I booked a trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas!

After a summer filled with all work and no play (hence the silence in the blog) I decided it was time for a vacation. What’s the meaning of having money saved up in the bank if you’re not going to spend it, right? You Only Live Once and all that.

So I went on the internet to search for cheap airplane tickets and got an offer I could not refuse. For some time I’ve been thinking of going to Florida, mostly to visit the Wizarding world of Harry Potter, but the boyfriend wasn’t game when he heard about the hurricane season and the tickets were way too expensive. So I started looking at the west coast, decided for Los Angeles and pestered the boyfriend til’ he agreed to go with me.

We booked two one-way tickets from Copenhagen to Los Angeles because we though; “hell since it’s an eleven hour flight over we might as well throw in Vegas while we’re there!” and we decided we were going to fly home from Las Vegas. Also we had just a week earlier finished an Oceans Eleven marathon and were feeling lucky.

We are leaving in a few weeks and I’m so excited. I’ve always wanted to celebrate Halloween in America. Sure we’ve adapted some of the festivities here in Sweden, like the masquerade part and you’ll find some spooky decorations and pumpkins here and there, but it has always been on my bucketlist to experience the real deal in the states. I‘m not a big fan of warm weather either so going to the west coast in the fall season seemed like a good idea since it is a perfect 20 °c.

And since we both have been playing GTA V on PS4, where you run around and do crazy stuff in Los Santos, a satirical copy of Los Angeles, we practically know our way around the town already!

Some things that we have been thinking of doing while we’re there are the big touristy stuff like visiting Univeral Studios, Beverly Hills, Hollywood blv, the Santa Monica pier, the Grand Canyon and maybe Disneyland (we haven’t really decided about that one yet). And of course visit a lot of filming locations from our favorite movies and TV shows but other than that we haven’t made any plans yet. I’m sure I’ll be writing a full itinerary with a tight time schedule before be leave.

If anyone have any suggestions for what we should see while we’re there, feel free to leave a comment!

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Mini hiking trip to Kullaberg and Nimis, Sweden

geniusjennieWent hiking for the first time on my own free will last weekend (being forced at school field trips when I was a kid doesn’t really count).
Me and the boyfriend took a train to Helsingborg and then took a bus to the small village Arild where we started the hike though Kullaberg, a big nature reserve that lies along the coast line in the north west of Skåne and ended the hike at the vacation spot Mölle.
I found the hiking trail online at Skåneleden which is a website where you can search for trails through the countryside of Skåne. The trail as a whole is over 1000 kilometers long so there are a lot of mini trails to choose from. Us being newbies at this and known to be quite the couch potatoes of course chose the shortest one that looked easy, but boy were we wrong.

Typical Swedish countryside houses in Mölle.

Typical Swedish countryside houses in Arild.

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Look at these cute sheep we met at the start of our hike, so fluffy!

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The view from on top of one of the hilltops along the trail.

All in all we walked 15 km, or 9 miles if you will, and that doesn’t sound that long but it wasn’t exactly a flat gravelled path.. The trail is sometimes quite harsh, really steep and unforgiving to one who is not used to hiking and walking along forest paths that are not man made. I swear the path were a 80 degree angle at some point even if the boyfriend disagrees.

Although I succeeded to avoid getting a sprained ankle or falling on my face, there were some trips and close calls. Thankfully they are not captured on camera.

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The reason behind the hike was also to have a look at the controversial art installation Nimis, built in 1980 by artist Lars Vilks that has become a tourist attraction. It’s is made out of driftwood and consists of sparsely nailed together planks and branches forming passageways, rooms and towers. It’s quite the sight and reminded me of old pagan horror stories. 

But I have to say, the almost hidden trail that leads down to the installation reminded me of back in 2008 when I visited Paris and thought it was a good idea to take the stairs up along the Eiffel tower, but much more difficult and dangerous since you have to walk down a ridiculously steep route packed with tree roots and stones.

To find your way there you have to follow a trail of spray painted trees in the forest with the letter ‘N’ on them. I would say it was worth it though.

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One of the Nimis towers, “Wotarnas torn”.

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Now I wasn’t really dressed for the part I admit, who the hell wears a kimono on a hike?

It was a really really hot day that day but I would say I got a taste for hiking and I would really like to do it again this summer. Also next time I would like to go for a longer hike and maybe bring a tent to stay the night in the woods. Something I haven’t done in years.

First time shooting with a gun!

I thought I’d tell my story about my first time shooting. It was during my trip to Riga with my boyfriend last year.

On our third day in Riga there we went to a sketchy shooting range we booked online at Kings of Shooting, but don’t let the flashy website fool you like it did with us. We got picked up in a silver colored Mercedes by a guy with a heavy accent who drove us a long way out of town to what looked like an abandoned industrial area located next to a train track.

We looked at each other like “What the hell did we get ourselves into?!”.

Our driver then got out the car and unlocked the door to a big yellow, two story wooden warehouse where there were no windows on the first floor and led us up the stairs and told us to wait there.

He called for someone and an old lady came out with three sets of ear protection and a big black box where we soon found out that the guns were held in. He then gave us the ear protection and showed us into a long and narrow room with sound proof walls and bad lighting. There were no security between us and the green paper targets they had put up on the back wall.

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We weren’t allowed to load the guns ourselves and before we got to try each one he gave us a quick demonstration in poor English. I asked my boyfriend to go first and having no experience shooting before, he did good, I guess having played a lot of first person shooter games growing up he had picked up a thing or two. I did okay, at least I managed to hit the targets. Our instructor was also surprised, but when it was my turn to try the shotgun he said “No, weapon too heavy for girls” and brought me a smaller handheld gun to use instead. I refused, I had paid good money to try out a shotgun but he laughed and gave in.

The whole experience felt a lot like you were living in the Grand theft Auto games universe. But overall I’m glad we went, I got a new found respect for how hard it actually is to shoot, Hollywood makes it look so easy. However on the website where we bought the tickets you could choose to include to be picked up in a limo or for a ‘bikini babe’ or stripper to join you at the shooting range and I can imagine how awkward that would have been for both parties. I mean this place didn’t exactly scream high class bachelor party.

The package we bought was called ‘Get him out of the way!‘ and we got to try out three weapons, a Glock, a 12 Gauge Shotgun and a Russian sniper similar to an AK 47. We also each got a diploma with our names on and we got to keep the shooting target papers. This all cost 49 euros. The ride over to the shooting range was included but we had to pay extra to get a ride back into town.

I’m not sure I would recommend this place to anyone wanting to try out shooting for the first time, but I saw some of the reviews of their site giving them thumbs up for having no security so if that’s what you are looking for, maybe this is your thing. All in all this was an experience, a little different, but it sure makes a fun story to tell the future grand kids about.

My solo trip to London

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So it’s been almost a week since I came home from London and I thought I’d share my experiences. The trip was everything I could have wished for and more. But my first thoughts arriving in the big city was “what the hell am I doing? I’m going to be alone here for four days?!” and there were so many people and the city was so busy and I felt completely alone and overwhelmed.

I was worried about not only having to ask for directions (I hate doing that, I’m terrible at understanding maps and such) and managing everything by myself without any misfortunes but also to experience all the fun things London has to offer and not having anyone to share them with.

However being alone was a feeling I came to accept and eventually really like just the same evening I arrived when I was travelling to Camden.

Since I’ve been to London before I already had an Oyster card (a card used for paying on the Underground and buses) and knew how to top it up so getting around the tube was no biggie. Also London’s subway map is so easy to read, a child could understand it.

Camden was busy, this was a Sunday and both tourists and locals were fighting over the little space there is between the stalls and street food at the lock market, but the weather was nice and even though I was tired from taking an early flight I didn’t mind.
I love walking around Camden and visit the little boutiques with up and coming designers and find unique treasures. I bought two crop tops from a girl with a blue side cut who had designed and printed them herself.

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The next day I was anxious to get to the Victoria and Albert museum as soon as they opened. I’ve been to the museum before but ranging from March to August this year they have a special exhibition with the late Scottish designer Alexander McQueen and I really wanted to see it. When I arrived I learned that half of London had the same plans. I had have the unfortunate to arrive to the museum on a bank holiday and the queue to buy tickets ranged a long way out on the street outside. Now if I had still been home in Sweden, standing in line for two hours hadn’t been such a big deal when you’ve got a smartphone with unlimited 4G. But here I was left with a phone being reduced to nothing more than an expensive calculator so I was forced to talk to people just so I didn’t die out of boredom since I have zero patience.

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The exhibition turned out to be one of the greatest ones I’ve been to in a long time. The works of McQueen were incredible to say the least and the way they displayed them set them in a new light. Now sadly you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so you just have to take my word for it. The tickets were a bit on the pricey side though at 17£ but I really think it was worth paying for.

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Eating lunch by myself in Hyde Park wearing my ridiculously big hat.

Later that day I decided to have lunch and I had no idea where to go. I couldn’t imagine going to a restaurant by myself, order in food and then sit there alone at a table for two. It all felt so sad. What I did instead, and ended up doing my whole stay, was buying take out. Mostly from Wasabi, a Japanese fast food sushi chain, and bringing it with me to Hyde Park to enjoy.

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On my second time in the park I even got to have a date with Mr Squirrel here who I tried to feed with edamame beans.

I also did something I’d never thought I would dare to do, I hired a bike. Now I’m like a living traffic hazard back home and I have problems following the traffic rules in a city of less than 300 000 people, was hiring a bike in a city with almost the same population as my whole home country really a good idea?
Turns out biking in London wasn’t that scary. Except that I had to get used to being on the wrong side of the road and having to stop for red lights every second, it wasn’t that hard. Taxis and buses politely lets you through and there is a mutual respect for all the commuters.  Hiring a bike costs 2£ for 24 hours and they are stationed around every Underground station.

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Me and my bike having breakfast the last day in London.

On my third day in London I had the idea of visiting Oxford Street early in the morning before all shops open and all hell break loose with tourists overflowing the area. My first stop were budget heaven Primark which opens at eight and I then worked my way along to Pickadilly. This time around I skipped Harrods and Selfridges and focused on the more wallet friendly shops like Forever 21, River Island and New Look.

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Kensington Palace

One of the things I had dreaded travelling alone and staying in a dorm room was to go to bed. I had been to summer camp and overnight school trips before but back then you were younger and not as afraid of being robbed or having awkward encounters. But my fear was completely unnecessary and I ended up getting to know the girls who came and went during my stay and all of them were so nice and it was a lot fun to talk to them and hear about their plans and travels. Now I almost can’t imagine travelling in another way the next time I’m doing a solo trip and I would really recommend others to try it.

Other things I did during my stay was crossing the Millennium Bridge and seeing the Shakespeare Globe, visiting the Childhood Museum and saw their Alice in Wonderland exhibition, had Chipotle (yay they have it in the UK too!) with one of my roommates and walked around Kensington Palace and gardens. I wished I had booked a longer stay, the days went by way too fast.

This whole trip was amazing and I can’t wait to go travelling alone some more. Next time I’m thinking Berlin maybe?

My time in the Latvian capital

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Last year in November I had a week off work and was feeling a bit bored so I thought I’d start look around for cheap airplane tickets (this is a big hobby of mine) and ended up finding tickets to Riga, hotel included and all. They were so cheap it was almost free.
Now before this trip I had practically no knowledge of the city other than it was the capital of Latvia, but the hotel had an indoor pool and was just an hour and a half away by plane from Copenhagen. And knowing me, I just can’t back away from a good bargain, so I booked the trip and convinced my boyfriend to come with me.

That autumn was a season full of spontaneity for me, the fact that I died my hair turquoise blue a few weeks earlier can maybe give you the idea.

Now there weren’t a lot of tourists in Riga and the older generation of Latvians spoke little to no English. But we got by with nodding, pointing and smiling a lot.
The weather was cold, it was in the middle of November after all, but not freezing.

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Here you see my crazy blue hair.

The Art Nouveau District

One of the most interesting things about Riga is the art nouveau district. The buildings are beautiful with its overdecorated facades with statues of naked ladies, leaves and scary gargoyles. We visited the museum dedicated to art nouveau where you get to explore the apartment where the Latvian art nouveau architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns lived. The apartments insides still had the original kitchen, bathroom and furniture and it was quite interesting. Unfortunately taking pictures inside the museum cost extra and I was too frugal to pay.

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The hotel we stayed at was called Wellton Centrum Hotel & Spa and it was quite cosy. It did cost extra to use the pool but it was worth it. Ending a cold day with a swim and some sauna time sure was a treat.

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The coolest bar/café in Riga is called Black Magic and the interior is just amazing. It feels like walking into a shop in Diagon Alley or some other magical place. We didn’t try the chocolate but we bought three bottles of their balzam, Rigas national liquor, with us home. But don’t go there for the balzam if you’re not a fan of  strong spirits. The taste gets some time getting used to.

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The black magic bar and café.

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Warm alcoholic drinks were all the rage in Riga in wintertime and we caught on the trend and ordered in warm apple cider, warm cranberry drinks, Irish coffees and mulled wine everywhere we went.

We stayed in Riga for four days but we could have easily make due with just three, on the last day we mostly wondered around and didn’t really know what to do after check out. So I’d say if you’re interested visiting, plan a weekend trip. The city is great for a romantic getaway and to do some shopping since the prices are lower than in most other European cities but don’t expect it to be as cheap as visiting Poland for example.

A mini guide to New York on a budget

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Where to stay
The Pod 39 Hotel // 145 East 39th Street
We chose the pod, not only because of it’s low price (under $200/night), but because of its location. It’s right on Manhattan by the Grand Central Station. The rooms are small, I have to admit, but it’s clean, the staff were nice and the bed were comfy. That’s all you really need, who stays in the hotel when they’re in the city that never sleeps anyway?

Where to eat
Chipotle
Oh how I long for when the Mexican fast food chain come to Sweden. The food is cheap, spicy and served at a high pace. Perfect when you’re in a hurry and you can basically throw a stone and hit a Chipotle anywhere in New York. They also have vegetarian options. But remember, guac is extra.

Chop’t Salad
A unique salad chain that serves salad and sandwiches in a fun and creative way with a lot of organic and locally grown things on the menu. A salad is around $7.

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Rice to Riches in Nolita.

Rice to Riches // 37 Spring Street, Nolita
Maybe not for everybody but I find this place amazing. It’s rice pudding heaven! And with its tongue in cheek humor you don’t just come here for the food, you stay for the funny quotes and puns.

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Veggie pizza from Dominos Pizza at 943 1st Avenue. Right by the United Nations headquarters if you’re in the neighborhood.

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Another fast food joint, but hey isn’t that the American way? Dominos pizza is tasty and you get a lot of pizza for your money starting from $5 and up.

What to do
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
No need for a presentation here, Statue of Liberty is the cover girl for the city and Ellis Island is a must see. We decided to buy tickets that would get us up to the crown which is both more expensive and harder to get a hold on since 9/11. The stairs that led up to the crown was scary and seemed never ending but paid off since the view was amazing. I recommend you to buy the tickets online at least a month prior to your trip. We bought ours at http://www.statuecruises.com/ which included the boat trip and entrance to Ellis Island.

See a Broadway play
Going to a Broadway show is a must for a lot of tourist coming to New York and can be quite expensive. But if you chose a matinee show, book your tickets in advance and are okay with not sitting in the front row it doesn’t have to be.
We decided on seeing Chicago and we were not sorry. We had seen the movie version before and knew all the songs. The show had a lot of humor and sass and we couldn’t have asked for more.

Things to do that are free
The New York Public Library // 455 5th Avenue
Visiting the library might sound like a snooze fest if you’re not a bibliophile but the building itself is really beautiful, both the inside and the exterior. Plus if you’re a Sex and the city fan (like yours truly) you can experience where Carrie and Mr Big should have had their wedding as the first S.A.T.C movie was recorded right outside.

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The Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is free of charge and a great way to get a good look at Manhattan from afar and it’s really something to see the incredible structures up close. Also it’s a free way to get to Brooklyn.

Take a walk in Central park
The park is huge and you could easily spend an entire afternoon here, or even a whole day if you bring a pick-nick and the weather allows it. Some of the parks high lights are the Alice in Wonderland statue, Minton Tile Ceiling at Bethesda Terrace and the 3,500-year-old Obelisk. In the winter time there’s a ice skating rink free of charge on Mondays.
If you’re a Beatles fan you must visit the Strawberry fields John Lennon memorial. A tip is to bring a map with you to the park because it’s easy to get lost.

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Central Park, a forest in the middle of a metropolis.

Visiting Grand Central Terminal // 42nd Street and Park Avenue
Even if you’re not on your way to catch a train or in a hurry to the get to the subway the Grand Central is worth a visit. It’s one of the most famous buildings in America where numerous films have been recorded both outside and inside the station. You might recall the Avengers completely trashing it in the first Avengers movie or seeing the insides in two of Hitchcock’s films. When I was there I even saw a couple lying on the floor in the middle of the station watching the painted ceiling of the constellations together.

Some extra tips:
On the first Saturday each month some museums in New York are free like the Brooklyn museum of art and The Guggenheim museum.

Buy entrance tickets to the big tourists sites ahead online, you can often get them much cheaper and sometimes there’s a discount if you buy them in a bundle. But don’t fall for the “for an extra fee you get to skip the lines”, this seldom is as good as it sounds as a lot of people buy them thinking they will get in faster and end up having to queue with all the others that bought the same kind of expensive tickets.

Experiencing sub zero temperature in New York – A survivors story

I went to the big apple in February this year with the boyfriend to celebrate Valentines day and his birthday. It was my first time in New York and also my first time visiting the states. When I arrived I immediately felt like I’ve been there before. The countless movies, video games and TV series set in the city I’ve seen a thousand times growing up made me almost think New York was a make believe city. Like it was something built for Hollywood. And I never thought I’d be able to save up money to go since it’s a long way from Sweden and quite an expensive city so I almost felt like I was walking in a dream or at least in a movie set being there.

I felt like Carrie Bradshaw walking along 5th avenue drooling over the expensive designer shops, or Holly Golightly looking in at the jewelry at Tiffany’s. Hell I could even identify with Godzilla at some points even though the huge skyscrapers and tall buildings makes you feel so small. It’s quite surreal actually.

To choose February as the month to go to New York might not have been our smartest move though. It was not only cold, as you’d expect February to be, it was the coldest month the city had experienced since 1934. They even had warnings going out on the news a week before our departure about snowstorms stopping up traffic. Luckily no blizzards swiped us away during our stay, but we sure were worried the weather would ruin the whole vacation before even arriving.

I pictured the scene from the movie The Day after tomorrow in my head where the Statue of Liberty is covered in snow up to her torch and the Hudson river turned into a ice skating rink on the flight over.

So being from Sweden where the weather is so unpredictable year around some winters you can get snowed in in the morning and go out and get a tan in the afternoon, I packed for the worst and filled up my suitcase with winter wear. I know one of the days I had four layers on and two pairs of gloves. You could easily tell the tourists apart from the locals just looking at what they were wearing. The New Yorkers were fierce, especially the women, they wouldn’t let any record cold ruin their style.
Jay-Z was right in his song Empire State of Mind when he said “Caught up in the in-crowd, now you’re in-style and in the winter gets cold en vogue with your skin out” because even though it was hitting sub zero temperatures (that’s like -17 °C) New York girls were still rocking trench coats, stilettos and mini skirts with no tights.

But walking through Central Park in the white landscape and seeing the squirrels play in the snow was beautiful and all the city lights still warmed you up at night. They even turned the Empire state building red with pulsating lights resembling heartbeats for Valentines day.

I’m so happy we were able to go there, the food was amazing, the people there were so surprisingly friendly and helpful being such a big and busy city and let’s not even begin talking about all the shopping. Visiting New York was a dream come true. But next time I’ll be going to New York I think I want to go when the weather is a bit nicer and you don’t have to be afraid of freezing to death haha.

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This was the middle of February and it was cold as hell. It was the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced, so cold that it hurts your face, but I was happy.