Winter in Amsterdam

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s magical: the Amsterdam canals froze over.

I was a bit annoyed at first with the cold because we had meant to go to the south for Frank’s birthday, but as Dutch trains obviously can’t run when the lakes freeze over that didn’t happen. We first meant to go there on Friday, saw the mayhem at the train stations, then decided to try again on Saturday, got stuck in Utrecht and took a bus back that stopped at every tiny little town on the way, needless to say it took hours. The good thing was that it did drop us off near Bijlmer Arena, where there is a big Decathlon, so I decided to buy some ice skates. As it was getting dark already I didn’t try them on yet, we first went home to warm up with some hot chocolate and I got to try them on on Sunday in the Vondelpark. As it stayed cold, the next week the ice on the canals was finally thick enough to be safe (except under some bridges) and the whole town had a fabulous town seeing the city from another side.

Check out more pics on flickr.

Hello LA!

After our Florida adventure, the fun in the sun wasn’t over yet: we were still headed to SoCal for almost two weeks.

On Monday 2 January, we touched down at LAX sometime in the evening. The first few nights we would stay at a hotel because the friend’s whose floor we would crash on was still on holiday himself. But that’s OK, I like hotels, especially when they come equipped with free massage chairs just 5 metres away from our room. I can highly recommend the hotel we were staying at, the Custom Hotel, which is right between LAX and Marina Del Rey. From our hotel room we could see ISI, and from our office at ISI we could see the hotel. That’s right, our office at ISI, cos we were there for work. And we shared an office.

It was fabulous to be back. Because of the time difference (2 hours) we woke up at a rather obscene hour on Tuesday, so we headed off to the French Market Café for a sunny, outdoor breakfast, something we normally only have time for on the weekends. There are advantages to getting up early I suppose.

We still made it into the office by 09:30. The best thing about working from the US on a Dutch job is that all the email comes in in the morning, because it’s the end of the working day in Europe. So when you get into the office, you tend to the email, and then the rest of the day you can work without interruptions (I know I could also switch off email, but my mailbox is my to-do list, so I sort of have to keep it open, and I haven’t found a client yet that will allow me to only check email at set times or twice a day. The longest you can have Mac Mail space apart is every hour, or you could do it manually, but still every time my computer comes up from sleep it will pull in fresh email. Another option would be to get a different to do list, suggestions are welcome). Anyway, I got a lot done. I hacked about a little. I read a whole bunch of interesting papers. I graded student assignments. I talked to the awesome people at ISI. Still we managed to drag ourselves away from the office at a decent time in the evenings to go hang out with all the great people we know in LA.

I also rented a surfboard (@ the Rider Shack on Washington Blvd, highly recommended, they also included a board bag so the rental car wouldn’t get dirty), so I could go surfing in the mornings and weekends. On Wednesday morning when I went down to Venice for the first time again, I immediately ran into Kerstin, who took over my room on Rose after I left. She still lives there, and still surfs 🙂 The waves were quite hollow, which is really not my specialty (hopefully my surf coaching sessions will help me this year) but I did get my hair wet, and found a nearly perfect sand dollar. And we saw some dolphins. The day could have started worse 😉

During our stay, we also got to experience some great home cooking by our friends (thank you Gully, Jens and Jason) and were taken to some new bars that we didn’t know about (courtesy of Dirk). On the weekends, we went to Malibu to surf (such a lovely mellow wave!). We fell into the Paradise Cove tourist trap (although it is a beautiful beach).

On Friday night after our last working day in SoCal for a while, we left the office early to have sushi in Santa Monica, followed by cocktails in the Shangri-La hotel rooftop bar with Gully (while looking out over the Pacific). Pure awesomeness.

On our last Saturday in SoCal, we first had brunch in Manhattan Beach with Victoria and Dirk (they do have a knack for finding fabulous places to take us to). Then Paul and I surfed together in Malibu. The waves were super small, and there was a lot of seaweed getting stuck in our fins and leashes, but it was really great to be out there together. After we got wormed up with some coffee & hot chocolate at Starbucks we went out to a nice Italian restaurant in Culver City with Jens. And then we had to get up really early in the morning again to go back to icy Europe…