Work hard, play hard

The Friday after Jilly and Ashley left I spent in bed with an unknown virus. I already felt it coming the day before but I just thought it was fatigue, but Thursday night I hardly slept because of a fever and a sore throat. On Friday I couldn’t even be nicely ill and watch films or read books because I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour, and the trip to the chemist around the corner for orange juice and some extra vitamins proved to be quite a challenge, actually. Luckily I felt a bit better in the evening (not well enough for the ISD trip to a pub in Manhattan Beach for pre-St. Patrick’s day drinks unfortunately) and on Saturday I was only a bit tired still, so I could watch “No country for old men”. I am very happy that I was well enough on Sunday for a bigger adventure: the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, about two hours east of Los Angeles. I’m not really into tennis, but I’ve always enjoyed watching it on TV with mum (this doesn’t go for all sports she watches, such as ice-skating which I find incredibly boring to be honest). Anyway, Paul and I set out at 0830 to see what the desert is like, and it turned out to be quite pleasant. We first browsed around the practice courts, where we saw Nadal hitting some balls with Monfils. Then we saw snippets of matches on some of the smaller courts, browsed the merchandise, had some lunch, did the “how fast is your serve thing” (where my first attempt went flying over the fence, clearly I need to work on sending it towards the speed camera instead of up in the air) and finally we ended up on the main court where we stayed for pretty much the rest of the day. Because we had the cheapskate tickets we were sitting all the way up in the top, but we could still see what was going on very well and we also had a nice view of the mountains surrounding the grounds. The first full tennis match I ever saw live (not counting the one time where my dad had challenged my uncle Bert ;)) was a very enjoyable one between Tommy Haas and Andy Roddick. The next two games weren’t as interesting (Sharapova vs. Daniilidou and Federer vs Garcia-Lopez, although Federer does play extremely pretty tennis) but still fun.

Last week was work as always. A bit frustrating because I wanted to program something and found out that I don’t really master the “programming mindset”, which is fine, just something to work on. I did lose some precious time over it, but I also learnt to word things better through talking to various helpful people at ISI.

I also went to the cinema twice: on Thursday and on Friday. The first night to “In Bruges”, a most entertaining film, shot in Bruges, so lots of familiar sights and with some hilarious characters and a serious plot. The Landmark is also one of my favourite cinemas around here, for various reasons. Friday night a delegation of ISI went to see Horton hears a who at The Bridge, a cinema I’d never been to before. Apparently the Dr. Seuss books are very popular children’s books, but I’ d never heard of it. I was a bit sceptical beforehand about going to children’s film, but it was really good. Afterwards we had dinner at a nice Thai place and dessert at Ben and Jerry’s.

On Saturday there was stuff happening downtown. It also happened to be fabulous weather, so top down + airconditioning weather, the height of decadence ;). First stop was Bed Bath and Beyond for some feathery ammunition, the next stop was Pershing Square in downtown LA for World Pillow Fight Day!!! There is no way to put into words how much fun it is to smack total strangers with a pillow, so you should just go to go to my flickr set and/or watch this video. There were just feathers and laughing people everywhere…next year I’m definitely up for it again (wherever I may be then). After the police had ended the event we walked around the city centre for a bit. Had a look in the Central Library (gorgeous building & a lovely park next to it, mum, you’d love it!). Got told off by a security person for taking pictures of some stairs, because they were next to a bank building and because of 9/11 they can’t have people taking pictures things next to buildings…

Then there was some more walking around, towards MOCA which has some nice ponds and fountains, and past the Walt Disney concert hall (it’s still on my to do list to go to a concert there!) to the LA music centre pavilion which has fountains coming out of the ground, like in The Hague (only in The Hague the distance between them is wide enough to stand between them, here you do not want to do that). On the way back we called Gully to see whether he was up for drinks and dinner at a really cool place with a swimming pool on the roof (and also if he could tell us the exact address). The place turned out to be around the corner from the library, so when we were looking for it before we were pretty close. On the rooftop we lounged on the sofas on the fake grass, made a mental note to always have a bathing suit with us from now on for situations like these when you want to swim but can’t without being indecent and watched the lights come on in the city. When we got hungry we went downstairs and had a splendid dinner on the terrace, followed by a game of pool (after watching only one move I decided to refrain from messing up the game) in the uberhip lobby to the music of a DJ who was mixing vinyls…

Around 2300 it was time for some more decadence: going back to the Westside with the top down. (Especially after reading about the particularly cold Easter in the Netherlands I just have to rub this in).

Easter Sunday was easygoing, most of the time anyway. There was some work, but there was also some breakfast, some relaxing by and in a pool, retreating to the shade to avoid getting sunburnt, an afternoon nap, a fabulous home cooked dinner.

This week I ran on Monday, Wednesday and today (for those of you who don’t know, I’m trying to get my fitness up to a decent level again by running along the beach in the mornings) and yesterday evening I also went to yoga again for the first time in a while, which felt very good.

Now I’m off to sleep, it’s 23:13 here now and I have a telephone meeting again tomorrow at 08:00. Last day before the weekend though, so there will be a bagel brunch at ISI, as well as meeting with the reading group, which should all be cool.

So much to do and so little time!!!

Even in laid-back Southern California life can be extremely busy. Two days after Hawaii my department went up into the mountains for a retreat at a super snazzy hotel. Apart from research important issues such as the fruit basket were discussed and we also got quizzed on our knowledge of terms used in titles of ISD publications etc.

The weekend that followed started off quite relaxed too with some surfing with dolphins in the morning and a little trip to Silver Lake for some shopping (Paul and I found a really nice lunch place and a fabulous wine shop), and some exhibition openings in China Town in Downtown LA, followed by a dinner party at my neighbour, Jerié. Sunday started with a shock though as I found out that my granddad had had a stroke. This is 2 1/2 weeks ago now and he’s recovering, but it is a bit hard to be so far away now. Fortunately we have phones.

The first weekend of march was a lazy weekend again, with some sleeping on the beach in Venice on Sunday, before a busy week would start. Because on Wednesday Jilly and Ashley, both from the UK, would come visit Southern California for a week for some surfgirl action. So I took the week off, rented a car and managed to stuff a big double air mattress into my bedroom (not without completely redoing my bedroom though). Anyway, Jilly arrived Wednesday in the afternoon, so she helped me with the air mattress and then we did a big Trader Joe’s shopping expedition so there would be food for Ashley who arrived in the evening. Thursday was a bit of weird day, we found out that we needed a thicker blanket or a duvet so we drove down to Target, but they didn’t do proper duvets, and then onto IKEA, where we found duvets and I also scored a chopping board and some plates (so we wouldn’t have to eat off paper plates since the cupboard in Rose avenue only had 3 plates in it). So when we turned my place into something slightly more accommodating for guests we could surf on Friday in Venice, where I broke my fin as well as my finbox. So Friday afternoon there was also a trip to Aqua Tech in Marina Del Rey, a surfboard factory and repair shop. The people there were very nice and even lended me a board when I heard that repairing my baby would take until Tuesday. In the evening we went to see some local bands in the Roxy on Sunset blvd, which was very cool. I’d heard about it from someone from ICT actually playing in Beautiful Criminal, one of the bands in the line-up, and it was well worth driving up to Hollywood for. I also loved driving all the way down to the coast via Sunset blvd, although perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea with two people in the car who sometimes get a little car sick and who had also been drinking..but we all survived it 🙂

On Saturday we strapped the boards to the roof and drove down to Manhattan, the waves were a little bit less arse-kicking than in Venice, but still not very friendly. The water was very clear though, and the beach was very nice and warm. So on Sunday we went to Manhattan again and it was pretty nice, we didn’t get there as early as we’d wanted to because we had to find a place to put some more air into our tires (after we’d figured out what the light that had come up on the dashboard meant). And I really have to get fitter, although I am doing pretty well with my running schedule now (OK, I’m only in week 3, but it’s fun and do-able, which is the most important thing). My arms are getting stronger again now, after surfing every day the past week.

On Monday, when I was used to the car and driving with surfboards on top, we went down to Huntington Beach where we got a new fin for Ashley’s board.  We had lunch on the beach while watching the pros (or at least people who really knew what they were doing), browsed some shops (where a guy was renting a board even though he’d never surfed before, so he was going to get his arse kicked). We talked to a local surfer about where we could find a bit of a friendlier spot and he sent us to Newport Beach, which was indeed a lot friendlier, so we got into the water, even with my camera and caught some nice small green waves until about 6 o’clock when it was getting a bit nippy again (and we were getting hungry). We drove back to Huntington, did some more shopping (I bought a shirt and a hoodie), and found the excellent vegetarian restaurant where Jilly had already been to on a previous trip to California. Tuesday was an easy day around Venice again, I went for a run in the morning, had a phone meeting with my professor, postdoc and programmer in Tilburg, picked up my board, had a nap on the beach again, Jilly got some souvenirs, Ashley a tan and early in the evening we walked to Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade.

This morning we got up early for a final ride to the airport again, after which I returned the car and went back to work (with a tan 🙂 )

A Trip to Paradise

I’ve been to Hawaii!!! OK it’s already nearly two weeks ago, but I’ve been incredibly busy which is why updating this blog had to wait, but more on that later.

So the Hawaii trip started on Thursday February 14, around 15:15 when Paul and I caught a bus to LAX. I went to ISI that day but I was really too excited to be super productive, but everyone should be allowed to ease into holiday mood. In the Delta terminal, which is a bit crap to be honest, we had pizza and I got my first Valentine’s day card ever, with a little riddle on it, that I didn’t solve, but I got the prize anyway (a subscription to Wired magazine, I’m being spoilt so much here).

Our flight left about an hour later than scheduled, but it was also shorter than scheduled so we arrived in Honolulu on time, around 22:00. We were immediately treated to the comfortable Hawaiian temperatures as Honolulu airport is not completely closed off, but it has a nice garden and some nice open pedestrian areas so we could immediately put our jumpers in our bag (and not take them out again until we got back to LA). A little van took us to the car rental, where a nearly new bright blue car was waiting for us. Parking in Waikiki (the hotel area of Honolulu) is even worse than in LA, and our hotel didn’t have a free space for us the first two night, but we could park at another hotel just around the corner so that was OK. The hotel itself was pretty cool, simple, but well-maintained and we even had a view on the mountains from our balcony. The staff was friendly although they did say they were getting a bit annoyed by the old school surf film that was being shown on the TVs next to the lifts 24/7 🙂

On Friday morning we first went to the beach in Waikiki, where the water is really warm, and where it’s also pretty crowded. So after a while we hopped into the car and started exploring the island a little bit. There are lots of photos on flickr that give a much better impression of how beautiful O’ahu is (although to really get a grasp of it you will have to go there because it is truly breathtakingly beautiful). A few sites we saw that day were: Kahala beach (gorgeous & quiet), Lana’i Lookout (volcanic rock!), Valley of the Temples (buddhist temples), La’ie point (big hole in a rock in the sea), and the North Shore beaches (big surf!!). We had dinner at Duke’s which was recommended by my housemate, Laura. Their cocktails and mahi mahi with herb crust are really good.

Saturday I caught a few waves on a beach on the west side of Waikiki, while Paul lounged on the beach under an umbrella. Surfing in Hawaii is really the best, I only had to wear shorts and a rashy, and the water was amazingly clear. I could just see the rocks and sea urchins about 6 ft. under me while I was catching some of those nice slow warm waves. After quite a paddle back (I’m quite proud of myself for that long paddle) we relaxed a bit more, had a gigantic banana split at Haagen-Dasz and then decided to go kayaking in Kailua. Unfortunately we didn’t succeed because we forgot one of the guides that said where the kayak rental place was. Then we tried to find a waterfall, but that was still quite a hike from the parking lot and it was already getting dark, so that failed too. We did make it in time for the torch lighting session in Waikiki with traditional music and hula dancers and to just sit on the beach for another while (and have my feet tickled by a crab, which was a less splendid part of the wonderful evening). When it got completely dark we walked up Kapahulu road into Honolulu to find a sushi place a local I’d surfed with earlier that day had recommended. We found the ‘sushi factory’ he’d recommended, but chose to eat at a cute little sushi place across the street called Shigezo where we sat at the bar and were served the most delicious and beautifully made up pieces of sushi. And quite cheap too :).

On Sunday morning I tried to teach Paul to surf in Waikiki, but since I’m a disastrous teacher that didn’t work out very well. The water was nice and warm, so was the light rain that fell down for a while. My camera also survived this undertaking in my board short pocket. After a shower and some tea from the Hawaiian Starbucks we decided to try to find the kayak place again. We succeeded and had a great trip to Lanikai beach, which is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen. Along the way there were lots of reefs, even some sea turtles, and the trip was easy enough as the waters were protected from waves by reefs a few hundred meters offshore. Back in Waikiki we managed to hop onto a sunset catamaran cruise, which was absolutely splendid. Very touristy, but so good!

More successes that evening, we managed to get reservations at Alan Wong’s, a hip place in Honolulu. It was a bit hard to find as it’s on the third floor of an office building, but the food is excellent. We got to sit at the bar again where we could see the cooks prepare the food which was very cool.

Monday was our last day in O’ahu (for that trip anyway), but we didn’t have to fly back until 23:00 or so, so we still had the whole day to have fun, which we had. In the morning I wanted to have a last little surf session, so I rented a board, while Paul said he’d go get coffee. A little while later I heard someone call my name in the water, and when I looked up I saw Paul on a board, with a proper surf instructor.  He caught a few nice rides to the beach, while I was a bit further out trying to catch waves in conditions that are best described as LA traffic. But I had a lot of fun nonetheless. After a shower we checked out of the hotel and then went shopping in Waikiki for some silly souvenirs (t-shirt) and some better souvenirs (ubercool bikini!!). Then it was time to leave Waikiki, to find a nice beach again. Eventually we ended up on the North shore, at a beach of which the travel guide said: Drive up, open door, fall out onto the sand. We didn’t quite do the falling because we were also dragging a barbecue and some foodstuffs with us, but you get the idea. The beach was practically deserted. About 75 meters away from us there was a Hawaiian family, but for the most part it was just us and our salmon and barbecue sausages (and tic tac toe in the sand and the sunset).