Hawaii Bound: O’ahu

After an enjoyable stay in Kaua’i, we set off for O’ahu for the next leg of our journey. This part of the trip was mixed business and pleasure.  One of my hubby’s clients is the Turtle Bay Resort. They had been inviting DH to come visit for some time, and when they heard we were taking some time to recoup in Hawaii, they said we couldn’t leave without a stay at their resort.

Turtle Bay Resort spans 850 acres on the north shore of O’ahu. It boasts of two swimming pools, a beach, spa and more activities than you can imagine including golf, tennis, horseback riding, surfing, biking, hiking, stand up paddle boarding and even ukulele lessons.  It has been featured in several movies, the most recent being Forgetting Sarah Marshall. There is really no reason to ever leave this resort. I mean, ever. Like I could live here. Seriously.

We spent the majority of our time swimming or lying by the pool, sipping cocktails and enjoying the resort’s good food.  DH said he liked how relaxed I was in Hawaii.  No kidding. It is the definition of relaxation.

 

Food

A perk of being a preferred guest of the hotel, breakfast was included, and they treated us to one very fancy dinner.  Thus, we ended up eating the majority of our meals at the resort as I’ll describe below.  We did venture out a couple of times to check out the local fare.

Hauula

The Shrimp Shack 

My reproductive endocronologist had just come back from O’ahu and recommended we go to Giovannis Shrimp Shack on the way to Turtle Bay.  Sadly, we did not make it as we took the scenic route to get to the North Shore and were, consequently, starving by the time we reached the first of the shrimp trucks, The Shrimp Shack. It was within a half hour of closing when we arrived, and DH said the coconut shrimp tasted of old oil. J and I got hotdogs, which were fine. We also got a tropical strawberry float, which was delicious. It gets good Yelp reviews, so we would probably try it again but earlier in the day.

Haleiwai

Ted’s Bakery

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On the way home from the Polynesian Cultural Center, we hit up Ted’s Bakery. It had been recommended for its famous pies. We ordered the Loco Moco, a traditional Hawaiaan dish consisting of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg and gravy. Strange but good. We also got the famous chocolate haupia cream pie, and one other that apparently was not as memorable as the chocolate haupia. That is definitely the pie you should order.

Kahuhi/Turtle Bay Resort

We ate at the resort the majority of the time, and were pleased with all of the choices. For breakfast, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet in the Kula Grille, trying something new each day. At lunch, we ate poolside at The Point. We enjoyed the hummus dipping trio, quesadilla and drinks including some pretty potent mai tais and monkey’s lunch (frozen banana drink). For dinner, we had flat bread pizzas at the Lobby Lounge and had an amazing 5 course tasting at the Pa’akai, their fancy restaurant.  The waiter there was even kind enough to order J some mac ‘n cheese from the grille next door so she would not be left out.

The Sights

As I said, we spent the majority of our time in O’ahu trying to do as little as possible. Having said that, we could not leave without visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbor.

Polynesian Cultural Center


This is literally an all-day activity, especially if you decide to attend the dinner Luau. We enjoyed a small-scale Luau at Turtle Bay on our first night, so decided to skip it given that J was about to pass out after a full day at the Center. We methodically hit up all 6 island villages: Somoa, Aotearoa, Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, and Tonga. Each island puts on a brief show and had special demonstrations. There was also a parade of boats from the various islands that was fun to watch. It is a can’t miss experience.

Pearl Harbor


We decided to go visit Pearl Harbor on our way back to the Honolulu airport. Little did I know, as I was leisurely reading about the Pearl Harbor visitor’s center at about 9 AM from my balcony, that you need to prebook your tickets. There are a small amount of same day tickets available, and folks line up at 7 AM to grab these, which often sell out in the first hour. This was disappointing news, but we decided we would go anyways and explore the various museums. We ended up getting there at a fantastic time. The gentleman directing folks to the movie and U.S.S Arizona toar ushered us to a special line that would allow us to get in if there were no shows for the tours every 15 min. At that time of day, he said we would definitely get in, and sure enough, we did after less than a 30 minute wait. It is a humbling experience to imagine this time in history and see for yourself that the U.S.S Arizona is still leaking oil 50 years after it sank. It is rumoured that it will do so until the last survivor is buried there…

All in all, Hawaii was a great trip. It is probably my favorite trip, thus far, and I have been to various places in the U.S., Europe, U.K., the Caribbean and as far away as China. It is not a cheap trip by any means, but if you can search out some great deals and save all your credit card rewards points as we did, it is totally worth it! Aloha!

For more Hawaii vacation recommendations, visit my Pinterest board here or read about our Kaua’i trip.

Hawaii Bound: Kaua’i

For the next 5 days, I am kid-free and husband-free. Since naps are rare around here these days, I rarely have any free time to blog. So I am determined to do a little catching up over the next few days.

When we last left off, I was recovering from a miscarriage in Hawaii.  Hawaii is truly a beautiful place to heal the soul.

My BIL Darren lives in Kaua’i, so this was a logical first stop.

Accommodations

We stayed at the Courtyard Kaua’i  at Coconut Beach.  This was purely a budget choice on my part. We booked this trip at the last minute, and there was very little available in terms of vacation rentals. I got a rocking’ good deal on the room rate at this hotel and honestly did not have any expectations except for it being a place to crash at the end of each day. I also liked that it was centrally located in Kapa’a. We were pleasantly surprised. There was a beautiful beach front, a lovely swimming pool and free Mai Tais every evening. What more could we ask for?

Food

We tend to judge our vacations by the quality of our meals. There is nothing like eating your way through a trip.  This experience was no different.

Kapa’a

Waipouli Deli & Restaurant 

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This restaurant was a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel.  It is not much to look at, located within a strip mall. But it served up some very decent macadamia nut pancakes and was filled with locals, usually a good sign of a good meal.

Java Kai

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This was a cute coffee and smoothie bar, a nice place to grab a quick breakfast before setting out an a day of sight seeing. I recommend the Surfer Girl- scrambled eggs, spinach, tomato, cheese and bacon on a bagel. Yum!

Bobby V’s

The sidewalks in Kaua’i literally roll up at 8 pm. After a long day of exploring the Napoli coast line, with a sleeping child in the car, we discovered this Italian restaurant and pizzeria, which was open until 9. The staff were friendly and obliged our request of take-out meatball and chicken parm subs. It was surprisingly decent for Italian food in Hawaii!

Anahola

Moloa’a Sunrise Juice Bar

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We discovered this gem on the ride to Hanalei. We ordered the Date with Fate and Taste of Hawaii.  Both were good, but the Date with Fate was the clear winner. We have tried to recreate it at home without success.

Hanalei Bay/Kilauea

The Dolphin

This fish market and sushi lounge was our first meal in Kaua’i.  We ate outside & the ambience was lovely. So was the sushi, albeit overpriced.

The Hanalei Gourmet

We ate lunch at this very packed dive of a restaurant. We had the fish and chips and it was tasty and fresh, good but not great.

Bubba Burger 

Perfect for a quick bite before heading to the beach. It’s no Hop Doddy’s but served up a solid burger.

Pink’s Creamery

This is where the dining got good.  Hawaiian grilled cheese and creamy gourmet ice cream? Yes, please! For those of you who have not had the pleasure of Hawaiian grilled cheese, it is yummy shredded pork, muenster cheese and pineapple sandwiched between sweet Hawaiian bread.  And it was good! The ice cream was equally delicious. We came back two separate times to enjoy it. I heartily recommend the Kona Mud Pie, Haupia, Aloha Cherry Truffle and Banana Mac-Nut Brittle.

Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza 

 

The pizza here was just ok. My husband is a New Yorker, so we are hard to please when it comes to pizza.  I would recommend the baked goods.  The cookies were delicious.

Jo Jo’s Shave Ice

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My daughter loves snow cones more than anything.  DH and I tend to prefer ice cream- until we met Jo Jo’s Shave Ice, which deliciously blends the two in a unique and fabulous way. You should order the Tropical Breeze- macadamia nut ice cream nestled inside shave ice with guava, passionfruit and mango syrup and topped with coconut cream. Wow!

Kalypso Island Bar & Grill

There was nothing overly impressive about this bar and grill fare. We had a burger, chicken pesto sandwich and coconut shrimp.  But it did boast some tasty cocktails including the coco banana- rum, amaretto and banana frozen and blended.

Kauai Nut Roasters

This was a cute nut shop in the center of Hanalei. We brought home the pineapple coconut and butterscotch macadamias. The best part was that the store clerk was from my home state of NH and she hooked us up.

Po’ipu

Brennecke’s Beach Broiler

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On the south shore, this is a popular casual dining spot located directly across from the beach. It consists of a deli, souvenir shop and restaurant.  If you sit on the second floor of the main restaurant, you get some amazing views of beach through open windows. The food was overpriced ($22 for fish and chips, which fortunately was large enough to share with my daughter), but the drinks were phenomenal. Try the Original Brown Nipple with Banana if you dare.

Beaches

The best part of Kaua’i is the stunning beaches. We explored several beaches while we were there including Anini Beach, Hanelei  Beach Park, Lydgate Beach Park, Po’ipu Beach and others that were unnamed. Anini Beach was probably my favorite, but traveling with a little one, I’d recommend Lydgate Beach or Po’ipu. Both had shallow, wave-free kids areas to swim, and Lydgate has a play area, which was a hit with J. We also went to the Blue Room, a cave aptly named for the glow of it’s blue water. It’s a slippery downhill hike to get to the water (J and I had to watch from above), and there are signs everywhere warning you of the risk of bacterial infection should you swim. But it was stunning!

The Sights

The great thing about Kaua’i is that you don’t have to obligated to do anything in particular except for enjoy it’s beautiful beaches and nature.  Having said that, I did have a few sights I had to see including Wailua Falls in Lihue, the Spouting Horn in Koloa,  and the Napali Coast including Waimea Canyon and Kalalau look-out. We also had the opportunity to take a ride in Uncle Darren’s boat, and J even got to captain it for a little while!

All in all, our trip to Kaua’i was wonderful, and I would come back here every year if I had the chance! I highly recommend visiting.

 

 

 

Foreign Exchange Part II

This post was supposed to follow shortly after my Sharing the Thanks post in November. Since it has already been well established what a horribly infrequent blogger I am, I’ll skip the excuses. Instead I’m going to take full advantage of the fact that my daughter is sleeping and husband is out of town to make up for lost time.

The original Foreign Exchange, hereafter known as Part I, remains one of my most popular posts (popular being a relative term when you blog mostly for your sanity and not an audience). I think the majority of visitors are looking to pilfer images via a google images search. However, for this little exercise, I am going to pretend that the real attraction is the content- namely, the excitement of a new experience or new product in a country not your own.

This time the Brits and Dutchies visited us on our home turf. We welcomed them with these three Tex-American gems:

1) Hop Doddy’s, Austin, TX

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Nothing says American food quite like a burger. Hopdoddy’s is no exception. The writing on the wall states, “Hopdoddy was created to express the perfect union of burgers and beer: Handcrafted Beer (Hop) + (Doddy), the nickname given to the native cow in Aberdeen, Scotland.” Burger and beer- double score!  Bonus point for representing the UK in the name. Niels, who has visited quite a few countries, calls this the best burger he has ever had. Whoa. That is quite an endorsement. They should seriously put his picture on their website.

2) The Salt Lick, Driftwood TX

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You cannot visit TX and not have BBQ. That would be sinful. We like to drive our visitors out to the Hill Country to the dry town of Driftwood, where you get to bring your own beer to go with your brisket. You can sip your Shiner’s while you bask in the aroma of mouthwatering ribs, sausage and brisket coming from the open fire pit.  With your belly full, you will think you have just about died and gone to heaven. Then, they break out the peach or blueberry cobbler for dessert. Heck, you might as well try both. Lucky for us, Andy is a cardiologist.

3) The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

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The Alamo Drafthouse is a cinema pub. I’ll admit, I’ve only been to one other cinema pub prior to moving to Austin, but I think the Drafthouse gets it right. The food is usually delicious- I recommend the green chile mac and cheese and the chocolate peanut butter shake- and you can chow down while you are enjoying your flick. This is quite a time saver, especially when you have a sitter on the clock. In this case, we enjoyed the new James Bond movie.  I  think our friends are plotting European franchises as I type this.

In exchange for our fine hosting abilities, we were bestowed with the following gifts.

1) Nestle Smarties

Nestle Smarties

At first glance, these look like tiny M&Ms. But they are soooo much better. Seriously, I do not know if I can ever look at an M&M the same way again.  Juliette was immediately hooked and we do not give that child candy but if she’ll go poo poo on the potty, I’ll import a whole bag from the UK for her. They are really that good.

2) Stroopwafel

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A Dutch treat, a stroopwafel is two thin layers of baked batter glued together by a caramel-like filling. I like to pretend that they are a breakfast food rather than a dessert. I often forget about stroopwafel when making my request list for Niels and Minna. Fortunately, they have my back on this one. Totally worth the visit to the Netherlands just to try one.

3) Sinterklaas Candies

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Sinterklaas, who might actually be the precursor for our own Santa Claus, is a jolly old fellow who lives in Spain. In November, he makes his yearly trek to the Netherlands by steamboat rather than by sleigh and stays for three weeks, culminating in a family celebration on December 5. During that time, children leave their shoes and stockings by the fireplace to be filled with treats including chocolate letters and my favorite, kruidnoten and pepernoten (addicting little ginger cookies). I am only sad that Niels did not actually put my candies in my shoe.

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Another successful exchange was had. We have been doing this for a long time and there is always a new (and usually tasty) surprise. Can’t wait for next time. Already planning our trip.

Foreign Exchange

We just recently got back from Chatel, France where we went skiing with our travel buddies from the UK and Amsterdam.  Good travel buddies are hard to find.  Being good friends with a person does not automatically make them a good travel companion. In fact, many a good friendships are ruined over vacation incompatibilities. So when you do find that special person or persons with whom you can successfully seek out adventure without too much additional drama, you make sure to nurture that relationship and put it to good use time after time.

We have tested our travel relationship with Andy and Lis (from South of London) and Niels and Minna (from Amsterdam) over the years by exploring multiple cities in the US and Europe.  Dean can be credited with cultivating these relationships after he lived in Amsterdam for 6 months during college.  I always had a bit of the travel bug, but got it full fledged after attending each couple’s wedding in their home countries. Then, we went to Florence, Italy and Javea, Spain. We missed a very good trip to South Africa when we first moved to Austin but enjoyed the couples visiting us as we moved from state to state before settling here. Recently, we have taken two ski trips to the French Alps. The first to Samoens in 2009 and this trip to Chatel.

Over the years, we have become attached to certain things from each other’s countries. In our bag this trip, we packed:

1) Twinkies: always a favorite.  Maybe it’s due to the lore that they have an indefinite shelf life. Maybe it’s the sweet mix of creamy and spongy goodness.  But we can always count on Twinkies to represent the best America has to offer. Wink. Wink.

2)Breakfast Tacos: These were a little harder to pack. Just kidding. But I did have to bring a package of flour tortillas and a can of chiles in order to make the breakfast tacos. Breakfast tacos are unfamiliar to many of my friends outside of Texas no less outside the USA. They were particularly impressive to Niels and Minna so we decided to reinvent them this trip.

3) Green Chile Mac ‘n Cheese: By that same token, we introduced Niels and Minna to Green Chile Mac N Cheese at the Alamo Drafthouse this past fall while they were visiting Austin. They seemed to enjoy it, so I snuck a couple of cans of green chiles and jalapeños into our luggage and Dean recreated the popular dish in France.  Mexican cheeses were impossible to come by as was jalapeño jack, but it was a decent attempt.

4) Baby Ruth: These became a favorite of Lis’ a few years back, and who can blame her what with the peanuts, caramel and chocolate nougat. Mmmm.

5) Goldfish: Now that we have kids in the mix, we have entered a whole new terrority. Andy and Lis’ son Harry calls these golden rockets. Juliette is apt to agree at the rate at which she eats them!

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In exchange, we receive the following:

1) Lion Bars: These are my favorite. The bar consists of a filled wafer, caramel and cereal covered in chocolate. The combination is sweet, crunchy and delicious. I do not know why they do not routinely sell them over here!

2) Frey Chocolate: in our quest to take home some Swiss Chocolate, we came across Frey in the Geneva grocery stores. Not an upscale brand but still yummy, we will be going back for more of these.  The milk chocolate truffles were my favorite.

3) Ice Cube Bags:  I get poked fun at over my obsession with these convenient ice cube bags.  You fill the bag with water and then pop or shake out the ice.  Yes, I have an automatic ice maker. I also have ice cube trays, but these are cute and so very nice for taking on picnics or to the beach. Minna always brings me a supply and I horde them, only bringing them out for special occasions.

4) Tuc crackers: With fun flavors like cheese, paprika and black pepper, these are more of a delicious snack than a plain cracker.

5) Crisps: Chips are so much better outside of the US. Maybe it is because they are referred to as crisps. They are way crunchier and boast of flavors that I can only describe as “lovely” such as parsnip and feta cheese.

6) The Flu: Yes, we came home with the flu. It seems that foreign germs are even harder to fight off as all 3 family members were down and out for a week. Boo! What a way to end a vacation!

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Fortunately, I can relish in the fact that it is a marriage made in heaven, this product exchange we have going on.  I can’t wait for our next trip and our next new foreign product discovery!