Tales of Philly: Day 2, I Never Knew Love Could Be Like This

I’m just going to pretend like I haven’t waited three months to continue the telling of our trip to Philadelphia back in April… It’s not weird. I’ve just been busy and lazy. As long as the story eventually gets told, it’s no biggie right?

To recap day 1: D and I drove 10 hours to get to the city, ate a delicious frigging meal, saw a few sites located near the hotel and then retired for the night. We needed to rest up so we’d be energized for a full day of Philly fun!

Oh and also, some required listening while you read this post:

We woke up feeling rested and excited. We grabbed an early breakfast of champions at none other than Dunkin’ Donuts. Because America runs on Dunkin’ and we wanted to too. It was pretty fucking filling! I had a sausage and egg croissantwich and these sweet little hash brown tater tot thingies. My overall rating? It was pretty tasty for a fast food breakfast, I’d eat it again. I’d give it a B- if I had to letter grade it.

After we fuelled up, we strapped on some comfy shoes and started our own walking tour of Philly. Starting with an easy breezy stroll through the weekend farmer’s market at Rittenhouse Square. It was gorgeous, a perfect spring day.

Rittenhouse Stone

market

beautiful park

It was so pretty! An excellent starting point. But we couldn’t hang around too long, with so much more to be seen. We definitely wanted to make sure we tackled the historic part of town too. We made our way through Market Square, City Hall, and then through to the historic sites. We cruised past the Liberty Bell, but the lineup was way too damn long. So we waved at the line and were satisfied with that. Plus, it was way too nice outside to be trapped indoors in a long ass lineup like a couple of lame tourist suckers.

old philly

First National Bank

beautiful philly

It was awesome, we made up our own walking tour. “Cartography is not my métier”, but we figured it out. The cobblestone streets were so cool, but they were rougher on our feet than we anticipated.

D walking the cobblestones

And when we got hungry, you can be damn sure we grabbed ourselves a steaming hot Philly Cheesesteak for lunch! There were a lot of choices, an overwhelming amount of cheesesteaks places to choose from. We opted for a place called Steve’s. We like that name, it seemed reliable. Ole Steve wouldn’t serve no crap, right?

Steve's

And he’s the Prince of Steaks, so you can’t argue with that. We practiced our cheesesteak ordering skills before we even considered getting in line. One thing I learned before the trip was that people in Philly take their cheesesteak very seriously. And they don’t like being held up in the line by n00bs who don’t know how to order. We were not going to be n00bs. We were going to blend in and act like we belonged. So when we got up to the counter and the guy asked for our order we replied “1 provolone wit out” like it weren’t no thang.

The meat was savoury. The cheese was oh-so-warm-and-gooey. The bread was crisp and toasty. Philly’s famous cheesesteak sandwich vastly exceeded all of our expectations.

I also ordered a fried chicken sandwich for comparison purposes, and we were both feeling that too. So we had a little mix-and-match sandwich picnic on our vacation. And it was goddamn delightful.

We continued our adventures of the city, walking everywhere we went. We walked all over the place, I think we really made an excellent go of it. We made our way towards South Street and got to see the Magic Gardens. It’s this really cool place, it’s all mosaicked. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in all of my life. It was so totally unique and inviting.

I got D to take a sweet panoramic picture of the exterior.

Magic Gardens

South Street was a really cool and happening place. It reminded me of Queen Street West back home in Toronto. The people were hip and all of the shops and bars were hopping.

South Street

When we decided to rest our feet before the concert we found this great bar called Manny Brown’s for some afternoon drinks. Just idling and enjoying a few brews. When we sat down and the server told us it was $2.75 for a pint of Yuengling we knew we’d made the right choice.

A Pint of Yuengling

And just when I started to think it couldn’t possibly get any better than that, the best thing ever happened.

A dog walks into the bar and hops up onto a bar stool. No joke. This happened five feet away from us. And it was fucking awesome. There’s a dog at the bar!

Dog at the bar

And I got to pet him!

petting the bar dog

That dog was so chill. It was seriously the coolest thing ever. All kinds of people were coming over to get photos with him and the bartender even poured him his own glass of water at one point.

We had an absolutely fantastic afternoon exploring the city. And the best was still yet to come! The concert. Oh man, I was so pumped. I felt like a spoiled little kid. It was like I got to spend the whole day at a frigging amusement park with VIP passes to the front of all the lines, and then my parents decide to cap the night off with ice cream sundaes on a yacht or something. It was an overload of amazingness.

TMBG marquee

An Evening with They Might Be Giants. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

We lined up outside the theatre with all the nerds and waited anxiously to get inside. When they finally started letting us all in, D and I immediately booked it for a spot on the upper level of the TLA right in front of a nice comfy ledge to lean on. It was standing room only, and we’re both shorties, so we had to be strategic like that or we wouldn’t see anything at all. Our only mistake was spending an entire day right before a 3+ hour-long concert walking an entire city. D’oh!

Our feet were aching like a mofo by the end of the night. But the amazing high of the concert was able to keep us going.

They Might Be Giants just killed it. They are so special and wonderful. Pretty much everyone I talked to before going to the show and after we got back were like, “Who?” whenever I said the name of the band. Greatest band you’ve never heard of, that’s who they are.

They opened the show with one of my most favourite jams “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” and my heart hammered along in my chest to the beat.

TMBG

They also performed a hilarious cover of Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and I knew then that I could die a happy girl. It was a dream come true. Hearing John Linnell and John Flansburgh do their very damnedest to channel Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland was unreal.

TMBG 2

magic on stage

We gave everything we could to the band. All of the love in our hearts. Our loudest most thunderous applause. Our hearty laughter at all of their wacky onstage antics. It really was a concert going experience like none I’ve ever had before.

When the concert let out we finally surrendered and got ourselves a cab back to the hotel. It was late and we were exhausted. Elated, but nonetheless exhausted. My feet were pounding as I slid into the big cushy hotel bed, and even though they hurt so bad, it was worth it. It was worth every single throb of pain. Best birthday gift to myself ever.

I love you, TMBG! Thank you for the good times, you’ve made me the happiest girl in the world.

And now a little something to play you out:

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Tales of Philly: Day 1, The Road to Philly

I wanted to write while we were in Philly last weekend, but our window of time to spend there was so small, I just couldn’t bear to waste a minute of it. But before we left I promised you stories from the road, and I always keep my promises, most of the time. Onwards!

It’s a long drive to Philadelphia from Toronto. Not sure if you knew that or not, but it’s a key detail in the story of Day 1. I’m not really sure we knew what a long drive it was going to be either, until it actually started happening. In my mind road trips are all zany adventures, like in the movies. You know, like how Harry and Lloyd drive in the wrong direction for five hours or wind up losing their ride and have to get to Aspen on their wits, or lack thereof, and a stolen briefcase full of cash. It wasn’t like that at all, not even a little bit.

We had our route meticulously mapped and used D’s GPS to keep us on track. Our only real foible of the road happened when the interstate directions got a little complicated near Scranton and the GPS robot’s volume was too low to be heard over Stevie Wonder. And stupidly could not be adjusted while in use. I mean, how stupid is that? So totally stupid. We had to pull over and park in the lot of a Radisson Hotel to disconnect it so we could raise the volume. Then we spent the rest of the trip in suspicion, distrusting everything our robot navigator said the whole rest of the way. Every time she did speak from there on out, I’d give her the old hairy eyeball and tell her she better not make us lose any more time.

Time was a precious commodity. Even though we knew we were strapped in for a long haul, we were obsessed with trying to make up time. Once in a while the distance estimate on the GPS would slip down a minute or two and we’d somehow feel like we’d just beaten the devil himself at his own wily game.

The first leg of the drive was the most fun. We were full of pep and ready to take on the world. We crossed through the border at Fort Eerie and the drive was quite scenic. Lots of farms. Huge twirling wind turbines for miles and miles and miles.

new york

more new york

I mentioned that I made a bunch of mixed CD’s for the trip, yeah? Funny story about that, the first mix I made, aptly titled Road Trip to Philly: Vol. 1 turned out to be something of an epic break-up mix. Featuring such memorable hits as “Song for the Dumped”, “Divorce Song”, “Don’t Speak”, “Let Me Go”, and “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down”, it didn’t exactly set the ideal tone for the next 9 hours in the car… whoops! My bad. But it was a good thing I packed us an absolute shit-load of candy to take the edge off. And it was also good that my next mix on deck was Road Trip to Philly: Vol. 2 Funky Disco Hits. That helped turn our beat around.

dino-sours

Thank you Jesus for this bounty of Dino-sours.

We left hella early too, like 7:30am because we wanted to avoid rush hour traffic while leaving Toronto. We didn’t really use good road trip math though, avoiding Toronto rush hour no problem, but completely ignoring the fact that based on our timing, we’d be getting into Philly during rush hour. Whoops! Another bad, but not entirely all mine. We started closing in on Philly around 4:30pm and that bitch GPS robot estimated we’d be at our hotel by 4:52pm. Unfortunately for us though, she doesn’t take into consideration traffic, so the next hour and half was pure torture. Creeping and crawling our way into the city. Sore and aching from being in the car all day. Hungry and dreaming of endless cheese steaks while our bellies rumbled away, no hope of being sated any time soon. If ever…

It sure was a beautiful day to be cooped up inside the car though. And my view from the passenger side was quite interesting at times.

Philly!

highways

When we finally did manage to squeeze ourselves into the city, the downtown core was clogged up so bad. We moved like molasses the whole way to our hotel. It totally sapped my will to live. We were there, man! But we just couldn’t enjoy it yet. Had to get to the hotel and get our car parked. When I finally did get out of the car I was back to feeling excited again. This city is happening! And our hotel was so frigging beautiful. I splurged and booked us at some hoity-toity joint, The Latham. I figured ten hours in the car merited a luxurious as hell hotel stay.

We had a big comfy baller bed!

big baller bed

Which I managed to get a few of my classic Smash pounces on.

jumpin on the bed in philly

Once I’d gotten that out of my system, we left the hotel in search of food. We were starving! Didn’t walk too far until we found something that looked promising, an Irish pub called The Black Sheep. And we had the best fucking meals ever. I don’t know if it’s because we were really legit starving or just because it actually was the best damn food ever, but holy shit dudes. I’m drooling right now as I relive it. D got himself a big juicy cheeseburger and I had the most incredible fish ‘n’ chips I’ve ever had in my life.

philly cheeseburger

philly fish n chips

Seriously. I’ve eaten a fuckload of fish ‘n’ chips in my time, and this was hands down the best of the best fish ‘n’ chips I’ve ever had. Skyrocketed to number 1 on my list. The piece of fish they served me was so thick and flaky, it just slipped right onto my fork and into my mouth. The batter had this incredible seasoning that I still dream about. It was just… so goddamn good.

We went for a walk after dinner, strolling through Market Square. It’s so gorgeous. I love Toronto with all my heart, believe me, it’s the love of my life as far as cities go. I’ll be forever smitten with its charms. So Toronto, love of my life, I don’t mean you any harm when I say this, but Philly… oh beautiful Philly, what a stunner you are! And we weren’t even in historic downtown yet either.

city hall

d in city hall

City Hall, it was quite remarkable. It’s how a city hall should be. Grand, impressive, awe-inspiring. What a perfect, sparkling gem. Philadelphia’s city hall demands absolute respect and admiration, it deserves no less than that.

We were tickled pink when we realized that the park preceding it is called Dilworth Park. That’s my BFF J-Dillah’s name. Joce-Force, you see this? They have a park in Philly that wears your name! And it’s so pretty, just like you.

Dilworth Park

An evening stroll through Market Square and City Hall, it was a wonderful introduction to the city of brotherly love. All the strain and exhaustion of the car ride just melted away.

LOVE

We made it. Philly wasn’t just some half-baked pipe dream anymore. It was real, we really did this. And we couldn’t wait to see what else this incredible city had in store.

But that’s another story, to be told in due time.

Hitting The Open Road

I’m very excited to announce this. I’ve been looking forward to announcing this to you guys all week long…

Hear ye, hear ye! This weekend I, Smash, of this odd little blog, am coming to a city near you! Well, it’s actually only to a city probably/sort of/maybe near some of you. The city of brotherly love itself, Philadelphia!

That’s right gang, you’ve got court-side seats to a Dballs and Smash Road Trip Spectacular! We’ve got a set of wheels and we’re hitting the open road first thing tomorrow morning. And I’ll be detailing every glorious second of it for your reading pleasure.

A couple of weeks ago I was jamming’ out to one of my favourite bands, They Might Be Giants. I started thinking how awesome it would be to see those guys in concert. I pulled up their website and starting poking around for any upcoming concerts in Toronto. But sadly, there were none. Only a bunch of dates listed for a tour through the states. Usually under circumstances such as these, I would’ve just signed up for an alert to let me know when the band will be coming to my neck of the woods in the future. But this time was different. This time around the little hamster in my head that serves as a brain kept cycling around on his squeaky little hamster exercise wheel. And once that wheel gets to turning, fixated on the possibility of an adventure, it’s next to impossible to make it stop.

What if we went to one of their shows in the states anyways? A lot of these places are within reasonable travel distance… Boston, Brooklyn, and Philly. We could probably make one of them work. If I wanted it bad enough and was able to plead my case convincingly, I might just get that husband of mine to go along. I had my birthday on my side, too. It’s harder to say no to a birthday wish than if it had been some conveniently trumped-up bucket list wish. I knew it was gunna be a long shot to convince D, but I really wanted to go. More than anything in the world, in that moment, all that mattered was getting to a TMBG show.

When I pitched the idea to D, I pulled out all the stops. Begging, pleading, whining, wailing, justifying, and arguing him to exhaustion. He resisted at first, but then came around eventually. My impassioned plea for adventure swayed him in the end. Actually, it wasn’t even all that dramatic. He agreed pretty early into my spiel. But he was gentlemanly enough to let me think I’d worn him down, because he knows it’s more fun for me that way.

I ran into my old boss on the subway the other day and gushed to him about our plans for this weekend. He chuckled and said, “eight hours straight in the car with your new husband, you sure are eager to stress test this marriage of yours, aren’t you?”

It might be a little crazy, sure. But everyone knows that crazy = fun. That’s just a basic maths right there. D and I are very travel compatible, so I’m not worried about it at all. We always have lots of laughs together and are both really jazzed up about this trip. We’re married, but we haven’t been totally domesticated yet. Why not grab life by the balls? We’re young and we’re full of dreams. We gotta make these bold moves now while we’re able to without any worry. We don’t have any annoying entanglements to hold us back. It’s a slam dunk already and we haven’t even left yet.

laughing with my hubby

Seriously, I am so fucking pumped! I’ve already made a fresh batch of mixed CD’s for the ride, I’ve got a supermassive 1000-page Archie comic packed, I’ve got oodles upon oodles of snacks stashed away, and I’ve got my doting husband in tow. It’s going to be so frigging rad.

We’re going to eat cheese steaks! We’re going to tour the city! Maybe we’ll even be so bold as to lick the Liberty Bell…

Whatever it is we decide to do on this journey of ours, I’ll keep you posted. So stick around chums, Smash is hitting the open road.

Feelin’ Loose

I think D has hit new heights of relaxation previously unknown to even himself. I just looked over my shoulder and he’s sitting on the bed, perfectly content, watching a show on how pencils get made. And the look on his face suggests that he’s actually liking it.

how pencils get made

Yesterday, I treated my doting husband to his first ever spa experience. We got facials side by side in the jacuzzi and then had an aromatherapy couples massage together. It was fabulous! The jacuzzi was full of rose petals and they had this cool ceiling effect that made it look like a night sky full of stars above us.

D seemed a little wary at first, he’s not one for doing these frou frou things. But I was able to convince him. He’s always complaining about aches in his neck and back, so I knew a massage would be just the thing. The therapists we had were amazing. They were so friendly and kind. They were thorough too, making sure to work out every single kink and knot. Before we even knew it, the hour was up. They led us stumbling and sleepy in our post massage glow back to the spa lobby for a refreshing berry smoothie while we settled up. We left the spa smiling dopey little smiles and holding hands. I think my plan worked far better than I ever expected it to.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the spa excursion, but I can assure you that D looked adorable getting his beard exfoliated while inhaling deeply the magical aromas of relaxation.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon having drinks and smoking cigars up at the adults only pool. It really is the best place to unwind. This resort is great, but it is heavily family-centric. The main pools and beaches are overrun with kids throughout the day, so having the special adults only pool to sneak away to is awesome. Not that we mind the families, it’s just a less calming experience at the pool when you’re constantly ducking the spray of water guns and trying to mind your curses. Because really, I’m only at my most relaxed when I can curse freely.

smoke if you got em

Feeling famished, we headed out to dinner. It was really shitty though. We went to this supposed steak house called Wayne’s Boots, and it was absolute crap. I love steak. D and I actually joked that one of the reasons I decided to marry him is because he can cook a steak perfectly to my liking. My favourite is a nice thick sirloin cut, rare. There has to be lots of blood. It has to look like someone just got murdered on my plate. The steak I got at Wayne’s Boots looked like some shit that Uncle Rico would have microwaved to death before whipping at Napoleon’s face. We won’t be going back there.

The dinner we had the night before at Fisherman’s was muy bueno. Way more worthy of being featured on the blog, that’s for sure.

My app made my knees buckle a little, it was that good. It was a fried whitefish cake in tortillas with fresh pico de gallo. It was fucking scrumptious! And the inevitable dinnertime margarita ain’t so bad either.

dinnertime margarita

fish cakes

There’s something so irresistible about deep-fried fish shoved into a tortilla. If I could find stuff like this back home, I’d probably need to get around via forklift. I also had a really spectacular fillet of mahi mahi for dinner. I desperately wish that I could have fish like this back home!

mahi mahi

Tonight we’re having a special dinner at the french restaurant and I hope it’s on par with what we’ve had at Fisherman’s. And I hope I can keep finding ways to keep D this relaxed when we get back. He’s so   different on vacation, you’d never guess this structured chap could be so chill.

Bound for the Sound

Finally.

We’ve been saying this for so long. For years, even. We’ve exclaimed it with unfettered excitement, we’ve shouted it with glee. We’ve clinked our glasses and chugged our tallboys after many a heartfelt expression of it. That wonderful little rhyming phrase that carries so much promise, Bound for the Sound!

It feels like we’ve been saying it every time that we’ve gotten together with our chums Shan-Wow and Hoben since they moved to Owen Sound a couple of years ago. Every time. We talk about how drunk we’ll get. We talk about the laughs we’ll have. We delight at the thought of the memories we’ll make, the shenanigans that will ensue. Bound for the Sound is all about going nuts, enjoying a classically debauched night much like those of our misspent youth. It’s all about recapturing that young and dumb magic. But we’ve never made good on it. Not once, not ever. Until now.

Hoben is one of my best drinking buddies from long ago. He coined my colourful nickname. He started the proud tradition of deckers. He introduced me to D and forever changed my life. He’s good people. And Shan-Wow is his equally awesome lady-love. She’s hilarious and amazing and you can’t not love her to bits. Hell, she’s a founding member of the Top-Secret-Euchre-Club and a Dumb & Dumber Enthusiast. So you can trust me when I tell you that these two know how to party.

shanny and hobs

Owen Sound is a good long boot northwest of Toronto, a two and a half hour drive on a “making great time” kinda run. So D and I had to rent a car to drive our asses up there. We splurged and signed up for the “Intermediate” level car, which is usually something nice and hefty, with lots of trunk space in case we need to transport a body on sudden notice. Which happens to us more than you’d think… What we wound up with was a mint 2014 Dodge Charger with only 60km on it. It was black and shiny, it looked like the fucking Batmobile for Christsakes. D was excited about it until he realized it was front-wheel drive. That made for some interesting moments tearing through the snowstorm that was pounding down on the city just as we got going.

It was a long drive, getting there. Our nice spacious 4-lane highways quickly petered out into 1-lane rural roads. We saw a spectacular amount of farms, barns, crumbled barns, horses, cows, and snow-covered hay bales whizz by our windows. And wind turbines too. There’s a shit-ton of those all over the place. It was pretty cool, actually. It felt like we were driving through some secret alien place. An abduction zone, or something like that.

wind turbines

We also drove through a town called Flesherton. I shit you not, reader. If I ever find out that there isn’t a spooky group of ritualistic killing machines who feast on human flesh living in that town then I am going to be majorly disappointed. It would be such a waste of that town name not to have a few resident cannibals at least. We drove through Flesherton super fast and with intensity so it felt like we were escaping it. It was great fun!

Also great fun was stopping at the Six ‘n’ Ten Minimart for our booze. Look at that fucking place. It’s incredible!

six n ten

Booze sales in Ontario are government regulated, so you can’t just buy it anywhere. It typically has to be from an L.C.B.O. store (which stands for Liquor Control Board of Ontario) or at a store that is aptly named The Beer Store. But there are exceptions. There are Agency stores in small towns like Owen Sound that are able to sell liquor. Which, to us, seemed kind of like an urban legend because we’ve never actually seen any before. It was an exciting novelty.

We got stuck behind some over-cautious and tediously slow geezers, and then a snow-plow for a while too. I thought D was going to road rage us right into a ditch with all of his impatience. But we made it eventually, taking about an hour longer than expected. And when we finally did get there, it was time to fuckin’ draaaaannk.

Hobs and Shan had tickets to the OHL game that night, and not to keep sounding so ridiculously Canadian here, but that stands for Ontario Hockey League and is a Junior hockey league for kids ages 15-20. Lots of the kids in the league aspire to NHL greatness, so they always play their asses off. Small-town hockey and cheap drinks on a Saturday night. Man alive, my inner hoser was busting at the seams.

me n cubby

We mixed up a bunch of rye ‘n’ gingers in some ginger-ale bottles for stealthy drinking out in the parking lot during intermissions, and pounded beers during the game when we were inside the stadium. We got right fuckin’ tuned.

IMG_2457

me n shanny

the group

Pretty much everyone in town comes to the Saturday night games. It’s a small ass town and there ain’t that much to do, so it makes for some good times. We hung back a bit after the game was over to let the overcrowded parking lot clear out. We’d gotten there about 10 minutes after the puck drop, so we parked at the end of a very long row of cars. By the time we left the game and came out into the parking lot, our park job wound up being incredibly inconvenient for everybody else trying to leave the rink. It was hilarious.

our car

Yep, that’s our ride. It’s doing a damn fine job making all those other cars go around it to get out. This is not the Charger by the way. Shannon drove her car because the Charger would have been absolutely worthless in an unplowed lot like this with its fucking crazy front-wheel drive. We polished off a few more drinks in the car, then left it there for the night. It could be picked up in the cold, sober light of dawn. We walked to a bar to continue the fun. D had a little bit too much fun at the game though, and wound up spending most of his time at the bar puking it up in the bathroom. But I guess that’s bound to happen when you skip over dinner in favour of rye.

I fared much better because I enjoyed a bunch of delicious arena snacks with my drinks. It was the smart play.

my snacks

I was going to share my pretzel with D, so it could help soak up some of the booze rolling around in his belly, but he fucked off and I couldn’t find him. I waited so long that the pretzel got cold, and as a result, really goddamned hard. A would-be-delicious treat turned inedible by the passage of time. But the popcorn was still quite tasty, as arena popcorn tends to be. Turns out D was standing around chirping some local dudes in their mid-40’s because they were drinking Bacardi Breezers. Time well spent, indeed.

We had to leave pretty early the next morning to make sure we’d get the rental car returned on time. Hungover and exhausted from a night of raucous drinking, we were daunted by another long trip in the car. But with mile-wide Canadian grins spread across our glowing hearts we did alright. We saw thee rise. We made good time and we enjoyed the quiet ride home.

It was a great fucking weekend. Once in a while I need to go all hoser berserker on life. It just feels good. Based on the smashing success of our inaugural journey, I can safely say that we will return. We will be Bound for the Sound yet again.

Bucket List Snorkelling: Some Day 6 But Mostly Day 7

I didn’t post yesterday, I know. Because we didn’t really do anything remarkable other than get super drunk on the beach. When it was time to post, my motor skills just weren’t up to snuff. Plus, how many different ways are there to say “we got hammered”? Not that many without sounding repetitive. So, we got super hammered and enjoyed some nightlife. Bam, Day 6 complete!

The next day, however, is jam-packed with vacation awesomeness. Blogworthy stuff.

We booked ourselves a snorkelling adventure in Hanauma Bay. When we woke up that morning, we were bursting with excitement. It was a gorgeous day, clear skies and beaming sun. This was gunna be awesome.

Our pickup was at 10:15 and our drop off 3:00pm, so it was going to be a nice full afternoon. We had to pay for the shuttle up to the bay, the equipment rental, admission to the park, and then a locker for our stuff once we got to the bay. It sounds like a lot of fees, but it was actually very reasonable. It was only $18.00 for the shuttle ride and the equipment rental combined, then $7.50 to get into the park and $7.00 for the locker rental.

And the shuttle guy was amazing. He was talkative and funny. He showed us where Jackie Chan’s house is! He kept it light, and he wasn’t too preachy when it came to how to use the equipment. It made us feel great about choosing his tour company.

We shuttled to the top of the bay, and then had to wait for another shuttle down into the bay. The place we stopped had a phenomenal view of Koko Head, another famous hiking trail.

Koko Head

Koko Head

This trail up the mountain is a lot more difficult than Diamond Head. It takes 99 stairs to get to the top of Diamond Head, and the guide told us it takes 1001 to get to the top of Koko Head. And, it’s all up a straight path. With Diamond Head the trail weaved gently all around the crater.

After a brief wait, we were loaded into shuttle number two and on our way. I lost my mind when we got within sight of the bay, it was crazy amazing!

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

The reef

The reef

Hanauma Bay formed within a volcanic cone and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Oahu. The volcano has long since been dormant. And the reef is a veritable well of marine life diversity. It makes for some spectacular snorkelling.

Before you can get in the water, you have to watch a quick movie about the marine life and the various do’s and don’ts of snorkelling in the bay. It was painful. You just want to get in the water. Anything that stands in the way of that seems like a tremendous chore. But we found it within ourselves to endure.

I’ve never snorkelled before, so I was a little unsure. I felt like I’d be gulping in salt water all day. But it was shockingly easy! Truly, if you can stare and you can breathe, you can snorkel. I did a few little tests to get used to it, and then I was good to go. Snorkelling is awesome! It’s so addictive. We went under and just kept exploring.

We may have been a little overzealous initially. We swam out a good 20-30 feet past the buoys into the deep waters. When we surfaced and realized how far we’d gone, it was a struggle to get back into the shallow waters. The waves were really strong, they kept pulling us out. We had to fight against them with all we had to get back in. We’re both solid swimmers though, so we managed. It just took a lot out of us to do it. And it was a little unsettling right out of the gate. We just willingly got sucked out into the ocean! Going forward, we were much more vigilante about our orientation under the water.

The best thing about it was how much exploring of the reef we did and how much we saw. Everywhere we looked there were fish. Your eyes just keep darting around, seeking out the fish. We saw our first fish when I was doing my initial test of the waters and my gear, and it blew me away! It was so unexpected. A bright blue fish, like Dori, just swimming right in front of my face!

My camera has underwater capabilities which I’d never used before. I wasn’t sure how well the photos would turn out, but I just kept snapping away like some kind of paparazzi of the sea!

one of the brightest fish we saw

one of the brightest fish we saw

bffs

bffs

digging that reef

digging that reef

new friend

new friends

This one is really tiny!

This one is really tiny!

I can’t believe how close we got to the fish and how many we saw. It was unreal. Like we’d been given goggles and dropped into an aquarium!

Navigating the reef was tricky at times. You don’t want to touch it at all. Every time the reef gets touched, it dies a little. There were so many nooks and crannies, tight little spaces that made it difficult to move swiftly through the water. It was like an enormous maze in the ocean. We’d twist and turn, feeling like we were headed in the right direction, only to be confronted with a massive wall of reef blocking the way. D loved being in all the little nooks. You could see a lot more fish in these areas. We saw such a wide variety of the marine life in the bay because we just kept forging our way through the reef.

We heard that there were some sea turtle sightings in our area, but we couldn’t find them. We did see an eel though. A big fat dangerous one!

the eel

the eel

If you look very closely you should be able to see his head and his beady black eye to the left of the picture. A very small portion of the eel was poking out from under the reef. It was hard to get good pictures of him without getting too close and endangering ourselves. But trust me, he was huge and he was not something to mess with. He would fuck you up the second he felt threatened!

Like I said, snorkelling was addictive. We were submerged for a solid 2 hours straight. We loved it. We were a little disappointed when it was time to come out, because we would have done it all night if we could.

view from within the ocean

view from within the ocean

Snorkel D

Snorkel D

This day was by far our favourite of the trip. As much as we loved exploring the city, shopping, playing on the beach, and seeing the sites, there’s nothing like snorkelling in Hanauma Bay.

We were having so much fun, we didn’t even notice how strenuous it had been. Our bodies were sore and we got a shocking amount of sun. I took Joce’s advice and I wore shorts into the water so my ass wouldn’t get burned. My calves and thighs though… it’s not pretty. I was going to wear my t-shirt too, but I’d forgotten to pack my spare! I needed to have a dry shirt to change into when we got out of the water. My back was ravaged by the sun. I’d covered myself liberally in sunblock before going in, and that’s been doing the trick all week. But I guess even the best of sunblock can’t compete with two hours spent in the water.

We were so exhausted when we got back to the hotel. But we had to rally for our last dinner in Waikiki. We showered away all the salt of the ocean and got dressed for dinner. D had to help me with the after sun lotion. We sprayed down my entire body with the cooling gel and let it work its magic.

For our last dinner out in Waikiki, we decided to go back to our favourite place of the trip. Lulu’s Waikiki. The food is delicious and the prices are unbeatable.

I had another strip steak, and D opted for the surf ‘n’ turf. We deserved it. We busted our asses out in the ocean all day, we earned our steak dinner.

surf n turf

surf n turf

After dinner, we walked along the beach and saw the most beautiful sunset yet.

perfect Hawaiian sunset

perfect Hawaiian sunset

blows your mind

blows your mind

We had a great fucking day. The best day so far. Yesterday was our last full day and night in Hawaii, so we made sure to make the most of it. Now, I’ve gotta get packing and prep myself for the trip home.

We’ll miss you Hawaii, you’re a rad dude.

We’ve Only Just Begun: Day 5

Another overcast day yesterday. Totally shitty. It rained a little bit in the morning and then it just stayed cloudy and gray. But we weren’t going to let that stand in the way of our plans to journey through Chinatown.

It’s much further into the city, so we couldn’t walk there. We decided to use public transit, otherwise known as TheBus. Seriously, that’s what the bus system is called here. Not TTC or YRT, just TheBus. It’s straightforward, and I like it.

We rode the bus for about 45 minutes or so to get there. It was actually really busy, and there was quite a bit of traffic. But, it was cheap and effective.

We’re there man.

Chinatown

Chinatown

In the market

In the market

We walked through the markets, checked out the shops, and breathed in that uniquely Chinatown smell. Fresh produce and fish. It was fun, but I was surprised by how different it was from Toronto’s Chinatown. The streets were more spacious, and the markets were a lot bigger. But overall, the area that Chinatown covered is smaller than back home.

D had been looking forward to this trip all week. He kept saying to me on the plane “I’m going to have some fucking awesome noodles!” That’s all he wanted, a big steaming plate of noodles from Chinatown. And that’s exactly what we got.

We stopped for lunch at this delicious looking place. Cheap lunch specials and a nice quiet atmosphere. Aside from us, there were only two other people eating there. We got great service, and we didn’t have to wait long for our food.

We had sesame chicken and chicken lo mein.

sesame chicken

sesame chicken

chicken lo mein

chicken lo mein

It was freaking awesome! This is probably the best lunch we’ve had so far. The flavour of the sesame chicken was light and savoury. And the noodles were to die for. We ate as much as we possibly could, but they were large portions and they filled us up quickly.

We walked around a little more after lunch, but the weather was still crap. It wasn’t very inspiring. We hung out around the strip, I did a little more souvenir shopping, but still we didn’t see much improvement in the weather.

So, we decided to partake in Happy Hour. It really is the best way to cheer up on a shitty day. We went to a place that we’ve had our eyes on since we got here.

This is just the place for us

This is just the place for us

Cheeseburger in Paradise. This place was made for us. Cheap drinks and burgers, oh hells yes!

We got ourselves started on some drinks. A draught beer for D and a Hawaiian Sunburn for me.

fresh from the tap

fresh from the tap

just girly enough

just girly enough

I don’t know what it is about this place. I’m a good Canadian girl and I love my beer. But ever since I’ve been here, I’ve had an unquenchable thirst for fruity drinks and coolers. I guess it just makes me feel more vacation-y.

We drank and chatted, and when we got hungry we knew just what to do.

cheeseburger in paradise

cheeseburger in paradise

it's all good

it’s all good

I hate to be redundant, but daaaaamn that’s good eats! I love it when the bun is soft. A good burger can be ruined so quickly when the bun is toasted to shit. Just the slightest hint of a toasting on the top, that’s all you need. The meat was tender and fresh. Seasoned to perfection. Every bite better than the last. It was messy, I’m not gunna lie. I used an unfathomable amount of napkins while eating.

This burger was worth the wait, let me tell you that.

Things cleared up a bit while we were at the restaurant. When we stepped out again, it was nice enough to walk down the beach and take in the sunset.

breathtaking

breathtaking

digging that sunset

digging that sunset

We sat for a while just taking in the view. It’s so peaceful. Or at least it was until a particularly wild cat-fight broke out eight feet away from us. There was a group of teens hanging out near our benches, and seemingly out of nowhere two of the girls just started pounding each other. There was hair-pulling, punching, knees to the stomach, squealing, and all manner of profanities being hurled. I think there was even some spitting. Finally, two of the dudes pulled the girls apart.

But, we still decided to get up and move further down the beach anyways. Away from all the bullshit. The sun had set, but we still wanted to walk for a bit and enjoy the evening.

We walked a good way down the strip, approaching a long pier out into the ocean.

Evening on the city

Evening on the beach

We walked down the pier, it was secluded and private. It was perfect, or as close to perfect as anything can be.

And then D proposed.

I was totally stunned. Jaw-dropped, just stunned. It was romantic and sweet. It was a dream moment, something out of a movie. I gave him the much anticipated yes, and we couldn’t have been happier. We just couldn’t stop smiling.

We're engaged!

We’re engaged!

Hold onto your hats people, Dballs and Smash are getting married!

Top of the World: Day 4

Chomped down breakfast at the ass-crack of dawn today and got a move on. This is it! The one activity I was most looking forward to. The hike up Diamond Head crater.

You can take the bus, cab, or trolley there if you want. But we’re dangerous. We buck the norms every chance we get. We decided to walk.

It was another gorgeous day in Hawaii. The sun was shining, there was a nice cool breeze, and we were on our way. It was sweaty though. We’d barely made it halfway to the entrance of the trail and we were sweating balls! But hiking is sweaty business, and we knew that going into it.

yup, we're going up there

yup, we’re going up there

We had to go through a tunnel to get into the park and to access the trail entrance. I couldn’t help but think of Wile E Coyote while we walked through.

no anvils on the otherside

no anvils on the other side

It’s a good thing we got there early because the trails are fairly narrow. It started getting crowded as we were making our descent, and I did not care for that. It’s generally an easy hike, gentle inclines. A couple of areas where you’ve got to do a lot of stairs, but for the most part anyone can do it. You will feel it in your legs though. That’s for damn sure.

But the views are breathtaking. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

during the hike

during the hike

mid-way there

mid-way there

ocean view

ocean view

island view

island view

view from the top

view from the top

See what I mean? It’s impressive. And well worth the trek.

We were at the top by 9:00am. And there were quite a few people there. I was kind of hoping that we’d be early enough to catch a quiet moment at the lookout, but no such luck. I can’t complain though, because the views are just stunning. This is what we came for. Adventure.

And if you’re anything like me, you will feel adventurous once you’ve reached the top. Looking out over the island I fancied myself a fearsome pirate. Captain of a mighty vessel. Infamous rogue and irrefutable scoundrel. Having sailed far and wide for the perfect place to stash my bountiful pirate treasure. But that’s just me. You might think otherwise once you get to the top.

Treasures safely stowed away for good, we worked our way back down the crater. Since it was still early, and we had a bunch more energy to spend, we decided to continue hiking through the neighbourhood. I love it. I love walking through parts of the city that aren’t crowded with tourists. Exploring the town on our own.

where the locals are chillin'

where the locals are chillin’

We just walked. Soaking up the sights and sun. Once we’d worked up a formidable sweat, we made our way back to the beach. Another afternoon of swimming and sunning.

You see a lot of shit go down on the beach while you’re there. Part of the fun is people watching from your cozy little towel. The best people watching comes from the kids and old folks. Both groups just don’t give a shit. They do whatever they want, and they have no shame for it.

I saw this group of three older gentlemen, roughly mid-70’s. They were just chatting away, being casual. Cue a young 20-something girl in a thong bikini. They snapped to attention and cranked their necks for a view faster than you could holler “hoochie mama!” They sure made a meal out of looking at this girl. And once she’d finally sauntered off out of sight, they turned back to each other and tsk tsk-ed her ferociously. How shameful! What’s wrong with the kids today? etc. etc.

I just had to laugh. Looked to me like they liked what they saw, but I guess not. Dudes, it’s Hawaii. You’re going to see butts. That’s just how it is. If you’re shocked by seeing someone’s ass at the beach, then maybe the beach just isn’t for you. Oh, and also, women have rights now. We can drive, and vote, and wear thong bikinis if we damn well please. So, you’d better get used to it. Butt floss is here to stay.

Then it started raining. Not just some pathetic spitting that you can ride out either. It was a tremendous downpour. And it just didn’t stop. All afternoon and evening long.

Dinnertime rolled around and it was still pouring out. No sign of letting up. I can’t be rained on. I’ll melt!

We didn’t know what to do for dinner, then I remembered a place super close to the hotel. We could easily dash over there, sustaining minimal rain damage. And as luck would have it, it was the best meal of our trip so far!

I earned this bad boy

I earned this bad boy

I rocked a Teriyaki Strip Loin because I can. And D went with the Schezwan Swordfish.

D's first swordfish

D’s first swordfish

Both dishes scored perfect 10’s in our book!

The broccoli would have been cause for a deduction on my dish, but I passed that disgustingly huge pile of it off onto D’s plate. Broccoli is revolting, and I want nothing to do with it ever in my life. I’d rather eat dirt. Actually, that’s not true. I wouldn’t eat dirt either because I’m crazy fussy about shit like that. I don’t have a particularly discerning palate, but I do know that broccoli is just wrong.

In conclusion, Diamond Head=awesome and broccoli=less desirable than dirt.

There’s Even Sand in My Crack: Day 3

We have been walking a lot. Constantly. Everywhere we go, we walk there. It’s taken its toll on my feet, that’s for damn sure. I have two big blisters on the bottom of each foot, and another big one on the side of my toe. So I felt like having a day of minimal walking. So, to the beach we go!

You can lay out on your towel for hours, or take a few quick steps into the ocean. Either way, you’re off your feet and it feels good. We’d gone for a brief swim on our first day after eating breakfast, but we hadn’t done the full on beach day yet. D has been wanting to relax while catching some rays.

After breakfast at the hotel, we walked down to the beach to get ourselves some prime real estate on the sand. At the glorious hour of 8:00am no less!

morning calm

morning calm

A dip in the ocean to cool you off and send the beads of sweat forming on your brow packing. I’ve never swam in the ocean until this trip. I’m blown away by how salty the water is. The first time some of it got into my mouth I thought I was going to die. It was like I’d just poured the contents of a full salt shaker down my throat. I can’t say that I’m a fan of that…

so not digging the salt

so not digging the salt

The beach is a lot more calm in the morning. Some of the more ambitious parents are up and about with the kiddies. But most of them are still getting their shit in a pile to start the day. They don’t usually start filling out the beach until later in the day. It’s gotta be tough, right? We’re exhausted after a full day, and we don’t have any kids to haul around with us. I can’t imagine how people do it. Props to the parents with energy to actually be active while on vacation with their kids.

We see a lot of babies, surprisingly. D said that if he ever found out that his parents took him to Hawaii when he was way too young to remember it, he would be hella pissed. “That’s such bullshit,” he said. “You’ve been to this amazing place, but you’ll never remember.” I guess that sucks. But if your parents are rich enough to take you when you’re a baby, I’m sure they’re rich enough to take you when you’re a bratty, unappreciative tween/teen.

It’s not that expensive really. Or at least not as expensive as people seem to think it is. It’s not an all-inclusive kind of place, so you do need to pay for your meals and booze. But if you shop around and find a good rate on the hotel and flight, then you do a little extra saving for your daily expenditures and you’re ready to go.

You’ll find an ABC Store basically every block, and you can buy super cheap booze and snacks. You can buy a 6-pack of Corona or Heineken for $8.50! You cannot get good beers that cheap in Ontario. And because these stores are literally everywhere you look, you don’t have to think about where the closest LCBO or Beer Store is. You just walk out the door, and there the beer is. Ice cold, and waiting for you. It’s heavenly.

D swam for a bit and then lounged in the sun. As I watched him sunning himself, he reminded me of a little lizard nestled on a rock in a pet store somewhere, hogging up as much of the heat lamp as it can get. Using the solar rays to recharge its battery. I started taking pictures of him while he was sunning and he told me to stop being creepy and go for another swim.

So I took my camera elsewhere. As opposed to some dreamboat photos of a half-naked D, these pictures of the beach will have to suffice.

a shitty substitute

a shitty substitute

took some of this stuff to go!

took some of this stuff to go!

my view from the shore

my view from the shore

Once we’d had our fill of surf and turf, we thought the next best thing would be to get day drunk. We needed to cleanse our palates of all the salt water anyways. So we walked down the street to Jimmy Buffet’s for Happy Hour. $3.00 for vodka, gin, or rum and $4.00 for a draught beer. Hells yes! This is just the place for us.

Thinking we’d have a snack with our drinks, we very stupidly ordered nachos. We assumed they would be just enough to tide us over until dinner. We were not expecting the fucking cheesy tortilla chip planet that fell from the sky and landed on our table.

what have we done?

what have we done?

I'm really going to hate myself in a minute

I’m really going to hate myself in a minute

They were taller than they were wide! Holy shit, how are two people going to eat this many nachos? We did the best we could. But in the end, we’d barely made a dent. Next time, we’ll just stick to the drinks.

The nachos stuck with us all afternoon. We barely had any appetite for dinner. We barely had the will to live anymore! So we parked our asses on a geezer bench at the beach and just sat in silence for a while. Trying, really trying, to digest the wads of cheese in our bellies. We sat on the bench, on powered down mode for 30 minutes or so. Enough time to straighten ourselves out.

When our brains started functioning again, we took a leisurely stroll down the beach. It had started getting cloudy out. A few drops of rain here and there. Our bold and beaming sun decided to take the rest of the day off. No beautiful sunsets tonight, come back tomorrow folks.

We’re tired and full. Too full. So we make our way back to the hotel room, and grab a movie for the night. Our hotel has these little DVD rental kiosks in the lobby. You just touch the screen, pick a movie you want to see, and it spits out the disc. Then, when you’re done, you just bring it back down and put it back in the machine. It’s a good little contingency plan for rainy days, and inactive nights. And it’s free! You don’t even have to pay for them. Just grab a movie whenever you feel like it.

We rented Looper, which I had been wanting to see. It was good, but not what I had expected. I was picturing something similar to Blade Runner. Not something so Omen-y. All the bullshit with the mom and the kid was so boring. I wanted to see the past and future Joes engage each other so much more. I wanted tension, active, adventure. Not sappy self-sacrifice for a demonic little kid who is clearly going to grow up to be an asshole anyways. But, you get what you pay for I guess.

Every room has a PS3 to play the DVDs on. I feel like this is great for the youth, and maddening for the really old peeps. There are a lot of people at our hotel who are getting on in their years. Surely some of them know how to use it, but I’m sure most are more frustrated by it than anything. I barely know how to work the controller sometimes, so I can relate.

We needed a nice quiet night in. We’re going to tackle the hike up Diamond Head tomorrow, so we’ll need our rest. Which is also why I’m posting tonight. I’ve gotta get a head start on the day and doing the blog post in the morning can be a bit of a time-suck.

So, now that I’m done, nighty night!

5 to 9: Day 2

I’ve always thought that retirement is a sweet deal. You’ve got nothing but time. Time to do whatever the hell you want with your days. And then hopefully, some fat stacks of cash to burn.

The only thing that didn’t appeal to me was the supposed hours that retirees keep. But, on second thought, I think I get it.

Maybe it’s the jet-lag, or maybe it’s just our bodies natural desire to rise with the sun. I don’t know. But we are routinely up around 5:00am and passed out asleep by 9:00pm. It could also be because we pack so much activity into our days. It’s weird because we’re on vacation. Why the eff are we getting up at 5:00am every morning? We went on vacation so we wouldn’t have to be up super early to start the day!

Yesterday we took in the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium. I had planned those activities to take up a full day. We were at the zoo by 9:00am for open, and had finished at the Aquarium at 11:30am. D’oh!

The zoo was great, it was a lot of fun. There was a wide variety of animals on display. But it was small. But I guess I’m just a little spoiled on zoos because the Metro Toronto Zoo is massive. I just took for granted that all zoos are around the same size. When you go to the Toronto zoo, you plan a full day. If you’re going to see every exhibit, it’s at least 5 hours. Plus travel time, plus lunch.

The Honolulu Zoo was way cheaper to get into though, and I appreciated that.

D’s favourite part was the Toucan. He was so lively! He kept hopping from branch to branch, stopping to pose for our pictures. Such an incredible bird. He’s gorgeous. If you look closely, you can see how vibrantly blue his eyes are.

Toucan Sam

Toucan Sam

I liked the lemurs and the meerkats best, because they’re so cute and I could get great shots of them.

little cuties

little cuties

just like we practiced

just like we practiced

There were a lot of giant tortoises as well, which were quite impressive. We watched one of them spend 10 minutes crawling about 8 feet towards us! I’m a super fast walker myself, so I can’t possibly imagine taking that long to get anywhere.

take it easy

take it easy

The Aquarium was a quick walk down the street from the zoo, so it was our next stop. It was shockingly small. I had expected humongous exhibits. Just massive tanks of fish and intricate walkways throughout. I thought we would see sharks, whales, dolphins, sea lions, walruses, and all manner of sea life like that.

We saw some cool tanks, but nothing mind-blowing. The jellyfish were really cool.

little jellies

little jellies

big jellies

big jellies

Afterwards we walked along the beach, and stopped at the Barefoot Cafe for lunch. A very very delicious lunch.

fish 'n' chips

fish ‘n’ chips

Is it morbid that I had fish for lunch directly after visiting the aquarium? I couldn’t help it though. It looked so good. Mmm, it was! Flaky fish in a crispy panko batter with some light and fluffy tartar sauce. That’s all I need in this life.

views from the walk back

views from the walk back

Afterwards we decided to veer off the course of the tourist. We took a long walk away from the strip to see more local areas. I went into a great little shop where I found some really special souvenirs. We walked and walked and walked. We walked for as long as our little legs could manage it. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were pooched.

But we had a very important goal that we still needed to achieve today. So we got ourselves dressed and went out for a lovely grandpa dinner at 4:30pm. I wanted to have time for a leisurely dinner, but ensure that when it was over we could take in a sunset. By 6:00pm dinner was done, and we walked down to the beach to grab a bench and savour the view.

It was spectacular!

Hawaiian sunset

Hawaiian sunset

cooch ya later

cooch ya later

The sun just kind of tucks itself back behind the clouds and says goodnight.

It felt incredible sitting there, watching it. Listening to the waves and kids playing on the beach. Breathing in the salty beach air. Just holding hands on our bench with all the other seniors. It’s peaceful and lovely. We’re on the go all the time, never slowing down. When we’ve finished doing something, it’s always “what’s next?”

We don’t have to be that way here. We can slow down. We can enjoy what’s around us instead of always looking ahead for what’s next.

We savoured the sunset and then went back to our room. We had drinks, we played cards, and we relaxed. We went to bed at 9:00pm, not because we wanted to, but because our bodies just told us that it was time.

It makes sense to me now. Keeping these hours. You fill the days with as much splendour as you possibly can, and you turn in for the night. You want to get up as early as you possibly can because you don’t want to miss a minute of the day.

Consider me well acclimated for the life of a carefree retiree!

cheers bitches!

cheers bitches!