March 31, 2015

OUT & ABOUT: FIVE HIKES AROUND SAN DIEGO

THE CLASSICS

I wasn't much of a hiker before I came to California - I mean why hike up a mountain for the fun of it? - but I was am young and I wanted to impress Nick so I did it. And somewhere along the way I actually started to enjoy it. The sweating and the heat are still pretty annoying (thank you San Diego!) but that feeling you get when you reach the top and finally can admire the view is pretty priceless. 

There are A LOT of places to hike in San Diego and an equal amount of lists on 'the best hikes' but these are some of our 'classics' we've done multiple times and keep going back to. Often because they're just convenient and in some cases because they'll do a great job of kicking your butt. I'd like to try out some new ones this year, but what can I say? I'm a creature of habit. 

1. Torrey Pines State Reserve 

If you're looking for a leisurely short walk, this is the one! You can make it a bit more challenging - if you really want to - by parking at the bottom of the hill and then walking up to the trails or simply  go for a run. Anyway, it's an absolutely beautiful area right by the ocean and I seem to remember that you can head down to the beach from certain trails. Perfect for some sunset snapshots!

2. Blue Sky Reserve to Lake Ramona

This is one of the first hikes I did in San Diego and it's short but brutal in its own way when you're from a flat country. Walking through Blue Sky is almost like a breeze - no hills and lots of shade - but when you reach the road that goes up to the Ramona dam it gets tricky. Prepare to say goodbye to that lovely shade you've gotten used to because it's all uphill in the sun from here and the last part is a pretty steep climb. It's definitely one of those routes where the way back makes you happy because it's basically all downhill.

4.8 mile/7.7 km round trip*

3. Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

It's far from the mysterious forest its name suggests although the trail does start out in the nice cool greenery. The uphill part is limited to the beginning, which I prefer actually, so once that's over you can enjoy the views and realize how low the water levels of the Reservoir and even Lake Hodges are compared to previous years (hello drought!). You'd definitely want to  wear good hiking shoes here because I almost twisted my ankle once on the loose rocks at the top. Just sayin! There are also great & flat(!) trails around Lake Hodges if you start from the other side or you can hike up Bernardo Mountain if you wish.

6.8 mile/ 10.9 km round trip*


Hiking has that effect on us // Mount Woodson

4. Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain is probably my favourite hike on this list, since it gives you a workout but not too much of one if you know what I mean. We did this one again two weeks ago and were on a roll. It's always nice when you're the one passing people instead of holding everyone up. And although there are switchbacks at the end, they are no way near as bad as Mount Woodson's (see below). It's generally a more relaxed mountain, if that makes sense. Every time we've gone there on a weekend, we've seen this guy with his older dog hiking up the hill. He apparently does this a lot because the dog is off leash and clearly knows where to cut through. It's so cute. 

6.6 mile/ 10.6 km round trip*


5. Lake Poway to Mt. Woodson

I have a love/hate relationship with Mount Woodson. It's one of those mountains where you just can't be out of shape. Trust me, it will be a nightmare. But then again I also don't like to take my time - I want to get the difficult parts over with as soon as possible please - so that's probably why. It's also one of the most popular hikes around San Diego and literally everyone goes there for that potato chip rock. I'm one of those purists though who has never taken a picture on the potato chip rock. First of all, it's seems ridiculous (almost reminds me of my postmodernism class) to wait in line at the top of a mountain to take a picture on a rock. And second, it's not even the top. That's a few hundred meters further, past the radio towers and you can actually relax there. Since it's so popular it's good to start out as early as possible (it can get really crowded) & always bring enough water 'cause Poway can be hot hot hot.

8 mile/12.8 km round trip*

So is it just me or does hiking as a workout seem like a very American thing to do? I used to walk a lot in Europe - mainly because there weren't any hills let alone mountains where I lived - and hikes only happened on vacations. Ok, I admit I can't remember if the locals trekked up those hills every weekend, but still. I just always think it must be nice to stretch your legs every once in a while here because most people have to drive everywhere during the day and nature is literally at your doorstep.

Do you enjoy hiking?


Linking up with Travel Tuesday

* Different distances are listed on different websites sometimes, it all depends on where you start of course!

March 24, 2015

DAILY ROUTINE: I'M GOING TO COACHELLA!



Remember that time I told you I would really like to go to Coachella? Yeah, apparently that will be happening sooner than expected. At the time I wrote that down, I had already applied for a media pass as a journalist to go for work. But me being me, I assumed my chances of actually going were pretty slim. Guess I was wrong!

When I got the email two weeks ago I had just started my evening shift and almost couldn't concentrate anymore. Maybe they thought that sending the good news at 3 pm on a Friday afternoon would be a nice way to finish a work day for most people, but I had just started! And after stressing about where to stay, I started to worry about everything else and then I got scared. Scared because I'll be going by myself and that's pretty overwhelming and afraid whatever I write about it is going to suck. I create doomsday scenarios for free if you're interested... 

So I didn't want to share the good news at first, worrying that it would only confirm my fears in the end. And you know what? I shouldn't have done that. It took me so long to actually work up the courage to ask my boss if I could go & then it took about two more weeks to click SEND on the application... I'm sure that confirmation email isn't going to magically disappear just because I told everyone - god I hope not. It's easier said than done (trust me, I know!) but sometimes you just have to go for it. Because life is too short and therefore I'm just going to ignore my fears for the next couple of weeks. It's probably a bit like solo travelling, right? 

Also, I was not at all prepared for the prices of staying in the Coachella valley during that time (again, naive!) so I'm staying at probably the worst camping spot ever because I refuse to pay 300 dollars a night. Which only adds to my worries.

Have you ever traveled or gone to a festival by yourself?

March 18, 2015

OUT AND ABOUT: A VISIT TO THE BIRCH AQUARIUM


A couple of weeks ago - on the very day I was trying to get tickets for Comic Con but failed - we went to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. It's right around the corner from our place - to say it in American terms - but somehow I'd never gone there. Plus the fact that we got half price tickets was a nice bonus.


Like I've said before: I don't really like zoos or any place where animals are kept in cages (or fish tanks for that matter) but I still wanted to give the aquarium a chance. Mainly because it's a place of research with a mission of preserving marine life.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego and dates all the way back to 1903 when it opened in its first setting (not in La Jolla). Nowadays you can see more than 380 species there, all in one place. 

70,000 gallon (264.979 liter) kelp forest tank

There the incredible 70,000 gallon (!!) kelp tank at the end of the Hall of Fishes. It's basically an enormous fish tank where you can take a seat and watch the fish swim around. It's pretty special.

Another favourite part of our visit was seeing this amazing Loggerhead Sea turtle. She was rescued after being found with major injuries and could not be released in the wild anymore since her rear flippers are paralyzed. So now she lives at the Birch Aquarium.  


And then there is the view of course, hello La Jolla Shores! Outside on the 'terrace' you can look at the some tide-pools and enjoy the sights. Pretty nice place to have an aquarium if you ask me.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, CA 92037

March 13, 2015

DAILY ROUTINE: LIFE LATELY & INTERNATIONS INTERVIEW

Is it just me, or does it feel like summer already? The daylights savings time switch might be a miracle worker because ever since we jumped an hour ahead last Sunday it has been warmer than ever and the weekend is supposed be hot hot hot. Skipping spring and going right on to summer: Check. It might just be the first Friday of the new year where I don't have to wear my socks and sweat pants while working (I'm not a weirdo, I just work from home). But let's get to the point of this Friday afternoon post ;) Here's what I've been up to lately: 

Binge-watching Downton Abbey:
Any Downton fans in the audience? I know there must be a reason for the fact I missed out on this - let's be honest - amazing show when it started, but I can't seem to think of one right now. The only good thing about it is that I got to watch all episodes in one go - the proper way. Thanks for stealing all my time with your free Prime trail, Amazon! So I finished four seasons in a matter of weeks weeks and now am dealing with serious withdrawal symptoms from being so emotionally involved... Any tips? Seems to me the only solution is to start season 5.


Researching a more eco-friendly lifestyle:
Maybe it's because I just turned 25, maybe not but for some reason I can't just live with how much unnecessary trash I produce or useless things I buy. So I'm trying to trim down on starting with the bathroom. It's not like I have much of a beauty routine, but still... using only cruelty free products that have less packaging and are better for the environment feels right. I'm taking baby steps though. Lush seems to have a few good options like solid shampoo and deodorant (which I'm trying out right now - scary!). Let me know if you know of any other options!

Making breakfast burritos:
That first meal of the day is an important one to me and to be honest... I'm not usually very patient about it. But last week was an exception for some reason. After losing an hour on Sunday and going swimming I arrived home to find a husband with a brilliant idea: let's make our own breakfast burritos. Since - surprisingly - I wasn't starving (yet) we drove to the store and bought all the ingredients. It was almost 2 pm when we finally sat down at the table and enjoyed that home made brunch/early dinner, but it was so worth it! Oh and did you know that mimosas with freshly squeezed orange juice from blood oranges are even better? Yup.


Feeling the urge to go body boarding
It's getting warmer and sunnier outside, but we haven't gone body boarding in what feels like forever. The waves haven't been that great but I didn't think I would miss it this much. I've become a very spoiled citizen of San Diego. So this weekend I will just have to go for a swim in the ocean if we can't catch some waves.

Eating too much Speculoos/Biscoff
Costco has the big packs now!! I might have stocked up on them... but I'll blame it all on Nick if I have to. Having them withing range is a true challenge though - consider yourself warned! Here's a list of other stores in the US that have some delicious Lotus products.

Expat interview
A few weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely people from InterNations for an interview. Anyone who's interested can read it here. I've actually still to go to my first InterNations meetup even though I've been a member since moving to the US. I never have much luck when it comes to those activities since it's always on days I have to work in the evening... 

Are you a member of InterNations? Addicted to speculoos? 

Happy Friday!

March 4, 2015

EXPAT LIFE: MY CALIFORNIA BUCKET LIST


Happy beginning of March y'all! Spring is fast approaching and even though that might not mean much when you're living in Southern California compared to everyone dealing with the snow, I am looking forward to warmer water temperatures! We've been living in La Jolla for almost a year now - a place with one of the most beautiful beaches in the US - and I'd like to think we've been taking full advantage of that. But California is a big place and even though I've discovered so many great place I'm sort of insatiable. So when I was thinking about short trips we could take I realized there are so many things I would like to experience and do! Since god knows I never took full advantage of my semester in London this is a reminder to myself to never take my surroundings for granted and wait to do things just because "they aren't going anywhere":  

  1. Go to Coachella
    I used to be crazy about music festivals and even though I've kind off grown out of it - especially when it comes to camping in scorching temperatures and not showering for days - I would like to go to at least one festival in the US. So let it be Coachella.
  2. Visit the famous state and national parks
    Yosemite, Joshua Tree, ... I don't think I could tell anyone back home after living here for x amount of years that I have NOT visited these incredible spots.
  3. Discover the state capital
    It's definitely a city overlooked in California (is it because there's no beach?) but I would love to visit Sacramento. Just to have seen it.
  4. Go whale watching
    This should probably be my number one priority because I already get excited when I see a seal popping up beside us when we go body boarding. Just imagine seeing a whale in nature...
  5. Cross the border to Mexico
    Ok so technically that's not in California but I mean, we're so close and I've never been to Mexico!!
  6. Go skiing in Cali
    Preferably do the skiing and beach thing in one day just to proof how decadent life can be here but I'll settle for skiing if that's all I can get.
  7. Experience the Comic-Con madness in San Diego
    Last year I was completely oblivious to the ticket sale and this year I was naive and underprepared. It turns out getting tickets is pretty complicated but I'm sure I'll be 100 percent ready next year. Bam!
  8. Go wine tasting in Napa
    San Diego has some pretty amazing wineries - just like many other regions in California I guess - but Napa Valley has the reputation. And I would love to see what all the fuss is about.
Any recommendations I should definitely add? 
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