Top 10 unforgettable places (by Elsa)

Now that the dust starts to settle, I start to see more clearly the places that have marked me the most. When it comes to the order of them I ranked the list the first time on the plane back to Stavanger but since then whenever I rank them again they switch places sometimes. But I still include the same ones in my top 10 and they have one thing in common: given the chance I would definitely go back in an instant.

Cape Town – definitely a wonderful surprise. From the mountains, to the white sand and blue water beaches, to the wine farms and delicious tastings, this was an amazing place to be. Add the chance to be at the most southern point in Africa (part of the old glory days from Portugal), the view from the Table Mountain, the V&A waterfont and the beautiful African penguins and this is a difficult combination to beat!

San Francisco – I always thought I would like SF and it did not disappoint. The European feel of the city, the outgoing people, the great weather and the views around the bay are the things I miss the most, together with the cute sea lions 🙂 Continue reading

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Hawaii – Oahu is not Waikiki

We had high hopes for Hawaii and were really looking forward to our days here of beach, sun and relaxing and getting to know more about the Hawaian culture. Maybe we had seen too many movie stereotypes of Hawaii but what we saw was not what we expected. 

We thought of arriving at the airport to be greated by locals delivering flower necklaces and listening to hawaian music. The reality: no one to greet us, no music and the necklaces are available for purchase… We should have seen the signs here.

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We are sorry to say but Waikiki was simply the biggest disappointment of this trip so far. The beach is practicly non existent (when the tide is high it is non existing in several points), the architecture is not nice or tropical in any way and it has the biggest concentration of high end shops we have seen until now. Not even Paris or Milan had so many in such a small area. Someone we met called it Rodeo Drive of Hawaii. Since there is a huge amount of tourists from Asia the tourism is directed mostly at them, both in terms of the shops but also food and even activities. The rest of the US writes the signs in English and Spanish but in Waikiki it’s English, Japanese and Chinese (probably Mandarin) just to give you an idea. It turns out we reached Asia sooner than expected 😉 We have to clarify we have nothing against these nice tourists, we just had a totally different picture of Waikiki. Continue reading

Los Angeles – sunlight, stars and bucket list

Being the second largest city of the USA we always imagined LA to be huge. And it was! It was a great city and we really enjoyed our days getting to know some of the places here but honestly we cannot imagine living here without spending hours and hours in the car. It is not uncommon to drive 50 or 60 Km to visit one of the sights and the traffic is just crazy. When you think of multiple roads crossing each other up and down, six lanes each side, people switching lanes all the time and thousands of cars competing to get there first, this is LA traffic!

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Still it was worth all the driving to get to know the places we saw. And we had the absolute best airbnb place of the entire trip! Bed and bath, full kitchen, pool, gym, everything! If you ever want the details let us know. We have stayed in many hotels far worse than this for a much higher price. The host is great too, just as present or absent as you want and great to talk too. And we got to meet other great travelers and locals! 

These are our tips for Los Angeles:

– Take a studio tour, it is quite interesting to pass through the sets and learn how they are built and the multiple times they were used without us noticing it was the same. We chose Universal to combine it with the park but other studios have separate tours too. The park rides at Universal were great, catered more for adults, lots of 3D that we usually don’t appreciate but that really suited the rides. Oh and water splashed from everywhere, especially the Jurassic Park ride. Absolutely great!

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Airbnb – a very honest opinion

Airbnb is a great business idea and we have used it extensively in several places in the USA and in Canada. In many cities it was actually the only way for us to find affordable accommodation at central locations, e.g. Washington, Nashville or San Francisco.

But the experiences are very variable and honestly you never know what you are going to get. Simple things like “does the room have a lock?”, “how many rooms are being rented in the same apartment?”,  “how many bathrooms?”, “why I honestly rent this room”, “how much interaction I really expect to have with my guests” or “do I live here or just rent all the rooms separately on Airbnb?” would go a long way to clear up what’s going to happen.

We find it quite uncomfortable when people rent several rooms in the same house without informing, especially if there only one bathroom and no locks for each room. We never felt any real danger but still… Many rooms are also seriously overpriced for what they offer. And the worse is when the owner lives in the same place but is so uncomfortable with receiving strangers that he tries to avoid contact almost. Then we feel super uncomfortable too. It’s ok to be honest and say you need the money and do it for that reason, we also just need a room sometimes 🙂 Continue reading

Road Trip 3 – San Francisco to Los Angeles

We decided to do the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and follow the coastline. It’s about 7 hours but it takes longer than at first expected because there are so many gorgeous views that you make many more stops for photos than originally planned. This meant we actually skipped several of the places we thought of stopping by at first but we are still happy with what we got to see!

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San Francisco – European vibe and gorgeous views of the Bay area

San Francisco had a special vibe to it, almost a feeling of being in Europe but still in the USA. Maybe it was the bridge and the hills that reminded us of Lisbon or maybe it was the chance to walk everywhere (great cardio by the way!) instead of driving, which is definitely not a given in many US cities. As many locals said, it is an expensive city to live in especially regarding housing due to the tech firms in close proximity. The hotel prices were just crazy so we decided in favor of airbnb once more and ended up with a modest room with a great view of one of the bridges. 

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There is of course much to do, as always, too much to fit in just a few days. SF has many different neighborhoods, and people seem to be very aware of the differences between them. If you ever decide to move there take your time to pick yours before really settling in. We also noticed people exercised outside a lot and it was a very dog friendly city. This of course warms my heart and pushed SF higher on my list of favorite cities in the world. Continue reading

Road trip 2 – Las Vegas to San Francisco via Grand Canyon

This was the best road trip we have ever done in our lives, the amazing views, different sceneries and life time experiences that can only be described with photos and videos. Today I can only post photos but I hope in the future I will be able to edit the videos and post them.

We started in Las Vegas…

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We stopped at Hoover Dam. A curiosity, during WWII the US had plans to build a fake Hoover Dam in case the Germans tried to destroy it. Did you know? Continue reading