Laurie invited me to join the team of I-House bloggers and of course, I gladly accepted her offer. Before I start, let me introduce myself, for those of you that haven’t met me (yet :-)). My name is Koen, I’m 23 years old and was born and raised in The Netherlands. I’ll be studying here at Cal for the Fall ’14 semester as part of my master’s program in Industrial Engineering.
So what will I be writing about? Mostly, just what comes to my mind when I’m writing my blog posts. I figured I would start by sharing some things I like to do, have done, or plan to do in and around Berkeley. So here we go.
Go on a road trip!
Work hard, play hard! After a week of studying, camping in the library and stressing over upcoming homework deadlines (why didn’t I start earlier?), the weekend is there for relaxing. As most of you will know, California has a lot to offer. Here is some inspiration for some nice trips:
Visit Santa Cruz and Monterey
I especially liked Carmel beach, just south of Monterey. Monterey also has a great aquarium, although it is a bit pricey. Tickets are sold online for $35 if you have a college ID. (I went with my parents three years ago, so for me it was free :-))
Hike in Big Sur
A great 1 hour drive, following Highway 1 south from Monterey, you’ll find Big Sur, a great park with many hiking possibilities. Keep in mind that there is no cellphone reception in this area, so set up a clear meeting point in the park and don’t end up losing everyone like we did.
Visit Lake Tahoe
Nice for swimming and lying on the beach (King’s Beach is the most popular choice, you can also rent jetski’s there), but also for hiking. We did a nice hike in Burton Creek State Park (just north of Tahoe City) that lead up to an amazing view of Lake Tahoe. Also check out Joël’s blog post about Tahoe.
All of these destinations are within a 2-4 hour drive from Berkeley if there is no traffic (it took us 7 hours to get to Tahoe during the busy labor day weekend). You can easily rent a car at Oakland airport (Fox is cheap) or even at Berkeley (Hertz). Don’t forget a passport and credit card if you’re the driver, and keep in mind that most car companies charge an additional fee for drivers aged 21-25. Oh, and read up on car insurance here.
Furthermore, instead of booking a hotel, consider renting a house. Just Google ‘house rentals + destinations’ and you’ll find many options, which are often cheaper if you’re with a big group. Below are some pictures of a great house we stayed in near Tahoe (and some other pictures of that trip).
If you don’t have the time to go away for a whole day or weekend, there is plenty to do in San Fransisco. Alcatraz is my personal favorite; I visited the prison three years ago and I am going again this year. Alcatrazcruises.com offers a limited amount of special ‘night tours’ that start at around 7 pm and provide a more intimate experience. Plus you get to visit Alcatraz at night, which I think is pretty awesome.
Before you go, watch the movie Escape from Alcatraz, a scene from the movie is recreated on Alcatraz. Another great Alcatraz movie is The Rock. One final piece of advice: Alcatraz offers audio tours in many different languages, but I strongly suggest going for the English one, since that one features former staff and inmates that guide you around the place. On my earlier visit I went with the Dutch one, which is the same, but the narrations are voice-overs, which sucked.
That’s it for now, congratulations on making it to the bottom of this post! This weekend, I’m going on a trip to Sequoia National Park, I’ll be sure to let you guys know how that was in my next post.
See you later, or as we would say in The Netherlands: tot ziens!