Weekend in Newport Beach
Trip Start Jul 25, 2008
1Trip End Jul 27, 2008
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Where I stayed
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
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
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
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
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.