I don’t seem to get around to writing an actual blog post these last weeks, even though I have several ideas / beginnings lined up. To keep you all updated a bit, here’s a photo diary of the labor day weekend I spent in California.
Day 1, Yosemite national park. The smoke from the huge rim fire had blown into Yosemite valley exactly the day I was visiting. I guess I’ll just have to come back another time, which I definitely don’t mind! Even without smoke one day is just too short for such an awesome place. With the smoke as it was we got nauseous from walking only half a mile.
Mariposa County Fair. Fairs are these typical American things. There’s food, there’s stuff we would call a ‘kermis’, there’s a beer garden, there’s live music, there’s local competitions (best cookies, best local cucumbers, best meat goose, etc). I love the name of this town: butterfly is my favorite across-languages word, it sounds nice in almost all tongues. This is a small redneck town (his words, not mine) in the mountains around Yosemite, it’s where my couchsurfing host grew up. It actually used to be the state capital during the gold rush. Anyway, it was fun being at this fair, the nice thing about couchsurfing is that you spend a lot of time with locals so you get to see things most tourists don’t.
From left to right: Ben, my couchsurfing host; me; David, Ben’s friend. These are taken at a vista point on the mountains between Yosemite and central valley. The view was amazing, even with some smoke from the rim fire we could see incredibly far. We spent the sunset here taking goofy pictures. Amongst other things, we discovered that the way Europeans (or at least Duchies) imitate both an elephant and a duck differ significantly from the way Americans do.
Some pictures taken in Merced at the house I stayed in. The left one is a really old mini-door in the wall for the milkman to put the milk in. On the inside the people of the house could say what they would like to have. On the right is a picture of Tiny, a pit bull, eating some stroopwafel (which I’d brought from the Netherlands as a souvenir for my hosts). I always thought pit bulls were really scary dogs, but I also thought they looked different, so I’m probably just confused with another type of dogs. Anyway, I really liked the house I was staying in, it was my first night on a real mattress in the states (at ‘home’ in Bloomington I have an air bed).
Day 2, Big Sur national park. We took a road trip down the atlantic coast. Highway 1 goes right by the shore, making for a lovely view. It reminded me of the Cinque Terre region in Italy, but way, way bigger and without the cute colourful towns. We had dinner on chairs in a creek, with our feet in the water. The region was so diverse, half a mile away from the coast you were surrounded by mountains and forests, which had a very different feel to them.
This time we spent the sunset at a vista point overlooking the ocean. Wow. To my big surprise we saw whales. The picture on the left was the best I took, but they were actually jumping out and playing. It was so amazing to watch. Crazy Beautiful is the best way to describe the feeling of that place. The mountains, the vast ocean, the sunset. California was almost overwhelming in terms of beautiful places.
We spent the next two nights at friends of Ben’s. Their guest room was amazing, on the wall it reads ‘be your own kind of beautiful’. The nights spent there were by far the most comfortable I’ve had here, even though I slept way too little during my time in California (there was just too much to do and see). In their study they had a map that covered an entire wall. This is actually something Tijl and me want to have in our home but haven’t figured out how to realize yet. I can now confirm that it is indeed as awesome as I thought it would be. In addition to loving nice sayings (as evident all around the house) the hosts also loved learning new languages. Their dogs are actually trained in Russian and Arabic, how amazing is that!
Day 3, San Francisco. We started our day with at a tea lounge in a park in the middle of the city. I remember from my time in New York how awesome small parks surrounded by skyscrapers are. I had some of the most interesting (and expensive!) tea ever, and really enjoyed starting the day in a big city in such a relaxed spot. We got really lucky with the weather, San Francisco can be cold due to the wind but we actually both got sunburnt.
Of course we also went to all the touristy places. We walked all the way from pier 1 to pier 39, and ran into a nice behavioural science playground next to a museum. I love it when they quote my cat. San Francisco was lovely, I think I never even realized before visiting that it is an important sea port. The golden gate bridge is called that because it was the entrance to the golden coast of California. Both in riches and in looks: the hills between central valley and the coast really did look golden.
We took a boat trip that went underneath the golden gate bridge and around Alcatraz (which I kept referring to as Guantanamo bay by accident…). In the left picture you see both a sailing ship and a mammoth container ship approaching the bridge. The bridge is way higher than I thought it would be, but still mammoth ships can only cross it during low tide. I want to visit San Francisco again and then actually visit the old prison on Alcatraz.
After the boat trip we walked around the city for a bit (those hills!). We ended up eating at a vegan place in Chinatown (not the one pictured, I just loved the colourful wall paintings), they are famous for their fake meats. I usually don’t eat a lot of fake meat but these were tasty indeed (although it didn’t actually taste like spare ribs, in my opinion). We were both so tired that we couldn’t eat more than a few bites, so after dinner we decided to call it a day and head back. I didn’t mind spending only 7 hours there. That was already 7 more hours then I expected to be in San Francisco any time soon and I know I’ll go back anyway.
To conclude, my labor day weekend was amazing. I fell in love with California. Where Bloomington is special because of it’s hippieness (being in the midwest), California seems to be a whole state full of hippies. And there’s so much I didn’t see yet! The weekend was both awesome and exhausting, so I am happy to be back in Bloomington and live normal life again. I am very happy I worked during the may holiday, since it is that money that made this trip affordable to me. I’m actually enjoying traveling so much that I’m thinking about living a bit more frugal to make traveling more of a priority money-wise, but we’ll see if I can actually keep true to that resolution when I’m back home.