Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Something to Crow About: Kauai’s Birds of Paradise

KauiSm2014 008It was easy to be captivated by the beautiful birds that unknowingly entertained us during our time this fall on Hawaii’s island of Kaua’i.

This twosome clucked and cooed sweet nothings to each other early each morning, oblivious to the two of us sitting below them sipping coffee and watching the sun wake the day during our time in Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore.

PicMonkey Collage
Morning love songs - Princeville, Kaua'i
Birds of paradise – just the phrase evokes images of cooing doves and graceful tropical creatures, like the swan that glided past our Poipu condo with regularity – undisturbed by the camera-toting visitors, like me.

KauiSm2014 003

But, wait! These aren’t the ‘real’ birds of paradise on this island!

The real birds of this paradise – the one’s that give the island something to crow about -- are the hundreds of roosters, hens and chicks that freely roam the streets, sidewalks, parks, and public areas from restaurants to rental car lots.

Kauai2014Aug 036

This fellow was patrolling the parking lot at a scenic overlook. . .

GreeceKauau2014 127

And this one was ducking rain drops at the end of the road on the North Shore’s, Ha’ena Beach Park, in much the same manner we tourists were scurrying to find shelter from the often intense rain squalls there.

KauiSm2014 010

But the funniest by far were the resident trio of mischief makers (pictured above) at the Marriott Waiohai in Poipu.  One morning while I was on our fourth floor deck, the normally quiet surroundings came to life with a commotion below me.

A guest in the ground floor unit just below us -- a grown man -- was shooing this Fowl Flock from his patio by doing what one might call a chicken dance -- hopping about while flapping his bended arms.  It worked for a minute or two then they chicken danced right back to him.  It went on for a few minutes .
(I was so busy laughing I didn’t think to get the camera).

PicMonkey Collage
Chicken Marketing in Kaua'i
What Came First – the Chicken or the Egg?

One might ask from where the multitudes of these strutting troubadours came.  Historians can’t put all their eggs in one basket so I found two answers: the Polynesians who discovered the islands centuries ago brought chickens with them and they’ve been here since then. Some say the large numbers of Feral Fowl can be blamed on 1992’s Hurricane ‘Iniki that blasted the island with 145 mph winds (gusts of 165 mph) and scattered domestically raised poultry far and wide. 

PicMonkey Collage

Whatever the origin, they are a permanent part of the population now.  Souvenirs with roosters are everywhere from tee-shirts to home-d├ęcor, notepads to Christmas tree ornaments!  The tourism folks really do have something to crow about!!

Post Script: Your thoughts on Columbus Day

HAL 2009 cruise photos 051I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank those of you who responded to last week’s post about celebrating Columbus Day. 
The responses to that post are examples of what blogging should be – a thoughtful exchange of ideas and opinions from across the globe.

Too often we bloggers get caught up in a quest of statistics – the more ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ the better. This post and its responses reminded me why blogging should be a richer experience than that. For that, I thank you! (Click here to access it and the comments.)

As a result of that post, one of our blogger buddies, currently residing in Fiji, shared a link to a post written by Jose Alejandro Amores, a professor at Grand Valley State University who wrote an insightful piece with a headline that begins, “We are all Columbus. . .”   I’d encourage you to take a moment to read it.

Hope to see you back again next week ~ until then, Happy Travels!

Linking Up this week at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Celebrating Christopher Columbus on His Day!

If you live in the Americas, will you be celebrating or condemning Columbus Day?  It seems there are two ways of looking at that voyager who back in 1492 crossed the ocean blue!
In the United States, October 12th (and now the second Monday of October) is known as Columbus Day, a federal holiday since 1937. It was celebrated unofficially by a number of cities and states far earlier than that – some dating back to the 18th century.
I would like to think that all travelers will be giving a nod of thanks to the courage of that daring 15th century explorer who has been credited throughout history with discovering the New World.

HAL 2009 cruise photos 101
Christopher Columbus statue - Lisbon, Portugal
However, despite his voyage and discovery – or maybe as result of it – there are those who won’t be celebrating his arrival in the present-day Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492 for reasons best explained by

“There are three main sources of controversy involving Columbus’s interactions with the indigenous people he labeled “Indians”: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas.”

(Those indigenous people did introduce Columbus – and thus, the Old World -- to tobacco. In fact they gave him some of the dried leaves as a welcome, and he later learned from them how to smoke it, so in some ways maybe they got some revenge early on.)

HAL 2009 cruise photos 018
Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492
So now, more than 500 years later, controversy surrounds the celebration of Columbus Day in some places on the globe. . .prompted by a focus is on the treatment of the indigenous people – not the voyage of discovery.

In reality, it would be difficult to find a ‘hero’  in history who didn’t have some character or behavioral flaws shadowing their lauded contributions, wouldn’t it?  We can name several and I suspect you can as well. People aren’t perfect, plain and simple!

HAL 2009 cruise photos 051
Replica of one of Columbus's ships - Funchal, Madeira
The fact remains that the Italian-born Christopher Columbus had the guts to believe in himself and was able to get the Spanish king and queen to back the expedition of the trio of tiny ships (not much larger than present-day cruise ship life boats) in his attempt to find a western route to China – in 1492!

PicMonkey Collage
Navigation in 1492 on left; present-day cruise ship bridge

We probably took Columbus and his courage for granted until the first time we took a repositioning cruise across that wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean a few years ago. We followed  a route similar to that of the early day sailor.

CelbcruiseMadrid 052
Crossing the Atlantic - only sea and sky and our ship

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the earth’s four oceans.
Its surface area is about 31,660 sq. miles (82 million sq. kilometers).
It has an an average depth of 12,881 feet (3926 meters). Its deepest point is the 
Puerto Rico Trench with a depth of 28,681 feet (8742 meters).

CelbcruiseMadrid 027
Leaving Fort Lauderdale to cross the Atlantic
We’ve now crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times –  each time in large, modern cruise ships with the latest medical facilities, on-board communication and navigation equipment.  As we’ve sailed from Florida’s Fort Lauderdale, the logical side of our brains ‘know’ we will be safe.

HAL 2009 cruise photos 028
On the Atlantic Ocean 
Yet . .we pause as we pass that last  tip of land knowing we will see nothing but water and sky  – no birds, no ships for at least six days . . . I can’t imagine being in those tiny wooden ships that took two months to cross the Atlantic and not knowing when I would see land again.

Celebrating the Explorers

Unlike on this side of the Atlantic, we’ve seen tributes – towering statues and monuments -- to Columbus and his fellow early day explorers throughout Europe;  Lisbon, Madeira, Cadiz, Seville, Barcelona, just to name a few. The enormous tribute below, the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrao dos Descobrimentos) on the approach to Lisbon, Portugal honors Henry the Navigator.

CelbcruiseMadrid 133
Monument to the Discoveries - Lisbon, Portugal

Post Script:
If you’ve stayed with me this long, and you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, and here’s why:

Summer2013 037
Seattle Space Needle
The Seattle City Council took action this week declaring the second Monday in October (aka Columbus Day), Indigenous People’s Day. In taking the action, Seattle has joined a few other city’s who’ve shifted the day’s focus.

A Seattle council member was quoted as saying, (Columbus) “played such a pivotal role in the worst genocide humankind has ever known.”

What put the bee in my bonnet was the singular focus; the condemnation of a portion of his actions without recognition of the exploration, the discovery – not even by the media who covered the council's deliberations.

I believe all historic events are most accurately told by more than one story -  if we don’t tell them all, our true history will be lost.

Seattle 039
Native American Totem Pole - Seattle
The Seattle council’s action brought cheers from local Native Americans while Italian Americans were insulted by it.

In reality, Washington State doesn’t recognize Columbus Day (meaning it isn’t a day off work for most).

Indigenous People’s Day is much the same; no time off, just a holiday in name only. 

Without a day off work, the day -- by either name -- will likely go unnoticed by most living  in the “New World”.

I suspect that if my maternal grandparents, who at the turn of the 20th century escaped to the “New World” from the Russian hell-hole in which they lived, were still alive, they’d be celebrating the day set aside to honor the guy credited with discovering it.

Perhaps in that sense, we all should be celebrating those early discoverers.

Linking today:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspiration - Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Seattle Seahawks and Other Travel News . . .

What do those Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawk’s have to do with travel?
Well, plenty in the Pacific Northwest!

And as the football season gets underway, several Seattle hotels are paying tribute to the "12th Man" as the fans are known, by offering some interesting packages. Take Seattle’s Kimpton Hotels (Alexis, Hotel Monaco and Hotel Vintage), for example:

12thManFinal 002
Each of the three Kimpton hotels is offering the ‘12th Man’ Package (Thursday – Sunday on home game weekends) which includes:

· Accommodations
· Poster making bar in the lobby for game days
· Upgrade (based on availability) for guests who wear a 12th Man jersey upon check-in
· In-room gold fish named for Seahawk player (i.e. Russell Gilson, Richard Merman, etc)
Remember to use the rate code 12MAN when making reservations:

MilanBolgTusc2012 005

More Travel Tidbits from this week’s headlines

Web based travel companies are coming under scrutiny in various metropolitan areas, among them:

Boston, Mass., USA:  The City Council is considering restrictions on ride-sharing services like Sidecar, Lyft and Uber and lodging websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and Flipkey. reports  The Associated Press

Austin, Texas, USA:  has set up a licensing system with an annual fee and limits on the number of units in a building – or houses in a residential neighborhood – that can be rented at a given time. – reports The Associated Press.

Portland, Oregon, USA – allows single-family homeowners – but not apartment and condo owners – to offer short-term rentals as long as they notify neighbors and complete a safety inspection. –  reports The Associated Press

londonparisiceland2011 023

London’s Gatwick Airport, England  British Airways has added three new routes from Gatwick airport to its 2015 schedule:  Seville (Spain), Funchal (Madeira) and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) will be introduced from March 2015.  They join the new routes  for next year from previously announced:  Cagliari (Sardinia), Heraklion (Crete), Rhodes (Greece) and Bodrum and Dalaman (Turkey).

Also beginning in December are the new winter sun and ski destinations of Fuerteventura (Caneries), Friedrichshafen (Germany) and Grenoble (Switzerland). reports BTN, The Business Travel News

 English football fans take note:

London, England:  Coming soon: The Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium – 99 Sir Matt Busby Way, a location that is recognized by sports fans all over the world will open as  Hotel Football on Dec. 8, 2014. Behind the project are former Man U teammates, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, all members of what is known as “the class of ‘92”, are also involved.
The 133-room hotel will offer the ultimate match day experience, as well as being home to The Old Trafford Supporters Club.” –  reports BTN, The Business Travel News

MilanBolgTusc2012 322

That’s it for now ~ happy travels to you! Hope to see you back here soon and do bring some friends and family with you!  If you’ve not yet signed up to receive posts in your inbox, do so by using the box to the right on our home page. 

And if you liked these news tidbits let us know and we will keep them coming ~

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hotel Vardia – The Greek Hotel that became ‘Home’

Maybe it was a mention in a guidebook . . .
. ..or the recommendations we happened upon from past guests . . .
. . .or maybe it was just meant to be. . .

It is sometimes difficult, in retrospect, to pinpoint what made you choose a particular hotel, isn’t it?

Frankly, we don’t recall exactly why we selected the Hotel Vardia high on a hillside in Kardamyli many months before our spring trip to Greece. 

Our room with a view - Hotel Vardia
There are plenty of hotels from which to choose in this area of The Mani. But we were drawn to  this family-owned and operated place with 18 studios and apartments – each with a drop-dead gorgeous view over the town and the Messinian Bay.

Looking back on our times there, we know it would now, be difficult  -- make that, impossible -- to think of staying anywhere else.

PicMonkey Collage
Views of Hotel Vardia - Kardamyli, Greece
When life took us back to the Kardamyli area for a month this summer, we returned to the Hotel Vardia. And by the time we left we were referring to it as ‘home’.

A Springtime Introduction

Snow still frosted the tips of the area’s Taygetos Mountains, wildflowers were in bloom and a cadre of kitties lazed in the sun among the ground’s manicured flower beds as we arrived at the hotel in early spring.

PicMonkey Collage
Early spring 2014 - Kardamyli, Greece

Our ‘go-where-the–winds-blow-us’ approach to travel resulted in an earlier than planned arrival; a day earlier than Voula, who runs the place expected us and a day before the hotel officially opened for the season.

“Give us a few minutes – it will be ready,” she assured, after we introduced ourselves. And ready it was – complete with comfortable beds, a fully equipped kitchenette and a bouquet of fresh wild flowers on the table. Because we were her first and only guests in that still chilly springtime we were upgraded from a suite to a two-room apartment.

PicMonkey Collage
Two-room apartment - Hotel Vardia Kardamyli, Greece
Travel Tip:  Hotel Vardia, like many family owned hotels in Greece, offers fully equipped kitchenettes ~ our favorite kind of rooms because we save money by eating some meals ‘at home’ and also experience the joys of buying fresh fruits and vegetables at local markets for a fraction of what we would pay at similar markets back home in the United States.

PicMonkey Collage
A walk to the grocery store - Kardamyli, Greece

It was a quick walk into town via the road but a far more charming route was using the hotel’s  steep stone stairway that led to a path through an olive grove and around the old town. It was a direct route to the nearest grocery store. (Trust me, the drudgery of grocery shopping disappears when one walks to and from the store through an olive grove.)

DSCF3223We stayed five days that first visit.

It was difficult to leave when the time finally arrived to move on.

I blinked back tears as I hugged Voula ‘goodbye’ with a promise to return ‘next year’.

Six weeks later – Summertime Sizzle

Kardamyli, Greece - July 2014 
The fates stepped in and we returned to Greece a mere six weeks later – by then the summer sun had wilted those flowers and had turned the lush green carpeted olive groves to a toasty gold.  We needed accommodations for at least a week, perhaps longer, depending on the actual closing for the house.

Our air-conditioned suite sanctuary at Hotel Vardia
Summer in Greece is high season and rooms were in demand. We were lucky. Voula and her husband, Ikey, found us space.  Then as the house purchased waxed and waned, they’d shake their heads, ponder a bit and find us a room – as a result we experienced several rooms while we were there and would have a difficult time deciding which one we liked best. 

Kardamyli and Messinian Bay - July 2014

We settled into the slow-paced rhythm brought on by the heat of summer. Errands and outings were completed by noon; the time the sun’s intensity drove us back in our room for leisurely long afternoon siestas in air-conditioned bliss. Then as the sun lessened, we’d venture out to enjoy the patios and views.

Ikey and Vooula - owners/operators of Hotel Vardia, Kardamyli

Many guests came and went during our summertime stay, sometimes spending only a night, as tourists often do in this area.  They didn't have the chance to spend as much time here as we did. As we look back on our adventure with its many ups and downs – we can honestly say that staying at our ‘hotel home’ was one of the high points.

In fact, a downside of buying a house would mean we couldn’t stay with Voula and Ikey -- and that we would definitely miss!

Travel Tips:


Kardamyli is less than an hour’s drive from Kalamata. A number of airlines fly from European cities to Kalamata. It is a four-hour drive from Athens (freeway to Kalamata then two-lane paved road).

Hotel Vardia – For more information visit the hotel’s web site:

For those who missed our house purchase adventure: Chasing Daydreams

Linking up with these other fun sites that you might want to check out:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

And, as always, thank you so much for your time!!! Hope you'll come back and bring a friend or two!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Maui: Prisoners in Paradise

We are talking ‘captives’ not ‘captivating’ as we take you on a tour through a bit of history in Maui’s port town of Lahaina.
MauiLanaiSF2014 073
Banner over Lahaina's Main street 
MauiLanaiSF2014 029This small town, the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, is  now a hub of tourism on this Hawaiian island.

Once a busy whaling port and (sugar cane) plantation settlement, it continues to be a busy port town although it is day-tour boats and cruise ship tenders that ply the Pacific waters these days.

As you know a trademark of our travel lifestyle is to get off the beaten path – away from the tourist bustle – in this case, anywhere near the port.

We set off on foot as Lahaina is an easy walking town and just a few blocks away from this bee hive of commercialism we found ourselves strolling through a laid-back semi-residential neighborhood.

Soon we came to a road called “Prison Street”.  We followed it and found ourselves at . . ., you guessed it. . .a prison. A prison that is now an outdoor museum, that is.

MauiLanaiSF2014 094

Hale Pa’Ahao, which loosely translated means ‘stuck in irons’ was built by convict labor. In the late afternoon we found the entryway open – there was no admission charge and no one staffing the historic site. We had the place to ourselves.

MauiLanaiSF2014 095 

(Note the sign says guardhouse and cells were rebuilt in 1959 – the same year Hawaii became a part of the United States, so one might assume from its worn interior today that it was still in use then.)

MauiLanaiSF2014 097

As far as prison grounds go, this one seemed rather comfortable (at least in is present state) with green lawn and trees.  But it was clear that comfort was left on the doorstep of that small building that housed the prisoners:

PicMonkey Collage

It appeared that it wasn’t just a place to ‘sleep off’  too much fun --  prisoners had rules. . .lots of rules, for example:

MauiLanaiSF2014 096

It’s unclear how long the place housed prisoners, but the cells and stockade were reconstructed, according to historical records, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). And then there’s the plaque in the photo above says there was a rebuild in 1959. By 1967 the place was in a state of deterioration and the Lahaina Restoration Foundation developed a plan approved by the Historical Commission to save it.

PicMonkey Collage
Walls of coral border the old prison site
If only those coral walls that surround the prison could talk. . .

A number of airlines have direct flights from the Mainland US to Maui’s Kahului airport and there are several flights daily from Honolulu. You’ll need to hop the local bus or rent a car to get to Lahaina.

Map picture

Stop by the Visitor’s Center (housed in Lahaina’s historic courthouse) footsteps from the harbor and take a tour of the Museum (in the same building) – entry here is also free but donations are welcome. While there pPick up a free copy of the Historic Walking Tour map and take a self-guided tour of the area’s  62 historical sites.  Bronze plaques at the sites give brief overviews of the historic significance.

The old prison, now considered an outdoor museum, is open daily from 10 a.m. – 4  p.m.

As always, we thank you  for spending time with us today. Hope to see you back again soon – bring a friend or two with you!

Linking with Judith's Mosaic Monday at Lavender Cottage Gardening

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Mani ~ The Greek Land of the Towers

From our room in the hotel on the hill in Kardamyli we looked out over the old town’s church and war tower. The two structures are prominent remains of the Troupakis Complex that dates back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Legend has it that the family known as Troupakis were refugees from  Mystra (ancient inland city) when it fell to the Turks in 1461. The family lived in caves (called ‘troupas’ – thus their name) in the Taygetos Mountains behind Kardamyli before arriving here and building the family complex – now a treasured part of history.
The complex was a mesmerizing sight whether in the early morning sun, the mid-day’s blaze or in the evening shadows. The morning our summer sojourn in Greece came to an end, I took this photo from our deck.

I wanted to remember that tower the way it looked in that July’s morning sun.

I wanted to remember this enchanting history-laden Land of the Towers.

Troupakis Complex - Kardamyli, Greece
The Mani – in the north called the ‘Outer Mani’ and in the south the ‘Deep Mani’ – located in the southern part of the Peloponnese peninsula is the home of ancient towers. (Lovers of Italy’s San Gimignano’s towers in Tuscany would go nuts here!)


DSCF8282A drive through The Mani (the area is only four hours from Athens via freeway) takes one from olive grove-covered hills and gorges to barren, windswept hillsides on a narrow, lightly-traveled roadway.

You don’t travel far before spotting a tower on a far-away hill or in the midst of villages.

Often times the road slices through stone villages, the old stone buildings so close you could reach out and touch the walls.

A road trip here is guaranteed to offer surprises. Sometimes goats or cattle in the middle of the road, or stone tower towns so picture-perfect they simply don’t seem real.

Deep Mani Tower Town - Peloponnese
The towers played an important role in this area’s turbulent history. Some freestanding towers were built as village’s war towers and others served as both homes (in the lower level) and a tower for defense in the upper levels. First used when the Turks invaded; later they were used as local clans fought against each other.

PicMonkey Collage

Even today homes built here are constructed using the area’s stone. And some, (like the middle photo above and to the right below illustrate) are being built incorporating the tower design of old.

PicMonkey Collage
Old Tower on the left, new homes on the right
Towers, towers everywhere and most are well preserved.  Standing in the Troupakis Complex (which is a museum area now) in Kardamyli, I took the photo below back towards our hotel on the hill and yet another the tower just behind it. There was a time this harbor town served as Sparta's port.

Troupakis Complex - Kardamyli

The Mani – a part of the Peloponnese peninsula which is generally thought of as mainland Greece and separated by the narrow width of the Corinth Canal.

There’s a modern divided freeway between the Athens Airport and Kalamata. From Kalamata the state road becomes a two-lane paved roadway. 

There are seasonal flights from various gateways in Europe to the Kalamata Airport and rental cars are available there as well as Athens.

I’ve mentioned ‘that hotel on the hill’ several times in recent posts. It became our home away from home this past summer and soon I’ll introduce you to the people who run it and our travel lifestyle there. Until then, we thank you for the time you spent with us and hope you enjoyed today’s journey. 

Happy – and safe - travels until we are together again ~

Joining in the fun at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspiration - Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...