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What a weekend!

As I already mentioned, I made a quick trip to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding this weekend. And even the fact I went straight to work from the airport upon returning to Winnipeg, hangover still lingering in my head, didn’t diminish the sheer delightfulness of it all.

What wasn’t to like about the past 36 hours?

Great food.

As always, Chi-town didn’t disappoint: a fantastic rehearsal dinner at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Snow Crab; a quick breakfast at Rick Bayless’ fantastic short-order Mexican joint, XOCO; a surprisingly wicked Moroccan lamb burger at Sable; and, best of all, an absolutely stunning dinner at the wedding itself.

Great weather.

Sure it was hot and humid and the risk of showers ever present, but, for a better part of the day on Saturday, we were able to take in the sights and sounds of the Magnificent Mile and the even more magnificent Millennium Park without a drop.

Heck, I even managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Art Institute and, along the way, glimpsed Seward Johnson’s latest sculpture along Michigan Avenue.

Great times with old friends.

The best part of all.

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Ah yes, the dog days of summer. When the star, Sirius, shines brightest in the night sky; the sun hangs about long into the evening; the weather is warm; the trees green and full.

It’s hard to believe a scant six months ago, the temperature was a breathless -30C. Fast forward to present and the mercury has jumped 60 degrees. One of the few joys of living on the prairies, I suppose.

It has been years since I’ve spent the summer in Winnipeg. (Even though I have been back for over a year, I spent the better part of last summer abroad.) Honestly, I’d forgotten how lovely this city can be at this time of year.

Perhaps when one leaves the city and becomes a, “I grew up in Winnipeg,” guy, one becomes so used to the inevitable, “God, the winters must be miserable!” and is so quick to defend them with a quick, “But, it’s a dry cold!” one never has time to consider the summertime.

Well, I’m considering it now — and think it’s splendid.

Really!

What’s not to like: hot weather, sunny skies, lush foliage, a steady stream of events and activities (i.e., Jazz, Folk, Fringe). Heck, just last week, on my day off (few and far between these days), I spent the day at the beach. The beach!

I bet those Toronto-centric, Eastern-Canadian, big-city sonofaguns didn’t even know we have beaches. Well, we do! And they’re lovely.

Granted, our summers are short — and it isn’t every year they’re this hot, sunny, and bug-free. But in a town with little to brag about (murder capital, longitudinal centre of the continent, not being Regina), I’ll gladly champion Winnipeg in the summertime.

Oh sure, I can think of a few places I’d rather be in the summertime (Barcelona tops the list), but beggars can’t be choosers; so, when not hunkered down in the kitchen, I count my blessings and celebrate these dog days in the Peg.

2011 is cold. Damn cold.

The mercury hit a new low yesterday: -31C.

I used to think a clear, blue sky in January — even if it meant blisteringly cold temperatures like the kind we experienced yesterday — was preferable to the damp and overcast days of places more humid, like Ottawa.

I was wrong. Dead wrong.

That it’s a dry cold doesn’t mean squat. Give me damp, cloudy and -10C any day of the week.

(I’d prefer +25C and sunny, but beggars can’t be choosers.)

Winter has arrived — with a vengeance.

In the space of 24 hours, Winnipeg went from being without snow to completely blanketed with the white junk. And I, for one, am not happy at all… especially when it looks like it’s here to stay.

Times like these, I find myself yearning for the beaches of Barcelona, Alicante or even Essaouira. Heck, I’d even take being poolside at the Doha Marriott. (It is, after all, +27C and sunny in the Gulf Sheikdom at the moment.)

Remind me again why I, and so many like me, continue to live in this frozen wasteland?

And I thought crossing the Strait of Gibraltar was rough!

Evidently, a thirteen-hour, overnight train trip from Fes to Marrakech is much worse, especially when the train breaks down en route and there are no sleeper cars available.

That said, once we were in Marrakech things picked up quite nicely.

That’s not to say the city itself was amazing. On the contrary, it was Morocco at its worst: hot, noisy, polluted and full of people trying to rip you off.

No, what made our night in Marrakech spectacular was Hotel La Mamounia.

Talk about opulent!

We wiled away the evening at its sumptuous Morrocan Bar, which overlooks the hotel’s palatial gardens. (Miraculously, we had the place all to ourselves, which made it all the more remarkable.)

We then nipped into the famous Churchill Bar for a nightcap (or two), while a jazz duo serenaded the few of us who preferred the sanctuary of a dimly lit and air-conditioned bar to the bedlam of Marrakech’s famous Djemaa el Fna.

Sure, before calling it a night, we grabbed some street food at one of the countless stalls packing the medina’s main square. (We had to do something to remind ourselves La Mamounia was but a temporary reprieve from the Morocco we were experiencing!)

Then bed. Essaouira and the Atlantic Coast awaits…

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, I find myself lying on a beach in Barcelona — the azure Mediterranean in front of me, the breathtaking city at my back.

We’ve been in the city for three days now. It’s a fantastic place, so full of energy!

When we venture south to Valencia in a few days time, it won’t be without a measure of regret. We’ve only just scratched the city’s surface.

Still, an entire country awaits…