Friday, March 20, 2009

The Chill(y) San Francisco and Back Again

San Francisco and I started off on the wrong foot. I arrived after 14 hours of train travel and attempted to navigate the transit system. And failed. Well, only slightly, overshooting my final destination. But by such time, not only was I lost, I was tired and confused and disoriented and fed-up. (But happy to see Katharine!) SF was considerably colder and less sunny than L.A. or San Diego so putting on a sweater and a scarf begrudged me a little more. But a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge and North Beach put me on good terms again. San Francisco and I were in it for the long haul. And San Francisco was laying on the charm. Thick.

With a capricious sine-curve topography and no home left without bay windows or colorful coats, it was hard not to enjoy San Francisco's fun and chill temperament. I could even pardon its all-in-one weather, cold to hot, clear to cloudy, sunny to rainy, windy to foggy... sometimes all in the same day.

Culinary treasures abounded from the homemade pumpkin ravioli of Osteria del Forno to the eye-widening deliciousness of Limon Rotisserie's yucca fries with "yellow" sauce, and not to forget Tartine's morning bun, Arizmendi's potato and pesto pizza, the Ghoshal matriarch's feast or Alembic's Kobe beef tongue sliders. Truly a city after my stomach.

While museums and their architecture were interesting (the desert storm exterior of the de Young, the eco-friendly roof of the California Academy of Arts and Science, the wildly modern wacko addition at the Contemporary Jewish), I valued San Francisco more for the time I got to spend with old friends: Katharine, Shivani, Allie, Tatiana, and Annemarie. I was truly overjoyed to rekindle friendship with Annemarie, we seem to have uncovered again the hope-filled days of freshman year and giggled and smiled our way through our time together.

And then I was off for one last night on the culinary scene with dear Angela, hitting CUT and Father's Office (not her father's office) and meeting the legendary cousin. It felt like a natural finish to return to the airport and head back home but I am glad I discovered the mythic California and brought that dream that I've nurtured for so long to life.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Surf's Up

San Diego started with a whirlwind tour beginning at 9.30am (after a 6am wakeup and a 7.20 train), taking me from Del Mar to San Diego, from Cabrillo National Monument to the Hotel Del and swinging by the Mexican border before heading back.

I enjoyed spending a few days with Bea and Tom, from the excited informative banter to wandering their home and looking at all their treasures from around the world. It was nice to feel part of a home again in the middle of my journey. We laughed and chatted and adventured.

The zoo in San Diego is deservedly world-famous. We first took a tour around, seeing monkeys, birds, meerkats, giraffes, elephants, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), and other wild things. It was wondrous to see exotic moments - lions growling, hornbills 'kissing', monkeys swinging around, flamingos squawking and peacocks prancing about. Enchanting.

The big highlight of San Diego would have to have been the surf lesson and riding the waves. I signed up for a group lesson but ended up being the only one there. I learned the basics and got all wetsuited up (I wore booties too!) and hit the waves. Surfing was a lot more forgiving than it looked. I rode a couple of waves (what a feeling!) and took a few mouthfuls and facefuls of sea water (ah! clearing the sinuses). I put my yoga skills to the test to pop up and had a sensational time.

I left early on Friday to take the train up the coast and see more of California's varied and beautifully rugged desert-like terrain. I passed through rocky valleys, flat expanses of groomed farmland, unremarkable small towns, glittering seaside coasts, all while enjoying the ride up to San Francisco, a city I was told I would love...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

chillin' in L.A.

Los Angeles, city of freeways and movie stars. While I didn't catch a glimpse of a celebrity (I am shocked at my disappointment), I certainly had my fair share of freeways and car-dominated asphalt landscapes. But I had been warned of the urban sprawl of the west coast metropolis. Coming from Montreal, I relished the sunshine and the spots of t-shirt weather, the palm-tree-lined streets and the proximity to the beach, the abundance of cultural/architectural landmarks/sanctuaries and an equally wide array of culinary hotspots.

I feel truly blessed to have been reunited with my bestest friend Angela and find a few more friendly faces along the way (Leah, Carly, Sergio, Mike, Aaron).

A few highlights:

- yoga classes in its secondary heartland

- meals at Gjelina and Mozza with Angela

- road rage and other road adventures (see trials with GPS)

- the swooping curves and delft porcelain fountain of the Walt Disney Center

- the astonishing expanse of LA as seen from the Griffith Observatory

- shameless partying in WeHo

- an extensive culinary tour complete with tastings at the Farmer's Market

- meeting Angela's cute cute parents!

- the breathtaking outer peristyle of the Malibu Getty with a view out to the Pacific

- finding sanctuary in the grid of the Meier Getty

- the many conversations and moments with friends

- getting in free to museums (thank you CCA!)