West Coast, Best Coast? USA

I grew up on the East coast of the US, not far from New York. I was raised thinking that New York City was the best city in the US, and subsequently, that the east coast was the place to be.  I would scoff at “west coast- best coast” braggarts, and once had an extra long conversation with an IT technician where he tried to convince me California was the greatest place to live while the computer system was rebooting. I did not believe him.  But now that I have actually been to California (and only a small bit of it) I might actually lean that way a little.

Before this most recent trip, I had only been to the west coast once.  A magical trip to Seattle to see my favorite band in concert.  It was a phenomenal trip, but one that I thought was a complete oddity.  Turns out, magical moments happen all up and down that coast.

Mumford & Sons announced a west coast USA tour at about the same time I was starting to plan my summer trip to the states.  All of the timings worked out suspiciously well, and it seemed like a trip to the west coast was going to be a big part of my trip home.  I have family in LA, so I called ’em up, and headed over.

I started the trip off in LA.  Long derided by everyone I knew from New York, I wasn’t expecting much.  LAX airport lived up to that expectation.  The uber drive took 45 minutes. 25 to get out of the airport, and 20 to get across town.  “Traffic, yikes…” would become the running theme of the week.  But having just come from NYC, where the subway was never running correctly or on time, at least I was in a car and not cramped, standing on a subway train.  I was pleasantly shocked by the weather.  Warm and sunny, but not humid and not oppressive.  It was lovely.  Great food, great weather, great people… LA really shocked me.

Because it was my birthday, and it’s important to have traditions, the trip started out with a pancakes.  And they were carrot cake pancakes, which means they had vegetables in them, and were therefore healthy. (this is pretty much the only healthy thing I will eat on this trip.)

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I was only in LA for two days, and all of the second was spent at the phenomenal Mumford & Sons show at Banc of America stadium. It was fantastic, and they opened with my favorite song, (to date- the only time I’ve heard it live.) But then it was time to hop on another plane and head up to Portland, Oregon.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Portland. I knew it was sort of a more hipster-y version of Seattle, and well- I wasn’t wrong. But the trip starts out at the airport.  If LAX was probably my least favorite airport I’ve ever, the airport in Portland was almost the exact opposite. Full of loads of local shops and restaurants, it also housed a small movie theater showing short films from local film makers.  What a great way to spend time waiting for a plane!

I stayed at an airbnb in a lovely neighborhood between the airport and downtown.  I instantly loved it, and looked up how expensive it would be to live there… let’s just say I’m not going to be moving to Portland any time soon. One big upside of Portland (for me) is the general love of mac and cheese.  Every place I went to had at least one version of mac and cheese on the menu.  And I know you think I wouldn’t eat the same thing at every restaurant- but you would be wrong.

After another fantastic Mumford show, it was time to head back to LA and actually have time to spend with family and friends.

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I got to meet up with a long lost friend and we spent the day in Santa Monica.  Having only ever heard about Santa Monica pier I was really excited to actually be there.  Not only because it’s SUPER FUN and Gorgeous.  But also because some of my favorite Instagram personalities regularly post from there, so we went out to see if they were hanging around- and they were! It felt like meeting celebrities.

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It’s just a really cool place to hang out.  Pun intended.

After the beach, we headed to Largo Los Angeles, for a very special night.  Sondre Lerche’s favorite night, actually.  He’s been one of my absolute favorite singers since his first album came out, (almost 20 years ago) and the show was an absolute joy.  Helped by the fact that Largo is such a cool venue, and definitely a place I would spend more time at if I lived in the area.  Unfortunately- no photos allowed.

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As a well documented space nerd, I was more than a little excited to head up to the Griffith Observatory. Despite the fact that a concert made the traffic an ABSOLUTE nightmare, and we ended up missing out on actually looking through the telescope- it was phenomenal just to be there.  As a film nerd, I thought about how many films have been shot there and it was a bit overwhelming.  I’m going to go back to see the telescope though.

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And to take more super fun pictures.

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The next day it was time for some cousin bonding time, so this time we headed to Malibu for lunch.

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It counts as lunch, because it’s organic.

And what trip to California would be complete without a stay at a super plush resort with the golf courses/pools/shops/cafes to make you feel like a super star?

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I don’t golf, but this place kind of made me wish I did.  I even went into the pro shop to look around, and then backed out slowly without touching anything in case they had a “you break it you buy it” policy.  Which would have bankrupted me.

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See? California’s not so bad! Not going to lie- as amazing as everything was.  My excitement level was off the charts for…

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In-n-out. Long held up as the best burger experience one can have.  A legitimate reason to go to the west coast.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Despite a long line, service was fast- and everything was as good as expected.  Went for a double double.  Ten out of ten, would go again.

So that was my west coast trip in a nutshell.  Well worth it, and I’m actually sorry it took me so long to get there.  Looking forward to going back next time I am in the states.

Art Glass, USA

I was pretty excited to learn that there was a Dale Chihuly collection in the Tampa Bay area.  I have always enjoyed his glass work.  I first saw it when Mohegan Sun Casino opened in my state.  His statue there was breathtaking!

Continue reading “Art Glass, USA”

The Art of the Brick, USA

So, I’ve spent the last little while back in Florida.  It’s been hot.  And a bit hurricane-y.  But recently, I got to go to a Lego art exhibit, The Art of the Brick, in Tampa that was really fun, and kind of inspiring. Continue reading “The Art of the Brick, USA”

Penguin, USA

In all the times I’ve played games at fairs and carnivals, I’ve never really been a big winner.  I’ve never hit the plush toy jackpot, you could say.  I’ve won a fair few small toys, as most of the games are based primarily on aim… and I have good eyesight… but pretty poor aim.  So I usually end up pretty normal, I guess.

AND THEN.

I went to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida.  There were many many games to play, and most of them were full of the same few plush toys:

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I would have been thrilled to win any of these toys.  And I started keeping an eye out for any particularly good ones.  Or games where ‘everyone’s a winner!’ because those are usually the only ones I win.

I didn’t even really consider this one- because the toys were all so big that I figured I had no shot.  They just seemed like you would need superhuman talent to win…

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But, while waiting for my group to go on the Ferris wheel, (not my favorite thing) I started actually watching the guy play this game.  All you had to do was use a stick with a string and a small hoop on the end to stand up a glass bottle.  And he kept doing it.  And showing everyone how to do it.  And I realized there was no luck involved in this.  And no aim.  It was just a test of your brain- and whether you could follow the instructions even as they went against your instincts.

BRAIN GAME! I was winning that Plush Penguin.  I continued to watch until everyone was off the Ferris wheel- and then I went for it.  c360_2016-03-07-20-22-27-441.jpg

After I stood up the bottle, the guy told me I could put my stick down.  I told him that I had never won anything before and he was crazy if he thought I was just going to win this without taking a picture.  I proceeded to hold the stick for several minutes as we tried to get the picture. And then I got to pick out my Penguin!

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And then I proceeded to take selfies with the Penguin all over the festival grounds to the chagrin of every child there.

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Then Penguin and I went to get some Cotton Candy!

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And then! We headed to the concert ground, where Lonestar were performing.

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Penguin took up two seats, but it was oddly satisfying to be listening to ‘Amazed’ while sitting next to a giant penguin.

Finally, it was time to go home, but we had a bit of a problem fitting Penguin into the car.

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But finally, we made it home where Penguin chilled on the couch, until I could find a decent home for him in a children’s hospital.

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Turns out, hospitals have kind of strict rules about toy donation- probably because of the germs.  So we decided to donate Penguin to a second hand shop associated with the children’s hospital.

But not before Penguin watched longingly out the window.

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So, that’s the penguin story.  It’s not a big deal to most… but definitely one of the most exciting things to happen to me since I’ve been home!

 

City of Dwarfs, Poland

So, as you can probably tell by the complete lack of recent posts, I’m still finding it extremely challenging to be creative.  But, last weekend I ventured outside of Warsaw for the weekend, and was so inspired.  Continue reading “City of Dwarfs, Poland”

Train Hostel, Netherlands

Recently, at school, we got to the place in the calendar that everyone had been looking forward to for months.  Winter Break.  Not to be confused with the Christmas holiday break, winter break is thrown in the middle of February because, you know what?  There’s a long time between Christmas and Easter.  And a two week holiday is just what every teacher (and student) needs. Continue reading “Train Hostel, Netherlands”

Why Travel?

For the better part of the last seven years, I have been living abroad.  Either living and working in a specific place, or traveling around, exploring as much as I can in the time that I have.  Over that time, I have been asked countless times why I choose to travel.  And after many times answering that I wanted to see the world and meet people around the world… I started to actually think about why I decided to travel.  And, I think, it boils down to three experiences I’ve had.  So I thought I’d write about it. Continue reading “Why Travel?”

Supposedly abandoned Prison, Estonia

Over the summer, in Estonia, I met up with a friend and some couchsurfers for a bit of adventuring.  We decided to go to a place called Rummu, just outside of Tallinn.  Luckily, my friend has an offroad capable car, so this journey was no problem for us. Continue reading “Supposedly abandoned Prison, Estonia”

Best Meal, Estonia

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about food.  Food is one of my very favorite things.  You may have also picked up on my love for Estonia.  So I wanted to write a quick blurb about a great meal that I had at a great restaurant in Tallinn.  That it was my going away meal, is poignant.  Continue reading “Best Meal, Estonia”

Inis Mor, Ireland

I started writing about Inis Mor after my first trip there.  Unfortunately, I never finished the blog, so I think it’s fitting to finish it, now that I have so much new information to add. First, a bit from a few years ago: Continue reading “Inis Mor, Ireland”