Posts Tagged ‘beach’

Weekend Fun: Quantum of Solace, The Santa Monica Pier and the McGill Jazz Orchestra

Note: This post somehow disappeared from my blog, so I’m reposting it. Seriously, it’s a total mystery to me what happened that would erase the whole post from last night to today. Apologies if you’ve seen this twice now.

We’re still getting the apartment set up, but it’s been sort of slow going because we’ve been having too much fun. Friday we went to a late screening of Quantum of Solace after getting Martinis with some friends. I’m not normally a big Bond fan, but I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It’s action sequences were pretty amazing and covered close to every mode of transportation, from cars to boats to planes to feet to hanging from the ceiling by ropes.

There was also a point in the movie, when Bond is at a party in Bolivia, that one of the voices sounded exceeding familiar. I leaned over to Evan and said, “That sounds exactly like Guillermo (Del Toro),” and he said, “Oh, it is him! I almost missed it!” Apparently Guillermo Del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron both have voice cameos in Bond. I was pretty proud to have picked that up, even without knowing.


Santa Monica

Saturday we got up late and went down to Santa Monica to meet up with my friend Terri, her two little kids, John and Lexi, and some of her friends. We walked along the beach, ate some french fries and then walked down the pier to take the kids on some rides. Johnny absolutely loved them and just kept waving at us and smiling and enthusiastically driving his mini bumper car, airplane or jeep.


Johnny on the bumper cars

Earlier in the day we were surprised how clear it was despite all the nearby fires, but by late afternoon, we started seeing a lot of ash in the air and the sun was an eerie pink-red as it was setting, creating a very fiery reflection on the water.

Saturday evening, my parents came over to the apartment for happy hour — bruschetta, cheese and crackers, and wine — then we all went out to Bel Air to see the McGill Jazz Orchestra play at an alumni event (both my parents are McGill alumni). We drove on a very windy mountain road to a beautiful home and drank more wine and ate hors d’ouevres outisde in the warm night. When it was time for the jazz to start, my parents snagged front-row seats, and we sat just feet away from the high-energy band.

There were plenty of impressive solos from piano, guitar, trumpet, saxophone and trombone players, a guest performance from an alumnus, and an incredible sight reading session where the band was handed new music — it was even new to the conductor — and started playing and even improvising solos on the spot. There was even an tuba solo! My dad started a standing ovation at the end of that song and the rest of the audience joined in, then he started yelling for an encore. The band obliged and ended with “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky, which nearly deafened us since two of the trumpet players stood in the front row.

We met some of the students in the band after the concert and it turns out they had also been having fun in Santa Monica earlier in the day.

Relaxing on the Beach in Ko Samui

bophut beach ko samui
Sunset on Bophut Beach

Our first stop in Thailand was an island in the gulf called Ko Samui. We stayed at the Smile House for the first two days on Bophut Beach at the north end of the island, which was a nice place, set back a bit from the beach, then we moved a bit farther out in Bophut to the Cactus Bungalows where we had a bungalow just steps from the sand.

bophut beach
Bophut Beach, Ko Samui

We spent the July 25 to 29 sitting on the beach, reading, napping and not going very far from our hotel. It was only on our last day on the island that we actually got out to do something — we went to Ang Thong Marine Park.

We took the Action Islanders Adventure speed boat tour, and somehow got on the slow boat. Well, the boat itself went quickly, but we had to make a stop at a neighboring island before heading off to the marine park, which was quite a bit detour. The ride between the islands was quite choppy and Evan was NOT happy — he’s not exactly a huge fan of boats or water. About 5 minutes into the ride, he turned to me and said, “I regret coming out here.” He decided to stick it out, though, even though our driver said that the trip to the marine park would be as bumpy if not more so than our first leg, and he took some Dramamine, which helped a bit.

When we got to our first stop — a cove to go snorkeling in — we relaxed on the boat for a while before going in. When we decided to put on our masks and head in, we both ended up having a good time. I was a bit scared at first, since I don’t like fish very much, but I steered clear of the biggest schools and the areas where people were throwing bread in the water, and some quite a few types of fish as well as lots of coral.

ang thong marine park
The Lagoon

Our next stop was an island with a saltwater lagoon in its middle — the island that inspired The Beach. We hiked up to a viewpoint, then hiked down to the lagoon, though you can’t go in. The hike was short, but it was on some super steep and treacherous staircases.

We then boated a short ways over to a picnic area for lunch where there were wooden swings between the beachside palms and beautiful views of other islands.


Kayaking — does the pose look familiar?

The best stop, though, was our last — kayaking. Evan and I shared a kayak, and our guide took us around a small island, going into some seaside caves on the way. It was beautiful and peaceful, except for when the guide started splashing everyone. We also stopped at a very small and quiet white sand beach to do a bit of swimming — definitely an island paradise.

Thankfully, the trip back couldn’t have been more different from the trip out — it was essentially flat, totally smooth cruising to Ko Phra Ngan. Evan said it it were always like that, boating could possibly be considered pleasant. The shorter inter-island trip was a bit bumpy, but it was pretty quick, and a one-eyed van driver took us back to our hotel. Thank goodness the sea got calmer and our activities were fun because aside from the trip over Evan did end up having fun.

Exhausted when we got back, we had a little snack, then while Evan napped, I read and napped on the beach, then had a Thai massage in a hut on the beach. It felt like I’d imagine a visit to a chiropractor would — lots of stretching and pressure — and I felt very relaxed when it was done.

Next stop: Chiang Mai.

See our photos from Ko Samui and our first days in Chiang Mai in Evan’s Facebook album.

Sunday in Brighton

It’s been a busy weekend! After my trip to Oxford yesterday, I was inspired to venture out of the city yet again — this time, taking advantage of the lovely sunshine and heading to the seaside — to Brighton.

The train was packed on the way down. I was lucky enough to get a seat, but there were lots of passengers left standing or sitting on the floor. When we finally got to Brighton, there was this huge flow of people heading downhill from the station toward the water.

old brighton pier
West Pier

The first thing I did was check out the coastline. I was surprised that there was no sand, just pebbles. I took some photos of the old, twisted metal pier frame still standing in the water (though just barely), and also photographed the current pier, with its rides and arcades and traditional piery things.

Brighton Pier
Brighton Pier

It seemed like every shop was hawking fish and chips, and there were signs for eels and puns with plaice and even a giant lobster by a poster that said “I got crabs in Brighton”!

brighton lobster shack
A giant lobster, lots of fishy signs and beach kitsch

I decided to do a little sightseeing before relaxing, so I went to the Royal Pavilion, the bizarre Asian-inspired seaside palace of George IV. From the outside it was striking, with its white pointed domes, and from the inside, it was truly spectacular.

Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos of the inside, but the highlights were the dining room, which has a 30-foot-long chandelier with dragons holding lotus-flower light shades in their mouths suspended from a giant dragon’s claws in the middle of a domed ceiling painted with plantain leaves. (Seriously, it’s sort of shockingly insane.) The music room was also interesting, with a similar shockingly dramatic look. And it was interesting to see the king’s chambers and some of the more private areas like the kitchen, which came complete with stuffed animals (including rats!) to make it seem like it would be used today.

After the Pavilion tour, I went to check out the Lanes, a shopping district of alleyways, which was once a fisherman’s village. I was surprised by the quality of goods there, especially their fair trade, locally made and recycled/reused offerings. I was tempted to buy a lot, though I didn’t indulge. There were also some spectacular looking bakeries and ice cream shops. One particularly cute cupcake shop even sold little felt cupcakes and other goodies.

felt cupcakes
Cute fake cupcakes!

Once I was done window shopping, I took a stroll down the crowded pier. It seemed like everyone had an ice cream cone with a flake bar sticking out of it in hand, and everyone also had a sunburn. Almost as soon as I started walking the pier, I saw some guys jumping off and even diving — a big no-no according to all the signs posted. There were some angry looking security guards around and tons of spectators.

Jumping off brighton pier
Boys jumping off Brighton Pier

Some of the guys tried to climb back up onto the pier, but I think they all ended up just swimming to shore. There are plenty more pictures, including ones of divers and the boys climbing back up on Flickr.

Once I was done on the pier, I went to North Laines to walk around a bit and see the artier side of the city. I caught an interesting street performance where people dressed as mimes were putting on a show for a person sitting in a peep-show sort of contraption that had lots of windows that someone would open to tell the story. I only watched it from the outside, but it was pretty funny and most certainly absurd. There was also lots of street art to check out, and I took some good photos of the graffiti and graffiti-style murals in the area before catching the train home.

Take a look at the rest of the day’s photos on Flickr.