contract that I started in 2007 and my monthly phone bill was under 10 EUR most months. I saw that a smartphone would require the initial investment of a new phone to the tune of 500 EUR and then an increased monthy usage fee which I estimated would be around 50 EUR based on what friends pay for theirs. I was never against the technology, I was against cost. As more and more of my friends got on the smartphone bandwagon and I became more involved in social media, I couldn's escape the teasing. My Samsung slider from 2007 was not cutting it socially although it worked for phone calls just fine. I figured I would get a work phone with my next job and I could wait until then. For Christmas, P gifted me a very pretty white Samsung Galxey S2. I was completely surprised. Then I whined a bit about how much it would increase my monthly costs. He told me I could afford it and to get over it. For him it was not a price issue, it was more of a quality of life issue. I should add that he is now fully involved in the manageing of my finances since we combined so he knows what our bank accounts look like. I pointed out that 50 EUR per month amounts to an intercontinental flight (I'm still thinking about my airplane tickets) at the end of a year. This is when he asked when I have been in a situation where I wanted a flight but didn't buy it because of money. I haven't. This is also the point where I remembered we have totally differnt values on saving vs. spending. I think we both agree savings should be invested but again he is a bit more agressive than I in the investment sense.

The point of all this is that it made me reconsider my ideals. As a business student, I have taken my fair share of finance courses and I know money in a bank account with no interest is stupid. Especially in our current situation where inflation is coming on strong and governments are cash poor. I also can see that there are very few safe investments and most things are not inflation proof. Gold is the exception but it is also pretty high priced these days and storing gold is not exactly realistic when I plan to move across country boarders in the next year. So, what whould I do in an effort to be fiscally responsible? Spend my money and buy things while I can still afford them? This is stupid for many reasons but the moving plan is high on the list. I want to buy a beach house but that costs significantly more than what I have saved until now and is also not really practical at this point.

So, I will continue on my plan of putting money in the bank, taking money out of the bank, limiting unecessary purchases and giving my husband investment privelages. I do have my smartphone now but to my surprise, I was able to get a data plan for half of what I expected the monthly fee to be which made me happy. I still want to simplify my life and own fewer things. In the mean time, I guess I'm looking for advice on how to avoid losing savings to inflation. Anyone come across a good plan yet? Please share.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas & Frohe Weihnachten

It has always been said that the best way to understand a culture fully is to live within the culture. I think I can safely say I have lived in Germany long enough to understand and feel a part of the culture. The Germans have a word for things (most often words) that have been Germanized and I often refer to myself as "eingedeutsched." However, no matter how long or how Germanized I become, I odn't think I will ever forget my own holiday traditions. I was so excited to spend Thanksgiving with my family in 2011 for the first time since 2005 and that long weekend surpassed all of my expectations.

Since Germans don't celebrate Halloween or American Thanksgiving, Christmas is a season. Christmas candy starts popping up in grocery stores at the end of August and slowly takes over by October. In mid October, most shops have already put up Christmas decorations and you would be hard pressed to not find Christmas sweets in every grocery store. The large public celebrations of the season begin just about the same time as American Thanksgiving in the form of outdoor Christmas markets. All large cities and many small towns have Christmas markets where people drink warm alcoholic drinks to stay warm while socializing, eating and shopping in the stalls for the month before Christmas. Christmas markets set the scene for the season and serve as a general meeting place for colleagues, friends and tourists alike. This year a visiting Prof. asked me what Germas buy at Christmas markets and quite frankly, I think food and drink is the local favorite while the goods are consumed by maily tourists but my answer comes with the disclaimer that I am not actually German. The closest American comparison I can think of are church Bazars (sp?) but they are often only open for a weekend, most always indoors and usually contain at least 1 raffel or other game of chance, something you won't find in a German Christmas market. They are also sponsored by a religious organization and generally used as a form of fundraising for said organization (mostly Churches of Christian denominations). German Christmas Markets also have a religious element to them although they are not run by any religious organization. Here there is no seperation of church and state. Furthermore, Germans don't say happy holidays or seasons' greetings, it's Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas) and guten rutsch (literally translates to good slide but is more like the English "happy new year").
Back to the actual holiday, Germans celebrate Christmas in a way that I do not think I will ever fully be able to support. However, I do love the Christmas cookie tradition that takes place mid December where everyone bakes about 8-12 varities of cookies and shares them in homes and offices. I also like the tradition of the advent calendar which I have experienced as a recipient first hand this year and will have to let you know how I do with coming up with 24 gift ideas next year. The main Christmas celebration is universally on the 24th of December. The tree is often only put up on the 23rd or 24th. Traditionally there is a family meal. I'm still not sure if this is the meal that consists  of Goose, rot kraut and some form of potato or noodle or if that is served on the 25th. There is also a tradition I've heard of which involves eating a minimilistic dinner on the 24th in tribute to Mary and Joseph's struggles and then feasting on the 25th in celebration of Jesus' birth. My in-laws serve a completely different meal on the 24th which I much prefer so I have not experienced a Christmas goose. Christmas presents are also exchanged in the evening of the 24th. This is where everything is different. I may have ranted about this in year's past but for me, Christmas is the 25th. On the 24th I like to go to church with family (and take in the lights at LaSalette) and when I was a kid, spent Christmas eve with one side of the samily and Christmas day went to church in the morning and then spent the say with the other side of the family. As I grew up, I often spent Christmas eve with a friend's family prior to the tradition of going to mass at night with my family. In either scenario, Christmas was celebrated on the 25th with a gift exchange and a full family gathering at my Grandma's followed by a dessert party at my aunt's. These day's both dinner and dessert are enjoyed at my aunt's. However, it is always a buffet of dishes prepared and brought by everyone. My family is not very large but holidays generally involve 12-17 people in one place, eating, talking, watching TV, playing board games or cards and generally being loud and hanging out. There's always a sense of chaos and warmth that come with my family, and too many posed photos. I miss this when I spend holidays in Germany. A mature dinner on the 24th with 1 table, 6 adults and wine is enjoyable, just not my type of Christmas. Maybe I'm weird but I miss the chaos. This year, I hear my in-laws have a pre-Christmas plan to gather with the entire family on the 23rd. I am not so secretly hoping this gives me my fill of family and chaos and very vocally pled my case to add a dessert course which I volunteered to bake. Looksl ike I won't be participating in Germany cookie traditions this year as I have not had the time but I will hopefully make a nice simple chocolate chip M&M cookie tomorrow.

What is a key component of holidays in your family? Is this a cultural thing or something your family does?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Back

I have been avoiding blogging because I wanted to surprise my family with a Thanksgiving visit last weekend. This may seem like two unrelated points but there was one time in the past I tried to surprise my family for Christmas and, without thinking, I blogged about my upcoming trip which resulted in my aunt reading my blog and calling my parents and my surprise being ruined even before I got stuck in Toronto overnight due to a snow storm 2 days before Christmas.

I was only in RI for about 4 days making this my shortest visit across the Atlantic but it was so great to have a weekend surronded by family who I have felt out of touch from over the past year. Thanksgiving was loud and overwhelming and so very American and I loved it. 36 lbs spread over two turkeys plus two hams is an indulgence Europeans would not even think of. And 20ish people together in my aunt's dining room/kitching/den was comforting.

And driving...I now have a liscence again it feels like I just turned 17! Pictures to come.

My only regret was I was not there long enough to have time to catch up with friends. Also, I never left my German time zone which meant I was awake at 4 am and in bed each night by 7pm so my days were not exactly compatiable with anyone.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Japan is Making a Come Back

Since I'm on the look out for social media marketing, I was interested to see this article on Japan's proposal for increasing tourism. Interestingly enough, I saw a research presentation in Feb. 2010 that found Japanese people to respond to electronic word of mouth less than Americans. The findings struck me as odd since Japan is known for its mobile internet culture. The researchers never responded to my email for more information on their study so I really don't know more. That's neither here nor there as this campaign is clearly targeting foreigners.

As I understand it, the Japanese tourism outfit is proposing a government funded grant of 10,000 airline tickets to bring visitors to Japan and increase tourism. To qualify for the promotion, applicants will need to use social media (e.g. blogs, facebook, etc.) to talk about their travel plans and eventual trip. By the way, I've already blogged my 2009 trip to Japan and adventures on Mt. Fuji. Based on the 2,000+ responses on yahoo, I see that people are already not taking this promotion seriously. It seems that everyone sees FREE and is instantly ready to sign up. My social media marketing experience/research tells me that Japan needs to really plan this out before going live. Common sense tells me that they can't actually give away completely free flights and expect it to be a success. People will need to pay something, my guess is taxes but a nice round number like $100 would work as well. If the output is nothing, what is to stop 10,000 people from signing up but never actually going? Then the money will be set aside to sponsor these flights and go to waste and Japan won't get the social publicity they want. I realize this promotion is a long way off with a potential start date of April 2012 but it's an interesting case study coming from a county famous for saving face and upholding impressions, it almost comes off as desperate.

All that being said, I loved Japan and have wanted to return since I left in 2009. I still talk about the sushi and Indian food and clothes that could never fit and our friends have a new baby I'd love to meet. Make no mistake about it, I will be the first in line to sign up if this promotion comes to fruition. In fact, I would say any offer that gets me a round trip flight to Japan for $200 or less and requires less than 17 hours travel time would be a bargain in my book. I guess it would take a bargain to get me back though as there are so many other countries I've never visited that are vying for my vacation days!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October Photos

I think I'm going to try out this photo challenge for the month of October. This will give me daily inspiration and I'll post the photos at the end of each week. Day 1 and 2 seem easy but some of the later ones clearly require a bit more creative thinking.

Weird People in the Mann

Wow, this week is one of those weeks where I felt I was meeting all the weirdos and as soon as I spoke up, it just kept going. Where do I even begin. I guess I should start on the strassenbahn where, as I've mentioned before, I meet the most interesting people. This week there was even a dog, a Great Dane to be more specific and he was bigger than me, let's start there.

Grate Dane
There's a middle aged woman of petite stature with a long grey ponytail who owns a black Great Dane. I've seen her once before in the city but was glad that she was not sitting nearby. This time, she got off at the same stop as me in one of those this train ends but he next one is coming in 2 minutes so everyone gets off and stands around for two minutes situations. Side note, does anyone else experience such insane train switching situations on their route or is it just me? Anyway, she gets off with the dog and seemingly continues an argument with this random guy as the dog hangs out on its leash. At the same time, a young girl about 7 comes over and tries to ask if she can pet the dog but the woman is still yelling at this guy and some other seemingly random guy gives the girl permission. Suddenly the little girl's mother realizes her daughter is petting a dog that could easily fit her entire head in its mouth and comes over...and also starts petting the dog. The girl and her mother are oblivious to the argument going on and the mother's other two sons are playing with vampire teeth about 5 ft. away. Then the strassenbahn pulls up, the dog lunges forward and its owner, who I thought was about to get dragged onto the strassenbahn, has him under control in under 30 seconds. Commotion over, all get on and I enter a completely different car.

Indian Over Ask
We have a lot of Indian exchange students come through our department and it always seems the Indians are the most friendly and not afraid to ask personal questions. I experienced this to the extreme at a local Irish pub where our Indian waiter told us his life story on our first visit and remembers us every time we come in (I've been there about 5 times in 3 years). Last time I was there he even told me he saw me at a University event that took place a month or so prior. Considering my experience, I was not surprised to turn around and see a woman of Indian descent behind me in the strassenbahn when I heard all sorts of personal questions being asked in a clear first time meeting. In German, I overheard her asking her friend's age and if she is married which started out normal until the German friend said she was 29, married and had a child. Then the questions got personal, how old were you when you married? Was your child planned? Are you happy you have a child? Then the conversation turned professional and they started talking about a potential job at the company of the 29 year old. It was loud and in a public place, even as an American, I would have been shocked to hear those questions from a new friend.

The Rule Breaker
This was not my encounter but too good not to share. My friend was cycling to work early one morning and crossed a small street while the light was red. This is frequently done by cyclists, especially when you know the route and traffic patterns. A strange woman also on a bicycle followed her across the street on red and began riding on the side of her lecturing on the penalties for crossing on red and pointed out that she herself risked a fine just to enlighten my friend. This was 2 weeks ago, this week my same friend was praised by a woman with child as a model cyclist while she waited at a crossing for the light to turn green and others rode by. FYI: It's generally not acceptable to cross on red if children are present.

The Drunk and The Gypsy
My Monday night training had me riding home across the city around 7:15pm. I entered a strassenbahn car to an overwhelming smell of alcohol and stale cigarettes and instantly regretted my choice of doors but with a full train, I was happy to have 2 seats to myself so I stayed put and held my nose. I scoped out the car to determine who was omitting the smell and first focused on the two people in front of me. They may have accounted for the stale tobacco but all too quickly I honed in on the boozers by their conversation and their clothing. These two across the aisle from me, middle aged, looking like they could use a shower and siting in front of each other ant side by side requiring them to talk loudly. She was wearing ankle boots with black pants with sequins down the side, one pant leg half tucked into the boot, the other over the boot and the sequins were enough to distract me from noticing her top. He was wearing a 90's track jacket and some ill fitting Levis. And then their friend got on holding about 5 dozen roses, each individually wrapped and sorted by color. And then came the punch line when he asked for their tickets and they asked for his tax number. Who knew Monday night could be so interesting and who knows where he was selling so many roses on a Monday night.

The Lost Traveler
The cherry on the top came this afternoon when I went to meet P at the train station. He indicated that his train seemed to be arriving later than expected so I took my time and read all the boards to see if it had arrived before wandering to the track a full 10 minutes after the scheduled arrival. Since the train was in fact on time, I found a pretty deserted platform with P and some random guy in a suit at the stairs. Turns out this guy needed to make a phone call and P was nice enough to lend his phone. Random guy spoke about 10 words of German and a few more in English so communication was challenging. He traveled from Pakistan, possibly via Milan and was in Germany for the first time ever. His brother, a taxi driver, told him he would meet him at the train station and said brother did not show up hence the need for a phone. Since he said his brother is a taxi fahrer (but could not understand taxi driver so you know things are getting lost in translation), I suggested we go out to the taxi stand as it is possible he could not park his car. Once outside, P gets the brother on the phone only to learn he's about 15 minutes out. P told his brother where we were and tried as best as possible to convince our new friend to stay put. We didn't wait around but headed into the city thinking about what an asshole this guy's brother is to forget him in a foreign country where he lacks language skills, a cell phone or direction. Not to mention, the poor guy had 2 suitcases and not a clue. I hope he stayed put and got picked up.

I know some of these are in the you had to be there category and all would have been improved with photos but that's a small window into my week and we all know I don't have a smartphone. However, I recently bought a Touchpad thanks to HP's fire sale so hopefully I can use it to take discrete photos on the strassenbahn going forward. No promises but I'll try my best to document these encounters with photos going forward.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Food Food Food

There has been a lot of food in my fridge recently and it is overwhelming. At the end of August, P and I self catered a lunch buffet for about 60 people. This was the first time either of us set out to prepare food to feed such a large group and there was a lot of gestimation. On top of what we prepared, he ordered vitello tunato and carpacho from a local caterer. We focused on small bites with a Mediterranean inspiration, and I imagine a bit of an American feel came through as I made a lot of menu suggestions based on what I knew from home. Ultimately, we had 8 full trays of food as well as some bowls. We prepared the classic; veggies and ranch dip, mozzarella and tomato, pasta salad, pigs in a blanket, ham and melon and olives, as well as the not completely classics including hummus, Greek salad and puff pastry with cheese and salami. I complained about the long day but it was actually a lot of fun working together to plan the menu, buy the ingredients and then prepare the food.  However, we're far from caterers as we bought way too much food. On top of over buying raw ingredients, there was a miscommunication with the caterers which involved double veggies and dip as well as a whole lot of marinated veggies and generally lots of left overs back in my fridge as there was no place to keep the food at his office. I tried so hard to not throw out any food but waste was inevitable. I guess we won't be opening a catering business anytime soon but at least we have a better idea of how to feed a large group of people.

While on the topic of food, I must include my latest baking feature. I seem to have gotten a reputation around my office for making chocolate chocolate whoopie pies. Nina had a birthday last week and a birthday BBQ so I asked what I could bring and without hesitation she asked for chocolate chocolate. I had a strawberry variety i wanted to try on my own birthday but due to a flour shortage made chocolate cupcakes instead so I thought I would have made strawberry whoopies for her birthday but I was shot down. As my boss would say, don't mess with a running system. In a bit of rebellion, and to break up the chocolate, I added multicolored sprinkles. I also made a special larger one for P to take on his trip but he got stuck in traffic and needed to go straight to the airport without stopping home so he never got it. I am happy to report that none of the chocolate chocolate as they are affectionately called were thrown out. 

Finally I had to include this in my food post. I often complain that I can't get the same ingredients in Germany or I don't know the translation for something but this photo is just to prove that sometimes it simply is not my fault. In an effort to organize my baking cupboard, I bought these glass canisters and opened the two bags of brown sugar I had on hand to store them int he jar. As you can see both bags are identical, yet the sugars are different levels of brown. It must also be noted that I have never seen dark brown or light brown sugar at the store so I just assumed Germans didn't differentiate. It seems they just classify it all as brown. I guess this could explain why Lauren was upset her cupcakes tasted different when she followed her American recipe in my kitchen and I blamed the hard water.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Commuting is the New Settled

Since I realized P and I would not be living together on our first anniversary somewhere around 4 months ago, I have been coming to terms with the concept of living alone. It seemed so unusual to live in a different state and country than one's husband. Then I opened my eyes and realized it's not. In fact, quite the opposite, many people I know have partners who they only see on the weekends. I looked first at my immediate surroundings and noticed that of my 6 colleagues, only 3 actually live together with their partners and only 1 of those full time at the moment as the other two have partners who live elsewhere during the week. It is true none of them are married but some of my sample has actually been together much longer than p and I. I began to feel like it was less unusual to live apart and commute on the weekends. Then, lat Friday, at the MBA graduation, I was talking to a Professor and he casually mentioned how he commuted 3 hours round trip each day when he first took the job here and then he finally moved to a great neighborhood in the city. Now, he commutes to Copenhagen. He was making light of his situation but inside I was laughing because suddenly Basel didn't seem so bad. In a country where commutes are often minimal, splitting time between two cities to support two careers is not uncommon and once again, I find myself thankful that Basel is only 2.5 hours by train, especially because a new friend just told me how to buy discounted last minute train tickets.
On related news, my very oldest friend is going to be in Europe next month on business and I'll be using the Deutsche Bahn to meet up with her for a weekend. A welcome surprise which I am already looking forward to.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Changes Ahead

I guess it's time to make an official acknowledgement about a big change in my life. It has not been a secret for awhile but I sure have been doing everything I can to put off dealing with the fact that P is moving to Switzerland. Just before we make it to our first wedding anniversary, he'll be moving out and I"ll be living alone for the first time in my life. It's funny how I sometimes thought I missed out on that having my own apartment phase as I always had roommates in the US and then moved straight to Germany to live with P. For the next 6ish months, I'll have the apartment all to myself, unless I find a worthy roommate to live in the 2nd bedroom that is. I've already threatened to paint the entire place pink but in reality I'm much too lazy to do any more wall painting.
Last weekend, for the first time, I visited the city I will soon call home and am pleased to report it makes me happy. The old town is great and the location is nice but, far and away, the most exciting thing is that you can swim in the river! I miss the ocean so much here in southern Germany that swimming in a river is super appealing. Especially when the river flows right through the center of the city. I know there will not be any waves to catch but to walk down town and jump in the river and float in its current is somehow super appealing to me. Maybe that's because it's been over 30 degrees C every day since last Friday and I'd love to jump in any body of water these days! But maybe the idea of urban nature is really just that appealing to me. Either way, I've already bought he local fish bone bag to keep my clothes and shoes dry while I have a nice city swim. Hopefully I'll get at least one hot weekend in September to put it to use.
For now, I'm still planning to enjoy the last days together with P and daydream of cool new downtown apartments while avoiding the living on my own reality.

so tell me, have you ever lived alone? What was the biggest adjustment when transitioning from cohabiting to solo living? Will it be hard to live together after getting used to being alone? Here are a few snaps from my visit for your own day dreaming pleasure.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Island of Gozo

Gozo is the small(er) island to the north of Malta island and the perfect day trip. For RIers, it's easy to think of Block Island, you take a similar ferry and the lifestyle is calmer, the views better and the beaches more natural. As you may imagine from my brief description, I loved Gozo. Beyond the island the name is just so much fun to say and they make Gozo cheese which is kind of weird but an interesting concept as it survives at room temperature which can be upwards of 25 degrees celcius on a normal day. Since I took so many photos, I decided to narrate our day pictorally with brief descriptions. So, jump in the baby Kia and load in...
The boat ride was rather windy, and some of us :cough:me:cough: were more prepared for the elements while others had to run down to the car deck and retrieve their jackets.

The island quickly came into view and if it's possible, the water became a deper blue.

These islands were once British but I'm not sure if that is the explanation for this phone booth which was located across the street from...

this church. I wish I knew the name of it but we were somehow drawn to it on the horizon as we drove of the boat and came straight here. Mas was just gettign out so we were able to get a parking spot and have a look around.

P ventured inside as I was wearing a neon yellow t-shirt and bermuda shorts thus declearing myself inappropriately dressed to enter a church. Although I did peek in the entrance when he told me I was missing out on the immaculate interior. Below, you can see a crystal chandelier covered in plastic. I had previously read that all church decor is covered during lent and this photo was taken about a week before Easter. We saw other Maltenese Catholic churches on our trip and they had similar coverings on lights as well as statues and golden alter decorations. Things that were not functional like lights always had a deep purple and black covering so you could not really know what was underneath.

This church didn't suck us in as much but was still impressive and one of our first impressions of the island.

As we drove along, we quickly reached the end of the port town and island.

We continued our island drive down toward the ocean along narrow, twisty roads, stopping many times to take in the views which can be described as no less than breath taking.

Finally we reached the water (pictured above) and I was excited to get my toes wet. The water was a bit cold but this area had lots of small jelly fish which worried me more than the temperature. After hearing stories of crazy warm water jellies in Australia, I no longer trust unfamiliar jellies near my body.

We eventually decided to stop for lunch al fresco.

I ate delicious fresh calamari (it was not breaded or fried) and P had a pizza with Gozo cheese while we took in views of waves and the old city.

Then we got back on the windy coastal road, we didn't much of a map and the road lacked signs but every now and again you would come across a sign listing the location of the capital city and various cultural points of interest. I would say it was a relaxed drive but it becomes a bit tense when faced with oncoming cars or any sort of delivery truck and the locals overtakeing constantly.

We drove to a coastal overlook which may or may not have beent he highest point on the island.

Then we found a cave. You could enter the cave but it was dark even in daylight and no one had a flashlight so most people only peeked in. I briefly lost P to the cave but when he realized he could see nothing he emerged in search of a flash light (as if our Kia was so prepared). I could offer a camera flash and off we went.

Eventually the cave narrowed and we decided to set our sights on the below beach instead.

Hello beach sand! Once again some of us were more prepared for the natural elements of this island than others.

Once he saw the clear water and soft sand together with my refusal to stand anywhere else, those German shoes and black socks were quickly disgarded.

After we had our fill of wading in kneed deep ocean, we washed the sand off of our feet and hopped back in the Kia. We drove until we found the Ggantiga Temples. These were our first temples of the trip and turned out to be the best choice. These particular temples are the most in tact on the island and really allow visitors to grasp the intricate design and build of such ancient structures. These date to before the pyramids and were once 7ft tall stone structures with roofs.

After our visit to the Temples, we were quickly getting tired from a day of island exploring so our baby Kia hopped back on the boat and we sailed home to Malta Island, content with our day and still enamored with the color of the water (maybe that was just me).