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(well we had a bit of fun before the epidemic became a global pandemic)
This pandemic nonsense had us out of touch for a wee bit.
Kells has been diligently updating our IG.
Nals has not been doing a whole heckuva lot creatively-speaking. Nals hasn’t been super inspired and TBH was in a rut. When restrictions loosened up last year, the P-N-dubs was knee-deep in summer and there were some muses about town.
So let’s rewind to Feb 2020: before the pandemic closed the borders and restricted our lifestyles.
Miss Kells, Cutie T & I took a jaunt down to Portland for a girl’s weekend. It was Cutie T’s first time! And in true N&K fashion, we ate and drunk up a storm. Here is a brief review of the pubs we visited.
We discovered this pub-club by looking online. They had drag queen trivia night scheduled online, but when we arrived, we realized their socials were not regularly updated. The night wasn’t as exciting as we had hoped, but we had a couple beers after dinner and enjoyed a bit of music.
Kells & I were in Palm Springs🔗 last year for our annual birthday jaunt.
We had dinner at Tac/Quila🔗. This restaurant has a nifty story. A lawyer couple decided to change careers. They popped their restauranteur cherry by opening FARM🔗. Then came the second baby Tac/Quila🔗.
Kells & I shared a flight of margaritas (Kiwi Mint, Watermelon, Pineapple, Blackberry, Lime). I’m not particularly fond of tequila but I do love cold fruity drinks. And boy these went down smooth. (Good thing we shared or we’d’ve been in trouble with our own flight.) They all had distinct flavours that we loved. Kiwi Mint, Watermelon & Pineapple were our top 3.
Kells ordered Calamari and a couple tacos (al pastor, chicken). I ordered 3 tacos – carne asada, calabacitas & carnitas. The food was delicious.
Each taco had a distinct focus and accoutrements. Truly enjoyable.
Restaurant had inside and outside seating. However, because of the layout, it seemed like 1 seamless area. There was something to look at everywhere from the ceilings, walls, tables… foliage, people, food or funky carpentry. There was a bustling lively energy in the air. The waitstaff were great.
You must get the flight of margaritas for sharing. Tacos and calamari are bang on. We’d definitely come to Tac/Quila🔗 again.
Foots ¹We had access to the larger pre-pandemic menu last year. But this miniaturized menu is a pretty good cross-section.
Kells, Cutie T & I went on a girls weekend getaway to Portland Oregon🔗, earlier this year (pre-pandemic times). As it was Cutie’s first time, we wanted it to be extra special. We stayed at the ritzy Hotel Monaco🔗.
One evening we chose to dine at Bamboo Sushi🔗 (downtown location). They’ve got 3 locations in The PDX.
K ordered Surf n Turf which was absolutely delightful. Steak was well seasoned, tender. Lobster tail was tenderly delectable.
N took cliffsnotes🔗 (haha) on an old phone. Unfortunately, the old phone died. And now the only menu available is the COVID-19🔗 #socialdistancing🔗 takeout menu. N can’t remember what she ordered, and none of the takeouts quite capture the dish.
The fish was perfectly cooked and well seasoned with amazing sides.
Friendly and attentive but not up in your grill.
Reminded us of an old-school mansion, some large round family-style tables, roomy.
¹We were tucking into our plates when this flashy dude walks into the restaurant with his mum and pops. K recognized him as Canadian magician Murray SawChuk, who has a residence in Vegas. (Of course we gave him a shout out on IG🇨🇦.)
I was craving seared scallops. When I ordered it, the staff said that this would burn the outside while leaving the inside dangerously raw. I usually eat seared scallops or sashimi-style so this was news to N (as well as K). Not sure if it was due to USA’s FDA guidelines¹? But I wasn’t going to argue.
I got the Hawaiian combo with salmon, jumbo shrimp and mahi mahi because it had a bit of everything. Kells got the Surf n Turf with lobster tail and steak. We also ordered a side of charbroiled² scallops. And of course a couple beers to wash it all down with.
The sides (rice pilaf, coleslaw) were nothing to write home about. The fish needed a bit more citrus but good. Shrimp was on this side of being rubbery. Scallops were okay. Lobster and steak were good.
Was friendly. Food came out in a timely manner. (Staff bring orders out to tables.)
This location was in a strip mall, so parking was a-plenty.
Not a destination eatery. But, if you’re in the area and hungry for a casual atmosphere… sure it’ll be fine.
We had opportunity to take a girl’s trip to Portland🔗 recently.
It was our friend Cutie T’s first time in the PDX so we wanted to stay in a central area, park then walk everywhere. We chose Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland🔗
The entrance is magnificent
As you can see, the hotel’s entry is elegant from the outside and… magnificently opulent inside. It reminds us of old gallant hotels for the rich riches but not gaudy or tacky.
The staff and service
Everyone was warm and friendly. Check-in was fairly quick, as we were pre-paid.
As soon as we got to our room, the front desk texted us to say if we needed anything, just let them know. We needed extra pillows, blankets, a straightening iron, suggestions for a night out… and they got back to us!
To the room…
Elevator and walk to to the room was delightful.
… And beyond
This King Suite was sumptuous!
Yes lots of areas to park your sweet booty.
Large, airy, light. Shower, tub, lots of counterspace.
The king bed had a sliding door with a huge TV, dresser, comfy chair, night tables with lamps and plenty o’ plug ins. The bed was fabulous firm. I didn’t feel Kells move around at all. In the evenings, the three us snuggled up with snacks and the TV.
Cutie T preferred to sleep solo on the sofa bed. She had her own TV. Mattress looked a bit thin but Cutie T slept fine curled up in the mountain of blankets and pillows.
Lighting & Space
King bed had large windows with sheets and blackout curtains. There were some floor ceiling and table lamps. Seemed a bit dark in the foyer but who cares.
Room felt very airy, due to the vaulted ceilings.
Mini bar, intimacy kits, snack items and room service are available for additional costs.
Included in-room are animal print robes, landline, basic drinking glasses, bar fridge, hair dryer & delicious toiletries. Other things available upon request (such as Keurig, tea, cutlery and coffee pods).
There were 2 TVs. TVs don’t have internet or bluetooth capabilities. There is cable with pay-per-view options.
Hotel amenities and entertainment
With resort fees, you can use the fitness room.
Coffee, tea, swanky hot chocolate in lobby in the mornings.
Wine, beer, amuse bouche are available every evening 5-7 pm for all hotel guests. They also have live music in the lobby.
Concierge service also available by text.
Valet parking was included in our package. But we were close enough to walk everywhere downtown.
We had opportunity to take a girl’s trip to Portland🔗 recently.
And of course we had to pop in to sample a bit of somethin’ somethin’ at the infamous Voodoo Donuts🔗.
We got there around 9 pm. The lineup was only about 20 minutes. Warning that it can be as long as 2 hours. Since they’re open 24 hours, we suggest checking in on the lineups… and go later if it’s nutso.
We got: -guava colada: kapow guava in centre and soft coconut donut surrounds. -mango tango: yep it’s mango jelly and is fluffier. -dirty old bastard: PB&C have joined forces, firmer texture like a fritter. -portland cream: like the Boston cream but not custard. It was an indescribable flavour. We’d skip this. -maple bacon: yep exactly like it sounds. This will be your jam if you enjoy maple syrup waffles with a side o’ pig strips. -apple fritter: classic and a goodie.
K&I have healthy appetites. But one Voodoo donut could easily feed 2 or 3 folks.
Read about our other Palm Springs adventures and reviews here
We had no reservation and came at dinner time. We were seated outside the kitchen, but with a view of outside patio. This was a great vantage point for people-watching. Restaurant was dimly-lit restaurant. There was that comforting din of murmurs, cutlery clinking, busy-ery. Walls were decorated with pictures of crooners, The Godfather, other Italian ex-pats. There was also a piano player and singer. Our pony-tailed curliqued friend was really good!
Efficient, pleasant but not too chit-chatty. They were incredibly observant. As they were leaving or coming back into the kitchen, various staff picked up our excess dishes, or offered cutlery. I love when people work as a team. This makes me feel supported, and like anyone on the team can (& will) help.
Starter: Crab-stuffed Mushrooms. These were good but not stellar. All dinners also come with garlic toast. This was toast-tastically flavourful, crispy. We had to get a second basket.
Nals’s dish: Risotti Con Funghi. Nals isn’t into shiitake but this dish wasn’t shiitty at all. Risotto was delightfully toothy. “Sauce” was creamy and just coated the rice for perfect separation and flavour. And the con funghi flavour was bang on!
Kells’s dish: Ravioli d’Aragosta: delicious vodka horgonzola cream sauce with 3 large freshly-made ravioli. These monster ravioli were filled with mega lobster. Good flavour contrast of sauce and filling.
Dessert: Chocolate Lava Cake a la mode. Moist, flavourful and rich. Worth every bite.
Recommendation is 100%
Hands down, no question: if you are in Palm Springs and want a delicious Italian dinner: you must go to Castelli’s🔗.
We had a discussion about hikes versus walks🔗. We both think the term hike means a walk-with-attitude. So immediately you know it won’t be as easy as walking to the corner store. Thus, for folks with mobility or health issues, hikes will generally be harder.
If you have concerns… We recommend you research a hike site well, before you go. Reviews are a good source of secret info. You will need to consider access to: Help/Rescue, rangers/guides, cell service, water availability, transport, seaaonal access, etc.
What we love in a hike…
…good exercise, solace, lovely things to see and peaceful to hear. So, doing the Grouse Grind🔗 (in Vancouver, Canada) with crowds, unvaried scenery and a sense of urgency doesn’t appeal to either K or I.
The Cross🔗 is a walk-up, upside big hills† with windy, narrow★ dirt paths. Some parts have rocks, shrubs. Others have a baby-bluff for respite and to take in the scenery.You end up at the summit with a… You guessed it: a big cross.
I’m not in phenomenal shape. But I do cardio 6-7x/week. And, I was quite surprised that I was dying on the Mount Everest-esque hills leading up to the Cross’d summit.
Later, we realized it was 39C, dry blazing sun. I should have drunk more water before heading out.
So our plan for the next day’s hike was to get out earlier to avoid blazing sun. And I’d have more water beforehand.
(And yes, this helped immensely!)
7 Sisters (Water)Falls
There are several beautiful hikes available through the Indian Canyons 🔗.
Kells chose the 7 Sisters Falls hike. The hike took us across a varied landscape. We went from desert dryness to an Oasis to shaded green majestic tree’d areas to big climbable rocks and the soothing waterfalls.
TBH considering it was called The 7 Sisters Falls, I was kind of something explosive. It was definitely enchanting but don’t expect Niagara Falls.
(Kells did this hike with one of her besties last year, and with her infink nephew in a bjorn… And though lovely, it was unfortunately too dry to see the Falls.)
This hike was challenging for me not because it was hard per se. It was more about challenging my own anxieties. I had to cross waters by balance-walking on logs. I had to climb across smooth rocks (smooth=no friction=trouble for Nals). Lots of fallen vegetation around, which creates fab hiding spots for biting, stinging creatures. So yeah… There was that.
I left a piece of myself in 7 Sisters that fateful morning. And, I will always have a piece of 7 in me.
As I was surveying the sheer rockface that I was to climb (that K just basically hopped on like a baby goat), I noticed a nemesis lodged in the rocky outcrop. I said to this stick “we will be like ships in the night, you and I…” Unfortunately, it had other ideas. As I climbed that rockface, I promptly stuck the stick promptly stuck itself into my knee. This gd stick. Just a half-inch diameter. A fallen child trapped in a rock world. Shriveled. Dry. Pathetically beige. And fierce enough to almost penetrate my knee cap. Touché my friend. Touché¹.
The road Runner Trail
The Road Runner Trail is an oddball hike. It’s on the outskirts of the city, near some ritzy hotel and regular streets. Seems like it’d be an easy stroll with nicely planted flowers and shrubs.
Except it’s not… There is a collection of rancid hills that you ascend (then descend). You aimlessly traverse these rando hills for eons. (Remeniscent of that movie The Cube🔗.) And suddenly, you’ve got an amazing bird’s eye view of the area. It’s surreal!
You must become one with the narrow★ trails.
There were times where the precariously-gravelled trail was flanked by (guaranteed) steep falls into one rock abyss or another. In a Black Swan ballet move, some of the gravel seemed fall away at the trail edges, at the same moment I was approaching it. Like a warning. Or a taunt. I paused. Time stood still. Eerie crackle-sounds of the falling gravel. Puffs of dust billowed as each piece bounced off the land, and twirled up again. My stomach lodged in my throat. That gravel bit could be me in a heartbeat. I was quite concerned that it may be idiot-proofed, but not Nals-proofed. It all turned out okay. But it got dicey².
Kells & I loved all of these “easy” hikes.
Side effect: We’ve known each other now for over a decade. We need know each other well. But during the quiet peace of the hikes, we shared some new and interesting thoughts with one another. So yeah, hikes are definitely worth the effort!
Footnotes *For some perspective: The Vancouver walks that Nals has been on were at Burnaby Lake, Deer Lake, etc. There’s the Coquitlam Crunch. I would consider this a hard walk (or easier hike). The actual hikes I’ve previously done were at Deep Cove, or upside a volcano in Costa Rica. Those I’d consider easy but towards the harder side of easy. † I don’t know the difference between a hill and a mountain but this was a big ass mofo hill. So let’s just call it a mountain. With no trees, minimal shrubs and hot dry dirt. ★so narrow that if another person was coming in the opposite direction, one of you needed to hug the wall. And there wasn’t always a “wall” to hug. If you’re afraid of heights then you may want to avoid this one. ¹I survived to tell my tale. How did it happen, Nals? What a weirdo, freaky thing, Nals. This is the life that Nals has come to call her own… Where physics meets magic meets the exact opposite of what Nals was thinking. ²Dicey in my head. Sure, one should be cautious. But, I wasn’t going to let my anxiety rule me.
Nals and Kells went on their annual October birthday girls getaway. This time, they flew to Palm Springs, and stayed at Marriott Bonvoy Indian Wells🔗.
Vanity* got us a lovely newly reno’d mountain view room (on a side that wasn’t going to get construction done on the following day – how thoughtful!). Staff are kind and respectful from front desk, valet, bell hop, pool staff & wait staff.
Construction warning After 30 years, this joint is getting a rehaul! So, there is noise & water-stoppage 7am-4pm in certain areas. We had a room on corner so hardly heard construction. There was some noise when in commons. The in-room water disruption was: some coolish shower water on day 2 (despite using the hotel’s techniques), odd noises when flushing the toilet & turning on shower water for first time. When we were at the pool, we were unable to use the bathroom** in the fitness/pool area. Otherwise, minimal disruption.
Hotel is huge with lots of nooks and crannies to explore: bar, restaurant, ballrooms, fitness centre, stores, spa, parking area, hallways, outdoor seating area with evening firepits, outdoor fountain, lawns, lagoon, …and the errant roadrunner.
Note that the fitness room is available with the resort fee.
They have 3 pools. 1 for kidlets with a faux beach (& beach toys). Bar (with loungechair service) available. 2 small hot tubs. Plenty of lounge chairs. Towels available at pool.
Service by Joel was friendly and non intrusive. Nachos, Corona and the BLT (with avo & turkey) with fries were delicious!
Our room had a balcony, loveseat, small glass dining table & chairs, TV, double sinks, fabulous pillows, comfy AF mattress, hair dryer, Aveda toiletries, mini fridge and Keurig. They supplied coffee & tea pods, condiments, paper cups and water glasses.
We missed . . .
There is no cutlery, mugs or microwave. We would’ve liked a bit more counterspace and dimmable lighting.
Rooms are huge. Renos are lovely. Hotel is large but warm. Staff are fabulous.
We would absolutely stay here again.
Footnotes: *Vanity surprised us with a lovely handwritten birthday card, a chilled bottle of champers and a plate of unbelievably delicious chocolate-covered strawberries. **Canadian term. American term is “restroom”. You will be made fun of if you call the crapper a “bathroom” in the USA.