Santa Cruz

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On Friday, I drove to Santa Cruz with Lina. Our new nanny, Alla, was feeling sick and so I helped out a little in the morning and we didn’t leave at our arranged time, 8:30, instead leaving around 9:00. The drive was stunning, with a view of the redwoods on route I-17. We arrived in Santa Cruz without even using Lina’s GPS on her phone. I followed the signs to the Boardwalk but when we got there the streets were all one way and it was confusing. We also didn’t know the best place to park and we got ripped off at a parking lot costing $15 for the day (we later saw one for $5). But we were there. We were safe and we were parked. We made our way to the Boardwalk (which is a fair ground). It was 10:00 and everything was closed! We went onto the beach and took in the view. The day was cold and windy, but not freezing. We decided to walk along the pier and soon came across some of the many seals which inhabit the area. They were so awesome. The pier held various gift stores, surf shops and seafood restaurants. It was really nice. I bought a really beautiful shell in one of the stores, with a mother of pearl effect.

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Next, we decided to visit the downtown area. On our way, we came across a marine museum and we entered for free. We learned about the area and found out about the underwater canyon, which I thought was cool. I was also sad to learn that it’s very rare these days to find whole shells on the beach and I remember finding shells as a child to take home. The area is home to whales and leather back turtles, as well as sea otters and seals. We left a nice comment and headed to downtown. We found an interesting café called, Saturn. The waiter was so friendly and it turned out that he was originally from England, though he moved to America when he was 8 because his father was in the military. Lina and I both had sandwiches and I got a yummy chocolate milkshake. The shakes here are just like drinking ice cream!

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Afterwards, we walked along the cliffs to the lighthouse turned surf museum. We saw surfers, memorials for dead surfers, a sea otter and some brown pelicans! I was so happy that I finally saw pelicans here. Also, seeing a sea otter was a big deal because, not long ago, they were thought to have been wiped out after being hunted for their pelts. They are protected by the government today. The museum was very small but interesting, showing surfing life from the 30s to present day.

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Then it was time for some fun at the fair. We spent $6 on one ride – the historical Giant Dipper, an old wooden rollercoaster. It was incredibly fun! It felt so fast and there were no breaks from the speed. Definitely a must-do if you visit Santa Cruz ever.

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We spent some time at the fair and I got a henna tattoo of a gecko. My feet were hurting because I’d been wearing flip-flops all day and I wasn’t used to them, but I didn’t get any blisters. I was glad to get back to the car and change my shoes. We drove to Henry Cowell Redwoods state park. We took a short walk there before heading home. What a great day.

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update

Ahh my Stanford classes have finished! I absolutely loved them and I am now in the middle of writing a novella (I think). My au pair friend, Marina was in my second class and it was great to go with her and discuss writing. I got A’s in both classes 🙂

I have hung out with Marina, and another girl, Vicky a few times now. We’ve had movie nights, played twister and been to the cinema to see Pitch Perfect. They are great girls and I hope we stay friends.

I’ve continued to walk often and visited the Rancho San Antonio Preserve, which is actually not far from where we live and we didn’t know about it. I went with the chess teacher. Later, he took me out to an Italian restaurant. The food was wonderful and the company was alright, but not exactly Beth and Jenny. The waiter was not the most pleasant man.

I am hoping to go to Santa Cruz on Friday so I will have something more interesting to write about 🙂

Friends

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On Saturday, I had my first Stanford class – Creative Expression in Writing. I absolutely adored it. The teacher is lovely and seems very switched on. She talks a lot, but usually it is interesting. We read a lot and talked as a group, discussing our experiences. The most exciting thing was the exercises we did which had us writing. I was amazed at how easily it came and how I really was able to create there and then. I even liked my writing. Of course, I explored the campus a bit as well. I got there early and had a look in the book store. I thought this would be a tiny, quirky place with hidden corners. But it was huge and sold merchandise, clothing, jewellery, stationary and all kinds of things as well as books. I really liked it. I got some new earrings and a postcard to send home. Luckily, I also bought a notebook which I used in class. I met lots of nice people, but one in particular stood out as someone I could be friends with. Her name is Gabrielly and she is also an au pair. We had lunch together and went up the Hoover Tower. It was nice to see the view when it wasn’t raining. She invited me to go to the Muir Woods with her on my next weekend off so I hope we do.

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I include the picture of me eating an elderberry cheesecake slice for breakfast from the book shop café because I am amazed at how long my neck looks. I think it is partly because I have lost weight and partly the angle of the photo. Anyway, I am a little giraffe-like. The campus is beautiful though and I am so lucky to be studying there.

Afterwards, I picked up some pizza and headed to Marina’s house. Her host family’s house is so beautiful. She lives in Los Altos, not too far from me. I did not see all of the house but I walked into a lovely hall with wooden floors. There was an open plan kitchen and TV room, where the kids were watching a cartoon and eating popcorn. The mom was nice. Marina’s room was downstairs. There was a huge space there, for playing maybe, and a cinema room lurked behind one of the mysterious doors. It was gigantic, like a real, super-comfy, private cinema. Marina’s room and bathroom were also very nice. We watched movies and ate pizza and chatted. I left after midnight, having had a great time but thinking I would be tired the next day on my trip to SF.

I was meeting Marit and Regina, who I’d met at the au pair school in December. Lina and Abril also said they would come. The plan was to take the same train but at our own stops. This worked well with myself and Marit, and I went to sit next to her. We had so much to talk about and I was so so pleased to be with her. Abril and Lina missed the train and we spent much of the day texting our locations as a result. Marit and I walked to Alamo Park. It was a fairly long walk but it was pleasant and pretty flat. We encountered some colourful sculptures on the way and some Chinese (I think) people who wanted to take pictures with us. Don’t ask me why. But they were very nice and took good pictures. 20150426_115058 20150426_115128 20150426_115223

Alamo Park was a great place to sit and eat strawberries and enjoy the view of the city. Afterwards, we tried to figure out the Muni system. We did not have a lot of luck but we got on the first one we saw and the driver was helpful. We got to our destination – Fisherman’s Wharf. We met Regina (from Mexico) and her friend, Georgia (from Italy), who had been in SF for only 2 weeks. She was lovely and it was nice to see Regina, though she was concerned that she had put on weight since coming here. We ate at the Hard Rock Café. We all had burgers. They were so delicious. We also shared cocktails which was fun. Lina and Abril met us here but, for some reason, did not eat with us, saying they would get soup served in bread bowls and meet us after or the boat cruise.

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Marit and I got Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Regina smoked while we waited for the boat cruise and for Lina and Abril. They never showed. We went on the boat cruise without them and actually didn’t see them for the rest of the day. The cruise was windy but great. Afterwards we wandered Pier 39 before Marit and I had to catch our train. We missed the one we intended to get, but we met some interesting people on the bus on the way there. One woman worked at Ghirardelli and was eating a lovely-looking ice cream sundae. She was moving into her first apartment soon. Another man owned a café called The Gallery, opposite the tram museum. He was fun. We just took the next train. I didn’t want to leave Marit. We’d had such a great time. I could have talked to her for days and days. I don’t get like that with many people.

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