Emerald Green

Sweater & clutch - Zara, jacket - Chiquelle.se, skirt & tights - H&M, Shoes - Vagabond

I spent my weekend in Uppsala, with nice weather and nice company! On Saturday evening we went to a housewarming party, where our group of girls from high school gathered! Yey! It's so rare, and very appreciated, when we manage to meet up just before people go away to different parts of the world again. And it was a very long ago I was on a proper home party where it's so crowded you can't even get to the toilet! However, we were a small group who later went out to end the night on the dance floor, just to make Sunday morning a little more painful. Weekends like these ends too fast.

A mini guide to USA

I have done my best to write down all the details about our trip to the U.S. in this long post, for those of you who want to experience something similar. As I said earlier, you will get to see what we have done and experienced in all upcoming pictures, but here you will get more practical information and answers to your questions.

Planning is everything, especially when making a trip like this. If you, like me, want to book most things in advance, you have to start early. I booked almost all airline tickets and hotels six months in advance. We spent a lot of time planning what cities we would visit and in what order. I even drew maps with routes, wrote advantages and disadvantages of each route, and sat a long time with Google maps and checked how long it would take to drive between cities, how long it takes to fly and so on. You simply need to spend a lot of time on Google, all of the information you are wondering about can be found on the internet.

When planning, we obviously had to find out what everything costs and make a budget. That also requires hours of researching. Check the hotels in each city and what it costs per night for the standard you are looking for (I always use booking.com). Check what all the flight costs, the rental car, gasoline, what you think you will spend on food, activities and shopping. 'Major' activities, like for example, Disneyland, or visiting Grand Canyon, should also be on the list right away because they cost a lot. Always round up and add an additional one-third of the total - a rule I always go by. We concluded that it will cost us a minimum of 30,000 SEK each without shopping and unplanned costs, so we decided to go for 40,000 SEK ($6300) - and that is about what we paid for everything in the end.

When it comes to the handling of money, we preferred to pay with credit card, it works just as well as in Sweden. This way, you don't lose a lot when exchanging large amounts of money. Our Swedish debit cards works like a credit cards in the U.S. (unless it is a Electron card). We were very worried that we would not be able to rent the car since they only accept credit cards, but as mentioned, there was never any problem.

It's always difficult to answer questions about food, it depends on what you want to eat. Generally, the food is cheaper than in Sweden, but it's still not cheap to eat out all the time, unless you eat junk food. We figured that we would spend 300 SEK ($50) each on food every day. Sometimes, we spent less and sometimes more. We didn't always eat the best food and quite often, we made a visit to a fast food chain, but you can find better food that doesn't cost too much. You also spend money on bottled water and "goodies" throughout the day.

Finding airline tickets can be total chaos. For example, it is often cheaper to buy a return trip than a one-way ticket (sometimes half as cheap which means it pays to throw a ticket - crazy!). Since I had already bought a ticket from Stockhom to New York with Norwegian, the price of a one-way ticket from Las Vegas (our last stop) to Stockholm was incredibly expensive. Therefore, I made a gamble and booked a domestic ticket from Las Vegas to New York, and then I bought a return flight with Norwegian again from New York to Stockholm, which was the cheapest and fastest option (direct flight as well). The risk when you do it this way is that if something goes wrong with the first flight, eg delays, you have no guarantee on the second, because they are not included in the same booking. So you have to get your bags and check them in again. And also make sure that you are landing at the same airport and have enough time between flights. Domestic flights are not particularly expensive in the U.S. From one coast to the other it costs about 1500 SEK ($230). From New York to San Francisco, it took six hours. We flew domestic with Delta, Virgin America and Spirit Airlines.

We chose to book the car in advance and we booked through ebilhyra.se (it stood between them and holidayautos). Before you book, on their websites you can fill in how many days you want to rent, insurance, GPS, size of the car and whether or not you will pick up and drop off at the same place. This way you can see what it will cost. Keep in mind that insurance is much more expensive if the driver is under 25, and sometimes it's more expensive if you pick up and drop off in different cities, so be sure to select everything to get the right price. It's worth renting a GPS! However, if you rent a car for several weeks, it is more worthwhile to buy one at Walmart. You must be 21 to rent a car and have had a driving license for at least one year. For one week, we paid 3000 SEK ($470), plus GPS, which costs extra.

New York is the most expensive city to stay in. For a small room where there was barely room enough for one bed, we paid more than for the Hilton in Las Vegas. It is cheaper outside of Manhattan, but it's on the other hand worth staying in Manhattan since you will spend almost all your time here. We got around on foot or subway ($30 for a 7-day MetroCard). It's very easy to get around in New York thanks to their simple street system, it is almost impossible to get lost. In New York, there's plenty to see and do that don't cost so much money, for example visit Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and all other famous sites. The things that costs are if you want to visit the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, museums and such, and if you want to take the hop-on-hop-off buses.

If you travel to San Francisco during August, expect it to be 15°C colder there than in New York (I will write more about that in the upcoming posts about SF). Here it's also quite expensive hotels. If you live centrally, however, it's no problem to get around on foot (if you can stand the up and downhills). They otherwise have very good public transport system with trains, trams and buses, but we only took the train from the airport. If you want to visit Alcatraz without buying tickets online in advance, you can only buy them together with hop-on-hop-off bus tour, which is not so bad since you can use the bus for transportation. I highly recommend renting bikes to ride across the Golden Gate.

We picked up our rental car the last day in San Francisco and drove south along Highway 1, the coastal route. We made the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles in two days. According to Google Maps, it would take about 7 hours to drive non stop, but you need at least two days with an overnight stay on the road because you stop all the time to take pictures and enjoy the view. The road is built so you can stop by it all the time, but along most of the way there is no access to the highway or any city so be sure to fill up gas in advance. I think it's better to drive south because it's the "right" side of the road, but you can also drive north. We booked accommodation in San Simeon in advance, a small place right between SF and LA. The hotel is called Sea Breeze Inn. Make sure to arrive at the hotel before it gets dark and foggy(!), speaking from experience.

I would not recommend going to Los Angeles if you can't rent a car. The city has huge distances and is totally designed for cars and not pedestrians, and I guess it's complicated trying to get around by public transport. When you book hotel keep in mind that the distances on the map is much longer than you think, try to book near the area where you think you will be spending most of your time, and read reviews of the area, about whether is safe or not. We stayed at the Days Inn Hollywood near Universal Studios on Sunset Boulevard, which runs parallel to Hollywood Boulevard. It's a good location if you have a car since there is an underground parking. In LA, there are theme parks that are worth visiting, such as Universal Studios, Disneyland or Six Flags - which we never visited because I am a coward.

From LA we drove two hours south to San Diego. You can also take a bus or train like our friends did. Since we stayed with friends at their university campus, I have no idea about hotels in town, but I would recommend having a car here too, although public transport seems slightly better than in Los Angeles. You can get around in Downtown by walkning but if you want to get to the beaches, it's easiest by car. San Diego border with Tijuana in Mexico, we never made a visit but the possibility exists. I recommend the nightlife in the Gaslamp District, Pacific Beach and San Diego Zoo.

Since we didn't want to drive through the desert, we took the flight from San Diego to Las Vegas which took an hour. If visiting, stay along the Las Vegas Strip (the street with all the famous hotels and casinos), because you will be spending all your time only at this street. Therefore, you don't need any car either. Hotels are very cheap in Las Vegas, so you should definitely indulge in a better hotel. There is no point in staying for a longer time in Vegas if you do not intend to party every day.

We first planned to go on a full day tour by bus from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon (South Rim), which is 5-6 hours away (West Rim is located a bit closer, you can google and read about the differences if you're wondering). You can book that trip at viator.com for about 500 SEK (≈$80), but then we realized how many hours of traveling it would be in relation to staying at the canyon. Therefore, we booked a helicopter instead, which flies 45 minutes in one direction and lands in the canyon. It cost 2500 SEK (≈$400) per person. We won half of the sum at a casino, which is the reason that we booked although it's expensive. But now in retrospect, I think the experience was worth every penny, win or not, and you save almost a whole day on it. If you are going to book a helicopter ride you should do it a few days or week in advance, we were very lucky that got two seats on the same day. Helicopter tours can be booked through the hotel or at viator.com, for example.

Will you go back to the U.S.? What was the best and the worst of the U.S.?
- Yes, I will go back, especially to New York! N.Y. I liked most of all the cities, but every place has its charm. If I return to California, I would love to see more of the nature. Yosemite National Park, Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park are places I would love to see but we unfortunately didn't have time for those. The best thing about the USA is all these different environments in one big country. Incredible contrasts and incredibly much to see. The worst thing is that there is a lot that feels very... plastic. And all these contrasts are not always good, for example when it comes to the difference between rich and poor areas. Such huge differences do not exist in Sweden in the same way as in the U.S.

How can you as a student afford such a trip?.
- The answer is simply by working if you have the possibility, and save a lot. I worked extra whenever I got the chance and worked almost the entire summer until we went away. I calculated how much I needed to save every month and how much I would have to work to reach my goal.

what should you think about as a girl in the city? give tips on everything you come up with :D
- I don't really get the question of what one should think about as a girl... You live and behave just like you do in Sweden. Hope the rest of the post is filled with enough tips!

Can you show everything you bought? [...] I mean everything. Not just clothes, but goodies, small things and so on. I am curious about what they have there :)
- Sorry, but everything is unpacked (and eaten) long ago. I didn't shop as much as I thought I would. The clothes I bought you will see on the blog sooner or later, and much of what I bought were gifts for family and friends.

I also wonder how you went from town to town, and how you found all the places haha, did you use a map, gps or signs? :)
- We had a GPS in the car, otherwise we used the old fashioned maps. If there is anything I can brag about, it's that I am good at reading ordinary maps. But as mentioned, many U.S. cities have a simple street system with blocks and signs at every intersection. I always have guidebooks with maps with me, also a tip!

Hello! Must first say that I really LOVE your photos! So very beautiful and inspiring.
 I wonder where you lived in all different places and how much it cost and so on. Was it expensive to rent a car? 40,000 almost sounded too cheap for EVERYTHING . Is it really the flight , transfers, car rentals, shopping, sights , activities ? :)
- Thank you so much! I have only written the hotels I could imagine staying at again. The rental car price I have also written about. Yes, for everything, per person! But I spent a lot of time trying to find the best deal for cheap prices. The price depends on how you live, how much you shop and how much you eat. It is individual and therefore it is obviously important to find out everything yourself.

Hold your ground, we're safe and sound

It's time to write about something else than USA, otherwise this whole month will be a question mark when I read my blog in the future. I can't believe that half of September has already passed, I barely had time to blink before it went from sweating in shorts to... 10 degrees(!). It took me almost as long to recover after the trip. But now I'm back on track! I have met my friends, who filled me with lots of energy, I have shopped autumn clothes and new notebooks, pens, calendars and anything else needed for a "fresh start " and these weeks in school are really a slow start. I'm not used to having so much free time during the day. Definitely the calm before the storm.

I have also realized how much I missed Stockholm in just one month. Even if I travel to all these amazing places, it's something special about coming home to this beautiful city and the comfortableness when you know everything about it. And the more I travel and compare with other cities, the easier it gets to recognize the qualities of Stockholm, maybe also because my education has made me open my eyes to much more (we're studying urban planning right now, I love it!). It's just a shame that summer doesn't last long here, it feels like I have not had time for everything I wanted to do. 

Speaking of traveling, we have booked flights to Lithuania in October to see Bosnia's last World Cup qualifier match. We booked the trip on the same day as the CRAZY match against Slovakia, when I thought I would die a number of times - the worst and the best game I have seen. If we win in Lithuania, Bosnia will qualify for the first time since it's independence, and we are obviously not going to miss the historic celebration if that happens.

And that would be everything for this update.

Questions regarding our trip

I have received a number of questions regarding our trip to the U.S., especially about the way we traveled around, planning, costs, and the classic: what camera I use. A reader asked me if I would like to write a guide on what we've done and seen. I think that my posts here already explains a lot when it comes to what we did because I both post pictures and write about it, but I understand if you can't wait for all the posts to come up (it will take me a couple of months at this pace) and that it's easier to have everything summarized in one post. Therefore I thought that if you have any additional questions, ask them now so that I know what you wonder about, and so I can answer in just one post. I'm certainly no expert on the subject and this was my first visit to the U.S., but from what I see, your interest lays in the fact that we traveled to different cities and how that worked out and what it cost. And if my experiences can be to someone's help, I will share them with you, of course. 

I'll also make sure to write a post about my camera, lense, settings, editing photos and all that, not because I'm any expert in that area either (you will notice) but because it really is the most frequent question I get. I take it as a compliment though! So, thanks!

Top of the Rock

During our last night in New York we visited the Top of the Rock
to witness yet another sunset over Manhattan. It's as magical every time. And I can admit that I got a serious thing for big cities like New York and Tokyo. Or megacities, more accurately. It's just so... cool.

The next morning we went to Newark Airport in New Jersey to take the flight to San Francisco. From here we saw the sun rise behind Manhattan, not a bad view either. And so we had to say goodbye to this wonderful city. But I'll be back soon, I promise.

A walk through Central Park

All cities should have their own Central Park. End of story. The park is huge, you can walk through it for hours, and it has everything from sports fields to woods and lakes. It is also incredibly well-cared. It feels like Manhattan residents are taking a vacation from the city here, in the middle of the city. I think they would have gone mad without this park, everyone should have some access to nature for their health's sake. And while you can barely hear the the stressful city sounds you can still see the tall buildings around it, as a kind of security.
Do you recognize the restaurant where Carrie and Mr. Big fell in the water? Of course you do. Right next to it we thought of taking a rowing boat until we saw the ridiculously long queue. I don't know if it's because of it being a weekend, but we're talking several hours of queuing. No thanks.

We also walked around in Upper East Side, the land of Gossip Girl. Here, I would use the word ridiculous for how many expensive brand shops there is, like the people here just stops by on the way home from work to buy a $2000 bag. While I'm singing 50 Cent's "Window Shopper"...

Brooklyn Bridge

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset is a must. You barely notice the two kilometers walk because of the beautiful view. And at this time of day it's not nearly as much people and cyclists on the bridge as during the day. Across the bridge is Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has very nice walking paths and places to sit and enjoy the Manhattan skyline.

The plan was to get a drink on a rooftop afterwards, more exactly, on top of the Standard Hotel in Meatpacking District that I had been tipped off about. But we got hungry and made a visit to Vapiano first. It started to get late, and I began to wonder if we would get in - I didn't know if we could enter after a certain time, I just knew it was a bar. We decided to still go there, even though we were tired, and luckily, we did...

Because we ended up HERE! After wandering around a bit we stood in a short queue where everyone in front of us were denied entrance. We heard that the woman next to the guard repeated to people "no, it's a private event after 11, you can not get up". And I said to my boyfriend that it's no use trying, "let's go home*, but suddenly we stood in front of her, and I don't know what I said but she showed us to the elevators. When we came up, I thought we had ended up at Blair Waldorf's party.

Apparently it was Le Bain. One side was the quieter part with a large bar, a grand piano and mingling people. There you could go up to the quieter part of the rooftop, with sofas and loungers, and all of Manhattan in front of you. And from there, we saw that there was a little "wilder" part on the other side.

So we went there and found a real nightclub. I have never been in a nightclub with a view like this. We still couldn't understand how we ended up here after only have planned to have a drink and go home and sleep. And like all of this was not enough there was also...

...A freakin' pool. In the middle of the club. We almost fell in! However no one got in so I guess people were still too sober for that.

Did I mention I love New York?

From Village to Wall Street

From a concrete jungle to a beautiful Greenwich Village only a few blocks away. I absolutely love all the entrance stairs and leaning trees. It is mostly a residential area, but small cafes appear here and there, and here you get a better sense of people's daily lives than in touristy areas. Give me an apartment here, please.

I also love the parks in New York. Central Park is a category of its own which I will write about later, but there are many other and smaller parks that despite being located in the middle of Manhattan gives such peace that you just want to bring a book and sit there for the rest of the day. I was jealous of all the people in the parks that looked so relaxed, because unfortunately, as a tourist there for the first time you want time for so much more.

In Greenwich Village you can also find the famous Sex and the City steps to Carrie Bradshaw's apartment, which of course I had to look up. And, of course, take a photo on even though I had to step over the blockade that asks everyone to respect the residents. Badass. Or not. I am always very nervous when breaking the rules even though no one was there, so in the end my boyfriend said "step over the god damn chain or I will do it and you will take a picture of me instead."

We continued walking to SoHo and all the buildings with fire escapes. Here I could also spend entire days just walking around among all shops and cafes. By the way, doesn't this building remind you of the building from Friends? It's also located somewhere in Greenwich Village.

This one is for you, A.

Since we were heading down Manhattan, we ended up in the financial district. There, we visited Wall Street, which my boyfriend was a bit more interested of than I was. But we also found Century 21 nearby so I was happy too. Since we got stuck in there and it started to rain, we never visited Ground Zero as planned. It will have to be next time.

Empire State of Mind

New York. This absolutely amazing city managed to live up to my high expectations and I missed it as soon as we left. After all you've seen, heard and read about New York through the media, it is easy to feel at home, and their simple street system makes it even easier to navigate, without it becoming monotonous or boring. Besides that, the population along with all the tourists is a mix of all the people on earth. I simply love big cities, and I love New York. You just become a part of the city pulse, which consists of lots of different sounds, lights, smells and movements, and a million people with different final destinations.

We stayed at a hotel about five minutes walking distance from the Empire State Building, which was also the first thing we saw through our window when we woke up and the last before we fell asleep. The happiness I felt when I woke up five in the morning (jet lag) and realized where we were, and the first walk through the city is unforgettable.

Morning at Times Square, the only time of the day when this place is bearable. Otherwise it's just too much tourists and costumed people in the way. The first day we bought tickets for the hop-on-hop-off buses that start from here - a good thing to get an overview of the city, even though I already had studied the map properly. You see a lot in a short time and get to hear facts from the guide that is hard to find in the usual guidebooks.

We jumped off the first bus at the ferry terminal where we took the Staten Island Ferry back and forth for a view of Downtown and the Statue of Liberty. Then we explored the city on foot in a couple of hours' walk. Note to self: Never forget sneakers.

We also took the Uptown bus tour, which went through Harlem and the Upper East Side among else. It's strange how it differs so much between the one and the other, in such a short distance. One street separates the Spanish Harlem with the highest crime rate in Manhattan, and Upper East Side, the richest area.

Chipotle! This food chain was our salvation among all fried food. Chicken, rice, beans and vegetables in a mega burrito. Yum.

The last picture is the view from our hotel window and shows Empire State Building which was lit green two days during Eid. How nice!

Back from the States

Our trip was over the top! Sure, I had high expectations, but wow, we have seen, done and experienced so much the last month in the U.S. I still haven't been able to process everything. I also haven't get used to life at home even though it's been a few days. It's always a bit hard to adapt after a long journey, but this time it has been extra difficult. We came home on Saturday after traveling a whole day, as soon as we got home I found out about some tragic news in the family which was not unexpected but still difficult to digest, and then started school right after the weekend.
Everything might have been easier to deal with if it wasn't for the jet lag from hell. I thought jet lag was something made up until now. I know it's easier to travel west than east, but when we went to Tokyo, I didn't have the same problems at all. Then, we arrived in the evening and slept right away. This time, we arrived in the morning (after a whole day of travelling as I said, with a nine-hour time difference) which made it impossible not to fall asleep during the day. And it's been like that since then, I am so tired during the day and can't sleep at night even if I manage to stay awake during the day. Luxury problems.

But I won't complain, I'm very fortunate to have been able to go in this trip, and very happy that everything went well without any complications and mishaps. I feel so satisfied, and at the same time hungry for more! I want to see the world. You will see a bit of what we've experienced since I, of course, went crazy with the camera. I just have to get into the right daily rhythm first.

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