Category Archives: Travel

CHAN CHAN!

I last left you on Thursday afternoon just before my bestie Lisa and friends were arriving from Calgary. I felt like I was on pins and needles all day waiting for them, and finally I heard Lisa and Heather’s (not quiet) voices drift over from the lobby so I ran over there and practically tackled them. They made it!

Now we were just missing my pal Joanna, my brother Eric, his girlfriend Kenya and their best friend Dixon, who were all arriving on Friday.

To celebrate the Calgarians arrival and also Hannah’s birthday, 20 of us had dinner reservations on the patio of the restaurant next door to our resort, Barbacoa.

I wanted to make sure I got a good group photo of everyone, so I took several. That dinner was so much fun and probably one of my very favourite memories from the entire trip.

It was my first time seeing Lisa and Scott since their big engagement!!!

Lovers! I’m so excited for them. Scott is a thoughtful cat like Evan. When we came back to Lisa’s place after our great western road trip in September, Scott had cleaned her entire apartment (we had tornado’d through there and totally trashed it) and left her a vase of flowers on her kitchen counter. He had also packed the car for us before we left and let us borrow all his camping gear. Smooth moves all over the place. I already can’t wait for their wedding.

We are definitely each other’s first loves, however.

Sherrie and Will were looking quite lovery as well.

And so were Corey and Emily…and Sherrie…

I was loving Emily’s green number.

Lovers all around.

I ordered the chicken supreme and it was pretty delicious. I also hear the steak there is very good. But the biggest treat is the live band that plays there!

Cheryl got her hands on some maracas…

And then we passed them around so we could all pretend to be in the band.

I really, really wanted them to play my favourite Cuban song, Chan Chan. I love it so much and I hear it every time I’m in Cuba so it just reminds me of fun Cuba times. So I requested it (probably obnoxiously) a million times and they finally played it. And they even let me come up there and play it with them!

I think that is my mom’s “I am so proud of my wonderful daughter” face.

I was trying to sing Chan Chan along with them but I don’t know Spanish so I was mostly just making the sounds. I’m sure it was awful, and when I looked over at our table most of our friends were crying with laughter.

This is Evan’s favourite picture:

And this is mine, mostly because of the guy’s face beside me.

He likes. CHAN CHAN!!!!

They even played it a second time…possibly a third? It was amazing. Scott said I looked like I was enjoying it so much he bought me their CD! Now I can listen to Chan Chan all the time! I’m gonna listen to it right now!

It was Hannah’s birthday and we told our servers in advance that we wanted to have a surprise celebration for her. All of a sudden the lights started flickering in the entire restaurant and we were all like “OMG the power’s going out!” but no no, our servers were just creating some birthday drama.

I thought it was so sweet that they brought her a dessert. We all sang happy birthday, our servers in Spanish, which none of us knew, so we all yelled it in French. I bet the rest of the people on the patio really enjoyed us.

Notice Hannah’s Blue Jay hat, Cuba edition! Evan and I picked it up at the market that morning when we were there with our mom’s. She loves the Jays so it was a perfect find.

After dinner we headed back to our home base, the lobby bar, for a few drinks.

And piano playing.

That green dress, I tell ya.

And then we walked over to our favourite spot, the Beatles Bar! I think we went there almost every night. But when you can walk for two minutes and see this happening, how can you say no?

Again about 20 of us made it so we got a big section at the back. The new guy was redeeming himself.

I still don’t think he’s quite as big of a character as the guy last year, but the leather pants were definitely stepping up his act.

We had a special surprise for the very last song of the night. Cheryl made an appearance on stage.

Girl SLAYED that song!

Just so into it. Evan calls me The Jambon (The Ham) but I think I may have some competition in Cheryl. I was dying laughing when I saw her up there.

Since the outdoor bar Calle 62 is right across from our resort we dropped by there on our way home. This picture is from last year but it looks like this every single night, so just to give you an idea of what it’s like over there.

Just a total street party.

They have a charcoal grill where you can buy half a grilled chicken for 2CUC. It is DELICIOUS and the most wonderful thing at midnight.

My first picture of Heather, and some bearded man who we did not particularly enjoy. Though Dawn enjoyed his glasses.

And Sarah makes an appearance!

I feel like a broken record saying “it was a good time, it was such a good time” about everything, but seriously, it was a good time.

The next morning after breakfast we headed back to, where else? The beach.

Friday was our only overcast day, but that didn’t stop us from beaching around. It was the day to bust out my mermaid suit, one of the best buys of my life, from Cupshe. That site does not have great reviews but Lisa ordered a bunch of bathing suits from there and they were all amazing so I gave it a try and was also impressed. When I was reading the reviews for that suit they were mostly like “the bottom half is great but the cups in the top are as big as my head!” so I knew it was the one for me. I have such a hard time finding bathing suits that the nungas don’t want to escape from. It’s a real problem.

Lisa and I used to play this game in the lake when we were younger where one of us is Forrest Gump and the other one is Bubba and whoever is Bubba has to be carried. You may remember…

Since we were there for my wedding I got to be Bubba.

Heather and Brent were doing life right with their floaties.

I had to get in on that leisure life.

Every Friday on the resort is Fiesta Cubana and it’s a Cuban themed day with flags and everywhere and live music all afternoon.

And a special lunch by the beach.

They have these grilled pork sandwiches which are THE BEST. The bread is so soft and fresh and the pork just melts in your mouth. So good.

Also coconuts filled with coconut water and rum.

I didn’t even try one. I don’t know what I was thinking.

And you know there’s dancing. Evan was down.

Actually I witnessed him literally get down.

There was also quite the party by the pool. You’ll notice our pal Randy on the right.

And that’s where we spent the rest of the day, by the pool. And that is a story for another post.

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Beachy Keen

On Wednesday morning Evan and I met with our wedding coordinator on the resort, Elimay, to go over all our wedding details. That was interesting, mainly because she told us to forget everything that our Canadian wedding coordinator from Starfish resorts told us before we left and that now we’re going to start from scratch. Alright then. She said that because they were such a small resort, and weren’t a popular wedding spot, they couldn’t accommodate some of the things the Starfish chain had originally included in our package. This alarmed me at first, but the changes weren’t anything too crazy. The biggest was we had to change the wedding ceremony time to 4pm instead of 5pm, and because they only had one large speaker that they needed for the nightly entertainment, we had to end our reception at 9pm. I was hoping for 10 but I knew we were all going to go off the resort for an after-party anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. However, any idea I had of a day-of timeline went completely out the window. I will probably do a post on what to expect (or how not to have any expectations) when planning a destination wedding, because it is very different.

Elimay also told us that the other wedding that was originally planned for Saturday, the one that bumped our date to Sunday, was cancelled and we could move our wedding back to Saturday if we wanted. Gah. After all that! We decided to keep it on Sunday to minimize confusion. We felt it was too late to go back at that point, and I’m actually glad that everything worked out the way it did. But more about the actual wedding later.

We felt a lot better about wedding stuff after meeting with her. They really did seem excited to be hosting us, and I was just glad to FINALLY be able to talk to someone about our Cuba wedding IN PERSON and get some details sorted.

After that it was back to that glorious beach. I took about four pictures all day so I don’t remember what went down, except I do know our favourite pineapple pina colada guy came by with his wares.

Yassssss.

I was hoping he would make an appearance. I have been craving that pineapple all year!

You don’t know what pineapple is until you’ve had fresh Cuban pineapple. We got one for our friends Kim and Dylan and as soon as Dylan tasted it he was like “what kind of pineapple have I been eating all my life?” It’s so good. I was excited to introduce my mom to it.

She liked.

We mentioned to Elimay that we got engaged at this resort on the beach last year and when we went back up to our room we found a bottle of wine and a little note from the staff welcoming us back, so that was nice. Our maid also left us this:

I did like her services and I love a good towel swan. It was cute that they incorporated our wedding flowers!

We made dinner reservations that night for a bunch of us at the Italian restaurant (also where our wedding reception was being held).

We tried to get more people in with us but the resort isn’t big on hosting large groups so 10 was all we could do. And then Joel didn’t show up so 9 it was. Our dinner was actually really good and my favourite thing about that restaurant is the view!

You can watch the sunset right from your table!

I don’t remember what we talked about aside from our celebrity crushes (I told them all that Evan’s celebrity crush is Judge Judy) but I do remember that we laughed pretty much the entire way through dinner.

Afterwards we headed back to the lobby bar to meet up with everyone, our nightly ritual.

We watched the nightly entertainment in there and Mark once again made friends.

I was still a bit tired from the day before and plus my bestie and friends were arriving on Thursday so I wanted to be fresh for them! So, I went to bed around 9:30. No regrets.

The next morning I met Casey at 6:30am in the lobby for a run along the streets of Varadero. I ran there last year as well and it’s a super fun place to run, but best in the early morning ’cause it is HAWT. Everyone is out going to work and school and sweeping the sidewalks in front of their businesses with palm leaves. It’s a cool place. Casey is a running superstar (I mentioned she ran a 50k trail run on Saturday) but I was glad she slowed her pace down for me. I was initially planning on only running for 5k but Casey distracted me and we didn’t turn around until after 3.5k so I ended up doing almost 7.5k. Whoops. The last few kilometres were a bit rough, the sun was in our face and I thought my clothes were just going to melt off my body, but we made it and I was feeling pret-ty good about myself.

After showering and breakfast Evan and I took our moms to the market for a little shopping. It’s about 3k from our resort (Casey and I actually ran by it that morning) so we took a horse and carriage on the way there and this sweet ride on the way back.

That gem is from 1927!

My mom talks to everyone, and you know that includes the cab drivers.

She likes to ask everyone about their lives. And they always tell her.

And then it was back to the beach.

Dawn got me a bride cup for the trip and I busted it out for the occasion!

We told Evan that his hat looked like a “Make America Great Again” hat, just missing the words.

I like that we could send the boys in to refill our drinks at the bar.

They liked.

Once again, a good ocean time.

And now I’m going to introduce Randy to you because he was a vacation staple.

Strategically placed sun glare.

Randy was one of the entertainment guys at the resort, and he was always coercing us into playing games and calling us ‘babies’. He was on the resort for about 12 hours a day so we would see him around the beach and pool all day, and then at night dancing it up in the lobby. He and quickly became one of our favourites!

And then my bestie Lisa, her fiance Scott, her sister Heather and Heather’s partner Brent arrived and things REALLY got fun!

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Varadero Vixens

Hola muchachos!!! We are back from the best two weeks of our lives! We had an amazing time in Cuba and I don’t even know where to start with telling the tale. I guess from the beginning and I’ll see where that takes me.

Our flight was just after 6am on Tuesday, May 2, which means we had to be at the airport around 4am. Not wonderful but it’s a lot easier to get up early for a vacation than it is for work, so I didn’t mind. Leaving early just meant we got to the beach earlier! It’s also fun seeing 20 of your friends around the airport. Every time I ran into someone I perked up a little bit more.

Evan picked us up a couple of fitting passport holders for our trip.

Cuuuute.

We paid extra for everyone to sit together at the back of the plane, and I thought this included Evan and I, so I was surprised to find us upgraded at the front! On Sunwing flights you get complimentary champagne and they brought us all the leftover glasses so we were living large up there.

The trip was off to a good start for Evan Evanoff.

We had the speediest customs experience I’ve ever had at the Varadero airport. We were out of there quickly and on the bus to the resort. I was excited to find that we all had a bus to ourselves!

We were excited. The ride to our hotel was less than half an hour by bus but you know that’s enough time for a couple of bus cervezas!

We stayed at the Starfish Cuatro Palmas again, the same resort Evan and I got engaged at last year. I’ll save you another review of the actual hotel and the food, but I did that last year so you can check it out here. I actually didn’t take pictures of anything I ate this time and it was kind of refreshing!

Anyway, we arrived at our resort so early that our rooms weren’t ready yet, which I was prepared for so I told everyone in advance to make sure they had bathing suits easily accessible. We arrived and headed straight to the beach!

Casey, my Toronto blogger friend (who ran a freakin’ 50k on Saturday!!!), and I were twinning pretty hard. I had two of my other blogger friends in attendance as well, which was awesome, Shanondoah and Michelle!

They were known by everyone else all week as “the bloggers.” They needed a fourth member for an even number so they immediately adopted my friend Hannah into their group, or maybe she joined herself, I’m not sure which, but she became an honorary blogger for the week.

I loved all the co-mingling of the friend groups. It makes me happy.

The beach and the ocean there is AMAZING. One of the nicest beaches I’ve ever been on. Dawn’s mom Brennie (you may remember from her 60th birthday that we celebrated back in December) and Joel were definitely feeling that ocean hard.

We all were, it was a dream day. And I don’t know if it’s because we were tired or just because we couldn’t get into our rooms yet, but that day seemed to stretch on forever. We all said that day felt like the longest, but in a good way!

I wish I brought a tube for leisuring a la Sherrie.

We broke for lunch for a bit and then just got back into that ocean for the rest of the day.

Dawnald!

Bubbas up!

Evan can nap anywhere.

I have like 30 pictures of Emily trying to piggyback Joel.

It was not going well until they switched it up.

Man, it was a good ocean time.

We got into our rooms around 4pm and I was excited about our ocean view.

We had a street view last year and I also really enjoyed that because you could see all the old cars drive by and it was good for people-watching, but you can’t beat the ocean!

I also don’t think you can beat the sunset at this resort.

We hit the buffet for dinner and then all met up in the lobby bar for drinks. They had live music with dancers in the lobby bar every evening so that was a good time. Mark made new friends.

We would usually all hang out in the lobby bar after dinner until we headed out on the town, which we almost did every night. Our resort is across the street from the three best bars in Varadero so it was very convenient. On our first night we went to the Beatles Bar, an outdoor bar with live rock music every night, which you may remember me absolutely raving about last year.

Unfortunately our favourite rock star doesn’t work there anymore, which is sad. Evan and I were looking forward to introducing him to everyone. We like to think he got discovered and is now living it up in Havana. The new guys weren’t quite the same (their pants weren’t as tight, they didn’t light a smoke in the middle of their song, and they had their shirts on), but they were still quite entertaining.

It was a great night.

And a great day, and that’s only the first one! It was so nice the entire trip to look around and see all our friends having such a fabulous time. I don’t know how we’re ever going to be able to go on a trip without most of the people we know again.

I have so much more to come so hang tight.

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Alcatraz, Burritos, Sea Lions and Garlic

Alriiiight, last day in San Francisco! I keep wanting to call it San Fran but I’ve heard locals don’t like it and never call it that. One of the guys at Hotel Diva said people who live there just call it “The City” but I don’t think I’m allowed. I don’t get it though, San Fran just rolls off the tongue so easily!

Anyway, we had a lot packed into our final day. Get ready for a ton of pictures. First up we were headed to Alcatraz. Dawn and I checked out of our hotel (they held our suitcases for us all day which was great) and headed down to the harbour to catch our 11am ferry to the island.

Goooooood morning San Francisco!

It was FOR ONCE a gorgeous day. We originally had our tour scheduled for Monday but there were downpours all day so I’m glad we were able to change it. This day was a bit chilly (seriously it was warmer in Toronto that day) but it was sunny and most importantly, no rain! The best day to go.

Hello, Alcatraz.

Before we started our indoor audio tour we had an outdoor tour learning the history of the island with Dr. Ranger Steve.

He kind of reminded me of Rick Moranis, so naturally I loved him immediately.

As we learned from Ranger Steve, Native American activists took over Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and held it as Indian Land, led by the Indians of All Tribe (little tidbit I did not know!). Hence the “Indians Welcome” above and the writing below:

Ranger Steve also said that whenever that water tower is repainted they invite the Indians back to paint those words again.

I also did not know that Alcatraz Island is essentially a bird sanctuary, which makes sense since there are no natural predators on the island. There are thousands of nesting seabirds hanging around singing their bird songs.

The island is now a National Park and it is honestly beautiful, with lush gardens…

Stunning views…

And interesting architecture.


And that’s just the outside, onto the actual prison!

It was creepy.

I mean…

Creepy.

Dawn and I did the self-guided audio tour and it was fantastic! It was easy to follow and well-paced so you didn’t feel like you were rushing through, but you could pause it if you wanted to stop and linger at a certain area. There were so many interesting facts and a lot of interviews with past inmates and wardens with realistic sound effects, which really brought the tour to life. I think I might have preferred it to a guided tour.

Thinking of all the men kept there gives me a heavy feeling.

The isolation rooms were the creepiest, in my opinion.

We were able to walk around in there, known as “the hole”, and it immediately made my skin crawl.

Some of the cells were set up to look like not such a horrible prison time.

They were able to have musical instruments and hobby activity items in their cells. On the audio tape one of the wardens was saying that one of the prisoners (I can’t remember who or if the person’s name was mentioned) enjoyed playing the trombone in his cell. I would murder the person in the cell next to me if they played their trombone all day. Oh I probably shouldn’t joke about that…

You knew that picture was coming.


One row of cells faced large windows that overlooked the water and the city of San Francisco and the audio mentioned those cells had a spectacular view of the sunset. I don’t know but it to me it seemed…not that bad. For a prison. Obviously it would not be a wonderful time, but I’ve visited other prisons and think there are worse ones to be in, especially considering this place was supposed to be for the worst of the worst (though Ranger Steve mentioned that a lot of prisoners were there because of crimes they committed in other prisons). One inmate in an audio interview said the worst thing was sometimes you could hear sounds from the city — especially on New Years’ Eve, laughter and celebrating would drift over the water — so you knew exactly what you were missing. Lives were happening outside, and you could hear it, but you were stuck.

That would suck for sure, but I’ll tell you the food didn’t look so bad.

According to the above display the dining hall was considered the most dangerous part of the prison, but at least they had good food.

I would eat all of those things. If I was in prison I’d want to be running the cafeteria like Red in the first season of Orange Is The New Black. That would be my jam.

It was a great tour — definitely do it if you have a chance! Once you’re on the island you can stay as long as you like and catch whatever ferry back. We were able to do everything in a few hours.

Byeeeeeeee.

Maybe you noticed this but Dawn was donning her sailor’s hat for the occasion, so she used that as an intro to get into the captain’s area of the ferry boat (“Hello sir, as you can see I am also a captain”).

We told the captain that we have driven boats before (I mean I don’t like to brag but I was pretty pro at driving that cumbersome houseboat at Melon’s bachelorette) so he could let us dock the boat. It’d be fine. Probably no one would get killed. Unfortunately he didn’t let us touch anything until the boat was safely docked, but I think we look like we knew what we were doing.

I sadly did not think to bring my captain’s hat (of course I have one), but the captain generously let me wear his.

Just tell people you’re from Canada and they’ll let you do anything.

I actually bought our souvenir photo because I liked it so much.

Ahoy!

After Alcatraz we headed to the Mission District because nearly every single person who recommended eating somewhere said a burrito in the Mission was a must. We asked Kiley if there was anywhere in particular we should go and she said she really enjoyed La Taqueria.

Definitely a no frills dive type place, which are usually my favourite.

When I look it up now I see that there are in fact many restaurants in the Mission with “tacqueria” in their name so, whoops. I don’t even know if we went to the right one. But it doesn’t even matter because I had the best burrito of my life there.

That photo doesn’t do anything justice but that was the freshest most delicious bundle of beef burrito goodness. I could have eaten several.

After checking that off the ol’ to-eat list we Ubered to Chinatown to wait for the Big Bus there (there’s no stop in the Mission). We chose that stop because I hadn’t really seen Chinatown yet, aside from driving past it. It’s quite spectacular and we had time to do some perusing before our bus came.

And then we got back on the bus and rode it to Pier 39. It looked like a really fun area and I wish we had a full day to explore it. Another thing for next time.

I would have loved to go into all the shops but we did see the Pier 39 sea lions!

They’re so cute and funny.

Lots of anger happening on those docks when a sea lion would suddenly move and disrupt the rest of them. We saw a few entertaining fights.

You can read about the history of those sea lions here, but basically after the big San Francisco earthquake of 1989 the sea lions arrived and took over those docks. There was plenty of food in bay and no predators so it seemed like a good place to hang out. So now they just live there.

While we were hanging with the sea lions we met up with one of Dawn’s friends from Ontario, Melissa, who recently moved to the Bay area for work and was meeting us for dinner.

It was her first time in San Francisco as well, so we walked around with her for a while, making our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Another cute area. I never got to eat clam chowder though!

And then, the last supper. Thanks to your recommendations we went to The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant!

They season their garlic with food! I love garlic so I was excited for a garlicky time. It definitely looked garlicky in there.

We started with warm garlic rolls with garlic butter.

And then ordered a bunch of dishes to share. Garlic focaccia with garlic spinach fondue.

Garlic meatballs with cheese.

And a garlic shrimp skillet with a garlic sauce.

Everything was so good, and even though it was very garlicky the garlic was not overpowering. They even had garlic wine! But our sever (who was fantastic and hilarious) told me not to get it because it was awful, so I felt I shouldn’t go against his recommendation.

I did get the garlic ice cream though.

Which was a lot more delicious than it sounds.

It was a great dinner. Not cheap, but so good, and it was the last meal so you gotta do it right.

After eating all the garlic, I headed to the airport to get on my red eye flight to go back to Toronto. I’m sure my seat mates enjoyed my garlickiness. Sorry!

Oh San Francisco, you beautiful, crazy, fun city, you will forever be in my heart!

I had such a good time adventuring around with the Dawnald!

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Uncle Jesse’s and Aunt Charlie’s

On our second full day adventuring around San Francisco Dawn and I got up and dressed, grabbed a coffee (me) and a bunch of two-bite brownies from the snack station at our hotel and walked to our Big Bus pick up in Fisherman’s Wharf. I’m a big fan of hop-on-hop-off bus tours — I’ve done them in Nashville and Boston as well and think it’s a great way to see the city in a short amount of time. We got the two day package which included the night tour so it was a really good deal. And the first stop was about a five minute walk from our hotel so it was super handy.

It was still raining off and on and the top of the bus was uncovered (you can’t see much from the inside bottom, so top is best) but they were handing out free rain ponchos and we wore ours proudly.

We toured through a few neighbourhoods, drove past Hotel Diva (just past the intersection below).

Cruised through the Tenderloin…

We saw City Hall, which is probably the most majestic City Hall I’ve ever seen.

We were on the bus for about 40 minutes before we got to the stop we were after, the painted ladies! One of the most photographed locations of San Francisco.

The stop is just around the corner from them, about a five minute walk.

If you’re a Full House fan, as we are, you probably recognize those ladies from the opening credits.

Unfortunately the park in front of them where the Full House gang is seen frolicking and picnicking is all dug up and muddy right now so we couldn’t leisure around in there. Poor Dawn tried to trek through it and sank into the mud, so that was sad for her shoes.

Mainly we just stood around in front of the houses and got pictures in the shirts we brought for the occasion.

Dawn made us sweet “Danny Tanner is Our Dad” T-shirts, solely for this purpose. Danny Tanner has been a big inside joke between our friends for years so that was just perfect. And no I’m not wearing a fanny pack, my tank top is just sticking out from underneath my shirt. I sure wish it was a fannypack though, that would have been convenient. Should have borrowed my dad’s.

Someone came out the front door of the house as we were standing on the steps getting that photo so that was slightly awkward.

As you may know, the house used for the exterior home shots on the show is not one of those houses. The actual Full House house is in a different ‘hood. We looked it up on my maps and saw that it was only a couple kilometres away so we decided to walk there. We needed to see it! It had stopped raining and was actually sunny for a bit so it was the perfect time to do it. Here is the Full House house in all its glory.

They were doing construction on it (the original Full House creator now owns it!) and one of the workers kept coming in and out, hence the open door. Obviously we asked if we could go in but the guy said his boss would get angry so that was a no. That’s fine, we were just happy to be in its presence and soak up all the Uncle Jesse juju.

Pretty groovy. After our Full House adventure we headed to Haight-Ashbury (named because of the intersections of Haight and Ashbury), the hippie district!

We wandered in and out of a bunch of shops (mainly because it started raining again), we stopped at a gay bar for a quick beer and to use the bathroom (hard to find one in this area) and then stopped at a pizza place for lunch.

I can’t remember the name but Dawn’s crush was on the walls.

The pizza was greasy and good.

After our lunch we walked back to the Big Bus stop to wait for our bus. Dawn had some interesting fashion trends happening.

The weather was so weird. One minute it was hot and sunny and we would shed all our layers, and then it would suddenly be cold and overcast so we would pile them all back on.

The next stop we got off at was the Golden Gate bridge!

And here I am photobombing the bridge.

That is such a beautiful area. I would love to hike around there one day. Not the best weather for that this time around though. So lush!

From there we got on another, smaller, one-level bus that took us into Sausalito, a nearby city in Marin County.

It was super cute and it looked like it had a lot of cool shops and places to eat on the main street, but again that rain made it difficult to explore so we just stayed on the bus tour (our bus didn’t even go down all the streets it was supposed to because of the rain).

So, that’s another activity I’ll have to save for next time. I’m glad we saw it at least a little though.

After Sausalito we got back on our Big Bus to go back over the bridge and eventually back to our hotel. It was really raining at that point though and we were done with it so we stayed mainly on the bottom level. Once we got back to our hotel we cleaned ourselves up and headed back out to the Big Bus for the night tour.

I felt like we were pretty much living on the bus by then.

I would highly recommend the night tour — seeing all the city lights was really cool. And if you do go, I hope the weather is better for you. I was getting sick of sitting in damp coldness by that point and I was on the fence about the night tour until the last hour before it left, but my love for lights won out and I’m so glad I went.

Most of my pictures are blurry but here are a few that turned out okay.

We went back over the Golden Gate Bridge and also over the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island.

Another thing that made the night tour so much fun was our tour guide. He looked like Richard Dreyfuss and his dry sense of humour just killed us. Dawn and I tend to get slightly obnoxious when we’re together and we kept making comments about the landmarks, which he heard and would respond to over his microphone, essentially altering the tour for everyone else. I hope they liked it. A few times we made him laugh so hard he had to move the microphone away from his mouth for a minute to recover.

One time we were going over a particularly steep hill and Dawn and I threw our arms up and pretended that we were on a roller coaster and he was all “well let’s not wake up the neighbours!” I snapchatted that moment and didn’t realize how hilarious it was until I watched it again the next day. I was dying. Anyway, he liked us.

Ponchos aren’t great in the wind. I understood George W. Bush’s struggle.

That’s also what I looked like on the bus when I was trying to wrangle my poncho over my head in the wind.

After the night tour we headed to Flybar (Fulton and Divisadero) to meet up with one of our friends from high school, Kiley, who has been living in San Francisco for a few years. It was so good to see her! She was there with two fabulous friends of hers who Dawn and I loved immediately.

We hung out at Flybar for a while and had a few drinks (sake bombs!) and nachos, and then Dawn mentioned there was a bar on her radar she wanted to visit, Aunt Charlies, a gay dive bar in the heart of the Tenderloin. The three of them had been before and were excited when she suggested it so they didn’t need much convincing. Off we went.

It was fantastic. It was jam-packed (on a Tuesday!) and we arrived just in time for a drag show.

This lady in the picture below sang the Titanic song and it was so amazing.

Dawn talked to the couple below for a bit and they told her they are married and met when they were both students at Stanford. So cute. She was beautiful and her voice was too.

It was seriously one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen and I was so glad we went!!! I had a bunch of Snapchats of the experience so maybe you caught them. Just amazing. It was a San Francisco highlight for sure. Such a fun night with Kiley and her friends!

We really packed a lot of adventures into our trip. Just one day left!

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California Rainin’

After my Lake Tahoe and Sacramento adventure with Cely, I made my way to San Francisco to spend the next few days with my good pal Dawn. I mentioned in my last post that I took the Amtrak train (very similar to the GO Train in Ontario) and I’m so glad Cely told me about that being an option. I was going to rent a car but it would have cost me at least $100 just for that one day and then I would have had to deal with traffic and the stress of driving on rainy unfamiliar roads. The train was leisurely and only $33 (American, but still big savings). It dropped me off outside of the city and then I just hopped on a shuttle bus that took me right downtown. I had planned on taking an Uber over to Dawn’s hotel but it was only about 2km away and it wasn’t raining (for once, it rained most of our time in SF) so I decided to hoof it through the financial district.

I only had a carry-on suitcase and it didn’t love being dragged over the cobblestones on Market Street but I made it!

Dawn and her colleague Lynne had been in SF for a conference all weekend and were staying at the Hotel Diva on Geary Street right by Union Square (the outskirts of the Tenderloin, which looks pretty fun but has some sketchy areas — we asked our Uber drivers what area of the city we should go to if we were looking to get robbed and they all said the Tenderloin). I was only in this area for one night but our immediate area seemed super fun. I also have to recommend Hotel Diva. Our room was cute and we LOVED the guys working the front desk, they became our temporary friends, and they had free shots in the lobby every evening!

Again I was only here for one night, but Dawn and Lynne raved about it also.

They also had a TV that took selfies, so we took one with a new friend.

After I dropped my stuff off and settled in, we walked around the neighbourhood until dinner (we asked the lobby guys which streets to avoid and I felt very safe there).

For dinner we went to Colibri Mexican Bistro, since it’s attached to Hotel Diva and is rated on of the top Mexican restaurants in the city (second best I think!). We ordered a bunch of stuff to share.

All delicious. Not the best Mexican I’ve ever had but still very good. I also ordered the corn on the cob, I’ve been big on getting that lately at Mexican restaurants, but sadly it was either over or under cooked so not the best.

Our server was awful though. I think she just forgot we were there. That was our biggest complaint about the place.

After dinner we were chatting with a gay couple in our lobby and they were recommending places for us to go for a quick drink (it was Sunday so we weren’t looking for anything crazy) and one of the places they told us about was a bar called Kozy Kar. They mentioned it had waterbeds as booths so that obviously sold us. We headed there immediately when we heard that.

It was the craziest bar Dawn and I have ever been to. They did indeed have a waterbed in a booth.

Made a new friend in there. And yes I know a waterbed in a bar may not be the most sanitary but I was on vacation and decided not to worry about that.

They also had a hot tub booth.

On the TV screens they showed 70s/80s cereal commercials mixed with 70s…uh…adult movie clips. There were also naked lady cards blown up and used as floor tiles, Playgirl magazine photos in all their glory covering all the bathroom stalls, a stripper pole, mannequins, and who knows what else. We loved it. WELCOME TO SAN FRANCISCO!!!

Dawn asked Lynne if it was the most outrageous bar she had ever been to and Lynne responded that actually, it was the only bar she had ever been to. Whoa whoa wait WHAT?! Great, we’ve corrupted her. We explained that this was not a regular bar setting and not to get too excited because it basically goes downhill from here. She should probably just not ever visit another bar so as to not be disappointed.

We stayed for a couple drinks and then headed back to our hotel to tell the lobby lads about our Kozy Kar adventures and show them our pictures.

They liked.

Monday was the rainiest day we were there so we had mostly indoor activities planned. We woke up and hit the gym, which I was so glad to do after eating and drinking all the things all weekend. After we showered we moved all our stuff to our next hotel. Lynne was leaving that evening so Dawn and I were moving somewhere a bit less expensive for the next couple of nights, San Remo Hotel. It was the cutest. ever.

We had the tennis themed room

It opened in 1906 and is one of the oldest hotels in the city. It’s right on the border of Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, so great location, and cheaper because there are shared washrooms, though you do have a sink in your room. It wasn’t like a hostel, however. Each toilet and shower was in its own room with a door. Our actual room was small but there were a lot of common areas if you wanted to hang out somewhere. Sort of like a big bed and breakfast. I loved this place and would definitely stay here again.

They had complimentary coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks so that made it better also.

After we checked in and dropped off our stuff we Ubered over to the Ferry Building (thank you for recommending it!)

We enjoyed walking through there and looking at all the food places. It reminded me of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market (though maybe not quite as good? but to be fair we didn’t go on farmer’s market day). It was raining so we couldn’t really check out the outdoor area but inside was fun. Made another friend!

That’s too much to ask, lady.

I snagged some oysters, since those were a big recommendation.

Yesssss. For lunch we went to that Japanese fusion restaurant in there and it was pretty good. And you know I got ice cream from Humphrey Slowcombe.

After wandering around in there for a couple hours we got in another Uber to take us to the Castro (gay district), but our Uber driver was so awesome he wanted to take us on a tour of the city once he found out we were from Canada. He drove us around for about an hour and didn’t even charge us, so that was super nice of him.

He took us down Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world!

You can’t tell from the photo so here’s one from Wikipedia.

The hill was too steep to have a straight road on it so they made eight crazy turns instead. The hilly streets are CRAZY. I would not want to be driving a vehicle with a manual transmission in that city.

We were telling our driver all about Canada (the conversation ended up going there with most of our Uber drivers) and we were saying we didn’t understand the need to own a gun, as we’re not big on guns here (we can’t legally own them, except hunting rifles specifically for hunting and you need to apply for a permit). We can’t even legally carry pepper spray (I do sometimes when I run outside though because I enjoy not getting attacked). Dawn told him that instead of guns, and pepper spray, women are allowed to have grenades. For protection. We just carry grenades around. He was all “WHAT?! I can’t believe you can’t own a gun but you can have grenades!” This went on for a few minutes of him just being bewildered and eventually I felt embarrassed for the poor sucker and told him she was joking. There are no grenades here. I just couldn’t let him leave us thinking Canadian women are carrying grenades around!

After our impromptu rainy San Francisco street tour our driver dropped us off at our destination in the Castro, the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) San Francisco history museum.

It was a lot smaller than I expected, basically just one room, but it was powerful. You may already know this but San Francisco is one of the largest and most prominent LGBT communities in the world. The museum showed the fights and activism for the LGBT community over decades to obtain basic rights. The videos were really well done and one that stood out to me had a transgender woman talking about how in the 70s (I think it was the 70s) there weren’t a lot of options for feminine men or drag queens — they couldn’t get jobs as women, and they would be fired from their jobs as men once their companies learned about their lifestyle. So, many were forced to take up prostitution to make a living. It was that or be homeless. I just don’t understand how the way someone else is living their life can offend you personally SO MUCH when it has absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. The struggle for rights continues, as we know, and it’s so unnecessary. Just let people live! The museum was really interesting and enlightening and it’s only $5 to get in so I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the area.

After that we headed back to our hotel to leisure for a bit. Lynne was off to the airport so it was just Dawn and I for dinner. It was still raining so we popped into the Italian restaurant attached to our hotel — Fior d’Italia, which opened in 1886 and is the oldest Italian restaurant in all of America.

I needed some pasta in my life so I went with the tagliatelle alla bolognese and the house red wine.

No disappointments there!

After dinner we went for a walk in our neighbourhood over to Trader Joes — I’ve never been and it was everything I’ve been anticipating and more! Canada really needs to get on that. We’re seriously missing out.

And then it was back to our hotel to bed. More San Francisco adventures to come.

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