Category Archives: Travel

Coastline journey

One week ago the boyfriend and I flew out to Las Vegas to celebrate his big three O. Las Vegas was cool, exactly how you’d imagine it. Casinos, rich men smoking cigars, drunk people, sun (freaking 100 degrees Fahrenheit!!), many many tourists and more. It’s quite the experience. Needless to say, we had a good time and spent way too much money on indulging ourselves. Three days and a tedious flight later we landed in the lovely LA again.

We spent a night in downtown LA and the next day we drove to Pasadena to see one of my friends play at a festival called Make Music Pasadena. It’s a cute festival spread over thee city centre. The crowd was young and it felt kind of like a little music community. Way different from what I’m used to in the Netherlands and even more different from the New York music scene.

After my friend’s gig we got invited to an after party in Los Angeles, but I’ll write more on that in a later post.

Sunday we had a long trip (7 hours!) ahead of us, driving all the way from Pasadena to Sacramento. I don’t know what was going on in my head when I decided I wanted to see the California capital. Everyone whom I spoke to about it said no Elja, don’t do it, it’s ridiculously boring over there. Stubborn as I am we went there and man, were those people right. Every shop was closed, as well as 50% of the restaurants and bars. Sacramento though, is a beautiful town with a lot of trees (it’s called the city of trees) and well maintained parks. But don’t go there, it’s not worth the long drive.

In college I took a wine tasting course and as a hospitality student, there’s no way around going to Napa. We stayed at the Silverado Resort which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. They have tennis courts (we even played there too!), pools, golf courts, a fitness centre, a spa and I’m sure there are more activities we didn’t know about. Their service was outstanding, from check in to check out. Nothing, absolutely nothing to complain about. It was simply perfect.

We also visited a vineyard called Mumm and tried six of their sparkling wines while sitting in the sun and enjoying the scenery. If you like wine and need a little rest from the city life, Napa is the place to be.

And finally, after two weeks we drove to San Francisco. I heard many good stories about this city and of course, seen it in movies. But it was slightly different from what I expected it to be. There are so many homeless people in SF, it’s unbelievable. Would these people be stuck in the seventies and eighties when they smoked weed all day long and do hippie stuff? Also, stylish people were nowhere to be found even though it’s so artistic.

I did have a great time in this part of California. It was super cold because of the fog, but the city itself is charming, musical and there’s lots of stuff to do. The Golden Gate Park is gigantic. It has a science museum, Japanese tea garden, botanical garden and more. I bet summers in San Francisco parks are awesome. I read 4/20 on Hippie Hill (Golden Gate Park) is one of the biggest 4/20 gatherings in the States. So definitely go there if you like your (medicinal) weed.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have to chance to visit Alcatraz as the tickets were sold out until Sunday (we stayed in SF from Tuesday to Thursday). Visit Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill for a view over the city as well as Twin Peaks.

On Wednesday we went to this bar on Van Ness and Hemlock to check out some bands. The first band had potential, but needs a new lead singer. He hurt my ears. The next band was surprisingly good. They’re called Girls in Suede. They had a good energy going on and knew what they were doing. The girl who played the bass also played two songs on a saxophone. When they finished their show, they handed out CDs. Can’t wait to listen to it!

For the next couple of days we didn’t plan anything so we just drove and stopped the car whenever and wherever we wanted to. And so we ended up in Santa Cruz!

Santa Cruz, a.k.a. Surf City, is in central California and known for their amusement park (voted the best of the world) and excellent surf spots for every level. The beginner surf spot near the pier was overly crowded so we decided not to rent boards.

Instead, we’re now driving on route 1 by the coast heading south, to our next – still unknown – destination..

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What do you mean “Starbucks”, in Venice we have the streets

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After spending a week between Hollywood, Malibu, San Diego and Santa Monica, it was about time for something different. In the afternoon I got a new haircut (it felt so posh drinking complimentary mimosa’s in a Hollywood hair salon!) and by the time the sun went down, we found ourselves strolling around the streets of Venice.

Venice is a cute little place with all of the original Californian features we see in television shows and movies. We walked by the canals in Venice just like Hank Moody did with Rebecca in Californication. It’s funny how I recognise more things from media the more I travel around the globe.

It’s a different place. You’d see the cool skateboard guys, surfers and even lifeguards with their lifeguard cars as we know them in the movies. If you’re planning on visiting LA, the Venice beach area is a good recommendation to spend at least an afternoon! The guy in the first picture was working on his laptop outside on the streets. Guess he’s too cool for Starbucks!

They’re all about contradictions though. Check out these restaurant signs:

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Thomas Hamburgers “world famous chili” – China Beach “Vietnamese bistro” – “grill & sushi”

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Tsunami evacuation signs throughout Los Angeles – Phil, this should be your buildings’ art!

Before heading back to Hollywood, we had dinner at a quirky place. The food was surprisingly good and the decor was different. See below. I can’t recall the name but it’s the restaurant with the “grill and sushi” sign.

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These are some other snaps shot in Venice:

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From LA to San Diego and more

Everything they say about this city is true. The grass is perfectly cut, there’s always traffic, everyone seems to be an actor and the list of things doesn’t end. But it’s truly a wonderful place. Wherever I go I’m astounded by the scenery, people and beauty of the city.

On Thursday we went to Disneyland in Anaheim. I’ve wanted to go here for a while now, but I was kind of disappointed by the insanely long lines that go up to 1.5 hours. We stood in line for Space Mountain for more than an hour when all of a sudden, the attraction broke down for the second time that day. Guest Services gave us fast passes for three attractions after we talked with them, so in the last hour we got to skip the line for three attractions. It was a nice day, felt like a kid again!

On Friday we took the car to San Diego. Surf was finally up!! The drive there was incredibly long. It should’ve taken us 2 hours but it took us 4 hours instead. LA traffic was killing us! Once we were out of LA, it all got better. Yeah, LA is definitely not the place to be if you’re in a hurry. Everyone always drives as if they’re in the Fast and the Furious, but when Highway Patrol drives by, everyone suddenly drives like angels.

We arrived in San Diego around 3:30 pm, parked the car and rented surfboards at a local shop. The people in the store were typical surfers. Blond, tanned, blue eyes, lean and beef cake-ish and talked in the most relax way you can imagine. The shop closed at 6 so we only had 2 hours surf. The guys from the shop didn’t charge us for the second hour, sweet!

So my boyfriend had never surfed before and I went to a surf camp twice when I was a little younger. This doesn’t say anything though. I have the knowledge of how to surf, but when I’m actually in the water, I still don’t know what to do (ok.. a little bit exaggerated). I taught him the basics on the beach and we subsequently walked to the ocean. Time to practice! I kind of hoped I could impress my boyfriend and luckily for me, I caught the first wave and stood up as if it was nothing. I guess the Californian waves are easier to tame than French waves!

I was very proud of my boyfriend. Even though he wiped out many times, he also managed to stand up, and one time he even jumped up (so without the knee-step in between). Yaaayy we have a natural! I feel a lot of surf holidays coming up!

On our way back (took us 2 hours), when we entered the LA zone again, we noticed how only LA’ers have crazy driving habits. It’s a combination of Formula 1 and go karts. It’s so dangerous and it really requires full attention on the road. But ok, enough about LA traffic. This is the least interesting thing to mention about this spectacular city.

On Saturday we went to Universal Studios in Hollywood. I didn’t know what to expect but it was awesome. They sure know how to entertain and it’s not a mystery why they’re the top production studio in the world. We went in the Jurassic Park water ride, the high speed Revenge of the Mummy dark roller coaster ride, the 3D Transformers ride (my absolute favourite, and I don’t even know what Transformers are) and a couple more. We also did the Universal Studios Tour which took about an hour. It was cool to see what it looks like on stage. The King Kong 3D ride at the end of the tour was amazing. Within a couple of years, every cinema will have moving chairs and stuff to make the experience of a 3D movie even more believable. When going to Universal Studios, do go on this tour! It’s so mind blowing!!

My boyfriend wanted to see shows so we watched the Special Effects show (there’s so much they do with and without computers, it’s crazy!) and went to the Waterworld show which was one of the raddest things I’ve ever seen. It’s based on the movie Waterworld, starring Kevin Costner. There was fire, and flying people and obstacles (amongst others a plane) and – of course – water. During a fight scene, one of the actors (woman) accidentally got hit by another actor (man). But I think she was okay. Those actors really have to be in top shape, it’s inhuman what they’ve to do! Running, jumping away from fire, swimming, jet-skiing and all of that at a high pace. I recommend everyone to see the Universal Studios!

It’s Sunday now and we’re going to Malibu in a bit. Exciting! Hopefully we’ll be able to surf again!

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Stars, botox and the pier

After sleeping in till 11 am, the boyfriend and I decided to have a relaxed, touristy day in the City of Angels. We took the car to one of the most touristic places in the United States: the Walk of Fame. Personally, I’m not really into the touristic way of exploring a city, but when in Los Angeles, one should definitely check out the Walk of Fame.

The first names of the street (it’s soooo long) didn’t say anything to me but the more you walk towards the commercial stores part, the more names you’ll recognise. Honestly, it wasn’t that interesting or whatever, but it was cool to see it for once. There weren’t many tourists around but that’ll come next week after Memorial Day. That’s when the big crowd is free from school and everything.

We had a nice lunch with a view over the famous Hollywood sign and took off to Beverly Hills after. There we checked out some stores and had a stroll through the streets of district 90210. The streets are very clean, people are dressed to impress (everywhere in LA really) and massive plastic surgery  failures occur every 100 steps you take. From way too full-of-botox-injected lips to Michael Jackson kind of nose jobs. It’s really funny to see and hideous at the same time. The houses are gigantic, as well as the extremely tall palmtrees. I wonder how much an average villa in this neighbourhood is..

I was craving ice cream and the first ice cream shop we found was one of the best I’ve ever been to. I’m a real ice cream and milkshake addict so this was quite the experience. The place is called Ice Cream Lab and they make the flavour of ice cream or shake you want while you’re waiting. Pretty cool and one of the nicest things you’ll every taste. Prices go from $5 and it’s definitely worth it to take a big cup (= more expensive) instead of a small one.

People in LA have their own way of driving cars. They give priority to every pedestrian, but make their own rules for driving on the road. They drive fast, cut you off if you’re a too slow driver, they stop their cars in the middle of the intersection if they missed an exit, but driving around LA is the best. It feels so liberating. Don’t push the pedal too hard though, because there are transparant speed bumps everywhere on the smaller street (not the avenues).

After taking a brief break in our Melrose Ave guest house, we drove to the Santa Monica Pier where we paid $12 for parking. Insane. It was after 9 pm already so every activity on the pier – the ferris wheel for example – was closed or closing. A bit of a waste of money but the beach was all worth it. The sand felt so nice and so different from the Miami sand. Beautiful.

I looked up a trendy restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard and after being seated at the bar for 20 minutes, we finally got placed at our table. The restaurant is called Tar & Roses and it’s a fairly new LA restaurant. The crowd is young (25 – 35) , lively and good looking. The service was outstanding. We had a very friendly waiter who said “how were the first couple of bites?”, every time he served out a new course.

We had a bruschetta-cheese-charcuterie platter that was one of the most surprising food starters I’ve ever had, followed by a ricotta-gnocchi with asparagus. Delicious! The boyfriend had a lamb with chutney. Dessert was interesting. We had bruschetta with roasted strawberries and ice cream, and a toffee pudding with whipped cream. Melts in your mouth!! Two of the tastiest desserts you’ll ever try!

The cool thing about their menu is that you can combine some small veggie-cheese-charcuterie starters for a reasonable price of 3 for $14 and 5 for $20. The menu doesn’t have normal sized starters or main courses, but it’s divided in small and bigger plates, and veggies and snacks. Their combination of food is exceptional and the price is really good too. If you don’t want to spend too much, there’s plenty of cheaper priced plates, as well as for more expensive plates. Prices for desserts range from 8 to 11 bucks. The food is from local farmers and it’s organic.

Now back in the guest house, ready to go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m gonna add some pictures of today!

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I’m in California!

It’s a dream coming true. Ever since I was 15 years young I wanted to visit this part of the world, and finally I’m here!

I landed safe and sound in Los Angeles and now waiting at the baggage claim for the boyfriend to arrive from Detroit.

The travel from our campus to JFK was long and exhausting, needless to say I’m pretty spent and hungry as we didn’t get food on the plane – or maybe they did but I was sleeping. I passed out directly after take off and woke up after three hours. Watched Life of Pi on the plane (great movie to watch on the plane! It finished exactly when the plane hit the ground) and read a book about wine. Good flight, nothing to complain about.

JFK was – once again – total crap by the way. Everything such as escalators, elevators and stuff were out of order and with three mad heavy bags to carry, oof don’t let me get started. LAX on the other hand is a convenient airport. It’s big but divided into sections and it’s very easy to find everything you need.

Here are some snaps I took from my seat on the plane. I’ve seen snow, desert and typical American neighbourhoods.

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I see my boyfriend standing at the baggage claim. See you!!

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I miss the Netherlands..

I miss the Old Amsterdam cheese, bitterballen, kroketten, hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) and stamppot (mash with cale or other veggies). I miss the Dutch sing-a-long songs. I miss the black and white cows with yellow tags that are everywhere where you go. I miss the directness of people and their free spirits. I miss the tulips and wind mills. I even miss the clogs even though no one wears them. But most of all, I miss my friends. I love you guys, can’t wait to see you guys again! June 10th, mark it in your agendas.

  

 

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NYC. Wow.. Just wow

I’m sitting on a bench by the pier in Greenpoint. My view is astonishing, I can’t describe how I’m feeling.

It’s 76 degrees, I’m in Brooklyn and looking at the big island called Manhattan. From every place I’ve been in the city so far, this is absolutely my favourite place.

While I’m looking at the o-so polished Manhattan midtown, I feel such a big gap between these two boroughs. Manhattan is clean, fast, extremely touristic and all about money (just to name a few). Brooklyn is tainted in a positive way, full of meaningful graffiti and being different is the most normal thing in the world.

I like this place. I feel inspired, relaxed and nothing’s on my mind except for how amazing this part of town is. I’ve the earbuds of my iPod in and I don’t mind that the album I was listening to ended 10, 20 or maybe even 30 minutes ago.

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I’m slightly panicked..

It’s Tuesday and tomorrow at noon I’ve to give a presentation to my classmates. I’m the worst at giving presentations because I’m shy when it comes to public speaking. I also need to hand in a paper and in the evening I have my first midterm. Eerrmmm!

At the beginning of the year, I said to myself “this year I’m gonna study on time for exams and do my homework directly after class”. College doesn’t work this way for anyone. College is about partying rather than studying. So much for new year resolutions, ha?

Oh, and on Monday we’re leaving for Miami but I can’t find my passport anywhere..

Worst. Flight. Ever.

I am not kidding. I have been on longer flights than Amsterdam – JFK but this was the absolute worst. The thing is, it started off so well! I spent 3 wonderful hours with my two best friends of which one is my boyfriend. During boarding the cabin personnel put me in the priority line whilst all the other travellers had to wait in the regular line.

But then the drama started.. I stowed my carry-on and went to my seat. There I found an Arabian couple who barely spoke a word English, even though they have a green card (eavesdropped them, what else to do on an 8 hour flight?). The woman I was sat next to was kind and calm, but she was so big she sat on my chair as well.. Not just a tiny bit, no, almost half of my chair! This turned out in me sitting in the flight attendant chair which isn’t very comfortable.

Economy class isn’t great for long-legged people but this was simply tragic. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit normally and my head was bursting because of the crying baby in the seat in front of me.

But hey, all of this really doesn’t matter anymore because I am in New York City!! Today was exhausting so I am about to sleep (but first finish the new episode of Revenge on ABC).. Tomorrow is a new day!

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One more night..

..And I am off to New York City. I have been waiting for this moment for so long! And now it is only one night away. Unbelievable!

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Doesn’t Manhattan look tiny from above?

My plane departs at 1:55 PM (GMT +1) from Schiphol and I will arrive at 4:05 PM (GMT -5). In about 20 hours my plane hits American soil.

I haven’t made any plans yet of what I shall do in the city. I will probably do some sightseeing on Monday and maybe go to the Museum of Modern art (I love contemporary art) but most of all relax before school starts. If any of you (I know there must be a follower!) have recommendations for me, they are more than welcome! It is my first time New York and I am up for anything!