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A short drive from San Francisco

Photo taken at Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Work was closed for Presidents Day (16th February) so a road trip was a must. It was all very last minute and to be honest there wasn’t really much of a plan, other than to get a car and drive.

Sorting Transport 

As I am under 25 years and without a credit card I did not have many options when it came to hiring a car. I ended up going with Hertz and got a Toyota Yaris. With full coverage insurance it cost us $136.

Things to note:

  • Hertz accepts debit cards
  • The card you use must belong to the main driver
  • They will take a $200 deposit from your card
  • If you are under 25 there is discount codes available online
  • You will be asked do you want them to refuel your car or will you do it yourself – do it yourself, its cheaper!                                                                          

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   Route  

  1. Point Reyes National Seashore

   2.  Petaluma (overnight)

   3.   Bodega Bay

 

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

On arrival we found a large cabin that is home to the Point Reyes park rangers and the information centre. It was here we received a map of the area and were recommended the 8 mile (4 there & 4 back) Bear Valley Trail. This is a vey flat trail with a breath-taking view at the end. The walk took 4 hours, walking at a leisurely pace. It was a warm day so we found ourselves gulling through water.

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I was suggest bringing a few snacks for when you reach the edge of the cliff. Sit down and enjoy the view! There is a small but beautiful beach down a rather steep climb. Please note that this is not a recommended climb and I have been told people have been injured during the climb. In saying that, if you would like the adventure I would recommend climbing down onto the beach and enjoying your snacks there.

Point Reyes National Seashore is somewhere I plan to bring all my visitors. A place not known to all travelers but without a doubt worth a visit.

Petaluma

This small town has a lot to offer, from the lovely restaurants to the talented Petaluma Pete who plays his piano on the a street corner. Looking for a quite weekend away or just an evening out of the city I would highly recommend checking out Petaluma.

Accommodation - This was quite a random find and a good one at that. I was checking out google maps and saw it was a town close by. We booked into Motel 6, an absolute steal! $75 for one room, with two queen beds and onsite parking. Remember this was over valentines weekend and a long weekend.

Food – We were very lucky and got a table at Risibisi Restaurant, a busy little Italian restaurant in the center of the town. There was a special Valentines Day set menu which had some lovely dishes. Unfortunately it lacked a choice of good desserts :( , which sent us off in search of a supplement, this is where we came across Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Every wall was covered with a section of sweets/candy to choose from, we were like two kids in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

On Sunday morning after a quick Yelp search we found ourselves at Hallie’s Diner. I would advise you get down early as the place fills up fast. We were very lucky to get seated straight away. We both devoured the Cinnamon French Toast, a breakfast I would definitely go back for.

Shopping - Another lucky find was Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. After breakfast on Sunday morning we stopped by for what we had intended to be a ‘quick look around’, three hours later we hit the road again. Some great deals can be found in Nike, Ann Taylor and Levis.

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Bodega Bay

It around 2pm by the time we arrived at Bodega Bay. We had sat in a good bit of traffic on the way from Petaluma, I put this down to the fact the sun was beaming and everyone wanted to get out in the fresh air. We didn’t mind too much as the views were breathtaking. We drove all the way up a windy quite narrow hill were we parked the car and walked to the cliff side. There wasn’t much of a walk, more like a stroll along the cliff, this suited us fine as our legs were tired from the previous day.

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Bodega Bay is considered a prime spot for whale watching (especially between the last weeks of April & start of May), but we were hopeful we would catch a glimpse. After a half an hour or so of patiently looking out we began to give up hope. We wandered over to a group that had gathered at the point of one of the cliffs, it was there we caught a glimpse of a group of gray whales. Due to the time of year (February) the whales were quite far off the coast.

Overall our trip was a great success. Although we started out without much of a plan, only a car and a place to sleep, we packed a lot it. When living in a city you can easily forget that there is more than concrete buildings and the hustle and bustle of city life. Some of the most spectacular views are only an hour out of San Francisco.

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The 6 month mark

Last Sunday marked the 6 month anniversary since I moved State side and I have loved every minute of it so far. I’m not going to lie, I do occasionally get quite homesick. In fact if my parents hadn’t paid a visit this month, there is a very good chance I would have booked a ticket home.

To mark the occasion here are 6 of my biggest highlights/accomplishments over the past 6 months…

1. Moving into my own apartment… and surviving!

Growing up in Ireland’s capital, Dublin, allowed me to live at home throughout my education and the years that followed. Although I really hate being referred to as spoilt, I did however live very comfortably at home. Growing up my Mum would go to the moon and back for each of us (and still does), we would wake up to breakfast, return from school to food on the table, received  help with our homework and we always had freshly cleaned clothes.

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Moving into my own apartment was going to be accomplishment of its own, never mind the fact the apartment was located in a totally different country. I am happy to say my clothes remain clean (although rarely ironed), home cooked meals still occur, and I am still alive (always a bonus).

2. Christmas

Having moved over at the end of September going home for Christmas was not feasible. As my family pointed out, I had just said goodbye to all my friends and family, was I really going to return 3 months later for a visit. With this in mind I accepted an invitation to spend Christmas in Philadelphia with my friend Erin and her family. I was a little apprehensive about going as I see Christmas as a very family orientated time of year, this concern quickly disappeared on entering her home and saw a stocking hanging at the fireplace with my name on it.

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The whole experience was better than I ever could have imagined. After celebrating the new year together we took a trip to New York to spend the night with some friends. It was a brilliant ending to a fantastic Christmas, that being said, I don’t intend in spending next Christmas without my family.

3. Weekend Brunch

This is a weird one but there are so many nice (mostly healthy) places to eat. Having a reservation is not a thing here… however, standing in line for two hours is! I know for Irish people we do not like waiting around and certainly don’t like standing in a line for hours in order to be fed. So if you feel like you’ll be hungry at 11am, grab your place in line at least an hour before that.

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Ok, so i’ve made brunch sound like an awful thing, but trust me it’s not! There is lots of places to choose from so you never get bored of the same food or run out of places to try.

4. Spending time with my parents 

I always knew my mum would come to visit, however, I was unsure about my dad. Now don’t get me wrong I know he would want to, however, when working in a family business taking holidays is not always an option. Shortly after I arrived in SF my mum told me she was planning a visit in the new year, to which my dad replied that she was not going without him. March 11th, they both arrived!

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To say we did a lot during their visit is an understatement, we packed everything in. So much so my dad teased about why would he visit again as he has seen it all. The highlights of their visit for me where little things, Dad trying to pay cash in an Uber, Mum’s face when I brought her to Mixt Greens, Dad’s dancing on St. Patrick’s Day and then Mum threatening to stay up night cause she didn’t want to go home!

5. Discovering California

It took a while but I finally started to tick off the tourist attractions one by one. I’ve cycled the bridge, climbed up Coit Tower, Baker’s Beach, Pier 39 and the likes. I still have a lot to do such as Alcatraz at night, Japanese Tea Garden’s and much more. But what I like the most is discovering the hidden gems outside of the city. Point Bonita Lighthouse, Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods and Napa are all short drives out of the city and are all equally breathtaking. Another bonus point for most of the places out of the city is that the weather is a lot better, it’s really a win win!

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6. Passing my driving test

Although I have absolutely no need for an american driving license I thought it would be fun to do the test and get myself another card for my wallet. I sat the test on the 23rd of March without any lessons and am glad to say I passed first time round (something I haven’t been able to say before). Once passing the test I quickly realized it has its benefits, I now can rent a car at an hourly rate from ZipCar, which will make my weekly grocery shop that little bit easier

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Just do it!

Photo taken at Treasure Island, San Francisco, California

Photo taken at Treasure Island, San Francisco, California

So only about four people know what it was like for me moving away and as I sit on my bed this evening reading my cards and letters that everyone was so kind to give me before I left, I find it only fitting that I write this. Side note – YAY no more writers block!!

I was never scared about moving away and when everyone told me I was very brave, I just kind of thought ‘hey, it’s an adventure’. I got up that morning, stripped my bed (wouldn’t be like me to leave without being a little dramatic), went down for breakfast and set off with my family on my merry way to the airport. First stop was to drop our little ‘teacher in training’ off at the bus stop, which would bring her to teaching practice. It was quick and easy, like ripping a bandaid off, almost like I was going to see her later that day (ignoring the fact it was going to be 14 months).

Then there were three (Dad, Mum & the youngest)! We all lined up to check in, Dad making friends with the people in the line, hoping they’d look after me and Mum making sure I had everything I needed. Bag checked, ticket in hand, it was time to go through security. We walked upstairs in terminal two, making small talk, acting like I was heading away for the weekend. All of a sudden it was time to say goodbye..

I can’t remember who I hugged first but they all got their hugs and kiss goodbye. I remained strong, no tears!! I started to walk up to security… I looked around and in that moment I decided I was no longer going, I was staying at home! I ran back into Mum’s arms with tears in my eyes, I can’t remember saying much, but instead listening to my Mum’s encouraging words. After another big group hug I decided I was going to do this! Dried my eyes, bag on shoulder and off I went, this time without looking back!

Now don’t get me wrong, the water works started straight away once I got on the plane, sat in my lovely middle seat and began to read the letters my family had sent me away with. Now thinking back that wasn’t my smartest move, but sure I’m known to not always make the smartest of moves.

The point I suppose I am trying to make is, although things may seem scary, daunting or a little out of your reach, if it is something you want, what is the harm in trying! Nothing comes easy but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!

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Health & Fitness & all that Jazz…

Photo taken at Fort Mason, San Francisco, California

Culture in Ireland is slowly but surely changing. People are becoming more conscious about what they eat and making a conscious choice to exercise.  When I was in secondary school I would come home and make pasta with cheese. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t cause I wasn’t able to cook something fancy, but it was the mentality of what was the point when I was only cooking for one. My youngest sister now comes home from school and makes herself a sandwich, with chicken, pesto, sundried tomato’s and goats cheese. Now she may be the exception, as she is quite the chef, but I do feel younger generations are more aware of healthy eating. As Operation Transformation makes its way back onto Irish television screens, we see communities getting together to come out and get fit! Local supermarkets advertising weekly deals on fruit and vegetable, all ready to give us that kick we need to get started.

I recently bought myself an UP Jawbone, for those of you who do not know this is a fitness tracker. It tracks how many steps you take daily, your sleep and you can also record the food you eat through the app. December 2013, myself and my sisters bought one of these bands for my dad and to this day I am surprised he religiously wears it (expect for last week when he momentarily lost it, but that’s another story). It is suggested that you aim to take 10,000 steps per day and I am finding myself getting disappointed if I do not surpass this target. Another thing that gives me a slight nudge in the right direction is that I have ‘teamed up’ with my dad and a close friend back home, which has released my competitive streak… I must beat them on a daily basis, although I don’t think they are aware of this competition.

I have also joined a gym close to work and try to go every day after work and if I am feeling super motivated sometimes on a Saturday too. I am not going to lie, the steam room and jacuzzi have a huge pull on that motivation, but that only happens if I commit to an intense 45 plus minute workout beforehand. I find my peers here are very focused on eating healthy and keeping active, some go as far as eating lunch at their desk as to have time for a 40 minute run during the day. People take pride in their health/appearance going for their bi-weekly manicures and I have even heard of people in the gym talk about their weekly massages!

Shortly after moving into our apartment we bought a Nutri-bullet, something I had never heard of before and was convinced I was also never going to use it. Now, I have two juices a day, one for breakfast and another as a mid-afternoon snack. One day in the office my manager walked by and saw me drinking my dark green drink, he asked did it have kale. As I nodded he began to reply, ‘Oh you certainly are a true Californian now’! A statement that made me laugh, people at home eat Kale too!

On the odd sunny occasion in Ireland you will hear the phrase, ‘the sun comes out, clothes come off’. You will see young girls wander around as if they are in the south of Spain, and men wandering around the city centre with tops off as if they are at the beach. Imagine if Ireland was always guaranteed that sunny weather throughout the summer/year, I feel people would be more health conscious, similar to how people are when they are prepping to go away on holiday – getting beach bod ready! I certainly know I became more aware of what I was eating and ensuring I got that gym session in once I booked my one way ticket to California.

Ireland may be years behind in a lot of things (roads and transport systems to name a few) but it is catching on quickly when it comes to the importance of fitness and healthy eating. Gyms and fitness classes are popping up across the country and there are more healthy options available when eating out. I hope by the time I move back home that Ireland will be on par with the way of living over here (maybe leaving out the weekly massages), hoping that people will invest in their health and see the benefits of staying fit!

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Keeping In Touch

                                     Photo taken at Lands End, San Francisco, California

As a child we go to school and during the summer we spend it with our families, abroad, at summer camps or in various other ways. The point is after the summer we all go back to the classroom, trade war stories and start all over again. The process is quite similar as we go through secondary school and even through university. Although during the transition between primary school, secondary school and university, friends may move away, but personally I found most stayed close by and remained in a similar routine to mine.

Now, as majority of us have graduated, our lives are very different and our schedules are certainly worlds apart. Friends have chosen to continue their education, others have immigrated, others have found themselves with permanent nine to five jobs in their field of study and others have chosen to travel the world!  We take holidays at different times, have different priorities and our day to day lives vary greatly.

When I decided to immigrate my dad asked me what I was most nervous about. I know he was expecting me to say ‘knowing no-one’ or ‘moving away from my family’ or anything along those lines, instead I replied with ‘losing touch with my friends’. He quickly reminded me that one of my best friends lives in Philadelphia and it had been over a year since I had seen her, he then went on to remind me of another friend who had just come back from two years in Australia, both friends I am still in touch with.

Recently the time difference has started to get to me… eight hours is proving to be a nightmare when trying to arrange chats with friends. When I get up, they’re in work, and when I’m finished work they’re in bed. Now my sister has had the bright idea to make things more difficult by moving to Finland for five months… that’s a TEN hour time difference. Last Sunday I had a three-way Skype call with my family, in San Francisco it was morning, Ireland late afternoon and in Finland it was night time. Imagine what it was like when we didn’t have Skype!

Although I have always said I didn’t want this site to become too personal, I have quickly come to realize that it might be the easiest way to keep everyone informed. While I still intend to keep information broad enough, I am going to start documenting more of my adventure here. Till next time…

Thinking of Home

Christmas Tree Union Square

Photo taken at Union Square, San Francisco, California

I am officially living here 2 months, although it still feels like I’m only here a wet week! In that time I have celebrated Halloween, gone to Lake Tahoe, experienced a real Thanksgiving, partied when the Giants won The World Series and so much more..! With only two weeks till Christmas I find myself missing home, with this in mind I thought I would jot down things I miss from home and others I don’t. Now I am not going to state the obvious such as friends, family and my mom’s home cooking but rather things you wouldn’t necessarily think of.

Things I miss:

Chocolate

Although my family has spoiled me, sending over some good ole Cadbury’s chocolate, it’s not the same when you know you have to ration it. I miss heading to the local shop and being able to buy it myself, instead of hiding it away.

Food

A lot of what I miss from home is food related, actually a lot of my life in general is based on food. If I was to go home for 24 hours I have a list of restaurants I would visit, such as Wagamama’s, Bay, Milano’s, a fresh bag of chippers chips (seriously lacking over here) and of course grab a white hot chocolate in Butlers.

Christmas Time

When someone says Christmas I think of dressing up my winter woolies, spending time with my family and curling up in-front of the wood burning fire. In California it’s not the same, the sun is shining, woolies are tucked away and for me the festive spirit is just not there.

Water

This one may seem crazy but the water is different over here and I don’t mean tap water. My hair never seems to be clean and needs to be washed all the time!! On that note I am also dreading the inevitable haircut.

The News & Weather Reports

In Ireland the main news station is RTE at 6pm or 9pm. In America there are so many news stations, therefore, it is a very competitive industry. As a result some of these stations air the most ridiculous news. I find it hard to find out what is actually happening in the World! I still find myself checking Independent.ie and the Irish Times.

Things I certainly do not miss:

Public Transport

On average in Dublin you could be waiting between 20 – 50 minutes for a bus. Here the maximum wait for the buses in my area (38, 38L & 1) is 8 minutes! You certainly don’t see people running for the bus and you’d be surprised how many bus drivers will wait for you if they see your attempting to cross the road to them. While I miss the convince of having my car there is definitely no need for one when you live and work in the city.

The Weather

Cold, wet, windy, hormonal weather in Ireland vs. bright, sunny, sometimes foggy weather in California. What would you choose?

Taxis/Cabs

I can count on one hand how many times I have hailed a cab since I have arrived. I always order a cab through Lyft or Uber, as I find it to be more secure and I do not have to worry if the card machine is working or if I have enough cash. Regardless whether I hail a taxi or order one through an app it is still so much cheaper than Ireland.

I’m sure there is a lot I have left out and I’m sure there is a lot I have yet to discover, but for now that is it! Don’t hesitate to send some chocolate my way if you’re really embracing the giving Christmas spirit :)

Finding THAT Job

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I was very active throughout university, always getting involved with extra-curricular activities even in my final year. As a result I have met some inspiring, dedicated, successful individuals and I continue to do so. Little did I know all these extra-curricular activities were building a foundation for my professional career. These experiences have proven to be invaluable! On graduating I was approached (via: LinkedIn) about a marketing position in Microsoft. This particular position was advertised for someone with 3+ years’ experience. Several interviews later an offer was extended to me and I started work the following week. I will be forever grateful to my manager who did not label me as ‘just graduated’, but saw beyond that to all the experience and knowledge I had gained through my involvement in extra-curricular activities. All this made moving to America more daunting for me, as I was going to have to enter into a very competitive job market, something I had not done before.

Starting out on your job search you can be faced with filling out hundreds of job applications/screening questions and on average only 10% of the them may make it to a recruiter. The best advice I have received was… step away from the computer and go network!! Ever hear the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’well it’s true! Here are some tips I found to be useful:

  • EventBrite -Register yourself and look for networking events in your area.
  • Meetup.com is also a good site to check out for meeting locals.
  • LinkedIn – Study your connections, who knows who, ask for introductions to people in companies/industries you’re interested in working. Ask them for a 15min coffee.
  • Referrals –  Know someone working where you are interested in applying to? Ask for a referral. Most time it’s a win win, you get moved to the top of the pile and they receive compensation if you’re hired!

I have always believed in finding a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. While I know finding a job is tough I still stand by this! You may not absolutely love every aspect of you job you should love about 80% of it. Keep that in mind throughout your search.

A few more tips to help you along your job search…

  1. LinkedIn – upgrade your account to the Job Seeker Premium, you get the first 30 days free. However, there is no point in doing this unless your profile is up-to-date. The thing to remember is LinkedIn is a platform to advertise yourself, only put up experience that is relevant to the job you’re looking for.
  2. Business Cards – get personal cards made. If you’re Irish you’re guaranteed to feel like a twat, but get use to it! There is a different format for American business cards so if you’re getting them made overseas make sure they are the correct dimensions, otherwise you’ll stand out… and not in a good way. Moo.com and Vista Print are 2 good sites to check out.
  3. Alumni Network – most universities have an alumni network, connecting past and present students. It is a fantastic facility, make use of it! Meet others that attended your university, you can even share war stories. Dublin City University (DCU) have a fantastic network with Chapters all over the world, including San Francisco.
  4. Glassdoor – not only can you get an overview of salaries in different companies, this is also a good platform for finding jobs.

Good luck :)