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niklasbergstrand's Travel Blog
Niklas in America

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James Nichole
James Nichole


Sacramento, United States

Sacramento, the capital of California, has a pretty old town centre.

In a record shop I became friends with Brittany who worked there. She later invited me to a party / concert at one of her friends house which was a very nice event, full of heartful performances from young singer / songwriters.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Sacramento, United States
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Eugene, United States

Eugene is a quiet, pretty town, with many tree-lined boulevards and a lively university with a beautiful campus. I stayed there for two days with Janee Ahnert, a relative of mine, and her husband Jerry.

Jerry used to be a flight photographer and had many interesting stories to tell from his life, including some near-death experiences! This is Jerry and his son Paul at a place called Salmon Creek Falls.

The leaves in Oregon at this time of year were turning into beautiful shades of yellow and red.

These sculpture heads on one of the main university buildings were made by Edna Dunberg, a relative of mine. She sadly passed away from cancer at the age of 24, soon after she had completed this work.

This is me with Janee(upper left), her sister Barbara (top right), her cousin Lynette (bottom left) and her aunt Ruby (bottom right). I also met Janee’s son Russel who works as a fireman.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Eugene, United States
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Seattle, United States

To many people of my generation, Seattle is first and foremost known for being the birthplace of Grunge music. My guidebook also reminded me that Starbucks coffee, Microsoft and Boeing have their headquarters up here. Other than that, I knew rather little of what to expect of this Northwestern metropolis.

The first day I stayed with Julian (second from left) from the Couchsurfing website, who works as a programmer for Microsoft. He had a nice, big house and I slept very comfortably in his guest room. In the evening we went to a bar where I met some of his friends.

The next day I ventured into town, walking round aimlessly, curiously wondering what would await around the next street corner. Seattle has some very beautiful neighbourhoods but also a large population of homeless people.

Although being a fairly large city, the public transport service is awful. A pointless monorail system connects downtown to the “Seattle Centre”, a complex of amusement parks, museums and concert halls. Paul Allen, Microsofts co-founder, has put a lot of money into a tram system originally called South Lake Union Trolley. Apparently it was not until locals started printing SLUT t-shirts that the developers realised what the acronym was. The system now bears the slightly less offensive name of South Lake Union Streetcar, or SLUS.

In the afternoon I met up with Emma, another couchsurfer. She showed me Pike’s Place Market - a lively place where you can buy anything from fresh fish to vintage clothing. In the evening we had dinner in Ballard, a part of town which was once an old Scandinavian fishing village.

The next day Emma and I went for a stroll in town and met with Anne (another couchsurfer, on the left) and Emmas friend Lauren (the one with the amazing dress). In the afternoon we went to an alternative music / art festival which was full of interesting acts.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Seattle, United States
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San Juan Islands

La Conner, United States

After a few days in Seattle, Emma drove me an hour up North to my relatives Barbara and Rich Stockwell in Shelter Bay.

I stayed with Barbara and Rich for a day, seeing some beautiful coastal scenery in the nearby areas. This is on top of a mountain overlooking the archipelago.

Near Shelter Bay was an Indian reserve. Tragically, drug abuse and social problems were rife in this area and many of the houses looked like rubbish dumping grounds. This is Barbara and Rich in front of a totem pole.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from La Conner, United States
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Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor, United States

After the visit to the Stockwells I met up with Emma again and we caught a ferry out to the San Juan islands, an archipelago stretching all the way up the Canadian West Coast and into Alaska. Emma grew up on one of these islands and seemed to know just about everyone we happened to meet.

On the ferry we bumped into Emmas old friend Jackson, and we spent the night having a little party over at his girlfriend’s house on Lopez Island.

The next day we caught the ferry to San Juan Island, visiting her old school (where we even attended a class) and the homes of her step-sister and her step-parents. The island was a quaint paradise and felt very un-American. The main town is an old fishing community, thankfully spared of Starbucks, McDonalds and the like, but with plenty of small restaurants and cafes. The rest of the island consisted of green small-scale farmland and beautiful coastline. After a dinner of clam chowder, we returned with the ferry to the mainland to stay at Emma’s dad’s little cottage.

Emma was an excellent tour guide and a great person to be with, making my visit to the San Juan islands area one of the highlights on my trip. I left feeling privileged to have seen a place that perhaps not that many other tourists from Europe would have ventured to.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Friday Harbor, United States
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Saint Helens

Saint Helens, United States

Barbara Stockwell´s brother Jim and his wife Vicki have a beautiful house right on the banks of the Columbia river, which separates the states of Washigton and Oregon. I had a very comfortable stay there for one day and enjoyed hearing Jim’s tales of his life living in Guam and other exotic places.

This is me and Jim outside the Saint Helens town hall.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Saint Helens, United States
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Portland, United States

The next day Jim drove me to my relative Jim Gorter and his wife Becky, who live in the suburbs of Portland.

Portland is known for being a very open-minded place, full of environmentally-conscious arty types. “Keep Portland Weird” is the city´s unofficial slogan - a reference to the urban bohemia that also local authorities encourage and support. The place is definitely eclectic. Seldom have I encountered so many bookshops, record stores, odd little shops and independent cafes as I did here. The city’s flagship bookstore “Powell’s books” is an absolute Mecca for any book-lover. Think a huge, three-floor department store filled to the brim with books of every kind and you might just begin to get the picture.

Emma in Seattle had put me in touch with her Portland-based friends Ben and Heather, who invited me to come along with them to a halloween party. Heather had previously owned a vintage clothing shop and had a whole garage full of old dresses. My outfit was perhaps not in the league of some of the others at the party, which included a mad scientologist and a guy dressed up as “Robama” (a robot version of Obama), but I had a lot of fun.

Ben and Heather also took me to see a rendition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show the following night. We didn’t expect it to be performed by an amateur troupe of nervous high school kids, confusedly shuffling about on stage and acting out the various scenes of the movie. I thought the whole thing was absolutely hilarious. We finished the evening with a drink in the bar in the tallest building in Portland.

When I was not with Ben and Heather, I stayed with my Jim and Becky. One day they drove me to see some beautiful waterfalls outside of town.

We also stopped at another beauty spot where the view over the Columbia river was magnificent.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Portland, United States
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San Francisco

San Francisco, United States

Few places in the world are as talked-about and loved as San Francisco, and the city definitely did not disappoint. I spent a week in San Francisco wandering about town and discovering places.

These are the famous sealions down at Fishermans Wharf. They made some terrible noises and smelt like rotten garbage.

This is the Castro area, the centre of the universe if you are a gay man.

San Francisco definitely is one of the most beautiful cities that I have been to. However, like Seattle it also had its fair share of homeless people. In the Haight area I saw many scruffy skater kids selling and buying drugs. I couldn’t quite figure out whether these were genuinely desperate people with no other choice, or just kids who had chosen to run away from their middle-class families to live a junkie lifestyle for thrills.

A few times I met up with Michelle, a Swedish friend of mine who has recently moved to San Francisco. One day we rented bicycles and rode through Golden Gate Park - a massive stretch of green space which was the centre of the 1969 “Summer of Love”. Hippies from all over America once congregated here to sing songs about love, talk about love, make love and take copious amounts of drugs.

This is me and Michelle. That big red thing in the background is the Golden Gate Bridge.

I also happened to be in San Francisco during the day of the presidential election. I knew that, whatever the outcome, there would be some exciting things happening in the city that night. Ever since the start of my travels the talk of the town had been who would be elected president. Many I met on my trip were appalled by the small-minded, “hockey-mom” ignorance of Sarah Palin and the possibility that she might become one of the most powerful people in the world. A few others feared that if Obama would win, the US would be run by a “communist”. One thing was for sure, this election would be a historic event for an America at a crossroads.

At around 8PM, when the first news came that Obama had been announced as the winner, I took the train into town. Many people had gathered at Union Square in the centre, and were singing, dancing and shouting in the streets. Cars were honking their horns and the crowd would yell “Obama, Obama!”. There was a festive mood mixed with a great sense of relief. Me and Michelle joined in with the rest of the people, yelling campaign slogans with a Swedish accent. I felt happy to have been there on that historic day.

During my time in San Francisco I stayed with Glen Allen who is a relative on my paternal grandmother´s side and lives in a suburb called Dublin. Glen was an extremely generous host and made sure that I had a really good time during my stay.

One night I got to meet Glen’s son Mike and his family, who live in nearby San Jose.

On another occasion I also met with other members of Glens family. This is over at the house of Glens nephew Mark (far left), after having celebrated his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary at a very exclusive local restaurant.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from San Francisco, United States
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Santa Cruz / Monterey

Santa Cruz, United States

Thanks to Glen, I had managed to save enough cash so I could rent a car and take the scenic drive from San Francisco to LA. My first stop was in touristy Monterey where I visited its famous aquarium.

The fella above was one of my many new friends I met in Monterey which included sharks, giant jellyfish, a huge octopus and a few dolphins.

The aquarium was impressive but the rest of the town did not excite me very much. Instead of continuing south, I decided to make a detour up to the surfer hotspot Santa Cruz. On the way I drove through some stunningly beautiful countryside with small apple-farms, breathtaking redwood forests and rolling hills.

That night I stayed at a pretty youth hostel made up of wooden houses with large verandas. There I made friends with a Swedish guy called Adam who was also travelling around America.

That night me and Adam went for a few beers in town where we became friends with Krista and Rose - two girls who were in town for a snowboard catalogue photoshoot.

The next day I drove out of town and explored some nearby redwoods. These gigantic trees stand tall and majestic, reaching far into the sky. It was a meditative experience to walk around in these quiet forests.

I also had time in the evening to drive along the coast and see the magnificent coast North of Santa Cruz.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Santa Cruz, United States
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Big Sur

Cambria, United States

About half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco lies the Big Sur, a coastal area which features one of the most scenic drives in the world. The views here were incredible. I felt on top of the world as I was cruising along the winding cliffside road.

Just South of Big Sur, I stopped at a youth hostel in tiny Cambria for one night. In the evening I had a nice walk along the beach, feeling a bit sad that my trip would soon come to an end.

Early the next morning I made a visit to Hearst Castle, the amazing palatial home of newspaper tycoon William Hearst. Hearst was a real Great Gatsby figure, regularly hosting parties to the glitterati of the time. Some of his A-list guests included Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and Winston Churchill. In the hills around the castle, zebras, antilopes, tigers and over 70 other exotic species once roamed, altogether forming the largest privately owned zoo in the world. Most of these animals are now gone but you can still see flocks of zebras in the hills. The castle features two swimming pools, its own movie theatre and is filled to the brim with art and antiques.

This is the outdoor swimming pool, the Neptune pool.

This is the main entrance to the castle.

This is the indoor swimming pool, modelled after Roman baths.

permalink written by  niklasbergstrand on January 20, 2009 from Cambria, United States
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