Beauty in one of the most hopeless places in the world. Took this picture on Alcatraz, where they had and still have beautiful gardens despite the depressing buildings in between.
Hope everybody had a great Memorial Day Weekend. I know I am kind of late, but I was really busy this week, and then I did not have my pictures with me when I wanted to upload the post yesterday.
For my second Memorial Day in the States ever I went to SF to meet up with my host family (back from when I did my High School Year) and to attend the graduation of my host sister who got her Master Degree in Business Administration. I was so excited to meet them after not having seen them for 4 years now, except for my other host sister, with who I could meet up in Brussels when she did an internship there.
Honestly, I fell in love with the city, and I can’t wait to go back in August when I will do a round trip throughout the West coast of the States with a couple of friends from Germany. What I love about the city?! Almost everything. The architecture, the location at the water and the surrounding bay area, all the food places and options you have, the steep streets, the sea lions at the pier, that everything is basically in walking distance or accessible with public transportation, the diversity of the city without loosing its intimacy, I could go on and on. Not that I do not like LA, and I definitely favor the weather and the beaches here, but what really makes me prefer SF is the fact of not having to rely on a car like one has to in LA. Even though the walking can be so tiresome, I loved doing it, because this in my opinion is the best way of exploring a city, by walking around, being able to stop whenever you want and take a closer look, and eventually getting lost, only to see even more of the city, not only the main tourist attractions.
After a long drive up, which I had to do by myself as my roommate wasn’t able to drive being under the influence of pain killers for her gallbladder problem, I made it to SF Friday morning, after one night of staying with her at her families place in Fremont. I attended the graduation, which was kind of boring like always, but I was in good company. We had dinner at a place in North Beach, which was really fancy and yummy. We ended the day with some cake at a cute pastries place. I slept in a hostel at Fort Mason, an old military base, which was really nice, as I had a gorgeous view on the Golden Gate Bridge and the sunset from there. I can recommend Hosteling International at Fishermen’s Wharf to everybody, who wants a cheap but good alternative. On Saturday we all together went to Angle Island, doing a tram tour on the island, and from there heading to Alcatraz. I loved the view you had from the boat on Alcatraz, Sausalito and SF. The entire trip took us almost 7 hours, but it was definitely worth it doing the combined tour of Angel island and Alcatraz. We walked around Pier 39, watched the sea lions until my host dad got pooped on, making the decision this was the indicator that it is time to go. We walked back to my hostel, grabbed my suitcase to take it back to my host families hotel where I would stay the second night. We had Ramen for dinner, a special Japanese dish, which I never had before, but was similar to the Vietnamese place I am going to regularly here in LA. As we were all really tired and my host family had to catch an early flight next morning going back to Washington, we ended the day with typical SF ice cream called ‘It’s it’, which is ice cream between two oatmeal cookies, yummy 🙂 Next morning I said goodbye and went to sleep again, as it was only 6:30 in the morning. I loved waking up later having an amazing view over SF out of the rooms window which was located on the 22 floor of the building. As my host family had left I toured SF on my own for a bit, visiting Chinatown, having some clam chowder soup at Fishermen’s Wharf, climbing up the streets to Lombard Street, until finally heading back to Fremont. As my roommate has had surgery for her gallbladder, we could not really do anything expect watching TV until I had a home cooked dinner of chicken, potatoes and salad. On Monday I left early in the morning, driving back alone. I am good with driving for the next couple of days now 😀
I had an awesome Memorial Day weekend, based on a great city and being surrounded by people I love 🙂 Can’t wait to come back to SF and to go to Washington to visit my host family again before going back to Germany.
So it is certain this September I will go to Aberdeen to do my study abroad. I have filled in all the application documents, gathered all the signatures I needed from my school supervisors and hit the send button of my email account. Acknowledgement of receipt of application is what came back, with the note that I have to wait at least until the end of June now to hear back for the final approval from the partner university, I hate waiting… But at least this is the last month I will spend in LA, meaning time will run by. Not that I like that because I could definitely stay in LA way longer, as it will be so hard to say goodbye to all the friends I made here, to the weather, to the beautiful beaches and sunsets and the variety of food places. But at least I won’t fall into total depression when going back, but can look forward to something new and exciting 🙂
And Aberdeen will definitely be new for me. I have been in Scotland once before in the city of Edinburgh and I really liked it. I loved the architecture of the houses and the city in general, the pubs and restaurants that are everywhere and each have their own charm, but are all so welcoming. I might get a shock concerning the weather, as California is hard to beat, but oh well, I just have to convince myself that leaving all my summer cloths at home and packing sweaters over sweaters, an umbrella and boots, is fun 😉 I actually love the boots part, but that’s about it. Every empty space in my suitcase, and I assure you unfortunately there is not a lot, will be filled with California sun and brought with me to Scotland.
If anybody has been in Aberdeen or in Scotland in general, please feel free to contact me and share recommendations 🙂
The pictures, obviously are not taken by me, as it will be my first visit to Aberdeen.
This Saturday I had a little get-together for my birthday in a restaurant/bar in Santa Monica called Sonoma Wine Garden with a couple of friends. I have never been there before but after looking at pictures of the location and ratings I decided this would be a fun place to go. And it was! The food was good, even though there are definitely better places out there in this price category, but the service was great and every question we had was answered with patience even though it was quite busy. A friend and me got a little wine tasting of 3 different white wines, due to our indecisiveness 😉 I really loved the interior design of the place, all the candles and the wooden parts gave it a cozy feeling, and the redesign of wine bottles as lamps was creative. I had asked for a table outside when making the reservation but they could not assure me to get a table there, and we ended up at a table inside, right in front of a huge window though, which actually was the better outcome, especially for having dinner. The outside looked really cool too, but it is definitely more a place to grab a drink. As it was my birthday, and my friends must have told the waiter when I went to the bathroom, I actually got a full size portion of dessert, with a little candle. The 2nd wish I could make this week 🙂 The best about it, it was a German dish called Kaiserschmarrn, so yummy! So Sonoma Wine Garden is a place I would definitely recommend, especially to grab a drink on a hot summer night, enjoying the outdoor terrace!
After dinner and drinks, we went to walk around for a bit at 3rd street promenade. It was so busy, but I guess this was due to spring break, which makes LA so crowded in general and the hot weather, which makes everybody go outside.
All in all I had a great birthday week, with a relaxing beach and biking day on Thursday (my actual birthday) and a delicious Italian meal with my roommate for dinner, a surprise birthday cake and ice cream on Friday at work, an USC campus tour on early Saturday and the dinner just mentioned, perfectly rounded up with an entire beach day from morning till sunset with friends on Sunday. I simply love being in California, what more is there you can ask for?! 🙂
After having visited UCLA two weeks ago, I thought it is time to use some of my free time and make a visit to USC campus as well. Me and a friend took the metro, which has a stop right in front of the campus entrance and took a walking tour. I am always impressed when making visits to campuses of US universities. They are so big, and I love the feeling you get when walking around. I really liked the arrangement of flowers and trees on USC campus. When walking around and paying attention you could see how much thought was put into the design of the campus, with flowers planted and clocks painted in the colors of the school, and even bike paths adjusted to fit the mascot of the school. It is just so different in Germany, where some universities don’t even have a campus, buildings can be spread around the entire city or you have ugly concrete buildings from the 70s. I have to say the university where I study in the Netherlands is really modern but we totally lack the campus feeling as well. Many clearing-up operations were going on for the finished graduation on the previous day. Many graduates were walking around in their gowns, to take pictures, possibly to take some nice shots without the crowds that must have been there the day before. The tour made me really excited for my upcoming trip to San Francisco this Thursday where I will attend the graduation of my host sister, from my High School Year I did in Virginia back in 2008, on Friday. I can’t wait 🙂
So it was my birthday yesterday. Weird not being at home, celebrating with family and friends like I basically did the last 22 years. My supervisor at work was really nice and gave me the day off. I didn’t ask for it, just to come in an hour late so that I would have enough time to skype and talk to everybody in the morning. But he was like ‘are you kidding? Take the day off!’ So I did. Of course everybody else still had to go to work, so I made the decision to take my roommates beach cruiser bike and take the canal path up to the beach, after making all the calls with family and friends. I haven’t been riding a bike while being here and since the weather basically asked for a beach day ( 36°C/97°F) it was the perfect decision. It only took me 15 minutes until I finally reached the beach, secured the bike and started my relaxing day, reading, listening to music and eventually taking a dip in the ocean once in a while. I think I have never spent any birthday at the beach, except maybe when I was younger and we used to go to the Netherlands where we have a trailer. Nothing you can compare to the beaches of LA and the Pacific Ocean though! In the evening my roommate and me went to an Italian place for dinner. I have been to that place before (you can read about it here). It was super crowded but we were lucky to still get a table outside. My pappardelle shrimp, were delicious and I am excited for the leftovers I will have for lunch today 😉 After the confusion of mixing up the neighboring table with ours, making the young girl at the table extremely happy, I even got a little brownie cake with cream and a candle to make a which, by the restaurant. We stopped by at The Coffee Bean & Tea on our way back, as I needed to buy something and enjoyed a free espresso to end the day with. Saturday I will celebrate with all my friends by going to a restaurant/bar and I am excited for that. But the day of my birthday itself was perfect, nothing goes about California sun, walking barefoot in the sand, the ocean and Italian food 🙂
After the guided tour and lunch, my friend and me went to the Spanish section in LA and its main part being on Olvera Street. I loved all the colors, wondering at the same time, who is going to buy all the ‘junk’ people try to sell to tourists. Our tour ended with a Starbucks Frappuccino, after passing by and taking a look at Union Station and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, asking for tickets for the night, which were too expensive as a special show was going on. Oh and I for the first time took the metro in LA, because there is a direct line going from Culver City, which is only 5 minutes by car away from me, to Downtown. A really cheap and relaxing way of transportation I would say, not having to look for parking and driving in Downtown in general, which drives me nuts with all its one way only streets. Of course there are always some weird people in the metro, but I didn’t have to be scared of being on my own. The ride made me feel like being in NY, which is always a good thing 🙂
How am I going to survive this day?! Definitely by going to the beach or pool later tonight after leaving my air-conditioned work place 🙂 I love the weather of LA but this, being used to the German climate, definitely brings me to my limits. Feels more like a holiday in Spain right now to me than normal days 😉 But oh well I shouldn’t complain but enjoy it! And the best part about it, this weather is the perfect excuse to enjoy as much ice cream as one wants 🙂
I have been really excited about the tour I did last Saturday with a group from InterNations. We went to Downtown LA, a place I had only been visiting before during nighttime to enjoy the amazing views from different rooftop bars, but this time I did a 2 hour guided Historic Walking Tour. History in America has a different timeline than in Europe, as LA was founded in the year of 1781,being quite a young city. So most of the historic lessons we got were based on the past 100 years, instead of the last 3000 when for example visiting Rome 😉 But even though it was a small time frame it was really interesting. The first buildings in Downtown are mainly of a classical design like the 4 star Millenium Biltmore Hotel, which opened in 1923, designed by Schultze & Weaver. Then architecture developed into an Art Deco style like the Los Angeles Central Library and the One Bunker Hill Building, one of the first all-electrically heated and cooled buildings constructed in the western United States in 1931. All the history was really interesting, and I loved getting an update about different design periods. Everything built in Los Angeles was influences by architectural design from the East cost of the United States or the western hemisphere at this time. When looking at buildings in New York you can definitely see the similarities. We also went inside a couple of buildings, which interior design was simply beautiful. Other interesting spots were Broadway, the Central Market, where a friend and me had lunch later, and of course the Central Library. Our tour was distracted a bit by two helicopters that were constantly “chasing” each other, filming a movie. Unfortunately I could not figure out which. Our tour guide was a really nice lady, I was wondering all the time, how it is possible to remember all those dates and names, but I guess if you really love something it is easy, and she really seemed to love what she is doing 🙂
On Sunday morning, after a fun but exhausting day in Downtown LA (post will follow in the next days), a friend and me had planned on doing a relaxing day at the beach. Unfortunately it had been really windy the entire night and it did not calm down during the morning. Laying at the pool for a bit, I figured it might not be the best idea to go to the beach even though one could already feel that it was going to be a quite hot day. Instead of relaxing, like we had planned, we came up with the idea to do a hike. I have never been to Runyon Canyon before, and since it is really close to the place where my friend lives we decided to go there. Another friend joined us and we started our hike around noon. Soon we could feel that we had picked the worst time to do it, as it was super hot. Unfortunately it wasn’t windy at Runyon Canyon, you could just feel a storm like breeze once in a while. The hike took us around 3 hours in total, as we did both the short and the long way. I can truly say I felt victorious after having climbed to the top of the 3rd and final mountain, before we started our way down again. Even though it was exhausting it was the right decision to go for a hike, because the view was amazing. You could see the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory and of course entire LA from downtown to the beach. Normally there is a thick cloud of smog hovered over LA, but I guess due to the wind the sky was clear, which made it possible to see a lot of details. We stopped several times to admire the nice houses, with their big pools, perfectly fitted into the hills, dreaming about which one we would pick if we could. A really hard decision to make I have to say, changing every couple of minutes when we gained sight to a new and more beautiful house.
After the hike, the fresh fruit we bought tasted amazing. There is nothing about pineapple and water melon, when feeling a little dehydrated, of course besides ice cold water 😉 As we had seen so many beautiful houses we decided we should continue with this and take a tour through the neighborhood of Bel Air by car. I saw some of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen in my entire life! I loved the trees and all the beautifully planted gardens, which made you feel you are not even in LA anymore, as there was no dry part, which is so common in other areas of the city. We ended the day with a quick stop at the Brentwood Country mart, hoping to spot some celebrities but it was too late, as some of the shops had already been closed. All in all is was a perfect day, getting exercise but also relaxing a bit, enjoying the beautiful view and dreaming about what it must be like to be super rich 😉