It’s been a while

To my dear readers, especially the throngs of you who have been on edge everyday, wondering if I’m still around – I am happy to announce that yes, I live on! There’s a good reason why I didn’t have “update blog more often” as an item on my list of things to do over the summer…

I can’t legitimately cross off a lot of things from the aforementioned list, but the summer has been quite awesome thus far anyways. Work has been going quite well. By “well”, I mean it’s never boring, and I can’t ask for a better environment. I think I’m one of the few people my age who thoroughly enjoy being at work. Either there’s something fundamentally wrong with me, or I’ve really struck gold here.

As much as I bask in the feeling of selling my soul to corporate, an office job with a 3-hour commute is hardly the way I would prefer to be spending my first summer in five years where I don’t have to worry about academics. I decided to use this free time to catch up with my travels. Given the amount of crazy I’d been through during the first half of the year, I had initially decided on some relaxing, resort-type, lounging-around vacation.

NOPE. Spent two months running around.

Buffalo, NY. A much-needed shopping trip while the Loonie was flying high (it’s actually flying even higher now). After a day of outlet craze, we swung by Niagara Falls on the way back across the border and were lucky enough to catch some fireworks.

 

Fireworks at Niagara. Photo shamelessly stolen from Eric.

 

Mont Tremblant, QC. As a last-minute decision, six of us signed up for one of those Chinese bus tours that took us to Mont Tremblant over the Canada Day long weekend. WHAT, you say, WHY would you crazy people lumber up to a ski resort mid-summer? WELL, I reply, it was actually quite gorgeous with surprisingly a wide range of activities. We made a few mandatory useless stops (namely Upper Canada Village) on the way there and back, so we really ended up having only one full day to spend at the resort. It was decided that we needed to make the day count as much as possible. What followed was our execution of CHALLENGE ACCEPTED:

  • Breakfast at French café! When I start the day with chocolate milk on a patio, I know it’s going to be an awesome day.
  • Boat cruise around Lac Tremblant! Watch a ginormous helicopter land at a baller vacation home.
  • Lounging / swimming at hotel pool! Reject idea of poolside eating because we can’t afford a $7 hot dog at the Fairmont.
  • Lunch at Spanish restaurant! The day only gets more awesome with chimichangas on a patio.
  • Cable car up to mountain top! It was extremely windy at the summit, and the view figuratively and literally blew us away.
  • Luge down mountain! Apparently it’s a Québécois thing, and was one of the best random calls of the day.
  • Kayak in the lake! By the time we got a hang of things, it was time for our appointment at…
  • Scandinave Spa! Lily and I went for Swedish massages and Scandinavian Baths to rejuvenate while the others had their own little misadventures.
  • Dinner in the resort village! With live music and yes, on a patio.
  • Le Casino de Mont Tremblant! Matt gained a 1000% return playing a slots machine called Chien Académie (sounds legit).

 

View from the top of Mont Tremblant! Thanks Matt for giving me implicit permission to post this photo.

 

After we got back to our rooms I pretty much passed out instantly and don’t recall anything else. On the way home the tour stopped by Kingston where Char gave us a quick tour of downtown and the Queens University campus. Now Waterloo seems even uglier by comparison.

California. I can’t even fully recall what I did here, but simply thinking back makes me miss it so much!

My impression of Los Angeles was what I expected after speaking to numerous people who have been there before – sprawling, overhyped and kind of ghetto. Certain areas were only nice in the sense that you could marvel up close at the multi-million dollar mansions of local residents in the Hills. We ended up spending much more time in San Diego, where the beaches were nicer, the traffic was better, and the burritos were holy. Some Kodak Moments included:

  • MXN, a chain of Mexican fast food restaurants. We could’ve eaten this on any occasion. Proper meal, midnight snack, drunk food, post-roadtrip arrival food, beach-side munching… you name it.
  • Surfing at Pacific Beach. Or our attempt at doing so. We rented some boards and were merrily floating in the water when I started noticing that the waves kept pushing me out to sea and made it nearly impossible for me to get closer to the beach. Before I made it all the way back, a lifeguard actually turned up with a megaphone and instructed us to get out of the water ASAP. Once we were all safely on land, he explained that we were in a riptide, and lectured us about getting actual surfing lessons. First time for everything!
  • Jetskiing in Mission Bay. I get why people can do this in circles for hours by themselves. It’s just so liberating. 30MPH doesn’t sound like much but it gets intense when you’re on pretty much what is a motorized bike on open water.
  • La Jolla. An upscale beachside neighbourhood in northern San Diego, I regretted not being able to spend more time exploring the area.
  • Meeting up with Gavin & co. for a bar night and dinner the next day at San Diego’s best lamb shank joint, according to Yelp.
  • Gifting Dan a microwave. “What did you guys buy? It’s so big… You guys got me a microwave?”
  • San Diego Zoo. Having worked in a zoo, I was impressed with the way everything was laid out, the tour buses were conducted, and the variety of flora and fauna found there. I didn’t quite feel all the hype with the Panda exhibit though. There was actually a line-up for the exhibit itself, and as adorable as it was, only one cub was on display.
  • Driving through Gaslamp. We were so tired at this point that we settled for a comfy car tour of the district. It’s so much cleaner and more upscale than any entertainment district I’ve seen so far anywhere. Somehow it has this warm, friendly, yet sophisticated vibe. Maybe I’ve just been hanging out in all the wrong areas.

 

Can I just live here...

Mark my words, San Diego… I will be back for actual Gaslamp shindigs, SeaWorld and of course the ever epic LegoLand. And maybe to retire.

A morning drive up the I-5 later, we found ourselves back in the Los Angeles area to meet up with Connie and Herman. First up was ferrying our burrito-filled butts (1lb burrito for breakfast, say WHATTT) to Catalina. It was a gorgeous island, albeit touristy. After exploring the boardwalk, we did the only thing there was to do – golf cart around the island bluffs! This was much more fun than I expected. I don’t think anyone in history was as elated as I was driving a golf cart. Caddy, anyone?

 

Golf carting to new heights. That's how we roll.

The highlight of Catalina was having the chance to scuba dive for the first time in an actual reef. Normally for recreational dives they’d first train you in a pool or something. I have no idea how deep we went (40-50 feet maybe?) but the experience was interesting to say the least. Not the most comfortable hobby but I suspect you’d get used to it. It might be a while before I dive again, but it’s rather surreal to be swimming among schools of fish and holding a live sea urchin in your hand.

We spent the night out in downtown LA, then caught some Zs before flying back to the Land of Thunderstorms and Haze, aka Toronto.

On a couple of random notes:

  • I completely understand the California song, about driving down the freeway. It is really such an awesome feeling, with the ocean on one side (though you can’t really see it) and mountains on the other. The only thing that could’ve made it better was if we rented a convertible. While I’m at it with the random points, doesn’t that blond guitarist from Wave look like Neil Patrick Harris? A little bit??
  • I am impressed at how well flippers work in practice. For some reason I never expected them to be a necessity but they do quite a good job in propulsion.

I miss this.

I’m going to cap this post right here and continue MY SUMMER: PART DEUX in another entry, before anyone starts suing me for eye strain. You’re welcome!

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