April 29, 2014

EXPAT LIFE: THREE PLACES IN MY HEART

The second day of our road trip will be on here a bit later this week, because I just couldn't pass up on sharing my favourite three places with you, guys. So I'm linking up with Bonnie again for this #TravelTuesday!

ABSOLUTELY LOVED: LONDON

THE BT TOWER AS A CONSTANT GUARDIAN
There's no place like London and honestly I think my heart will always be in London. I fell in love with the city at a very young age without ever having been there (Ginger Spice and here Union Jack dress might have something to do with it). I just feel like I was destined to be a London Girl, even though I'd be a pretty broke one... I haven't traveled around in the UK as much as I would like (Scotland!, the Lake District!, Nottingham!), but I did fall in love with its glorious capital fast and hard. So when I got a chance to study abroad in London for a semester I just knew it was meant to be. Needless to say I had the time of my life there and it was my first real experience with student life and living in a residence. Building up my own little bubble of happiness in a major capital was extremely empowering and I met some of my best friends soul mates there. Leaving (yes, I did have to go back to finish my degree unfortunately) was infuriating, I was in love with my life there. And then when least expected I met my American in London... so yes L-town and I are just best buds.

AMAZING VIEW

WANT TO VISIT: STOCKHOLM AND/ OR ALASKA

SOURCE
If I hadn't been so obsessed with the UK, I would have studied abroad in Scandinavia. Norway or Sweden are both high on my list, but somehow Sweden appeals to me in a special way. In my mind Swedish people are stylish and friendly and the country just runs like clockwork. I know reality might not be exactly like my pretty little illusion, but still! I've always wanted to learn Swedish and wear reindeer sweaters while shoveling snow. That's my idea of a perfect moment, there's just no chance of doing that in San Diego you know? So naturally, I feel I would also want to discover that rugged beauty called Alaska. No?


CURRENTLY LIVING IN: SAN DIEGO

BEAUTIFUL BALBOA PARK
San Diego is possibly the place with the least chance of rain or snow, so it is sort of the opposite of all the places I listed above. It's an understatement to say I never expected to find myself here, but life just doesn't like to be told what to do, doesn't it? Anyway, it's the first place I've ever lived that is completely out of my comfort zone (that being Europe) and this southern most city in California and I have a special bond because of that. I'm starting to get used to the many days of sunshine, breathtaking scenery and active lifestyle. Soon I probably won't even remember what it feels like to always having to take your umbrella with you. It's been a crazy year getting used to a completely new environment but I think I'm getting there and I'm definitely starting to realise the beach will always be at my side here. 

FIRST TIME AT A BASEBALL GAME
What are your dream destinations or favourite places? 


Travel Tuesday

April 22, 2014

ROAD TRIP: A DAY IN LOS ANGELES

During my first visit to the US in 2011 Nick and I took an epic road trip up the West Coast. We traveled from San Diego all the way to Seattle in two weeks, camping along the way. This is the story of that journey and you can read the following posts here.

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The first time I traveled to the US, Nick had planned a whole road trip along the West Coast for us. We were going to drive from San Diego to Seattle in two weeks. It was definitely one way to test our relationship; being crammed in a tiny car with a bunch of stuff, no knowing when you'll shower again or wash your clothes and having no phone reception for several hours in a row sometimes... what can I say, my man likes taking risks. It turned out to be an amazing experience however and we really became a team (by the end, the beginning was horrible as in me nagging about not being able to wash or blow dry my hair and Nick being super annoyed by this). I can be a bit of a drama queen. 




We had planned to spend two days in Los Angeles, but in the end we had to leave a day later (I'm not going to point any fingers, but Nick somehow thought he could start packing the day we would leave which wasn't his best idea) so LA was to be discovered in half a day. A lot of the things I wanted to see had to be cut because we were just going to be focusing on one area. So I picked Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Whether that was a wise decision I do not know, since I still have to pay the city of Angels a second visit. I do know that I had not expected LA the way I found it; giant, spread out and with no apparent 'city center'. You definitely can't cover it in one day so our mission was doomed from the beginning. 




I had looked up that the Whiskey A Go Go was on Sunset Boulevard (and Kat Von D's tattoo shop off Sunset Boulevard) and that this famous street is next to that other famous one: Hollywood Boulevard (or at least where we had parked). Naturally, the European girl in me decided to walk. Biggest. Mistake. Ever. Do not - ever - try to walk to places in LA, unless maybe on the beach. We had walked for approximately 15 minutes when Nick decided to look on his phone exactly how far that place was on this street. Yep, we turned around with our tails between our legs and went back to the parking lot to get the car. Thank god the stubborn part of me realised there was no reason to press the matter unless you really want to walk 500 miles and then walk all the way back. I mean a 1000 blocks does sound pretty far, right? So we did see the place where The Doors started out...






I really liked the part of Sunset Boulevard closer to the ocean. It looked colourful and more like what people always describe when they think of California. We were only able to see a few sights and drove through most of the city so I will have to go back for the famous beaches and other areas. Our hotel was right near LAX so no exciting views but we booked it last minute and I was extremely happy to put my feet up that evening.

Travel Tuesday
Linking up with Bonnie, Melanie and Tina

Any recommendations for my second visit?
And have you ever realised you were completely unprepared for a city or a trip? 

Stay tuned for Day 2!

April 20, 2014

DAILY ROUTINE: WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO


I'm a bit late with recapping my week, but I really wanted to join in with Kate from Diaries of an Essex Girl this week and so I'm not giving up. It's a great idea to get to know a bit more about everyone's daily life and I know I usually skip over the so called 'boring' stuff but somehow that is what interests me most about other people's blogs. So here it goes...


Daily Diaries with Diaries of an Essex Girl

Monday
No manic Monday this week, or not in the work sense anyway. I had the day off and since our moving out day is coming up fast (panic attack) the day was spent at Ikea eyeing furniture. I had an amazing lunch with Nick's aunt and she helped me pick out everything so now I know exactly what I'm going to spend all of my money on. By the way, I feel like Ikea is even bigger here than in Europe and I didn't think that was possible... Two floors?? Also, I can't help but repeat this: I won a whole set of OPI nailpolishes which was even better than Christmas. 

Tuesday
We walked the dog after work and I am starting to notice the (very small) changes from winter to spring to summer here in California. Where before I just thought it was a never ending summer, I could really 'smell' spring in the air this week and we can leave our window open again at night since the weather is warming up. These small changes would have been totally lost on me before!

Wednesday
I don't think I did anything other than working on Wednesday and spending the evening drinking wine and having dinner with my husband, which was just perfect to me. 


Thursday
My renewed vow to work out seems to stick because I worked out for the third day in a row (!). I have to admit I was proud of myself. Also I realised, very randomly, that I really want to learn Russian and brush up on my French. I need to start studying again.  


Friday
I saw a documentary about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and even though I've always been interested in punk and grunge music and especially strong frontwomen I had never heard her story. It was truly inspiring and made me realise again how you can do anything you want as long as you put your mind to it and your heart is in it. Even though I don't know her and have never had the chance (yet) to be a fan of her music, I now have tons of respect for what she did in music and what she stood up for. 



Saturday
This day was spent sleeping in, skyping with my family and arguing with my better half about exactly how feminine our apartment is allowed to be. I think I'm going to sneek in a few glittery and gold things when he's at work (oops!). By the way, I can't believe that in a bit over two months I'll see my favourite Belgians again! These past few months in the US have flown by.  

Sunday
As I am finishing this post I am completely exhausted from our Easter hike. San Jacinto officially kicked my butt... Even though we took the tramway up from Palm Springs it was still an 11 mile hike round trip and with the dramatic elevation gain this was one of the toughest hikes I have done so far. But the view was amazing! I'll give a full report on that soon.




Happy Easter! 

PS: What have you been up to?

April 16, 2014

THE LITTLE THINGS: I'M A WINNER

BECAUSE THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS HAVING TOO MUCH NAIL POLISH


I can't even remember the last time I won something. I was never good at games or very lucky in entering competitions. In 2006 my sister won tickets to the World Championship Football (Soccer for you Americans) unfortunately she was a minor and couldn't go, but my dad made good use of those tickets. And one of my friends once won two day tickets to a very popular rock festival while I had entered almost any competition I could find. Luck tends to stick to people doesn't it? Anyway, I was never lucky in that sense. I never minded it either, but last week something changed. I had entered a competition to win the OPI Muppets collection through The Blonde and The Brunette and I received a glorious email stating that I had WON. As I'm completely addicted to nail polish this was literally like Christmas for me but even better because I hadn't expected it. Does that make me materialistic? I was so freaking happy it was ridiculous. So anyone who follows me on Instagram, brace yourselves for a lot of glitter and crazy nails. I just couldn't keep  this to myself because they did arrive so it is real! 

PS: I hopped on the Facebook bandwagon so you can follow the blog on there too!

Happy hump day!

April 11, 2014

EXPAT LIFE: WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BELGIUM

BRUGES 2012
So while being an expat is adventurous and exciting, it is also refreshing and inevitable that you start seeing your home country from a different perspective. You're away from all the things you're used to (and all the things that used to annoy you) and somehow by being away you're feeling closer to your home than ever because it's something you carry with you wherever you go. So what's so great about Belgium? I sometimes think of what I miss about home or what I would recommend to people who are planning a trip to Belgium and then I decided to write it down. Let's just pretend I'm your new spokeswoman for that other tiny country next to Luxembourg:
  1. The Cities
    Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Liege: tiny Belgium is filled with great cities with a relatively small city center which makes it perfect for a day trip. My all time favourite is of course the city of diamonds also known as Antwerp. I grew up near Antwerp so I've learnt to appreciate even its lesser sides but I still think it is one of the most glorious cities in Belgium.

  2. The Bakeries
    Belgians are bread eaters and usually have bread for lunch every day (some people have it for breakfast and for lunch). So since there's such a large audience for it, I guess the bakers decided to branch out. Pastries, pies, pralines, step into a genuine Belgian bakery and you'll have to restrain yourself. I think next time I visit will be disastrous for my diet, but why worry about carbs and sugar when on vacation?

  3. Public Transport 
    It's true that relying on it every day can drive a man insane but it is nice to have the option. Especially if you're just being a tourist, you can just hop on a train (that is if they're not on strike that one day you're visiting) and get to the next city on your list.

  4. The Proximity
    Belgium is practically the heart of (Western) Europe! By train, plane or bus you can get almost anywhere in Europe in no time. Amsterdam, Paris, London or Berlin are all within a day's (and usually less) reach.

  5. The Chocolate
    Godiva, Guylian, Cote d'Or or Callebaut are all big names with delicious chocolate. Often even local bakeries (like the one close to where I lived) have pretty darn good chocolate. For pralines there's only one option: Leonidas.

  6. The Seasons
    I miss the seasons sometimes; that first frost in the morning when you have to bundle up, the last days of summer in September, the first days of spring after a long winter or the weeks and weeks of rain in between... The changes can be sudden and swift but they are usually beautiful.

  7. The Fries
    Don't let anyone talk you out of this, Belgian fries are a specialty. Make sure you are outside the normal tourist area and I promise you'll have the best fries you've ever tasted (I'm getting hungry just thinking about it right now). Go to a local 'frituur' for delicious Belgian fries with the obligatory dollop of mayonnaise.

  8. Sinterklaas
    On the eve of the 6th of December kids can't wait to go to bed and get up as early as possible because that is when Sinterklaas will ride his white horse called 'Slecht Weer Vandaag' (literally Bad Weather Today) and deliver presents to every house in the country along with his little helper (who sparked quite some controversy last year). Children put their shoes filled with carrots for the horse near the chimney and write a letter to Sinterklaas and sometimes even provide a beer for Zwarte Piet (or maybe that was just me). It's a feast of chocolate, speculoos and marzipan. 

  9. The Music
    Even though I'm highly biased I do think Belgium has an incredible music scene for such a small country. Some of my favourites are Goose, The Hickey Underworld, Broken Glass Heroes, dEUS, Kapitan Korsakov, Selah Sue and The Black Box Revelation. During the summer there are numerous music festivals throughout the country (so not only Tomorrowland) and they're all really worth it!


  10. The Beer
    Whatever your preference might be, you'll find it here. Dark beers, light beers and my personal favourite: fruit beers. After a long day of discovering the city you can relax on a terrace of a local cafe and sip your ice cold beer, doesn't that sound great? That is if the weather doesn't ruin it of course.
Have you ever been to Belgium? 

April 5, 2014

DAILY ROUTINE: INSTA RECAP


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First conclusion for April: I don't take nearly enough pictures. Nothing to be done about it now however, so I grabbed the ones I did have. And even though there's little evidence of it, we did do a few things here in the Golden State during the past few months. One Saturday morning in February brought us to Anaheim for Disneyland, where we realised just how old we are. On Valentine's day I had a date with the DMV and got my American driver's license (which made me feel incredibly young again). Life can be cruel sometimes. March was a month of highlights, literally, because my hair is no longer just brown. I gave our local hairdresser the go ahead for blond highlights, so now I have beach hair. I guess I can cross that off my list. Last week I found myself standing in front of a stranger's house wanting to chicken out, but eventually ended up ringing the doorbell anyway for the book club. There were only three of us, but it was fun to have a girls night again and this week we went to see Divergent together (I think Nick was relieved he didn't have to go with me). And the grown-up news? We probably have found an apartment ( I say probably because I don't want to jinx it). Super mature, right?

Conclusie voor april: ik neem te weinig foto's. Daar is nu uiteraard niets meer aan te doen dus moeten we roeien met de riemen die we hebben. Ookal is er misschien geen tastbaar bewijs van, we hebben niet echt stilgezeten hier in de Golden State. In februari stonden we op een zaterdagmorgen plots in Anaheim voor Disneyland, waar  het pijnlijk duidelijk werd hoe oud we ondertussen zijn geworden. Valentijnsdag bracht ik door in de DMV door mijn Amerikaans rijbewijs te halen (wat me dan weer verschrikkelijk jong deed voelen). Het leven kan soms wreed zijn. Maart was de maand van de 'highligts', letterlijk en figuurlijk want mijn haar is niet langer gewoon kastanjebruin. Neen, ik heb de plaatselijke kapster carte blanche gegeven om mijn haar wat blonder te maken en nu heb ik dus beach hair. Dat voornemen kan ik al van mijn lijstje schrappen. Vorige week stond ik voor het eerst voor een vreemd huis te twijfelen of ik rechtsomkeer zou maken, maar uiteindelijk heb toch maar aangebeld voor de boekenclub. We waren maar met z'n drieen maar het was leuk nog eens een meidenavond te hebben en zijn deze week naar Divergent gaan kijken (Nick was er niet rouwig om). En het grote-mensen-nieuws? We hebben waarschijnlijk een appartement! Jup, ik weet het da's keivolwassen.

Apart from that March ended with a lot of rain and April started off the same (although that's changing rapidly). We had glorious weather for most of the winter months and all of a sudden when spring's supposed to start we get a reversed weather shock and they decide to open the flood gates so to speak. Curious. I don't mind, but it does make getting dressed in the morning more complicated...

Voor de rest is maart hier heel druilerig geeindigd en is april op dezelfde manier begonnen (al kan dat snel veranderen. Heel de winter stralend weer gehad en dan net wanneer de lente begint, besluiten ze hier dat het genoeg is geweest en de kraan mag worden opengedraaid. Mij niet gelaten, maar probeer zo maar eens te voorspellen wat je moet aandoen...

And this one's for my first love // En deze is voor mijn eerste grote liefde #20years




Because we're all just in a laundry room. And I was only 1 when they played in Belgium.

What band changed you? 

Enjoy the weekend!
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