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Las Vegas, San Fransisco, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – I’m not sure why I thought I’d have lots of time to blog from the road this summer. I have loads of photos and articles in the works for you and some great adventures to share. For now, I hope you enjoy this little photo essay on How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

Exploring old Vegas – Golden Nugget, Fremont Street, Las Vegas

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Our time in Las Vegas is zooming by, but I wanted to share a sneak peak of what we’ve been up to. Our weekend was fantastic and Mother Nature was in her full glory. Here’s a little taste of our hikes in the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.

Our first stop was Zion National Park where we hiked the Narrows (photos to come soon). Our second stop was the Cayon Overlook Trail. It was well worth the hike for the views of sunset over the canyon.

Hikers on the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park

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Hopefully, after fighting with suitcases, airlines and customs agents, I will find myself near this place tomorrow night…

Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

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MGM Grand Hotel

The last half of our Vegas visit was as good as the first half and included just as much good food.

On Thursday night, I tagged along with Andrew and some of his work colleagues for supper at Shibuya, a Japanese restaurant at the MGM Grand. Although, not quite as good as Okada, it was one of the better meals we had at the Grand.

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View of the Strip from our room at the MGM Grand

Vegas, I owe you an apology and I am deeply sorry. I imagined you were still a land of $5.99 all you can eat buffets that bake under heat lamps all day long, gathering the germs and bacteria of a thousand semi-comatosed gambling junkies. I thought there would be little to do but waste away the day at the one-armed bandits, while sipping watered-down, comped drinks. I’m sorry Vegas, I was wrong.

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I apologise in advance that this post is going to be scattered. It’s reflecting the state my brain has been in all week. We arrived back in Brussels Monday at about noon. We left San Francisco Sunday at 8:30 am (meaning we were up at 5). It was a brutal travel day and consequently I am still suffering from the worst jet-lag I have ever had.

The trip itself had been last minute. Andrew had to go out for four days for work. I wasn’t planning on joining him, due to limited funds after our Christmas celebrations. However, the ticket price was so unbelievably good that I couldn’t pass it up, and hell, a week away from the Belgian winter… who am I to say no to that?

Our hotel, the same one that we stayed in our last time in San Fran, was in San Mateo, which is south of the city. There is not a lot to do there for one who is car-less. I did indulge in a bit of food shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joes (mostly so I could avoid eating at the hotel restaurant and save some money). I think I could live very happily in a Whole Foods store. Sigh.

Monday I had an adventure taking the Caltrain into San Francisco to join Andrew for dinner with friends and colleagues. I discovered that Californians have a similar disregard for signage as Belgians. I only saw the one sign as I was walking back from heading in the wrong direction. Arriving at the platform I didn’t even know what side of the tracks I was supposed to be on. I made it without incident however, and found my ride right outside the station as promised. Supper was more than worth the stress. It’s nice to have fellow foodie friends.

I spent the rest of the week working and watching trashy TV at the hotel (including the inauguration which I wrote about in the last post… which was definitely not trashy). I even hit the hotel gym a few times in an attempt to counter the good ole American fried food I consumed. Can someone explain to me why I cannot find good Mexican food in California? We’ve tried a few places now which I’ve researched on-line ahead of time and all we end up getting is mediocre Tex-Mex. The best Mexican I’ve ever had is still, hands down, Los Pilones in Amsterdam. Does this seem backwards to anyone else?

All of my hanging out at the hotel was worth it for the great weekend we had. Thursday night Andrew and I had a nice supper alone together that was French style but with a California flare. Friday afternoon, after we checked out of the hotel, we went for a drive up the coast. The weather wasn’t particularly co-operative but it was still a nice change of scene. Because Andrew had never done the ‘touristy’ highlights, we also crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and drove down Lombard St. Check and check.

We were spending the weekend with friends and on our way to their house they asked us to join them at a wine bar. Now you know we don’t drink a lot of wine… ahem… yeah ok, we were there in a flash. The rest of the weekend progressed in a haze of eating fabulous food, tasting some of California’s best wines and a lot of laughter. Saturday we were joined by another friend (and fellow photographer) and visited Sonoma – an absolutely beautiful spot that I would love to return to. There was more food and more wine, some photos, a bit of singing on the way home (mostly due to the aforementioned wines) and overall a great day.

Despite our debauchery, we were early to bed and early to rise for our flight out on Sunday morning. Many thanks to our friends, for showing us such a great time. I hope we can return the favour soon.

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We arrived back in Brussels at suppertime on Monday. My brain is still catching up to my body. Jet-lag sucks. Miraculously, once again, all of our bags arrived in one piece. Our cats were well looked after and happy to see us. I’ more or less finished with the post travel cleaning spree (Yay for small flats) and now I’m catching up on my photos.

Ah, the photos. It seems one whole card of images was lost to the digital ether. I’ve somehow lost all of my New Brunswick photos. I’m still not sure how it happened but I’m mighty pissed. Luckily, all of the other cards were intact so I have my California and Pugwash pictures. I think more image storage is in my purchasing future.

Reflecting back on the past four weeks is hard (could have something to do with all the wine and martinis…). It’s all a bit of a blur. I left off my last post, halfway through the California portion of our trip so I’ll try to pick up there.

On Thursday we headed to Monterey with a group of people from Andrew’s work. We did a wine tour, had diner and drove the scenic coast. It all sounds pretty civilized because I left out the quantities of wine consumed. Let’s just say we got our anti-oxidants that day… Thank God there are pictures (and none of me).

The next morning (um… late the next morning), we checked out and had a big, greasy breakfast (mmm, breakfast burrito). We made our way back to San Fran with one of Andrew’s co-workers but first we had a look around Monterey. The waterfront was lovely and we walked the boardwalk to discover hundreds (no exaggeration) of sea lions. They were very noisy and fun to watch and photograph.

Back in San Francisco we were kindly invited to stay with friends in their gorgeous Victorian home. There was a fabulous diner party on Friday night (accompanied by some wine purchased on our tour) followed by an interesting concert downtown.

Saturday one of our hosts gave us a terrific tour of the area (the BMW convertible sure beat the open top bus we were considering) and dropped us off at the top of a cable car line. We rode the cable car down to the waterfront where we walked to the famous Pier 39. It was packed, so after a few photos we headed uphill (and I mean UPhill) through several of San Francisco’s most interesting neighbourhoods, including Chinatown. I couldn’t help but do a bit of shopping in Chinatown and the camera was pretty busy. We continued on to Union Square for some retail therapy and finally met friends at the Four Seasons for martini’s (the best in the US, so they say). After drinks we had a nice Italian meal and had a fairly early night.

Our next morning started with brunch on the sunny patio. We then had another lovely car tour to Twin Peaks for some photo ops. Back at the house we set out on foot through the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood to Golden Gate Park. We visited the gorgeous conservatory and the new de Young museum. By the time we were finished our feet were ready to fall off so we said our goodbyes (and many many thank yous) and headed to the airport. Just let me say this – airport massages are the best invention ever.

The red-eye to Halifax was uneventful – really uneventful as we had no entertainment system. Yay, Air Canada. We were met at the airport by Andrew’s parents and headed to Pugwash. We spent a relatively lazy week and it was fabulous. The weather wasn’t as great as last year but we did make it in the pool and of course we had our lobsters. The siblings-in-law all arrived on Thursday so all the Matheson clan was together. There was a lot of laughing, chatting, eating and maybe a bit more drinking. We watched the Olympics and cheered Canada on. On Saturday my parents even took a trip up so we had both families in one place at one time.

Sunday we headed back in to Halifax for yet another red-eye home. Another long layover at Heathrow turned into another spa trip. If only I could afford a massage chair for the flat… with delivery and installation included.

Stay tuned to the photoblog for the pictures…

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