Valkenburg Christmas With Suna

With the holiday season around the corner here in The Netherlands, business and meetings are slowing down. Suna and I drove to the city of Valkenburg in an impulsive mood. The city of Valkenburg is a small touristic town in the hills close to the Belgium border, famous for it’s christmas parade and market. At first we visited the christmas market, which took place in a cave. The market was quite huge but didn’t really have much interesting items to sell, mostly just merchants selling belts, sweaters and other non christmas related products. After the market we enjoyed a meal in the city center. The meal offered us some time to celebrate our 2 year anniversary and reflect a bit. Afterwards we went out to see the parade. The parade almost didn’t happen this year as last March there was a huge fire burning all the preparations. Standing on the curb, looking at the locals showing all their efforts we thought it was so nice to see a town community join in to make something happen in these dark Dutch days.

A weekend in and around San Francisco

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I flew to SFO from SHA through LAX, good to bring the Kindle and order some coffee on the plane

Spent the weekend in San Francisco, I’ve visited the city before in 2009 but didn’t have much time then. So when I heard I had some business meetings during the week, I made sure to include the weekend for some sightseeing. The flight from Shanghai to San Francisco takes about 15 hours. Due to the time difference, we landed at exactly the same date/time as we left. Therefore I aimed to stay awake during the flight and read as much as I could, to fall asleep in the hotel instantly to avoid jetlag.

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In my beautiful shanghai marathon gear. Picture was coincidentally taken by a Shanghaines

Before I realized it, I had to return to the hotel to freshen up for my meeting with Maggie and Josh (working for Zynga and Pixar), who introduced me to a fine Mexican restaurant. Nice to hear about their life in San Francisco, hope to receive them here some time too.
In the early morning, I went for a run from Union square to Embarcadero. I snapped some pictures with my phone. I was aiming for a small run but enjoyed the weather and sceneries so much that I kept adding blocks to my trial, I ran well over 10km before I knew it.

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Kindly received by Maggie and Josua, while fighting jetlag

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During the afternoon, I explored more touristic spots and for dinner I enjoyed in-n-out burger, their fries and burgers are particularly great.  In the evening I was supposed to go to a party, but happened to walk by a little theater on Bush street. I asked the guy at the door what was going on today,  and before I knew it I had a front row ticket for a fraction of the original price. The story was called ‘death of a salesman’, the story was set in various points in time (actors kept changing clothing according to the 60’s etc) and featured the story of how one bad decision can influence your entire life..

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entire cast on stage

On Sunday, I took a tour to Napa Valley. Napa is one of the most famous wine valleys in the United States. Napa was put on the map in a 1997 Bourdeaux blind wine tasting, when the French jury voted Mondavi’s Californian wine to be the winner, they actually wanted to do redo the competition. Napa’s ground price increased 10 fold instantly…

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Sunday morning, took the bus to Napa valley. View from Oakland Bay bridge

I knew about the area because of Marc who showed that particular story in a movie called ‘bottle shock‘, I can highly recommend it… I also watched a documentary last winter about this particular character.

Had to get up in the early morning to take the tour bus out of town. It was nice to drive by Oakland, Berkeley and other famous area’s in the bay area. Nice to see the countless vineyards as well.

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Just a small drive later, you drive in France-like sceneries

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10 AM, time for a local grown 2008 Estate Chardonnay

The day consisted of visiting three vineyards, a process in the hot sun between the grapes. Very nice experience, met a lot of interesting people from all outskirts of the US.

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Already empty? They didn’t fill the glasses completely though…

I arrived back in San Francisco around 4PM. I didn’t realize the gay pride weekend was going on with a huge parade and party at the Civic center. So I checked that one out as well. San Francisco is particularly liberal (drugs and sexual views), this event has become so huge that it’s considered commercial. The audience varied from transsexuals to gays to straight people, all just dancing and having fun.

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‘intimate’ setting during the pride parade

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SF Civic center… Great location for a party

The music is pretty much international. The small stages featured house music which would also be played at events like Loveparade in Europe. The main stage featured rock music and some national level pop artists. Then the weekend was over, Xander arrived in town as well so we met up at the airport and

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Highway 101, left lane is carpool only. Free road for us! (the sign reads ‘buses and carpools only’

we headed down to Silicon Valley. We resided mostly in places like Palo Alto and the likes. We drove down the 101 highway and noticed that that the left lane was for carpool only. Since most people drove by themselves, and had to drive on the right, we didn’t realize at once that the left lane was ours! Very good initiative. A quick visit to the famous Apple store which Steve Jobs always visited. I was looking to buy a new laptop and was helped by the lady on the left. Considering her age, I was surprised to hear her technical know how.

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At Menlo Park Apple

The best thing about California is clearly the weather and the hard working mentality. It’s not ofter to see that combination. We had great weather all week, this picture I took from our hotel. (view to Oakland and San Francisco)

 

Came home to this today

We’re going to eat gourmet tonight! Came home to help setup but Suna did all the work already, i just have to sit and eat, awesome! We got this gourmette set for Christmas last year :)
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Cars in Hongqiao…

A couple of months ago, I had a family member from Korea over and she couldn’t stop talking about the expensive cars in our street compared to those in South Korea.

At the kindergarten down my street in Shanghai, I’m seeing the same. In the last few months, slowly Mercedes has become the standard and Bentleys, Maybach and Maserati’s are appearing more and more. What a display (Circus) of wealth every day…