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What some Canadians do on summer vacation

Annabel Lyon vacation photo.


We asked some Canadians what they do when they take a summer break from writing award-winning novels, playing music festivals or being business titans. Turns out, the same as everyone else (with a couple exceptions).

Annabel Lyon

Author of award-winning novel The Golden Mean

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Travelling in Oregon and Washington with her husband, seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son

We drove down to the Oregon coast and met up with some of my husband's family and spent a couple of days in Seattle on the way back -- campfires on the beach, just watching the kids run around collecting shells and being very happy in the sun.

We drove down to the sand dunes in the south of Oregon and went sand-boarding. It's like snowboarding but you do it on sand. You rent boards, like snowboards, and climb up these dunes. I don't even know how to describe it properly: The dunes go on and on. You climb up these hills and you can either sled down or you can put your feet in it like a snowboard and snowboard down. You have to wax them, like a surfboard or a snowboard. The kids were much better at it than me, I mostly watched them. It was really fun seeing them do it.

We went crabbing at Rockaway Beach, a little town on the Oregon coast. You go out in a boat and you put down crab traps and you pull them up and pull the crabs out and mostly throw them back because they are too small. We were out for about two hours, just going from trap to trap, so each trap would be out for 15 or 20 minutes and you would usually catch something in that time.

I just got hired into a permanent position at UBC. I have been teaching in the creative writing program as an adjunct but I just got hired as a full assistant professor so I have been moving into my office and learning the ropes of the new aspects of the job. That's been a lot of fun. Sitting in class and dealing with students will be the same, but there will be more admin stuff. But They've given me my own office. It is the first time in my life I have had my own office. I have got my happy place now, so I have been trying to set it up and get my books in here. I am having my Virginia Woolf Room of Her Own.

Esi Edugyan

Giller and Orange Prize prize nominated author of Half-Blood Blues

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Travelling to London, England, Toronto and Moosejaw, Sask. with her husband and their one-year-old baby

It's been a crazy summer for us.

At the end of May, we started the summer off by going to London, the three of us [Edugyan, husband Steven Price, who is also a novelist and a poet, and their daughter who turns one this month (*Aug 21*)].

It's always fun to go overseas with a baby; it was a bit of a nightmare trip, but we got there, and there was a bit of a heatwave on, so that was also a bit tricky, but it was a really nice week. I was there to attend the ceremony for The Orange Prize for Fiction, which was really lovely. [Edugyan was a finalist for her novel Half-Blood Blues.] I really love my British publisher; and it's always good to go in and chat with everybody.

Where else did we go? I taught at the Humber School for Writers, so we went to Toronto for about 10 days - and again there was a heatwave; the heat seemed to follow us everywhere. At one point it was really tough on the baby, and she just screamed the whole night. And I remember going into teach after I probably had 55 minutes of sleep. But that turned out to be was one of the better classes. So maybe this is the key!

We were home for about three days after that, and then we turned around and we were both reading at the Moosejaw festival in Saskatchewan. That's a lovely festival, with really engaged audiences, and I'd never been to Moosejaw before. It's a very interesting town: all the old buildings, the sort of Al Capone mythology surrounding it.

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Then we came home and it's been really dramatic: it seems like things in the house keep breaking this summer. There have been a lot of people coming here to do the work, so I've met a lot of interesting people. There's somebody upstairs fixing something right now, something electrical.

Our downtime has been really, really great. We take the baby down to the beach. I don't think she's crazy about sand just yet. So we take her out for strolls, meet up with people, go for iced tea or ice cream, or just go for walk. It's been very peaceful.

I feel like I've been reading tons this summer; reading a lot of fiction. Right now I'm reading The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, which I'd never read before.

I haven't done any writing at all. And this fall's going to be crazy too, so it's looking like I should be back at my desk by the end of the year.

Rob Gentile, chef at Toronto's Buca Osteria & Enoteca restaurant

I was in Italy twice. We go there often - we like to educate ourselves and continue to better ourselves as much as possible. It's a working trip, but the good part about it is, it's a great job. You get to eat and drink and whenever possible get to work in interesting places all over the world. Everywhere you go in Italy is a different learning experience, you see different things that chefs are doing, the different ingredients there.

The first trip was to Sicily - I had the opportunity to work in a 3-Michelin star restaurant in a small town called Licata, in the southern-most tip of Sicily. The things you see in Sicily compared to things you see in Toscana are very different. There's an abundance of grapes, raisins, olives, pistachios, almonds, a lot of offal - different types of organ meats - which is very cool. Our pastry chef who just arrived last week, is from Sicily, so after working in the restaurant I went to Palermo, where he lived, and he showed me around its rustic side, and the traditions there.

The second trip was to the east coast, with my Chef de Cuisine Ryan Campbell. We travelled to Venice, then Treviso, then down the east coast to Senigallia, then Ancona, all on the water, then back to Rome. That was a completely different experience - for the whole trip I didn't see one piece of cured meat, no parmigiano-reggiano. The areas we went to were unique, and the abundance of seafood was unbelievable. We went to a restaurant that specialized in sweet aqua dolce - the river it was on had turned freshwater, so all the local catches were freshwater fish. All the ocean-side places served salt-water catches. It was unbelievable.

Miles Nadal

Founder, Chairman and CEO of MDC Partners

Bought a house for wounded war children on Staten Island -- with actor Tyler Perry.

"It was March 17, 2011 -- I watch 60 Minutes religiously -- and I saw something extraordinarily inspiring. This woman Elissa Montanti created this place out of a one-bedroom house in Staten Island, out of her closet, called Global Medical Relief Fund, to help kids that were blown apart in war-torn areas like Bosnia, and Afghanistan, et cetera.

She somehow figured out how to get all the medical supplies donated by Johnson & Johnson; the Shriner Hospitals around America to donate surgical services; and she was able to get them back into a normal life. I saw this and I was blown away.

One of our firms knows the people at CBS. I said, 'Send a note to them and tell them I'm very interested to help this woman.' There was no home for these kids before, during and after surgery. So I said, look, I will buy you half a house; go raise the rest of the money. I committed $200-grand. Well, sure enough, she finds Tyler Perry, the actor, and he says "I'll give you the other $200-grand." We went to see it last week, for the ribbon-cutting. We met the kids. And it was even more heartfelt, when you actually meet the kids and they're shaking your hand with their stump, and they're such lovely children. Kind and sweet and thoughtful and appreciative.

They now have a true global headquarters for the Global Medical Relief Fund. It was just one of those things. I was sitting on a Sunday, on my boat [in St. Bart's in the Caribbean], and I saw the show and I said, we should do that. It was even more emotionally rewarding than we could have ever thought.

Connie DeSousa

Chef and owner of CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

Summer for me started after the Calgary Stampede when we welcomed a couple of friends and fellow chefs from San Francisco into the CHARCUT kitchen. We'd start with delicious baked goods and spend our afternoons at the farmers markets with a coffee in hand.

Typically, we do farm tours in the summer or take in an Okanagan wine country tour. But this year, my business partner and co-chef John Jackson and I headed west for a few days to Vancouver to stage a pop-up, making use of the bounty from Granville Island Public Market. We incorporated chubby gooseberries, raspberries, tomatoes, local potatoes, green beans and fiddleheads – all harvested in their prime– into a special menu.

We also made a marathon of dining out. We tackled pizza, pastas and fully loaded charcuterie. We hit a luxe downtown steakhouse, for thick cuts of PEI Blue Ribbon beef, Dungeness crab, prawns. W e feasted on sausages made by chefs Brad Hendrickson and Dale Mackay.

After Vancouver, we visited north Saskatchewan for some lake fishing for northern pike and yellow perch. We spent a day foraging for Saskatoon berries in the remote north.

Between our travels, my husband Jean Francois and I purchased and moved into our first house in South Calgary, with a garden plot. We christened the kitchen by making home-harvest kale and Portuguese sausage. No place like home!

Alex Cruz

Partner of the foraging company Société-Orignal in Montreal

I'm spending most of my time in the yards at the moment. Summers are so busy that taking a nap in the afternoon often counts as vacation - if I can take a nap between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, it's an extreme luxury. I had two this year. But I try to combine buisness and pleasure at the same time.

We went to the Gaspe region, because we are trying to recreate a garden on the beach seashore. That was a lot of work, but one of the great things we did was have a picnic on the beach. It was a great evening with my girlfriend's family. We improvised spaghetti bolognese, which we cooked on a small propane gas stove.The Gaspesian seabreeze was great, we just needed a little jacket. We found fresh sea parsley and sea rocket leaves growing just next to us on the beach. That, and a few beers, that's pretty much how we like to celebrate.

Another great summer moment: One week out of three I do my own deliveries. I wake up at 4 a.m. for the drive to Toronto, it's a great drive where I can take in the sunrise, and all the planes flying above the 401. One night when I was driving back to Montreal, I stopped at a service centre and got a Tim Horton's coffee, with one milk, and smoked a homemade cigar that a friend, who grows Mapacho tobacco in his backyard, offered me as a gift. I rarely smoke but an industrial coffee and a cigar is the perfect gastromic pairing.

As told to Christina Vardanis

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