Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Orleans - Roadtrip on Thanksgiving

It was Wednesday, November 25, 2009. I was waiting on time on the Siemens' parking garage for my three car mates Phillipp, Alvaro and Alex. We were ready to go down to New Orleans for 4 days. You guys in Europe have to know that Thanksgiving is celebrated on every 4th Thursday in November each year. The Friday after is free, so we had a long weekend which we could use for a trip.
During my trip to England for Graduation, a lot of the interns already made plans for Thanksgiving and booked trips, so that especially all the girls had certain plans when I came back. In the end, I went down to New Orleans with 7 guys. Just to give you an idea about the distance between Philly and New Orleans: The trip by car is 1960 km.One way.
We started around 3.30pm from Siemens and after half an hour drive, Alex realised that he forgot his passport which is for most of the nightlcubs the only acceptable way to identify ourselves here in the US. After we picked up the passport, we finally on the tour. The other was about 1,5 hours in front of us but we decided anyway to make our way down there seperately. On the way, we made funny jokes that I am the only girl in the car and that if we or one of the guys during the trip ends up in a critical situation I could help with the charme of a lady. As we wanted to go down straight to New Orleans, we changed drivers every few hours. I was driving from 1.30am in the night until 6.30am in the morning, mainly through Virginia, on the deserted highways in the middle of nowhere, just surrounded by woods and no other car in sight in front or behind of us...The guys were sleeping and our GPS was telling me to go ariound 160 miles (approx. 257 km) straight. Funny enough it was me driving, when suddenly out of nothing the partylights of a police car flashed behind me. With one glimpse on my speed display, I already knew why he stopped me... So I had to pull on the side of the highway and wait for him to come to my car. Actually now it was myself I had to get out of the situation. The guys woke up and I told them that we gonna add the costs of a speed ticket (between $100 and $200, depending on the speed) to the cost calcualtion of our trip ;-)
When the officer came to my window, he asked me: "May I ask, young lady, why you are such in a hurry this early morning at 2.30am?" (I thought that was a funny was to get in a speed conversation). I told him from where we came and where we wanted to go. He told me that he catched me with 20 miles (32km/h) more than the limit and asked for my driver's license. When it came to hand him my license, I tried to make an experiment. I asked him in the best way: "Officer, I have a German license and the International license. Do you need to see both or just the international?" (bling, bling. bling...;-) He answered: "Oh you are from Germany? I have been there and worked there for a while. In Hanau. Do you know it?" He got so excited and at that point I knew already that I won and would not get a ticket. In the end I had to promise him to slow down ("the deer here are soo dangerous, you know?!") and he reminded me: "Please remember, this is not the German Autobahn"! Oh, it was soooooooo funny! I loved this officer! The rest of the trip was ok, no incidences at all.

We arrived finally in New Orleans at our hotel at 11 am, so it was a 19,5 hour drive in total.
After checking in and parking the car, we met the other 4 guys who arrived 2 hours earlier for lunch. Full and tired we all decided to have a little nap and relaxing before going out in the evening. Back in our hotel, we slept around 2 hours until Alvaro started to rush around (we 4 shared one room). He had found the swimming pool!!!5 minutes later, we were all splashing around and enjoying ourselves in the pool with view of the skyscrapers of New Orleans.
The other 4 guys got dinner in their hostel, so Phillipp, Alvaro, Alex and me went out for dinner and we ended up with a typical New Orleans dish: Jambalaya. It is a Louisianan Creole dish of Spanish and French influence.
Later on we met the other guys to explore the party scene. New Orleans is famous to be the cradle of Jazz and for its various music styles. The main party street is on Bourbon Street. One bar and club after the other. The have all the doors open, a lot live bands are playing and very interesting in comparision to other states in the US: You can drink on the streets. Because of that all the people hang around in the street and chat. It gives you a real feeling of summer holidays.
In addition, there are no entry fees for entering a bar or a night club, so you can hop from bar to bar. You all can probably imagine that we had a hilarious first night!!!!
The next day started late after sleeping in and a round in the pool. Together with the 'hostel group', we had our breaky around 2.30pm...After that, we were strong enough to discover the city.

This second evening brought a bit of surprise, when we entered Bourbon Street again. Poldi got to know that every 2nd weekend, it is the big party weekend in New Orleans. Everyone from the region is heading down to the City. I tell you: The streets were packed! And furthermore what was a new experience to me: On that night, there were approx. 99% black people around. No white at all. We really felt like the minority. That was an interesting but also weird feeling. It was so interesting to see all the different people and some of them really fit in the stereotype which are promoted from all the Hip Hop and R'n'B clips.
For the next morning, the other group decided to sleep longer because of the long car ride but we left our hotel at 11am, brought our luggage to the car and explored the French Quarter by foot which is also famous for New Orleans.

After 2 hours we were all really hungry but we also used the stroll around the Quarter to walk to one of the famous restaurants for fried chicken in town. Even though I am not a big fan of fried meat, I have to admit that this one was really good. And the portions were huge!!!We could not even finish it, so we had some left-over for the ride.

The weather was really nice, so we explored the French Market after and took a break at the waterfront, looking at the Mississippi steam boats and relaxing. After that we went towards the city center and there was break dance group of 4 black people, entertaining a huge crowd. We watched their artisitics for a while and had a coffee before we actually started our trip home around 6 pm.
This time we took less and shorter breaks so that we only spent 17,5 hours on the return trip. Very tired but full of experiences, we arrived at Malvern before noon. We were so lucky that we didn't have any traffic jam at all, not on our way down, nor on the way back, even though every American warned us that we gonna be stuck in traffic for hours because of the Thanksgiving weekend. You might declare us as crazy, to go down on such a long distance trip for only 4 days but guys, I tell you, such a road trip is so funny and this is such a unique experience, I can recommend to do at least once in a lifetime!

Watch all the pics on my digital photoalbum:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Philly Marathon

As mentioned before, I went home from New York only for the Philly Marathon. As I was witness of Julien's (my roomie) training for the marathon for the past 4 months, I promised him once that I will come to see him running the marathon.

So again, around 7am in the morning, my alarm was ringing. I execrated Julien for a second because the Marathon started at 7am. But Julien was not the only one who was particpating...
Mona and Tim were running the 8km run and Anni even managed to run the half-marathon. Therefore I had enough reason to raise. Miguel and me met at the train station and went to Philly.
Once we arrived, we followed the running track for while until we realised that it was still 20 miles to the finish....As a consequence, we took a shortcut to the finish and waited for the Mona, Tim and Anni. Anni just finished 10 minutes before we arrived. So altogether, we sat together at the podium and waited for Julien to arrivel. It took him a bit longer than he wanted too because he had to walk in between for a while but then he showed up!

(it is the little man in the blue shirt and the sunnies behind the one in the yellow shirt on the left side:-) I was so proud of him!!! But just a few yards before the finish line he got cramps and stopped. All of rose and we were encouraging him, shouting at him and motivating to go on. Finally, we all run together with towards the finish and so he run his first marathon in 4 hours. I was soooo proud of him! And the atmosphere was great!
Also, another friend of him showed up and together, we went to a nice little bar after he recovered to have breaky/lunch and to celebrate his achievement.

For more pictures, visit my digital photoalbum:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New York with Tyra: Iceskating at the Rockefeller Center

On Saturday morning I had to get up early. Tyra and me wanted to meet in New Year. My ride to New York takes about 1,5 hours. As we are not allowed to drive into New York with our rental cars, I parked it for free in Jersey City and took the PATH (train) into the City. As I had no traffic and Tyra was also lucky with Greyhound bus on time, we met almost on time. Before we made our way to the Rockefeller Center, we took a cab to Jörg's appartement, a friend of Tyra where we left some of our bags.
Then it was time to for Iceskating!!!!Tyra and me saw it in so many movies, so both of us wanted to do it once in a lifetime. We got our tickets and iceskaters and off we went on the ice for 2 hours.

It was soooo cool!!! And in addition we were witnesses how someone proposed to his girlsfriend in the middle of the ice rink!!!That was soooo cute and everyone started to cheer and applause.
The rest of the afternoon we spent strolling up and down 5th Avenue and doing some window shopping. Tyra also showed me Grand Central Station.
Our plan for dinner was meeting Jörg and eating out in a Mexican restaurant. It was very delicious and we had a good time together. Jörg invited us to a party of one of his friends but unfortunately I had to return to Philly this night. The reason for that was the Philly Marathon the next morning. My housemate Julien was running the Maraton and I promised him to come.

Watch more pictures on my digital photoalbum:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simon's & Bene's farewell party - Bad taste!

With so many interns around in this community, we have someone leaving more or less every month. This time unfortunately we had to say good bye to Simon and Bene, two guys I had a great time with and I will really miss them here! The good thing about our farewell ceremony is that it is always related to a party which takes away the sadness of a farewell and turns it into fun for all us. The party is the last statement before you leave and you always want to remember the good time here! Simon and Bene chose a very funny theme for their celebration which allowed a lot of creativity and craziness :-)

Everyone tried to find the most ugly clothes to wear or just simply combine clothes in a very odd way.

You can see all the funny results on my digital photoalbum:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Graduation - Back to the UK!

November has started and within came my Graduation week. As this is a once in a lifetime experience, I had decided before to return to Southampton to receive my Graduation certificate.
My roomie Lalo gave me a ride to the airport on November 3. Even though there are a lot delays at Philly airport, my plane took off on time. That was very important for me as I had a really tight schedule at my arrival.
I arrived in London Heathrow on time and surprinsingly no long queues at the immigration and also customs let me pass without problems. So I was actually able to catch one coach earlier down to Soton which allowed me to have a bit more time before the whole ceremony started.
Before we could enter the Guildhall, we had to get dresses in the sports hall of the university and pick up the tickets. Then I was so happy to meet my Mum, my Granny and my Granddad. It was such a nice feeling after 3 months! When my Granny saw me in that Graduation dress, she was so proud that she started to cry. That was sooooo cute!

Well then we made our way to the Guildhall and met all our fellow students from last year! That was sooo cool!
The Graduation ceremony lasted about 2 hours and was very well organised. Everyone actually entered the stage on his/her own by called by their name to shake hands with the chancellor of the uni and then receive the certificate.

After the Ceremony, it was picture time at the stairs. The moment we all waited soooo long for actually was there:

In the evening I went out with my family for dinner. It was not only my Graduation dinner but also the dinner with them as they left the next day for Germany.
The follwing days Charlie and me stayed with the best hosts on planet: Ali and Abba!! More or less every night was another party and on Saturday we went to London for shopping ( well niot for me as I buy everything half price here;-)
On Monday finally I made my home to the US because I had to work the next day and I could not take any more days off.

Even though it was a quite stressful trip, I have to say it was all worth it! To see all the people again was wonderful, the feeling of being a Graduate now and celebrating it was gross and seeing my family gave me some good comfort as well. But what we also experienced in these 6 days: Even though we knew the city, the ways and the locations by heart, we didn't feel home here anymore. We realised that this chapter of life is over and the new one had already begun....:-)

But when I came back to the Siemens office for work on Tuesday, I had a surprise waiting for me: My whole organised a huge cake (of course with a lot of icing:-( and two ballons with a card to congratulate me for the Gradution!

That was soooo nice of them and I was speechless! One of the ballons is enduring quite long so I kept on my desk as a memory.

Watch more pics on my digital photoalbum: