California Dreamin’

On 14 August 2015, it was our 5th wedding anniversary, so we decided to go back to where it all started: Los Angeles (yes we are a bit cheesy 😉 ). Since you don’t just pop over for the weekend, we decided to make it our main summer holiday, although it was wedged in between two England trips for weddings of friends who also decided to tie the knot 🙂

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Of course we dressed up for the wedding!

First of all, AirBnB is awesome. We got to stay in Venice, within walking distance of the beach, and at the first apartment we stayed at also had some bikes to our disposal. Since we got there on a Friday, Abbot Kinney’s First Fridays helped us stay awake 🙂

On Saturday, I was on a mission. As I had really enjoyed the surfboard I surfed in Portugal, I wanted to get a similar board myself. We went to a bunch of surf shops in Hermosa and Manhattan beach, but the boards there were all quite generic. Online I had found JK Surfboards, and they were selling the boards from a place called “The Swim Guy”, in Redondo beach. The place is not a surf shop, but it sells all the accessories and more for swimming. Luckily they still had a lovely blue soul carver and a leash in stock, so I was super stoked. Without Paul knowing, I had also snuck a wetsuit and towel in the car, so we could go straight to the beach. Luckily he could laugh about it and was happy to find some nice coffee while I tried out my new toy in the gentle Manhattan Beach waves 😉

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The rest of the week was a lot of relaxing for me during the day (Paul met up with a colleague a couple of days, since he’s not an academic anymore he has fewer holidays than I do). So I usually surfed in the morning and read a book and we got to hang around our favourite breakfast and lunch places and the beach of course. We also went to see Sheryl Crow and the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, to which we brought a picnic, as you do. The concert was great, even the short power outage couldn’t kill the party 🙂

On August 14, we started our little roadtrip. We first went to San Diego (with a little stop on the way in Laguna Beach). Paul had booked us this fabulous hotel with a rooftop pool. I ❤ rooftop pools. Especially when they come with watermelon inflatables 🙂

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We had dinner at a Vietnamese place where we could sit outside, not very fancy, but very tasty. The next day we popped up to the rooftop and a bunch of photographers and stylists were preparing for a photoshoot there. It was a very hip place 🙂

After breakfast, we took a ferry to Coronado for the day. It’s a beach town with a fancy hotel. It was blazing hot, but I persuaded Paul to walk with me from the ferry harbour to the main hotel. We found some nice shops (also a really cool bookshop!) on the way, and enjoyed the beautiful beach in front of the Del Coronado hotel. Although I’m happy we weren’t staying there, resorts are just not my thing. In the evening, we went to the old town, for Mexican food with some of Paul’s colleagues, which was super fun, much better than the tacky old town in Albuquerque 😉

The next day, we first went for a surf together at La Jolla. We found a parking spot right by the beach, and we were there just before the tide messed up the waves, which was pretty awesome. After lunch it was time to go into the desert! We had initially wanted to go to Joshua tree, but it was simply too hot so we ‘only’ went to Palm Springs. Driving there is spectacular, the vistas are amazing and at some points on the way it’s just completely quiet. Probably because it’s so ridiculously hot, even crickets and birds take siestas.

Palm Springs is really wonderful. Paul had again found a super awesome hotel, called the Saguaro. All the rooms are built around the center courtyard which has a big pool. Of course I went for an evening swim, and the funky thing is that if you close your eyes you’d still think it’s daytime as it’s that hot. In town, a lot of the restaurants and shops have little water sprinkling systems to cool you down while you’re walking.  In the morning we took a yoga lesson, ate at a local diner which wasn’t that amazing and drove off again, this time to Santa Barbara (yes it was a proper roadtrip).

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In Santa Barbara, we stayed at an AirBnB again, this one was near Shoreline park, so we could go out for nice evening walks there (OK, I once miscalculated and our walk was a bit longer than intended). We also surfed some great waves at Leadbetter Beach.

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Besides hanging out in the super relaxed Santa Barbara city centre (with a great farmer’s market), we also took a day trip to Solvang and wine country. Solvang is a bizarre Danish-like village in the middle of nowhere, fun but not for too long. Then we went to Los Olivos which is very cute. I bought a nice book (about Glamping 😉 ) and we tasted (and bought) some wine.

On the way back to LA, we first stopped at Rincon, which is a famous surf spot, but it was flat as a pancake when we were there. We also had lunch in Malibu, but sadly the nice bookstore that used to be there was gone. Malibu is still great for people watching though 😉

We then spent another week in LA, hanging out with friends, going to awesome restaurants, having pizza with my old roommate, playing tennis, visiting the Getty etc. All the good stuff. One day we did a proper sightseeing tour. We first went to downtown LA to see the Bradbury building which we had heard about on the 99% invisible podcast. We then traipsed around downtown some more, visit the Last Bookstore and found some more fancy coffee places. We also couldn’t leave without going to the Standard Hotel and going for a dip in the rooftop pool 🙂

We then pulled out our Raymond Chandler map of Los Angeles. We went up to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses: Ennis House. Unfortunately it’s not open to the public, and it’s currently being renovated, but it was quite fun to drive around the Los Feliz area and gawk at the villas. On Sunset Blvd., we stopped at Musso & Frank Grill, which supposedly still looks like it did way back when. It was great to have a cocktail there, listen to the bartender and have a chat with the old couple sitting next to us at the bar who come there regularly :).

On our last day, a friend also took us out surfing on a quiet beach in Malibu. The kind where you need to crawl through some fences to get to. But we shared it with only a seal and later one SUP’er. A great way to end a great holiday!

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A Weekend in Paris

One of the best things about living in Europe is that you can get anywhere really quickly. For example, it’s only 3 hours by train from Amsterdam to Paris. So after a pretty busy, but highly rewarding period at work, it was time for a weekend in Paris in July 2015.

We took the Thalys on Friday afternoon, and got there early in the evening. I’ve often stayed in the Latin Quarter, but this time we had found a nice AirBnB in Montmartre. It took a little while to find the place, but it was well worth it. It was situated in one of those typical Parisian apartment buildings with a nice little inner courtyard. But of course, Paris isn’t for hanging out in cute apartment buildings, so we went out for a little walk in the lovely warm summer night and had an overpriced drink at a terrace looking out over the city.

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We then had dinner at Le Jardin d’en Face, which was pretty busy but we were lucky to find a spot outside. It really helps to speak a few words of French, even with some errors. The staff really was a lot nicer to us than to the couple sat next to us. Perhaps it was also because we didn’t return a half-full plate with the house specialty 😉

After dinner we just wandered around the area, went into the Sacré Coeur (which is open til quite late) and just enjoyed the little streets, watching the people and the views of the city.

On Saturday, we took things a bit off-the-beaten path; we rented some vélibs (the white rental bikes you can pick up from automatic rental stations) and we went to two Le Corbusier sites. The first was Maison La Roche, one of the houses he designed and his apartment/atelier in a larger apartment building that he also designed. Both are situated in the 16th arrondissement, but the visits couldn’t be more different. We were the only ones visit at Maison la Roche, which is in a really quiet neighbourhood, and to protect the floors, we got to wear cute little plastic bags over our shoes.

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The apartment/atelier is situated near two sports stadiums and is actually a place where people still live. You need to ring the doorbell and they will only let in so many people at any given time. To not bother the people who live in the apartment building too much, they prefer it if you take the stairs to the top floors where Le Corbusier had his apartment with stellar views over the city. Well worth the climb.

We were ready for a drink after that though. Paul had an excellent idea, so we parked our bikes at one of the bike stations and took the metro to the Tour Montparnasse. Now, you need to pay to go all the way up to the roof, but you can also just go up to the bar on the top floor, and pay for a drink and a view (and a comfy seat).

Late in the afternoon, we picked up some bikes again (your rental is valid for 24 hours) to make it to the east side of Paris for dinner with a ‘local’, whom Paul has known for years and years and years. He suggested we meet at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, which is a really bizarre place with an artificial lake and an artificial waterfall, but really quite scenic :). In the park is a lovely restaurant called “Le Pavillion du Lac” where Paul and I were probably the only foreigners. While we were having dinner a big branch fell out of a tree, but luckily most of the people who had been picnic’ing had already left so no-one got hurt. Afterwards, we wanted to party some more, and tried to go to a bar/club on the Canal St. Martin but it was so busy that it would take at least an hour to get a drink. Fortunately, there were other quiet, if less hip places around for a final stop.

On Sunday, we walked. We first stopped at Soul Kitchen for breakfast (and coffee for Paul) and then we had wanted to go to the Pyramids shopping centre, but Google maps sent me to another Pyramids store (which was closed and tacky), although we did end up in a really nice shopping street in the Marais where they had a bunch of pop-up shops that would only be there for a little while. Paul bought some nice new shoes there, after which it was time for lunch again, for which we thought we’d have a picnic in Square du Temple. Unfortunately it started to rain, so everyone ran to the band stand in the centre of the park, but luckily it didn’t last long. We then went for some coffee and tea at Fondation Café at 16 rue Dupetit Thouars. Via Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, we made our way to Le Palais du Thé where I bought some fancy tea and then we traipsed around the area some more.

Near 6pm we made our way back to Gare du Nord. We picked up a baguette and some cheese on the way which we ate on the train (probably pissed off some other passengers as I really like the slightly smellier cheeses) and we were back in Amsterdam in a few hours with a whole bunch of new experiences and happy memories. But there is still so much more to see…hopefully we can go back again soon!

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Girl surf trippin’

Whoa, Portugal is still the awesome place for a quick surf getaway. So from 4 -10 May 2015, it was time for a girls’ trip again.

This time we decided to fly into Lisbon and rent a car there. It turned out to be a mean looking black van. People were quite surprised to see 4 happy surf girls jump out of that thing at every beach! 🙂

We got to the apartment in Sagres late on the 4th, so the morning of the 5th was spent getting some groceries, and renting surfboards, a few more than intended because the baggage handling had unfortunately eaten up some boards, which was highly disappointing. I intentionally hadn’t travelled with my own board because I wanted to try out something different. For a while I’d wanted a nice longboard, but on this holiday I got to try out an egg and I’m completely hooked. Since all the other girls have longboards, it’s kind of nice to hang out with them in the back, but lugging around a longboard is a bit of a pain, especially on public transport and stuff. With the egg, I could catch lots of waves and hang out out back, so pretty sweet.

The first day, we drove around a bit, hung at at Furnas and had lunch on the beach, but there weren’t any waves there due to the high tide. Thus we ended up at Zavial. I’d not had any super nice sessions there before, but every year the conditions are different. It looked a bit big, so the two ballsiest ladies went first, but we couldn’t resist and joined them after a little well.

On Wednesday, Tonel was huge! So I decided to sunbathe and save my energy for Beliche in the afternoon. My favourite beach 🙂 The next morning, I did paddle out at Tonel during our dawn patrol session, but it was quite dumpy so took it easy and watched others catch some big ones. In the afternoon, Tonel was a lot friendlier, although I did get one thorough washing which really hurt my ear and even made me a bit dizzy for a while. The rest of the day I still heard some bubbling noise when I tried to clear my ear. I’m now a lot more religious about bringing and wearing my ear plugs!

But it’s not all surf that Sagres has to offer, there’s also fabulous restaurants. We went to a local place called Babugem where you could pick from a box which freshly caught fish you wanted grilled. I had a lovely seabream and shared a fig, almond & carob cake with one of my friends.

Thursday morning, we managed to drag ourselves out of bed early and made it to Zavial and it was just magical! We got in the water at 8, and there were just three other guys there for a bit but they left. The waves were super easy to catch, super mellow, hip to shoulder height. Afterwards we checked out the new Surfer’s hangout in Sagres for a well-deserved post-surf snack (a.k.a 2nd breakfast). After a little nap (surf, eat, sleep, repeat), we checked out a couple of beaches, but Tonel was heaving and Beliche didn’t look too friendly either so we ended up at Zavial again. Not the best session, but still fun. There were also some naked dudes on the beach.

The naked dudes were gone on Saturday morning, when we went to Zavial again. A bit more wind made the waves a bit harder to catch, but did produce some gorgeous rainbow sprays. I was also quite happy that I’d gotten some new earplugs! Like the previous day, we then went to the hangout again, followed by a nap. The last session of my holiday was at Beliche, where I thoroughly surfed out my arms until they felt like spaghettis.  Muito obrigada Portugal!

 

 

Roadtrippin’ in Florida

Paul grew up in Florida, and we’ve visited Pensacola a bunch of times now over the Christmas holidays, but I had never seen much more of Florida. Until now. And it’s huge, so I’ve only seen a small bit of it, but it was pretty awesome 🙂

After Christmas, we first drove to St. Petersburg (yes there is a St. Petersburg in Florida). It’s like a 7 hour drive, and that doesn’t even get you all the way to the other side of the state. But that’s fine. The main reason we went there is that it has the largest collection of Dalís outside Spain, but it turned out to be a really nice town. The centre is very walkable and they try to keep out the big chains, so there are lots of nice little boutiques and coffee places, which gives it such a different vibe from seeing the same chains again. So we had a nice dinner after we arrived, outside (because it’s Florida and the weather is nice 😉 ) and in the morning we found a nice tea & coffee place where we had breakfast before we went to the Dalí museum.

The museum is really epic. It’s a beautiful building and it has some amazing pieces. The temporary exhibition was Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso, bringing together two fabulous Spanish painters. Afterwards, we found a nice organic supermarket where we assembled a big salad, ate outside again (I could get used to that) and hopped into the car to go to Cocoa Beach, a little surf town on the Atlantic where we booked a cute AirBnB just steps away from the beach.

Cocoa Beach is an interesting place as it’s basically a long road with some houses on the sides wedged between a the Banana river and the Atlantic. We rented some boards and got to surf lots together (it was too small for the locals, but not for us). We had one of the best surf sessions ever on 30 December: it was just us, super mellow waves (a few party waves), the weather changed a bit, we had some sun, we had some rain, which also brought a rainbow, and we also saw some dolphins! So cool! Afterwards we refueled in town with some great food after which we decided to go to the Kennedy Space Center to see some space shuttles. It was pretty good, although I thought it was a bit nationalist which was unnecessary. Also, Paul and I would have liked a bit more in-depth information than what was on the little info boxes near the displays.

On the last day of the year, we went surfing again, super different from the day before, but still good to be out without gloves and boots and all that. We had a nice relaxed day around Cocoa Beach, and in the evening we took a little trip to Cape Canaveral, apparently that’s where it’s at. There were a few bars, some of which had people in them. We ended up at a fairly OK bar which had laid out a beach and had a redneck rapper name Bubba Sparxxx on the program. Never knew that such a thing existed, but the cocktails were decent and we got to dance 🙂

On 1 January, I first had a nice little New Year’s surf after which we drove to Orlando. We first shopped at an outlet mall, after which we went to have dinner at some friends. They have a smoker. I love pulled pork, it’s even better when it’s homemade!  We also went to Disney World, to the Magic Kingdom! Thankfully our friends knew the way and booked us a few fast passes so we didn’t have to wait too long at some of the rides. I was a bit surprised that it was so similar to Disneyland Paris, so I kind of felt that I had already seen it. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, I just didn’t expect it.

When we got back to Pensacola, we still had a few more days to enjoy the Florida sunshine before we headed back to cold and dark Amsterdam (although the winters have been pretty mild the past two years so it wasn’t too bad).

Dutch getaways

With all the awesome international travel I sometimes forget how fabulous the Netherlands can be. But luckily I did manage to spend some time exploring different parts of the Netherlands in 2014.

For our wedding anniversary this year (August 14), we decided to hang out in Rotterdam. We heard about some good food, and a nice new hotel (OK, nice is an understatement, it was really pretty epic with a view of the Erasmusbrug). We also went to a really cool exhibition, called the 200 greatest paintings, consisting of life size reproductions of Western masterpieces. I had seen already seen some of them in various museums, but it is kind of weird to get to turn over the panels of the Ghent altar piece. We returned again to Rotterdam for a visit to the Kunsthal in February where they had a James Bond exhibition. It was the last day, so it was super busy, but definitely happy that we went. Closer to home, we went to the Lego exhibition at Amsterdam Expo, and a co-worker gave me her tickets to the opening night of the new Philips wing at Rijksmuseum. We’re so lucky to have all this awesome stuff around.

In November, I got to go to the TiNT day to present a poster on my work. As it was on a Friday and close to my birthday, this was a great opportunity to spend some more time in The Hague. We got to go see the Rothko at Gemeentemuseum which was really fabulous. I’m not that much into abstract art like that, but the Rothko paintings have the eerie ability to sort of ‘suck you in’. Really bizarre and pretty awesome. We also had a great dinner at Hanting: super fancy Michelin-start Asian fusion. Very special. By the way, we had some other really good dining experiences this year: anniversary dinner at “De Kas“, french style outside dining at “La Vallade” and fabulous opening night at “De Vergulden Eenhoorn“. All three within walking distance of our apartment!).

But it’s not all fancy food and high culture. For Saint Nicholas this year, we had a weekend away with my family in Zeeland. Sadly no surfing, but long beach walks and a swimming pool to ourselves at the holiday park.  And lots of family quality time. This year’s family weekend is already blocked in our calendars 🙂

A quick trip to Edinburgh

Right, this is going to sound really horrible, but I wanted to keep my silver status with KLM this year and I needed one more flight. First world problem, but it’s really nice to be able to check in at the business desk and use the priority lanes. But where to go? Well, I have some friends in Edinburgh whom I hadn’t seen in ages! So simply because I could, I booked a flight to Edinburgh on Sept 17.

My visit was a wee bit inconvenient since they had just moved to a new apt. 2 days ago, but the placement was super well equipped and since I had already seen the sites, we didn’t have to do all the touristy things, we could just hang out and catch up. Which we did. With awesome coffee (for them) and hot chocolate (for me) and wine and gin tonics and S’s excellent beet risotto.

We did go up to Calton Hill on Sunday and it turned out that the very same race that was on when I visited Edinburgh in 2011 with mum was on. Edinburgh also did make sure I would want to come back soon by treating us to some glorious weather and views.

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Becoming a surf instructor

On our trip in Portugal, I also managed to get some decent pics of me surfing, which I needed to be able to do my internship with a surf school. I had already been hanging out at Surfschool Zandvoort, so after the holidays I could really start my internship, write my hours, collect a lot of signatures (every lesson had to be signed off, then a little report from every instructor I taught with and a big final sheet from the head coach). This made for a pretty busy summer, since I was doing it on the weekends besides my general job.

If the surf wasn’t up, we would take clients stand-up-paddle boarding, or use the bungee cord (it’s basically a big anchor with a huge rubber band attached to it that if pulled back and released with a board attached gets launched and you can stand up on the board and ride a bit). It was also really fun to see different groups, most people who come to the surf school will come for a beginner’s lesson, but then every group is different: children’s birthday parties, bachelor parties, company outings etc.

The thing I hadn’t realised beforehand is that it’s so physical. After two lessons, I would be totally shattered, partly from the aqua-jogging during the lesson and shouting at people to get up, paddle harder, whoohooing if they got up, or tell them to get closer if they got too far away (I should really learn to whistle) and then also from prepping the boards (taking them out of the  containing and putting them in a semi-circle and after the lesson putting them away (and I’m really not tall enough to reach the top part of the container). So I could rest physically during my Mon-Fri office job, and then wear myself out on the weekend :).

But I learnt a lot, saw a whole different side of the surf industry, had a lot of fun doing it, and got a whole new set of colleagues and I now have a surf instructor’s diploma 🙂