June 24, 2014

ROAD TRIP: DISCOVERING THE BAY AREA

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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Ready for another one of my camping stories? Talking about my road trip turned out to be rather boring with all those camp grounds (you can see our route so far by clicking here)! But I promise you this one has San Francisco in it. Today I'm presenting you a very special camping spot, because who would think to camp while visiting a city? Definitely not me, but my genius better half did three years ago and it was a perfect idea. The camp ground was by far the best one we'd stayed at (seems like the more north you go, the better they get...) and it was actually WARM on the other side of the Bay. Finally some California weather!
Beautiful view over Lake Chabot Reservoir
The omnipresent eucalyptus trees
Why camp? 

Let me tell you that I wasn't (and am still not) the biggest fan of camping, but the camp ground we picked was a 15 minute drive from a BART station (Hello public transport!) where we could park the car in the morning, buy a relatively cheap ticket into the city and just wander around from there. Because you can actually do that in San Francisco. When I went back to the city with my parents this summer, we parked the car in a central parking structure every day and the daily rate can easily be 40 dollars. It might not seem much if you're planning on spending money anyway, but the alternative route can definitely save you a few bucks. Plus, you get to escape the city in the evening and try to spot owls, encounter your first scorpion on a midnight walk to the bathroom and be greeted by curious turkeys in the morning. What's not to love? 
The visiting Turkey
If you're up for an adventurous city trip I definitely recommend the Anthony Chabot campground. Since I've already said quite a bit about San Francisco (here and here) and I covered most of the same things when I went back with my parents last summer, I thought I'd just show you the pictures of my first visit. I absolutely love this wonderful, expensive and very European city!

The Bay Bridge
Port of San Francisco and the Financial District 
The Lefty's Store
Pier 39
Pier 39
Little Italy
Saints Peter and Paul Church where Marilyn Monroe got married to Joe DiMaggio
Golden Gate Bridge

CAMPING INFO
Anthony Chabot Regional Park
9999 Redwood Road
Castro Valley, CA 94546


Have you ever been to San Francisco? Would you opt for the camping route?

PS: Dan from the amazing expat blog Live Work Travel USA interviewed me last week and you can read about it here! Don't forget to check out the rest of his website!

Travel Tuesday
Linking up with Bonnie, Kaelene, Van and Sammy

June 17, 2014

CITIES & TRIPS: ANOTHER DISNEY THEME PARK



Some of you might remember a very disappointed post on this blog about Disneyland a few months ago. Well, what I didn't tell you back then is that we had actually bought combo tickets to see two parks in two days. Because, yes, opposite Disneyland there is another Disney theme park called California Adventure. Originally we were planning on visiting both parks in one weekend, but after a very tiring day at Disneyland we decided to postpone our second visit until two weeks ago. 

My favourite: The Tower of Terror
I have to admit that I wasn't particularly looking forward to this day. Flashbacks from Disneyland made me expect long lines and an overcrowded park again. What is it they say about low expectations and being surprised? Maybe it's a Dutch saying, but this park couldn't have been more different from Disneyland. The whole experience was so much more enjoyable, from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. 

The fact that California Adventure opened in 2001 and is much better equipped for large crowds might have something to do with that. The roads are wider, the rides are more exciting and there are a single rider lines; so this one's definitely my favourite of the two!

Cars Land
Cars Land
Did we do anything differently? We arrived a bit earlier since the park opens earlier in summer, we did get fast passes as soon as we entered the park this time (thanks to Nick's aunt and uncle) but the thing is... we didn't really need them. Most people started arriving when we had already gone on most of the fun rides (some of them even twice) and by that time we were exhausted anyway. So we either picked a really good weekend or California Adventure is just the park to pick!

Monsters Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!
Louigi's Flying Tyres
As we didn't have to wait 80 minutes for a ride, I didn't take that many pictures. You'll just have to trust me when I say that the decor, especially Cars Land, is stunning. My faith in theme parks has been officially restored!

Things I (recently) learned at Disney theme parks: 


1. Getting there early to beat the crowds pays off
2. Collect your fast passes for the most exciting rides, but don't let it get in the way of you actually going on one. The line to get fast passes for the Radiator Spring Races was just as long as the one to actually get on.
3. Pick the single rider line whenever possible; isn't this the best invention ever? It saved us so much time.
4. Definitely buy water BEFORE you get thirsty
5. Don't overdo it, if you've had enough but haven't been on all the rides just call it a day or have dinner! There's always next time and pushing it isn't going to make it a better experience.


Have you ever been to California Adventure?
Ps: I can't not mention this... Belgium won today!!!




Travel Tuesday
Linking up with Bonnie, Van, Sammy and Kaelene

June 13, 2014

DAILY ROUTINE: RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME


When Irene from Away From Tenerife nominated me this week to share some fun facts about myself I really didn't know where to start. It's pretty hard to come up with that stuff about yourself. But it sounded like a fun idea and I loved reading her post (you should definitely check it out) so I decided it's time for me to share some more random things about myself: 

1. I'm left handed. I feel like that's a random fact. I still remember the first time I had to make the sign of the cross in church and did it with my left hand. Needless to say it shocked most of my aunts! Also when I first picked up my sister's guitar I actually held it upside down (how clueless of me). I later found out some guitar players actually play like that (Jimmy Hendrix could play the guitar in almost ANY possible way), but it never really worked for me... 

2. If you see me reading a book, prepare to be ignored. I literally
don't hear anything when I'm reading a good book, which has gotten me into trouble more than once. So please repeat your question or wave your hand...

3. My day hasn't started until I've had breakfast. I'm not fun to be around on an empty stomach.

4. I don't really like the hassle of travelling or staying somewhere for a short time. I do like getting immersed in a culture and living like the locals.
5. I've always dreamed of becoming a bad ass female rock star (a bit like the female Josh Homme, Alex Turner or Kurt Cobain minus the drug addiction), but I have no exceptional guitar skills and a terrible voice. I would still secretly like to be a famous music journalist though.

6. I could have pizza every day. And I don't understand why Americans don't put tuna on their pizza, it's my favorite.

7. Until I was 8, boys and girls went to separate schools in Belgium. When they changed the rules I transferred to the local boys school (because we didn't like the teachers at the girls school) and was one out of three girls in a class full of boys. Of course everyone at the school knew our names.

8. I really love dressing up for winter, that's what I probably miss the most here. 

9. Buying presents for other people or planning a surprise is so much more fun to me than getting presents.

10. People find it strange that I write with a fountain pen (especially since I'm left handed) but I've been doing that for most of my life and prefer it to any 'normal' pen.

That was it for me now I'd like to nominate these awesome bloggers to share some random facts (absolutely no rules) about themselves:
Apologies if you've already done this!

Caroline from Hello I'm Caroline
Sophie from Sophie in Clogs 
Miki from Miki's Scrapbook



June 9, 2014

ROAD TRIP: SUNSET STATE BEACH

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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After walking around the Julia Pfeiffer Burns campground we were headed further north. Destination: a (to me) unknown place between us and the glorious city of San Francisco. Sunset State Beach is, as you might assume, almost literally on the beach and the campground is located close to the city of Watsonville, in an area known for its agriculture. It might not be anything special compared to McWay Cove... there were showers and no possible horror movie scenarios and honestly that was all I needed at that moment.


We slowly started realising one flaw in our road trip schedule: packing and unpacking every day was very tiring. Looking back, I would probably stay longer in more place but that also means your trip up the coast will take twice as long and we didn't really have that much time.  

Sunset State Beach reminded me a bit of the Belgian coast: grey skies, a gradual beach with dunes and just a long, flat stretch of sand. We took a long walk down the beach and saw the most peculiar thing (I've always wanted to say that)... there was this squadron of pelicans just queuing to take off. They took their sweet time while every single bird waited patiently. It was definitely a bit creepy but also fascinating so we sat there for a while and watched them. 


Things I will forever associate with Sunset State Beach are showering by the quarters, taking eerie photos (see below) that look a bit like old Flemish paintings (booze and grumpy faces: check) and the fact that we woke up in the middle of the night from water dripping on our face. I don't mind admitting that I didn't expect rain or any kind of dew in California and boy, was I wrong. Our biggest mistake was placing our not waterproof tent underneath a tree... And that was the worst night ever. 


Even though Sunset State Beach was an 'inbetween' place on our way to more exciting times, I really enjoyed staying there and seeing more remote and alternative parts of California.

Hope you had a nice weekend!

Travel Tuesday

June 4, 2014

DAILY ROUTINE: LIFE IN SD IS TAKING OFF

@nathaliego

Hello my beloved readers! I don't know about you but I've had two incredibly busy weeks with lots of work and lots of things to plan (and lots of other things I should have done but I'm ignoring that). Someone bumped into my car (read: Nick's car), I'm a complete control freak and organising my Belgian Party (which is next month by the way) from here is stressing me out and also I'm doing my best to build up a social life. Yes, I am as surprised as you are...


Somehow moving into our apartment and the fact that I feel a bit more comfortable at doing my job now, has made me brave. I've been here for almost a year now and I can see why everyone keeps saying it takes two years to feel 'at home' somewhere. I didn't have that problem in London, but I also didn't really have to find a job there or pay my own rent. And let's just admit it: making friends is so much easier when you're in college! But as I said, something has changed and I've decided I need to be serious about investing time in hobbies and meeting people, if not for making friends than just to be out and about and having a conversation with someone (someone without the same last name) every once in while. Up until now that always scared me and just like that... the feeling went away too. I'm assuming this is normal. 

This week has therefore been groundbreaking: I contacted the coach of the local masters swim team for a try out and swam with the team yesterday. It was nerve-wrecking, especially since I'm out of shape, but it was also fun and empowering. Next to that I've signed up to volunteer at a German Shepherd Rescue (being around dogs without being able to adopt one might not be the best idea but still) so I'll keep you posted on how that works out. Oh, and I also went to a second book club meetup last week. I feel like I've accomplished so much in two weeks even though most of it are the 'normal' day to day things in life. But in the end... that's what makes you feel at home, right? Now I just have to stick to my new goals.


When did you realise you started feeling at home somewhere?
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