San Francisco and the East Bay

I took a sketchy craigslist rideshare from Hollywood to San Francisco, and only realized half way that the couple driving me were on their way to the Iceland vs. Mexico soccer game in San Jose. I nearly blew my plans to join them, but had a special invite to a ´play´ party that I couldn´t miss.

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a morning run by the water to the ferry building

I based myself in San Francisco for the weekend, the city itself, which is rare for my bay visits. I studied at Berkeley, once lived in Oakland, and usually stayed with friends in Walnut Creek or Danville. Now a handful of UBC friends live in San Fran, Alameda and San Leandro, so that’s where I decided to bounce around for a week and play a good tourist.

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Chez Mike and Maya and their four-legged friends

It´s getting rare to sleep on couches anymore, because my friends are all grown up, figuring life out with their families and homes with guest bedrooms. Our conversations revolved around pregnancies, children, remodelling, gardening and the bowel movements of pets. I became a live-in au pair for Maya, whose 34 week belly made her less inclined to do house chores or walk the dog. We did manage to do some expectant-mother yoga, bake and cook a ton and I squeezed a whole lot of lemons and oranges into delicious, fresh, vitamin-C rich juice.

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every respectable home garden in California has a citrus tree

My friends Stefan and Mane bought a house in Alameda, where they´re waiting for their second miracle to enter the world. Their first daughter Isabelle is the cutest little bilingual toddler I know – I totally understand the desire to make another one. We spent day on the beach flying the biggest, highest kite I´ve ever flown, and when everyone was busy working, I took a brewery tour on a pedal pike around San Leandro and Alameda, finally figuring out that I may be allergic to hops, not anything flour or gluten related.

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Stefan flying his kite on Alameda beach

I reconnected with a couchsurfer I met traveling in Albania in 2016, first for coffee and an overpriced kimchi croissant (only in Frisco), and a night out in the city. Our friend Billy was throwing a party to celebrate his self-proclaimed entry into a degenerate lifestyle, after quitting his cush job at Google and buying twenty people food and drinks at a speak easy bar called Bourbon & something. We had the ´Russel Room,´ hidden behind a rotating wall disguised as a bookshelf on one side, and a cigar cupboard on the other, which made way to an art-deco room that looked like a movie set, but was authentically original, complete with its pre-Vegas Chahuli chandelier.

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Mike, Duke and Maya

My main goals in California were to eat plenty of In n Out, animal style, and shop at all or any Trader Joes that I saw. We hiked thru some red woods and poison ivy, discovered that the Oakland Zoo is not pet-friendly (strange, no?), and I assisted in a photo shoot with two Jess´s for maternity wear being modelled by Maya. Ironically enough the photographer Jess was also pregnant, and I started to wonder how much exposure I could have to pregnant women before being bit by the mommy gene. Fortunately for me, I´m now even more positive I’ll never be pregnant, since everyone else seems to do it so well – I’ve got no chance handle it as gracefully.

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Philadelphia and the new capital

Did you know that Philadelphia was the capital of the U.S.A. before Washington D.C. even existed? Building of the current capital city wasn’t completed until 24 years after the United States became a country, and 13 years after the constitution was written in Independence Hall, formerly the Pennsylvania state house, and the current building printed on the back of the $100 bill.

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Grant, Ursula and me in front of Independence Hall

Philadelphia, as a city, is a living piece of American history, the entire city scattered with historic buildings and iconic landmarks. Some of the oldest churches and neighbourhoods in America are right around the city center, including Eflreth’s alley, the nation’s oldest residential street dating from 1702. Christ Church, built in 1695, is one of the oldest churches in America, and was the tallest building in North America until 1810.

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Christ Church

Our host was Grant, the jolliest pianoman I’ve ever met. He plays and sings at Tavern nightclub every Wednesday on a grand piano which doubles as a bar, but on the Sunday we went to drink champagne, the pianoman had been a noshow and Grant stepped in. He was paid for an hours performance, which turned his party night into a net-profit evening. He officially wins the badge of Philly’s best private tour guide – I knew it the moment we had our first cheese steak, but within another 12 hours, he had shown us all the city’s highlights.

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the piano at Tavern

I was visiting Ursula, my one and only college room mate from Semester at Sea in 2006. Twelve years later, she is one of my oldest, bestest friends, and though we see each other barely once a year, its always a shitshow. We were in Washington DC for three nights, which involved a plethora of friends, dinners, bottles, bars and clubs. Chicken and Whiskey was the most memorable – the front house is a fast food, fried chicken joint, and if you walk through it to the back, a door opens up into a specialty whiskey bar.

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Ursula and I celebrating her becoming a homeowner from her new balcony

We ate dinner at Compass Rose, one of the most international menu’s I’ve seen yet, with wines and foods from all over the world – Morocco and Georgia were well represented. Medium Rare was a restaurant which only has one menu – salad, steak and fries – you pay $20, and get unlimited amounts of any or all of the above. ‘Murica!

JOY Workshop in Iceland: 50% early bird discount

SATI Mindfulness had their first Mindfulness workshop in Iceland last year; I attended and wrote about it hereI’m super excited to say they’re hosting another one this year, in the stunning playground that is Hveragerdi, which includes more mindfulness and meditation exercises, nature hikes, hot river bathing, plus a bit of ´art and science´ of meditation at Solir studio in Reykjavik.

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My friends Devon and Craig are now offering a limited-time discount on the workshop – for one week only – at 50% off the original price. For only $169 (with airfare to Iceland from many American and European cities not much more than that), you can attend their 3-day workshop, which includes:

  • An evening teaching at Iceland’s most beautiful yoga studio, Sólir.
  • Two full days of teachings at a gorgeous boutique hotel in Hveragerði.
  • An optional mindful evening hike to a hot river.
  • Gourmet lunches during the workshop.
  • Meditations, discussions, and exercises designed to elicit joy.

You just get it all for $169. Total. That’s it. Ridiculous, no? For the discounted price, register here.

If you’ve even been considering this workshop, now is the time. To put this in perspective, mindfulness workshops guided by others like Jon Kabat Zinn cost $700+ in Iceland right around the same time!

Offer expires May 1st – don’t wait! It will fill up quickly, and double in price after a week.