Copenhagen Weekender

Three months ago, I posted about Sweden and promised to come back with a recap of my time in Denmark. Then life got in the way, big time.

So, this is my Copenhagen post. Finally.

Our requirements for this trip were chiefly cost and time constraints. I couldn’t take a full day off work and we wanted it to be inexpensive for obvious reasons. The Edinburgh-Copenhagen flight worked out perfectly and the times of the flights meant we only needed two nights in a hotel but got a full 2 1/2 days. The cherry on top? Our random pick meant we got to see the famous Little Mermaid statue, one of my childhood dreams. We had no other plans for the trip so spent Sunday on a day long shopping trip/walking tour/search for the statue.

The crazy busy bike park at the Central Station.

bikepark

DSC_0738

DSC_0751

Nyhavn

DSC_0741

DSC_0743

DSC_0744

The statue!

DSC_0750

Amalienborg, or the winter home of the Danish royal family.

DSC_0753

DSC_0752

There was also a lot of shopping involved on this day. I ended up buying nail polish, surprise, surprise.

We ended our day at Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world and inspiration for Walt Disney when he was dreaming up Disneyland. Such a cute little place!

DSC_0760

DSC_0761

DSC_0762

DSC_0768

DSC_0769

And no photos, but we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant on the way to the airport. The best Chinese I’ve had in Europe. British-Chinese doesn’t even compare. All the food we had in Copenhagen was good actually. There was a street around the corner from our hotel that had a line of restaurants and we picked a different one each night.

DSC_0715

DSC_0774

It was the height of summer so everyone was out, enjoying the weekend and the weather. It wasn’t scorching, but if anyone got too cold, the restaurants had blankets to wrap around your legs.

Like Sweden, I would love to go back to Denmark for a longer trip. Our visit was perfect but so short.

traveltuesday

Sweden

Two weeks ago my friend Suzanne and I took a quick Friday-Monday trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. The trip was made even more quick by our day spent in Sweden, just a short train ride away.

My knowledge of Sweden before this trip was limited to Ikea and the American Girl doll Kirsten but I really enjoyed my short time there and would love to go back one day. I’ve heard the countryside is beautiful and Stockholm is supposed to be an amazing city for a weekend break.

Sturday morning we walked over to Copenhagen’s Central Station and purchased tickets to Malmo, the Swedish city across the sea. The tickets were around £20 return and the trip took about 45 minutes.

When we arrived at Malmo’s Central we wandered round for a bit, trying to find the quickest route to the beach. We stumbled on Malmo’s main square.

Malmo

DSC_0718

malmo flower shop

Not waiting to miss out on any beach time we eventually asked for directions and hopped on a bus with loads of other people heading to the beach, Ribersborg, along the coast of Öresund, for the day.

Malmo beach

Ribersborgs Kallbadhus, an open air bath house built in 1898.

DSC_0723

My view for the day. There were a lot of people at the beach but it didn’t feel crowded.

On the way back we decided to walk it and got to see more of Malmo and its parks.

DSC_0726

These seemed to be little fish shops. Perhaps they’re open in the morning or during the week?

DSC_0729

malmo's flowers

Love these black velvet petunias.

Malmö Museer

Malmö Museer. The city’s museum housed in an old citadel built in the 1400’s.

DSC_0733

DSC_0735

We did a bit of shopping before catching the train back to Copenhagen and I ended up buying a pair of tennis shoes. My first pair of shoes with laces since I was in college! They came in very handy the next day when we had an epic walk around Copenhagen.

Barcelona Break

Took a very last minute, very quick trip to Barcelona last weekend. It had to come together quickly due to mine and Danny’s work schedules which sees the both of us without days off until the end of summer. I used feel guilty taking time off (so American!!) but after only three years here in Scotland, I’ve come to adapt and love the Euro holiday calendar. You’ve got your spring bank holidays, early summer weekender, late summer weeks abroad, mid autumn time off, two weeks Christmas break, etc. Glorious.

So, Barcelona. I also did this in a very Euro-way by completely ignoring most of the important historical touristy stuff and making it my personal mission to get a tan, lots of drinks and some good grub. I even managed to get in a bit of Spanish discount shopping!

There’s more photos on the fancy camera but this is pretty much my weekend in Barcelona.

barcelona

DRINKS. BEACH. DRINKS (in popsicle form). DRINKS. FOOTBALL.

Holiday success.

Wine tasting in Paso Robles

Paso Robles is fast becoming a well known California wine destination, second only to Napa/Sonoma. There are many wineries spread out from the 101 and in order to get the best experience, focusing on one area is key.

Danny and I had done the 46 West a few years ago, so this time I wanted to take him to some wineries around the 46 East. However, this in no way means we’ve “done” the Paso region now. As you can see by the map below, there’s so many more to explore! I can’t remember what winery imparted this fact, but the wine from either direction of the 46 highway each has its own characteristics due to the soil. The 46 west side does great Zinfandels while the 46 east side does better Cabernet Sauvignons. I love Cab and not a big fan of Zin (too jammy, too sweet and cloying at times) so I was in for a treat!

We started at Clautiere Vineyard which has amazing wines, whimsical grounds and a fun tasting room. They’ve gotten rid of their assortment of dress-up hats and wigs but added a cheese pairing with each tasting, so I still love them!

clautiere

Clautiere does mostly reds which is right up my alley. We tasted some delicious wines and ended up buying a Grenache and my dad a Cabernet Sauvignon. The girl pouring for us was so nice and personable, and recommended some great places for our next stop. Tasting room pourer – what a job!

First though, we had to take some pictures outside. One of the owners is an artist and constructed the metal fence and sculptures around the property.

DSC_0282
DSC_0274
DSC_0278

Our next stop was Pear Valley. They’re a fairly new winery with a gorgeous property. I’ve never been to Tuscany but I imagine it looks a bit like this.

DSC_0294

DSC_0295

DSC_0298

DSC_0297

DSC_0301

We had so much fun at this place! Danny ended up purchasing a bottle of their Sweet Orange Muscato for this mom. I’m not a fan of sweet wines but this was pretty good. Don’t think I could manage more than the few sips they pour for tasting though.

pearvalley

Since it was a Thursday a few of the smaller places were closed, so we ended up next at Steinbeck Wines. This winery couldn’t have been more different than the last. A true farming family, their business has been around since the late 1800’s but they’ve only recently started their own label.

steinbeck

This winery was true county and Howie Steinbeck himself wandered into the tasting room for a chat wearing Levis, a big cowboy hat and a bolo tie. Got to love Paso!

Our last stop was Eberle Winery. We tasted pretty quickly here as we wanted to get a full glass to enjoy out on the patio as the sun set.

DSC_0317

Eberle means small boar in German. My dad also says that wild boar roam the local hills. We may or may not have seen some on the drive to Paso.

eberlewildboar

My dad soon found a friend who would not leave his side. Danny, my mom and I were trying coax him over to us, but nope, he was staying put!

eberlecat

DSC_0328

DSC_0329

We ended the day with cheese and crackers, a must with all the wine we had consumed that day!

Edna Valley Wine Tasting

One of my most favorite activities EVER is wine tasting. Not only do I love wine, but my hometown’s local wineries are full of memories and make me feel like I’m truly at home. Growing up with vineyards and wineries practically in my back yard I always took this for granted. As a teenager I was dragged on countless wine tasting trips when relatives were in town and had nothing more to do than browse the gift shop. But I think those pre-legal years were slowly influencing me because once I turned 21 I was a full convert. Wine tasting is like a posh pub crawl – it’s fun, it’s perfect for any occasion and there’s no gross bar bathrooms to deal with.

I’ve been wine tasting with girlfriends on Valentine’s Day, wine tasting for pick-up parties with my dad and I even organized a pre-wedding wine tasting day for 20 people from around California and Scotland. Every time I come back to the States, wine tasting is definitely on the schedule.

This year, we took an afternoon to hit our favorite Edna Valley wineries and then took another day to drive out to Paso Robles and explore the wineries off the 46 East.

Edna Valley is home to one of my favorite wineries, Tolosa. Edna Valley’s climate is conducive to great Pinot Noir and I think Tolosa’s Pinot is the best. We went on a Saturday so they were quite busy, but we kept ourselves occupied with the photobooth while waiting. I had trouble locating the camera both times and my dad wasn’t fully in the shot, but we got there, sorta!

tolosaphotobooth

tolosa

After Tolosa we continued on to Claiborne and Churchill. They’re known for their Alsatian style whites although we ended up buying more Pinot Noir and a very cool wine grape varietal chart that’s going up in our kitchen. It looks really classy but it’s basically a scientific periodic table for winos.

DSC_0366
DSC_0364

Fun fact – my dad built this winery. It was one of the first straw bale buildings and naturally insulates the room to keep the wine barrels at the optimum temperature.

claibornechurchill

Our last stop of the day was Baileyana. We quickly tasted here as they were closing for the day and then my mom and I went outside to photograph the area. It’s so beautiful there. I miss it. I miss it more every year I’m gone. I’m not ready to hop back on a plane to California tomorrow but I know it’s in my plans for the future.

DSC_0379
DSC_0390
DSC_0374
DSC_0377DSC_0388
DSC_0387

Back to life, back to reality

We’re back! That shouldn’t be an exclamation point as much as a sad face but I’m slowly warming up to our return to the UK. We got back Tuesday afternoon and I have been in a zombie like state since then. I think I finally kicked it by sleeping 11:30 pm to 3:00 pm yesterday. It’s amazing how jet lag can affect you when there’s really nothing to get up for!

Our flight back went much more smoothly than our flight over, but that’s a story for another post. We got the 4:30 pm flight out of LAX on British Airways and I passed the time by watching movies and reading my new American magazines. Checking in and getting to the airport was fine, but LAX was crazy busy. Maybe it’s because we were flying out on a Monday but it seemed weird, like there was some mass exodus out of LA.

The wait for security was the longest I’ve ever been in and I went through one of those full body machines for the first time. I know, they’ve been out for a while, but as I realized on this trip, I’ve been out of the country for a few years and one can miss a lot in that time. (Is everyone on Instagram? What is this mid-day happy hour with $3 glasses of wine and how can I bring it to the UK? How did Chobani’s greek yogurt get so popular?)

I find that the movie audio is absolutely horrible on flights so I tried to pick the mindless action movies to watch. I really wanted to see Anna Karenina and Lincoln but those are way too dialogue heavy so I settled for End of Watch, Looper and Total Recall. I really liked End of Watch and will probably try and watch it again so I can hear it better and Danny can see it.

We got to Heathrow around 11 am the next day and after clearing immigration and security we were starving and picked the exact same restaurant as last year – Giraffe. I love this place because it’s a perfect US/UK transition. I got massive chunky chips with my chicken sandwich and they have no free refills on their £2.50 Diet Coke but I also got loads of avocado and they have Chipotle Tabasco. It’s the closest I’ll get to California cuisine and I really wish we had one in Glasgow.

giraffe

The LHR-GLA was fine, we got a taxi home and then immediately jumped into the car to pick up our cat-baby Fernando. He was not impressed that we had abandoned him for two weeks but like my jet lag, I think he’s over the worst of it.

Almost Ready to Go

It’s freezing today. Bright and sunny and absolutely freezing. The south of the country is blanketed with snow, including Heathrow Airport. This makes me very nervous. Not only do we have to fly from Heathrow to LAX tomorrow afternoon, we also have to make our GLA to Heathrow flight in the morning.

BBC reports that Heathrow has cleared both runways and there’s no snow forecast for tonight/tomorrow morning. Glasgow also has no snow forecast until tomorrow afternoon. I think that as long as today’s delays don’t overflow into tomorrow we should be fine. I hope so. I really, really hope.

In anticipation of delays in the airport, on the runway, during the 10 hour flight, I stopped by the library this afternoon to pick up a few books.

tripreads13

1. Before I Go to Sleep – S.J. Watson
2. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
3. How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
4. Um, obviously not from the library but my guilty pleasures for when I’m flying – weekly celebrity tabloids.

I like easy reading when traveling. With the multitude of movies and TV shows and distractions at my fingertips on a flight and while waiting at the airport, I need a fun book that will engage me and make time pass quickly. I used to be able to read anything on a flight but I no longer have the patience. My attention span is zip on an airplane. Too excited for everything. Mini bottles of wine! The newest cheesy romantic comedy that’s not hit the UK! Trashy mags! And of course, going to America!

I’m pretty much ready to go at this point so I hope we make our flights. I finished packing and my bag is 12 pounds underweight! I just need to finish packing my carry-on with the last minute stuff. Toothbrush, iPad charger, etc. Danny just dropped the cat off at his mom’s and is coming back with either pizza or an Indian meal. We ate pretty well in the past couple of days but now the only food left in the fridge is a few bottles of Coors Light, mustard and some yogurt. I took a bath last night and painted my nails, but I’m just finishing the top coat as I write this. My flight outfit is laid out, the flat is spotless, the snow just needs to stay away and I’ll be ready to go.

My Expat Story, Part I

I’m currently here on an indefinite leave to remain visa, and about to start the citizenship application. But how did I get here and manage the headache inducing immigration process? It’s a long story, but here it is.

I first came to the UK in 2003 on a high school trip. The trip was a literary journey though England, Scotland and Wales with 25 or so of my classmates and led by my junior year English teacher. We went to London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh, Durham, Llangollen, Haworth, Keswick and more. I fell in love with England during this trip, especially London. We briefly stopped in Scotland and Wales but I wasn’t too impressed. My least favorite place of the whole trip was Edinburgh. I thought it was dull, cold and not a very interesting city compared to the likes of London, NYC, LA and SF.

So when it came time to decide where to study abroad in college I naturally looked to London. The problem was that my school only offered a musical theatre intensive London program (no thanks!) and a psychology/social work program. I was a history major and had hoped to continue my studies during my time abroad. A English major friend of mine was applying to the Glasgow program and she recommended it as the focus was history/English. So I filled out an application, went though my interview and was accepted into the program. My mom couldn’t understand why I would want to go to Glasgow when I didn’t like Edinburgh but at that time my major was very important to me and I figured I could always visit London on the weekends. I also felt like I should give a new city a chance.

I arrived in the UK for the second time on August 28, 2006. The program started with two weeks in London so we all arrived through Heathrow. We went though immigration as a group and were all stamped in as six month visitors. I doubt they would do that now but we weren’t eligible for a student visa due to the short length of our stay. I chronicled the first few days here in my old blog but lost interest as the weeks went on. I was busy meeting Danny by that time!

I left Glasgow on December 11, 2006. I went back to Portland for the second semester of my third year and Danny and I kept in touch. I booked my tickets to visit him for the summer in the Cayman Islands, where he was working at the time. No visa to enter the county but after 30 days I had to apply for long term visitor’s visa. Danny took a long lunch and we went to Cayman’s tiny immigration office, paid our $50 CI and Danny had to sign as my sponsor and verify his employment. I think they accepted his company uniform as proof actually. That’s the Cayman Islands for you!

As I approached graduation and Danny and I got more serious we started having those talks that all LDR couples have to go through. Danny wasn’t eligible for the green card lottery and his skills weren’t in such high demand that an American company could sponsor him. I wasn’t ready to enroll in a graduate degree and didn’t have any specific skills that a British company would sponsor me for. Our only option at the time was BUNAC, a now defunct short term visa option for recently graduated American students to move to the UK and work for 6 months.

But after six month, what then? We’d be faced with the exact same issues. I think the BUNAC option would have been a good chance at getting to experience normal life together for a bit before getting too serious. However, without getting into too much detail, Danny and I were already at that serious point. He proposed a few days after my college graduation and it was time to look into fiance/spousal visas.

To be continued…

(And just in case you were wondering, Glasgow is still way better than Edinburgh!)

Back to the Homelands!

It’s official! Tickets have been booked, family and friends have been informed and we’re already making dinner/lunch reservations for all our favorite spots. Danny and I are headed back to California in January for his 30th birthday.

Our last trip to the States was in November 2011. That was the big trip. We booked months in advance, saved up like crazy, planned a detailed, busy itinerary and by the time I arrived on American soil, it had been almost two years since I left. The anticipation for that trip was huge. I had left the States in December 2009 as a new bride and I was arriving back, two years later, full of expectation for what I left behind and excitement for everything new in my life. I’m sure I totally did Danny’s head in talking about what to wear and what to do and what would have changed and what wouldn’t have changed, etc.

When I finally did make it back all my nerves and worrying were for nothing. It was a perfect trip. Strangely, I felt no different than when I left in 2009. I fitted seamlessly back into my old life and it was great to catch up with old friends to reconnect. I had an amazing time with my family and got to eat all the American food I could ever want in my wardrobe full of new J.Crew, Banana Republic and Forever 21 clothes.

I know this trip will be just as amazing. The countdown is on and I can’t wait for 2 weeks of everything I love.

Summer Holidays

After two and a half years of living in the UK I am finally taking my first proper beach holiday! And it’s to Spain and Portugal, probably the most popular places for Brits to get some sun, sangria and sand.

A proper Brit beach holiday focuses on the south coast of Portugal and Spain, and includes the Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca. We’ll be hitting two out of the three and I’ve spent many hours crafting our perfect itinerary and finding the best hotels, B&Bs and of course, restaurants!

First we fly into Faro airport in Portugal’s Algarve to spend a few days with a friend who has recently moved to Portugal. We’ll be spending around 5 days with her and I’ve not really researched much in Portugal but a day trip to Lisbon may be possible and I know we’ll spend loads of time just hanging out and enjoying the company and the weather! After some time there we’ll then make our way along Spain’s Costa del Sol with a couple days stop in Seville and a day trip into Gibraltar. Our last stop is the town of Nerja as our base for a few days where we’ll be able to do a day trip to Granada. Finally we’ll fly out of Malaga airport with tans and full of tapas! I can’t wait!