New Brunswick in December

I flew down to Moncton on Boxing Day to spend some holiday time with my partner Matt and his family. On our first full day in New Brunswick, Matt and I drove out to Cape Enrage where the family land is. The road up to the cottage was covered in thick ice, so we parked on the municipal road and hiked in. What with the mud from melted snow, the ice, and thick brush along the road, it was a bit dodgy at times – but that made it all the more exciting!

We checked on the old cottage, which a tree had fallen on recently. Thankfully, the cottage sustained no damage, but it will take a bit of work to remove the tree from the roof and the deck.

Next, we clambered over the ridge to the beach. The tide was out, revealing many different kinds of rocks, barnacles, shells, and deep green bladderwrack. As I walked along the wet sand, Matt pointed out how the sand underfoot expanded like a halo around my red rubber boots with each step I took as the weight of each foot pushed out the water from the sand. We followed little streams in the sand that looked like Jupiter or the veins of the earth as seen from space. Matt told me tales of his adventures as a child along the beach – climbing cliffs and playing on sandbanks until the water was up to their shoulders!

photo of Cape Enrage
On the way back to the cottage, we studied the rocks along the cliffs, looking for signs of the ancient sea bed. We couldn’t get too close however as the risk of falling rock was great. Once aware of this I noticed how every few minutes a shatter of shale would be heard – as if the cliff was following us! I thought that might make a good children’s story for the girls.

We climbed the footpath to the new cottage. The snow had melted in parts, revealing red cranberries hidden in the moss that popped underfoot. We watched as large crows and a bald eagle flew overhead. Matt told me how his dad had seen a moose along the waters edge the other week. Funny to think of a moose on a beach!

photo of Cape Enrage
The wind had been so strong, it had turned the lamps on the exterior wall of the cottage on an angle. We went inside and sat on the couch, watching the changing light across the bay as it lit up the farmhouses and hills. In the silence of the cottage, I was aware how accustomed I’d grown to the winter wind outside. My face, eyes, and ears tingled from its absence!

photo of Cape Enrage

Cape Enrage Lighthouse

Once we walked back to the car, we split a granola bar and drove to the Cape Enrage lighthouse. Legend has it, Matt’s great-great-great grandfather founded the first lighthouse there. It’s now a tourist site. We drove up and took some pictures, capturing a perfect sunset behind us. Golden light was streaming through the pink and blue clouds onto the dark waters of the Bay of Fundy.

The wind was so strong that I could lean back on my heels and the wind would keep me upright. It was an amazing feeling! Matt and I ran down to the edge of the park and looked out across the cliffs just as the sun was setting. It was beautiful.

photo of Cape Enrage

Dinner at home

After our adventure, we went on a mission for a hot bowl of seafood chowder to share between us, but all the local spots were closed for the season. So we went home instead where Matt’s father and sister had picked up some oysters to shuck. I had mentioned how my mother and I had a christmas tradition of eating oysters and champagne for brunch on Christmas day, so they had picked up some local bubbly and shellfish.

Matt’s sister, Sarah, and I shared the shucking. We then laid them out on the family silver and cheered! Matt’s mother had also cooked up the largest salmon I had ever seen of my life with some local fiddleheads and potatoes. Sarah had made a cold salad of raw shrimp, grapefruit, and dill which was very tasty. Then for dessert we had butternut squash pie (a first for me!) with warm apple crisp and vanilla ice cream, minced meat pies, ice box cookies, pumpkin pie, chocolate, and gingerbread cookies!

After our feast, we sat down to watch the family’s favourite Christmas movie: A Christmas Story. I had never seen this – my family tradition being Robbie the Reindeer and Alistair Simm’s Christmas Carol. I was amused by guessing where in St. Catharines and Toronto scenes from the movie were filmed. It was a lovely end to a special day.

phot of cookies being baked

Day Two

We woke up to Matt’s mom baking gingerbread westie cookies, followed by a ladies outing on our second day in Moncton. We hit up the health food store for me to buy some gum, then two consignment stores, and two thrift stores. There were some great finds!
Once home, Matt and I took the dogs (Tucker and Lucy, two westies) for a walk. I tried jogging with the youngest one, Lucy, but she’d much rather be sniffing the snow bank.

We went to Matt’s favourite local restaurant, Calactus, for dinner. We shared a plate of nachos as I’d been craving nachos a lot lately. Matt and I shared mushroom cannelloni for supper (it was a vegetarian restaurant). Calactus was a very cozy, friendly spot with heavy red curtains dividing the tables. Next time we go back, Matt says we should try the vegetable lasagna and black bean enchiladas!

After dinner, we went to the cinema to see the new Star Wars film, Rogue One, in 3D. I was particularly impressed by two of the human characters being completely computer generated – and the fact there wasn’t a sappy love story. Bravo there.

After the film, we finished packing and went to bed. Tomorrow we head to Halifax – then onto Paris!

photo of an ice covered pond and pine trees on a sunny winter day at Cape Enrage


New Brunswick in July

photo of a meadow and low mountains on a sunny day
Our journey began with a train ride to Whitby to meet Matt’s aunt Donna. I followed the train route on the map I’d recently designed of Toronto’s Gardens and Conservatories, announcing the nearby parks to Matt with enthusiasm. Donna picked us up from the Whitby GO Station and we made our way onto the highway around 8:45am.

It rained on and off for first part of the drive, making me glad I wasn’t driving! It made for beautiful views though, with dramatic skies against lush green trees and the occasional silo next to an old farmhouse. Once we hit Quebec City we had beautiful mountains to admire against a wide open blue sky. With nightfall came a distance lightening show over the mountains and deep within the cumulonimbus clouds overhead.

We arrived in Moncton at half past midnight. It was dark, but the air smelled lovely! Even in downtown, it smelled like evergreen trees to me. “Thats what fresh air smells like!” Matt told me.

photo of a cross against a blue sky

Day One: Pump House Brewery and Magnetic Hill

My first day in New Brunswick was spent driving around Moncton and surrounding areas with Matt showing me all the important places from his life there. We also took in some tourist sites too, such as Magnetic Hill that I thought was a total rip-off for $3/person. It didn’t have monetary value in my opinion.

I was surprised how small Moncton was! We stopped for lunch in the Pump House Brewery where I did some beer tastings, settling on the blueberry beer and sharing a radler with Matt. He got his favourite – the Cadian beer, with a mushroom burger and beer bread.
After lunch, we continued our “Tour de Matt”, walking around downtown Moncton. We stopped by the historic Lutz house and the memorial to the first eight European settlers of the area – one of which was Matt’s family, the Steifs. Funnily enough, the monument was also a Pokémon Go stop, so it was crowded by young people on their cellphones playing the game that had recently taken the world by storm.

We had dinner with Matt’s family back at Riverview, and then set back out to go to the family cottage at Cape Enrage on the Bay of Fundy. I saw my first moose on the way – it was pretty exciting!

photo of two glasses of pink wine cheers-ing
We got there just in time to see the sun slip behind the clouds. We cheers with glasses of strawberry-rhubarb wine to the view. Matt got out his telescope and did some stargazing before it clouded in to look at Mars and the rings of Saturn. I saw my first ever shooting star! I was pretty excited.

It started to rain soon after nightfall, so we sat in the dark for a while listening to the pitter-patter outside. Once we retired, the ominous hum of mosquitoes kept us awake. By morning, I was covered in bites! Matt joked that it looked like I had chickenpox!

photo of a mug on a railing, overlooking the green landscape of Cape Enrage

Day Two: Hopewell Rocks, Fundy Park, and Alma

Matt prepared a nice breakfast of baguette and granola with yogurt. It was a beautiful clear day, so we planned to go for a walk on the beach before heading into Fundy Park. However, when Matt went to do his morning budget he discovered his credit card had been victim to fraud, so spent the morning on the phone making various enquiries and arrangements.

photo of red stones on a beach on a sunny day
I wandered down to the beach with my camera, following a footpath behind the cottage to a springy meadow of wild berries, moss, and flowers. I crossed the meadow to the gravel path and onto the beach. As the tide was out, Cape Enrage was an expanse of sand with snail trails patterning the sand, ridges from the water, and colourful pebbles. Steam with rising up from the small pools of water leftover from the tide.

After wandering about on the sands, I made my way towards the cliffs where the occasional dribble of shale would ring out like falling ice down the cliff-side. It was a magical yet eerie reminder of the impermanence of the world around us. The large rocks near the base of the cliffs were intriguing too – such as variety of textures and colours.

photo of a cottage at the top of a fern covered hill
Matt met me on the rocks and we walked back up to the cottage together. We loaded up the car and headed to the Cape Enrage lighthouse. As we were pressed for time, we didn’t pay to go in, but parked just outside the lot to view the lighthouse from afar.

Next on our list was Fundy National Park. We made a quick pit stop at two trails, just to walk in for a couple minutes then go back into the car. It was a Fundy tease! Matt’s favourite hike is the Coastal Trial, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for that.

photo of fishing boats and a hook on the dock
After our mini-hike, we drove into the tourist/fishing village of Alma for lunch. We shared a seafood platter at Fundy Take-out, which the locals raved about. It wasn’t the best seafood we’d had, but enjoyable nonetheless. We got a milkshake and a seafood platter of lobster, battered scallops, clam strips, shrimp, haddock, and fries, which we ate on a picnic bench outside.

On our way back into town, we stopped at the Hopewell Rocks to see them at high tide. Fortunately admission is good for 24 hours, so we made plans to come back at low tide. There was a nice walk down to the rocks though, and multiple wheelchair-users were enjoying the gravel path. We snapped a couple pics of the rocks, then headed over to the visitation for Matt’s grandmother.

The visitation was in his grandmother’s childhood home, before it was repurposed as the Bishop Funeral Home. I had not been to a visitation since I was a child, so it felt like a new experience. I met Matt’s extended family and friends of his grandmother. Coming from a small family, I was amazed at how many relatives Matt had – and all from the area too!
After the visitation, we went back to his parent’s house in Riverview where we took their two west highland terriers for an evening walk along Petitcodiac River and up through residential areas before settling back into the house. We then had a glass of wine with Matt’s sister on the patio before heading to bed. It had been a busy day!

Day Three: Funeral and Family Time

The funeral for Matt’s grandmother took place on Tuesday morning. We drove in as a family: Matt, his parents, his sister, and me. The service was at the Albert County Funeral Home, followed by tea and sandwiches. Matt really wanted to show me the Hopewell rocks at low tide, so we slipped out in our funeral attire to make our way down to the rocks.
The rocks were much more fun at low tide than high tide. I found hard to get a good photo with the position of the sun, but enjoyed walking along the ocean floor and under the rocks themselves. Amusement was added to the fact we were wearing suit and dress, mucking around in the wet sand.

We caught up with the funeral procession, taking wildflower lined country roads down to Waterside Cemetery. The cemetery once had a church with special meaning to Matt’s family, but had been struck by lightning in January a few years back and burned down to the ground. Now a plaque and charred hydro-lines remain.

Matt joined the other pallbearers to carry the coffin to its final resting place. The children and sisters threw roses onto the coffin and the grandchildren placed a metal rose by the gravestone as Matt played Amazing Grace on his harmonica. Even though I had never known Matt’s grandmother, I found it very moving.

After the ceremony, Matt and his parent’s gave me a tour of the cemetery, pointing out their favourite epitaph, written by a young man who had accidently shot himself while hunting. He had a good sense of humour even on his deathbed apparently.

After everyone had left, we made our way up to the family cottages on Cape Enrage. We went to one cottage for leftover sandwiches and veggie dip, then Matt walked me down to his old cottage by a small lake before heading back up his parent’s cottage for wine and cheese.

photo of a small cottage by a misty lake in the woods
The fog started to roll in and as we made our way back up the hill, I noticed a large bird coming towards us. At first I thought it was a seagull, but as it neared I realized in was a bald eagle! It flew right over us, disappearing into the mist. It was magical!

Back up the hill, Matt and I hung-out on the deck for awhile, watching the fog roll in while listening to his dad’s bluegrass music coming through the living-room walls and the fog horn at the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. The bald eagle swooped overhead two more times before the darkness of night soaked up everything in sight.

photo of purple wildflowers by a misty lake
Matt and I went for a nigh time walk along the beach, stopping to sit on a piece of driftwood to listen to the tide coming in. Soon we saw a flicker of light through the fog. We recognized it as a bonfire and made our way back up the hill to join his cousins around a blazing fire of foraged driftwood. We sat around the fire for quite sometime, talking and watching the flames, making it back to the cottage around midnight to sleep.

photo of two glasses of pink wine cheersing in the fog

Leaving New Brunswick

We woke up with sun streaming in the windows, the Bay of Fundy in view with fog nestled on the treetops. We packed our bags and Matt made coffee, which I took out onto the porch to enjoy with a bouquet of flowers as Matt updated his budget. The fog soon covered the Bay, hiding all but the trees lining the cottage garden. I washed the dishes and Matt dried while listening to Tempo on CBC Radio 2, enjoying our domestic moment.

photo of a small bouquet of flowers in a mason jar

Ha Ha Cemetery & Mary’s Point

Come noon, we packed up the convertible and drove off down the road. The fog cleared once we neared the main road, revealing a beautiful summer day fit with blue skies and cheerful, fluffy clouds. We drove down to Mary’s Point, stopping in Ha Ha Cemetery along the way.

Ha Ha Cemetery was a beautiful cemetery – quiet, private, with both shade and sun, nestled in with trees and wildflowers. Apparently it had been a lost cemetery until it was discovered when someone was clearing bush one day. I thought it to be one of the most beautiful places of rest I’d ever been.

photo of a beach covered with driftwood and debris
We drove past Mary’s Point at first. It had a Government of Canada sign out front that read “Shepody Wildlife Reserve”. We parked the car and walked down to the shore, but unfortunately there were no shorebirds in sight to enjoy. The tide was out, so the birds had plenty of land to search for food. Apparently it is best to come 2 hours before until 2 hours after high tide to get the best shorebird experience.

photo of a meadow with a covered bridge in the background


Matt took me down a variety of back roads, stopping at the church his parent’s had been married in. It was a gorgeous old building in Hillsborough, now serving as a storage locker, German bakery, and medical clinic. One of the fathers of confederation, one of Matt’s ancestors, is also buried in the cemetery next to the church, which gives the church an additional layer of interest.

photo of an ice cream cone
We went to the neighbouring gas station where Matt used to get ice cream as a kid. They didn’t sell ice cream anymore, so we drove out to Momma T’s Ice Cream Shop. Matt was pleased to see they sold Northumberland ice cream, a co-op dairy. We each got two flavours of ice cream on a waffle cone, which they took their time scooping each order. However, each cone was gigantic (we ordered a small) and totalled only $6! It was an absolute bargain in comparison to Toronto where a single cone will set you back more.

Homeward bound

We got back to Matt’s parent’s house in time to pack for the plane and have a quick shower. Matt’s mom packed us a lunch for the airport with local strawberries, green beans, and homemade egg salad sandwiches with sourdough bread. His parents took us to the airport where we sat in the cafeteria to eat our sandwiches before it was time to board the plane.

Getting through security at the Moncton airport was a breeze. We flew Porter, which is always a treat. The airline served us cocktails and Terra chips on the first leg of the trip. I wrote a couple postcards and Matt settled into his podcasts after he gave me the birds eye tour of Moncton out of the plane window before we rose up above the clouds, home to Toronto.

photo of a convertible car on a country road

Goodbye San Diego!

two pigeons on the railing of a pier

Queen’s Town Public House

Matt did a search on Yelp for the best brunch in the city and the Queen’s Town kept coming up. We had walked by the place many times but never gone in as it looked very chic. However, the matter was settled by the fact they had chicken and waffles – Matt’s latest obsession.

We got in line at 8:50am. I admired people’s Sunday’s best and we listened to the church bells mixed in with the Beatles and Wings music coming out over the patio speakers. It didn’t take long for us to be seated – and we were in for a treat!

The restaurant was a prop artist’s dream – I kept thinking how some of my friends would have a ball decorating a place like this. The outside was all farmhouse themed antiques, the bar had an old boat over it, and the washrooms had coo coo clocks. The most impressive room however was sheep themed – plushy lambs upside down on the ceiling In a perfect meadow theme with sheepskin backed chairs below at each table. It was like something out of the looking glass!

plate of chicken and waffles

It was hard to decide what to have. There were so many interesting brunch options on the menu! I ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes (green tomatoes, feta, frisée, poached egg, and balsamic reduction) with a Vanilla Ginger Cocktail (fresh ginger, vanilla beans, Pol Clement champagne), and Matt ordered the Chicken and Waffles (fried chicken wings, house made waffles, and cinnamon butter) with a Bellini (Pol Clement champagne with fresh strawberries and peaches). All was delicious.

lifeguard truck on the beach

Imperial Beach

We drove over to Coronado, which many people had recommended for the view. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see much though. We parked at Imperial Beach and walked along the water.

The Tin Fish

The pier at Imperial Beach was lined with fishermen and below were surfers riding the waves. We even saw two cormorants.

At the end of the pier was a take-out joint, called the Tin Fish. We were still full from brunch, but I wanted to try the swordfish stew. We got a small bowl for $3.95 which was overflowing with veggies and white chunks of swordfish in a thick tomato broth with Italian spices. Neither of us had never had swordfish before. It had a nice flakey texture, but lacked flavour. It was like firm tofu or tender chicken!  

yellow cliffs in the sun 

Black’s Beach

Once back in the car, we drove to Black’s Beach in Torrey’s Hill Natural Park. The trail down to the cliff was rather treacherous, but I made it in one piece (with Matt merrily skipping along). The drop was 300 feet!

The beach was a mix of charcoal grey, plum purple, and burnt orange sand. It was below a powered parachuting school, which meant lots of colourful sights to watch in the air.

Matt went for a swim and I soon followed suit. Generally I’m not a water person, but the waves were so much fun! I had a grand time running into the water and jumping up with the waves. It wasn’t until the sun started to go down that I came back in.

 a couple hugging on a cliff iverlooking the water 

Sunset Cliffs

The last thing on our to do list before heading to the airport was to see the sunset at Sunset Cliffs. Unfortunately the sky had gotten cloudy by then, so we didn’t get to see the sun set over the ocean. It was still beautiful. The cliffs were like the setting of a children’s novel, perfect for smugglers and pirates!

We sat on a bench and made ourselves some tomato and pesto sandwiches with the last of our groceries. It was a lovely end to our trip.

San Diego Airport

We dropped the car off at Hertz in a matter of minutes and hopped on the shuttle to Terminal 2. Matt had already checked us into our flights on his phone, so all we had to do was get in line for security.

Getting through security was a breeze. It didn’t take long at all. Once we found our gate, Matt went on a search for Duty Free while I stayed with the bags and uploaded photos to Instagram. Sadly, Duty Free had closed at 8:30pm, so we were out of luck on that front.

Now onto the plane home!

photo of sand and stones on a beach

Saturday in San Diego

We woke up at 5:00 for no reason and stayed up for awhile, resulting in us missing breakfast at the hotel. However, we got a good parking spot at 5am now that all the party-goers had gone home. So, Matt got out his phone to check Yelp for recommendations.

 cacti against the wall of a building 

Tazza d’oro

We went to Tazza d’oro for breakfast which was the cheapest place to get eggs locally on Yelp. However, once we got there, we found out they hadn’t updated their website in 5 years and prices had doubled. The staff were accommodating and charged us the old rate for a bagel with egg and cheese. They had kambucha on tap, so for kicks, I ordered some to go with my bagel.

There was a child quartet playing outside the restaurant, dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing. It was fun listening to classical music as we munched on jalapeño bagels and sipped kambucha.

Saturday Farmers Market in Little Italy

There was a farmers market practically outside our hotel door at Cedar Street in Little Italy. It went on for blocks and blocks and was crowded with people.

Mikolich Family Honey

We went on a mission to find tiny jars of honey to take home on the plane, setting on a four pack of Californian raw honey from the Mikolich Family for $10: avocado, orange blossom, alfalfa, and sage buckwheat. There were also vendors selling little jars of jam and salt, but I was won over by the little bears.

There were samples everywhere – ice cream, cheese, mouse, everything! You could buy green smoothies by the gallon for $32, quaint bouquets of lavender, eat Korean or Mexican, buy fancy dog biscuits or catnip – it was a gourmet’s haven! There were musicians on every corner, people holding tiny dogs, bouquets of flowers, and wicker baskets of veggies.

 Photo of a sea urchin on a plate 

Papa’s Fresh Fish Company

The most exciting thing we saw at the market were live sea urchins. They were being served cracked open in their spiky shells. We got one to share. It was like salty custard and made for a great vacation photo op!


After our sea urchin, we decided to go for ice cream. We ended up at Pappalecco for gelato, a cafe in Little Italy. It had a long lineup and I chose pear and pistachio. Unfortunately the gelato wasn’t very flavourful, but it was fun to sit in the sun eating our gelato with tiny spoons.

Village Hat Shop

For my birthday, Matt had offered to buy me a new black beret, as I had lost my signature black beret on a dark bike ride home one night. We had gone to every shop in Toronto, and now he had set aside two French made berets at the Village Hat Shop in San Diego.

The Hat Shop was a warehouse with a slightly dusty feel to it. I spent some time in front of the mirror with a 57 basque beret, but it didn’t feel quite right. I decided my existing navy hat was sufficient.

 photo of a telephone pole and cacti 


We walked back along India Ave., checking out the happy hour specials along the way and popping into boutiques to browse along the way. We found a good spot to watch the planes coming in and out of San Diego airport and I took lots of pictures of cacti.

Back at the hotel, we put on CBC radio to catch the blues show and sang along to the music while drinking beer and photo editing. We did a load of laundry at the laundromat too!

 old ship against the sunset 

San Diego Port

We walked down to the port to watch the sunset over the ocean. There was a maritime museum with all sorts of ships docked: tall ships, submarines, a steam boat. I had fun taking pictures – made me think of family back home.

Matt and I had dinner at a pizzeria where you could get two slices of pizza and a pint of beer for $10. We sat on the street and watched people go by in Little Italy, talking about the past and future. This was continued this back at the hotel too. We drank some beers on the patio, listening to the crickets and admiring the palm trees. It was a peaceful way to spend our last night in San Diego!

San Diego and the CSUN Conference

phot of a CSUN conference badge on a table
colourful condo buildings and elongated trees
Condos in downtown San Diego

Day One

Matt walked me to the CSUN conference at the Hyatt Hotel from where we were staying in Little Italy. Once registered, I scurried off to my first session. My favourites from the day were on WordPress backward compatibility and accessible PDF design. I saw a couple friends from the Canadian accessibility scene – and lots of cute guide dogs!

After the conference, I went back to the hotel where Matt and I had a disco nap before heading back out into San Diego for the night’s festivities. We had a social with accessible karaoke and networking with beer ahead of us!

blue sky and contemporary building
View above the pool at the Hyatt Hotel

San Diego was a very strange city. It looked as if everything had been built in the last 20 years, kept sanitary, and manicured. A Lyft driver told us the city had been built on a dessert – every palm tree had been placed with purpose.

Matt and I went to the Deque social in the evening, but it was loud and we both felt awkward. We then made our way down to the hotel lobby bar, Redfield’s, which I was told was the place to be, but I didn’t see anyone I know.

So, we wandered over to a park in a marina where we saw lots of small rabbits by the water. Matt pointed out constellations in the stars to me, guessing which were stars or planets. We walked up the the convention centre where locals were exercising on the steps, making our way to the Gaslamp District.

I thought I might see some friends on the patio as the Gaslamp District had been applauded at the Toronto Accessibility Meet-up. We didn’t, but found cheap tacos and $2 beers at a Mexican bar to end our night that didn’t quite go as planned, on a tasty and economical note.

My notes from Day 1 of the CSUN Conference.

open doors into an old train station
Santa Fe train station in downtown San Diego

Day Two

Matt packed me a sandwich lunch while I got ready (CSUN does not offer snacks or lunch) and walked me to the conference before parting ways to do professional networking of his own in the Los Angeles’ film industry.

My favourite talks at CSUN that day were on Accessible Maps and a discussion on diversity, focusing on Whole Food’s orange controversy. At lunch, I went and sat by the marina to eat my sandwich where I watched the boats and tourists go by. It was very relaxing to sit in the sun listening to the birds in the trees, the water lapping the rocks on the shore, and the breeze in the leaves.

After the conference, I went and sat in at the Hyatt’s bar, Redfield’s, where I was told all the good discussions happen. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anyone I knew and the Narwhal stout I decided to try was undrinkable (fizzy water with corn syrup anyone?). So, I left my full beer at the bar and wandered about outside, taking pictures of downtown San Diego until it was time for the CSUN Tweet-up.

palm trees against a sunset
Palm trees outside the Hyatt Hotel

Usually I thrive at accessibility meet-ups, but instead anxiety took over despite knowing people there. I went and sat outside for a bit, admiring the sunset behind the palm trees before going back into for Round Two of the Tweet-up. However, I felt even worse the second time that not even the prospect of free pastries or booze could entice me (two of my favourite things!). So, I wandered back to the hotel feeling like the worst human being to have passed up the best opportunity ever to hangout with the crème de la crème of my industry.

My notes from Day 2 of CSUN.

photo of a low rise condo building
Condos and office buildings in downtown San Diego

Day Three

The last day of CSUN went by very quickly. There was a live broadcast of the Viking & Lumberjack with pizza and beer. I always enjoy their performances – it’s so great to laugh about one’s own industry and shared experiences.

I went to two sessions by Adobe, both uninspiring, but had some big news dropped: Adobe is adding an undo function to Acrobat for tagging, reading order etc! No release date set yet, but this is pretty major. I made sure I had heard correctly 3 times before I tweeted out the news. It’s a game changer.

Matt returned from LA at the same time I got back to the hotel after CSUN finished. We walked up India Street to a new part of town we hadn’t explored yet. It was lined with breweries, little boutiques, and old cottages, which was a pleasant change from the overly touristy downtown core.

photo of a plane flying overhead of a patio at a bar
A plane flying above the patio at El Camino

We ended up at El Camino, a chic Mexican bar under an airline approach path. We sat on the patio and watched the planes come in while enjoying $3 and $5 Mexican food during a very happy hour(s). We had a great time! It was perfect way to cheers the end of our big feats – my time at CSUN and Matt’s trip to LA.

My notes from Day 3 of CSUN.

The Great Big List from CSUN 2016 (slides and other attendee’s notes)

photo of Nell's CSUN badge on a table
Post-conference celebrations at El Camino

Driving the Californian Coast

 Big Sur mountains and beach 
We awoke groggy and tired. Neither of us had slept well. When we went down for breakfast, CNN was showing footage of a terrorist attack on an airport in Brussels. We ate our blueberry waffles and yogurt in silence.

It was 8:30 by the time we hit the road. The drive along the coast was beautiful. Moss covered trees, cliffs, and huge waves! Big Sur was particularly beautiful and we even saw some seals a little later on. They looked like dead bodies in sacks to me.

 Big Sur mountains and beach 
As we were pressed for time to reach San Diego by nightfall, we didn’t make many stops along the way. We took the Cabrillo Highway until it ended, then continued as close to the coast as possible.

The further south we drove, the more exotic the roadside became. The scenery changed from lush, old growth forests to shrubs and palm trees, red stone cliffs to yellow stone covered in low lying wild flowers. Architecture had a distinct Spanish influence, pale yellow with red tile roofs. 

 Matt taking a photo of the ocean 
The weather remained constantly sunny, but gradually grew warmer until I could discard my spring jacket. We sang along to 80’s music, accompanied by Matt giving me rock music history lessons and answering science questions I had on passing phenomenons.
 mountain in southern california 

Once we got into Santa Barbara, the horizon was lined with oil rigs against the hazy backdrop of the Channel Islands of California. We drove through Malibu and Los Angeles (LA). We hit rush hour traffic in LA where it was stop and go for about 3 hours through a combination of diners and shops, including a thrift store that doubled as a HIV testing clinic.

The sun began to set outside of LA. The sky had hints of lavender blue, pink and orange smog over distant jagged mountains with a large, bright moon overhead. Looking back, the sky was pale blue with candy floss pink clouds. 

We arrived in San Diego around 8:30pm. Once we checked into our hotel, Urban Boutique Hotel, we went on a mission to find beer and tacos. However, everything was closing at 9pm on a Tuesday. The only place that had an open kitchen was a pasta and pizza place where we shared a plate and each had a beer. Fed and watered, we went home to bed. island off the coast of california 

San Francisco

coffee and a croissant
Matt enjoying an almond croissant at farm : table

Day One

We started off our day with breakfast at Farm : Table, a small but very popular cafe near our hostel on Nob Hill. Matt had a quiche, i had an egg and ham croissant with a Pug ‘n Honey latte, with an almond croissant to share on the sidewalk patio.

We walked all over San Francisco. The morning air was full of the scent of jasmine, the song of birds, and the rustle of leaves in the breeze of exotic trees. Our first stop was Crooked Street, a steep and windy road in a leafy residential district. Matt wanted to climb every steep road we could find and eventually we found ourself in a surreal district of billionaires’ mansions overlooking the city.

palace of fine arts
Palace of Fine Arts


We made our way back down to a historic fort with cute military cottages that reminded me of the Bain Co-op in Toronto. Then we went to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had our first good view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. We walked along the water until we got to the Palace of Fine Arts, an ornate neo-classical structure overlooking a peaceful water garden.

Approaching noon, we made our way to the jazz district. Matt wanted to catch the Palm Sunday service at the Church of John Coltrane. The colourful little room was full of people playing musical instruments, singing with big smiles on their faces, all in the style off the jazz musician John Coltrane. They handed out palm leaves which everyone waved around to the music, which was fun. I enjoyed looking around at the audience – in classic Californian style, there was even a smartly dressed woman with a tiny dog in her purse!

Civic Centre in San Francisco
The Civic Centre


We walked past City Hall and the ornate performing arts buildings, through interesting low income housing. We stopped in a cafe my friends had recommended to have an americano and lemon square before wandering back to our hostel to nap before meeting Matt’s friend Ted for dinner.

Ted took us to Hog Island Oyster Co at the San Francisco Ferry Building. The lineup was quite long, but we had a great time chatting in the rain about Toronto food and drink destinations. We shared an oyster sampler, chicken fried oysters on waffles (Matt loves waffles), chipotle grilled oysters, and Old Bay fries. We sat on the patio overlooking the water and the ferry, cozy under a heat lamp in the rain.


stormy ferry dock
Bike on the ferry port near Grey’s Bridge

We finished our evening at an ice cream parlour in the Ferry Building. After tasting a couple flavours (including savoury pepper and mint), all three of us settled on bourbon and cornflakes – with Matt adding caramel-bourbon sauce to his! Then we went home to bed and CBC radio.


seagull on the ferry dock
Seagull outside the Ferry Building


Day Two

We found a small sandwich shop using Yelp for breakfast. They had great coffee, very strong – and we each had an turkey egg sandwich while reading the San Francisco Chronicle. I quite enjoyed the newspaper – interesting stories and nice layout.


beetle parked on a hill in front of a row of town houdes
Beetle on a residential street in San Francisco

I was really feeling in from the day before. I’m not used to so much walking. We made slow progress to the Painted Lady, ornate pastel coloured houses, then to Haight and Ashbury on our way to Golden Gate Bridge.

I loved Haight and Ashbury! I treated myself to a small Smorkin’ Labbit figurine for my kitchen and found a nice blazer at Goodwill for $7.50. I was quite pleased!

It really started to downpour once we got to Golden Gate Park. We were hoping it would be a short spurt like all the rain we encountered yesterday, but it persisted. Matt was concerned about my limp, so we took a Lyft (like Uber) back to the hostel to check out.


golden gate bridge at sunlight
Baker’s Beach with a view of the Golden Bridge

After checkout, we went to Sushiritto for a sushi burrito. It was very good value! We got huge sushi rolls that filled us right up. By then our car rental was ready, so we took another Lyft to Hertz.

Keys in hand, we drove our little Mitsubishi across the Golden Gate Bridge, up to Battery Spenser, and to a couple lookouts along the cliff. Battery Spenser was pretty cool – abandoned military buildings and a great view of the bridge. We also went to Fort Miley, Cliff House, and Baker Bridge. I had an exhilarating time on the beach – I’d never seen waves so big in my life! They were huge!

We hit the road around 6:00pm. We had trouble finding a cheap place to stay, eventually settling on a Super 8 Motel in Salinas. I was exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.


look out over the ocean at Cliff House
Lookout by the Cliff House