Tag Archives: Traveling

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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Short Trip to Key West – So Worth It

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Short Trip to Key West – So Worth It

While being in Miami, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to make a short day trip four hours south to Key West.  I read beforehand that the drive all the way down along several little islands was supposed to be beautiful.  With a plan in my head and full of excitement, I woke up early on the third day of my Miami trip, ready to hit the road before rush hour.

The drive definitely did not disappoint, and I can only recommend this tour to anyone planning to visit South Florida.  Visitors have the option to either travel down with organized bus tours or to go on their own.  I didn’t want to be reliable on anybody else and also have the option to leave the island anytime I feel like it.  Therefore, the better option for me was to travel down myself.

The drive was gorgeous.   Each of the small islands on the way down possessed its own charm, and I stopped on several for a short break to take pictures.  The only thing that was missing was the turquoise blue water.  I held the belief that, due to the proximity to the Caribbean Islands, the water was supposed to be way lighter than it actually was.  Other than that, the views and scenery were amazing.

After about four hours, I arrived on Key West.  I didn’t get to drive around the whole island.  Instead, I made my way directly to the downtown area.  Parking was at first a little difficult.  I intended to park in the surrounding neighborhoods for free, but didn’t find a spot.  I ended up parking at a parking garage of a hotel right by the water.  The price was not bad and nothing close to horrendous parking prices in South Beach Miami.

I first thought about renting a bike to explore the island.  The streets were small and there was a lot of car and bike traffic, so I decided to rather walk.  I instantly felt the relaxing island vibe and Caribbean flair, which is displayed in the food, architecture, and layout of Key West.  I had a fantastic time on the island and will let some images speak for itself rather than writing a novel.

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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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Spring Break 2015

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Spring Break 2015

As nice and multifaceted California is, sometimes it is nice to get out and explore other parts of the country.  My personal goal each year is to visit a place I have never been before.  In April 2015, that place was Miami.  I was debating to travel to either Boston or Miami.  I love visiting cities and explore the architecture and culture.  But during Spring Break, all I wanted to do was to relax and soak up the sun, and so the decision fell on Florida.

It was the perfect time to travel to Miami since it wasn’t too hot or too humid that early on during the year.  What I didn’t expect though were some of the horrendous prices that were about to face me.  Beforehand I have to say though that I got some great deals on flight and hotel.  I booked early on, so prices for flights were still pretty decent.

For my stay, I looked at both hotels and private stays.  I ended up getting a hotel for a bargain price, but it was located a little outside from South Beach.  Therefore, I had to rent a car on top, which I had originally planned anyways since I wanted to drive down to Key West one of the days.  All in all, the sum I had to pay was still acceptable.

On my day of travel, I was really surprised to see that the plane was the size of those jets that I usually take when flying international.  The flight was pretty smooth and took about five hours.  When we finally arrived in Miami, it was already evening, and all I wanted to do was make my way to the hotel and sleep.

The next day, I got up early, ready to pick up my rental and explore the town.  Once I had my car, I made my may down to South Beach, destined to spend my morning in the sun.  It took me about 20 minutes driving from the Hialeah area to my destination.  My excitement to hang out by the water was about to receive a setback when I was trying to find affordable parking.

So here is a tip in case you consider traveling to Miami: either pack enough cash to pay for the horrendous parking prices, or park further away and walk.  I should have done my research beforehand, but I didn’t expect that there was no free parking anywhere, unlike in Orange County.  Well, I had to learn the hard way.  After I was tired of passing several parking opportunities that ranged from $10 an hour and up, I pulled into a parking area, paid $20 for two hours, and made my way to the beach.

I swore to myself to conduct research that same night to find cheaper parking opportunities, since I wasn’t willing to spend that much on parking.  But for now, all I wanted to was to relax.  When I saw the white sand and bright blue water, I was in awe.  As much as I love the beaches in California, after this trip, South Beach also had my heart.

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When my two hours of painful expensive parking were up, I made my way towards the Bay to participate in my first time ever paddle boarding (I had no issues finding affordable parking there, by the way.) Until that day, I never stood on a board before but have been dying to try it.  So to make this vacation extra special, I decided to book a guided sunset paddle tour.  The guys that took me out were great, and I managed to not fall in which, considering my terrible balance, was a miracle to me.  I enjoyed the beautiful Miami sunset before heading back to my quarters for the night.

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When I arrived back at my hotel, the first thing I did was researching cheaper parking opportunities.  And voila, it didn’t take me long until I found some useful recommendations.  So basically, if you intend to park cheap in South Beach, you have to calculate in some walking time, since the more reasonable priced parking garages are a bit of a distance, but definitely worth it.  I paid about $5 a day instead of $10 an hour for the rest of the trip, and was finally able to really enjoy the beach.

Besides the parking issue, I can’t recall any bad memories about my vacation in Miami.  The vibe was pretty similar to what I am used to here in Huntington Beach.  The weather was amazing, and being able to actually swim in the ocean with no huge waves was a big plus.  One of the highlights was my short trip to Key West on the third day, but more about that next time…

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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Follow Me Around California

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Follow Me Around California

I am sure that I am not the only person dreading Mondays.  Especially during summertime, it is extremely hard for me to get back into a routine after a fun-filled weekend.  On those days, I tend to daydream a lot, mostly about where I want to go next on vacation.  I also like to reminisce about resecent trips I took.

My last trip happened right after I finished my internship at the end of May,when I hopped onto a plane in Long Beach to meet up with my family in San Francisco to then drive all the way down to Southern California.  Even though I have done this route a couple times before, the beauty of the California coast never gets old.

My family and I started out in San Francisco, heading south to Half Moon Bay to then stay the night in Monterey, where we indulged in some great seafood, good wine, and fun conversations.  The next day, we headed further down to San Luis Obispo, with stops in Big Sur and an elephant seal beach in San Simeon, which was my personal highlight of the trip.

When we finally arrived in San Luis Obispo, we were being referred to visit the local farmers’ market.  And what can I say, that market was no disappointment.  A stretch of approximately more than a mile during the SLO downtown area was reserved for booth after booth with food, merchandise, and entertainment.  We strolled around the market all night and enjoyed the local food and fun atmosphere.

The next and final day of the short escape out of everyday life was spent driving down to Santa Barbara, where we had a quick stop in Solvang, a really cute little Danish town, which is known for some good wine tasting.  Unfortunately, that day it was so hot that no one was in the mood to actually drink some fine wine, so we ended up having Italian gelato instead before we headed back to Huntington Beach, the final destination.

But enough said, see yourself and enjoy what the state we call our home has to offer:

(I apologize for the sound quality!)

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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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