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Thirty-One By Eighteen

Welcome to our travel diary/blog. Here we'll be recording our traveling adventures to a variety of random corners of the world, some well-known and others not. Feel free to look around, comment, make fun of us for being dorks, etc. One thing to note: the map may seem a little schizophrenic, but that's because we're frequently in very different places at the same time.

Diary Entries

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Location: New York, USA

So, I went to New York City this week. Since this is a travel log/blog, I should probably post about having gone to New York. The trouble is that while I technically spent 4 days in the Borough of Manhattan, I spent about an hour of that time outside of the office, the hotel, and the beeline between those two points (covered respectively at 8 AM in one direction and approximately midnight in the other). Given that I’m not allowed to post on what I was doing there in any amount of detail (which would bore any sane human being out of its head in any case), I won’t bore you with the details. We didn’t eat anywhere interesting, see any interesting sights besides a wonderful 30th-ish story view of Midtown, or do much else besides talk and type.

Thus, about the only interesting parts of the trip to report are my short sojourn outside the hotel and the train ride home, both of which happened the same day. So I decided that since we were staying in Midtown, I was going to make it to Times Square at some point. Kitschy, touristy, and overhyped, yes, but Times Square is always fun to see, especially as it evolves over the years. You can always see what’s the current marketing hype of major corporations by what’s in Times Square at the time.

This time, however, the buzz wasn’t any new building or store or anything, but rather the streets themselves. As part of some strange initiative, Mayor Bloomberg has decided that closing Broadway around Times Square to create a series of one-block pedestrian malls is somehow a good idea. So right now, you can walk right down Broadway, as I did at about 8 AM (see attached pics). It was an interesting experience, greatly added to by the cheap plastic tables and chairs the City has set up in the middle of the street. Since it was raining and I was in a hurry, I had no need to try them out. It’s a cool experiment, and on a nice day the middle of Broadway would be a wonderful place to sit. It just doesn’t make the city really any more walkable, since the cross-streets aren’t blocked off; these, of course are the short sides of the blocks, so it’s still the uniquely New York experience of being in the process of crossing some street more frequently than being on the sidewalk.

As for the train ride home, I must say I enjoy the Acela. It’s particularly nice when you’re in First Class. Even better is when you’re not paying for it. The icing on the cake, however, is sitting across the aisle from Sammy Hagar and his extremely MILFy wife. Nice guy, as fat in person as on TV, and apparently touring with a new outfit called “Chickenfoot.” Doesn’t quite have the ring of “Van Halen,” does it?


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Location: Toronto, Canada

[Graduation Trip with Family - Day 10]

Another slow morning began with a long hot shower (similar to many mornings I miss very much), another simple sausage, eggs and toast breakfast, and…underworld, the movie. (side note: I vaguely remember turning down an invitation to watch it when it first came out – if it wasn’t for my godpa, I wouldn’t have sat down and watched it) Gotta go pick up the car from Avis soon, the car we’ll drive to Montreal, Quebec city and on for the next few days.


manchester united lost today. fc barcelona 2 - 0 man utd.
that pretty much set the mood of the day. it went well with the gloomy, rainy weather. there isn't much you could do when 1. it's raining, 2. your team lost a huge match - because nobody wants to go anywhere, even if you're on vacation.

sometimes it's fun to be with my fam, sometimes it gets stressful. it was a fun and stressful one today. 5 out of 6 of us are manchester united fans (in case you're wondering, it's an english football team). today was a big day because it was the final match btwn fc barcelona and man utd for the uefa champions league. needless to say, nobody paid much attention to anything but the tv during lunch (pretty much ignoring the very delicious korean food!). we ate quickly and soon we were on our way to uncle steve's in markham, as we dont get a channel that shows the match here at uncle patrick's in north york.

we were driving to uncle steve's but it wasn't until we got to the house that we realised they all had his old address. as a navigator with a dummy gps, my job was to enter it and, well, navigate. abt 30mins into the match, with very annoyed family members in the car, i called matthew (uncle steve's son) for their new address. after abt 20 mins, we finally got to his 'new' house (in which he's been living for at least 5 years) for the match. the second half of the match, really. dummy's nice to be a 'kid' sometimes - when you could say 'you adults are dummies' lol


T's working hard in new york, and I'm sitting at my computer up in Toronto. I should make myself somewhat useful. Gotta look up what's good in montreal, it's google time.

i now have L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal and Cirque du Soleil's new show - OVO on my list. i'd LOVE some suggestions! seeya later kids.

- V

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Location: Emerald Isle, NC, USA

Fifth day [Thursday]

Combining two good things sometimes leads to bad results (think broccoli and pancake syrup). Sometimes, as in the case of fresh strawberries and pancakes, it leads to great things. That was a great start to the day. Unfortunately, that was about all that went well. Nearly the whole day was quite windy at steady 10 mph off the ocean, with gusts in the 30s. The beach is a very nice place to be, but this is less so when the sand constituting the beach is finding its way between your eyelid and your eyes. Needless to say, due to the blowing sand and the rough surf, there wasn’t much beach action today, by either us or anyone else really. That was without accounting for the rain, of which there was also plenty. Perhaps this is why beach houses are cheaper in May – one just assumes you lose a day or two of beach vacation to the weather. Despite this, I decided to grill on the quasi-illegal grill. It didn’t work; seems like the ignitor is shot. Wonderful. Did the same meal (mixed grill of balsamic-vinaigrette-marinated chicken thighs with sausage and some beef) with side salads. Twas okay. About the only bright spot for the day was a delightful rainbow (see attached pictures).

A final, EI-specific note on days like this: while it is tempting to go into the water on days like this for surf activities, it’s best if you really know what you’re doing. The rip currents are quite strong due to the orientation of the island, and they’re quite frequent.

Sixth day [Friday]:

My co-author hates cinnamon. I believe this is greatly to her detriment, and probably is the root cause of most of the times she ever gets upset. Needless to say, she doesn’t agree. But hey, if she’ll agree not to try to feed me mushrooms, I won’t feed her cinnamon. Fortunately, my family members share my level of cinnamon addiction, and thus took great pleasure in the cinnamon-raisin megabiscuits I made for breakfast. Seeing as the weather was already looking dodgy for the day, I figured there was nothing better to fuel a second consecutive day of inactivity than a nice carb-laden breakfast.

And rain it did, not as much as yesterday, but still enough to be annoying. Tired of having a beach vacation spent indoors, I at least went out and sat in the outdoor hot tub for a loooooong time, though the wind and rain made me feel like one of those Japanese macaques which warm themselves in hot springs. With the bad weather and still-useless grill, I made a lunch dish taught to me by my co-author (pasta alfredo with spinach and red pepper). The day improved a bit in the afternoon, allowing me to…sit in the hot tub some more. Well, okay, I did take a brief dip in the ocean, although the surf was a bit rough. The post-rain clouds were beautiful and a bit surreal, the kind painted by novice painters who haven’t quite gotten the hang of painting clouds yet. I tried people-watching for a while, only to realize that part of the charm of EI is that, on the beach at least, there just aren’t that many people to watch. It’s also not the most youthful crowd, although they do bring dogs. Either way, Copacabana it ain’t.

The sound of surf pounding at night was amazing. Some nights here are just like that, and it’s one of the truly unforgettable things about the oceanside house we normally stay in.

[Final day] [Saturday]:

With only one more day before departure, I looked at the forecast with trepidation, and found that the weather gods had apparently decided we were only to have a half-week of good weather. Fortunately, the interpreter/predictors of the weather gods were mercifully incorrect (for the first time all week). Absolutely beautiful day. Picture-perfect and warm but not hot (low 80s – Celsius conversions available from co-author). I wish I had more pictures of it than the attached single one of the frog from whom I take my name, but I was kinda in the ocean for a little too long to be taking pictures. I also took a stereotype of a long walk on the beach (yes, ladies, I like them), heading from our house down to the Emerald Isle city limits, a distance of about 1 ¾ miles each way, culminating with a blissful encounter of the RV park that welcomes you to the neighboring community of Salter Path. I won’t go into the history of Salter Path here, but it’s actually quite interesting. That said, it’s a little more of downmarket version of Emerald Isle – so if what you’re looking for is a version of the island a little cheaper, try there or Atlantic Beach.

Sorry this journal entry is short – there’s really not that much to write about swimming in the surf or walking on the beach. They’re kinda experiences most of us have had, and while they’re wonderful, there’s nothing terribly remarkable about them. I do wish that every day could include such pleasures, though. Oh well, a man can always dream. Unfortunately, right now all I’ll dream about is packing in the morning and a certainly-hellish drive up I-95, followed by a return to work. Adios for now, kids.


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Location: Emerald Isle, NC, USA

Fourth day (Wednesday):
We chose Wednesday as the date of our annual encounter with the Red Barn. For the uninitiated, the Red Barn is a hard-to-find but unforgettable down-home seafood joint near Swansboro, NC, where everything is fried and they’ll never run out of hush puppies. Yeah, yeah, waistline, calories, etc. Trust me, it’s worth it. The shrimp aren’t battered at all, but they’re perfectly fried and served right out of the fryer. It’s that good. Also, the ambiance is something you can’t miss either. The tables are basically folding card tables covered in checkerboard plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are of the plastic variety as well. The back wall of the place is covered in freezer space, selling every variety of beer you could possible imagine, as long as your imagination is limited to American beers priced at under 7 bucks for a six-pack. But that was later in the day. First, we had to do something to create a calorie deficit for all that fried food to fill.

With that in mind (well, okay, not exactly), the Old Man, Mother, Esq. and I set out for Swansboro, a fairly easy drive over on the mainland from Emerald Isle. There, we turned off to the well-marked (but apparently not well-known) Hammocks Beach State Park. There isn’t much to the mainland portion of the park, just a parking lot, ferry terminal, and a small set of exhibits to watch while waiting for the five-dollar ferry captained by a pair of genuine gregarious North Car’lina good ole boys. Where to, you ask?

Bear Island, that’s where. No, there aren’t bears there. The name is in fact an early cartographer’s error in translating from “bare” island (accurate, see attached pictures) to “bear” (inaccurate). In the last entry, I commented on the calm and lack of crowds at Emerald Isle. Well, Bear is the next island over, and it’s uninhabited and reachable only by boat, so you might know what to expect. The dunes are high, the beach is wide, and the atmosphere is serene. Though we didn’t do it, you apparently can camp out there (which I’d like to do sometime, just the Old Man and Mother, Esq. aren’t really of the camping variety), and there’s a special landing area for kayaks and canoes which is quite close to the campsites. The island as a whole is 3.5 miles long, and its half-mile width must be traversed en route from the ferry to the beach. It’s an easy walk, however, on a sorta-paved road. I did it in bare feet, if that’s any indication. There’s not a whole lot to do out there other than sit around and enjoy the ocean, picnic (tables provided), or read all the ominous signs warning of rip currents (not provided). A couple dudes did have the excellent idea of flying kites. Jealousy was had.

In any case, after about an hour on the island, we headed back on the ferry ride (about 15 minutes), and made for the thriving metropolis of Swansboro. There, Mother, Esq. and the Old Man dropped me off at local outfitters Barrier Island Kayaks. They then headed to a coffee shop for a couple hours while I paddled around the area, enjoying the wind, water, and my brand-new PFD. Barrier Island is a pretty relaxed place; when I came to return the kayak a couple hours later, nobody was present in the downstairs area at all, and it took a bit of effort to summon one of the folks from the upstairs (I assume his dwelling) just to let him know the boat was back. Dave, as he’s called, looked like a dead ringer for Tom Hanks in “Cast Away,” just before he’s plucked off the drifting raft.

While Wilson wasn’t sighted, plenty of kayaks were. Dave himself would never have been stuck on the island, as Barrier Island rents a decent assortment of fairly high-quality boats. I took a basic 14.5 foot Necky out across the Intracoastal Waterway, which was surprisingly choppy and has a decent current (the rudder on the ‘yak came in handy there), and explored back in the marshes. Word to the wise here: a couple inches can make a huge difference: do this at high tide. When I paddled back past the same location a couple hours later, a lot of the side channels I had explored had converted into tidal flats. In any case, paddling the back channels is a nice experience, particularly given that one can go into just a few inches of water. The bottom’s covered with interesting shellfish, and a host of birds inhabit the area. I suppose this might have been fun for ornithologists. I’m not an ornithologist. Some of the birds were white. Others weren’t.

After about an hour out, it got a little windy, so I decided to head up into the slightly more protected White Oak River, which entails passing under a nice low bridge. I’ve always had a certain passion for the underside of bridges (NERD!) and this was no exception. Nice long, boring girders, functional architecture at its finest. I can’t help but wonder, however, how this thing would handle a storm surge. It’s low and broadside to prevailing water and wind, with deep girders to boot. Tacoma Narrows, anyone?

So, in summary, unless you really like the underside of highway bridges, don’t bother with the White Oak. Ain’t much to see. Therefore, I returned downriver, hung a left on the intracoastal, and came back to Barrier Island. Still no Wilson. Old Man and Mother, Esq. returned exactly as I did, and we headed to the aforementioned Red Barn, which (as not mentioned) is located right next to an RV park and the water. It truly is something you city kids should experience. Love it.

After that, we went back to EI, sat around in the hot tub for a while, and later had some cinnamon-raisin biscuits. Yum. It’s good we got a pretty full day in, as tomorrow’s supposed to be utter crap weather-wise. More to come.


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