Tag Archives: Travel

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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Old Masters, Modern or Contemporary Art – Visit LACMA for Free

Old Masters, Modern or Contemporary Art – You can have it all at LACMA

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Nothing is more refreshing on a scorching hot summer day than walking the air-conditioned aisles of LACMA!

Well, …nothing except for cooling off at the beach perhaps.

But, hey, you can’t let the beach monopolize you, right? There is so much more to do and see in LA! Like visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – LACMA, the western United States’ largest art museum.  

And….LACMA is making it sooo easy for you to visit! Especially if you have children.

LACMA has a special membership program for children called NexGen. My kids have been members ever since this program existed. It makes visiting LACMA a fun and enjoyable family outing, that doesn’t overstretch your budget, because … it’s FREE!

Every child 17 years and younger can become a member ! You just sign up at the museum or online. Your kids are then presented with a cool orange lanyard that allows them free entry every time they visit. Plus they can invite one adult guest for free as well! So, guess what? You, as the parent can enjoy LACMA for free, too? 

Still missing the beach? …Because, it’s just a must during summer? Well, with the NexGen membership it’s easy to divide the day and do both in a day! After all, this awesome  kids’ membership makes it possible for you and your child to visit the main galleries and all temporary exhibitions any day, any time, all year! So it doesn’t matter if you stay for 2 hours or 5.

Give your mind and soul a well-deserved break from the fast-paced life around you. I tell you, it’s relaxing and invigorating at the same time to walk LACMA’s various galleries. And, you will be amazed how much children actually like it as well. Check out the modern and contemporary art galleries to visit the oversized billiard pool set, blown-out-of-proportion- comb, and ask your child what he thinks of a Pollock painting! Kids especially enjoy the installation of Chris Burden’s Metropolis II.

We often start out at LACMA by roaming the galleries to our heart’s content and then stop by the museum’s store. It used to be an all time favorite for my children, and even now with only our youngest one in tow it hasn’t lost much of its attraction. You can always find something there that is cool, inspire or else. Sometimes it’s just something small like an all graphite pencil, which turned out to be a hit at my son’s school a few years ago.

Occasionally we stay for lunch or a light snack at the museum’s restaurant, bar or cafeteria before we hit the road to the beach in the summer. 

If you do it the other way around and visit the beach first, then you might catch some of LACMA’s cool outdoor summer concerts later in the afternoon; or choose to attend a talk at the museum’s theater. LACMA is not only about art and design. It’s an overall cultural experience !

I have to say for us the “LACMA outing” has never been boring. Ever! We always find new things to look at, new installations to marvel at, and discover new art installed in some of the galleries; galleries, that we thought we knew already inside out. 


Images: “Art At LACMA” ©CaliforniaGermans


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Body Worlds: PULSE – Getting to Know Your Body Inside Out

 

Gunther von hagens’ Body Worlds: ‘Pulse’ – Getting to Know Your Body Inside Out

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Feeling somewhat uneasy we were standing in front of the California Science Center recently, ready to enter Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibition “PULSE”. We have prepared ourselves well and read almost anything available out there about the show, about Gunther von Hagens, his plastination process and about the process of putting the show together here at the CaliforniaScienceCenter.

Since we had our teenage son with us we wanted to make sure that he as well as us completely understood what we were about to experience. My husband in fact was very hesitant at first about bringing him along since the show’s displays contain bodies of deceased humans that went through Gunther von Hagens invented preservation process called plastination.

All our worries however were put to rest very quickly upon entering this amazing show.

Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds PULSE – an incredible journey through your body

Right at the beginning of the show you are greeted by a movie that totally hit home with us.It demonstrates how our busy lives have a profound effect on the quality of our lives, making us receptive to all kinds of modern diseases: high blood pressure, obesity, depression, you name it. Too much stimulation and an overload of information that we modern human beings are constantly exposed to puts our modern life under a lot of stress and finally at risk. The speed that forces us to do more, better and faster becomes increasingly more inhuman.

This movie is the preamble to a rewarding show that explains in detail what is essential for us to keep our bodies healthy and functional.  Ultimately it encourages us to think about how we can develop a healthier pace of life for ourselves.

Impressive displays, exceptional information and in-depth videos guide you along the journey through your body.

The entrance to the various displays starts with one of Gunther von Hagens plastinated bodies holding his skin folded over his arm like an overcoat. Info boards teach you about the skin being our heaviest and largest organ that has vital functions. Next the visitor learns about the skeleton and sees first hand how fractures, implants and prostheses look like. As you move along “through the body” you’ll learn about the central nervous system and see stunning displays.

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In one von Hagen isolated a whole body’s central and peripheral nervous system and instead of a traditional skeleton one sees a “skeleton of nerves”. Amazing!

The various muscles in our bodies are a topic of one section, other sections are dedicated to each of our organs, to nutrition and to the demonstration of what certain diseases do to our body. From heart to intestines to liver and lung and more… you get to know your body inside out!

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A big section is dedicated to the heart explaining its difficult and intensive job. With the help of videos and informational boards we learn how a heart attack builds up within our body far before it actually happens.

The impact of smoking is impressively presented with a shockingly pitch black smokers lung on display that looks like a lava rock. This particular display like so many others certainly make you think about how you are treating your own body and how it may look like if exposed like these displays.

Speaking about the displays. Our initial worry was about our reaction to the plastinated bodies. Gunther van Hagens’ invention of preserving the human body and his quite artistic displays have been quite controversial for years. Many were initially appalled just by the pure fact that these displays were actually showing deceased humans.

We found that the whole show including the displays were put together and presented very esthetically. We were intrigued and captivated throughout. I can’t think of any other exhibit that brings you in such close encounter with your own body. We were awed and so were many other visitors we observed. From families with much younger children than our son, to a group of doctors, who were teaching their college class right on site.

In conclusion I can only say that we were absorbed by this exhibition and didn’t feel time going by. There was so much to see, explore and learn!

Body Worlds: PULSE is on display at the CaliforniaScienceCenter through February 20, 2018 .

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Images: ©CaliforniaGermans

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The Beauty of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)

Walking Through Downtown L.A.

– A Report in Pictures –
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Los Angeles, a fascinating city and a dream destination for many, has so much to offer. Beautiful beaches, legendary Hollywood, famous Universal Studios, iconic Muscle Beach at Venice, eclectic art, amazing museums, delectable restaurants…just to name a few highlights.

For sure L.A. is not only an exciting city for newcomers and tourists alike, but also for us expats living here it is worth dedicating a summer vacation to exploring Los Angles and beyond.

So here we go.

My family loves Downtown L.A. (DTLA). Be it Olvera Street the often called “birthplace of Los Angeles”, Chinatown , Little Tokyo, the contemporary art museum MOCA or THE BROAD museum and of course the Grand Central Market, which is always a must for us when we are in DTLA.

Needless to say our latest trip to DTLA started out right here and should end here as well with some delicious ice cream before heading back home.

Energized, after having had lunch at Wexler’s Deli indulging on their pastrami sandwich ‘The OG’, my son’s favorite, we make our way to the Grand Central Library.

Shortcut Along Angels Flight

There is a great short cut to South Grand Avenue by climbing the stairways alongside the Angels Flight funicular, which is right across from the Grand Central Market’s exit on Hill Street.

On South Grand Avenue we pay a short visit to MOCA, glance at The BROAD, (which is closed on Mondays) and take in the fabulous architecture of the Disney Music Hall before we continue our path to the library.

More art along the way!

Arriving at the corner of South Grand Ave / 5th Street we are finally met by one of Los Angeles architectural and historical landmarks, The Central Library!

The original library of 1926, the Goodhue Building, is an early example of Art Deco. The Tom Bradley Wing was added as a modern addition in 1993 and features most of the library’s collection today.

The Goodhue Building houses the Children’s and Teen department, which we always enjoy visiting.

Upon entering via the Rotunda with its Zodiac Chandelier one feels transported into a different time.

Have we entered Victorian era England or have we teleported into a Harry Potter movie?  Not sure, but it’s beautiful!

On our way out we make sure to walk through the atrium of the Tom Bradley Wing to get back into modern times.

Back outside on 5th Street we realize that we happen to stand right across of L.A.’s famous skyslide which is attached to the top of the US Bank skyscraper. Definitely nothing for the faint-hearted!! So I am quickly moving on pulling my mesmerized son with me down the street to The Last Bookstore on 453 S Spring Street.

The Last Bookstore, an eccentric book store that engages every book lover with tons of books, art galleries, hidden reading sanctuaries and a book labyrinth.

Even if you are not interested in books per se, this bookstore is a must! And if it’s only to inhale the L.A.vibe !

Enough books for today! We are heading back to the Grand Central Market and the Bradbury Building, which happens to be directly opposite of the market’s entrance on S. Broadway.

Not promising anything extraordinary from the outside the Bradbury Building fascinates once you walk through the narrow entrance lobby. Letting our eyes feast one more time on an L.A. architectural landmark, we are walking into the five-story building and are met with an amazing, light-filled atrium brimming with staircases in ornate ironwork and two wrought-iron ‘bird cage’ elevators. The Bradbury Building has been featured in many movies, the Blade Runner being one of them.

Together with the Central Library and the Union Station, the Bradbury Building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places .

For everyone still seeking adventure, you could move on to see much more here in Downtown L.A. – After all L.A.’s Union Station is not far away and famous theaters like the Theatre at the ACE Hotel are just down the road.

My son and I, however, called it a day and we went back to the Grand Central Market to reward ourselves with a delicious ice cream and an interesting coffee concoction. The drink called Business and Pleasure at G & B actually consists of three drinks! Iced almond-macademia milk cappuccino, carbonated iced tea and an espresso shot. Give it a try next time you visit Grand Central Market!

Prost! Cheers! À votre santé!

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Images: All Rights reserved ©CaliforniaGermans

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Adolesco – Your Ticket to the World!

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A non-profit language immersion and cultural exchange program  – ADOLESCO

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17-year old Sacramento-area teenager Gemma B. has lived in Germany, France, and Spain in addition to her native California thanks to Adolesco, a non-profit exchange organization that matches American children and teens with exchange partners in Europe for short-term language-immersion and cultural exchanges.

Unlike typical ‘one-way’ foreign exchange programs, Adolesco only offers real exchanges: each carefully matched partner has the chance to both host and travel, taking turns to live with their exchange partner and family for up to three months. This reciprocal exchange experience typically results in close friendships and life-long international connections on both sides.

“When I arrived at the airport in Germany, it wasn’t hard to find my exchange family: they were wearing matching grins and t-shirts that spelled out ‘GEMMA’. Johanna’s family was so welcoming that I quickly felt at home.”

You Can Participate With Little To No Foreign Language Knowledge

With Adolesco’s guidance, children and teens with little or no exposure to a second language are often able to gain remarkable fluency. As Gemma recalls, “I’d only studied German for a few months before going to Germany. During the first days of my exchange, beginning to understand and speak German was alternately frustrating and hilarious. Eventually, speaking German became Adolesco gemma-and-johanna_goslarsurprisingly normal.”

And there’s no reason to wait until college for the opportunity to study abroad. Living a new culture as a member of a family rather than visiting as a tourist is a tremendous opportunity that Adolesco makes available for children as young as 9 (and up to 18). Parents on both sides are encouraged to treat the visiting child not as a guest, but as another sibling. This true integration offers a unique opportunity for developing real understanding and appreciation.

“I enjoyed experiencing life in Germany and learning about its culture and history. I also had the opportunity to re-examine and better understand my own country’s culture and relationship with the world.” -Gemma B.

How Does It Work?

Adolesco is based in France and staffed by a network of representatives and volunteers across Europe and North America whose children have benefitted from these exchanges. Interested families must complete a thorough application process that includes a home visit and interview. Candidates are only matched with exchange partners when the team feels like an exchange will succeed. In many cases, the connection between the two families and the two exchange partners will be life-long.

“The girls have a perfect understanding… this exchange opened new horizons for Emma but also for the whole family – thank you!” -Sandrine, French mother

In Latin, Adolesco means ‘I’m growing’ and the Adolesco team believes that learning a new language, understanding another culture, and growing beyond our cultural boundaries benefits our children, our families, and our world.

Learn more about Adolesco:

Adolesco is accepting applications for this summer! To travel or host this summer, apply by March 31 – visit www.Adolesco.org to get started.

Watch a short video about Gemma and Johanna’s exchange:

Follow current and past exchanges at www.facebook.com/adolesco.org

EXPLORE YOUR WORLD!

 Contact Adolesco’s Exchange Coordinator in California at kristin@adolesco.org

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Text & Images Copyright ©Adolesco                                                                       (Sponsored Post)
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