May 24, 2014

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS: THOUGHTS ON OUR FIRST APARTMENT

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First of all, sorry for my absence! It's been three weeks since we moved into our first apartment and for me it's the first time I'm officially living on my own (together). I've lived in student flats before, but everyone knows that's just a fun bubble reflecting the real world. After all, I wasn't paying my own bill yet (I think that's one of the criteria of adult life right?). So here it goes: ten thoughts on moving into your first apartment...
  • I'm calling insurance companies these days and I have no clue what I'm saying, they know that and I know that. We sometimes even make jokes about it. Hey, they don't teach you that in college...
  • Moving out goes a lot faster when you don't actually have anything
    Amen.
  • Ah, the perks of having a one person kitchen... said no one ever.
    It's either a great way to avoid having to help cooking or a very sad and lonely story when it's your turn.
  • Wanting to buy really cute decorations, but having to comprise SUCKS
    Why can't a girl have her neon lights and glitters?
  • How 'Yes, I'm paying my own bills!!' quickly loses its charm
  • Cooking pasta in a pan actually works or how everything you've been taught is wrong
    PS: it works for hot dogs too!
  • Realizing that compromising on furniture actually turned out pretty darn good
    We must be made for each other.
  • Having the possibility to go to the beach everyday, doesn't mean it actually happens. Oh, life.
  • How you didn't know you grew used to having air conditioning, until you have to live without again #climatecontrol
  • Using the laundry room for the first means seeing your first 5 dollars go down the drain because you couldn't be bothered to read the instructions properly. How very mature of you, Nathalie.
  • How you discover all of the little flaws of your new home within two weeks but still love it because it's your first home. Oh, and you know, you're building up experience for renting your next place.

Have a great (Memorial Day) weekend!

May 9, 2014

ROAD TRIP: JULIA PFEIFFER BURNS STATE PARK

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 previous posts here.

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First things first: California was A LOT colder than I had imagined. My suitcase packed with summer clothes did not suffice for a road trip upstate and I should have definitely brought at least one warmer jacket. The result was that I wore a lot of Nick's clothes during our trip and we both looked a bit weird perhaps. We set out to our campsite for the night after visiting Hearst Castle and making a stop for groceries along the way. Destination: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I feel like I can say that this is possibly the best and most impressive camping spot you could find in California. The campsite is right on a cliff overlooking the beautiful Big Sur coast and there are only two spots available. EVER.

The downside is that everyone knows this so it gets booked up pretty quickly. I'd recommend reserving your spots well in advance, although you can get lucky sometimes and find a last minute opening (like we did!).
You can see our basic toilet facilities there
Our small tent and the hiking trail going up the hill
Me, pretending to be cooking

The Campsite

The campsite is a hike in only, which means you have to carry your equipment for the night down a little hiking trail. I was glad we had brought two tents for the trip (Nick was so prepared for this) and our smaller and thus lighter tent seemed perfect for this spot. 

Another important thing to know: it's an old school campsite. So no fancy toilets and no showers. I washed my hair with (ice cold) water Nick poured over my head from a bottle and I have to admit that walking to the bathroom at night with only a flashlight was a bit scary. 

We seemed to be the only ones camping there for the night in a strange turn of events. Either someone changed their mind and didn't show up or they'd got stuck somewhere else, but it meant we were alone on a cliff for a whole night in quite a remote area with bad cell reception. I had multiple possible serial killer scenarios going through my head but once you're able to set that aside, calm down and enjoy the scenery, it is a very peaceful place!

McWay Cove
Overlooking the ocean

So who was Julia Pfeiffer Burns?

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was originally called Saddle Rock Ranch, because the rock formation resembles a saddle. The woman behind the more recent name was a prominent resident of the Big Sur area and good friends with the last owners of Saddle Rock Ranch: US House Representative Lathrop Brown and his wife Helen. They were the ones that built a house in McWay Cove (named after the original owners). When the Browns left the property to the state of California in 1961 they dedicated it to Ms. Pfeiffer Burns who had passed away in 1928. Although the house was torn down as requested by the Browns in their will, some of the foundations remain so you can get an idea of just how amazing her view must have been. 

McWay Cove and McWay Falls: the view the Browns must have enjoyed in their days
If you feel like 'unplugging' and being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life for a few days this place is exactly what you need. Also, you'll appreciate a shower so much more the next day! 



What is your favourite camping experience? 

And have you ever camped anywhere remote? 


May 6, 2014

OUT AND ABOUT: MT. SAN JACINTO


It's been over two weeks since our Easter hike (great job on being up to date Nathalie) and I can still feel the burning feeling in my muscles when I think of that day. It was tough and although I'm not an athlete, I'd like to think I'm not completely out of shape. Part of the difficulty is definitely the altitude and I'd been warned about it, but didn't know what to expect. So anyone attempting to conquer this mountain... you've been double warned! 

The die hards can start all the way at the bottom of this mountain, which is the second highest in California. Needless to say I'm nowhere near that level (nor do I think I will ever have the discipline to get there). Like every other tourist we took the (Swiss) tramway up. Apparently it's one of the only three tramways with a revolving platform in the world! And guess what, Nick has now been on two out of three (he took the one in South Africa). I'm jealous.





Palm Springs is almost two hours from North County so we left pretty early to catch the 8AM tramway up. Unsurprisingly, we were the only ones.... It gave me the opportunity to snap some good pictures (no chance of doing that on the way down) but we also could choose not to let the platform revolve. My queasy stomach and I decided not take that risk so early in the morning. 



The Alpine climate felt really refreshing and there was even SNOW!! Technically I could cross that off my list now, but since it hadn't snowed recently it was mostly just ice. Anyway, the fresh air and nature made me think of Switzerland and brought back a lot of memories. 

The Cabin means you're ALMOST there
That's San Gorgonio straight ahead, the highest peak in California

Pondering about life on top of a mountain felt appropriate
San Jacinto is the only mountain I've hiked that has a 'real' peak. At 3.302m (or 10.834 feet) it felt incredible to stand up there and be able to look out over the valley and dessert below. It was almost surreal and I felt like I was on top of the world... until I had to walk all the way down again of course. 

When did you have a 'surreal' travel moment?
Travel Tuesday

May 4, 2014

ROAD TRIP: SAN SIMEON AND HEARST CASTLE

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 previous posts here.

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Apologies for the delay on this post, but we're in the middle of moving into our first apartment and naturally not everything goes according to schedule. But we have internet now, so here it is! The actual second day of the road trip was spent driving. Hours and hours of driving through the slowly changing landscapes. It was interesting to notice how the surroundings went from what looks like the south of Spain to something more like the wine regions in southern France. I hadn't fully realised how big the state of California really is and since it's so narrow you can literally spent a long time driving up the coastal highway. Which is exactly what we did.  



We arrived at our destination in the early evening. The first night of camping was to be spent at San Simeon State Park. So we set up our big tent which was remarkably light (I guess they don't need an extra layer for heavy rainfall here). It was a cloudy and chilly evening but we had a nice campfire and a simple meal, and sometimes that's all you need. Since we were planning on going to Hearst Castle the next morning we got up early, had pop tarts (first time for everything!), packed everything up again and left.


Hearst Castle was built between 1919 and 1947 by media magnate William Hearst. If you want to see something close to a castle in California then this is the place for you. William Hearst had inherited more than 250.000 acres of ranch land when his mother died and decided to built a luxurious retreat on top of the hill. Why not right? It took years to finish of course but when it finally did, 'La Cuesta Encantada' or 'The Enchanted Hill' consisted of 165 room, 127 acres of gardens and looked like a Medieval Spanish village, church included. The secluded spot was basically a nice place for the rich and famous to hang out together. 


After Hearst died in 1951, there seemed to be no buyers for the decadent estate. I guess the market for Spanish looking medieval castles up on hills is pretty limited. After a few years the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California and it became a National and California Historic Landmark. According to Wikipedia the place gets around one million visitors a year! 

Ceiling imported straight from the Middle Ages
We arrived for one of the first (crazy) bus rides up the hill. It was so foggy that morning you couldn't even see the castle from the street below. It's unbelievable that such a big property was built on a hill that was originally only accessible by foot or on horseback. Tickets for guided tours start from 25 dollars for adults but in my opinion it is completely worth it. We took a tour through the grand rooms (the big building) and learned that a lot of the equipment used to build the rooms was actually brought over to the US from European monasteries and put back together here.

Apparently this is an authentic Flemish tapestry in 'The Refectory'
I think this is the Cocktail Room, sounds good to me!
The Movie Theatre
Back outside there are two other smaller guest houses (and by small, I don't really mean small), for which you can also book a tour, and a gorgeous garden we walked around in for a bit. My absolute favourite part of Hearst Castle was of course the pool. Unfortunately it isn't heated, which was too bad because it looked very inviting. Apparently Lady Gaga used the location in one of her videos. 






We spent a lot of time discovering the maze of gardens with fountains and little terraces, taking tons of pictures. That's why you're being bombarded with pictures as we speak! I tried to make a smaller selection but I couldn't. The decadence just doesn't end on the enchanted hill and the best was definitely saved for last... after we saw the tennis courts (why not you know) there was the indoor Roman pool: the crown jewel of this parallel universe.



If you want to know what the wealthy Americans were capable of during the roaring twenties, this is definitely the place to go. I couldn't really believe what I saw during that trip and since the whole place was surrounded by the morning fog it looked like a dream world. Thank god I have the pictures to confirm my story. And as you can guess... the other part of the day was spent driving!

Have you been to Hearst Castle? And if not, would you like to go?
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