Archive for May, 2009

May 31st, 2009

Enjoying nice weather

It seems that my posting frequency has been steadily dropping. Apologies for this, running a company and having a family seems to run me out of steam…

Anyhow, this weekend has had an extremely good weather. It has been almost 30C during the daytime, and it is still quite warm at 22.00 (it seems that I can write to this blog only when the rest of the family are already sleeping).

The weekend was spent mostly outdoors. I’ve been dreaming on barbecuing some baby back ribs for some months now — I had so good ribs on our five year anniversary trip on Turks & Caicos Islands last summer and again in San Diego this spring. I finally found ribs on the local grocery store — they seem to be sold out almost everywhere nowadays — and today put them on the grill.

After spending two hours in the grill, they were just excellent. I made also some good corncobs. The secret for the success were a couple of good BBQ sauces found in the same grocery store, and instructions found from a food blog written by a couple in Oulu, Finland (of all the places!).

Boys liked them, too. The meat was so cheap (€3.99 / kg) that we decided to continue cooking them during the summer. Hopefully the weather would be in our favour, and the summer would be way better than last year.

Independent bookstore

Independent book stores are far and between in the USA, as Borders and Barnes & Noble have almost saturated the market. Sometimes I happen to find such a store, and it has to be checked out, as usually they stock a bit different set of books than the chain stores.

Browser Books is a compact bookstore on Fillmore Street, next to cafés and other nice shops. The single room is filled with books from floor to ceiling — in other words, the selection is huge for such small looking storefront. Most of the books are literature, but there are other genres available, too. Some children toys can be found, but other than that the store focuses on books.

Browser Books on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, CA, USA

There is no café inside, but plenty on the street near the shop. You just have to buy your copies before browsing them. I found a couple of harder to find novels and one children book for our one year old.

Browser Books, 2225 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 567 8027

A pleasant surpise

We got a dirt cheap room from The Donatello, and thus we were fearing for the worst. Fortunately, the hotel exceeded our expectations in all fronts. The rooms were big and airy; our family of four fit in nicely, the sofa doubled as an extra bed and there were plenty of room for the crib, too. The room was equipped with wet bar, microwave oven and empty fridge — all excellent items for people travelling with smaller children.

The Donatello Hotel in San Francisco, CA, USA

The service was really friendly and courteous. There was a free, albeit small, breakfast buffet on the club floor at the top of the building. Coffee, orange juice, and muffins kicked the day off fine. An additional pleasant surprise for us Finns for a proper Finnish sauna — made in the US by a company established by a Finn.

The location is also very good, a block from Union Square, a lot of cafés, restaurants and small convenience stores around. All major car rental companies in a walking distance.

All this was $160 per nigh + tax. Your mileage with the price may vary.

The Donatello, 501 Post Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 441 7100

May 13th, 2009

Finished trip to California

I’ve returned from a long and exhaustive trip to California. For the first time ever, I didn’t have time and energy to keep you updated during the trip. It seems that travelling with two toddlers takes its toll.

Anyhow, we left Helsinki on April 28th very early. The KLM flight to Amsterdam was at 6.45 (way too early flight was compensated nicely with extremely low prices), and the next flight to San Francisco around noon. We were at SFO around 13.00 local time, and then found our way to the hotel (The Donatello, recommendable) with BART.

The rest of the day was spent avoiding sleeping, and making general arrangements. I woke up at four, and spent some time with emails while everyone else was sleeping — this is my favourite time in the US, early mornings in dimly lit hotel rooms. The hotel had complementary breakfast that was not too bad, and after it I went to a breakfast meeting while Sanna and the boys visited a couple playgrounds in the neighbourhood.

San Francisco time was mostly used with short meetings and getting over the worst jet lag.

I rented a car on Thursday 30th, and then drove to Palo Alto for three nights with the Engeström family. They have a fabulous home in a peaceful neighbourhood, and two kids — we felt really like being at home. Aapo and Niilo enjoyed playing with Eliel while adults discussed various topics.

The charm of Palo Alto is in interesting mix of sleepy looking small town with underlying high tech expertise. I could live there.

After spending three nights in Silicon Valley, we drove to Los Angeles. Surprisingly easy drive despite the length. The boys slept almost half of the journey and a portable DVD player does wonders when sitting in the car gets too dull. We visited a bunch of outlet shops in Gilroy while on the road.

The hotel in Los Angeles — The London West Hollywood — was a fabulous experience. The service, the room, and the pool were all top notch. I’ve never experienced such nice service from the bell staff in the US — you usually find this level of service (and amount of staff) only in five star hotels in Asia.

The room was huge, and all amenities were pitch perfect. The pool was really nice and heated. The only thing that I missed was sauna. San Francisco hotel had one that I and Aapo tested with excellent results.

I purchased a mother’s day present to Sanna from Rodeo Drive; a Hermès scarf to her growing collection. Aapo was sleeping in the stroller and I carried Niilo, who didn’t want to stay in my lap — and not even in the store. I caught him at least half a dozen times from the door. Fortunately, I could make up my mind with regards to the scarf pretty quickly.

After Los Angeles we drove to San Diego for visits to Legoland and Seaworld. Boys loves the places. It is easy to understand why San Diego has been chosen as most kid friendly destination in the US: really nice walking area in the downtown, a lot of good restaurants, and several theme parks in couple dozen miles from the city.

After spending a few days, we drove back to Los Angeles to embark flight to Amsterdam and finally back to Finland. After 24 hours of travelling, we were at our home, exhausted but happy to be home.