January 26, 2014

EXPAT LIFE: LIFE LATELY

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How was everyone's weekend? I can proudly say I did a few useful things over the last two days. You better sit down for this one... I bought my first piece of American furniture and it's a drying rack! They do exist on this side of the ocean but they're hard to find. And guess what? I ended up picking the craziest shape I've ever seen because it needs to fit in the bath tub. Amazing huh? On Sunday we went on a long ass-kicking hike, which made me realise just how out of shape I am after the holidays. Not fun, but definitely an eye-opener. And even though I'm not writing a lot, I do procrastinate occasionally (some things never change) and I thought I'd share some of the things that are keeping me entertained these days. 

Reading
One of my friends recently recommended the Mara Dyer books and Delirium trilogy to me. I am a sucker for a good YA novel (who am I kidding? ANY young adult book will do). Needless to say I finished 90% of those in under a week. Yes, I do feel proud of that and I can definitely recommend reading Mara Dyer to anyone who's into that genre. I love her character, but also the strangeness of the story and how the author developed it. One tip though, skip the synopsis on the back. I don't know who wrote that, but it's horrendous and it doesn't represent the book at all. I'm still debating on the Delirium trilogy. Oh, and while I was in Julian I bought The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. You know, as some counter weight... 
Watching
Well, we were watching House of Cards (and loved it) but have moved on to a new, very disturbing show so far called Damages. I'm sorry but Glenn Close just reminds me even more of Cruella 'that devil woman' De Vil in playing a manipulating lawyer. In between those two I'm still working on the final episodes of Mad Men. It's a hard life.
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Listening
To the mixtapes my friends made for me when I left Belgium. It's bittersweet. One, because my car is very basic so the radio antenna doesn't work anymore and the tape deck I used to connect my iPhone to the speakers with has now passed away too... The CD player is really all I have. And I've left all of my CDs at home (heartbreaking I know) so thank you friends (you know who you are) for making my car rides a lot more agreeable. And I absolutely love this one. It makes me think of Joy Division and The Smiths and adds that bit of darkness that Southern California so desperately needs sometimes. 

Wanting
I'm really thinking about doing something adventurous with my hair and I've always (ever since I studied abroad in London cause you know, British girls are ahead of us in the fashion department) wanted a streak of colour in my hair. But I've always been too chicken to actually do it. I work from home so it wouldn't bother anyone but Nick probably... The blue is maybe a bit much, I'm thinking a subtle shade of pink. What do you think? Maybe it's more something for people with blonde hair? Arrgh the choices!
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Hope you had a great weekend!!

January 20, 2014

CITIES & TRIPS: BEEN TO THE DESERT...


I know my posts have been more than infrequent lately, guilty as charged! But not to worry, I've made the executive decision to stop trying so hard and just write one good, solid blog post a week. I wish I could update more often, but I realise that in between work, trying to work out more and all the other resolutions on my list for this year (trying to find friends for example, and explore the area more,...) it wouldn't be very realistic. So it's not exactly a big challenge, but I hope you'll stick around and still check this page every week! By the way, the more I start doing all of the above, the more I'll have to write about so it's going to be even better.

De blogberichten komen maar met mondjesmaat de laatste tijd, ik weet het! Maar maak je geen zorgen, ik heb er mijn conclusies uit getrokken: ik heb besloten om vanaf nu elke week een goede, mogelijk zelfs interessante blogpost te schrijven in plaats van meer te willen doen maar niet te kunnen. Hopelijk lukt het binnenkort weer om meer te schrijven, maar momenteel met werken, sporten en al die goede voornemens waar ik me dit jaar op moet wil toeleggen (vrienden zoeken bijvoorbeeld en eindelijk de regio wat verkennen,...) moeten we realistisch blijven. Hopelijk blijven jullie, als trouwe lezers, wekelijks terugkomen en bedenk alvast dat ik nog meer te vertellen zal hebben als ik ook effectief meer ga doen.

So after spending a day in Julian last weekend we woke up early to drive to the desert. Not the sandy Sahara desert many of you are probably picturing right now (or is that just me?) but more the rocky canyons Roadrunner and the unfortunate Coyote often pass by. If there's one place on earth that is probably the complete opposite of the area I grew up in, it's this one: a desolate dry barren mountain range. Very impressive!

Na een dagje de toerist uit te hangen in Julian zijn we vorig weekend vroeg opgestaan en naar de woestijn gereden. Niet de zanderige Sahara-achtige woestijn die iedereen zich waarschijnlijk inbeeldt bij dat woord (of ben ik de enige?), maar iets in de trant van de rotsachtige canyons waar Roadrunner en die onfortuinlijke Coyote af en toe rondhangen. Als er een plek op de wereld het absolute tegenovergestelde is van waar ik opgegroeid ben, is het deze wel: dor, droog, bergachtig en afgelegen. Maar ook heel indrukwekkend!

De bathroom, we're in the US after all... they have them everywhere!
So I didn't really take pictures of a cactus, but they are there.
This view just took my breath away... Julian is already quite remote, but this place is literally in the middle of nowhere. Borrego Springs is a place in the middle of Anza-Borrego State Park in the Colorado Desert. I honestly don't think I could live there... Half of the year it's too hot to go outside and the 'real world' is a two hour drive away. But for some people it's probably the perfect place for some much wanted inner peace and creativity that I just don't understand yet. Perhaps you'll find me there some day! Anyway, it was definitely worth it and I'm glad I got to see this. Like the other National or State Parks you can follow specific hiking routes here, but since it is the desert they let you wander by yourself because there isn't much nature you could possibly disturb. 

Ik werd eerlijk gezegd een beetje stil van het uitzicht... Na Julian, dat al vrij afgelegen was (denk 'drie man en een paardenkop') was deze plek echt te midden van nergens. Borrego Springs is een plaatsje dat letterlijk in het natuurpark Anza-Borrego ligt en deel uitmaakt van de Colorado Desert. Ik denk niet dat het iets voor mij zou zijn om hier te wonen. Ten eerste is het er de helft van het jaar om dood te vallen en wil je naar de bewoonde wereld dan ben je twee uur onderweg. Maar goed, voor sommigen brengt het waarschijnlijk een soort innerlijke rust en creativiteit met zich mee die ik nog moet leren begrijpen. Wie weet vind je me hier later nog wel terug. In elk geval was het de moeite waard om gezien te hebben. Net zoals in andere State Parks kun je er bepaalde wandelroutes volgen, maar wie wil mag zich vrij een weg banen aangezien er weinig natuurlijke fauna en flora te vinden is. 

Nick's geological fun facts: rocks form horizontally, so the lines you see here have been pushed upwards... 
Just a very dry mountain
Adventure is Nicholas' middle name, so we took full advantage of that. I could have turned around at that point when we reached the small oasis (yes, it does exist), but Nick just couldn't help himself. So we went deeper into the canyon with Nick climbing boulders like a pro and me stumbling behind trying not to look like a complete idiot (rock climbing has never been my favourite). And after what felt like a 1000 rocks we reached a sort of valley with nothing or no one in sight and it was absolutely worth it. I haven't had a lot of moments like that yet, but it does give you a scary feeling of freedom. But I couldn't help but think that the bighorn sheep who supposedly live there, have to be someone's dinner... but Nick assured me that there are only coyotes in that area.

Avontuurlijk als we zijn, moesten we daarvan profiteren. Ok, ik had evengoed kunnen terugkeren toen we bij de plaatselijke oase aankwamen (jup, ze bestaan wel degelijk), maar Nick voelde het kriebelen. We trokken dus dieper de canyon in met Nick die behendig over alle rotsblokken naar boven klom en ik die er zo elegant mogelijk achteraan klouterde (muurklimmen is nooit mijn ding geweest). En dan sta je plots in een soort vallei waar letterlijk niets of niemand te bespeuren valt. Ik heb het nog niet vaak meegemaakt in mijn leven, maar het is onbeschrijfelijk hoe er op dat moment een heel vrij en tegelijkertijd beangstigend gevoel over je komt. Er kwam nog even in mij op dat die zogenaamde dikhoornschapen die hier leven toch ook door iets worden opgegeten, maar Nick verzekerde mij dat er hooguit wat coyote's zitten. 

The oasis we hiked to
A lonesome palm tree; when in rains in those canyons they all get washed away
The abandoned cayon
After a while these pictures probably all look the same, but this last one is from the abandoned canyon I was talking about. We might go back to camp there one day, although I don't think I would feel completely at ease doing that...

Na een tijdje is de ene steen niet meer van de andere te onderscheiden en zijn deze foto's allemaal hetzelfde, maar deze laatste is dus het begin van de verlaten canyon. Misschien komen we nog wel eens terug om er te kamperen, alhoewel ik niet weet of ik daar wel mans genoeg voor ben... 

January 13, 2014

CITIES & TRIPS: A DAY IN JULIAN, CA.

GOING BACK IN TIME FOR A WEEKEND


 


Miner's diner & Soda Fountain: please go there and have fun!
For our first trip of 2014 we didn't cross any state lines, but then again everyone knows California has lots to offer! So Google Maps guided us to a little village in the mountains named Julian. Back in the days some people found gold here (not a lot though), today it's a great destination for a one day trip especially if you are coming from San Diego. The old center is very small (the village only has around 1.502 inhabitants according to Wikipedia), but it's definitely the place to be if you want to indulge in some amazing food. Trust me, having three bakeries/pie shops on one street which is only roughly three blocks long is heaven. And around closing time you can bet there are going to be huge lines of people waiting to get that last piece of pie before heading home. We went to the official one of course: the Julian Pie Company. The pie was delicious, but don't even try to ask for a small scoop of ice cream, they won't listen!  

Het eerste uitstapje van 2014 is een feit! De staatsgrenzen zijn we daarvoor niet overgestoken, maar we weten allemaal dat Californie genoeg te bieden heeft! Google Maps bracht ons dan maar naar een pittoresk dorpje in de bergen genaamd Julian. Ooit is er naar het schijnt goud gevonden, alhoewel het zeker niet veel was, maar vandaag de dag is het vooral voor wie vanuit San Diego komt een leuke plek voor een dagtripje. Het is allesbehalve groot (volgens Wikipedia zijn er slechts 1.502 inwoners), maar dat er goed gegeten kan worden staat vast. Geloof me, drie bakkerijen/taartenwinkels in een straat waarvan je te allen tijde het begin en eindpunt kan zien is hemels. En tegen sluitingstijd staat er gegarandeerd een gigantische rij met mensen die nog snel, voor ze aan de terugrit beginnen, een taartje willen meepikken. Wij gingen uiteraard naar de 'officiele' winkel: de Julian Pie Company. De taart was heerlijk, maar ze hadden ons duidelijk niet begrepen toen we vroegen om 'een beetje' ijs...achja, we hebben geprobeerd!

The Julian Pie Company!
The Strawberry Rhubarb and Cherry Apple Crumb are definitely worth a try!
Unfortunately more ice cream than we asked for... Oh and delicious hot apple cider!
We booked a room at the Julian Gold Rush hotel which is (could you guess?) also located on Main street. The interior takes you back to the 1890s and would probably make your grandmother jump up and down with excitement, which is why it feels extremely cosy. Those who can't live without television for one night should't bother (hair dryers are available upon request), but for everyone who'd love to travel back in time for a weekend: this is the place. The two course breakfast is a definite recommendation and  is lovingly prepared by the kitchen staff.

Slapen deden we in het Julian Gold Rush hotel dat, u raadt het al, ook op main street gelegen is. Met een interieur dat gemakkelijk menig oma op de been zou krijgen, is dit Vicotiaans hotel uit 1890 de definitie van gezellig. Voor moderne apparatuur (tv's en haardrogers) moet je er niet zijn (hoewel er wel gratis wifi is), maar wie graag een goed boek leest bij het haardvuur en eens wil teruggaan in de tijd is hier aan het juiste adres. Het 2-gangen ontbijt was heerlijk en overduidelijk vol ambachtelijke liefde bereid. 






It's as if different rules apply in Julian compared to the rest of California. Life is just a little bit slower here with shops closing at 5pm. Want to go out for dinner? Most restaurants close at 8pm so better remember that and breakfast at the hotel wasn't served until 8am. I felt like I was back home for a second... where there is clear division between work hours and leisure time and only the ice cream parlor is open until midnight. So it shouldn't have been a surprise then that when we wanted to leave at 7.30 this morning... we found an empty desk and no one to leave our key with.

Het lijkt wel alsof er in Julian andere regels gelden, dan in de rest van Californie. Het leven gaat er ietsje trager en de winkels sluiten om 17u. Wie 's avonds op restaurant wil kan dat tot 20u en ontbijt in het hotel werd niet voor 8u 's morgens geserveerd. Ik voelde me plots weer heel even thuis... met een duidelijke structuur tussen werkuren en vrije tijd. En waar alleen de cremerie tot middernacht open is. Het was dan ook te verwachten dat we, toen we deze ochtend om half 8 wilden vertrekken, er letterlijk niemand te vinden was om onze sleutel aan te overhandigen. 

Have you ever been to Julian?







NEXT UP: MY FIRST VISIT TO THE DESERT

January 1, 2014

EVENTS: ANOTHER YEAR'S OVER


So long 2013 and hello 2014. 

I can't say last year was an exceptionally great year. It was mostly filled with anxiously waiting for news on our paperwork, getting up at 5.30 in the morning to skype and then go to work, saying goodbye to my family and friends which was actually heartbreaking and organizing my dream wedding in under a month. Let's just say I've had my share of stressful moments!

My celebration of welcoming the new year wasn't very exciting either this year. The flu has been raging through the family and Nick was the last in a long line to catch it (so far I've been able to dodge the bullet, knock on wood!) so most of our plans were cancelled. I did join the fellow Belgians in SD for a drink (lemonade in my case) after work and celebrate the Belgian New Year at 3pm. The Blind Lady Ale House is definitely worth a visit! I picked up pizza on the way home, opened the bottle of cava, watched the ball drop in New York - I really expected something more... like I thought it would explode/open and confetti would come out - and went to bed at 10 because I had to work the next day. That might sound like a sad story, but when you think of it I had already celebrated not one but two midnights: the one in Belgium and the one in New York. A girl can only take so much...

By the way am I the only one who finds it strange that the whole nation is focused on New York for New Year's? Where are all the other celebrations? Fireworks in California, Washington, Texas? This one takes me back to the beginning of 2011...



Anyway, I don't want to sound ungrateful so I am going to end on a positive note: 2013 was great because it's the year I got married to my best friend and soul mate, it's the year I learned the value of true friends despite the distance and great family and it's the year I landed smack in the middle of adult life (it's an ongoing process: stay tuned). 

May 2014 be a year of great adventures, lots of love and new challenges!

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