I’ve seen many fireworks in my lifetime, and they have always brought me gleeful, albeit short lived, moments of joy, but I never imagined a place so in love with these shows of light as Bonaire. The firecrackers started as soon as we arrived (on Dec 27) and did not let up until New Year’s Eve, when it seemed everyone on the island held their own hour long display (yup, I said hour and some “shows” continued well past 2am). We stood on the rooftop of the Djambo and watched all around us as the people of Bonaire competed for our attention; it was an incredible sight indeed, and was the perfect way to cap off a fantastic BBQ dinner hosted by the Djambo owners Dick, Liselotte, Martin and Isle.
New Year’s Day was equally entertaining. I must add here that I have mad respect for places that don’t bow to the whims of the tourist; everything on Bonaire is closed on Xmas and New Year’s Day including National parks and the so-called “tourist attractions”. I think if you visit a place it is because you want to experience the place in its everyday workings; I don’t want anywhere to change for me. We planned another day of exploring the beautiful reefs, and lucky for us the Cadushy Distillery was open and provided an interesting morning stop on our way to spend the day in the ocean. Run by yet another couple who came on their honeymoon and never went home, The Cadushy Distillery is Bonaire’s only distillery. They specialize in spirits and liqueurs made from cactus and other locally grown ingredients; a homage to the family of islands and the history surrounding them. The tastings, tour and accompanying history of the island makes this worth a visit, and in our case, was a great way to start off the year.
I’ve only ever stayed at all-inclusive resorts when in the Caribbean, and while the convenience of not having to worry about food or drink might seem appealing, being locked up in one place doing the same thing every day is definitely not how I like to travel. This time down south we rented an apartment; this is how most people set up shop in Bonaire, and the fact that there are really no resorts on the island testifies to the fact that this is a place for people who like to do things (scuba, kite-board, snorkel, hike, bike, etc.). There’s something great about hitting the local supermarket to stock up your temporary home with all the food and drink you love, and if you so choose, also have the option of hitting the local restaurants and bar. This, my friends, is really the best of both worlds. All the apartments here at the Djambo open up to the centre courtyard pool & bar, which (along with an outdoor kitchen) pretty much makes this the best accommodation I’ve ever stayed at.
Yesterday was a glorious day here in Bonaire. We keep meeting people who arrived on vacation and never went home, and it’s easy to see why. One of those transplants is Haiger, owner and chef of the famous Cactus Blue food truck, which finds its permanent home on Kite Beach. Although we didn’t get to taste his famous lion fish burgers, we did enjoy beer and stories with him; this was a perfect way to end a day of kicking back on the beach and watching our guys on the water.
There are many reasons why I train with Marv at Blast Athletic, and many reasons why I think his approach stands out above the countless “trainers, boot camps, and group training” classes that seem to have saturated the market, including:
- He is ridiculously fit; and there is nothing more inspiring that a trainer who is equally passionate about his own fitness as he is mine.
- He is constantly engaging in professional development; always bringing in the latest exercises, techniques, apparatuses to the floor.
- His “hybrid” approach incorporates the best training methods from almost every discipline/sport out there. This makes every class different; every class super challenging; and every class ridiculously fun (who knew football drills could be so great).
- He cares about the phycological aspect of fitness and health; he asks for our goals and speaks often about “upping your game” and pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do.
- He sets up leagues for added fun and teamwork (and doesn’t ask for more money).
- He holds yearly competitions to keep everyone working hard towards a goal, including this year’s Toronto Athletic Games (which is open to non-members, so you should definetly check it out).
- He conducts monthly appraisals for everyone who wants one, and keeps your numbers for comparison, and goal setting.
- He has a yearly Blast Party – huge and fabulous, just because.
- He sets up workshops on technique and form, and lectures on nutrition, sleep and stress.
- He never accepts “I can’t” from anyone.
- He is NEVER on his phone during training, because he doesn’t need to be – he’s that good, and that committed to knowing what he is doing.
But, despite all this (and I could go on), what really impressed me was the metal he gave me last week. It was not because I won anything, not because I signed up for anything, just because he wanted to acknowledge how far I’ve come after two years of trainging with him; something I was already very proud of, but didn’t think anyone else thought too much about. Ii know there are many great trainers out there, but I challenge you to find one who cares this much about his clients.
So in catching up on this season’s episodes of Treme, and especially the Saints episode, I was inspired to write this blog entry, which I have woefully neglected to do since visiting New Orleans this past spring. I think my reluctance to write about this amazing city stems from the fact that I was unconvinced (and am still dubious) of whether I could do justice in my description of the Big Easy. However, my desire to share has overwhelmed my fear of writing inadequacy.
After talking about it for a couple of years, we finally made the trek to New Orleans, Louisianna during the Easter long weekend. Having spent much time in some great American cities, it only seemed natural to visit this iconic location for two of my favourite things: jazz and food. Visit any great US destination (Boston, New York, Chicago, Portland, Vermont) and you’ll find a running theme: a love of local food, drink and entertainment, and a people who love their place. Well, New Orleans is no different in any of these aspects, but where it does stand out can only be explained as a vibe. As cliché as that may sound I have no idea how else to describe the vibrating pulse which permeates the whole place; every experience felt like it was accompanied by some soundtrack that no one could really hear, but everyone seemed to be feeling.
Let’s start with the food because you can’t go to New Orleans without being seduced by the Creole and Southern inspired fair. This is not a place for the calorie-conscious, but it is a must for anyone who fancies themselves a gastronome. New Orleans is no stranger to great restaurants, and there is no shortage of renowned restaruants and chefs (8 of who were prestigious James Beard nominees this year alone), but a shortage of time and desire to visit the “classic spots” led us to couple of iconic spots including Commander’s Palace. Nestled in the beautifula Garden District since 1880, this histroic restaurant is well worth the streetcar ride, and the best way, I think, to experience it is through the tasting menu, or as they like to call it, the Chef’s Playground. Fantastic!
I’ve always felt the most at home in strange cities when I run or bike around local neighbourhoods. This time in New Orleans we did one more: we signed up for the Crescent City Classic 10KM . It wasn’t my first 10km race, but I was wholly unprepared for this kind or run, or shall I say, party. I was so happy to be part of a race run by over 21,000 runners and walkers alike; I stood amoung seasoned athletes, moms with strollers, participants dressed in costumes, and college partiers who had stumbld to the start line with Bourbon Street drinks still in hand from the previous evening. My surprise (and delight) came from the same vibe I spoke of earlier. This race was my worst 10km time ever, but the most fun I’ve ever had running. Live bands lined the route enticing participants to dance (which I did – with the Easter Bunny), as well as enjoy an early morning cocktail or beer (which I did), and everyone crossed a finish line into a field of New Orleans post-running celebration which included more beer, gumbo and live music!
As grand as these experiences were, nothing quite compared to the music – jazz! It was everywhere, and I was loving it. I embraced every stree-corner musical delay to our daily plans and spent as much time as I could listening to the music, but my most memorable moment came one evening when we stumbled into The Spotted Cat. It was crowed and smokey and filled with the jazz sounds of Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, in other words, it was everything I imagined the New Orleans jazz experience to be.
This night was everything I wanted New Orleans to be, and again, I was loving it. I didn’t think this exeperience could be any better, but then a guy jumped up on stage to sing with Meschiya Lake; he looked familiar – “hey, that looks like the guy from Treme” I said; “It is!” said the girl behind me, and indeed it was Michiel Huisman. This was pretty cool; I was star-struck in a weird kind of way and it was an amazing way to end an unbelievable weekend.
Since that trip, which now seems so long ago, we have been talking about going back, interpreting all things that come up New Orleans as a sign that we need to return and I think the final omen came while watching that Saints episode of Treme when Michiel Huisman’s character Sonny takes his new girl out on a date to the Spotted Cat Music Club to watch Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns. For just a brief second I willed the camera to pan to the right because I felt like I was there again.
When I first signed up for the Ontario Women’s Triathlon Series in May it was an homage to my own personal promise to learn/try something new every year, and to my personal quest to continuously challenge myself either physically or mentally (and in this case – both). The experience exceeded my expectations, not because I met my time goal, nor because I had crazy fun, but because I witnessed a camaraderie and drive in a group of women that I have rarely seen.
Over 300 women registered for today’s Milton duathlon/triathlon events organized by a volunteer organization of female athletes who wanted to create an “environment where women and girls would feel excited, and welcome, to participate in the sport of triathlon”, and wow do they ever accomplish that. Today I swam/rode/ran alongside seasoned athletes, seniors (60+), overweight women, pregnant women (6 months), 14 year-old beginners, women recovering from illness/injury, and one woman who had just learned how to swim. I was overwhelmed by the excitement all these women had, not only to try (and complete) these events, but the excitement with which they supported everyone around them. It didn’t feel like an individual endeavour, it felt like a group accomplishment.
My experience today was a testament to the fact that anyone can do anything they put their mind to, and that excuses (too busy, not ready, etc.,) are just another way of saying “I don’t really want to try”. This was my very first triathlon, but it definitely won’t be my last. I feel so extremely lucky and privileged to enjoy the physical and mental health that I have, and as long as I continue to be so blessed I will continue to honour my body by feeding it what it really needs and enjoys.