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
808-826-6277
www.thenui.com

Kalypso
5-5156 Kuhio Highway
Hanalei, Kaua'i
808-826-9700
www.kalypsokauai.com

Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday – Inside Journeys

24 comments:

  1. There are occasions where I don't want to back to a place where the memories are so good, in case I get disappointed. That happened to me in Niagara-on-the-Lake a few years ago and it shattered the image I'd held in my mind. Isn't it amazing how one friendly hello can make all the difference.

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    1. It is a gamble going back. And while we didn't expect anything in Kauai to be as it was 30 years (yikes!) ago. . .I am afraid the Nui lacked even present-day 'aloha' which seemed to be everywhere else on the island. Once again all that tourism brings to a place it also takes away, I am afraid.

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  2. Ahh, Hanalei, which we called home (well, really Wainiha behind the Last Chance Store between Hanalei and the end of the road at Ke'e, but who's quibbling) until three weeks ago. You're right, Tahiti Nui isn't the same, even from three or four years ago. I loved seeing your photos from the early 80's when everything was wilder and woolier. I think your LP guidebook is out of date. Tahiti Nui is still family owned, but management is a niece or granddaughter. Everything cycles. Kalypso is a client of ours and one of our favorite places. Hope you got to the Hanalei Gourmet across the street in the old school building. A little more local. Next time, stay somewhere down the hill. Aloha!

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    1. Betsy, it would have been great to meet up with you while we were there but I think you were enroute to your next destination as we arrived. Oh good heavens, a granddaughter running The Nui makes me realize how long ago our first travel there was. . .Christian was just a teen! Thanks for the visit (I should have posted the photo I had of the Last Chance Store back then as well).

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  3. Great story, even with its bittersweet twist.

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    1. Thanks much - from you, my reader friend, that is a great compliment!

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  4. Hello Jackie & Joel

    I love the story and image of Louise. I think you made a wise decision in not attending the Luau at $75. It is sad when we cannot go back. You were there when it was alive and authentic.
    Helenx

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    1. We've got the memories when all is said and done, Helen, and we had a lovely introduction back then to the spirit of aloha so I guess we can't be too upset that time marches on and things change, can we? Thanks so much for your visit as it is always nice to see you here! Jackie xx

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  5. It is always a little strange to go back to a place that you remember from long ago. Just happened to me in Mexico, but I'm still glad I went back.

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  6. Deja vu all over again as they say. Sometimes good, and sometimes not. It is good to see how things have changed or not in little Hanalei. . .

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  7. Ahh, how bittersweet! I was hoping Louise would still be around...but your memories are what count.
    I love your back then and now photos - they really highlight the changes though I expected there would have been more 'development' in the Hanalei Valley.
    Thanks for linking up, Jackie!

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    1. Marcia, thanks so much for hosting #FoodieTuesday. Look forward to visiting the others who are participating this week. Glad you enjoyed my trip down memory lane.

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  8. I really enjoyed your post today and hearing about this lovely lady and your past visits. Sometimes when things change it is better not to go back, because one may be disappointed. But at least you found an equally inviting venue down the street. Happy travels and thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for your kind thoughts. I really appreciated them.

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    1. Oh Jill, thanks for the lovely comment and for taking time to visit. I have been thinking about you since reading your post. Do take care!! Hugs. Jackie

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  9. It's always so bittersweet going back and hoping that nothing has changed but knowing that everything probably has. I loved your story today, and the characters became alive to me and I wondered about their lives and times, and could picture you sitting drinking Mai Tais from rattan chairs looking across a small lane :)

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    1. Glad I brought Louise 'to life' at least one more time. She was a most memorable lady. Thanks much for stopping by Jo!

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  10. Hi Jackie,

    I loved this very personal account of your experiences in Kaui. Those wonderful memories you have of Louise will always shine brightly in your heart, and no amount of rudeness can make them fade away. You were blessed to have met that lovely lady, as more and more, such sweet souls seem to be a thing of the past today.

    Hugs,
    Poppy

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    1. Yes, it was a different time in Hawaiian tourism, Poppy. But you know one of the things we loved about Greece is that feeling of warmth and welcome that is so abundant - still! -- in your wonderful country!

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  11. What a lovely tribute to your friend. People make the most powerful memories when we travel~

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Irene and taking time to comment. I agree, that some of our best memories are not so much of the places we've visited but of the people who made those places special.

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  12. Hanalei is such a magical place and one of my favorite places in the world. What a wonderful trip down memory lane and history of the Tahiti Nui. I was there with 3 friends last year who went to the luau. I decided not to go as I don't drink and $75 for a meal is a little steep for me :)

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  13. I am with you Michelle - for $75 each we could have had an exquisite meal at the St. Regis Hotel and its dropdead view of the NaPali. Glad you enjoy Hanalei as much as we do! Thanks for the visit~

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  14. We visited Hanalei in the early nineties and, although we didn't visit the Tahiti Nut, we remember it as a picturesque little town surrounded by places of amazing beauty. Wish we could have met Louise Hauata who sounds like a one-in-a-million woman!

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  15. Oh, when I started reading this, I thought it was going to have a happy ending, Jackie. It's a shame, but at least you have the memories and photos from those old days.

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