Weekend in Newport Beach

Trip Start Jul 25, 2008
Trip End Jul 27, 2008

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, July 28, 2008

Newport Beach, California

       Nestled between the hills and the Pacific Ocean, the affluent yachting community of Newport Beach was my recent travel destination during the last weekend of July. Spurred by a last minute invitation from a reputable Cardiology device company to attend a meeting on pacemakers and defibrillators, I gladly accepted the offer to balance work with some sight-seeing, especially to escape the mounting heat in Houston. The device representatives instantly arranged and paid for my air travel and lodging at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Resort.

Friday, July 25, 2008

       Arriving at around 9PM to Orange County Airport, I called one of my colleagues to ask about dinner plans. He was already with three device representatives at Bayside Restaurant (900 Bayside Dr., Newport Beach, CA), and they were all waiting for me. To save time, my partner asked what I would like to have for dinner. Having expected a full-course dinner in First Class on Continental Airlines #809, I disappointingly got two slices of turkey meat with some salad. So, I was still very hungry. I told my partner to pre-order for me a medium-done tender filet mignon steak with Madagascan green pepper sauce, potato trio, and some seasoned vegetables, accompanied by a glass of Chardonnay wine, preferably from Napa Valley, California.  Bayside Restaurant, a chic, contemporary restaurant specializing in New American cuisine with live jazz music and an impressive Zagat score of 25/30, was well-known for that particular dish according to my previous research. I then searched around in the baggage claims area for the limousine chauffeur, who was supposed to be present to take me to Bayside Restaurant. He was nowhere to be found. Finally, he arrived almost 20 minutes late, and I was driven to the restaurant.
       Upon entering, I met up with my colleague Harry, who was already finished with his dinner. The three  device representatives, Denise, George, and Jim, were also finishing up. As soon as I sat down, my dinner plate was gracefully placed in front of me. For the rest of the evening, we talked, drank, and spent some more time talking about non-scientific topics. I felt like this meeting was giving me a good opportunity to get to know the personal side of my colleagues.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

       The morning was filled with talks given by Cardiology speakers mostly from the western US (San Diego, Los Angeles, Utah, University of Washington in Seattle, etc). As soon as the Saturday sessions were over by 2PM, Denise and George came to tell me that they had rented a motor boat for us. I informed one of them that I would also like to take advantage of the beautiful 70-degree weather and do a little biking. I was thinking of renting a bike after the boat trip. George then told me that he was going to inquire at the hotel. In fact, he did more than just inquire. He rented a mountain bike for me and had it ready by the time I returned back from the marina. It was truly an exceptional service from this device company.
       Having just been in Luigi's boat one month ago in Italy, I was expecting a similar boating experience. However, all the larger boats in Newport Beach were rented out. There were seven of us, including my colleague Andrés, a fellow hospital cardiologist in Houston, and his device representative, Carlos. Only smaller, four-person motorboats with a feeble 90-horsepower engine were available. I stared at the frail, tenuous, dimunitive boats and had second thoughts about getting in. Especially when the sky began to turn gray, and the waves became more choppy. But we had no choice, so all seven of us split up in two boats.

The Perfect Storm

       We began our ride inside the lagoon, known as Newport Bay, which was initially very pleasant. Affluent houses speckled the perimeter of the shore. There were some small canals throughout the lagoon, which reminded me somewhat of a modern version of Venice. However, once we left the tranquil confines of the lagoon, the rough Pacific Ocean under stormy weather almost turned our maritime experience into a Gilligan's Island adventure. The turbulent waves crested very high, and as the motorboat sped forward perpendicularly against the choppy waves, our boat was thrown into the air a few feet and crashed down on the water forcefully. I kept on thinking, "Don't capsize. Now where's Luigi's boat?..." (For more information, see Travelblog Italy and Norway 2008, Entry #2: Welcome Back To Italy). For almost 40 minutes, we tried to negotiate the rough waves of the ocean with the utmost respect. Finally, the sky began to clear up again, and the winds began to die down. At that time, we quickly took advantage of the calming "Pacific" Ocean and headed back to the lagoon in one piece.
       A limousine arrived to take us back to the hotel, and after firmly digging my feet on land, I felt a little safer. Harry got a little seasick. Upon arriving at the hotel, I took the mountain bike out for a spin and headed for Balboa Island, a small island measuring 0.2 square miles but with a population of 30,000 residents, giving it a population density of 18,000 people per square mile, denser than San Francisco!. It was connected by a quaint, two-lane bridge to Newport Beach. Outside of lower Manhattan, this community had one of the most expensive real estate markets. A small, water-front, two-bedroom house started at $3 million. The entire island was extremely cute and charming, full of extravagant houses, small roads, and quaint canals. It had the atmosphere of a typical American harbor town, sailboats and yachts dotting the marina, families walking along the seaside promenade with salt water taffy and cotton candy, little children running onto the lazy beaches full of sand castles.
       By 8:30PM, the device representatives had arranged for a limo to take us to Mastro's Ocean Club (http://www.azeats.com), a very elegant, upscale dining experience in Newport Beach, California. The restaurant clientele was noticeably very typical of southern California wealth: young, tanned, well-dressed, beautiful, and sporting luxury cars. The décor and service were impeccable, down to the details of the various European Impressionist and post-modern paintings on the walls to the napkin color to match the pants or dresses of the customers. Even the bathroom attendants would not permit the customers to touch the sink; everything from turning on the water to getting some soap was gracefully taken care of. The best attribute of this restaurant was its divine food. We had so much food that night. For appetizers, we dined on fried calamari with a spicy, creamy sauce, oysters rockefeller cooked with parsley, parmesan cheese, and topped with a rich sauce of butter, breadcrumbs, and herbs, and some giant scallops sautéed in a light-creamy tomato, garlic sauce. My entrée was the house specialty: Chilean Sea Bass Steak with lobster tails on the side, wasabi mashed potato, and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. The dinner was finished with fresh berries and crème brûlée as well as a key lime pie, whose texture was more like an exquisite fluffy Italian gelato. The California Pinot Noir red wine enhaced our palates, also. In all, the representatives took care of the bill, which upon my estimation, was almost $200 per person (not including tip) for four of us. This dining experience was quite expensive, but it would be a great splurge for anyone interested in upscale, fine seafood dining.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

       The weekend was almost over. I awoke at around 4AM to go running around the lagoon. Then, I went to the closing sessions of the meeting. Before heading to the airport, I sat down with the group at the hotel restaurant to lunch on an eclectic buffet of Australian lamb chops braised with Burgundy wine, Alaskan King Crab legs, roasted chicken, etc. In all, I had such a wonderful time on many different levels, professional, personal, and gastronomical. And a change in fresh air was also very welcoming. Enjoy the pictures.

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