Monday, September 22, 2014

Kaua'i: Where Memory Lane leads to Louise’s

She was as exotic as any I had person I’d ever seen back then.
(I’d spent my life in an agricultural community in Central Washington State). 

She was enormous.
(from my five-foot-almost-one-inch point-of-view)

And she had a smile that just wouldn’t quit. She made you feel warm and welcomed – prompting that  kind of ‘I-don’t-want-to-leave’ feeling and a desire to return soon when you finally did leave.

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Louise Hauata - Tahiti Nui, photo March 1983
That’s how I remember the woman, Louise Hauata, from the Austral Islands of French Polynesia, just south of Tahiti. We met her back in 1983  in Hanalei on Kauai’s North Shore. She was a single mother running the Tahitian style bar and restaurant that she and her American husband, Bruce Marston, a former Lt. Col in the U.S. Air Force, had opened in 1964. They had met and married in Tahiti then moved to Kauai. He had died in the mid 70’s.
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The Scout - reluctantly posing - Princeville, Kauai, March 1983

We were young back then – barely married three years -- and travel was doled out in brief 10-day-per-year-doses by our employers. Hawaii, a mere six-hour flight away from the Seattle airport, was  a favorite destination for us.  Kauai’s North Shore was of particular appeal; in part because of Louise’s Tahiti Nui.

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Tahiti Nui - March 1983
We’d sit in those cushioned rattan chairs on her front porch sipping Mai Tai’s and watch the occasional car go by on the two-lane road that gives way to hiking trails and the rugged NaPali coast a few miles beyond Hanalei.  The bar made such an impression that to this day we have an enlargement of this photo hanging in our den.

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Scenes from the Tahiti Nui luau - March 1983
It was at this little place we attended our first – and only – Hawaiian luau.  The dishes were prepared primarily on site, but we recall some dishes were brought by locals – think potluck style.  We paid some ridiculously small amount and dined on authentic Hawaiian dishes: roasted pork, poi, salads, lomi lomi, lau lau. . .the works.
Before we sat down to eat, Louise had us encircle our tables, join hands and she said grace. Then the feast and entertainment was on. The hula show provided by local talented young ladies.

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Hanalei Valley 1983 left, 2014 right
The Hanalei Valley really hasn’t changed much during the decades that have passed since those youthful visits of ours to paradise. The landscape is still carpeted with agricultural fields– with a fair share of golf courses and visitor accommodations in nearby Princeville, where we stayed. 

The town of Hanalei has a grocery store now, a small (tourist-oriented) shopping development and several restaurants and bars from which to choose. However, prior to our return, we were delighted to read in the Lonely Planet’s guidebook, “Kauai” that the Tahiti Nui is run by Louise’s son, Christian and her nephew, William Marsten.

Although Louise had died in 2003, we were eager to follow memory lane back to her Tahiti Nui.

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Tahiti Nui, Hanalei, 2014
I raced up the stairs after taking this photo to peek inside as it was early Sunday morning and the place -  now twice the size it had been -- was closed. Just as I got to the doorway, a woman inside snapped, “We open at 11!” and shut the door in my face. 

So much for that warm welcome I remembered. . .

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The "Nui" now - 2014

Oh well, not to be deterred, we were pleased to learn they still have a weekly luau. . .not so pleased to learn it was capped off at some hundred guests or so, each paying $75 a person.  Maybe a regular dinner there would work, we reasoned. . .

We stopped by the one evening we were in town and the place -- with its cross between funky Tahitian and dive décor -- didn’t look much different from how we remembered it. It was, however, crammed with diners and drinkers thus making its interior stifling hot and stuffy.

But no smiles like Louise’s greeted us from the bartender or the wait staff.

ManitoKauai2014 120There really seemed no room nor real reason to stay.

We took a final look around.

Then tucked those sweet memories away. . .

. . .and ate pub grub at Kalypso a bar/restaurant down the street where we were greeted with a warm welcome.

If You Go:

Tahiti Nui
5-5134 Kuhio Highway
Hanalei, Kaua'i

5-5156 Kuhio Highway
Hanalei, Kaua'i

Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday – Inside Journeys

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Greece: Finding ourselves in “Pigi” Heaven

KARDAMYLI - We headed south one morning during our summer adventure in the Greek Peloponnese on the winding two-lane highway that lead us back from our coastal setting and up into the Messinian hillsides.

We were off to find, and then explore, Pigi.

Pigi, Greece
We’d been told the place was home to a restaurant that came highly recommended. Then The Scout found a house listed for sale there. . .a combination we couldn't resist.

After making a sharp exit onto a narrow road that appeared to get smaller, we parked the car and decided to proceed on foot. We’ve learned that some villages in Greece -- built long before cars arrived -- are so small that driving into them isn’t the best idea. We made a wise call on this one as the road into town quickly narrowed to what appeared to be a wide pathway.


So narrow was the road that we squeezed up against a building when much to our amazement a car approached us from the opposite direction! But aside from that car and its two occupants, it was as if we had the small village to ourselves. We didn’t see another person as we explored the small settlement with a population of 67.

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Our footsteps echoed on the roadway and we spoke in stage whispers as we didn’t know who might be behind those magnificent doorways. . .


Or up those ancient stairways.  . .and we certainly didn’t want to disturb their morning’s silence. . .

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So we walked to the church. . .as with most villages, it was the centerpiece of the town.


And then walked a bit further and admired the views. . .

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. . .from the café, that hadn't yet opened for the day. And we never did find that house for sale.  But to our way of thinking, we had just had a great introduction to  “Pigi Heaven”.

A home's sitting area built into the cliff behind the house

We know this is a place we will certainly return to one day . . . its charm is too hard to resist. And who knows? Next time we might see another human being?!


That’s it for today’s outing in Greece’s Peloponnese. Thanks so much for joining us! And welcome to our new followers and subscribers~

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Travel Inspiration – Reflections en Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kauai: Luxury for Less, Part II

“You own here?” a fellow guest sitting next to us at the Marriott Waiohai Ocean Villas beach bar asked.

“No, we rented a week,” The Scout answered, adding, “I think we got a deal. . .two-bedroom, two bath unit for $109 a night.”

“You bet you did!,” he exclaimed, “I am paying $495 a night!”

Beach at Marriott Waiohai - Kauai
And so began our second week of Luxury-for-Less on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

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Our condo was the one far right top floor, with its deck nestled between two palm trees and overlooking this fabulous lagoon.

In Part I of our Kauai Luxury-for-Less series, I told you about our plush digs at the Westin and its steal-of-a-deal price in Princeville. This Marriott Vacation Club (these are also timeshare condos) is on the sunnier south side of the island at Poipu.

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Top left clockwise: Living room, guest bedroom, guest bath, master and bath, kitchen
The two-bedroom, two-bath unit with fully furnished kitchen, a table to seat eight and full living room had been available for rent from an owner for $109 a night – the only additional cost was a $50 booking fee and nightly room tax which brought the price up to $116 a night.  Wi-fi, athletic facilities and pool use – all included; no extra charges.

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Our deck, and gardens between buildings
Admittedly, we had a garden view but with gardens like this, it wasn’t tough to sit on our deck (a table with seating for four and a lounge chair) and then walk the garden path to the beach.

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Sunset from the Marriott's Honu Beach Bar - Poipu, Kauai
If You Go:

Map picture

Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands and is considered the chain’s Garden Island (translated that means it does get rain, however, the showers came and went quickly during our two-week stay).

KauiSm2014 056A number of airlines fly directly from the U.S. west coast to its airport, Lihue.  Inter island flights connect in Honolulu (but they can add a couple hundred dollars more to the cost of the trip).

Another money-saving tip:  There are a number of U.S. ‘big box’ stores on the island, including Costco (where food and beverages prices were definitely less and the selection greater than at local markets.)

Finding The Deal:

The Scout booked this rental through which he found when searching the site,

Our stay was the first week of September and a quick check for September rates for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath, island view at the Waiohai:

Marriott:  $412 a night
Expedia:  $412 a night
Our rate, $116 (including tax) compared most favorably!

As always, we thank you for the time you spent with us. Hope our tips come in handy on your future travels. If you’ve got some tips for ‘deals’ do let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email.  Hope to see you back again later this week~ when we'll take you to "Pigi Heaven"! Happy travels~

Monday, September 8, 2014

Travel IS a Lifestyle

This summer we missed the Sardine Festival in Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas), a delightful coastal town in the Greek Peloponnese by two weeks because we’d returned to Kirkland,our Pacific Northwest home.

Waterfront Agios Nikolaos -Messinian Mani, Greece
We also missed Kirkland’s Fourth of July celebrations by two weeks – because we were in Greece.

“We travel not to escape life,
but for life to not escape us.”
          -- Unknown
A return from the grocery store in Kardamyli meant a walk through the olive grove
Approaching Athens
. . .While in Greece we missed a friend’s wedding in Kirkland. . .

. . .But back in Kirkland, Washington I missed the opportunity to go with a new friend ‘on a dig’ in archaeology-rich Greece. . .

We’ve come to accept these bits of mistimed happenstance because we’ve made travel our lifestyle.

It is no longer an isolated activity with defined start and stop dates – occurring once or twice a year as it did back in our ‘8 to 5’ workaday lives.

We’ve found that what we’ve missed in one place or another is more than compensated by what we have gained in terms of everyday life experiences elsewhere.  For example, had I not missed that Kirkland wedding, I wouldn’t have made a new friend in Kardamyli who wanted me to go on a dig with her.

Istanbul, Turkey street scene

“To travel is to live.”
                        -- Hans Christian Andersen
If you can dream it, you can do it. . .
The travel lifestyle is flexible:

The travel lifestyle isn’t always a well-thought out, predictable one. It is difficult to commit to events or activities too far distant. Our calendars are built around upcoming trips ~ always with enough wiggle room to take advantage of unplanned outings. . .those that blindside our brains with their utter spontaneity.

My friend Tina - hotelier in Pylos, Greece

Some friends wistfully ask, “Can you tell us how? We want to be like you.”

Others prefer to scold us, “You are never home!
Yet others have asked, “Where do you live now?”

In fact, our travel lifestyle provides us many ‘homes’ - each with a sense of community and circle of friends. We are at ‘home’ in any number of places these days.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights, it is a change that goes on,
deep and permanent in the ideas of living.”
-- Miriam Beard (1876 – 1958)
Adopting a travel lifestyle is really no different than taking up some other hobby – playing golf, gardening, joining a musical group, or creating handicrafts --  except it is a bit more encompassing and less of a single focus. From fashion to food, travel has an impact on our lifestyle. . .
Laundry day at 'home' in Loutro, Crete
Travel Lifestyles focus on fashion.

We have a different approach these days to clothing and fashion. Our wardrobe is selected in terms of how many places in the world could we wear the item, will it fit into the smallest of bags possible – and will we be able to carry the bag up or down a flight of stairs.

We think about:

* the weight and bulk a garment (or shoes!) will add to the suitcase,
*whether the decorative metal buttons and zippers will set off security alarms at airports (as have some of my Chico’s garments).
*the ease of cleaning (and drying time).

Bags are packed - leaving Nafpaktos, Greece
“One’s destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things.”
                   -- Henry Miller
Food and feasts. . .but, of course they are part of a Travel Lifestyle!

Restaurant window in Istanbul, Turkey
What traveler doesn’t look forward to the new foods awaiting in some new locale? (And in reality, what traveler doesn’t need to ‘go on the wagon’ after a trip to shed the pounds brought back like souvenirs?)

When travel becomes a lifestyle and any number of locations could be ‘home’ then it becomes necessary to watch the diet and exercise – we make exercise (the formal ‘go-to-the-gym’ kind) as routine as possible where ever we find ourselves.

We also eat ‘local’ which often means discovering new and wonderful tastes  -- poke, the marinated raw fish dishes in Hawaii, barbequed ribs in Arizona, fish and chips in London and moussaka in Greece – then looking forward to a return so that we can enjoy the flavors again.

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Sushi in Maui, breakfast Porto Cayo, wine in Galaxidi, fruit in Ag. Roumeli, Greece, sushi, Hawaii
While our travel lifestyle keeps us living out of a suitcase for several months a year, we still maintain a ‘home base’ in the Pacific Northwest.  Unlike us there are some Americans (non military) who have packed up and chosen to live  – either full or part-time – in some country outside the United States. While there are no hard and fast figures, estimates range from 2.2 – 6.8 million such vagabonds.
  Where do you fall in the travel lifestyle spectrum?  Or, is travel a lifestyle for you?
 Travel is most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination
and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.
                           --Paul Theroux
Again thanks for spending time with us. Welcome to our new subscribers and followers! And a big shout out to those of you who’ve shared our posts on Facebook and Twitter – or recommend us to others; we are always flattered when you think a post is worthy of sharing!

Linking up with and hope you'll stop by:
Budget Travelers Sandbox - Travel Photo Thursday
Reflections En Route - Weekend Travel Inspirations
Lavender Cottage Gardening - Mosaic Monday

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kauai: Luxury Travel for Less, Part I

The sky turned golden precisely at 5:55 a.m. then went gray and within 30 minutes was a brilliant blue background to the rising sun's antics of playing peek-a-boo through pink-tinted clouds and palm frond silhouettes.

That was how each day began during our first week in Kauai.

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Sunrise in Kauai from our room
We were at the Westin Ocean Resort Villas in Princeville on the island’s North Shore.  Princeville, with its high-end accommodations is nicknamed 'the Bel Air of the island', after California’s similarly ritzy city.

Kauai2014Aug 052From the deck on our studio condo we’d sip both morning coffee and evening wine – there was no better ocean view to be had in the complex than ours.

 We like luxury.

And we’ve surrounded ourselves in it on this trip.

What we like even better is when we find luxurious accommodations for less!

And that’s what The Scout does best. . .so let me show you what he found and how much it cost.

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Our home away from home - week one Kauai
The Westin Villas are ‘time shares’ or ‘interval ownership units’ where a week is purchased (either deeded land or points), maintenance fees are paid annually, and you’ve got your own – albeit, tiny – piece of Hawaii, in this case. (We own such property on the island of O’ahu and Arizona and for those new to the blog, check the links on the homepage for more about those).

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Westin Ocean Resort Villas - Princeville, Kauai
Often times owners can’t use their reserved time and choose to trade it for somewhere/sometime else or they rent the reserved time. A number of web sites are designed for just that and that’s where The Scout found this Westin unit for rent.

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Bathroom, kitchen and laundry off the entry hall
Our spacious unit had a large walk-in shower, jacuzzi tub for two with a shuttered wall that opened to the ocean view, an en suite washer and dryer and a kitchen that included garbage disposal, dishwasher, microwave/convection oven and was stocked with more dishes and pans than I planned to use! Once a week maid service brought new towels and sheets and a room tidy. And our bed was “Heavenly” the kind trademarked by Westin and used in all their hotel and vacation villa properties. For parents out there: the couch was a sleeper sofa - bedding provided.

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BBQs with a view
Food and drink prices were high at this end of the island, so we ate ‘at home’ often. BBQ’s were cleaned daily for use by residents. I tell you sipping wine and enjoying the view while cooking was one of the stay’s high points. . .and it was a better views than many of the restaurants.

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Beach at St. Regis Hotel - and its view: NaPali Coast
A real plus was  regular shuttle service to the nearby St. Regis Hotel where we could sunbathe on its beach or dine in its restaurants and bars (rooms at that luxury hotel began at $500+ a night).

So . . .What we paid:
This room is called a Premium Studio, 512 sq. ft. plus 44 sq. ft. balcony. 
Rate per night on the Westin site: $450;
on Expedia $399.
We paid: $150 per night, booking through the owner’s rental site. I’ve listed a few of them below.

If You Go:
The Scout did a quick Google search for ‘timeshare rentals’ and found a number of websites, including,, TUG (Timeshare Users Group)com.

Note: We didn’t expect to have an ocean view as it hadn’t been specified in the rental - it was luck of the draw. “Ocean views” -- should you book one -- can be tricky because some places consider even a peek-a-boo view of water as ocean view.  Do a bit of research and check floor plans.

Common Sense Note:  We rented from owners using two different web sites. We did not send full payment at the time of booking. We made a payment to hold the reservation but waited until confirmations were sent, in this case from The Westin, with our name on the rental and a confirmation number before we made the final payment. (We also called The Westin prior to arrival to make sure we did have a reservation.)

Next week I’ll “show and tell” the luxury for less we found on the island’s other side our second week. Hope you’ll come  check it out~ until then, Happy Travels. And thanks for your visit!

Linking to three incredible blogs:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspirations – Reflections en Route
Mosaic Monday- Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kaua’i: Market Day

It turns out that on this Hawaiian island every day, but Sunday, is a Market Day somewhere. 

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Kaui Community College Saturday Market - Lihue
We generally seek out these temporary markets – often set up in parking lots, city streets or vacant fields - when we travel because they are some of our favorite places to meet growers and buy locally-sourced food. On this island we didn’t have to do any seeking; we were offered market schedules at check-in at both places we’ve stayed.

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This week we are in a condo on the island’s south side where there are any number of markets taking place. The photos in this post were taken at the Saturday morning market held weekly on the Kaua’i Community College campus. We arrived minutes after its 9:30 opening to find shoppers were already lined up to make purchases.

ManitoKauai2014 231Coming from the Pacific Northwest where a tropic flower stem can cost more than $10, you can probably understand our delight at finding entire bouquets for $7!

(A similar market earlier in the week in Hanalei on the island’s North Shore had them for $15 which we had thought had also been a terrific price.)

We’ll enjoy this $7 beauty for the rest of our stay. . .

In addition to flowers we came home with a bag of just-husked corn on the cob ($5), a bag of six heads of Manoa lettuce ($2.50), and a bunch of just-picked yellow bananas ($1) . The temptations were to over-buy. . .great prices and great products.

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Generally, one of our favorite travel tips is to shop at these markets because they are a great places to save money as well as to get  fresh foods.

That wasn’t the case at all the Kauai markets.

The farmer’s market at Waipa Ahupua’a Field in Hanalei on the North Shore had growers offering pineapples for $8 each and some with papayas at $2.50 each.  One couple, however, offered papayas  for $1 each with a “buy 2 and get 1 free” deal. . .and that’s where we bought our week’s supply. (Food prices at grocery stores there were also high.)

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Back on the South Shore, we did shop for groceries and adult beverages at Costco, the big box store in Lihue, where the price of a Hawaiian pineapple, was $3.50 and a box of five papayas $5.50. I can tell you the place was packed with locals and tourists during our Friday morning visit.

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Red ginger stems
There’s a two-hours-only “Gourmet Farmers Market” taking place on Wednesday at nearby Kukui’ula Shopping Village.  We were told there would be wine tasting and food available for purchase. So far wine prices at bars and restaurants have ranged from $14 – $35 a glass so we can hardly wait to see what the prices will be at the ‘Gourmet Farmer’s Market’ . . .

If You Go. . .

Kauai is the furthest north of the major islands in the Hawaiian Island chain.  There are direct flights from several U.S. West Coast cities, including Seattle. The North Shore is famous for the amount of rain that falls there; it’s south shore is far more sun drenched. Farmer's Market schedules are readily available.

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Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday @ Inside Journeys

Sunday, August 31, 2014

WAWeekend: What's New in The Yakima Valley

The Yakima Valley – where I was born and raised – is in the center of Washington State’s agricultural lands.  Once it’s only claim to tourist fame was its more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

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These days  the sunshine is just an added benefit. It has become a place where wine roads, ale trails and hiking/biking paths intersect.

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Hop yards - hops are used in the valley's ales
We returned to Yakima a couple months ago because I was researching an article for The Seattle Times.  I was in search of ‘what’s new?’.  Let me tell you I found plenty. 

If you’ve not had Yakima on your travel radar it is time to adjust your compass and head out for some incredible hiking and biking and then hit either the ale trail to local craft breweries and distilleries or set out to sample wine at the dozens of wineries that are scattered throughout the area.

Where to Go and What to Do in the Yakima Valley?
Just click this link to my article in The Seattle Times for my recommendations!

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