I've been excited all day about spending all evening on the torch, but folks, it's just too cold. After an hour I am back upstairs out of my cold-as-death basement. Usually I am an extremely hardy snow-loving fool, but Hawaii has still not worn off and 30 degrees feels like 10. I have no idea what the actual temperature is in the basement, but it is no night for having the door open and the fan on which is my ventilation situation. Oh well. I'll check out my two measly beads in the morning. Time for hot chocolate, a hot bath, laying on the oven door...something. Ssssooo c-c-c-old.
Tuesday, March 25
Saturday, March 22
Everyone who's been to Hawaii seems to have their own must-do list, so here is mine in no particular order of all the things that were the best:
1. Surf in Haleiwa on Oahu's North Shore
Look up the North Shore Surf Girls for lessons.
2. Snorkle in Hanauma Bay
3. Eat Shave Ice Every Chance You Get
Jo Jo's in Waimea is fabulous; the Polynesia Cafe in Hanelei is excellent, too, and we liked the place next to Bubba's Burgers across the street in Hanelei (All on Kauai, but you can get it on other islands, too.)
4. Watch the Sun Rise Everyday
5. Stand in the Rain
6. Take a Hike (short or long, you'll see something amazing)
7. Feast at the Oceanarium
8. Watch the Sun Set
9. Buy a new Swatch
10. Spend Every Blissful Hour with the Love of Your Life*
11. Come back with bruises, scrapes, scratches and a "rash" from surfing - proof that it was all real
12. Buy enough souveniers that you have to purchase extra luggage
*Solo? Go with friends, go alone - just go.
People know I'm a stickler for having folks take their shoes off when they come to my house. Have you worn those shoes in a public restroom? Then you are not wearing them in my house.
Imagine my delight when I find a whole state has adopted this Japanese custom. We were instructed to do this at both bed and breakfasts we stayed at, and one even had this tile hanging that was hand painted in Kaua'i. We never made it to the Banana Patch Studio where they are made, but on the last day B said, "Let's stop here" at one of the souvenir shopping plazas. I was very excited to find Elephant Walk, a store that carries Hawaiian made items and they had the Banana Patch Studio tiles there! I bought the one in the photo and just finished hanging it by my front door. Hawaiian style - I love it!
Speaking of bringing Hawai'i home, while we did not bring anything native that we weren't supposed to, we thought this was an excellent alternative: the real dirt shirt. These shirts get their color from being handwashed with the super-staining red dirt like we actually hiked on.
I wanted to bring as much Hawai'i as I could back with me, and one thing I'll always remember is the sweet scent of fresh Plumeria flower leis. When I chose the one I wore all the way home, the lei-maker assured me they all smelled the same, but he didn't know I just like smelling them all. That lei was looking pretty sad - just like the person wearing it - by the time our plane landed in Chicago two days later.
In a health food store in Kailua called Down to Earth, I found a Plumeria Hawaiian-made soap by Bubble Shack. If it's as good as it smells, I'll have to treat myself until I can wear fresh flowers around my neck again. Cool petals and a soft sweet scent - I highly recommend purchasing a lei and wearing it until it wilts.
For our last dinner in Hawai'i we walked to Tiki's Grill and Bar just a couple of blocks from our hotel in Waikiki. I was excited to see the Aloha Hawaiian Plate on the menu as it had all the things I had been meaning to try: kalua pig, lau lau, lomi salmon, yahi poke, mashed Okinawan sweet potato (the purple potato I had earlier in the week), coconut haupia...and poi.
Poi is not nasty, and I actually liked it! B thought it was okay, but didn't think it was awful or anything. It's somewhat bland (although it can be tangy if left to ferment) with a smooth creamy consistency. At a hula show a native Hawaiian asked an audience member what he thought poi tasted like. The guy replied, "Paste!" The Hawaiian said that was interesting, but that he didn't eat paste so he wouldn't know what that was like. Great comeback.
From what I've read, poi is a respected life-giving food, and it's kind of sad it's a joke here in Usaville, as one Hawaiian called the mainland. So try it. You may not like it, but it's always best to be nice about it.
As far as I can find, shave ice is a uniquely Hawaiian treat developed on O'ahu. Blocks of ice are shaved by a very sharp blade almost to a fine powder and then drizzled with mostly tropical fruit flavors. This may sound like a slushy, but the texture is much much finer and to me, much tastier. Many places will serve this on top of ice cream.
After four hours of hiking on Kaua'i, we felt it was high time to try some so we stopped at Jo Jo's in Waimea. The door was shut, but a big "We're Open!" sign was still on it so B stopped the car, and I ran over to see. The friendly worker said they were open for a few more minutes so I waved him in and then tried to decide between the 60 flavors. I went with the Rainbow (strawberry, banana and vanilla syrups), highly recommended by the Ultimate Kauai book, and B chose the Island (pina colada, mai tai and strawberry daquari) both served over macadamia nut ice cream. Ice cream is one of my favorite foods, and this little treat is spectacular. It's worth getting a flight to just go try this. Now I'll have to start a quest to see if I can find this anywhere on the mainland.
Monday, March 17
This is the wet cave (obviously) to what is called the Blue Room. A few cars are parked on the side of the road near a nondescript trail. You would have no idea that this wonder is just a short hike up the hill, but thanks to my Ultimate Kauai book and directions from Mark at our B&B, we found it.
Toward the back right you can swim to another room in the cave that can be bluer than this, but two swimmers on their way out reported that on this day it wasn't. The water level has to be just right to create the effect. If they had said it was, I probably would have taken a swim even though I was in shorts and a shirt and the water was chilly.
We successfully made it to our second island, Kaua'i, on the fourteenth. The day after we drove up to see Waimea Canyon, and at the end of road, 20 miles in, we decided to take the Pihea Trail to the Alaka'i Swamp - the highest swamp in the world. Lucky for us it was dry and sunny, but you can see why the boardwalk was installed in the pictures below. To quote The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, "The Alaka'i Swamp Trail leads to the edge of cliff (they're not kidding!) where the Kilohana Lookout affords a majestic view of Ha'ena (the town where we are right now) on the north shore, clouds permitting. The ancient Hawaiians used this trail to get to the north shore when the surf precluded going by sea. Once at Kilohana, they went over and down the 3,400 cliff to the valley floor and along the sloping valley to the ocean. All this for west siders to visit family on the north shore in the winter." You can see Ha'ena in the top left of the bottom photo. That's the ocean.
16 years ago today we got engaged, and this was a pretty cool way to spend it.
Friday, March 14
I am not a natural at anything that requires athletic skill, but I took to this...yes, like a fish to water. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done, and thanks to Mason's excellent teaching skills I stood up the very first time I tried. As I paddled out to catch the second wave I said to myself, "I'm moving to Hawai'i." Unfortunately the Lottery ticket B and I brought with us wasn't a winner otherwise you wouldn't have seen us for at least a few more weeks.
There is nothing cooler than the ocean flying beneath your board and propelling you to the shore. I'll definately be doing this again. Mason if you read this, can you comment and leave me the name of that town to go surfing in Rhode Island? It's the only New England state I haven't been to, and I sure have a reason to get there now.
Wednesday, March 12
We saw whales! Off of the trail that leads to the Makapu'u lighthouse the ocean is designated as a Humpback whale sanctuary, and they know it. The whales come from Alaska to do their family making here. At first you see the massive splashes - imagine cars intermittently being dropped into the ocean from a plane - then you just watch that spot, because it seems a whale cannot jump just once. Above is one we were lucky enough to catch!
Some other notes of interest of the day were the sunrise over Kailua beach, a regular looking sweet potato that is as deep purple as an eggplant on the inside on my dinner plate and being completely dumped off our sea kayak upon takeoff. We thought landing would be a repeat disaster, but we brought our craft in like pros. It was a good thing, too, because a couple on the beach was betting that we would dump it.
Tuesday, March 11
While we were standing around the luggage corral at the airport yesterday a woman was carting around stand of leis. I am not one for impulsive touristy purchases, but the smell of the flowers was incredible. It turns out Plumeria, the flower that it's made of, has a history of being a temptress.
From Wikipedia: "Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers have no nectar, and simply dupe their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar." They are also incredibly fragrant during the day, at an airport and even the next morning while blogging at the laptop.
Sunday, March 9
I've been telling people that I am going on vacation and when they ask where, it feels surreal to answer, "I'm going to Hawai'i."
This statement has illicited a dreamy-eyed affect (see photo) on nearly everyone I have uttered it to. If they haven't been, they want to go. If they've been, they want to be going again. Never has any destination I've been to (Florida, Colorado, Maine, Vermont, Tennessee, California, Myrtle Beach, New York City) brought on the response I get from saying the word Hawai'i. It's magic.
There is a Shangri-la notion of this place, imaginings of a world filled with waterfalls and rainbows. One person summed up a trip to these islands with, "That's the American dream." I know I thought that it would always remain one for me.