Category Archives: Travel

Canadian Bookender: Day 3

Canadian Bookender: Day 3

Sat. Nov. 23, 2019:
Cape Breton trail to Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia:

The previous night I had planned out that for breakfast we would go to Robin’s Donuts next door. In the light of morning I lost interest in the plan: it was in a gas station and it just seemed like an even crappier Coffee Time- no thank you. Plus, I still had my iced coffee. The heated seats in the car were a godsend for my low back.

The Cabot Trail was absolutely beautiful, the trees were covered in a light dusting of snow with the sun shining through. We stopped in at a convenience store to grab snacks to tide us over until lunch: mini Charleston chews, Tostitos and honey dijon Miss Vickies chips. It made for a good breakfast. We were driving to Ingonish Beach. They lie when they call it a beach, it’s really more of a pile of round smooth stones by the water. From the beach we could see the Keltic Lodge (where Brent’s grandma had honeymooned), our next stop. Once up near the lodge we confirmed: it was closed for the season and that was why we couldn’t get a reservation. We listened to Quirks & Quarks as we drove.

The plan was to go for a short hike to Mary Ann Falls. The road signs led us to a trailhead and a closed-for-the-season road. There was a sign saying it was 8km to the waterfall. We got back in the car and instead followed the GPS directions. On the way we got out at Lakies Head overlook, which had been the next destination. It was really neat: piles of red boulders and the ocean down below. Problem was the nice views were such that the sun was directly in my eyes and in my camera. Not helping matters was all the blowing snow. My hands froze and my lens was all spotted. The GPS took us to a close spot to it albeit on the road and there was no trailhead. On to the next stop! The weather was so erratic. One minute it was snowing, the next it was clear and sunny. At one point we had gone up in elevation enough that it was full on winter, the road was icy and covered in snow. So much for going on the Skyline Trail. The scenic lookouts were also a bust. Eventually we got down in elevation and were able to see some scenic views. It was so windy and cold that at first, we were going to skip the overlook but Brent did a u-turn because that was theone, he had written down in his notes. We could see the ocean off in the distance between the valley of two hills. I froze but it was worth it. At the next overlook it was just as cold but at least there was less snow. The ocean was so frothy and angry, crashing against the giant red rocks.

Once we were off the trail, we stopped at NSLC and I got another Bulwark cider. The guy at the register told me they had a Christmas one and I laughed saying I’d already tried it. We also stopped in at the Farmer’s daughter because we had seen road signs for it the day before. We grabbed some cowboy cookies and Brent got a donair bun. We had looped around and realized that we must have driven right by Charlene’s Bayside restaurant the previous day without even realizing it. It was one of the few places I had researched that was actually open. They were seen on You Gotta Eat Here! and known for their seafood chowder and a dessert called “bucket of mud.” I got a bowl of chowder and tried to order a lobster roll but apparently, it’s not the season so I got clam strips and fries instead. Can’t go wrong with either. The chowder was so damn good, some of the best I have ever had. It had so many chunks and was so buttery. It was topped with the meat from a lobster claw. The clam strips were so cheap I had assumed it would be a smallish plate. Man was I wrong. It was a mountain of food. And so damn good, I ate a bit too much. But somehow, I still had room for a bucket of mud. All we knew was that it would be served in a bucket. Digging in, we got spoonfuls of chocolate fudge cake, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and pecans. For all of its heaviness it was still inexplicably light.

As per usual, I fell asleep in the car. How could I not after such a hearty meal? We were staying in a roadside motel and I couldn’t find the thermostat. I ended up wrapping my scarf around my neck and crawling under the covers fully clothed. I turned a dial on a wall that had clearly once been connected to a heater but it was unclear if it still was. Being under the covers just made me sleepier. I played a little bit of Mario Odyssey and alternated it with reading Trick Mirror while Brent watched football. The cowboy cookie was delicious but there was no way I was eating dinner after such a large (and late) lunch. Eventually football ended, so I watched Friends and read during commercials.

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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Travel


Canadian Bookender: Day 2

Canadian Bookender: Day 2

Fri. Nov. 22, 2019:
Moncton, New Brunswick to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia:

The 5am wakeup was quite brutal and consisted of me muttering 5 more minutes. Apparently, the tidal bore can vary by 20 minutes before and after the stated time, hence the even earlier wakeup. It was so dark outside. I was just standing there in my pyjamas, shivering and fidgeting. I was too tired to talk, still half asleep. Just staring at the wide flat still river. Brent thought he could hear the water but it was just traffic. Then I thought I could hear it but maybe it was a train? We looked up which direction it would come from and no sooner had we started to look to the right, the sound of the train got louder and water started rushing in… from the left. It was cool to see the once-still-and-calm water now being a torrent of rushing water and it all happened so suddenly. It was impossible to get any pictures of video because it was still dark outside.

With all the excitement over, it was time to go back to sleep. I adjusted my alarm clock, giving myself an extra half hour of sleep. Even still, I ended up snoozing it. But then I had to get up, I had an hour until checkout. My initial plan had been to go to Co_Pain Bakery and get breakfast, get coffee from Starbucks and come back to the room and read but I had slept too late. On the way to Co_Pain Brent texted that his meeting was finished early, there went my backup reading plans: sitting in Starbucks. Co_Pain was super busy. The space was small so the lineup of 5 people went right to the door. A guy was on his way out and his hands were “full”, he was holding a cup of coffee and a small brown bag, he looked at the door, looked at me and paused. I opened the door for him and he said thank you. He could have easily opened the door himself. When I ordered an almond croissant, the guy asked me if it was ok that it had chocolate in it, heck yes I thought! I was tempted to buy a loaf of bread, everything in there was so fresh but I knew it would go stale by the time I got it home three days later.

I met up with Brent and Vino and we started walking towards the car rental place. Except Vino went too far, we had walked right by the place where he was having lunch and had to backtrack. Soon we were on the road, driving to our first stop: Springhill, Nova Scotia. Another province for me! And it was so pretty too, I particularly liked the welcome sign complete with the lighthouse sculpture. It made me like Nova Scotia more than New Brunswick, it just seemed prettier. There was a billboard for Joggins Fossil Cliffs, I made a note of it just in case we had time on the way back. But it would be second place to going to Bay of Fundy.

In Springhill we stopped at Paizano’s Pizza, it was the site of the restaurant where Brent’s great-uncle had worked as a cashier. It had since been torn down and replaced with the pizza place but we also needed lunch. We got two slices of pizza and it smelled so good. My stomach was still a little bit iffy though so I only had a few bites of each. Except now my back had started hurting and I was getting cramps. There was a (to me) unbelievable moment in the pizza place. A school-aged kid ordered pizza, paid for it and then said thank you AND have a nice day to the lady. I was floored. It legit jarred me for a moment. It was so genuine and nice.

On the way to the Presbyterian church in town we passed by a war memorial and stopped to see if Brent’s great-uncle’s name was on it. It was. nd it was sadly misspelled, just like in the documents. We had backtracked to the memorial when we couldn’t find the church. There was an HVAC business in a church-looking building. Up next we drove to the coal mine museum which unfortunately was closed for the season. I had really been looking forward to going down into a coal mine, it only seemed cooler once we saw the entrance down into the mine, it looked like small hill with a door in it. That made me want to go down there all the more. We at least got to see a pile of coal and some coal cars.

It was barely noon and we only had one last stop: the church where Brent’ grandpa had started out. That was it for the day. And so, we were back on the road: 4 hours to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. The drive was beautiful, lots of rolling hills and for one moment all the trees were covered in snow and then just as quickly we were back to looking at bare trees. It made me feel like I had gone north in Red Dead Redemption 2. Inevitably I fell asleep during the drive. It’s tradition.

We stopped at Timmie’s in Antagonish. I was in desperate need of tea. At first, we couldn’t get to a parking spot because we were blocked by the garbage truck. But a car had pulled in behind us so we couldn’t leave either. I got the donut sticks with Nutella dip and promptly started singing “watch me dip, watch me yay yay.”

Cape Breton had very pretty views of the water, complete with a giant boat and cliffs. We stopped at a Co-op grocery store because they had a NSLC sign (which I quickly gathered was their version of our LCBO). I was pleasantly surprised with the selection: I got three different Nova Scotia ciders, including a No Boats on Sunday mixed berry one. I had just assumed that was an Ontario cidery- my bad. One of the bottles of cider was bigger so we would split it. We stopped at St. Ann’s lookout for some pretty views of the water and the hills. At the second lookout we could see Bras D’Or lake and the sun was setting. It was already getting so dark and it was barely 4:30pm, it was making me sleepy. We stopped at a gas station and I grabbed some iced coffee for the next morning.

The church was right on the corner and had a giant manse next door. It was so dark that we had to take pictures with the flash on. It must have looked so odd. We grabbed dinner from Lick-a-Chick as it was one of the few things, I could find on Google Maps that was open and nothing else had really caught my eye. There were lots of people inside and the place was celebrating its 50th anniversary- both good signs. I ordered a 3-piece meal and Brent ordered a chicken sandwich meal. As we were waiting, I realized we had messed up, we should have gotten one of our orders with wedges instead of both with the default fries. Even more so after I saw that they serve crinkle cut fries, arguably a lesser fry form. While standing around waiting, a man got really excited about some empty mayonnaise buckets, going back to his table twice to discuss with his wife if they should purchase a bucket and if so which one.

The chicken was really good. Brent didn’t want his coleslaw and before he could have a bite, I had pretty much eaten all of it. Good coleslaw with good fried chicken is a winning combination.  Even if the fries were only alright and got cold too fast. Our TV came with a device that was already logged into someone’s Netflix so we watched Jeopardy! while we ate. The Bulwark Christmas cider was good, it earned three hearts in my notebook and I immediately went online to see if I could order it back home. The Malagash heritage cider didn’t stand a chance against the holiday one with cinnamon and nutmeg. I am a sucker for spices. We watched Hot Rod and it was hysterical. We tried to watch Baby Driver but quickly gave up on it. Back to Jeopardy! Then to change it up we watched My Next Guest With David Letterman with Tina Fey. And then back to Jeopardy! I dominated in one episode, the only thing I remember getting right was snake oil based on RDR2. Somewhere in there we had cracked open the third cider, the giant one with a Christmas duck on the label.

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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Travel


Canadian Bookender: Day 1

Canadian Bookender: Day 1

Thurs. Nov. 21, 2019:
Toronto flight to Moncton, New Brunswick:

Our flight wasn’t until 3:15pm, we didn’t have to clear customs and the taxi ride to the airport was covered?! This was my kind of travel. Even with the delay due to construction traffic we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Brent’s business trip to Moncton, New Brunswick had ballooned to an east coast weekender.

The Wendy’s was right behind us at check-in, everything was lining up. Until we crossed over to the other side, not a single Starbucks in sight. I had to settle for Timmie’s which at least was right by the gate. I had a medium tea and chanced upon the brilliant idea to get an extra tea bag, so I had one green tea and one apple cinnamon tea. Genius. It was unbelievable how long one guy near us was talking on his phone. He just would not stop. Instead he switched over to speaker phone. I was one zone ahead of Brent for boarding. I had to get out of there away from that guy. Except he ended up sitting one row in front of me. At least he had stopped talking.

While waiting to board I quickly got bored with my new book The Cheffe, thankfully I had packed a second book and my iPad. I downloaded Nora Ephron’s Heartburn as a backup. I was not in the mood for fiction, but I did need to read one more food-related book. I cracked open Trick Mirror… and then was unable to put it down until we landed. Having just read the intro I was already in the group-chat recommending it to everyone.

My annoyance (PMS?) only got worse once we were all seated. My seatmate had still not arrived. Some guy who seemed like the last one on the plane put stuff in the overhead… and then left. I was not going to do up my seatbelt until the person was seated, except we were taking off soon. Eventually, timed perfectly to when I did my seatbelt that same guy came back. During drink service he asked if they had cream. The flight attendant looked at him confused, thinking the same thing I was: this guy just wants a cup of cream?! Eew. He laughed and so no, obviously he only wants coffee if they have cream. As if it is that different from milk. She asked me if I wanted cookies, pretzels or both. I almost yelled with excitement BOTH! I love Biscoff cookies but pretzels are good too.

It was a really short cab ride to the hotel. On the way to our room we scoped out the spot where tomorrow we would watch the tidal bore. I had pictured us waking up, shuffling to a window, either in our room or in the hallway, and watching it. But we had an exterior room. In the hotel lobby they had a sign saying it would be at 5:30am the next day but Brent had a website that said 6:30. We later found a different website corroborating the hotel time.

We walked over to the Tide & Boar for dinner and drinks. It was one of the two places I had found in my searching of where to eat. The other was the Pumphouse brewery but this place had ciders! So yes, I was a little biased in my choice. We ordered the seafood charcuterie board and umami pork bites. The oysters were in season and as delicious as promised. The little neck clams were pretty good, i got one of the shrimp legs stuck in my teeth momentarily in a not-so-graceful eating of the shrimp. The real standout of the board was somehow the pickled veggies. Who new that fiddleheads and brussels sprouts could be good?! The maple smoked salmon was ok but not as good as the light and airy fish mousse. I had a cider from Fredericton that was strawberry and lime flavoured. Soon Vino joined us and we ordered a boar poutine (what the pub is known for according to You Gotta Eat Here). It was round here I started feeling awful. I don’t know what did me in, but by the time I was scooping some poutine on my plate I felt hot and nauseous. I went to the bathroom and my face and chest were all flushed, my eyes were glassy and bloodshot. It was all so sudden. All I could do to feel better was splash water on my face. I was bloated and so uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe how quickly it all happened. I was really struggling to keep it together. But at this point even just the sight or mention of food was enough to make me feel ill.

I felt a little bit better outside in the cold. It was snowing which was a nice distraction. We walked a few blocks up the main street and then one over. We were in search of Brent’s great-grandma’s two listed addresses from archived documents. The first one turned out to be a bust, it was an empty lot with construction materials. The second one was an even bigger with a giant billboard for condos coming soon. On the walk back I was so bloated I considered unbuttoning my pants. There was a Shoppers Drug Mart across the street but it was past a giant parking lot and I could not stand the thought of walking that far only to find out it was closed. Instead I stealthily unbuttoned the top bottom of my pants under my coat as we walked back to the hotel. All I could think about was a hot shower. Even though it was only 10pm back home, I was ready for sleep.

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Posted by on December 1, 2019 in Travel, Uncategorized


FloriDejaVu: Day 5

Sun. Nov. 10, 2019:
Miami, Florida to Toronto:

It was sort of nice to wake up and just head downstairs and be at the airport. It was way less stressful than usual. The security lady had to pat down my back after the scan and it was mild agony. We barely had any time to linger, we just set our bags down, I was ready to run to a larger duty-free store (near our gate was only a small kiosk), when our flight started boarding. Crap! I got some rum from the kiosk, the sign said it was $7 off, which I assumed meant it was now $21, I was pleasantly surprised when it rang through as $14. It’s too bad there was no sign of Canadian Club or 50% vodka, I had to settle for rum. There were no TVs on our flight, I finished my book and then listened to podcasts, praying that the 20% battery on my iPod would last. It did.

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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in Travel


FloriDejaVu: Day 4

FloriDejaVu: Day 4

Sat. Nov. 9, 2019:
Key West to Miami, Florida:

I woke up at 8am because I couldn’t sleep any more. By some miracle I was not hungover and had slept quite well for the most part. At the hotel breakfast they had two carafes of coffee, one full sized one and one smaller one. Except neither was marked as decaf. This was a game of Russian roulette I was not willing to play. I filled up my cup halfway from each. Except then there was no milk! They had mini boxes of cereal but no milk! At least there was creamer in the hotel room. It was raining, checkout wasn’t until 11am and our lunch restaurant didn’t open until 10am. We settled in to watch TV, Planet Earth marathon alternating with Friends, and wait out the rain.

The key lime pie was good but nowhere near as good as Kermit’s (first place) or Joe’s Stone Crab (second place). The crumb had gotten soggy in the fridge overnight and it was a bit salty but they did get bonus points for serving it with a lime slice on top. It was a nice touch. I ate the last ⅕ of the sandwich from yesterday, it had totally held up and maybe was even a smidge better (or i was just hungrier this time around?).

We checked out and had one last Key West walk ahead of us. First to the car, which was parked a few blocks away. When we left for snorkeling, we lost our prime parking spot right out front. We passed some high school girls doing a car wash at the gas station on the corner. We passed by again via a different corner after we dropped our stuff in the car and headed out to Duval St. for one last walk. I joked about if I walked in would they give me a shower. At least the rain had stopped and it was much cooler now.

Duval St. is drastically different on a Saturday than on a weekday. Everyone is out and about drinking. There were some people who were impressively hammered for eleven in the morning. One lady sitting on a bar patio shouted at Brent, “go Blue Jays!” (She was there an hour later on our walk back). I joked that we had one last chance at Margaritaville. It was during this conversation that I learned it had nothing to do directly with Key West or Jimmy Buffet, that it was just capitalizing on a song lyric from the two. It was more Hard Rock Cafe or Bubba Gump, rather than the Sloppy Joe’s I thought it was. Having just now learned that Key West was nicknamed margaritaville I decided that on the walk back we would stop in at Fat Tuesday for one last walking margarita. Also, I had not gone to Fat Tuesday while we were in New Orleans so it only made sense.

We had lunch at the Conch Shack, another place from Brent’s 1001 Foods book. They were known for their conch fritters but they had a platter of conch: fritters, ceviche and cracked. Arguably that made the most sense to order. Brent also ordered a cheeseburger, given the last one had been terrible and, in my mind, did not count. Now this, this was a cheeseburger! So flavourful and greasy and basic and oh-so-perfect. I also really like the cracked conch, which was just flattened, salted breaded and fried pieces of fish. But the true winner was the conch fritters, possibly one of my all-time favourite seafood dishes in general. As we ate, we heard faint peeping, there was a momma chicken and her six little chicks nearby and they soon got wise to the fact that we were messy eaters, dropping crumbs all over the floor. We were worried about stepping on them when we finished. Some people walked by and saw them and started taking photos, promptly scaring them off.

We stopped in at Sloppy Joe’s for a bathroom break. The place was packed with tourists. Fat Tuesday was just a wall of slushie machines. I went with the smallest of the four sizes. The signs all said that the strawberry margarita was the fan favourite, so obviously I had to get that one. Even still, the smallest size was quite hefty, 12oz maybe? It was good and refreshing except I kept getting rib freeze. As soon as it settled though, I went right back in. We stopped at Kwest to get another pack of the almost-completely-peanut-butter Reese’s cups. They were so good, even better when they were frozen. I also got a Mexican Sprite, we had a long drive ahead of us with few stops. We walked back along Olivia St. for one last look in the cemetery for the cat I had named Floyd, Flossy for short. Alas, she was gone. We walked by the car wash girls again for the third time. As we waited for the light to change Brent spotted a Polish grocery store across the street. I was compelled to go look. There was no bakery, I had really been hoping for some fresh road snacks. They did have singles of beer, which was unfortunate as we had enough drinks. I wish I had known about it sooner. They had a black currant radler! They didn’t even have the basic sól ziołowa! I did get a good laugh at the wing spice that roughly translated to “wild, south, untamed” style.

The Mexican Sprite was so much better than regular Sprite, so smooth and tasty. I was headed from margaritaville to sleepyville, I couldn’t stay awake. I put in a request for a Dunkin’ Donuts stop and nodded off. Unfortunately, the two Dunkin’s we passed were both on the opposite side and hard to get to. I tried to eat a Reese cup but it was so incredibly melty that it was a bad idea. I stuck the top of the wrapper into the vent in order to cool it via a/c. We had been so close to making it the whole trip with only filling up the car before returning it. Alas, as we were almost out of the Keys the low-gas indicator light came on. We would have to fill up the car twice. It wasn’t meant to be. At the gas station I got green apple Fanta and a bag of chili lime (purple bag) Doritos. They had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sandwiches but we were on our way to lunch! I made a note of it for the next time we are in the States.

As we pulled into the Popeye’s parking lot, I saw that they had a chicken sandwich poster in the window. And it did NOT have a sold out sign over top. Things were looking good! We ordered one spicy and one regular. Except than Brent’s credit card wasn’t working and I was down to my last $5USD. We had come so far!! We couldn’t’ fail now!! Thankfully my credit card worked, else we would have had to settle for just one. The drive-thru had gotten so busy that we couldn’t pull out of the parking lot until one car let us pass through. The sandwiches were in little foil bags to keep the heat- except within a few minutes we were chowing down on the regular one. By the time we got to Trader Joe’s 20-minutes later we were finishing off the spicy sandwich. It was very good, I loved the soft buttery bun and the fried chicken was so good. I still could have used more pickles or lettuce or mayonnaise. I lean a little more towards it than Chick-Fil-A because i am a sucker for that crispy skin. The apple Fanta was really hitting the spot.

Trader Joe’s was confusing. There was a line to get into the parking lot and a guy in a vest directing traffic. Brent pulled into the parking lot of the Burger King across the street while I ran in. I grabbed as many jars of Everything But the Bagel spice as I could safely carry. It was actually half of the stock left. The guy looked at my five jars and looked at me curiously. I said we didn’t have it in Canada. He understood, he knew they were $10CAD each on Amazon. In total I paid $11 USD for all five of my jars. I immediately regretted not running back and grabbing the rest that were left on the shelf. But then I thought of Brent sitting in the parking lot and I rushed out. I had already taken longer than I’d wanted because the cashier was so chatty. He ended up shaking hands and exchanging names with the guy in front of me in line.

We topped off the gas tank in the car and I ran inside to grab an iced coffee for the next morning (something i had forgotten to do at the first gas station). I also found a Hershey’s strawberry and waffle chocolate bar and summer splash Starbursts. We were staying at a hotel in the airport which would save us some time the next morning and make the early wakeup a little less brutal. Our room did not have a mini fridge but it did have an ice bucket. We arrived in the room right at the start of halftime in the football game, perfect time for Brent to go get ice while I started on packing. I filled the sink and arranged our drinks while Brent went to get a second bucket of ice. I added the Reese’s cups in there as well. Packing was like a game of Tetris, I really had to cram everything in. The All Day watermelon wine spritzer was surprisingly good, given it was a wine from the band of the same name. It felt a little like a prank but it got the job done. The rose one was better though. I had a funny photo of both of them sitting in the sink on ice. I played a little Mario Odyssey while Brent watched football. We finally cracked into the tostones, they were not good. Far and away the worst we’ve ever had. Thankfully we had the backup Doritos which tasted faintly like Froot Loops thanks to the overpowering lime. The frozen Reese’s cup was so good. I kind of regretted not just grabbing the whole box.

When we checked in we saw that there was an airport Margartaville, I joked that we had one last shot. Now that we were out of hotel drinks, it seemed kismet. I was finally going to Margaritaville! It reminded me of Jack Astors. Our table was a surfboard. I had considered getting the original margarita but then Brent said he was also getting a margarita, so he got that one while I got one with fresh raspberries. Good thing, given the original was way stronger and it would not have ended well. I’d already had two cans of wine. They were not spritzers, it was just straight up wine. Eventually i realized the strength of my margarita had been masked by the raspberry puree. We split an order of the chicken quesadilla, it was alright. The real winner was the chips and guac on the side.

Back in the room I was trying to write in my notebook but I was fighting a bad case of the mega-hiccups. The shower was one of those high-pressure ones, not great on my sunburnt back. I flipped between Love It Or List It and a Thanksgiving cooking show.

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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Travel


FloriDejaVu: Day 3

FloriDejaVu: Day 3

Fri. Nov. 8, 2019:
Key West, Florida:

The key lime pie from Kermit’s was so good, it was the best one yet (and overall, it is still the best one I’ve ever had). The pie was smooth and creamy and the crust was barely noticeable but in a good way because the crumbs were so buttery, they just blended right in. We had an early wakeup on account of the rescheduled snorkeling trip. It was way too early for me, case in point my notebook: “there was no coffee for milk again” and we were up before the hotel started serving breakfast. Thankfully I had spotted a Dunkin’ Donuts on our way in yesterday and wouldn’t you know it we had to go back that way to get to snorkeling. It was meant to be. I have never been in the States this close to Christmas before, I was tempted to buy a DD donut Christmas ornament or a winter hat but it had a pompom. The gingerbread s’mores flavour was alright, it was a bit too sweet for my liking but they nailed the marshmallow flavour. Our snorkeling trip wasn’t until 9:30am but we had to be there early to sign in and get sorted. I felt naked without my rings on.

There were more people on this trip than the last time we had gone snorkeling which was good, we didn’t have to make small talk. As we sat on the boat in the dock going over the safety procedure it started raining. Luckily, we were under the roof, but some of the others just sat there in the rain instead of either stripping down to their bathing suits OR coming under the roof. It made no sense. It was about a 30-minute boat ride to the first spot off Louee Key. We passed by Palm Island. Brent looked into staying there because they had snorkeling out to the coral reef we were going to, but they still haven’t fully recovered from the hurricane two years ago. I had a mild flash of panic at the thought that we were out in the open ocean with no land in sight, it was unsettling to think there was nothing to swim towards should something awful happen. We didn’t have wetsuits or pool noodles. Instead, in the interest of safety, we had to wear screaming neon yellow vests that could be inflated. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I really was expecting to have to go back to the boat for a noodle. As always, I had to remind myself that with the snorkel I could breathe with my face in the water. Even still, the first few times I held my breath. Then I would only put my face under for short intervals akin to holding my breath. Even then I was still breathing heavily and having to remind myself to calm down and just breathe normally. All I could hear was my heavy breathing. Adding to my discomfort I couldn’t pee in the ocean.

We also had some scuba divers on our boat and it was neat to look down and see them far below us, much closer to the reef. They scared a school of yellow fish who swam up to the surface and I just floated along with them. It was kind of fun swimming along with them, I had finally gotten used to swimming with the snorkel mask and breathing normally. There were two giant beautiful blue (parrot?) fish pecking at the reef. One fish had a red head and a green body and reminded me of Christmas or a traffic light. It was not a stop-light parrotfish though. Back on the boat waiting for everyone else to come back, we tried to identify what we had seen using laminated cards. It was hard to focus as the boat kept rocking and we were both trying to keep it together and not get sick. I was too tired to go back in. at the second spot everyone was clamoring to one spot but i was too slow to get there in time. I missed seeing a shark! The annoying yoga dad would not shut up about he got “like 40 seconds of shark footage,” as if that is so impressive. Brent got to see it, but he missed out on the eel that the last stragglers saw. He missed out on it because he wasn’t doing so well. I knew he had gotten sick because when I looked over at him, he was suddenly surrounded by fish. Gross yes, but it was also effective. It was cool to see all the fish poking about and the corals were a beautiful shade of deep purple. The coolest part was that at first you could barely see much, but as your eyes adjusted a whole underwater world would appear. The ocean was an incredibly beautiful shade of blue that was unreal. Off in the distance you could see the shallower corals as darker patches of ocean. Towards the end I was kind of just swimming laps, not quite tired enough to risk being on the boat but too tired to swim out too far. Back on the boat I was tired and hungry and trying so, so, SO hard to keep it together.

Back in the shop I purchased the salt & coconut oil scrub I had sampled in the bathroom that morning. Their marketing gimmick paid off. On the way back we stopped at Wendy’s and Publix for lunch. We grabbed spicy chicken nuggets with creamy sriracha dip from Wendy’s and ate them in the parking lot on the way to Publix. The chicken nuggets were so damn good, they need to be a regular thing and made available in Canada, as does the equally good dipping sauce. The selection at this Publix was not as good as the previous one we had been to. They didn’t have the holiday turkey sub but they did have the Miami Dolphins one. I got the Havana Bold which a lot of people said was good. Watching her make it, I realized oh man it was meat heavy: ham, bacon and melted cheese. I added some spinach and lettuce and pickles to try and balance it out. The drink selection was equally paltry, I got a Stella Artois cider and was about to give up when I found two wine spritzers from an aptly named company, Day Drinkin’. To change things up we got a chocolate cake slice with buttercream. There were no wacky Oreos but I did get the Publix brand raspberry iced tea (another internet recommendation).

The sandwich was indeed heavy, but so delicious I could forgive that. Needless to say, I didn’t finish it. That’s ok, it would hold up well for later snacking. The raspberry iced tea was more of a sweet tea. The chocolate cake was a sad pathetic dud, it was hard to believe it was from the same bakery! Our final verdict on Pub Subs: chicken tenders are the best. At first, I was not impressed with the Floyd’s spiked lemonade but the more I drank it the more I liked it (shocker!).

We left earlier this time for the sunset, we had to make a pitstop at CVS for aloe. When Brent had mentioned getting sunscreen for our snorkeling trip i laughed, it’s November I said! Turns out i was wrong and now we both had badly burned backs. I felt bad for laughing earlier. I was also hoping to find the Burt’s Bees Res-Q ointment for my itchy legs but there was no sign of it. They didn’t have any travel-size aloe but it was only $3 and we needed it badly. Brent was wearing his Santa Paws t-shirt and it seemed to be a cat charm. We had met three super cute cats before even getting to CVS. We also passed a couple who were debating whether or not they should go back to the hotel to change first. She was in a thong bikini. She was nowhere near a beach, a boat or a pool.

I joked again about going to Margaritaville and Brent called it lame. Except then he mentioned that he had looked into staying at the Margaritaville resort. What a missed opportunity! We walked out to the pier for the sunset except we arrived at a hotel (?) dock with a giant yacht, not the nice square from yesterday. There was a drunk guy on the yacht yelling at the people on the land down below about how drunk he was that he couldn’t remember who he was. I needed to get away from him, fast. We walked along the waterfront, periodically stopping so I could get a slightly different view of the sunset. We sat down by the busy waterfront. The beauty was periodically interrupted by a terrible singing busker, she really needed something new to do. And a lady talking about her “energies” and how they can be neither created nor destroyed, just repurposed. There were a lot of yachts and sailboats out on the water making for pretty pictures. To complete it, a seaplane flew by as well.

We walked over to Tiki House because apparently tiki bars are a Keys thing. I based this solely on the number of bars I saw on the drive down. Given we were in a tiki bar, I had to order a zombie cocktail. I grabbed a table while Brent went to the bar to order. I could not see him around the pillar, apparently, he was trying to get my attention. I could see why when he arrived. There was a blue flame shooting out the top of my drink. They lit a lime on fire! It seemed a bit dangerous. I took a picture then took a sip, only then realizing I had taken a picture of the backside of the glass. Oops. It was such a popular drink that they had it premixed on tap. I liked the hint of cinnamon. It was also very appropriate as I had listened to an episode of Gastropod about tiki bars and the zombie cocktail a few weeks ago. A lady walked up to us and asked me about my fire drink, I had to explain to her that you first have to blow the flame out and then take a sip. She was not as drunk as the guy dancing by himself, his shorts slowly falling down. We missed it, but it looked like he had been asked to leave the bar.

Up next in our mini bar crawl we went next door to Captain Tony’s, allegedly the original site of Sloppy Joe’s before it was called that, and they also claimed to be Hemingway’s favourite haunt. As if the man could not have two favourite bars?! We ordered at the bar and got a table. This was the strongest but not the sweetest mojito of the trip. The more I drank the more I contemplated taking off my bra and donating it to the bar to add to the decor. The bar was strung with bras overhead. Literally hundreds of them. This bar was more dive-y than tourist-y and I liked it. There was on food menu and they only had two cocktail options: mojito or a rum punch in a 22oz souvenir cup. I joked about one day dying in a house filled with crappy plastic souvenir mugs and the poor soul who would have to clean the place out. I was tempted by the latter, but the size put me off- i still had to make it to dinner. It seemed a little more like a place Hemingway would like, compared to Sloppy Joe’s. All around us people were smoking cigarettes, it was odd given how long it has been illegal back home. The place was filled with drunk baby-boomers. A guy walked in just to use the bathroom. He was wearing a cream coloured linen suit and he could not be more Miami vice if he tried.

We couldn’t cross Duval St because there was a parade of speed-boats. This did not bother me in the least, I was feeling nice and slightly drunk (or loose, if you believe my notebook). We had missed all of the speed-boat races and now we were seeing the end of the parade. Except there were still going to be races that weekend, so why the parade? It made no sense. Plus, the boats were pulled along in trailers on their sides. One of the boats had people on it tossing little bottles of chocolate milk and then the next one was tossing mardi gras beads. We followed along behind as it wrapped up.

We stopped in at Kermit’s so I could get the fancy tin of cookies. I also sampled some of the other key lime products and debated getting the key lime peanuts as a late-night hotel snack but Brent talked me down. We were on our way to dinner after all!

Pepe’s was predominantly known for their key lime pie so our dinner options were wide open. When the server led us to our table, he apologized to a black and white cat that he had disturbed. It was when I turned, I saw that the merchandise featured a cat. This restaurant had its own official cat. I was all for this! Brent had the filet mignon with green beans and one of the best baked potatoes I’ve ever had, so good and salty.  I ordered one of the daily specials: mahi mahi with pink shrimp and lobster sauce. I had coleslaw and corn on the side. Both dishes were excellent. To start I had a rum punch to make up for earlier. The people next to us were some lit baby-boomers. One of the husbands started talking about when he first discovered bourbon, at which point I locked eyes with his wife and we both chuckled. They had the same salt scrub in the bathroom and I was tempted to buy more. We got the key lime pie and my freshly squeezed juice margarita to go. And from here things just started to go sideways. It was a strong margarita. I remember saying something about a dingy taxi resembling a coyote?

We got to Duval St. and it was packed, all the boats were packed in the streets and people were crowding around and drinking. It was like a mild, middle-aged Bourbon St. At this point I was “comfy drunk.” We stopped at KWest to get Brent a walking beer so he could catch up to me. I found peanut butter topped Reese’s peanut butter cups and it was the closest we’ve ever been to finding all peanut butter Reese’s cups! I tore right into it, forgetting that we were in Florida so of course it was a melty mess. It was a king size, so my second one would have to wait until it froze a bit back in the hotel. It was so damn good though that i did periodically consider eating it, even though it would be even messier, having had more time to melt. Passing by the cemetery the usual cat wasn’t there, which made sense, she was probably out hunting.

Back in the room I got into my pyjamas. We alternated watching Planet Earth and Spongebob– as in the exact same shows we had been watching before we left for the sunset hours ago. We put the pie in the fridge, we were still too full from dinner (good thing I hadn’t gotten more snacks). The pie would have to be for breakfast, as was quickly becoming tradition. No complaints here, I was all for it.

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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Travel, Uncategorized


FloriDejaVu: Day 2

FloriDejaVu: Day 2

Thurs. Nov. 7, 2019:
Marathon to Key West, Florida:

I had made until 9:30pm before caving and going to bed, I had to stay up and watch the new episode of Modern Family to see if the show still holds up. It was alright. It had been a rough night, I had trouble falling asleep and then later I woke up with a massive headache around 2am, in my tiredness I was somehow convinced the water was not safe to drink.

Before heading out on the road, we stopped at the gas station across the street because our hotel room had no creamer or milk for the coffee. There were chickens in the parking lot which lent a lot of credence to the fried chicken shop in the gas station, I joked that it must be really fresh. One of the chickens started clucking at me when I took their picture. The coffee was what you would expect from a gas station but it did the trick. We split a chocolate Moon Pie for breakfast. At first it kind of looked like a Jos Louis but it was more of a cookie with marshmallow filling and then all covered in chocolate. We also got a bag of tostones for snacking on later and a Mexican Pepsi. I saw a pink bird flying overhead and correctly guessed that it was a roseate spoonbill once we saw the beak shape. The only reason I knew this was from my time spent playing Red Dead Redemption 2.

It was a good thing we had stopped for that coffee because we didn’t pass anything until we got to Key West an hour later. I would’ve been one sad cupcake. We got to our hotel around 11am and check in wasn’t until 3pm. We thought there was still a chance our room could be ready? Nope. At least we got one of the few parking spots outside of the hotel. Everything was in walking distance of the hotel, so we didn’t need the car.

It was a short 15-minute walk to Hemingway’s house. There was a sign by the ticket booth saying “do not pick up cats.” This was my kind of place! Cats! It was really funny once inside to see the signs telling visitors not to sit on our touch the furniture and yet there’s a cat, sitting on Hemingway’s bed cleaning itself. There were so many cats throughout the property, that alone has it ranking in top historical houses of all time in my opinion. In the museum texts they referred to Hemingway as “virile” which was just hilarious. It was nice to see his writing studio and, in the end, I left the museum wanting to read a biography of Hemingway. Partly because I wanted to learn more about the six-toed cat he was gifted and how he became a crazy cat person.

From the balcony I could see people across the street that had climbed a tower of some sort. I wanted that view! I demanded we go across and see what it was. The tower turned out to be a lighthouse, except it was no longer on the coast but inland. Apparently, it had gotten destroyed in the mid-1800s so to protect it they rebuilt it further inland away from the coast. There was a funny sign by the ticket booth stating how many steps and that no you cannot see Cuba from up there. We had a good view of the entire island and we could see the southern most tip of the USA. Ergo, that was where we had to go next. I did not enjoy the stair climb up or down, the heat and the tight narrow winding made for a bad combo.

There was a giant buoy marking the southern most tip and apparently this was quite the sight to see. There was a line up of at least 20 people waiting patiently to have their photo taken beside the giant painted marker. One guy’s wife stood off the side of it, almost in the street, circumventing the line. I took a photo of it from the other side, I didn’t get the text telling me it was 90 miles to Cuba but I also didn’t care.

Up next on our sight-seeing tour we took to the main stretch, Duval St. Aka party central. We stopped in at Sloppy Joe’s for a drink because apparently this was Hemginway’s favourite haunt in Key West. We debated that over two drinks. It was not the original name, location or ownership. We still had to go as it was a “Key West” thing to do. The musician in there sucked and thankfully he finished up soon after we arrived. For the first round Brent had their in-house beer and I had a rum runner because it is the “official” drink of Key West and it was made with local rum. It was actually really good for something containing dreaded banana liqueur. For the second round Brent had a margarita and I had a key lime cider. It wasn’t very limey but still pretty good. This was a rare occasion for us to trade halfway. We also got the second round for free. After our first order the server gave us a bill but we said we’d be having another so she took it away. Then another server got our second round and, in the end, we only got charged for two of the four drinks.

here was a line out the door of people waiting to get into Margaritaville. All it says in my notebook is: WHY??? We were unsure about the open-drinks policy, it kind of seemed like it was allowed? We walked over to where we would be watching the sunset tomorrow to scope out the place and make sure it was good. It appeared to be more a bar patio than a dock. But it was pretty casual and we could just get a drink.

We continued along the pier to scope out the evening’s dinner and sunset spot. It didn’t seem like a particularly good spot, maybe it we had a table on the upper deck? On the way we saw all of the speed-racing boats and people crowded around. I did not get the appeal of looking at a bunch of boats in a parking lot.

We had lunch at Conch Republic Seafood Company. We had to keep it light as it was already afternoon and our dinner plans were early because they centred around sunset. We split a conch chowder and a callaloo dip. The chowder was more of a spicy soup but still very good. The dip was basically spinach dip except with the Caribbean plant callaloo instead. It was surprisingly good and I liked that it was served warm. I had tried to order a key lime mojito but with the Pilar local rum. The guy looked at me confused, the key lime mojito is made with key lime liquor and apparently you can’t swap them out. So, I had the “Hemingway” mojito which was made with that rum. It was the worst mojito I have ever had, I should have known it would be trouble when it was served in a pint glass. It was more soda water than anything else.

We walked back along the marina side of the pier (on the way to lunch we had walked along the road). We saw a crowd gathered by the dock so of course we had to go over and investigate. We could see giant fish swimming around, why were they hanging out so close to the dock and to fishing boats?! As we kept looking, we saw a giant grouper and as if that wasn’t exciting enough… a shark casually swam by! It was the most exciting and unexpected thing to happen. I did not think that I would ever see a shark in the wild in my life and here it just randomly happened. I’ll admit, I found the shark pretty cute, just swimming along. I did not expect grouper to be either so big or so ugly, it stands in stark contrast to how delicious it is.

We walked to Ben & Jerry’s on Duval St for dessert. On the way we passed by a momma chicken and her little babies peeping, it was too cute. There was a guy sitting on the stoop outside saying the place was closed but the girl who works there said to ignore the idiot. Things only got weirder inside. As we were deciding on flavours another guy came in and she was talking to him. Apparently, he had squirted her boyfriend’s 5-year old kid and now she was saying (jokingly?) that her kid had PTSD? It was all way too weird for me. We got our ice cream and got the heck out of there. I was so happy to finally get my Phish Food fix BUT it melted so damn fast in the Florida heat.

We still had time to kill before our room was ready. We headed over to the zero-mile marker, because according to all the tourist tchotchkes in the shops, it was a thing to see? We ran across the street, got a picture of the marker and ran back before the light changed. (We later saw that our side of the street also had a marker, oops.) We started back towards Duval St. where I had seen a liquor store but then Brent found on one the zero-mile marker street so we went there first. I am sad to say that there was no green parrot at Green Parrot Liquors. The selection was also not that great. We walked back to Duval St. to KWest liquors. It only dawned on me later that it was not “quest” but “Key West” and I momentarily felt like a dummy. The selection was also terrible, until we found the cooler of ice and singles near the door. They had singles of The Claw, we didn’t need that 6-pack after all (but how were we to know that?) I even stopped at a corner store on the way and struck out again. I would be needing a Publix pit-stop the next day.

Brent cracked open his Jai Alai for the walk back to the hotel. I was carrying the other Florida beer. It was a cinnamon and hibiscus beer, it did not sound good. It was nice and cold so I held it against my head and neck. Eventually it warmed up and the can was dry. We passed by the graveyard again, it was weird because all the tombs are above ground. There was a cat sleeping on one of the graves. We also saw two roosters fighting in the street, an actual real-life cock fight. The winner strutted around inside the cemetery while the loser stood on a car and kept looking back in at the cemetery.

There was a line when we got to the hotel. The lady in front of us checking in was claiming that her ugly little yappy dog was a service dog. There was no way it was. Then a guy came in all huffy and mad and angrily sat down in a chair. He cut us off and started complaining his key didn’t work, he asked for a key that does work. The (poor) hotel clerk said all the keys work, and was about to offer him another key. But then another lady came in, she wanted some water bottles. She told the guy to try the other lock on the door. She looked at us, clearly waiting in line, apologized and continued ordering two bottles of water. Then she realized she had no money and went out to get her wallet. We just stood there whole time watching this saga unfold wondering what the f—k is going on here?! Our hotel room was more of a small apartment again. This time we had two bathrooms! The living room had two air-conditioners and a fan.

The nice cold Strongbow was just what I needed after all that heat. I settled in with my ebook, there was zero chance of any good TV in the middle of the afternoon. At least the wifi was finally good, it barely connected at the last place. We looked up the time of sunset and headed back out to Schooner’s Wharf restaurant. They are listed as good spot to watch the sunset, but even when we went up to the deck, the view was not that good. We left and walked over to the Sunset Pier. We caught the second half of the sunset as we walked over to Mallory Square. Now THIS, this was the place to watch a sunset! Beautiful unobstructed views, no restaurant requiring us to make a purchase. In the view we had all of the yachts and sailboats that had gone out on the water to see the sunset. Periodically a speed-boat would race through. The square was really nice, we were going to come back for sure. On the way out we passed through a gift shop but there was no sign of a manatee magnet for Adrian.

We went back to Schooner Wharf for dinner. It was an outdoor covered patio but it was so poorly lit. We had to use our cellphones to illuminate the menu. We were sitting near the stage where a band was setting up. Brent kept singing cheeseburgers in paradise and saying he had to order a cheeseburger. I didn’t get it. They were known for their pina coladas           (hard pass), conch chowder (we had it for lunch) and conch fritters. Our server gave me a weird look when I ordered the Key West shrimp BLT with no tomatoes. It’s not that odd a request when you have something else in there in addition to the BLT part. The sandwich was so damn good, as were the conch fritters. The only let-down was the burger, it was bland and all I could taste was onions. I finally got to try key lime mustard and I loved it. So much so I made a note to myself to buy it or find a recipe to make it. I finally got my key lime mojito fix at dinner. It was so much better, with just a splash of soda water. It was really sweet and it went down way too easy. For my second drink I had another mojito, this time made with 21-year aged Panamanian rum. I had sip of Brent’s pina colada, only verifying my stance: they’re so gross. I kept saying thousand percent nope in response to it. The band playing was much better than earlier in the day, they were actually good.

We stopped at Kermit’s Key (West) Lime Shop for key lime pie for dessert. Well actually, it would be tomorrow’s breakfast, we were both stuffed. I got key lime ice box cookies for my co-workers and family as souvenirs. As we headed back, I kept thinking about the larger size of cookies that came in a tin with a nice painting of Hemingway’s house complete with cats on the fence. I cursed myself, I should’ve gotten that one and used the tin to store my travel mementos! What was I thinking!? I had to go back the next day, it was decided. We stopped at a convenience store and I got a strawberry Fanta, again the drink selection was paltry but I also didn’t really need another drink. Those mojitos were strong. We watched the new Jersey Shore reunion (or according to my notebook “remix”) show and I yelled at all the plot holes.

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Posted by on November 13, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding, Travel

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