Category Archives: Adventure

BAM(nff)!!! and Lake Louise

On Friday morning we grabbed Tim Hortons (road trip essential) and said byeeeee to cute Jasper!

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Definitely going back someday.

And then we hit the road to Calgary to pick up our friend Kim from the airport – she was in for the weekend for my bachelorette party on Saturday! We were all excited to see a new face. Once again long drive, but once again mountains.

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The entire way.

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So y’know. It’s beautiful and it goes by quick!

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Yamina was still in rough shape. I guess we broke her. She was actually headed to the Vancouver area after our Banff weekend so she didn’t want to overdo it and make her injury worse. She decided to stay at Lisa’s place for the weekend, hang out with Charlie and rest up. I think it was a good call – our weekend ended up being pretty crazy, with a lot of walking which would have further killed her. So we dropped off Yamina, picked up Kim from the airport, and drove back to Banff for more mountain time. But first! Lake Louise. The quintessential Alberta vacation spot. I went a couple years ago with Evan, Eric and Kenya, but Kim and Sherrie had never been and you can’t go to Banff without checking out Lake Louise!

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It is gorgeous, and the water is the bluest of blues.

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Lake Louise is also home to the most expensive hotel in all the land!

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We didn’t have a ton of time for exploring as we wanted to check into our Banff hotel and go out for dinner, but we did a quick jaunt along the trail around the lake. So here’s a bunch of pictures without a lot of commentary because I don’t really know what I can say other than it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful!

 

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One day I would like to continue to Moraine Lake in that area, but unfortunately we didn’t really have the time. We headed back to Banff, checked into our hotel and then went to the Magpie & Stump for Mexican!

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I think I could probably eat Mexican food every day. Highly, highly recommend Magpie & Stump if you’re in Banff. Freakin’ delicious tacos and a really great atmosphere in there.

After tacofest we walked back to our sweet hotel. I can’t even remember the name… Some-type-of-Canadian-animal Lodge, but that’s pretty much any hotel in Banff. Our hotel was great though, really nice, inexpensive, right on the main drag. And do you know how excited I was to see this after camping and the yurt after the last several nights? A real bed with actual blankets and sheets! No sleeping bag in sight!

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It was glorious. We had a pretty decent view from our balcony, too.

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And free breakfast in the morning!

We noticed we had two fluffy white bathrobes in our room so we requested two more and then slipped into those suckers for a robe party.

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We fancy!

We sat on our balcony in our robes and looked at the mountains and drank wine and told Kim all about our trip and laughed really hard. It was a dream night.

The next morning we decided to do the gondola on Sulphur Mountain before the rest of the girls arrived.

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I love a good gondola. I’ve done it a couple times before, once with just Lisa in the winter a few years ago and again the last time I was in Banff with Evan, Eric and Kenya, but I didn’t mind doing it again. Kim and Sherrie had never been up there, and again, it is a must-do Banff activity. One day I’d like to actually hike up the mountain, ’cause the gondola be expensive, but it was not the day for that.

We got to the top and blew Sherrie and Kim’s minds.

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You can see all of Banff and several mountain ranges, for ages and ages.

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Selfie stick for the win.

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So that was a time. So pretty! The lookout is quite an adventure in itself. It’s huge and wraps around Sulphur Mountain, and there are so many stairs that I felt like I was actually hiking a mountain.

After the gondola we did a little bit of the Banff touristy shopping thing, going in and out of the shops on the main strip. I got some souvenirs for my lover.

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We made friends, as we do.

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I think he may have been a mountie impostor…

And then we set up shop on a rooftop patio and grabbed some beers. Not a bad view and it was finally a beautiful day!

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About 16 degrees and sunny. After the 1 degree Banff weather I will take it.

It was a good start to bachelorette day. And then we met up with all the girls and the real shenanigans started, so actual bachelorette activities will be a separate post. Gird your loins.

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Kelowna Road Trippin’

Ahoy ahoy! I am back from my trip out west!

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It was nuts – I feel like we were everywhere. We did so many things and I have so much to update on. I wish I blogged some stuff during our adventure because now I have so much to say it feels daunting, but half the trip was camping with no internet (or cell signal sometimes), so it was not exactly ideal blogging conditions. I’ve never snapchatted so much in my life though, so if you were following that you’re probably pretty caught up.

I try to get out to Alberta/BC about once a year, since my mom and brother live in BC and my bestie Lisa lives in Calgary. Ideally I like to hit them all up in the same trip. This year was a bit different because I had my good friend Sherrie with me. Earlier this year Sherrie told me her friend Yamina would be visiting from Switzerland so she was thinking of taking her to explore the rocky mountains and asked if I would be interested in coming along. I barely hesitated in my yes. When I told Lisa about it she cleared her schedule for the week so she could come adventuring with us. YES! It worked out really well. We had originally planned on renting a car but with Lisa coming that wasn’t necessary, so that was an awesome bonus.

The plan was to fly to Calgary, stay a night at Lisa’s then drive to Kelowna in BC to my brother Eric’s house where he lives with his girlfriend Kenya and best friend Dixon. My mom was going to meet us there as well and we would all stay for two nights with them. Then our original foursome would drive back to Revelstoke, camp there for a night (near the dream site a bunch of us stayed in last year for Canada Day), then drive to Jasper, Alberta and stay in the sweet yurt we booked in the National Park for two nights. We were going to finish our trip with two nights in Banff with a few of our other friends before heading home, the last night being my bachelorette party! Here’s our route.

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A lot of driving but it’s the most beautiful scenery ever so it’s a road trip I think everyone needs to do at least once in their lives. 

We left early last Saturday, arriving at the airport around 5am for our 7am flight. Going through security in Toronto was probably the best security experience I’ve ever had. Sherrie was first and the man said to her “Are those natural?” and if you are a woman and you’ve heard this question before I’m sure know what we assumed he was asking about. Rude. But no, he meant her eyes! He just wanted to tell her how beautiful her eyes are. I was next and he looked at me and said “Wow, you have really beautiful eyes too! You all have beautiful eyes!” And then another guy told Yamina how much he loved her tattoos. Then when we were leaving there was a security lady inspecting a dollar bill so we asked what it was and she said it was a British pound and then handed it to us. So airport security complimented us and then gave us money. Pretty sweet deal.

After that pleasant experience we were off!

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We were pumped! Sherrie really does have beautiful eyes.

I find it so much easier to get up early for a trip than I do for work. When I’m traveling I like to leave as early as possible so I have the majority of the day once I arrive. It’s about a four hour flight and Calgary is two hours behind Ontario so we ended up getting in at 9am Calgary time, which was great. Lisa and her boyfriend Scott picked us up from the airport and the five of us went out for brunch. We had a big day ahead of us on Sunday so we spent the rest of Saturday just chilling out at Lisa’s place, drinking wine on her sunny balcony (Calgary was colder than here but in the sun it was really nice) and hanging with Lisa’s hunk of chunk Charlie.

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I have missed him. I was very careful not to lock him in my suitcase this time.

I’m so glad we got that leisure time before we left. It was good to catch up. Lisa and I ALWAYS drink more than we expect to the first night we get together. We plan to have one glass of wine and suddenly the entire bottle is gone. This was no exception, but we were exhausted and in bed sleeping by 9:30 so I felt pretty fantastic the next day.

We got up super early in the morning and packed up the car for our big adventure. We were planning on camping for a few nights so with our camping gear in addition to our luggage we had SO MUCH STUFF.  Scott tetris’d the crap out of it for us and somehow we were able to fit it all in the car.

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Who needs windows anyway. In hindsight a trailer might have been a good idea… Sherrie took over the car packing for the rest of the trip, which I was very happy to let her do.

So on Sunday we drove from Calgary to Kelowna to see Eric and friends. It is about a seven hour drive, and as you can see from the above map we did a lot of driving on our trip, but this was the longest haul in one day. I’m glad we got it over with early while we were still fresh, because if that seven hour drive was on the last day I would have wanted to kill myself. Even though it is the most beautiful drive I have ever experienced.

The entire way is just mountains and more mountains and some of the bluest lakes I’ve ever seen. I have driven that route by myself and had the best time ever. It was super foggy from Calgary through Canmore and Banff that morning and the mountains were quite misty, so the mountain visibility was definitely not what it usually is.

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But it was still beautiful, and the fog lifted a lot after we got to Revelstoke area.

We sang at the top of our lungs for pretty much the first six hours, all our favourite road trip songs. Poor Yamina. She said she enjoyed herself but her native language is Swiss German so listening to us yelling our English songs that she doesn’t know had to have gotten annoying after six hours. Can you imagine being in a car with a bunch of Swiss Germans listening to them blasting their music and yelling along to it? I can’t even.

After about six hours we were all done with the car, the last hour was getting painful. But we made it to beautiful Kelowna!

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And BC is an hour behind Alberta so we actually gained an hour. The gang was all there, so the four of us hung out with Eric, Kenya, Dixon and my mom for a bit before we all headed out for tacos. Best of all, they were surprise tacos! Sherrie had asked me a couple weeks ago out of sushi, Indian and tacos which I would go for. It was a tough decision but I don’t think I could ever pass up a good taco so that’s what I told her. She planned a special taco outing for me as part of my bachelorette trip, so that was really cute.

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Yamina had never eaten tacos before so she was pretty excited.

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We started with a few bowls of chips, salsa and guac for the table.

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And then got two platters of assorted tacos, with refried beans and Spanish rice on the side.

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I had four of those tacos and they were SO GOOD. Ah I want them again right now.

After the tacos the owner brought me some kind of tequila shot, also as a surprise for bachelorette things.

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I am not a fan of tequila shots usually but that one was actually quite tasty. It had a ton of sugar in the bottom, so that’ll do it.

I was so happy to have my mom there for a sort of bachelorette activity. She really enjoyed hanging out with all of us.

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After the taco fest it was back to Eric and friends’ for some games.

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We played beer pong on their custom made table (that is triple varnished, they were very proud of this).

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And also slap cup, which I had never played before. They were teaching us old dogs new tricks!

And then we played spoons, and then we set up our air mattresses in the living room for a slumber party and fell asleep watching Tangled.

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Which happened pretty early. Sitting in a car all day somehow makes you exhausted, I tell ya. So that is day one of epic road tripping, and it was pretty awesome. More adventures to come!

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Canada Day Camping

Happy belated Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day! #proudtobecanadian

And happy belated Fourth of July to all my American chums. We had Friday off so I was envious of you as I sat at my desk yesterday. I hope everyone had a great long weekend! We went camping with my friend Sherrie and her boyfriend Will, and sadly not in the beautiful mountains above where I was last year, we went to Silent Lake, where my family always went when I was a kid and where Evan and I went to last Labour Day weekend. The weather this time wasn’t wonderful but we had a gooood time.

The reservable sites at Silent Lake booked up really early and were gone by the time we decided we actually wanted to go camping, but there were several sites reserved for walk-ins that you couldn’t book in advance. I called them and they said it was first come first serve for those sites and we should be good if we got there as early as possible. So on Friday morning I left my house at 6am (Evan was coming later with Will), booked it to get Sherrie, left there at 7am, and made it to the park just after it opened.

A lot of people had arrived Thursday night and taken sites so when I checked in the morning there were only a three sites left. It was almost a two hour drive from Sherrie’s place so we sped up there and prayed the sites wouldn’t be taken when we got there. We were super lucky and got the second last available site. A guy in a truck came just after us and got the very last site, and a lady came just after him and was SOL. If we had been even 10 minutes later we wouldn’t have gotten a site, so we were pretty happy about that and raved on about how lucky we were. There were only walk-in campsites left, which meant we had to park offsite and walk our stuff in, but we are resourceful. We made friends with a ranger with a golf cart who let us load up all our stuff.

My tent (on the left in the pic below) is a complicated beast but we were able to get those puppies and the dining tent set up pretty quickly.

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Which was a good thing because as soon as we finished it started raining annnnnd it continued to rain for almost the rest of the day. It figures. We’ve had a bit of a drought lately and have had beautiful sunny weather for the past few weeks, but Canada Day weekend comes along and of course it rains. We still thought we were so lucky though, first snagging the site and then getting everything set up before the rain. Typical Canadians raving about their good luck when it rains all day.

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We got wet but what can ya do. It wasn’t bad, Sherrie had an extra pop-up tent that is meant to be used to shield from the sun, but we set that up over our chairs in front of a fire we built and it kept us pretty dry. Even with the rain I’d rather be camping!

Our first meal of the trip was not extravagant but it sure did hit the spot.

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Sherrie makes the best Kraft Dinner. You can’t get more Canadian than eating Kraft Dinner while camping on Canada Day (it’s our national dish and we eat 55% more than Americans, take that Paula!). I love it. I need to eat more of it.

The rain eased up a bit in the afternoon so we walked down to the lake and then went on a little hike.

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It is a beautiful park. One of my faves in Ontario!

The boys arrived together around 6pm and I’m glad they came when they did even though they missed the day. Evan was pretty sick on Thursday (I think he had the bug I had the week before, it was no good) and it was Will’s first time camping, so if they sat around in the rain all day I think they would have hated their lives. Thankfully by the time they arrived the worst of the rain was over.

I was on dinner duty and made us some tacos.

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Camping tacos are the best tacos.

Evan still wasn’t feeling 100% so he had a spectacular napular in our tent.

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Poor muffin. He’s a trooper.

It rained on and off until about 9, but we got a little sunset break!

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We spent the rest of the evening hanging out by the fire.

In the morning Will cooked us breakfast.

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And it was probably the best camping breakfast I’ve ever had.

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Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried tomatoes, and potatoes. The potatoes were the highlight. He had boiled and seasoned them before he left so he just had to throw them in a pan and brown them up. Excellent idea and so, so good.

After breakfast we headed down to the lake to rent kayaks for a lake adventure.

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Evan and I kayaked the whole lake last year in a couple of hours — we also walked around the whole lake in about five hours. It was 15k on uneven hilly ground and it was torture, this was not the weekend to do that again. But the kayaking we knew was a good time. There are no motorboats allowed on the lake so it is perfect for kayaking and canoeing, and it’s small enough that you can see the entire lake.

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I love the rocky shoreline and the little islands you can explore.

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Evan picked us water lilies! Romantique!

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Mine had bugs all over it so it went overboard pretty quickly…

At the far end of the lake it gets pretty shallow and narrow. It’s a fun area to explore.

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It was a windy day and it was quite choppy in the main part of the lake, but the little channels were calm.

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It’s so pretty.

After our kayak adventure we headed back for burgers (homemade by Will and delicious) and then hit up the beach. It was not the warmest of days but I really wanted to go swimming. That was basically the entire point of leaving the city for the weekend. You can’t have Canada Day weekend without swimming! So, we swam.

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We also played some beach bocce ball.

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We stayed at the beach for a few hours before going back to hang at our site. I was feeling pretty groovy in my camping attire.

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The lake was really close to our site so we walked down for one last hurrah before it got dark.

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And then Will made us the most amazing dinner. Corn on the cob cooked over the fire…

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Shrimp skewers, chicken and vegetable skewers, and coleslaw.

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It pays to be friends with a chef!

And we had some spider dogs later that we cooked over the fire.

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We also went down and looked at the stars over the lake once it got dark, and they were some of the best stars I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad we had a good day on Saturday, it made up for the Friday rain.

We all had to work on Monday so on Sunday we just packed up and headed home. It was a real good time camping with these guys!

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And we didn’t even have one noise complaint! There was a group in their early 20s who had two sites just down from ours and they really took the attention off of us. We were walking by them in the dark on Saturday night and one of the guys yelled “HEY do you guys want to come hang out with us? …or are you cougars?” I said “Maybe we are…” and we kept walking back to our old people site with our old people music (70s/80s rock — probably not cool to them). Ah to be young. And then they got a noise complaint, suckers.

We actually have a big group camping trip coming up in a few weeks which I am really looking forward to, even more now. I have the camping fever for sure.

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Melon’s Pirate Houseboat Bachelorette

This past weekend we celebrated our beautiful friend Melon and her upcoming nuptials at her bachelorette party! Dawn, Melon’s sister and my good friend, wanted to plan something a little different than just going to the bar (if you have been reading for a while you probably know that it would be rare for any of my friends to only do a bar for a bachelorette), so we rented a houseboat. It was a dream weekend.

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What a sweet ride! I love that it was basically just a floating trailer.

You know we like the theme parties also, so I should mention…

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(from my Snapchat – happyorhungry)

Totally pirate themed. I was excited, I got that hat from the dollar store a few months ago and I had been saving it for this occasion.

The houseboat we rented was in Gananoque, about 20 minutes east of Kingston — if you don’t know Ontario geography, that be far. It took me about 4.5 hours to drive up from Toronto after work on Friday (which is actually pretty good for a Friday), and I arrived just in time for the sunset.

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It was beaut. Renting a houseboat has been on my radar for a while now. A few years ago a guy I used to work with got one with a bunch of his friends for a bachelor party and they took it around Vancouver Island for a few days. It sounded like the best time ever and it made me want to do it one day. He also told me that the marina at night was full of boats and it got so crazy with various boat parties it was like Vegas. I told the girls that but we were the only ones at the marina on Friday night so it was definitely nowhere near Vegas. No worries though, we know how to make our own fun.

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Our boat was super cute, pretty much a trailer inside as well, and it slept 10 people! I think it would be really fun to rent it with a few couples or families. I also cannot be on a boat without thinking of Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat!” (or Stepbrothers Boats n’ Hos), you know there were many of those references.

I was the last to arrive on Friday so once I got there we had a late dinner of pork and chicken souvlaki grilled on the boat’s barbecue, as well as pitas and salad. Brennie (Dawn and Melon’s mom) also made baklava and it was maybe one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

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I need to hit Brennie up for that recipe so I can make it (or, let’s be serious, Evan will make it).

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Melon and her baklava

We hung out and talked for a while and played some Dirty Minds, which by the way is SUPER sexist.

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A woman shakes hands sitting down? WTF is that? And what is this housewives nonsense? Ugh, dislike.

Anyway, it ended up being a fairly early night so we could prepare for the shenanigans ahead.

On Saturday morning I was the first up for a while so I read my book outside with a coffee ( I brought one of those bottles of Starbucks iced coffee — thanks for introducing that to me Paula!). It was really peaceful and nice. I saw a turtle…

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And a bunch of large fish either fighting or mating by the shore. It was entertaining.

Once the girls got up Dawn convinced us all to do a 21 Day Fix workout with her. I was not planning on working out on the boat, I was planning on eating and drinking and laying around…but I’m glad we did it.

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My legs were sore for a good two days, that workout was no joke.

Once that was over with we set sail!

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So, fun fact, to rent a houseboat a boater’s license is not required. I was surprised about this, that it’s all good if no one has ever driven a 33 foot boat before. Or any boat! No boating experience required! But we could go only max 8km an hour so how much damage could we do? We had insurance just in case. I am proud to report that the only casualty of the weekend was my old iPhone that I use for music. It was plugged into the sound system (you can see it in the pic above) and it fell from its perch, landed above the steering wheel and immediately bounced out the door and into the water. It wasn’t an ideal situation but no biggie — I have all the music backed up and that phone was super old.

Anyway, the biggest thing with the boat was the steering as it was a super delayed reaction when you turned the wheel so it was really easy to overcompensate and suddenly be going in zigzags.

Our plan was to drive the boat to Kingston, about two ours at our pace, and pick up Emily, Joanna, Leanne and Julie who had driven up that morning.

It was the most gorgeous day and it was the perfect weather for boat riding. We stopped once and anchored around Mermaid Island to eat breakfast (pancakes and bacon, yessss), but the rest of the time we sailed the high seas!

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Mona got me a megaphone for my birthday last year and it came in reeeeeeal handy for yelling at passing boats.

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It even had a siren on it.

Eventually we made it to Kingston without incident.

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However, docking at the Kingston marina was quite a stressful situation. I already mentioned the steering issue, none of us really knew what we were doing, and then a big yacht was parked in the boat slip that we were told to dock in (with all the other fancy yachts, and then there was our trailer).

Luckily a few men saw us coming in and thought that we might need some help (I was driving and wearing the pirate hat so I’m sure I looked like I knew what I was doing and I can’t imagine why they would assume otherwise), and they actually ran over from the opposite side of the marina to help us dock. It was the second time that day that men literally chased us down to help us (the first time we were trying to find Mermaid Island to anchor at and a father son duo in a fishing boat chased us down to point it out to us). It was really nice of the marina guys to help us and we insisted on giving them a gift for their thoughtfulness and generosity: cards with scantily clad ladies from the 1970s on them. I’m sure it was appreciated. We certainly appreciated their reaction to the cards. I’d show you a picture but my NSFW stuff is designated for snapchat. Here’s the marina instead.

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Once we docked we hung out and waited for the rest of our friends to come aboard. Once they found us we got into all our pirate gear…

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Emily even brought Pirate Jem along with her…

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I’m aware I spelled Jem wrong on my snap. I used to have that same Jem when I was about three or four, I remember her earrings lit up! She was the best.

We set sail again and cruised out to an island about a half hour boat ride away and anchored there for the rest of the afternoon.

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We hung out on the roof and did the gift/game thing — the usual bachelorette shenanigans, you know.

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Melon had quite the treasure map of activities to complete that evening, all leading to POUTINE! (we did get poutine at the end of the night, mine had bacon in it and I could not get over how delicious it was).

Afterwards we just hung out on the roof in the sunshine. I really, really wanted to swim. It was hot and the water looked amazing and I just needed to be in it. Someone mentioned they didn’t bring a bathing suit and I couldn’t believe it. I have one in my car in the WINTER because you never know when a dream swimming situation might pop up and I don’t want to miss out! Anyway, I went in and I ended up being the only one, but in everyone’s defense the water was extremely cold (colder than the Bruce Peninsula I think) and the boat people forgot to put the ladder on the boat to get out. Getting back on the boat was quite the adventure and I still have bruises on my knees. It was worth it to be submerged in that refreshing water though.

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In the late afternoon we sailed back to Kingston to get ready for dinner. From the marina we walked over to the Pilot House.

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A pub with a nautical theme, so it seemed appropriate.

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I ordered the chicken fingers and I remember them being really good!

This man said it was his dream to lay across our table and who are we to deny him of that.

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One of Melon’s treasure map missions was to get Brennie (her mom, I’ll remind you) airlifted, so later on we got him and his friend to help with that. An easy one to complete!

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I like how the man on the right is wearing one of our pirate bandanas.

After that it was bar time and the usual shenanigans went down. My friends are crazy and I love it. Super fun night with these ladies.

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The details might be a bit fuzzy for me…but I’ll never forget my bacon poutine. The next morning we drove the boat back to our marina in Gananoque — it was raining and the water was crazy wavy and I totally got seasick, but this weekend was the best time and I would not mind repeating it! Melon, I hope you had your dream bachelorette!

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Coral Beach and Cueva Saturno

Since our resort didn’t have great snorkeling on the beach I wanted to do an excursion for it. I love snorkeling, I rarely get to do it, and we had brought our own equipment. It needed to happen. We talked to our Sunwing rep about the various snorkeling excursions offered and decided to do a half day snorkeling at Coral Beach outside of Varadero, which also included a swim at Saturno cave. It was only $35 CUC each and sounded pretty good to us. So on Thursday before the big proposal, we got on the bus with the other touristas and headed to Coral Beach. We brought our own equipment (except fins) but our tour guides had everything we needed also, so that wasn’t necessary. I have no pictures above the water so I can’t even show you what it looked like, but fishies!

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I think they’re all side-eyeing me…

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hello.

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They swam so close to us, so that was really cool. I have one picture that is just a huge silver fish scale because a fish swam directly in front of the lens as I was taking the photo. The reef was pretty and the ocean was clear but I have to mention that I was sort of disappointed with the fish variety. I saw many more types of fish when we were in Cayo Coco last year, and Jamaica also. But when I look at the pictures of Coral Beach on TripAdvisor there are many different types of fish, so maybe we went on a bad day. It was still a good time. Plus, we got a new waterproof camera this year so it was fun to play around with that and take pictures of each other.

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I like to call this pose The Derp.

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Evan is much more graceful than me. But of course he is. He’s a porpoise.

Our attempt at a selfie:

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We snorkeled for about an hour and afterwards our group got back on the bus and headed over to Saturno Cave, or Cueva Saturno. That was a highlight for me!

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Saturno Cave is a subterranean cave with a freshwater pool that is 22m deep in some places. It’s filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmite formations, and the water is turquoise and cool and refreshing. It is pretty much my dream swimming situation.

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The cave is apparently very popular for scuba divers. One day!

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There’s a snack bar on site so after our swimming we were able to get a couple cervesa’s and explore the area.

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It was really cool and if you’re in Varadero I recommend hitting it up. We loved it! It’s pretty popular with tour groups but I heard you can take a taxi there also if you are interested in just going by yourself.

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The Falconry (and other birds of prey) Experience

As I mentioned in my last post, for Valentine’s Day this year I got Evan a Falconry (and other birds of prey) Experience for two through Groupon with the Ontario Falconry Centre. Very romantic Valentine’s gift, I’m aware, but we’re not usually super traditional on Big V Day, and who doesn’t like birds? Well, lots of people I guess… Evan does love birds though. He does not love snakes, so I would never get him an exotic snake experience…but birds I thought he would enjoy.

So last week we cashed that in. Now you would assume that because it is with the Ontario Falconry Centre this would be quite an official experience. It has an official sound to it, like the Ontario Science Centre, or the Royal Ontario Museum. I was expecting to go to some sort of bird sanctuary, so when the directions we had took us to the back of a church parking lot in Bowmanville I was a bit surprised. I was further surprised to discover that the Ontario Falconry Centre is a one-man operation and the “centre” would be his house, though the experience is not run out of his house — he rents the field at the church for it, so the “centre” in this instance was a trailer attached to the back of his truck. The owner Sam, is a guy who just loves birds and started raising them from a young age, and now owns the Ontario Falconry Centre.

As soon as we pulled up Sam gave us a thumbs up and we could see fresh stitches sticking out of his thumb…obviously we were all “OMG he was totally attacked by a bird” but no, he had been framing a house earlier that day and put a nail through his thumb. He also had a bit of blood (I’m assuming) splattered on his shirt, and he said he had just fed the birds so I am not sure if the blood was from that or if it was possibly from his thumb accident. And there may have been a piece of skin clinging to the big leather glove Sam handed to Evan… Evan just brushed it off and we sort of looked at each other and laughed and were like “welp, we’re here, we’re doing this.”

So we did. I wanted to give you an accurate picture and I hope I didn’t scare you off because that all being said, I liked Sam immediately. He’s a character for sure, but I think you have to be to run that sort of operation. He was hilarious but extremely knowledgeable, his birds were clearly loved and well taken care of, and though it was not quite what I was picturing, the actual experience was better than I imagined. He does a lot of work with the Discovery Channel, and he sometimes gets actual work for his birds. He told us that one time he got this contract to clear a dump of rodents, so he brought his falcons there and they just went hunting for rats. I thought that was really interesting. It makes me happy that they still get to hunt!

Here’s a great video on the whole thing:

Alright, let’s get to the birds. We started with three falcons that Sam brought. I am not super falcon savvy and I can’t remember all the facts he was telling us about them, so if you want to read more about falcons just go here.

This female falcon came out first, and she seemed to like us a little bit.

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Sam told us that if he took you on as his apprentice you would start with this bird.

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I think Evan might be tempted to get into falconry, but I am not sure what the point is of having pets that you can’t snuggle with.

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The male falcon was next. He was smaller than the female (and more of a pussy, apparently) but he did have beautiful eyes.

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And he did not mind us petting him.

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Don’t quote me on this but I think those were all gyrfalcons. Sam was explaining the difference, but I was kind of excited to be holding the birds so I am bad at remembering the details.

This is a Peregrine falcon. He was super wired and a bit of a coconut so he needed to keep his hood on.

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I guess with their hoods they are quite calm and won’t fly.

Once the falcons were out of the way, we were onto the birds of prey. Next was the great horned owl. Sam described her as a vicious killing machine and his best hunter. He said she once took down a coyote! There was no touching the great horned owl.

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But she was beautiful and this was the first bird I held where I could really feel her talons clenching my glove.

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I thought she looked quite fluffy and snuggly…but it was a trick. Sam was talking about how this owl imprinted on him because he had her when she was just a baby, and my thoughts immediately went to stupid Twilight. Pretty sure it is not the same context. She just thought Sam was her mama.

Here’s a video of Evan with the great horned owl:

Next was my favourite, the snowy owl! We could touch her!

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She was actually a little snuggly and let us pet her. She liked it.

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She totally looked like Hedwig from Harry Potter.

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The way those owls swivel their heads all the way around is so unnatural and weird looking. Interesting though, no doubt. She was a muffin. Here’s a video of Evan with the snowy owl:

And lastly we have the mother of all birds. The bald eagle. She had been sitting quietly on her perch with her hood on until then, and she came out with a vengeance.

She is HUGE. Sam said she weighs 10 pounds.

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Her talon was quite close to Evan’s bare skin so you can see he is definitely wary of that happening in the above photo.

It took her a moment to get settled so she just flapped her wings around Evan’s head for a minute while that was happening, which was entertaining.

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I think there is only one word to describe her, and that is majestic.

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She is amazing.

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She was so heavy that I had trouble holding her up so I had to brace my right arm under my left, and eventually Sam had to step in and help me out.

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Majestic, I tell you.

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Sam told us that once she is about nine or so he probably won’t be able to handle her at all anymore, she will be too vicious.

Overall it took about an hour and it was truly an amazing experience. Evan has been raving about it for days. We might do the second workshop where you actually get to fly the birds. I highly recommend it. You can book it without a Groupon but they pop up pretty often so keep an eye out!

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