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!

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!

Doggin’ It

Picture something delicious. I wonder if you see what I do?

Picture a childhood comfort food. Something simple, it’s hot off the grill. Something synonymous with summertime and baseball games. Something that can be topped in countless ways. Something guaranteed to please almost all finicky eaters. Got it? Do you see what I see?

Hot dogs, naturally. A classic summertime food. Anytime I have a hot dog I think about pool parties, backyard barbecues, birthday parties, baseball games, and hot sunny days. Hot dogs aren’t a complicated food. They don’t demand linen napkins, or fancy table settings. They just want to be held briefly and consumed happily. That’s all they ask of you.

They don’t get a lot attention or praise in the adult realm of eating. They may be a favourite food when young, but as we grow older, our tastes evolve. We try new things. We don’t spurn the items on our plate because they look funny, or simply because we’ve never heard of them before. We can look past old prejudices of food. We become bolder and more empowered in our choices. Things like hot dogs, chicken nuggets, spaghetti-o’s, and mac ‘n’ cheese tend to stay relegated to the children’s realm of eating. You may still eat them as an adult, but perhaps you are less likely to think of them in terms of a “dining experience”. It’s usually just quick, easy consumption.

Hot dogs are readily available in the city. You can find a street vendor at just about every turn. I enjoy the occasional street meat scarf, not gonna lie. It’s usually when I’m drunk, or just need to quickly fill up the tank while out and about. I think of them as quick, nostalgic sustenance. I don’t think of them as a treat per say, or an indulgence. They’re just there. Good old, predictable hot dogs.

But sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by something you least expect…

The weather this weekend was spectacular! Both Saturday and Sunday were wondrously sunny and warm. It was an absolute delight to be outside. I didn’t want to waste what could possibly be the last perfect weekend of the fall season, so I made sure to spend as much of my time outdoors, soaking it all in. On Saturday I spent the afternoon and evening shopping on Queen street with my friend Rebecca. It seems a lot of other people had the same idea. The streets were rammed with other giddy shoppers, just enjoying the beautiful afternoon with their fair city. It was a great way to spend the day, catching up with a beloved friend while exploring the city.

On Sunday D and I knew we had to get out. I hadn’t seen him at all on Saturday, so a long walk through the city was the perfect way to spend the day. When our tummies started to rumble longingly for lunch, D suggested hot dogs. He said he had a place in mind, he’d passed by it on the streetcar before, and he was interested in checking out.

We walked a couple blocks further and found ourselves at Fancy Franks, a gourmet hot dog place.

whatever they’ve got inside just has to be good!

Alright, I had to give D credit, this wasn’t the cheapie street vendor dog I was expecting.

They had a really diverse menu. There were all kinds of wild and crazy hot dogs we’d never even heard of before. Certainly not your standard backyard fare.

D got the southern fancy, a hot dog loaded with pulled pork and cabbage slaw. Not what I was expecting him to choose at all:

Southern Fancy

He was quite satisfied with his choice. I on the other hand, could not resist the siren song of the corn dog:

take that, POGO!

It was so crispy! The incredibly crispy batter and delightfully juicy dog danced so divinely together in my mouth. After that first sumptuous bite, I knew I’d made the right choice. We’d died and gone to hot doggie heaven.

The dog doesn’t stand a chance.

As we sat there eating our dogs, the sun streamed through the windows onto our faces. I closed my eyes, and for the briefest of moments, I was transported back to summer and childhood. I thought about hot dogs, and how indicative of the suburban backyard gathering they are. How easy it was for parents to put hot dogs on the grill for their kids, and add  a few steaks for themselves.

Today was a perfect storm for reminiscing. A perfect storm comprised of gorgeous weather,  a little free time, and delicious summertime foods. Thoughts of summer, suburbia, and childhood foods blossomed with reckless abandon in my mind, and I sat there powerless, letting them.

Hot dogs. A boring summertime staple of suburbia? Or  a charmingly tasty and indulgent adventure?

Prior to today, I may have said the former. But Fancy Franks has changed everything now. Fancy Franks co-opted a convenient food from my past and transformed it into something else. Something indulgent and delicious. Something wistful and endearing. Something truly satisfying.

Can you picture it?

Mexi-CAN!

It takes some time to get the lay of the land in a new city. Every time you step out the door you’re likely to encounter something new, or notice something interesting. Especially when it comes to restaurants. Over time, you start to find your staples. Those places that you frequent and just can’t live without. You find a favourite pizza joint, an awesome burger shack, a fun local pub, someplace to have a scrumptious brunch. And you’re always keeping your eyes open for more great places to try because the possibilities truly are endless.

Growing up in suburbia you very quickly become accustomed to chain restaurants. There are some unique independent restaurants, sure, but they’re hard to come by. It feels like you’re swimming in a sea of Boston Pizzas and Swiss Chalets. So you stop getting excited to go out for dinner because it’s always the same thing. The excitement to eat someplace different is strictly reserved for when a new franchise rolls into town.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the food at a chain restaurant, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a particularly discriminating person when it comes to where I eat. But I don’t want to lose the thrill of trying something new. Something with its own unique style and story that haven’t yet been glossed over and refined by marketing professionals. And in the city, there’s always something that fits the bill for a new foodie adventure.

This weekend, for example, D and I went out for Mexican. Oh, Mexican! Deep-fried, cheesy goodness washed down with an ice-cold cerveza. You just get me, like no other ever will.

We’ve had some difficulties with Mexican over the years though. On our second anniversary we went to the Mexicali Rosa’s that opened back home, and it was good.

R.I.P. Mexicali’s

But then it closed down shortly after…

Then immediately after we moved away from N-town, this wicked Mexican place opened that all of our friends raved about. So we totally missed the boat on that. There was absolutely nothing promising for good mexican food in the Rhill. Then, right after we moved to T, this supposedly amazing mexican place opened up right around the corner from our old apartment. Curses!

When I was in Abu Dhabi I had the greatest chimichangas of my life:

best chimis ever

And I couldn’t share the magic of these chimichangas with D, only pictures. I’ll probably never be rich enough to go back and have them again either. All I can do is close my eyes and remember the delicious crispy tortilla and oozing chicken and cheese filling. Dipping them in roasted garlic guacamole and savouring every bite. I ate so many of them on that trip, because they were that fucking good. I thought I was going to give birth to a baby chimichanga when I got home.

This weekend, we finally mustered up the courage to try a mexican restaurant in our neighbourhood. We found this place called Mariachi’s, just a fifteen minute walk south of our place.

this looks promising…

We braced ourselves, because we didn’t want to be disappointed. As soon as we crossed the threshold we were greeted by the friendliest hostess on earth, and our nostrils were assaulted by a myriad of wonderful smells. We’d come to the right place. The atmosphere was simply lovely. Dim lights, colourful paintings on the wall, and mexican music wrapped our booth in comfort.

As tempted as I was to order the chimichangas, I decided to get the taquitos instead:

a hell of a lot better than 7-11…

My first bit of taquito was by far the best part of my week. This picture simply does not do this meal justice. That pile of guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo, and sour cream on top of my taquitos does not look as gloriously gooey and warm as it really was.

D went for the enchiladas, another excellent choice:

om nom nom nom!

After dinner we had some knee-bucklingly good churros for dessert. In our haste to devour them, I forgot to take a picture! You’ll just have to trust me when I say that they were excellent. With full bellies and satiated palates, we paid the bill and then walked home. It was a truly divine dining experience, something that a chain restaurant just can’t give.

Oh fuck yeah! We’ve found a truly delicious mexican restaurant in T on our first try. We’re like, some kind of mexican restaurant finding superstars.

If you’re hungry and in the mood for something heavenly, I might just know the place for you…