Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Scotland

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

OH Ye’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afooooooore ye!
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonny, bonny banks o’ Loch Looooooomond

For some reason I’ve had that song in my head for like a month. I’ve been singing it to Evan and Tilly in my best Scottish accent (which is awful). They like it.

Anyway, last week the bloggers and lagers ate Scotland! Aye, we ate it good. I looked up the best place to eat Scottish food in Toronto and the overwhelming Google search result was the Caledonian, a pub on College Street, so that’s where we headed.


It’s all cute and Scottish in there.

Not only are they known for their authentic Scottish food, but also their whisky — they have over 200 different kinds! Their whisky menu was like a novel, it was crazy.

Now, obviously we could not drink all the whisky or we’d be right blootered, but we wanted to do a flight and the Whisky tour of Scotland seemed like a good place to start. It came with six different kinds, each a half ounce: Auchentoshan (12 year Lowland), Glenmorangie (1o year Highland), Glenfiddich (15 year Speyside), Highland Park (12 year Island), Longrow (10 year Campbeltown) and Ardbeg (10 year Islay). Perhaps those mean something to those of you who are whisky savvy, but they didn’t mean much to us.

I like a good whisky with coke or in a cocktail, but I’ve never ordered just whisky on its own. I’m not sure if its something I would make a habit of doing but I enjoyed our tasting. I could taste differences between the whiskies but I dinnae if I could elaborate on the flavour notes or anything. Some of them were definitely more strong than others, and one of them, I think the glenfiddich, was really smoky. This is a very helpful review, I know. I should have taken notes.

I also ordered a Tennents lager, I was excited it was on tap!

Onto the food. If you read my English food post you know I was a little iffy on haggis, Scotland’s national dish.

Traditionally it’s a savoury pudding with lamb heart, liver and lungs, minced with animal fat (suet), onion, oatmeal, stock, spices, etc. and boiled in the lamb’s stomach (though now apparently they use artificial casing), usually served with mashed turnips and potatoes (or neeps and tatties) and whisky. I cannae say it sounds the most appetizing (minus the neeps and tatties).

But, when in Scotland. We’d be a bunch of dunderheads if we didn’t try it.

We started with the Taste of Scotland appetizer with a Scotch egg, sausage rolls and haggis fritters.

It was pure dead barry (fantastic). I loved it all, especially that Scotch egg! If you want to try haggis but are a little weird about it, I feel like a haggis fritter is a good way to get your feet wet. I don’t think I’ve ever met a fritter I didn’t like. The haggis fritter was no exception.

Since I had warmed up to the haggis, for my main dish I just went for it. I ordered the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, Scotland’s national dish of lamb, oats and spices served on a bed of turnip (neeps) and potato (tatties) mash.

Michelle ordered the same and Casey got the vegetarian haggis. I have to say that I really enjoyed that the haggis did not appear to have a casing. I was not creeped out by it at all and actually thoroughly enjoyed my dish. I ate every bite. It just tasted like a mellow lamb dish, but there’s also a warm and earthy dimension in there. Almost like a meatloaf I guess. My only wish was that there was a wee bit more gravy, but that’s a common wish for me.

I noticed that deep fried Mars bars was on the menu for dessert and I was sad because I wanted to order it, but I also wanted to eat an authentic Scottish dessert. GUESS WHAT. A quick Google search confirmed that deep fried Mars bars are in fact a Scottish dessert! (of course they are!) They originated as a novelty item at Scottish chip shops. So, I had an excuse to order it.

Anything in the name of research! Shovelled that right into the ol’ gob. I love a deep fried Mars bar and it’s been so long since my last one! Almost had to unbutton my breeks after that but it was so worth it.

And that’s Scotland!


Wedding Planning Update

A few people have asked for an update on wedding planning and since it’s been about six months since my last wedding planning post, I think I’m due! I can’t believe the big days in in LESS THAN TWO MONTHS!

It seems crazy to me. We’re gonna be married!

I do have some wedding things to talk about, however we’re not having the typical wedding wedding so the planning process has been sort of…I almost don’t want to say it because I don’t want to jinx it…but it’s been fairly simple. I think what is really helpful is we don’t have a lot of vendors or details. Which is exactly how I like it. I have planned several large galas and I know all about the pesky little details that go into a big event like that and I just don’t want to deal with it at our wedding. I don’t care about what’s trendy right now, I want to do what makes sense for us. I do not want a Pinterest explosion. I want to have a fun day with our family and friends and I don’t really care about the little details that no one is going to notice or remember.

I mean, it’s important to remember that is the main point of all of this.

I think it’s also due to the types of weddings we’re having, though. Neither requires a ton of details. We’re essentially having two small, casual weddings with less than 35 guests each — one close family and family friends ceremony and brunch reception here in Toronto (we’re not even having the bridal party at that one), and then a symbolic ceremony and dinner reception with mostly close friends and a few family members in Cuba.

I guess I’ll break this update up into areas so it’s better organized. Sorry if this is long and boring.


Cuba is easy. We chose the same resort we got engaged at last April, the Starfish Cuatro Palmas, a boutique resort in Varadero, Cuba.

A bunch of us are going for a week and I’m so excited. We love it there. However, it’s not a typical Varadero wedding resort… There are many bigger and fancier resorts on the peninsula that seem to be the wedding hotspots. I actually don’t even think our resort has ever hosted a wedding. To me this means our wedding can go in one of two ways: the staff may not know how to handle an event of that nature or just not care and it could be a total disaster, or the staff might be excited they’re hosting a wedding and treat it like a super special event and go above and beyond to make everything fantastic. I’m hoping for the latter. But if it’s the former, oh well! We’ll still have a week in paradise with some of our favourite people. The best thing is, we don’t have to do much for it but show up. We can’t be lugging a bunch of crap to Cuba so the resort basically takes care of everything. That is wonderful.

We knew we wanted to be officially married before we go off to Cuba (I’m not sure if I trust them with all the paperwork), and a lot of our family members can’t make it to Cuba, so the plan was to have a small family-only wedding here first. Initially we were planning on just going to City Hall and then taking our family out for lunch, which sounded easy-peasy but the logistics ended up being annoying. City Hall can only hold so many people, and then we’d have to worry about how everyone was getting from City Hall to the reception location.

So, we started searching intimate wedding venues in the city and one that kept popping up was Globe Bistro, a restaurant on the Danforth that used to be a theatre. Evan and I went there for brunch to check it out and the food was DELICIOUS (very important) and they have space to accommodate both the ceremony and reception so our guests don’t have to move anywhere. Perfect! We knew right away, that’s our venue! We didn’t even look at any others.

We’re also having a brunch wedding because we love brunch and I just think it’s a really cute, low-key idea. And since it’s a restaurant they take care of a lot of details that we would otherwise need to look at (catering, decor), which is fine with me.


I actually have two. I tend to be a messy eater in general, usually even more messy when I’m trying really hard not to be messy, so I could see myself spilling something on my dress at our Toronto wedding and then we leave for Cuba two days later. Disaster.

I found a simple Morilee Madeline Gardner dress that is going to look so good on the beach! I feel like a Greek Goddess in it. So that’s the Cuba wedding dress (no I didn’t link to the exact one). I love it so much. I mentioned in my last wedding planning post that it was the second dress I tried on and though I tried on several others afterwards, that one was always the favourite. It happened to be a lot less expensive than I had budgeted for, so then I purchased a second long bridesmaid dress in cream that I will wear to the Toronto wedding. I love that dress too and I scored both for about half of my original dress budget so I feel pretty good about that. I know I really lucked out.

Can’t show ya yet though!

I have my first dress fitting this week, so that’s exciting. The last time I tried them on they both fit me nearly perfectly (not sure how that happened but they were both exactly my size) so I think I only need slight alterations — mainly bringing the length up a bit on both. In Cuba I’m wearing barefoot sandals for the beach ceremony and then probably just simple sandals at the reception. And these are my Toronto wedding shoes:

Evan’s Suit and Groomsmen Attire

Evan ordered his suit for the Toronto wedding from The Bay when they were having a 60% off Calvin Klein suit sale, so that was lucky. Cuba is super casual so he’s just wearing khakis from the Gap, a white button-up, brown belt, brown sandals, possibly a vest/jacket but we haven’t decided on that yet. The groomsmen are wearing basically the same thing in Cuba, minus the vest/jacket. Evan’s brother (the best man) is wearing a suit he already owns to the Toronto wedding.

Bridesmaid Dresses 

The girls got their dresses for the Cuba wedding from RW&Co. They were inexpensive and the style and colour I was looking for and they look great on everyone so, hurrah.


We just got our wedding bands and I’m so in love with them! We ordered both mine and Evan’s online from James Allen while they were having a Valentine’s Day sale recently.

This is Evan’s:

He loooves the wood detail.

And mine:

(neither are engraved as they appear to be in the pictures, though we may end up getting them engraved…we shall see)

I wanted a simple sparkly band that wouldn’t take away from my lovely engagement ring, and I didn’t want infinity diamonds all the way around (because they get dirty at the back and I don’t think you can ever get them resized), so this was perfect. Here’s how my combo looks together:

I can’t believe how well that band matches my engagement ring (engagement ring is from Diamonds For Less in Toronto, not James Allen). Ah, I can’t wait to wear it for real. We were both so impressed with James Allen!


In Varadero we’re going with AV Smile, a Cuban wedding photographer and videographer. A guy I dated back in my early 20s also got married in Varadero last year, he used AV Smile and then posted his fantastic wedding photos on Facebook, so that’s how I found them. We’re also having them do a video (we figure it will probably be the only time we’re in paradise with our family and best friends so we should do it, and I know I’m going to cherish it), as well as bridal shots with just Evan and I in the streets of nearby Matanzas (a Cuban city). Our Cuban wedding photography package is the one thing we’re really splurging on, but I think it’s worth it. Having great photos is really important to me. Also if this happens I think it’s important someone captures it:

Maybe I’ll embarrass myself at my own wedding and get to be on Ellen again!

We couldn’t do a big photography package twice though, so finding a Toronto photographer on a tiny budget was a bit trickier. A friend of mine referred us to a photographer who is building her portfolio and will do our entire day in Toronto for an unheard of SUPER good price. I’ve seen some shots she’s done and think she’s great so I feel very lucky we found her! I met her for lunch at our venue on Friday and I just loved her. I’m so happy she’s our photographer! What’s kind of crazy is she has the same first and last name as our travel agent for our Cuba wedding. I keep mixing their emails up.


A friend of mine from high school, Ashley, has her own faux flower arranging business called From The Stem Up and she is doing our flowers. They’re not silk flowers though, they’re almost like a latex material, and they look so real! This is not my bouquet or our colours, but just so you get an idea.

She does beautiful work!

Our resort in Varadero would have provided me with a bouquet for the wedding, but just me, not the bridal party. Ashley is making bouquets for me, my MOH and the bridesmaids, corsages for our moms/stepmoms, and bouttonieres for our dads, best man, emcee and groomsmen. Then we’ll just pack all the flowers in our suitcases to bring to Cuba. The best part is I can use my bouquet for both the Toronto wedding and the Cuba wedding! It does have a slightly tropical theme but that’s alright. You can have a semi-sort-of tropical wedding in the city in the spring, right? See, these are the details I just don’t really care about.

Wedding Cake

A wedding cake is included in our wedding package from the resort in Cuba, so that’s taken care of. I don’t know how great it will be, honestly, because I’ve had cake in Cuba and was not overly impressed. But, no biggie. For the Toronto wedding my friend and former coworker (the one who is a really great baker) is doing our cake. I’m really excited for that one! Evan has one request and that is NO. FONDANT. But all the buttercream. We’re thinking something like this (but with different flowers/colours):


Another thing I feel like we really lucked out on is our officiant. She is a blog reader (and a Baptist minister) and she reached out to me a few months ago offering us her officiating services. Evan and I met her for lunch and really, really liked her so we could not be more happy with how that turned out. I love blogging for bringing so many wonderful people into my life! Right now we’re working on the ceremony with her. I think we’ll end up taking bits and pieces from a bunch of different ideas we’ve found online and then add our own personal touches, and we still don’t know if we’re going to write our own vows. If you have any ceremony ideas I’d love to hear them!

Hair and Makeup

We’re doing our own hair and makeup in Cuba. The bridal party and I are having a sleepover this month to have a practice session on each other, so that will be fun. For Toronto I have a professional doing my hair and makeup, as well as my mom’s and Evan’s mom’s. I actually met her through a blogging event last year and she did a fantastic job on my hair. She more does hair/makeup for magazine-type things (she is fancy and has an agent!) but I reached out to her just to ask and she said she’d do it and she brought her price wayyy down to our budget, so, YAY! I’m gonna look so goooood, hopefully people recognize me.

I think that’s it for vendors. I’m making a playlist for both weddings (Toronto we’re not having dancing since it’s mainly family) so we don’t need a DJ. And anything else is going to be DIY (possibly centrepieces for the Toronto wedding). We have our ceremony music and our first dance (in Cuba) song picked out, but I don’t want to give too many details out on that yet…

So I guess that’s pretty much it. My bridal shower and my bachelorette party have already happened…

So the next big event will be THE big event!

I think the biggest challenge will be making our guests at each wedding feel special. I don’t want people attending the Cuba wedding to feel like we don’t care about it, like it’s not a big deal because we’re already married. And I don’t want our guests at the Toronto wedding to feel like it’s not the real wedding. We are so excited for both weddings and I’m so glad we’re doing it this way and not trying to have one giant wedding here (it would be VERY difficult for us to have a small wedding here if we opened it up to more than family). So, I hope everyone has a great time and we don’t have any major disasters.

But in the end we’ll be married and that’s the most important thing.

Ok byeeee.


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…


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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


Emerald Bae (and eating)

After our skiing adventure, Cely and I dropped off our rental equipment, walked back to our hotel, cleaned ourselves up, changed into our best plaid and headed out on the town.

And by out on the town I mean into the casinos. Apparently gambling is illegal in California unless it’s on a First Nations reserve (like in Ontario, though I guess we’re able to have slot machines and racing off of reserves), but the good thing about South Lake Tahoe is it’s half in Nevada! Who knew! (I didn’t.) Obviously there is much gambling in Nevada, so there were several casinos around. Our hotel was in a casino, and Harrah’s Casino and the Hard Rock Cafe Casino were both within walking distance — everything was, it was so handy!

As we were walking to the casino we ran into a lady Cely used to work with, as well as her friend and their husbands so we found a $1 minimum Blackjack table and gambled and drank free drinks with them for a few hours. That was super fun. We met a very vocal Trump supporter at our table — the only one I encountered in California (that I know of) and she was from Texas. Her eyes burned with a fiery smugness and she kept loudly proclaiming that she lived in the real world because she lived on a ranch and had grandchildren. Alright. She definitely wanted to engage the rest of us special snowflake liberals about the current political situation but thankfully Cely was able to derail her.

Eventually we parted ways and Cely and I went off to Base Camp Pizza for dinner. There was a bit of a wait so we ordered beer from the bar, took it outside and watched a band playing old school rock on the patio next door. We ended up having to wait for about an hour but we were talking and listening to the band playing Neil Young while drinking beer so it was honestly one of my favourite hours.

Eventually Base Camp let us in. We started with the fried calamari.

It was crispy and delicious and I loved that it came with marinara sauce. For my pizza I went with the personal-sized (like a responsible eater) Base Camp pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, roasted peppers and onions and portabella mushrooms. It was perfect and I loved it all.

We had a really great conversation and really delicious pizza so, it was a good time all around.

After that it was back to the Blackjack tables. I was doing well for a while and then I started losing and then suddenly it was 4am and my money was gone. As Cely said, time sure flies when you’re losing money and drinking. I had a really good time but in hindsight we probably would have been okay leaving about an hour before we actually did — I would have been up about $200, I wouldn’t have knocked my beer over on the table (possibly more than once but in my defence there were no cup holders!), we may have dodged a hangover, and we would have avoided an altercation where we ended up being the Big Bad Man-Hating Feminists (Cely summed this up well)… But, live and learn, as I like to say (a lot).

The next morning we were not feeling our best but we dragged ourselves out of bed, got our stuff together and headed to breakfast at the Red Hut Cafe. It was SUPER CUTE and I was excited about my pancakes and bacon.

I don’t feel I appreciated those pancakes as much as I should have because my stomach was being a jerk. Thankfully, after breakfast Cely introduced me to the miracle that is Alka-Selzter and I felt like a new woman!

I still hadn’t seen Lake Tahoe which I had heard was in Lake Tahoe, so Cely took me on a mission to prove its existence. She couldn’t let me leave without seeing the lake and I really appreciate her determination on that. It was still overcast (it was actually nicer in Ontario than in California when I was away which is basically the story of my life) but the snow had stopped and we were able to drive over to Emerald Bay.

And hoooooly beautiful. I’ve seen Cely’s pictures and I know on a bright and beautiful day it has the potential to look like this:

From Wikipedia

But I loved it in all its dreariness! It is a gorgeous area.

I should mention that we were having trouble finding a parking spot by an actual trail so we had to do a bit of climbing to get to the view…

Getting off that thing was fun and we basically just rolled down the bank like watermelons. I also accidentally stepped off the packed snow and one of my legs was suddenly buried up to my hips.

Not sure if that picture does it justice but it was a real pickle. I didn’t fall off the mountain though, so that’s a success. Wouldn’t be the first mountain I’ve almost tumbled down. I do feel like I really embraced embarrassing myself on this trip and I think Cely appreciated that as I took the heat off of her.

Anyway, yeah, the area is gorgeous. I got a bunch of pictures.

After Emerald Bay we went back over to the main lake area.

And the clouds parted for almost a minute and I saw a sliver of blue sky!

After our Lake Tahoe adventure it was time to drive back to Sacramento. I was excited to see the view this time as when we were driving into Lake Tahoe it was dark and I couldn’t see much. We saw a few waterfalls and I loved the trees!

We were going to listen to the first episode of the My Favorite (American SIC) Murder podcast but then we got to talking and couldn’t stop so that didn’t happen. I’ve listened to a few episodes now though and I’m really enjoying it! Once we were back in Sacramento, Cely took me straight to Firestone Public House for lunch so she could introduce me to her favourite pretzel.

Oh, hello lover!

I understand why it’s her favourite pretzel. It was the best giant pretzel I’ve ever eaten in my life and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It was so soft and pillowy and buttery and salty and had pimento cheese for dipping. Just a dream. I’m going to have to try to find a similar pretzel in Toronto. I don’t feel like that mission is going to be a success.

I also ordered the grilled cheese because, grilled cheese, but then it came and I was like WTF am I supposed to do with this monstrosity?

Is that an American grilled cheese? It was extreme. We both suddenly had no interest in eating anymore, which is a rare thing. We took our lunches home. We spent the rest of the day on the couch napping and watching movies which was GLORIOUS (we also may have ordered Chinese food). I met Cely’s sister Sari which was a California highlight for me! I loved her immediately. I had never even met her but I felt like I already knew her. She came in when we were sprawled out on the couch in our fat pants and I just felt so comfortable around her right away, like “hello Sari, I’m Cely’s internet friend and I live here now.”

We watched the Edge of Seventeen which I loved so much I wanted to watch it again immediately after. Instead we watched Fifty Shades of Grey which I hadn’t seen but both Cely and Sari had so they indulged me and eh. We should have just watched Edge of Seventeen again. Watch it!!!

The next morning the three of us went to brunch at Cafeteria 15L with their friends Tracy and Heather. They were both awesome and I also loved my bottomless mimosas and my fried chicken and waffles.

My stomach did not love the fried chicken and waffles and I paid for that later but THAT’S OK because when on vacation. That is PECAN BUTTER!!! Oh it was heavenly.

And then I got my stuff together and Cely took me to the train station so I could make my way to San Francisco. She actually parked and brought me straight to the train which I am so thankful for because guaranteed I would have gotten on the wrong one. Or at least waited in the wrong area for a train that was never coming (done that before).

It was such a fabulous weekend and I was so sad to leave Cely. And Sari. I felt like I had known both of them forever and I told Cely that I just wanted to stay forever and be their third sister. I made them promise to come visit me and I really bigged Ontario up so I feel like I lured them pretty good. They better!!!

If you don’t already read Cely’s blog you need to, she kills me and is my must-read every day. And not even a hate read, I love her! She is just as hilarious and smart in person.