A weekend in Copenhagen

Last weekend I made a short visit to Copenhagen. Favourite band tv-2 played a release concert for their new album in the Copenhagen Operahouse, so there were several reasons to hop over: a tv-2 concert in an incredible venue (have a look inside here).

I hadn’t been in Denmark for several years and it was both nice and weird to be back. It feels very familiar but yet it is no longer my home.

There are a couple of things I noticed (some of them I had missed):

Kaergarden with salt
There is nothing better than fresh baked bread with Kaergarden butter. The good thing is that they salt all butter in Denmark, which just gives it a much better taste.

Gullerodsbrod
Fresh carrotbread. And just the fact that all Danish bakeries are open on Sunday.

Cyclists with helmets
Everyone, children en grownups, is wearing a cycle helmet. I think we have as much cyclists in the Netherlands, and no one here is wearing one.

Great trains
The Danish trains remains one of the most comfortable trains to travel in.

TV-2
It had been a while (March 2009 to be precise) but one never can see enough tv-2 concerts. This one was entertaining too and it was also nice to meet some old Danish friends.

Great design everywhere
From fantastic buildings (Operahouse) to the clocks on the railwaystation to the furniture in the SAS lounge on the airport. The Danes are masters when it comes to beautiful design.

Backpacks
It seems the preferred way of carrying your goods around in Copenhagen.

Sandals with socks
Wrong. Especially in the winter and even worse with white socks. Just don’t do this.

I didn’t have that much time, but did have a walk around town, also to visit one of my favourite buildings in Copenhagen:
Rundertaarnet in Copenhagen

Records shops with Showtime sleeves
It's Showtime in Copenhagen shop windows too

tv-2
TV-2  in Copenhagen Opera House

and a great Danish breakfast.
Danish Breakfast

I stayed in the Cabinn City hotel, which is affordable and has a great location close to the trainstation and Tivoli. Recommended.

New York – the plan

Plans are there to go and do something completely different – but this is the basic idea I have.

As you can see, Sunday is still open for suggestions. I might need a quiet day there, but any suggestions on what to do there are appreciated. I might take the free IKEA ferry and go and visit a part of Brooklyn.

Some news from the job front:
I have my first non-recruiter interview on Wednesday (next week). I have had loads of interviews with recruiters the last couple of weeks, but this is the first concrete job interview. I am exited and look forward to it. My CV has also been send to a couple of other interesting companies, I am waiting to hear if they are interested to see me.

My biggest problem is to convince both recruiters and companies that my split back ground (I am 50% techie – 50% creative – but 100% nice) is in fact a good thing. Some of them seem to get it, and hopefully in the end the right (and open minded) company is going to offer me a job.

So it is not a bad time to have a short getaway trip. I can’t really force things to go faster, I have put an enormous amount of energy into job hunting the last weeks and I think it will be good for me to have a short break from it.

I will get back to the this-is-not-an-xmas-card exchange, but there seem people enough to have a go at it again so let’s do it! I have to admit that I currently have no idea for a card yet, but maybe I will find some ideas in New York (While watching Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman perhaps? Ok probably not …).

I will make the official announcement for the card exchange when I am back. And seeing as I am a bit late this year, I might move it to January. Hey it wasn’t a Christmas card anyway right?

I will take camera and laptop and such to New York, (I need to keep an eye on my job emails) so I might post from there. Be good while I am gone!

San Francisco and Los Angeles – do’s and don’t s

A final wrap up post with the very last photos of San Francisco.

No further comment needed, this is indeed a very cute dog!

I had plans to both visit cinemas in LA and San Francisco, but the weather has been so marvelous that I better liked to be outside. I also found the cinemas in LA a bit too touristy. The Elwood cinema in Berkeley however looked so wonderful that I simply had to check it out.

And on my very last morning I had the choice between trying to get on a cable car or saying goodbye to the seals. Well that was not a hard choice, who needs cable cars!

Here are a couple more photos.

Things I liked in LA:

  • Santa Monica: both the beach and the 3rd Street promenade for shopping.
  • Renting a bike and cycling the Los Angeles beach bike path
  • Hollywood boulevard (for a short time)
  • Very friendly people all around

Things I did not like so much about LA:

  • the distances between the different parts of the city, LA is huge. If you don’t have a car, prepare to spent a lot of time on public transport. (I have to say that taking a bus was cheap, $1.25 for a bus ride, no matter how long! And downtown at the subway stations you could buy a day travel card for $5).
  • the lack of a centre (like in Santa Monica)
  • it is pretty hot in LA. Which is OK if you want to lie flat on the beach all the time. If you want to see things around in the city it can be a struggle in the heat.

Things I liked in San Francisco:

  • The whale watching trip. I hoped to see one whale, but ended up seeing 64. An unforgettable experience, which I recommend you to do if you are in the area. I went with them.
  • The bike the bridge bike ride. It is totally cool to cycle of the Golden Gate Bridge, the view is amazing and on the other side of the bridge you can visit Sausalito which is a very nice and cosy town. I rented my bike here.
  • Take ride on one of the beautiful vintage streetcars. Also – get yourself a Muni passport, so you can travel around cheaply on all forms of transport (including cable cars – if you manage to get on them!).
  • Have an ice cream at Ghirardelli or at the Cold Stone creamery
  • The seals, the beach, I even liked the fog!

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like in San Francisco.

And if you have the patience I can highly recommend you the train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco on the Coast Starlight. The price for a seat (which lots of legroom) to SF was $52 and the views along the coast were fantastic. If you have more time you can continue to Seattle on this train.

It’s back in London now, where the weather is still perfect and where I had a lovely bicycle ride into work. And I am not complaining, in about 53 days I am off to New York to see a thing or two. Like, on stage. Phew, I like the poster! Let it rain!

San Francisco – day 6

Today I spent together with the lovely bloglily who invited me over to Berkeley. Berkeley is about 25 minutes by BART train (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and I had a great day. We had tea in a lovely cafe, walked around in the city, and Lily was friendly enough to lend me her bicycle, so I cycled to Berkeley University campus and had a bicycle ride in that area – the weather has just been amazing, and still is.
And I met Archie, the wonder dog, he is so so cute!

I also visited the charming Elmwood cinema in Berkeley where I both had a very first look at the US trailer for Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked!) with Bill and I saw Julia and Julie with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep (sweet film!).

I bought the mandatory pairs of Levi’s jeans and have started packing my suitcase. It feels like I have been away for ages, and it also feels very wrong to go home. Life here has been very good.

I do have some photos from today, I will post them when I am back in London as it is late, and I need some sleep. My flight tomorrow is 16.55 from San Francisco International airport – arrival Wednesday, 11am at Heathrow.

Bye bye USA. For now-uh!

San Francisco – Day 5 – Whale watching

If you want to do a whale watching trip you have to get up early, we had to be there at 7.30am, the boat left at 8am. There are some other things you need to consider: it can be freezingly cold (like on our trip), you get very far out on the ocean, and the waves there are huge!

I did not have any problems being sea sick, but being out this far with those waved did intimidate me. Until we saw – our first whale. The captain of the ship told us that they had seen 40 whales yesterday, which was extraordinary.

On our trip we saw … 64 whales!! 62 hump back whales (they are big), 1 blue whale (you won’t believe how big those are, much longer than our boat!) and one Orca. All in all I have been amazed about the amount of whales we saw, at some point we were in the middle of a group of 10-12 whales who were having lunch and it was an astonishing sight. They didn’t really seem to care that we were there too.

I recommend everyone (if you can handle the boat trip) to at least once do a whale watching trip. You will never forget the sight of those huge huge animals.

We haven’t seen any jumping whales, so it’s mostly backs, fins and tale photos, and the photos in no way can give you an idea of how fantastic it is to see them in their environment. But it gives some sort of idea – Photos here.

San Francisco – Day 3/4

The last two days have been relaxed. On Friday I met up with Gerry, a San Francisco local and a regular reader of my blog. He was very friendly and showed me around the city by car. We saw the Golden Gate Park, The Presidio, Ocean beach and drove up on Twin Peaks from which you have a fantastic view of the whole city.

We also crossed the Castro district which is the area of Harvey Milk (which you might know from the film “Milk” with Sean Penn). It was a great day, and thanks so much for showing me around Gerry!

Today I did some shopping, watched the kites at the kites festival at the Marina and had an ice cream in Ghirardelli. If you have a sweet tooth, it is the place to go.


There are a couple of photos here.

Tomorrow I have to get up early, the whale watching boat leaves at 8am, we need to be in the harbour at 7.30am. I bought some anti sea sickness pills just in case, but the weather is going to be good (28C predicted so it will be good to be at sea where it will be a little cooler). If we see just one whale I will be happy!

San Francisco – Day 2


Is it me or are people on the west coast of the US just friendlier than the ones in New York? I spoke about this with two ladies from the US and they agreed. In New York everyone is in a hurry, they don’t have time to be friendly. Here everybody seems friendly. Is it the weather?

Well I certainly get in a good mood of this weather, the weather today was perfect, perfect to bike the bridge.

I left relatively early as I wanted to make an early start, but then I discovered the sea lions at Pier 39 and I was sold. They were so so cute, and there were so many of them, I could watch them for hours. When I finally got myself dragged away from them it was a bit later than planned, but I was ready to bike the bridge.

Again, if you ever get to San Francisco, this is the thing you want to do. I admit that there were some stretches that were a bit steep (the bridge is high, and you need to get on top of it to cross it) but once you are up the views are spectacular. It is a fantastic trip, I ended up cycling to Sausalito where I had lunch and I took the ferry back from there to San Francisco (which was a lovely sailing trip too!).

After another visit to the sea lions and a beautiful purple sky, I am now ready to sleep. And so are my legs!

The thing I learned today about the sea lions – you can distinct between seal and a sea lion by looking at the ears. Sea lions have tiny ears, seals don’t. I had no idea.

Here are the photos. (Expect a lot of sea lions, and a lot of bridge!)

Train trip and San Francisco – day 1

The train trip to San Francisco was a long one (11 hours) but it was worth it. A big part of the trip follows the coast line and the views from the train window were fantastic.
The train arrived in San Francisco exactly on time, and I arrived safely in my hotel.

Here are a few photos from the train and trip:
Los Angeles to San Francisco by train

It was a bit weird to wake up in a new city. I didn’t have a pre defined action plan for San Francisco today, so I started off like a head less chicken. But I decided to buy a transport pass first, so I went down to the waterfront first to do so. From there I could not resist the urge to take a trip one of the wonderful vintage trams that run in San Francisco.

I actually wanted to try one of the well known cable cars too, but the queues for those were so long, that I dropped that for today.

In stead I took a bus to the ocean to see what a San Francisco beach looked like. It looked good. And the weather is perfect here. Still sunny, but just a bit more bearable.

From there I walked a part of the San Francisco Land’s End trail, which gave stunning views of both the ocean and the Golden Gate bridge (now without fog!).

There are a couple of photos here (they are not that great though!):
San Francisco – day 1

There aren’t really any photos of the city itself, but I will take care of that when I am visiting some of the sights at a later time.

If I feel fit enough tomorrow and the weather is good for it I am going to bike the bridge.

Los Angeles day 3

I spent my last day in Los Angeles preparing for my train trip tomorrow. I visited Los Angeles Union station to pick up my Amtrak ticket. Union Station must be one of the most beautiful stations I have ever seen, it is really classic and in beautiful art deco style.

I hope all goes well and that I make it on the train in time tomorrow, the Coast
Starlight train leaves at 10am (and there is only one of these trains a day) and will deliver me in San Francisco about 11 hours later.

There are some photos (not too interesting, as I haven’t done that much new today but expect Union station and Santa Monica beach) on either Picasa here or if you’d rather have them on Facebook, here they are.

Did I like LA? Well yes and no. I love the beaches, and I quite liked Santa Monica, which I have returned to every afternoon. I think Venice Beach is a bit trashy and messy but generally the beaches are fantastic, and on a lot of places they are very empty. The weather has been fantastic too which was great. It was fun to see Hollywood boulevard, but I am not too big a fan of Downtown LA. Maybe I haven’t found the right streets, but it seemed without atmosphere.

I will miss my afternoons in Santa Monica (I have been a real tourist and even bought a Santa Monica zip hoody sweater, I know, I’ll control myself better next time), but I am sure that San Francisco will have beaches too. I can’t wait to see what things look like over there.

Los Angeles Day 2

If you are ever in Los Angeles and the weather is nice, you have to rent a bicycle and cycle a part of the (very flat and car free) coastal cycle path. It is such a thrill to cycle on a path away from traffic and going straight through the beach sand. Very recommended!

I have not much more to add than that I had another great day in LA (sun + sea + beach – how could it not be a great day!) and here are the photos (more text in the captions)

Los Angeles – day 2

Oh and I had dinner (outside) at Tito’s Tacos. It’s on the opposite side of my hotel, and I spotted a queue there every evening, so I decided to give it a go. It’s a very authentic Mexican place, and lesson learned – if there is a long queue of local people – it is good!

Los Angeles Day 1

Here are the photos: Los Angeles Day 1)

Ten things I did in Los Angeles on day 1:

  • I had a great pancake breakfast in the Metro Cafe. This lovely cafe is only 50m from my hotel and has the exact right cafe atmosphere.
  • I ran into a huge film shoot in downtown LA. A complete street was blocked, they had incredibly huge cranes, and there were 4 huge catering trucks standing there to make food for cast and crew. This is LA film making in a nutshell. And this is where film making money is. They warned us for fake bullet shootings.
  • I had a lovely veggie flatbread pizza on Hollywood Boulevard. Thought it would be insanely expensive, but $8.40 for pizza and drink is cheap for a Londoner.
  • I also saw the famous Walk of Fame stood on Kevin, Jack and Ingrid. It is very touristy but I actually quite liked it.
  • I noticed you can get any Oscar you want as long as you pay.
  • I drove on the LA subway and discovered the coolest subway station ever.
  • I realised how big LA is. And with BIG. Things are very far apart, if you don’t have a car expect to spent time on public transport. Public transport in LA is looked down on, you would never see a business man on the bus in LA, unlike London where public transport is used by all kinds of people.
  • I also drove on the longest public transport bus in the US. They are not bendy busses but just very long, and the good thing is – they are airconditioned. And they take bikes, on a frame on front of the bus.
  • And the thing that made the day unforgettable: I saw three dolphins! They were playing around in Santa Monica bay. They were a bit away so I didn’t catch them on photo, but I have good hopes I will see more of them when going on my whale watching trip in San Francisco.

(Note: the photos are as they are, no post processing – I don’t have time for it!)

Am off for breakfast now, today’s activity – cycling!

Ready for takeoff, California here I come!

Last post from London.

I have packed, I have checked in online, and I think I am ready. I will report from LA when I get there. My plane leaves at 9.55am from Heathrow tomorrow, and after some time travelling I will arrive there at 12.55pm Local time.

Weather broadcast for both LA and San Francisco: sunny and warm.

I see you on the other side of the water, California here I come!

Be good !

When you think you are well prepared for your USA trip …

but you aren’t.

It is nice to plan a trip yourself: you can often find cheaper deals and book everything from your pc, however you can also miss some important information that travel agents would have given you.
That happened to me!

I have been preparing like mad for this trip and as a final check I just wanted to make sure that my Dutch passport (which expires by the end of January 2010) was OK to travel with to the US. So I called the US Embassy in London and checked with them, and yes all was fine.

Oh and by the way had I registered on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization? Uhh, what? Uhh, no? Never heard of it? Didn’t need to last time I went to the US?
No, but you need to now!

So how do I do that, I asked the lady?
Well I could Apply here.
Allrighty, will do that I said.
Yes and you have to do it 72 hrs before you leave.
Ehrm, I am leaving within 48 hrs..? (I could feel a heart attack brewing)
Well we can’t guarantee you’ll have it in time then.
But my flight is going on Friday? What happens if I don’t have it by then?
You can’t get on your flight.
But why didn’t British Airways tell me?
It’s the responsibility of the traveller.
Bugger.
Is there any way in which I can get it faster?
Nope. There wasn’t. And really the Embassy woman could not care less.

And I thought But. I. Really. Have. Been. looking. Forward. To. This. Trip…. and could see the plane flying away without me Friday.

You better apply as fast as possible – she told me.

And so I did, barely able to type my name correctly because of the stress and the thought that my trip would be cancelled. I entered the application form, prepared for some nervewracking hours to come waiting if they would be able to process my application before Friday or not. And – I got approved within 10 seconds.

I did not believe it at first and had to read the page 5 times, but yes I was approved and can travel to the US on Friday.

That was a major PHEW!! I can tell you. And I learned my lesson – never assume that things are the same as last year. Whenever travelling to a country – check the bloody rules for entering that country.

And just so you don’t have to go through the same stress:

If you are travelling to the US and your country participates in the Visa Waiver program you need to apply online for Travel Authorization.

It is free and the only website to do that is the official ESTA website. Fill in the form, and wait for approval. Apparantly it can take up anything from 10 seconds to 72 hours to be approved. Be aware that there are website do the application for you for money, don’t go there, the only official website is the one mentioned above.

My heart beat is slowly getting back to normal. I think I am going to spoil myself with a KitKat and a tea now.

Oh and don’t you just love the sketch, make your own on: Odopod.com (Click for original size)

USA Holiday preparation

There are only seven days until my departure to the USA, so a good time today to do any last minute holiday shopping on Amazon.

I ordered the following neccesary items:

  • SanDisk 4GB SDHC Secure Digital Card. Something tells me that I am going to take a lot of photos, and with both an 8MP and a 10MP camera, the file size of the photos will be large. I don’t want to take the risk of running out of cards, so I ordered another 4GB. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Lowepro Apex 20AW Digital Camera Pouch – Arctic Blue. A small more protective pouch for my Panasonic DMC-TZ4 pocket camera. Somehow I managed to get this for Β£7.49 from Amazon including postage, but it doesn’t show up for that price anymore now. I guess I was lucky!
  • A cute luggage tag and a lock. Yes ok they have hearts on them. But I liked them, and they will make my suitcase even more recognizable when it arrives at LAX airport.
  • Noise Cancelling Foldable Headphones
    It is going to be a long flight from London to LA, estimated flying time is 11 hrs 5 min, distance: 8758 km / 5442 miles. Wow!

    I have done a long flight like this before, from Beijing to London so I kind of know what to expect, but it is a long time. Good thing that BA has entertainment on demand in their aircrafts. And just to be able to hear the movies properly or listening to the onboard radio, and to keep some of the airplane noise out of my ears – noise cancelling headphones seemed handy.

    BA has taken The Boat That Rocked from their schedule again though, which is hugely disappoiinting. But they do show a Bill film: Notes on a Scandal, and they show other favourites like The Proposal. And there are actually some films on the list that I haven’t seen: The Knowing and The Hangover for example. I think time will fly. Literally.

  • The Boat That Rocked [DVD] [2009]. Yes what can I say, if BA doesn’t want to show it, I have to buy the DVD. For the extra material alone. Please, please let there be more material showing Bill Nighy dancing on Rolling Stones music.

I will now make a map of the locations of my hotels, and the things I would like to see. And write a long list of things I want to do, and plot them on the map too.

I bought two guides: Los Angeles (DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide) for LA, and San Francisco and Northern California (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide).

So I am already having a lot of fun finding out what to do and see in both places.

Of course I am also keeping a close eye on the wild fires in the California, and especially Los Angeles but it looks like things are getting under control. Which is good for the people who live there, but also for me as a visitor.

If there is anything I absolutely should not forget to bring with me, let me know!

Travel plans – version 1 – I need your help!

US trip

It has been a while since I have been on a far (ok further) away trip, so this year I have decided to cross some items of my “would love to see” list.

(Here is a bigger version of the map on Google)

But I need your help dear readers.

But first, the plan. Here are the places I want to visit:

1. Boston
I want to go to Boston to do a Whale watching boat trip. I have long been wanting to see whales from up close and Boston seems to be a perfect place for it.

I also want to do this Lighthouse tour, this area is about an hour north of Boston.

But apart from that, is Boston worth a visit?

2. Niagara Falls
I want to do the Maid of the Mist tour and just see these impressive falls. (Am planning to stay here for one day and then move on)

3. Chicago

I don’t know anything about Chicago, but it is just one of these places that sound so familiar.
Question to you reader: is it worth visiting? And what to see there?

4. San Francisco
I know what I want to see here: the Golden Gate bridge. And it is on the coast, so I am sure there is a beach too. And light houses.
And there is some more whale watching to do here as well. Wait a minute, do I actually need to go to Boston at all?

Has any of you ever been in San Francisco? What area is good to stay? And what to see and do there? How much time would you spend here?

5. Los Angeles
This is a bit the same thing as Chicago. I have heard the name so many times before. I know they have the “HOLLYWOOD” letters on the hill there. But is Los Angeles worth a visit? What to see and do there? How much time would you spend here?

Any tips and hints and comments are highly appreciated!

(I am planning on spending about 2 weeks in the US)

I can hear you think – where is New York on the map! I know, I know, but Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman did not have time to see me before November, so New York is scheduled then. Honestly, I am not even sure I will survive watching both Craig and Jackman on one stage.

Hastings and what you find in a typical British sea town

Seagull

I went for a photography meetup on Sunday and the trip went to Hasting. Hasting is a about 2 hours from London by train and while it is an ok place with cliffs, fishing boats and of course the sea, I still prefer Eastbourne (Beachy Head) and Brighton.

The weather was perfect (my face is still red) but somehow I wasn’t 100% motivated to take photos so they are not all great. But I am very happy with the above young seagull photo. I love the colours.

I think in the end the theme for me became taking photos of typical things on a British beach.

So we have seagulls, women in bikini (and I will leave it up to you if that is a good thing or not …), men putting up windscreens, deck chairs, swan water bikes and families with fish and chips (and the man wearing a t-shirt saying – “If found – return to the pub” ).

Surprisingly enough Hastings also has two Funiculars.

See all photos here.

Weirdest photo of the day must be this bear:

The saddest bear in the world

It looks incredibly sad and depressed. Understandable if you have a hole in your belly and are attached to a red tractor.

Easter in the Netherlands

Spring is in the air

Easter food/drink in Holland is :

Other Easter highlights:

  • The weather. It has been over 20 C every day of the weekend, amazing. I actually got an Easter tan. I don’t think that has ever happened before, normally it rains.
  • A canal boat trip through Utrecht. Nice to see a city I know so well from a complete different angle.
  • Being able to bike everywhere as it is so flat.
  • And last but not least, as dire chance and fateful cockup would have it: we managed to get ourselves into a secret sneak preview of The Boat That Rocked in Scheveningen the Saturday morning at 10.30am. The only screening all week in the Netherland before the official release on the 16th of April. And did I mention it was for free!

    We had to get up at 6.45am to be able to make it to Scheveningen all the way from IJsselstein on Saturday, but we did make it, and after being supplied with two reservation numbers (we didn’t even know you needed those but a very friendly woman had two extra ones and made our day!) we entered the Pathe cinema and enjoyed Quentin with Dutch subtitles. Rock ‘n roll baby!

So what did you do with Easter?