fun, leisure, travel

Summer is for the imagination

While reading one of the books on my summer reading list, “The Informant” (see post: https://rarpin.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/summer-reading-list/) , I came across a receipt from the book’s previous owner (I purchased the book from a used book store). It was from a Red Lobster, in El Paso, Texas, in 1995!

I thought that was pretty cool. And I started thinking about the person who was reading the book at that time. Were they just passing through, and needed a bookmark, so took advantage of what they had and used the bookmark? Were they from El Paso, and were reading the book at home?

It reminds me of the games we used to play as kids, on summer vacation. We’d see a family, or a couple, or an individual, and try to think about their life: Why were they here? Where are they from? What is their life like?

It seems summer is about the imagination. We catch up on our reading, engaging our minds with fantasies, and dramas, and love stories, and tales of historical events. We visit places far and near, anywhere to be away from home, seeing sights we’ve never seen or seeing familiar sights in new ways. Summer gives us time to think, and to wonder.

Take time this summer to let your mind wander, and see what exciting places it can take you. You could find yourself at a Red Lobster in El Paso, Texas!

 

Advertisements
family, leisure, travel

Put a Pin In It

Guilty pleasure confession – I Love this website: https://www.uncommongoods.com. They didn’t pay me to say that, on the contrary I’ve spent plenty of money with them!

Joyce and I have a vacation coming up to Mexico, in Ixtapa. That is a new spot for both of us. That means we get to “put a pin in it.” What does that mean? Well, I bought us this pin map from my guilty website for our first anniversary, basically you put a pin in all the places you have been together:

https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/personalized-anniversary-pushpin-world-map

So far, we have logged 32 pins, in cities covering four continents, and sixteen US states. That is just where we’ve been together – we did some math and found Joyce had visited 24 states and I have visited 33, but Joyce has more continents, needing only Antarctica to complete the globe.

So it seems that this post is at least in part a brag about our travels. Hopefully and more importantly, it is about this message: Don’t lose the memories of where you have been and what you’ve done with those you care about – wife, kids, parents, friends, whatever. You don’t have to buy our map. We sat down a year or so ago and journaled everything we could find as far as trips, events, etc. that we had done, and logged all the mementos we kept like movie ticket stubs, “blinky bracelets,” or event programs. Whatever we could find in our photos or social media posts or in our keepsake bin.

Then take time to reflect on those events. Maybe it’s the annual family trip to the beach, and you look back through the years to see how the kids have grown. Or note the way different trips have different themes and tones, like the trip to London where you accumulated dozens of metro cards. Or maybe you are like us and take “selfies” of our first cocktail every time we take a trip. Laughing and crying and smiling at your life gives you a pause; and just might inspire your next trip.

For us, we just look at our push-pin map and find an open spot!

 

personal, travel

Traveling with Joyce

I love traveling with my wife Joyce. Traveling with Joyce is enjoyable for many of the same reasons that the rest of our life together is enjoyable, plus a few extra bonus reasons.

  • We enjoy the actual travel. Many folks like to travel for the destination, but not for the “getting there.” And I don’t blame them, I know when I’m traveling for work, I basically use the plane ride to “survive” the time, whether reading a book, doing some work, or watching a movie…it’s just to bridge a before and after. But Joyce and I like the getting there when we are together. Whether it’s a drive to Southern California, listening to Taylor Swift (her CD not mine) and stopping at Del Taco and enjoying the time alone; or a flight to a faraway land, enjoying a beverage at 30,000 feet and catching up on some reading or movies.
  • Once we’ve arrived, Joyce and I are both low stress. OK, lower stress than in normal life! So no matter where we are staying or what we have planned, we always have fun and find the best in the experience. We are more willing to be adventurous or try something new, or “play things by ear.” We always seem to make good memories that we can include in our travel journal once we get home.
  • We get to spend time spent quality time together without the “distractions” of normal life. When we travel, we are closer, we talk more, we are less distracted by our devices. Not totally unplugged (unfortunately, I’m sure you can relate); but better than our typical lives.

Sometimes we don’t even have to go anywhere, just doing a staycation at our favorite place, Mandarin Las Vegas. Walking around the Strip, mixing in with the “tourists” can fill an afternoon for us. And it’s a great mental break just to be out of the house for a couple days, and maybe get a relaxing massage.

 

travel

A week in Los Angeles

Recently, I attended two conferences in Marina del Rey, California. Marina del Ray is a small community on the beach just south of Venice. These two cities form a series of beach towns just southwest of downtown LA. Just one of many “micro” areas within the larger metropolis of Los Angeles.

Being from Las Vegas, I have traveled to LA many times. And often it is to stay within one of these micro areas, usually for a weekend. Each one has its own sights, its own charm. To give a few examples, Orange County[ beaches in Orange County like Laguna, Newport and Huntington; Hollywood and Beverly Hills; downtown; south beaches like Venice, Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo; Long Beach; north beaches like Santa Monica and Malibu; and the list goes on.

The thing is, I always went for a weekend, which even a long weekend is 3-4 days, and during that time I’m often either super busy with tourist-type stuff (shopping, sight-seeing, sporting events, etc.) or totally unplugging by laying on a beach or by the pool. So I don’t think I’ve really spent a chunk of time in LA just enjoying the neighborhoods, people, and special places that make these micro areas special and unique.

I didn’t go into the week thinking that would change necessarily, but I did know I would be in LA for a week because my wife and I had already scheduled a weekend in Santa Monica visiting her business school friends (and now my friends!). So two different micro areas, but still a week in LA is longer than I’ve ever been.

I came away with an appreciation of weekday life in Marina del Rey, and I liked it a lot. Very casual, fitness is clearly important, and it seemed like there were great people everywhere. I’ve always liked Santa Monica and it didn’t disappoint this time either, quiet, casual elegance. Great food. Fresh air.

I started to really think I could live in LA, except I knew I had spent a week in LA unlike how it usually is when you live there, since I hadn’t had to drive, and therefore hadn’t dealt with the traffic!

I am going to look for a time next summer when we can take a week and explore LA some more, a great adventure so accessible.

travel

Annual Thanksgiving Week Trip

For the fourth year of five, Joyce and I took the opportunity to leverage the Thanksgiving time off at work into a vacation. Last year we were fortunate to take our honeymoon to South Africa. In past years, we had visited Hawaii and Palm Springs. This year, we hadn’t taken any sort of real vacation due to work, just weekends. So this was needed. We took another long flight and visited Hong Kong and Singapore.

I’d been to Hong Kong before, but only for a couple of days. And neither of us had been to Singapore.

Hong Kong in November is beautiful, moderate temperatures allowed for us to explore the entire area. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which is always a great experience of service and amenities. We enjoyed some great food and drink at the hotel and at some other restaurants, and got some great sightseeing done.

The highlight of sightseeing was likely the “big Buddha” at the monastery in Lantau Island. A bit of a trek to get there, but it’s magnificent, and indeed very large! Second to that was the visit to Victoria Peak (though we wish we had time to do the hike), where you can see all of the city laid out before you. We also did the Star Ferry harbor cruise, where you can see all the variety of lights the skyscrapers use, some specially decorated for the holidays. We discovered that Asians really like Christmas! Both in Hong Kong and Singapore, Christmas music was playing everywhere, even at the Bar at Mortons in Singapore during happy hour.

Shopping is of course good in Hong Kong. Joyce didn’t want to do many of the fancy stores as she doesn’t like them “following her around” while she looks. But she did hit Zara. Twice.

From a food perspective, we had a delightful Italian meal at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo, sitting at the bar, maybe the best ravioli we had ever tasted. That was the same day we had lunch at Man Wah at the Mandarin, where we enjoyed dim sum, and a great rendition of Peking Duck, where they first served the skin in pancakes, then minced the meat and served it with lettuce wraps. We made a special trip to Tim Ho Wan for dim sum on another day, well worth the short wait for inexpensive and delicious dim sum. All told, we hit seven Michelin stars on this leg of the trip. It would be our last, as in Singapore it’s frankly better just to walk around and eat. Reminded us of Barcelona a bit that way. Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the obligatory McDonald’ and Starbucks visits – menus had some unique items, of course, but still amazing how consistent the taste of the common items (like a cheeseburger) is to the taste back home.

Singapore is absolutely amazing. Easily the cleanest and safest city I’ve ever visited from a tourist perspective. Easy to get around, most if it walkable. Food everywhere. Incredible architecture. Wonderful ethnic neighborhoods. I don’t know all the ins and outs of how they live, and feel like some research is necessary; but a bit of “big government” rule on things like cleanliness, guns and housing sure seems to make for a happy place to visit, and seemingly to live (again, would like to do some more research). One thing the government can’t control is the weather, pretty hot and humid all the time.

Hard to pick a highlight of this visit, we loved pretty much everything about Singapore. The view from the top of Marina Bay Sands sure was up there, we even got to see a thunderstorm roll in over the city. Plus they have the largest mall I’ve ever been in there. And another Zara. Food everywhere was wonderful, at every price point and quality level.

One thing to note about going to these cities is we are again reminded of how poor our domestic airports are. The airports in Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked as two of the best in the world, and you can tell why. And of course flying on Cathay Pacific the entire time was appropriately comfortable, with good food, great entertainment selections and perfect service.

All in all, a great trip. We didn’t explore as much as we could have, and would definitely love to go back to Singapore to do just that, maybe as part of a more extensive Southeast Asia trip.

leisure, travel

A quick trip report – annual Shakespeare Festival trip

Third annual trip to Cedar City to see the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Here are the highlights of another amazing trip.

  • Recall we go with the Selwoods, great friends, my former boss. This was their year to drive. One year, I want to hire a driver for the whole weekend.
  • This year, I got to exchange books at Main Street Bookstore. Picked up an eclectic mix of new books, including a cool “bracket” book where they take any topic and do “bracketology” with it (like best chick flicks, or animal food mascots), while Joyce stayed true to her romance books by getting Beauty and the Beast.
  • We made the annual visit to IronGate Winery, but this year they are in their new location, which is beautiful. A first class wine room.
  • This year we had dinner at Milt’s, which is sort of a legendary local steakhouse, on the way to Brianhead. We took advantage of free corkage as well, and all had a great time except Joyce who still likes exactly one restaurant in Cedar City – Centro Pizza. Oh, and the Chick-fil-a in St. George, where we stopped on the way up. We had The Fugitive and Kim Crawford for wines.
  • The next night we of course went to Centro, once again with free corkage and an amazing meal of salad and two pizzas, plus gelato. The Paring and Four Graces were the wines.
  • The two plays we saw were Romeo and Juliet and Guys and Dolls. Both were quite good. We barely got the end of Romeo and Juliet in with an impending thunderstorm, and then ran back to the hotel in a downpour. Fun!
  • Our hike was back to the Alpine Pond trail (same as two years ago), and it was lovely. Of course we grabbed coffee at The Grind before the drive up. Bob and Ginny make the absolute best rollup sandwiches for snacks, and this year we drank a lovely Josh rose wine. At the visitor center, Bob bought a lifetime all-National Park pass for $10 (cool senior rate), and we looked at the sun through two super powerful telescopes, something I’d never done before (they are getting prepped for the eclipse).
  • The BrianHead beer and spirits event wasn’t as good as last year in terms of variety of vendors, but the band was good (Closure, based out of St. George)and, hey, it’s fresh mountain air!

That’s a pretty quick summary. My favorite part of this trip is having an “anchor” deep in the summer that we can look forward to, knowing we will be with great company and relax as much as possible. We are already planning for next year – might stay at a different Best Western than the one from this year and last, will we ever find a restaurant Joyce likes other than Centro, should we go up earlier, and maybe try a matinee one day? These are all things to look forward to for next year!

 

fun, personal, travel

Strip photo from 1991 – what do you see?

strip 1991I recently saw this photo on twitter, thanks to the amazing twitter account of @classiclasvegas. If you haven’t seen it, you should follow it on twitter. Especially if you’ve been in Las Vegas for any length of time. Always showing old photos of Strip resorts, does trivia, just a really great twitter account.

The photo is an aerial shot of the Strip, largely the west side of the Strip, from just north of The Mirage. Of course, the Mirage had just opened a couple of years earlier.

My challenge to you – find/list/share the things you find of interest in this photo. There are many obvious ones and some not so obvious. I’ll get you started with some easy ones:

  • There is a golf course where Bellagio, CityCenter, Monte Carlo and T-Mobile Arena are now. That’s the old Dunes golf course.
  • In the very bottom of the photo, there is just a parking lot for The Mirage, where TI (Treasure Island) stands now. I remember parking in that vast lot (which extended past the photo all the way to Spring Mountain Road).

What else do you see? There is so much more!!