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#VegasStrong

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#VEGASSTRONG

I have been to Las Vegas countless times.  My first time was when I was 15 during a three week road trip with my family. I will never forget how I was asked to leave the bar my parents were having a drink at because I was under 21. I started crying because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to sit down, and so my first initial impression about Vegas wasn’t the most welcoming in my eyes.

But then I learned about the “casino for kids” at the Treasure Island hotel. From that moment on I would spent the majority of my time over there while the adults had their fun at the “real” casino, and I made amends with Vegas.

The next time I came to Sin City was when I was over 21 and able to join in all what the adult fun had to offer.  I have been to the major clubs, have danced to the music of incredible DJs playing on stage, and had the occasional “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” experience.  But this last time was very different from any other trip I took out there.

In my last post, I wrote about my friends coming to visit from Germany, who I met up with in San Francisco. When we were planning this trip way back in the beginning of 2017, we decided to fly down to Vegas for a couple of days, since my one friend had never been.  We had planned to leave on Thursday, October 7.  Even in our wildest dreams, none of us could have ever imagined what happened only five days before our trip to Las Vegas.

On Sunday, October 1st, the deadliest shooting massacre in modern U.S. history happened, where more than 50 people lost their lives.  I had watched the reports on TV news; I had seen the videos on social media, where you could hear the horrific gunshots the shooter fired on those innocent concert goers; I had read the stories about the victims. But nothing can prepare you for what you are going to see when you are at the actual place.

The first night of our arrival in San Francisco, we talked about what happened. We weren’t scared of going, but we were clearly in shock and unable to grasp such an event. Would it still be ok to visit a club and dance the night away? Would it be fine to have a couple drinks, celebrating our reunion after not seeing each other for two years? Would it be disrespectful to have fun at a place where such a tragedy took place only a few days before our arrival?

The morning of our flight to Las Vegas, I wasn’t able to function well; partly because I didn’t sleep the night before and we had a very early flight, and partly because I was nervous about what to expect.  The moment the plane touched down in Vegas, we could witness the aftermath of the tragedy: we spotted the broken windows of the hotel room. It felt surreal to actually see a crime scene in real life rather than on TV.

The view of the broken windows followed us along all the way from the airport to the hotel. The sight definitely impacted our moods, but we still wanted to make the best out of our time being in Las Vegas. Since our room wasn’t ready at the time we arrived, we decided on walking along the strip for a bit to find a breakfast place.

It was a nice warm day out, but the bulletins we saw along the strip made me chill.  Where tourists were usually being bombarded with bright light advertisements, people could read messages like “We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now.”

We walked past a restaurant that had a poster displayed in its window, mentioning that all first responders who were present at the time of the tragedy trying to help would receive a free meal.  Plastered along the streets was the hash tag #VegasStrong. Thank God for sunglasses in moments like this, because I was about to start crying whenever we passed one of those billboards or placards.

I can’t really describe the feelings that went through me during those three days.  My friends and I still enjoyed the warm weather and what the city has to offer, but it did make me feel guilty.  One night, we watched the amazing water show in front of the Bellagio hotel. A few steps further down from where we stood, people had built a memorial with candles, signs and flowers. All three of us grew quiet when we passed by it.

While we were reading the messages, a couple feet further down, two women dressed up as showgirls were trying to get tourists to take pictures with them. That is Vegas for you: no matter if during the good or the bad times, the city is still trying to give you what you came for: an escape out of everyday life.

We didn’t end up going to any clubs or shows this time rather than just relaxing by the pool, indulging in some good food, and exploring the city. At the end of our three day trip, Las Vegas bid farewell to us with the same scene it welcomed us: the view of the broken hotel windows.

It is really hard to grasp such a tragedy and witnessing the aftermath first hand. But it is also beautiful to see how a city stands strong and brings strangers together during hard times like this. #VegasStrong

Images: pixabay.com

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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If You Are Going to San Francisco…

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IF YOU ARE GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO…

The famous 1967 song from Scott McKenzie always gets me in a reminiscent mood.  I start thinking about my time as an Au Pair, when I was living so close to one of the most fascinating cities in the world.  But at the beginning of October, I didn’t have to reminisce no more. I was actually going to San Francisco to meet two of my longtime friends from Germany.

I haven’t seen them for two years, and I sadly missed out on their big wedding this summer. Luckily for me, they decided to spend their honeymoon in the states and invited me to tag along.  I didn’t have to think twice to announce that I would be on board and counted the days till October finally came along.

For our stay we had rented an apartment in the Russian Hill area, which was walking distance to the piers. From our living room window we could see the Alcatraz Island, which was extremely spooky at night with the fog and the prison building lights shining through the clouds.  Just thinking of it now really makes me miss this place and the city. Except the steep hill we had to walk up every day to get home.

On our first night together, we walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf to grab dinner at Nick’s Lighthouse.  A great spot for seafood lovers with some decent vegetarian offers and a cozy atmosphere, we celebrated the first night of our reunion. After some good food, we worked off all the calories from dinner by climbing our way up the steep hills towards home. This was definitely a great alternative instead of hitting the gym.

The next morning, our culinary excursion took us to the Buena Vista Café right down the street.  I have been to this place many times, and since it was only a two minute walk from our apartment, it was a no-brainer to have our first breakfast at this location. The Buena Vista Café is well-known for its Irish coffee. I have to confess that I have never tried it and am not intending to, but it is sure interesting to watch the baristas fixing it for thirsty customers.

For me, the best part (besides the really yum food options), is the view onto the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I could stare all day at this beautiful piece of construction, wondering how it is able to hold tons of cars and people crossing it each and every day.  The cafe is located right across one of the cable car starting points, in case you’d like to catch a ride right after.

If you do consider visiting the Buena Vista Café, I have one tip: If you can, avoid going on a weekend.  There is no “Waiting to be seated” agenda, and the restaurant gets VERY busy. People literally wait till one spot opens up and then rush over to claim it theirs. It doesn’t matter who sets foot in the restaurant first. Weekdays are much less crowded and strenuous to your nerves.  Trust me, I have tried both weekend and weekday and I would never consider visiting this place on a Saturday or Sunday again.

For the remainder of the day, we checked off a couple of mostly touristy activities on our list.  We visited the seals by pier 39, wandered around the area, and then headed over to Powell Street for some shopping, followed by then devouring the cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory at Union Square.

To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the tourist spots in San Francisco.  Of course, you have to visit them if you have never been before, but I personally prefer the less-overcrowded-by-foreigners areas, such as the Haight and Ashbury district with all its funky and unique stores.

One of the days, we decided to visit the Golden Gate Park and see what it had to offer. We took a stroll around the Japanese Tea Garden (cost: $9 per person for non-residents) and relaxed in the Zen atmosphere.  We totally forgot for a moment that we were residing in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the U.S. and rather focused on the beautiful trees, plants, and ponds.

Afterwards, we decided to walk the more than three miles towards the end of the park, where two giant windmills were located.  We did feel like being in the Netherlands for a second until we crossed the street and found ourselves at Ocean Beach.  Unfortunately, the fog had taken over and so we didn’t witness a breathtaking ocean view.  That is another thing I am sure many of you know: the weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable.

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Another spot we discovered during our time was Za Pizza, a very small pizza joint located in our neighborhood.  The pizza is amazing, and the restaurant is located in the midst of residential complexes.  No tourists, no noise, no overcrowded streets.  This was what I was looking to find during our trip: A hole-in-the-wall kind of ambiance that turned out to be a total gem. We went two times while being in town, and I miss this place dearly being back in Southern California.

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Throughout our stay in the city, we mainly traveled around by bus.  It was really easy and cheap to go from point A to Z by public transportation. And, as weird as this might sound, it made me feel being more one of the locals than a tourist. We also happened to be there when it was Fleet Week. We got to witness the streets being crowded with sailors and watched the incredible air show, the highlight being a performance by the amazing Blue Angels.

The only real downside during our vacation was the bad air quality we experienced during the second week in the city. Due to the heavy fires in Sonoma County, smog was laying all over town.  It started on Monday night when we acknowledged a smokey smell in our apartment. We first thought it must have come from a barbecue, but the smell got stronger by the minute.

It was when we turned on the news that we got informed about the cause of it: the outbreak of the horrendous fires up in Napa Valley and the surrounding areas. The next morning, when we pulled up the blinds on our windows, a big cloud of smoke was hanging over Alcatraz. It consisted of the remainder of our trip. Even at the airport, the air quality was so bad that some flights experienced delays.

We made sure to still make the best of our time despite the impact of the fires. We visited China Town and took a tour through Madame Tussauds. Spending time in this city never gets old, and I am already looking forward to my next trip. Until then I will keep listening to Scott McKenzie’s tunes.

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Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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I Scream, You Scream, Museum of Ice Cream

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I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM

Remember those museums where it is all about “don’t touch, just look” and “no photography”?  Luckily, since a couple of months now, there is a new fun and interactive place in town, where touching and making Instagram memories are highly encouraged (at least for the most part). Welcome to the Museum of Ice Cream!

Located right in the heart of the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles, this interactive place of discovery totally defies the meaning of a traditional museum. The fun already starts before you even enter the place. Visitors are guided into a cute little garden right next to the facility, which is equipped with fun games like Cornhole and Jenga. The music is blasting, and you can’t help it but get in a happy mood.

The staff at this place is doing a wonderful job at keeping the crowds entertained and forgetting about everyday life at least for one afternoon. Once visitors are called to line up by the entrance, a certain amount of people are encouraged to participate in a Hula Hoop contest.  After all the hoops have touched the ground, it is finally time to enter the holy halls of the actual museum, but not without a quick briefing by one of the employees.

In my friend’s and my case, who had the honor of visiting this trending spot recently, this person had the funky name of Sprinkle Steve, a handsome twenty-something Zach Efron look-alike. After a quick reminder that people are allowed to touch everything except the popsicles and bananas, the really fun part starts: exploring the museum.

While I don’t want to give too much away in case some of you, dear readers, are anticipating visiting the Museum of Ice Cream yourself, I’d like to tell you this:

1) Your sweet tooth will definitely be satisfied. With samples of chocolate, ice cream, and gummy bears in almost every of the exhibit rooms, your taste buds will not be disappointed.

2) If you are a fan of photography and Instagram, this is the place to be.  Every room in the museum offers unique photo opportunities thanks to a ton of fun and interactive props.

3) This museum is very well organized and only lets a manageable amount of group sizes in at once.  Thanks to specific time slots you get when you purchase your ticket, the exhibit never feels too crowded, and you don’t have to wait in line for ever to capture the fun in pictures.

4) Be advised that tickets are currently sold out and, if they are available, sell out quickly.  It took me two tries until I was finally able to purchase tickets after I missed the newsletter announcement once.

If you are like me and like the out of the ordinary, then this is the place for you.  You will experience an afternoon where you are allowed to be a kid again in the colorful world of candy.

Life is short, eat that ice cream!

 

Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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GSC Banner 2017 August-OctoberFinal

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The Tale of the Traveling Cake Continues

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THE TALE OF THE TRAVELING CAKE CONTINUES

It was a beautiful Saturday in April of 2017, when one particular wedding cake and I started the journey from Redondo Beach into the deep Malibu Canyon.  My boss and I figured that if I left the bakery with the cake at 9 a.m. it would give me plenty of time to arrive at the venue at the appointed 11 a.m.

As we all know, traveling through the LA area usually consists of sitting in traffic at least at some point, if not more.   But since it was a Saturday, I had high hopes that the traffic Gods were on my side.

Unfortunately, they were not.  In fact, they wanted to test my patience extra hard that day with a three-lane-closure at LAX due to a crash that involved a burned-out vehicle.  My hopes of a punctual arrival diminished from minute to minute, and while the cars in front of me still weren’t moving, I decided to give the wedding planner a heads-up about my delay.

Thankfully, she was not too stressed about it (or she was just good at hiding her real feelings). It felt like an eternity, but eventually cars started moving again, and slowly but surely I was ready to continue my route while the cake was still peacefully sitting in its box.

Now is probably a good time to tell you a little bit about the “transport box,” just for an overall better understanding of the situation.  This particular box was actually a bigger paper carton with no lid.  The cake was securely fastened onto a round shaped cake board, and then just pushed into the box, the open side facing my dashboard.  To my defense, it was not my idea to position the cake like this on my passenger seat.  You might know now where this story is going.

I was finally able to get out of the whole traffic mess and to speed up to a decent pace; wanting to make sure I hopefully don’t encounter anymore delays. I kept driving on the 405 north for a while before my GPS told me to merge onto the US 101.

I merged onto the outer right lane, slowing down a bit but still holding a steady speed, about to approach the loop towards the 101 freeway.  Unsuspecting, I made my way around it, when suddenly the car in front of me hit the brakes hard, resulting me into doing the same thing.

I knew right away what terrible maneuver I just had done.  While pushing my foot the hardest I could onto my breaks, I heard a swoosh sound.  I looked over to my right side, and in a matter of seconds, I witnessed the precious 12-piece cake slipping out of the box and straight onto the floor.

I will not be able to tell you verbatim what I was exactly yelling out at the moment since it consists of a series of swear words.  What I can tell you is that I started to cry hysterically.

I couldn’t contemplate what was worse: the fact that the cake actually dropped on the floor or that I had to call my boss and tell her about it. Well, since there was no way around it, I picked up my phone and anxiously dialed her number.

When she heard that I was crying, she instantly knew that something really bad must have happened. To my relief, she was very understanding and tried to calm me down, which made me sob even more.

Unfortunately, I still had to deliver the cake, hoping that the florist would be able to cover up the damages. “At least the cake wasn’t supposed to be the one eaten,” is what I kept telling myself to calm me down and to prepare me from having to face a pretty uncomfortable situation, but more on that next time. As for now, feel free to enjoy a graphic image of the described disaster.

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Images: pixabay.com, Anne-Kathrin Schulte
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.


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You May Have Your Cake, But You Can’t Always Eat It

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YOU MAY HAVE YOUR CAKE, BUT YOU CAN’T ALWAYS EAT IT

Dear Readers,

I know it’s been a while.  Unfortunately, it’s been way too long, and I do feel bad.  I missed writing and taking the time to be creative.  But, as all of us know, life happens.  My life has been extremely busy these past couple months.  I am not complaining as I love being busy, I just deeply regret that I didn’t have time to sit down, be inspired, and write.

The thing is I probably could have produced somewhat of an article each week- but it would have felt more as a chore than something that I truly enjoy. Busting out an article because you have to instead of because you want to produces (obviously) different results.  But I am finally able to slowly get back into the swing of things.

As I have mentioned in one of my last pieces, I started working with dogs, and I love it!  Being with animals is such a stress reliever, and I met so many wonderful people through it as well.  But besides this opportunity, I also started working as a coordinator for a baker.  One of my friends was doing the job before, but since she started a full time job she was unable to continue the work and recommended me.

The position sounded really great as I was able to work remotely, so it perfectly fit in with my schedule.   But, as this happens a lot in life as well, things came different at some point than discussed.  In theory, my duties consisted of handling e-mail customer inquiries, a fun and easy task.  Of course, it took me a little in the beginning until I got the hang of it, but I eventually was able to spend less than one hour a day working from my computer.

Things started to change about a couple weeks into my job.  I knew that my friend handled some of the pastry and cake deliveries in the past as she was living less than five minutes away from the bakery.  I, on the other hand, live about an hour away from Redondo Beach, where the shop is located.  So I became a little skeptical when my boss started asking me to do deliveries as well.

I might not have minded it that much if it wouldn’t have been on a weekend, but to ask me to come out two days in a row to deliver cakes just didn’t sound too appealing to me, especially since one of the locations included Compton, which I thankfully turned down.  As a compromise though and since I didn’t want to seem entitled, I agreed to accomplish the delivery of an ice cake to Marina Del Rey.

The whole way from Redondo Beach to its final destination I felt like I was on my way to Siberia.  Since it was an ice cake, I had to put the air conditioning in my car on full blast. Even though I ended up with a cold I am happy to report that the cake made it to the party without any harm.

From that day on, my boss figured she could sign me up for more deliveries.  Without even asking me, she concluded that I was in charge of spending one precious Saturday in April driving up to the Malibu Canyons to deliver a wedding cake.  If that didn’t already sound bad enough, let me tell you that the notorious cake was only supposed to be used for photography purposes and not to be eaten.  Anyways, since my boss was supposed to go out of town that weekend, she told me that I have to do this delivery.

I wasn’t very happy, to say the least, especially since it was my friend’s birthday and I would be missing half of the celebrations.  But what was I supposed to do when my boss tells me to do it, even though deliveries were not part of my job description in the first place?  I know, I know, I sound like a whiner and unappreciative.  Well, you might feel me a little more after I tell you the whole tale of that one fateful day.

It was a warm and sunny Saturday morning.  I had come to terms with the fact that I was about to drive the 160 miles round trip to deliver a simple twelve piece cake into the middle of nowhere while my boss was basking in the Palm Springs sun.

To my surprise though, she was still working on the masterpiece when I arrived at the bakery in Redondo Beach.  She told me that she had to cancel her girls’ trip since she still had a couple orders to finish.  I instantly felt bad and selfish, and I swore to myself to bury any feelings of irritation about my interrupted weekend plans.

We ended up sharing some bonding conversation while she was finishing up the wedding cake.  Looking at the clock, I got a little nervous considering that the cake was supposed to arrive in Malibu at 11 a.m. and it was already past nine.  Luckily though, she was almost done.

Since I am a pretty clumsy person, I didn’t decline her offer to securely transport the cake to my car.  She put it in a carton box and carried it over to my passenger seat, where she positioned it in a way to make it easy for me to pick it up and switch it onto the cake board once I arrived at the destination.

We then exchanged our goodbyes, not knowing what unanticipated turn the whole day would take.  But more to that story next time.

Image: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.


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