Road trippin’ (part 2)

On Friday morning I woke up early, so I had a little run in the gym at the hotel, not great as I don’t like treadmills, but it was already much too warm outside. At around 09:00 we left the Santa Rosa hotel for the long trip to Dallas. It was quite interesting to drive there as we would encounter all these tiny Texan towns which all seemed to have at least a petrol station and a Dairy Queen (a soft serve ice cream chain) up and running and a bunch of deserted buildings and lots of big trucks. The first hour and a half or so of the trip I got to drive, but Paul was getting a bit bored with staring out of the window and playing with the radio so at the first petrol stop we swapped. I like getting petrol in the US, it’s about 25 euros to fill up a tank (45 litres).

At around 19:00, we arrived in Dallas (not bad considering the 2 hour time change). The hotel was really nice, it’s situated on a small hill just outside the city so we had a wonderful view of the skyscrapers while cooling down in the outdoor pool. Life ain’t so bad :). For dinner we went out to an area called the Bishop Arts District, were there were cute little galleries, shops and restaurants. We had dinner at Veracruz, a mesoamerican restaurant, which serves a blend of Mayan, Aztec and Mexican dishes. As the shops were still open after we had dinner we strolled around a bit more and I bought the most hilarious souvenir ever: rubber cowboy boots :).

On Saturday morning we got up early to have a splash in the pool with the wonderful view before we set out to our second long drive (to New Orleans). Actually, we both thought this drive was the worst as the landscape isn’t that interesting, it’s just fields. However, as we got a bit deeper into Louisiana, we saw swamps and drove over big bridges over the swamps. We also got some serious thunder and rain on the way, but that’s normal for this area apparently, the funny thing is that it is still warm, while it rains and afterwards. Sometime after 17:00 we arrived in New Orleans where we stayed at a wonderful hotel recommended by Paul’s parents. After dumping our stuff at the hotel we went out to get a Cajun dinner at Mulate’s, which is the American version of a biergarten, including a band playing The Chicken Dance (vogeltjesdans). But the food was decent and we had fun. After dinner we strolled through the French Quarter, which is lovely, and we ended up at the other end of it at The Blue Nile,  where the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio was playing when we entered, and after that the Soul Rebels Brass Band came on. Both were excellent and quite out of the ordinary so we had a splendid time, apart from the waiting between the bands and of course the obligatory delay in starting, so we didn’t see the end of the second band. Instead we walked back, and did a few blocks of Bourbon Street, which is a bit like Newquay on Saturday night but then 100 times worse.

On Sunday morning it was raining, but still warm so it was OK to walk through the French quarter to get to Café du Monde. This time we when we walked through Bourbon Street it was deserted, which was much nicer. At Café du Monde we had the famous beignets for breakfast. And as it had gotten sunny, I put on some sunscreen and we went to look at the river. Then we walked on to find the St. Louis Cemetery No 1., which in a way was pretty cool, but if you’ve seen old European cemeteries it’s nothing to special. The interesting thing about them is that because of the high ground water levels all burials need to be above ground, so there are all these high tombs. It also makes for a not so open space and travel guides advise against going there alone and in the dark…

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Jackson Square (we had wanted to go to Café Amelie but that was closed for the summer) for a late lunch where Paul had a sandwich while I tried the local Gumbo (a sort of fish soup). Around 4 we left New Orleans for Florida. Luckily we needed to be at the westside of Florida, so the drive wasn’t too long, as although the road trip was very very cool, we really had enough of tarmac by now :).

Road trippin’ (part 1)

Tuesday was the big day: Paul’s moving out of LA. Of course we hadn’t finished the packing on Monday night so we did some more packing on Tuesday morning and around 11 we were on our way to Vegas. It was a pretty OK drive, and at around 15:00 we arrived in Sin City. It’s interesting how you can see it from miles away and the shapes of the hotels are just hilarious (rollercoasters around hotels, an Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, and our hotel, a big piramid). It’s impossible to explain what Las Vegas is like, it’s just one of those places you need to have seen to understand the utter silliness of it. It’s entertaining, absolutely, but really, one day was plenty. We strolled around the strip for a bit, and walked in and out of the hotels. The hotels are little cities in themselves, they have several restaurants, shops, theatres, exhibitions and whatnot inside them, so basically one doesn’t have to leave the hotel. At dusk and about halfway on the strip we encountered the Bellagio, just before the water show was about to start, which was very impressive. We then walked into the Bellagio, which looks (relative to the other hotels) quite classy. The only thing is that there are so many slot machines everywhere, which kind of make it all less fancy. I tried one and don’t really see the fun in it so Paul and I decided to play video games in the arcade at the Bellagio (Dance! Dance! Revolution! and Sega Racing, much more fun). On the way out the water show started again, and this time it was even more impressive as it was dark outside (but still very hot). On the way back to the Luxor we stopped at New York, New York to find some food, instead we found drinks and entertainment at the Coyote Ugly bar, Sin City at its best. After a while we got hungry, so we made it back to Luxor and found a snazzy restaurant there where we had some nice food in a quiet atmosphere away from the crazy lights and music of the slot machines. After dinner Paul wanted to lose some money at a Black Jack table so we walked through a tunnel to next hotel, Mandalay Bay as it had more proper tables (there are also Black Jack computers but that’s not real ;)). After 5 mins there, we called it a night and went to get some sleep to be rested for the second day of our road trip.

The second leg of our road trip took us to via the Hoover Dam into Arizona to the Grand Canyon. It’s a very interesting drive as the landscape changes constantly and is by far not as barren as I thought it would be. Around 16:00 we reached the Grand Canyon and enjoyed one of nature’s most stunning feats. We took load and loads of pictures, but they can not only begin to capture the vastness of the place (of many of the vistas we’ve seen along this trip actually). It’s just so incredibly huge. I was worried that it would be really really hot, but it was kind of OK, and around 17:00 it actually started to rain. So we walked back to the car and started driving to Flagstaff, where Paul’s uncle lives.

Flagstaff is a pretty sweet place, it’s about the size of Etten-Leur, and people cycle there! Paul’s uncle took us out to a nice Italian restaurant where we sat on the cozy patio. On Thursday morning we went out to breakfast to an old school American diner (mmm blueberry pancakes!) after which we hit the road again towards New Mexico. That’s where I am right now, in a hotel on Route 66, which thankfully we didn’t have to take as it’s quite narrow, but they’ve built a nice motorway next to it, which is wider and has pretty new tarmac on it. The route to Santa Rosa wasn’t that hard (just follow the I-40). We stopped at Albuquerque, which, according to my travel guide, has a lovely old town centre. We thought it was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps because there weren’t that many people, but probably mainly because it was so Disneyfied: every cliché about traditional Mexicans seemed to have been exhibited there with chilis hanging on every doorframe and silly souvenirs in every shop. But we could stretch our legs for a b it and had fun commenting on it. Anyway, tomorrow we’re onto Dallas, 474 miles (762 km) from here so I’d better get some sleep…

Last days in LA

After counting down for weeks I finally left for LA on July 30. This time on a direct flight :). I landed at 15:00 but it took a while to get through security (we couldn’t get off the aeroplane straight away because 5 police officers picked someone off our craft first). Anyway, around 16:00 I was enjoying the Californian sun in Marina Del Rey (dropping off bags at Paul’s apartment) and Venice (walking along the beach and watching the sunset, having dinner and picking up my old bike from Laura) again. On Friday I toyed around with my new GPS unit a bit, went shopping to buy a travel guide for our upcoming road trip and relaxed by the pool a bit before going out to party. Around 23:00 the party was over for me as I hadn’t quite adjusted to the time zone, but that was OK, since we started partying at 18:00 :). Saturday was a nice quiet day. I tried to find some geocaches around Marina Del Rey, worked on my thesis a little bit (I sent off a new last draft to my supervisor the next day) and hung around the beach. I had a short swim in the ocean before going to get a haircut with Laura at. Bobby is seriously the coolest hairdresser ever and Laura and I had a great time and we now have great hair. Straight after the haircut I raced back towards the beach for yet another party, a fabulous Indian dinner party hosted by David. He had cooked the most amazing food and ther was great entertainment in the form of a five piece puzzle that took some while to figure out 🙂

Sunday morning Paul and I got up early to go surfing with one of his friends (another David) at the Venice breakwaters. I didn’t bring my wetsuit but that was OK, the water was warm enough and the waves were actually pretty good. They were getting a bit worse when the tide went out and the it started to get a bit windy, but we’d caught enough waves before that. And saw some dolphins too, so it was a great way to say goodbye to my once-homespot… As surfing makes you hungry we then headed to the Santa Monica farmer’s market for a picnic in the grass with raspberry white chocolate scones, fruit and omelettes 🙂

Later in the afternoon Paul had to finish off some work so I hung around a bit and tried to find a geocache close to his home again and again I couldn’t find it. I tried again after asking for a hint but it turned out that it had gone…at least it wasn’t me :). On Monday there was also lunch at Irori with some of Paul’s co-workers and goodbye cake at ISI. In the evening I cycled back to Venice to return the bike to Laura and I walked along the Venice canals for the first time. It’s funny how I never did that and it’ s really pretty. At Rose I met Paul who had taken the car because he needed to pick up one of his tennis rackets that had been restrung and together we did a little tour of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. We had dinner again at Sauce, a wonderful simple organic place that just opened 2 blocks from my old home. It’s just food how it should be: good ingredients, reasonable portion sizes (that means not too big!) and strong flavours. And their cookies are just heavenly.

And then we packed…