USA Trip 2015: West Coast

Published: May 12th 2015
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Business class podBusiness class podBusiness class pod

I'm so fancy
My annual USA trip quickly approached and I was soon on my way. Fortunately, work was slowing down for the summer period, but it got hectic about two weeks before of course!

The Flight

Anyway, I was super excited mostly to fly again on business class on Emirates, especially on the A380. I love checking into the airport in Business - so quick and nice. The lounge at Hamad International Airport is nice and quiet.

Unfortunately, I got a really mean email from one of my clients, who I thought I was on pretty good terms with, which pretty much ruined my entire trip home. I was constantly thinking the whole time, "What am I doing here? People are just so mean!" However, upon entering the Business Class Lounge in Dubai, my mood improved slightly and on the A380 I made myself forget about the email for at least the flight. Last year, the plane was almost empty but this time there were only a few available seats in my section. There were some lawyer guys who were fairly obnoxious getting hammered in the bar / lounge area, but they were definitely having a good time and seemed to want to know a little about everyone. I guess after that email though, I was still depressed and in no mood to entertain anyone, so I would wander back occasionally, grab a glass of vodka soda and return to my seat to watch a movie or read. So… last year's experience was magical. This year was still great, but for various reasons, not quite as enjoyable.


I was able to get through LAX rather quickly, with the rental car shuttle waiting at the curb as soon as I exited the terminal. It was packed though and I was just too tired to deal with lines so I patiently waited. At Alamo, you are able to check in using kiosks and it was quick and efficient. I went outside and they didn't have the compact car I had reserved, so I got to go with a midsize and wound up with some Chevy "Grandpa Bot" car - it was niiiiice. I drove to my friend, Reina's, house to spend the night with her and her family. They've been living in the same house for the last twelve years, the same house in which I roomed with them for six months right after they first bought it. It was so nice to hang out and catch up again. Their kids are so cute and are getting so big!

The next morning I drove to Ventura. I went straight to Fugro and we all went out to lunch together to nearby Riverpark. This was a major development I worked on about ten years ago - a mass grading project which was all empty and full of construction equipment and now it is endless homes and new stores and restaurants. It was good to see my former colleagues and how much my old office has changed.

Next stop was quiet time - I went to a movie. Then I met my friends at Solimar beach for a bbq and to catch up. It was amazing to see the sailor jellyfish that had recently washed ashore - there were thousands of them.

Next was our weekly poker game. Here is where most of the people came out to see me. I was having a good time with everyone and not paying much attention to the game, slowly dwindling my chip stack… Gwen, who is a new mother, gave me her big stack of chips with no one's objection. At the final table, the chips changed hands so many times that it seemed like it would never end. I eventually had to give up and head home with Loree. We stayed up to chat for another half hour before I fell asleep on their couch. The next morning, her son woke me up and invited me to sleep in his bed for the rest of the morning; he was so cute. It was good to see her two kids getting so big. We met our friends for brunch later that morning for their monthly "book club" meeting where we discussed The Girl on the Train and drank mimosas. That afternoon, a bunch of us went to Lake Casitas to hang out and bbq and maybe play some disc golf. Unfortunately, it was extremely windy and chilly. The lake has also suffered severely from California's major drought - it was amazing to see how low it was and that you could walk across to the island. I was so exhausted that that evening I just booked a hotel room and had my own bed to spread out in.

Sunday I met some friends at the beach; another cool, windy day. After a couple of hours, a few of us met up for some sushi downtown; it seemed two of Isaac's favorite places were closed at the time, so we went to third best. Still yummy. I went to Isaac's afterwards to see his new condo and meet his new puppy. That night, I met a bunch of my friends for the last time - we went to Gwosh's to watch Game of Thrones. As usual, the time here was way too short, but I tried to see as many people as I could!

Monday morning I headed to Malibu to meet my old coworkers. It was here that I realized that as good as it is to see everyone, there are sometimes some sad answers to the question: "How is everything with you?" Turns out one of my favorite people in the world suffered the death of his son, a healthy man in his late thirties in some freak attack - he just fell down dead one day at a meeting at a restaurant. While he told me what had happened and how his son's two little girls were coping, I just could not stop crying.

After having lunch with my closest coworkers, I headed to the airport and on to my next destination: Portland.


Once I arrived, I was able to quickly get my bag and grab a cab. Portland is such a gorgeous city. I stayed at a hotel downtown - The Rose: A Pineapple Hospitality hotel (something like that). A little strange, but it was the best hotel I had stayed in for a while. Walking around downtown was fantastic, but the highlight was seeing my friends, Chris, Elissa and their daughter (who I had seen in Paris) and my old roommate Brett. That night, Brett, Chris and I hit a couple of nice places, like salted caramel ice cream and a $2 beer at a local place. Yep, Portland is so awesome.

San Francisco

Wednesday afternoon, I headed to San Francisco for Leg #3. That evening I met my friend, Shonna, who works at AirBnB. She said she would host me and a couple of my old Fugro coworkers (Jeff and Andrew) for dinner. I didn't know what she was talking about, but I agreed. It was so
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Jeff, me, Shonna and Andrew
cool. Their headquarters is in this old warehouse redone for the offices. On the fifth floor is the main cafeteria, where they were indeed serving dinner. As well as beer and wine. We had a tomato bisque, grilled cheese, Japanese salad, and something else… Then Shonna showed us around the building, which has truly incredible work spaces. There are no assigned desks as they encourage people to move around and mingle with each other. If you do need privacy, there are "caves" where one person can sit to work or have a video conference. There are also "conference rooms" in a variety of themes and with different names; many of these named rooms are based upon apartments or houses in various cities. It was truly incredible to see.

That evening, Can and Lizzie arrived and we all went to Napa / Sonoma for a day of wine tasting! I was most looking forward to this. We had hired a man, Stan, to drive us around and he selected the wineries that he thought we would enjoy. He did a great job and was very personable, but it was quite expensive. Basically, it is five times more than the Santa
Napa Wine Tasting day!Napa Wine Tasting day!Napa Wine Tasting day!

Rams Gate Winery
Ynez Valley in Southern California (which I love and where you keep your glass), which is almost five times more than the Finger Lakes in New York (which I love). So, I had a great time, but the expense of wine tasting in Napa is purely based upon the name. Let's put it this way: tastings are at least $25 for most places in Napa Valley (though Lizzie said that the next day's were a bit cheaper), tasting in Santa Ynez are $5-$10 and you keep the glass, and in the Finger Lakes tastings are $1-$3 for up to 8 different wines. Not to mention, the wines themselves are much more - at least double of anywhere else I've been besides Tuscany. Regardless, it was an amazing day that I was able to spend with two great ladies! We made our first stop at Rams Gate Winery where we sat on the terrace and overlooked the beautiful valley below. Then he took us to a winery with a Greek theme (I forgot the name); they had great staff and cute dogs. Next we went to Sonoma town for lunch, where we each got a sandwich and enjoyed some bubbly. The next stop was a scheduled appointment at Trudeau Winery, a family owned operation that is appointments only. The representative gave us a tour of the facilities, so we took our time to enjoy the area. Then our last stop was the Domaine Carneros where we had a tasting of bubbly (well, I had wine) and we tasted some meats and cheeses as well.

I returned to San Francisco that evening while Can and Lizzie stayed the night in Napa. My cousins were arriving that evening so I wanted to spend the next day with them. We stayed at Pier 2620 which was nice but located next to the street was super loud. However, the next morning, Paula, Cuppi and their friend Joy and I were able to walk just a couple of blocks to the Fisherman's Wharf. We ate an early lunch at a Japanese place overlooking the bay and Golden Gate Bridge - very nice. Then we booked tickets to the Muir Woods to see the giant redwood trees. We took a bus up there and enjoyed a peaceful hike through these beautiful trees. It was nice, but quite expensive (I still think one of my favorite places ever is Sequoia National Park). Our bus later took us to the town of Sausalito where we got gelato and then did a wine tasting at a room during our hour long free time.

When we got back, we changed our hotels to Hotel Monaco near the down part of San Francisco. This place was so nice. There was wine tasting every night from 5-6 and it was so close to many things. Once Can and Lizzie returned, we went out for a nice dinner nearby at First Crush. At first the waiter seemed to be a tool, but he quickly warmed up and we had a great evening. The next day, Cuppi and Paula went to the Japanese tea garden while Can, Lizzie and I went shopping (Joy was sick). That evening the five of us went out for another dinner nearby to an Italian place - Brindisi. It was ok. A nice spot, but a little overhyped I thought. Cuppi, Joy and Paula all left the following morning. The rest of us continued our shopping and then went to an early dinner in Chinatown. We didn't have reservations and the Chinese hostess seemed to wanna bite our heads off, but she got us a table and we had a fantastic dinner. Then it was time to say good bye as my flight was at 7am.

I think Can and I agreed: While San Francisco seemed like a nice (but very expensive!!!) place to live, there was little to do. We'll see what will be the next spot for next year...

Goodbye California. I miss you.

Additional photos below
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You think?You think?
You think?

Delicious chinese food for dinner for my last night with Candi and Lizzie
Lake CasitasLake Casitas
Lake Casitas

note the low water levels

13th May 2015

I hope your client was happier...
once you got back. We love the West Coast cities you visited. Ali, the founder of Travelblog, and his wife Michelle and daughter Olivia are moving from San Francisco to Portland shortly. I think you would agree with their decision.
27th May 2015

Beautiful cities
I loved both of those cities, but particularly Portland. It was a great couple of getaways. As for the client.... not really, but I'm ok. All clients are like that here. There is no escape.
14th May 2015

Keeping missing each other
Last year you went to Boston and I was living in Sonoma Valley. This year you go to California and I'm living in Baltimore. Maybe our paths will cross next year.
14th May 2015
Bubbly tasting

Love Domaine
16th May 2015
Napa Wine Tasting day!

Wine tasting Napa
I'd wish I'd known you were going and I could have given you a list of free wineries. Maybe next time.
23rd May 2015

Totally loved seeing you, even if it was only briefly! Somehow, we missed getting any pictures of us together though. bummer!
27th May 2015

Miss you!!!!
I loved seeing you too! I'm so proud of you and I will come visit you in Oregon for shizzle.

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