Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Goodbye, Philadelphia!

After living in the States for 13 months, I had to say goodbye to Philadelphia last week.

In the past 13 months, I've seen a lot of the United States: Out of the 50 States, I've visited 24, and the District of Columbia. I've experienced a historical presidential race, while the economy fell hard. I've gotten some great work experience as a Business Analyst; I've been running, playing soccer, bicycling, doing fitness, canoeing, shooting, skiing, snowmobiling, and lots, lots of driving. I've visited 14 sport events, and became a huge fan of the Philadelphia Eagles! I've celebrated Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas on 'the American way', and Sinterklaas the Dutch way ;)

I've been on the beach in January, only two weeks after I walked through the snow at -20; I learned how to play Beer pong, I got to know Philly as an amazing city, and I've seen how an online bank keeps its customers' faith in thought times.

However, every good thing comes to an end. Where I had a Honda Accord, I know ride a bicycle; where I had a penthouse apartment with concierge, I am now apartment-shopping in Amsterdam (always fun...); and the clear sky and hot summer have been traded in for grey and rainy weather. I'm looking forward to continue my career with ING in Amsterdam in April; thanks for all the e-mails I got from everyone!!

Daniel van der Veen

Here are some final Philly-pictures:


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Sunshine State

After visiting the Smokeys and Atlanta, the road trip went on towards Florida.

The first stop in Florida was Tampa, a huge city in which it took us about 30 minutes to drive to a restaurant or bar. Unfortunately, it was very cold here – about 45 degrees – which basically means that everything stands still; no beach bars, empty clubs, and we could forget our day on the beach. After visiting a centre where bobcats and tigers are being taken care of, we drove on towards the South.

Before hitting Miami, we stopped in the Everglades for an airboat tour. They use the airboats because the water isn’t very deep, and these things basically fly over the water. We saw some alligators and pelicans, and the ‘captain’ was able to pull some nice stunts with the boat!

After this outdoor experience, we drove on towards ‘The city where the heat is on’: Miami! Finally, we hit tropical temperatures- it was in the 70s this weekend. So Saturday, we stayed on the beach all day! Our hotel was only one block away from the beach, which was very nice in this weather!!

It was fun to see the neon lights like we were in Miami Vice. We also visited the area Little Havana – a Cuban area within this city. Hearing Spanish on all the streets was fun in general; just like the palm trees, ferrari’s, beaches, clubs… But, everything has to come to an end :( So we’re in the car now, after making a stop next to the Kennedy Space Center, on our way back to Philly where it’s supposed to snow. Brrrrrr!!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Road trip... To the hot, sunny, Southern US!

After my last days with ING Direct – the year really flew by! – I will finish my time in America with a trip to the Sunshine state: Florida, by driving there straight through the South.

Last Friday, my friend Paul arrived in Philly. After a weekend filled with sports (visiting the Flyers on Saturday evening, and watching the Eagles game in the Irish pub on Sunday afternoon) we started driving Sunday evening. After a hotel break in Virginia, we arrived in the Smokey Mountains Monday afternoon. This was a beautiful sight – the clouds in the mountains indeed makes it look like it’s ‘smoking’, and the snow on top of the trees in the highest area was beautiful! Unfortunately, many roads were closed in winter time because of icy conditions, so we drove off to our next destination.

We arrived in Atlanta GA in the evening. As a ‘Southern city with Northern influences’, the city has both the original old-Southern style houses, as well as a nice skyline. It was over 50 degrees in ‘Hotlanta’, which is known for two things: the CNN headquarters, and the Coca-Cola center. At CNN, we got a tour behind-the-scenes to see where the actual recording of their shows take place. Coca-Cola (which was found in Atlanta in the 19th century) created a huge museum in Atlanta, where you can see historical commercials, advertisement signs, and soda machines, as well as a 4D-theatre (where you not only see a 3D movie; it also lets you feel the wind and rain) and you get the opportunity to taste many different Coca-Cola products from around the world.

Atlanta was definitely fun for a day! However, not warm enough yet. So we’re in Florida now, to enjoy the sun for another week. To be continued!!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Road trip towards the cold

After my first American christmas, with a lot of food, many presents (even for the dogs) and a christmas party where the decorations in the front yard led to a traffic jam, I made a trip to the most Northern states on the East Coast: Maine and New Hampshire.

We left Philly Tuesday evening with a rented SUV (not because of the low gas prices, we just wanted to survive in the snow.. and gas prices were low anyway :) ), and stayed in Hartford, CT. On Wednesday we left early, but caught a lot of traffic because of the snow! Around 6 pm we took a ferry in picturesque Portland, ME, towards Peaks Island. Since Maine is known for lobsters, ordering one in the hotel restaurant for the heavy price of $15 was the first thing we did! After this meal, we went to a local bar, where new years eve was celebrated with live music.

The next days gave us a chance to get to know the island, the small city of Portland and its area. On Friday we drove to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for some outdoor activities. We tried to ski, but it was very icy; the temperature of -17 didn't make it very pleasant either, so skiing wasn't the best! A trip through Kancamagus Highway was much better: this road has stunning views over the White Mountains. Sunday, we finished the weekend with snowmobiling, which was awesome! Here are the pictures: