As we’ve just welcomed a new year, many will have vowed to “travel and explore more” because there barely is anything more exciting to life, right!? While my days are currently circulating around books, essays and academic journals (yep, that time of year), I spent a good third of last year on the road and thought I’d share some tips with you in case you’re already planning a big trip for summer or just a short weekend getaway.
The day before heading off to the airport, I was given the best tour of an ‘alternative’ Washington: Starting off with a big campus tour at Georgetown University, and some sun-bathing at the Old Stone House (the oldest unchanged building in D.C.), we escaped the heat (+36°C!) and found a cool café to recharge all the batteries and think about what to do during the rest of the day. The perfect choice was Baked & Wired, they have a delicious selection of homemade goodies and all kinds of iced (!) coffee. We ended the ‘America month’ with some drinks in the supercool neighbourhood Adams Morgan: There’s a bunch of really hip studenty bars and clubs, antique book shops and people from all over the world who want to celebrate being in this beautiful city. Goodbye U.S. and thanks so much for having me!
Even the biggest travel adventure has to end at some point and that’s why it’s time to show you the last city I visited on the America trip. At least from a politics, power and influence point of view, it’s the most important one: Washington, D.C. I was struck by how spotless and picture-perfect the city centre was, everything’s all white and shiny! Although I’ve visited these places before, the White House and the Capitol were a must-see of course, and I was lucky enough to have my friend give me a tour that was so much better than anything I could have compiled from guides or the web. She did lots of internships on Capitol Hill and therefore knew most Congressmen that we saw by name, had all the fun bits of history ready when we did the Capitol tour and even met President Obama in the metro, back in the days when he was still a Chicago Senator. (!)
One particular place I can’t recommend enough is the Newseum, a museum about all things journalism and the media: Taking visitors on a journey with the Kennedy’s official photographer, fast forward to the media coverage of and after 9/11, and showed the remarkable career of the Tim Russert, all Pulitzer photographs, and it also has daily front pages of pretty much every national newspaper in the world.
The experience of hiking in the Grand Canyon effortlessly surpassed all my expectations. The landscapes are so incredible, I felt like I couldn’t handle any more natural perfection; hikers are among the happiest and most welcoming people ever (if they have enough water), you’ll hardly finish one trail without having talked to five people and shared the ups and downs of your lives; and there’s just nothing like the physical exhaustion and euphoria when you’ve made it up again and your feet hit solid ground. But here’s the exact itenary: We went on the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail on the first day, got surprised by a huge thunderstorm on the last mile or so, glamourously slept in the car and did the Desert View Drive and its scenic tower the next morning… before heading for Vegas, totally stunned and speechless. Life doesn’t really get much better than that.
Did anyone else have a massive crush on the Olsen Twins? (I should probably ask who didn’t) It was great ‘seeing’ them on the Walk of Fame and reading some familiar names. But I didn’t really leave the Hollywood bubble while walking through Downtown LA either… thanks to a comprehensive 500 Days of Summer itenary, including The Bradley Building, the Million Dollar Theater, the Fenton Building and the laid-back Grand Central Market. It’s safe to say that no American city has impressed me more (architecture-wise) than Los Angeles. I found myself constantly stunned by the diverstiy of the grand, majestic buildings. Later, while absorbing a beautiful sunset on … Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, I sipped some coffee at Intelligentsia, browsed through a local events and festival newspaper and prepared the trip to the Grand Canyon the following day. Watch this space!
It’s funny – I never would have thought of visiting the Montana de Oro State Park in California if I hadn’t been following Mister Kevin Russ on Instagram and if I hadn’t bookmarked all the amazing parks on the West Coast a while ago. The park is beautifully diverse and has a beach trail with a view on Morro Bay, which made it seem as if in close proximity We made the huge mistake of underestimating the ‘really close proximity’ and ended up walking two and a half hours each way. Oops! Once it daunted on us how far we actually were, we felt we had to finish the little trip (clearly the inner German coming through here!) and then dragged our tired bodies to the San Luis Obispo Downtown market, a popular weekly evening market with live music, great barbecue food and the certain energetic vibe that makes you remember you’re in California. Not that I would ever forget that, look at the scenery!
The first part of the West Coast road trip led us from L.A. to Santa Barbara, passing the madness that is Beverly Hills, a rather overrated and grey Malibu and Californian surfer beaches. That truly wasn’t the first time this country has surprised me and instead gave me been the complete opposite of what I expected. The California we like to picture is OC California glamour and 24/7 parties on Malibu Beach, right? Well, the California I found and loved from the first second was one of empty beaches, a relatively humid and cool climate (compared to the East Coast at least) and incredibly rich colours all over. It was some of the best things ever to be able to stop at any random beach, spread your arms, ‘accidentally’ let the waves splash your clothes and let the cool wind mess with your hair and your heart, in the best possible sense.