Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 will continue on Monday, November 19, 2007.)
(A smoky pall obscures Orange County.)
This article is dedicated to the brave firefighters from around the country who helped combat the wildfires that swept California last month. Thank you for protecting Irvine and all of the other communities threatened by this disaster.
When you've done the same job for five years, a layoff isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a time for retrospection and introspection, to examine the path that you've been on and consider where you'd like to go next. In some ways, it's like being given the opportunity to reinvent yourself.
The Irvine Bikeways, my favorite place to take a bit of exercise, offers a relaxing metaphor for a man looking to do some serious contemplation. The trails, which are separate from the often frightening street traffic, takes travelers past the beautiful San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, then follows Irvine's rather scenic drainage canals through the rest of the city. It's a very peaceful ride if you like biking. Everyone seems to observe an unspoken code of silence, although you'll often get a smile and a nod in greeting.
For a planned community, there's a surprising amount to see, particularly if you’re adventurous enough to leave the trail and do a little exploring along the side paths. Most of them lead to nothing more than surface streets or shopping centers. However, sometimes you stumble across the unexpected.
There's life out there; nature red of tooth and claw. Humanity may shape its surroundings to better suite itself, but all life has the potential to spring up and thrive in the oddest places. Who would have thought that drainage canals would have their own ecosystem?
That's really the key, isn't it. Regardless of your surroundings, you have to have the will to do more than just survive if you want to succeed in life. It's just as true for us as it is for any other creature.
From time to time, you also need support from loved ones, or just a place to refuel. I like to pull over at Champagne French Bakery in Woodbridge Center. Although it's a SoCal chain, it's also an old friend. Cat and I stopped by this branch for a late lunch right after I proposed. I find the food and atmosphere soothing.
They have the standard cafe selection of coffee based drinks. I'm a coffee traditionalist, so I usually stick with the Cafe Americano, which is basically shots of espresso thinned with hot water. You get a richer flavor without the severity of straight espresso.
In the winter, Cat likes to cozy up to a mug of Hot Chocolate. Cafe style hot chocolate is made using steamed milk, which gives it a frothy consistency that helps release more flavor from the cocoa powder. It's a light, warming drink.
Champagne French Bakery also has a decent selection of baked goods, including a few fancy cakes. There's surprisingly little in the way of bread. I've actually never been that impressed with their offerings, given my background working with the stellar products at Marjolaine (now Margaret's French Bakery). However, you can always find something sweet to nibble on at Champagne. For Cat, it's usually whatever form of Shortbread dipped in chocolate they have on hand.
I like Fruit Tarts. I got addicted to them while I was at Marjolaine. Champagne's aren't as good, but I have yet to find any that are. They get the job done, though.
The problem with taking a break is that if you stay too long, you might not be able to get going again. You need to stay focused. Once you've got your wind back, get on that trail again and discover where it can take you. At some point in the journey you'll inevitably find yourself back near where you started, but with a slightly different angle. Sometimes, a little perspective is all you need.
Champagne French Bakery - Take a trip down the Irvine Bikeways and make a pit stop at Champagne French Bakery. It's a sweet way to rest and recharge.
Champagne French Bakery Cafe
4628 Barranca Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92604
Other locations: Click here.
Click here to see some truly amazing wildlife photos from the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary by David, an Orange County photographer. If I could apprentice myself to this man, I would.