The OC and LA

I´ve been to LA a handful of times, and the city is always as big and intimidating as the last time. Within LA county, there´s so many neighbourhoods to visit and experience, and getting between them is hell, especially with the added charm of LA traffic.

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O´Venice, in light of St. Patty´s day

My week was based around visiting some familiar faces. I spent my first two nights in Venice, hanging out with Jake and his pregnant girlfriend and co. I met Jake in Iceland years ago when he was working on a film with Baltasar Kormakur, and we met up in LA once since. I met his friend Peter Harding again, a documentary film maker, for cappuccinos on the beach. Its some of the most decent coffee I´ve ever had in America, from a café called Menottis, and in the evening they´ve got live jazz downstairs at Townhouse to jive to.

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the Orange County Coast

My friend Luke, who I know through a mutual UBC friend, works in music and came to Iceland for Airwaves in 2013, trading an all-access VIP pass for rights to my couch. That’s a solid start to any friendship. This time around I got to surf his couch, with his dog that just got diagnosed with terminal testicular cancer. It was a bummer, so finding our temporary happy place watching Superorganism at the Echo where he books shows was in order. A friend from the WFR course also joined, and we after partied with a guy whose name I cant remember, but his look was unforgettable: he had visibly time traveled to the present from the 1960´s.

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the Surfliner, the train with a view between LA and the OC

Conrad, an American raised in Iceland that I met tango dancing in San Francisco nearly ten years ago lives in San Celemente. I took the train up through Orange County after finally getting my first glimpse of real Californian sunshine. People were out surfing, jogging in their Lululemon get-ups head to toe, and I finally got my first tan of the year. Conrad and I went tango dancing in LA, and drove back to San Celemente late that night with the top down on his BMW convertible, with the heat and music blasting. I cant think of a better way to stargaze.

I met a couple in Reykjavik last autumn who lived in Pasadena, and I met the woman for happy hour in North Hollywood. She´s a dog rescuer by day and got bit by one of her rescue animals, but even with a bandaged hand and her private car full of dogs, she glowed.

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the City of Angels wouldn´t have been much without these darlings

The reunion I cherished the most was meeting Moira, 12 years after we circumnavigated the world together on with Semester at Sea. She was happily married, living in Hollywood with the perfect husband and two cuddly dogs, in a picture-perfect home with their one and a half year old bundle of joy named Dempsey. I can´t believe how its possible to still relate to one another, and keep up with these people, half way around the world, from the many walks in life we´ve had to where we are now, all in different stages. I definitely have to thank social media for allowing it, but your people are always your people, despite how much or quickly the time goes by.

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Argentina's Wonderful Cliche's

Iguazu FallsI traveled to Buenos Aires as my gateway to get to Antarctica, but thought I’d take the time to spend 2 weeks there roaming around. I of course took the opportunity to tango dance, making it out to a few ‘milongas’ and ‘practica’s’ to dance with the most stereotyped Argentinian men ever – serious faced in full suits, slicked back, long-ish hair, with shiny black dance shoes beautifully leading around women in dainty, stilleto shoes in this aggressive but very seductive dance in the most professional way you can.

I of course had to try mate, the strong, bitter tea that all Argentinians seem to drink but no tourist can actually buy anywhere without buying all their own ingredients and making it themselves. Figuring out how to cure the mate cup and make a perfect drink was no easy task either, but one friendly waiter at a hotel we stayed at finally helped us make our first cup.

My spanish is far from good, but my comprehension is alright and my travel companion’s speaking skills were great, so between the two of us, we got by ok but still had trouble with the ‘sh’ sound that Argentinians prnounce double ll’s (as in llamada or llave) instead of the traditional ‘y’ sound used in other spanish-speaking countries. ‘Calle’ (road) became ‘cashe’ and ‘llama’ (name) became ‘shama’ and adopting their italian intonation in certain words and phrases was tricky too.  However, different from the French, it was refreshing to know that they would always stick to their rapid spanish speaking and allow us to struggle through what we were trying to understand or say in broken spanish without switching to english the moment they knew we were english speakers. Some of them would be perfect english speakers too, but still patiently allow the conversation to continue in spanish unless we finally surrendered to english.

The wine was bountiful and cheap, great bottles of Cab. Sauv from mendoza for under $2US a bottle. Even their liquor was cheap, at $3 a bottle of vodka or whiskey, but their whiskey somehow tasted like bad tequila – a sacrifice I guess I was willing to make to support a steady drinking habit while on vacation. Best of all was the many types of domestic beers – Pilsen, Salta, Isenbeck – all availbe in lager, ale or dark/stout, for about $1 – $3 a litre. The street food paired perfectly, and we managed to find the best empanada shop in Buenos Aires in a small hole-in-the-wall place a few blocks from one of the couchsurfers we stayed with.

We went to Tigre, a delta town north-east of Buenos Aires, but were much more impressed by the rivers and waterfalls of Iguazu. We spent a day at the falls, accompanied by hundreds of butterflies all colors of the rainbow, and later at our lavish hotel realized we could kayak to Brazil by paddling accross a calm, 200m part of the river. We were met by a lone brazilian, on weekend retreat to his small shack built on the river bank. After realizing the river was at a high point, swollen high by the rainy season, and that anacondas would easily reach us, we quickly paddled back to be met by a security guard from the hotel frantically calling us back to the Argentinian shore. Too bad we don’t have a stamp in our passports to prove it (or any photos for that matter), but kayaking to brazil was definitely a highlight, and perhaps well worth the risk of being eaten by anacondas…