December 16, 2009

O, Canada

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Mountains. I'm obsessed with mountains. I think British Columbia will do that to you. I must have felt this way 2 years ago, and then the year before that, when Mark and I were in B.C., but I guess I just forgot how much I love being in the mountains and what real winter feels like. Crisp, clean air. Pine trees covered in snow. Cold noses and hands. The sound that snow makes crunching under your feet. It makes me feel like a kid again, giddy and invigorated and alive.
The Sea to Sky highway, which you take from Vancouver up to Whistler Blackcomb, is beautiful in a my-heart-is-smiling-ear-to-ear kind of way. I think, on a clear day, this has to be the most spectacular drive in North America (though I've done some drives in California that come pretty close).
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And then, obviously, Whistler itself is pretty incredible. Not so much the resort part, with the blah food and apr├Ęs bars. But, the mountains, man. The mountains are ridiculously beautiful. The last day, we took the gondola up to the midpoint of Whistler mountain. It was sunny and snowing at the same time, and the snowflakes were actually glittering as they swirled in the air.
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Also, this was my first extended visit to Vancouver and I have to say that I loved it. I mean, there are the mountains and ocean in the distance, so it has that going for it. And there is beautiful Stanley Park, where I spent an afternoon walking, taking pictures, and peeping on crazy wildlife.
A brief aside: I thought I found a real, live PENGUIN in the middle of Stanley Park. It turns out it was actually a Great Blue Heron, who totally fooled me with his slouchy posture into thinking he was a penguin very, very far from home. Crazy birds.
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Back to Vancouver and why I like it so much. There are all the distinct, interesting neighborhoods, kind of like NYC. And then, and then, there is the food. The food scene is insane; I think we tried something completely new and remarkable at every meal. Pristine wild sockeye salmon sashimi. Miso marinated sablefish and eel tempura at a really funky izakaya. Crab xiao long bao. Black vinegar pork ribs. Spicy hand pulled Shanghainese noodles. And we were only there for 2 and 1/2 days.
To wrap it up, we had a really fab time, with the skiing, the eating, the exploring, and the family time with Mark's parents. (I think it's safe to say that I had a slightly better time than Mark, owing to the fact that he had a lot of work to do.) Even the traveling part was not so bad. A 2 1/2 hour delay on the flight there was mitigated by the fact that we both got upgraded; and a long, late flight home was mitigated by another double upgrade and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (is there anything better than Alan Rickman as Snape??). Here is to ending 2009 travels on a very, very good note!

December 1, 2009

Happy birthday, Mark!

Mark turned 28. He would like me to point out that 28 is a perfect number, just in case any number theory enthusiasts read our blog.

We pre-celebrated on Sunday night with a feast of chicken biryani -- I followed Madhur Jaffrey's recipe and it did not disappoint -- and friends. We celebrated again on Monday night just us two. It was mostly an excuse to make a meal (dry aged steaks) that would live up to the bottle of wine we bought on our last trip to Napa Valley. And I gave Mark my gift: a bottle of 1993 Lagavulin 16 year old Islay whisky. I usually have trouble coming up with good gifts for Mark but I was pretty psyched about this one. The gift came with a detailed explanation of how I braved a sea of well-intentioned but aggressive whisky aficionados at Spec’s.

P.S. We're off to Vancouver and Whistler in a few days for almost 2 weeks of fun in Canada. Not that we update that often anyway, but I think updating will be sparse for awhile. Things I'm looking forward to: seeing Mark's parents, spending more time exploring Vancouver, eating lots of seafood, skiing at Whistler, and being in the mountains.