Saturday, January 16, 2016

Timbits from LA & Santa Monica

My roommate Oleg and I made a two-day trip to LA out of necessity because, continuing my list of things that can go wrong on vacation, our apartment got flooded during night and we had to move out. First time this happens to me, imagine the feeling of jumping out of bed into a wet sauce of steaming water and dirt. Originally I wanted to call this post "Into the swamps and back again" as a reference to Tolkien but decided against it. This should be about LA and the things that happened there, so with this checked off let´s continue.
The first stop in LA was the LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. They have a great collection and fascinating exhibitions in the Japanese pavilion that are really worth the visit. Unexpectedly, I also saw my first John Singer Sargent that day, wow! His paintings are just phenomenal, after admiring his artworks for more than 10 years solely from reproductions in books or the internet, this was stunning.

Because of the heavy traffic, time rushed by and I paid a short visit to downtown LA and walked around. The city is just too huge to expect to see a lot by foot, but I had my first burger in the States with fantastic meat which made up for it.
I decided to try to meet another local and stayed the night at Nathan´s place, another couchsurfer. He was great, responded to my spontaneous request and took time during his working schedule to make sure I got to the right address. The neighbourhood outside of Downtown is actually quite pretty.
Nathan is an animator so we had similar interests and I could browse through his library of books and saw many familiar titles. He treated me to a nice coffee in the morning and shared a great story about his recent first trip outside the US. He went to Japan with a Motorbike and crossed the country with it, packed with all his equipment on the little Honda. He was spotted by a film team who are making a series about people visiting Japan and they were so intrigued by his undertaking that they followed him a couple of days and in consequence he became a minor celebrity. Thanks Nathan for the couch and your time.

The rest of the second day was spent visiting Hollywood. After sightseeing the Universal Studios and the obligatory Walk of Fame I wanted to walk again. Terrible Idea, but I spotted some nice places while not getting anywhere. Now, I have to hark back in order to explain this post´s title. In Canada, Matthijs introduced me to Timbits, the little, sugary bite-sized donuts that you get everywhere in Timmies, which is hugely popular over there. It´s a little arrangement of different tastes so you get some diversity in a while satisfying your cravings for a sweet snack. The photos I made reminded me of Timbits, very small spots, details from a bigger picture. Unfortunately there was no good place to have a wide vista.

The day ended in Santa Monica Beach, visiting the famous pier and enjoying the last glimpses of sunlight. Around the beach are some very beautiful and creative little shops and bars which I hopefully will be able to visit the next time in LA.

Monday, January 11, 2016

"It´s Sindy´s birthday today" - La Jolla

 Today´s post title is from a random remark I heard walking along the beautiful coastline of La Jolla in the north of San Diego. There is not much to see in the city itself except the many research facilities that are around. But the nature surrounding it is remarkable. The sea always fascinates me in it´s swinging rhythmical and never changing sounds of waves clashing against the beach. But it´s a phenomenon I enjoy from the distance, what´s hidden beneath the surface is just too obscure for me to feel comfortable swimming or diving.
Anyways, it was quiet a surprise to see wild seals all swimming in the water next to the surfers and lying basking in the sun. The fauna was a spectacle today, next to the pelicans I even caught a Humming Bird with the camera.

We were hiking around a lake in the east of La Jolla called Lake Jennings. To get there we had to walk up to a camping place where we met one of the staff, Barb, who was kind enough to let me take a picture of her. It´s peculiar how small and connected the world is, the theory of the six degrees of separation rings true. Barb had an exchange student from Essen and had visited my hometown in the past. There you are, in the middle of the prairie in southern California and have encounters you wouln´t expect.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Goodbye Canada - Hello California

After driving back from Mont Tremblant to Montreal I had an appointment for dinner later in the evening with the director of Syn Studio. It was a great encounter with Anthony, fascinating and very multi-talented guy who has a very distinct and grand vision for this school. I´m sure we will see each other again the next years.
The following morning it was time for departure, I was headed to the airport and Matt wanted to go back to Toronto catching his flight to Amsterdam, when I was confronted with a new problem. It´s funny, at this point it almost felt like I was subconsciously trying to fulfill a checklist titled "worst situations you can encounter during travels". What happened was because of the recent snowfall during night streets wear cleared by the city and cars that were parking in the wrong spot got towed. Time was running out and now this! I got help by one of the hostel members who called the city and got information where my car was towed to, I off I sprinted to the street I was given. Running around, asking people for directions, running some more I decided to head back to the hostel because I wasn´t able to find the address. The receptionist called the city again, and as it turned out, she mixed up the street number. Yeah! After that I quickly found my car but of course had no time to drive around and go sightseeing anymore. 

Time to say Goodbye to Matt and Montreal and then fly to San Diego via JFK New York. It was a pleasant flight. Now I arrived at my final destination in Encinitas CA, we have our apartment set up and classes at Watts Atelier start on the 18th. I will return with more posts when I come back from LA and San Francisco which I plan to visit during the next week. 

Montreal - hiking and skiing

We didnt´actually see much of the city itself. When we arrived it was already late and we were kindly invitied by Loic, another student at Watts that will be a roommate here in Encinitas shortly. So we just threw our luggage into the hostel room and made our way to the metro. Arriving at Loic´s place we were greeted warmly by his whole family and had a great evening playing german board games and having quite heated discussions about the issue of Anglophones and Frankophones in Quebeq and the later urge to separate and become an autonomous country. It was fascinating to be thrown into this discussions and witnessing very passionate and opinionated people debating, I guess you learn a lot about the different mindsets that exist in a country that way.
Not wanting to spend time in a city that appeared to be very similar to Toronto we headed to Mont Tremblant to stay there for a night and go hiking and skiing. Mont Tremblant is just a comfortable one and a half hour drive away from Montreal so we were able to go for an extended hike that very day and then bought ourselves groceries for a very nice meal. The salmon in Canada is unbelievable fresh and tasty, so I us salmon steak with sweat potatoes and beans. In the evening there is just something very special going in hostels. You have very like-minded people who share the interest of traveling and most of them, myself excluded, have been around the globe and spend considerable amounts of time being on the road. So atmosphere was great, sitting in a very charming little chamber with a fireplace, burning marshmallows on a stick and drinking dark beer while listening to music and people around telling about their adventures. Very romantic.

Skiing the next day was amazing, it was terribly cold, -30 degrees celsius, so you wouldn´t be able to be outside longer than 40 minutes unless you wanted to risk freezer burn. And that is being completeley equipped in ski clothing. In these temperatures I tried to take a couple of pictures and had to take my gloves off to be able to operate my phone and regretted it immediately. I didn´t feel my hands for 10 minutes. Anyways, we had fresh and considerable amounts of snow, clear and sunny day and not many people on the slopes. Perfect for skiing.
By the way, I was still not able to get any money from my credit card. The guys at my bank in Germany were in holidays and I wasn´t able to reach anyone. So until this point Matt paid for everything, which is why we jokingly nichnamed him "my dutch wallet".