Fredka and Chiesa on a walk in the woods
Joe and his cousin Ola on our walk through the park
A poster at a bar we went to in Lodz
Joe showing off his natural pierogi-making talents
Joe in his bow tie he got for Christmas!
Dessert! Poppyseed cake, gingerbread cake with lemon and plum layers, sugar cookies, etc...
It's been a wonderful and busy past few weeks for us! After finishing classes, Joe and I packed up the car to visit his family in Poland for Christmas. They live in the city of Lodz (pronounced like "wooch") which is about two hours west of Warsaw. His aunt and uncle, Marila and Olaf, are both doctors in Lodz and Olaf works on a helicopter! Their daughter, Ola, is just a few years older than Joe and I and Ola's sister, Justina, is older than Ola. She is married to Bartok and they are expecting a baby.
We spent about four days with Joe's family and had a chance to go bar crawling in Lodz with Ola and her friend who is also studying to be a doctor. We also experienced the incredible Polish feasting that Polish Christmas is known for! I tried a lot of foods I'd never tried before like jellied herring and a traditional dish that looks like meatloaf but is made from rabbit. We also had amazing cakes and cookies throughout our trip. Being in Poland was a lot like being in Michigan, with cold weather and a really nice family, but I still missed seeing my own family for Christmas.
After our stay in Poland, we drove over 14 hours to Paris for three days! On the first day, we stayed with a group from the couchsurfing website and met some interesting people from Wisconsin, Canada, Africa, Turkey, and of course, our French host, who is an engineer and has lived in both France and many South American countries.
On our second day in France, we started off the morning with crossaints and Cafe au Lait at a cute cafe in the 15th Arrondissement. We then took le metro over to Champs Elysees and strolled along the most beautiful avenue in the world. After seeing the Arch de Triomphe, we headed over to the Taillevent, a beautiful world-class restaurant reviewed by the New York Times in the following article: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9904E3DD1038F937A25757C0A963948260
All six courses of our lunch were amazing. It was a very special meal for both me and Joe!
Haagen Dazs on the Champs-Elysees
They were remodeling this building and, of course, could not have scaffolding show on the Champs-Elysees, so the restoration company made this huge printed canvas to cover their work in progress
Admiring the pages of a magazine in the Louis Vuitton store
Our view of the Eiffel Tower and the Tuileries Gardens from the balcony
Inside our hotel room on our cool antique furniture
Our hotel! If you look in the middle on the third floor, you can see Joe in his robe!
The signs for the Paris metro look a lot scarier than they actually are
Lunch at the Taillevent!
My beautiful engagement ring!
After we said our good-byes to the staff at the Taillevent, we shopped more along the Champs Elysees and then checked in at our hotel, The Hotel Regina Paris. Wow! We had an entire apartment with beautiful antique furniture, a work room, and...a view of the Eiffel Tower from the balcony! We headed downstairs to the bar to enjoy our pink champagne and enjoyed a very classy bar atmosphere. When we were back in the room, we enjoyed the beautiful view with the Eiffel Tower completely lit up and I told Joe how perfect the day had turned out. At that moment, he took a ring out of his pocket and asked me to marry him! It was a perfect moment and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with Joe.
Joe in Shakespeare & Co Bookshop: "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise"
Joe under the Eiffel Tower
The rest of our stay did its best to compete with the day we were engaged. We walked around the Tuileries Gardens and saw all the beautiful landscaping and activities they have for both tourists and local Parisians. We scouted out two of my must-see attractions: Brasserie Balzar in the Latin Quarter that I had read about in Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon and the Shakespeare & Co Bookshop along the River Seine. The Shakespeare & Co Bookshop is definitely worth a stop for anyone going to Paris. The store has all English books and has a rich history of hosting famous writers. The Parisian English book stores were especially exciting for me because it had been over four months since I stepped into a bookstore where I could actually read the titles!
Home and Rome:
After Paris, we drove back to Heidelberg where we did laundry and rested for a day. At 3am the next day, it was off to Rome for six days! We arrived on New Year's Eve and stayed for two days at Colors Hotel. There was champagne waiting for us in our room and we discovered that there would be an MTV-sponsored performance across from my favorite Roman monument, the Vittorio Emmanuelle II. As we walked back to the Termini metro station, we drank champagne with the huge crowd and had a view of the Colleseum!
Over the next few days we had a chance to see the Pope at Nervi Hall, tour the Vatican Museum, go on a great Roman Pub Crawl, and see Trevi Fountain. We also had great pizza and pasta. We even met up with couchsurfers in Rome and had "the greatest Pizza in Rome" and got some great advice on where to go for pasta. We went to a few places that were great but Pastarito had great pasta and great prices too. You can see some of the other places from the pictures I will post.
Eventually we got home and now we are excited to plan a wedding for 2009. It will definitely be in Michigan, and we will announce everything as we make plans!