Sunday, January 30, 2011

Diamond Head Dazzles

Diamond Head from Waikiki's
J.Smith photo (c) 2011
Hula Babe's Hawaiian love affair begins with Diamond Head. I simply can't get enough of it. 

I didn't keep my pre-trip promise to myself though, which was to climb to its upper rim and around it on its well-maintained  pathway while we were staying in Waikiki.  I am blaming that on Polynesian Paralysis - the condition that takes away all goals and vows to do things replacing them with a distinct feel of contentment over doing absolutely nothing.  Well, nothing except staring at something magnificent. And in Hawaii there are plenty of magnificent things to stare at:  waves breaking on the shore, sun rise, sun set, and of course, my beloved Diamond Head. 

While we didn't make it to the top of Diamond Head we did walk to the Diamond Head Lighthouse beach and explored it at length.  The beach that wraps itself around the base of the lighthouse and Diamond Head is a favorite with darkly tanned surfer boys and girls waiting for the right waves to develop - not many folks the ages of Hula Babe and Beach Boy.  We logged 9 miles on the pedometer that day, I might add, even without climbing to the top of my favorite peak.

The first lighthouse was built above this beach in 1899 and then rebuilt in 1917.  Today it stands tall and white against the tropical foliage surrounding it. 
Diamond Head Lighthouse
J. Smith photo, (c) 2010

There was a time that Diamond Head was known only as Le'ahi, which in Hawaiian means, "wreath of fire" as the native Hawaiians used to light fires on the crest of the volcano to light the way back for those out in canoes on the sea.  It was in 1825 that British sailors found calcite crystals among the black rocks and thought they were diamonds - thus, it become known as Diamond Head.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looking for Luxury? Think. . . Kirkland

There's a great, but too often overlooked, alternative to Seattle and  it's Kirkland, our hometown.  So before Hula Babe begins her Hawaii reports, I must write a word or two about Kirkland, especially for those of you who are feeling you need a mid-winter change of scenery and may not make it to Hawaii or other tropical destination. (Some actually like rainy days, I am told). So if you want to dine in a French bistro, stroll miles of lakefront passing a half dozen parks along the way and then pamper yourself at either of two luxury hotels within a couple miles of each other, check out the full details in an article I wrote for KirklandViews.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Travel Tip: Close could be costly

We came close to making a real costly blooper on our airline tickets to Hawaii all because I didn‘t pay attention when filling in the information section and used Hula Babe's everyday name Jackie instead of Jacqueline (the latter is the legal name, the one on the passport and birth certificate kind of name; and the one I always use when traveling.).

So, I’m not sure how that got past us, but it did. So, Hula Babe, aka Jackie, aka Jacqueline, arrived at SeaTac with a passport reading Jacqueline and a ticket reading Jackie. . .(and thankfully a Washington State driver’s license that read Jackie).

Oh, well, everyone knows Jackie is a short version of Jacqueline, right? Well, not exactly. When it comes to security these days, close isn't close enough.

Handing the Alaska Airlines ticket agent my passport and ticket, I asked if the names were close enough. He suggested I find ID with Jackie on it. I showed him the driver’s license and he said it would work for him and more importantly, TSA.

Had I not had the license, he said he would have had to re-issue my ticket with the correct name.

The cost to do that? $100.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mai Tais and Macadamia Nuts: Aloha!

There is nothing that says “Aloha” more clearly than the tinkle of ice in a Mai Tai or the crunch of macadamia nuts. So, when the flight attendants started serving both - complimentary, I might add - we knew we were close to our destination, paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

These liquid tropical treats also cushioned the bumps and bouncing of our decent into the Honolulu airport.
The weather has been  unsettled around this part of the world in recent weeks but we've lucked out and hat blue sky, sunshine and temperatures in the 80's since arriving a few days ago..

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Diet to Go, Goes Hawaiian

Hawaiian Plate Lunch
Hawaiian 'plate lunch', Hawaiian bread. Hawaiian style potato chips. . .oh, the tasty memories of trips gone by.

Our Diet to Go will be put to a test in Hawaii, although thanks to Dr. Rob Thompson's guest post (see "Pack the Chocolate and Nuts"), I've already been lusting for those dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts found in nearly every Hawaiian souvenir shop.

Doing things Differently
Actually our first test of new travel eating was our short holiday trip to Las Vegas. We didn't lose weight, but we came back weighing just a blip more than we did when we left - unlike our usual 2 - 3 pound gain.

But we did do things differently - just a bit of behavior modification:
  • We took a jar of peanuts and a bag of dried cranberries for in-room snacks. (Turned out to be a smart idea as I searched the gift shop at the Suncoast, and the nearby J.W. Marriott but neither offered  'healthy snacks' -- plenty of pretzels and potato chips, crackers and cookies -- but nothing like bags of snacking veggies/fruit or yogurt to-go-type products. And, there was no grocery store within walking distance.) 
  • We gave up our usual giant cookie and coffee mid afternoon snack for coffee and a yogurt parfait from the deli in the Suncoast. (Turned out to be so good, we had it for breakfast the next day).
  • We ordered the coffee shop's special breakfast one morning, but substituted at no extra charge a fruit cup for the hash browns and toast that normally came with it. (Now that was a first for this potato lover!)
As we leave for Hawaii I am down 6 pounds and Joel down 5 (without suffering through our traditional 3-day-starvation plan). We don't plan to lose weight while in Aloha Land but hopefully not gain either.
We will see. . .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's Hula Babe and Beach Boy Back Again!

Watching Waves - Ko Olina
Yes, in a matter of days the tales of Hula Babe (that would be me) and Beach Boy (that would be Joel) and their annual sun and sand adventures in Hawaii return, undoubtedly, a highly anticipated event -- LOL here --  for you regular readers.

BTW, I christened us Hula Babe and Beach Boy last year, after visiting Pioneer Woman, a phenomenally popular blog written by a woman who no more looks like a Pioneer Woman to me, than I believe I look like a Hula Babe.

But if she can be a pioneer woman,  I can be . . well, let's say for a short period of time I will  throw caution to the wind.  Every so often we '50- and 60-somethings' should remind ourselves we aren't as old as those numbers sound! 

And don't you find that when you travel, you re-invent yourself as you go along? 

You can be an adventurer, explorer, food critic, a wilderness trekker or a grand lady or gent. When you don't pack your normal customs and routines of 'how it's done back home';  you have plenty of room to explore and absorb your new surroundings and to re-invent yourself for at least a short period of time.

Hula Babe and Beach Boy are heading to their 'home away from home,' Ko Olina, a 642 acre development on Oahu's western shore.  In coming posts we will tell you all about what's new:  like Aulani, the new Disney resort at Ko Olina, and the new Marriott Edition Hotel on Waikiki beach; old favorites like 'our' sea turtle who frolicked in the waves with us last year. And of course how well our Diet to Go, is going.

So, grab your shades, and sun tan lotion . . .and come along.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ahh, those Las Vegas bunnies!

We don't  often 'do'  traditional boxed Christmas gifts at our house. In fact, Joel still points to an elephant trek on Christmas Day through the jungles of Northern Thailand - now many long years ago - as the best gift I've ever given him.

So, it shouldn't be a surprise that this year we gave ourselves a trip to Las Vegas for the holidays. And, by holidays I mean:  Christmas, New Year and BCS "Bowl Week" with its dozens of play-off games marking the passage of  football season for another year.

Since we'd opened the college football season in Las Vegas back in September, it seemed fitting to head back to the comfort of its many casino 'sportsbooks' where we could be surrounded by frenzied fans sipping adult libations while cheering the on-field action, their heads whirling to watch sometimes multiple games being shown on as many as 50 television screens that wallpaper these areas. 

Note: we were't among the 230,000 New Year's Eve revelers who Vegas officials estimate headed to The Strip and Fremont Street to celebrate the arrival of 2011 despite temperatures dipping below freezing. And we left town as the estimated 120,000 attendees were arriving for the highly publicized International Consumer Electronics Show and the lesser talked about Adult Entertainment Expo.  

We opted to take the window of opportunity between NYE and the conventions when room rates drop and football games headline activities.  We spent our first couple nights at the Suncoast in Summerlin, about 15 minutes -- and light years -- from The Strip and its night life, Playboy Bunnies, glitz and glamour.
Late afternoon looking toward the Red Rock Canyon
But in this quiet Vegas suburb, a gateway to the Red Rock Canyon, there are plenty of wide open spaces as evidenced by this image taken from our room.  Out here when you say 'bunny' it means the four-legged kind; the kind that seemed to play hide-and-seek with us on New Year's morning, when bundled up Pacific-Northwest-style to brace against the 34-degree 'high'  of  the day, we took a long walk along the neighboring golf course.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Are we Celebrity "Cruise People"?

We've been a bit flummoxed about cruising since returning from our Black Sea adventure last fall.
And we are flummoxed about why we are flummoxed.
The ship and our cabin were fine.
The routing, well. . .interesting, but we won't be rushing back.
Maybe it was the dreary weather?
Whatever it was -- or wasn't -- we've been asking ourselves the last few weeks:

"Are we cruise people?"

And while analyzing our inner-self traveler, Joel, the researcher, has sought out, monitored and researched various cruises . . .just in case we might try it again.   

His system: Three P's: 
Ports of Call,
Price and,
Problems of getting to and from the departure/arrival ports.

One cruise in particular had caught our eye: a repositioning cruise on Celebrity cruise lines.  A repositioning cruise is one in which the cruise line needs to move a ship from one location -- say the Caribbean to another, like the Mediterranean, for an upcoming season of sailing and wanting to fill it up, offers some great deals.

A few weeks ago we checked it out on our old favorite Cruise Compete, an on-line company that provides quotes from a variety of travel agencies throughout the United States by submitting a single request for pricing. 
Seven agencies responded. 
Five of the quotes received were for the same cabin category -- on board credit incentives differed slightly -- but the prices differed by more than $200.
One of the highest quotes we got was for a view obstructed balcony!  

Still, we didn't book anything and continued to ask ourselves,
"Are we cruise people?"

But the scales tipped when an email arrived last week from Travel Zoo with it's summary of 'best travel deals this week' we saw 'our' cruise listed with a lower price for a "Concierge Class" cabin (higher up on the ship and more amenities) than the quotes we'd received for a regular balcony cabin.

 We called CruCon Cruise Outlet , the agency offering the cruise, and within 10 minutes had answers to all our questions and had selected our room as the agent told us which cabins were available so we could look at them on our computer while we talked with her. (In contrast, on the HAL cruise, we didn't get our cabin assignment until a few days before sailing - which always causes a bit of wonder about whether you really will get a cabin or if they overbook like airlines.) 

Our contract for the Celebrity cruise was emailed within minutes of the phone conversation and a receipt for our deposit arrived yesterday.

Still, because we'd not used this company before, I did a bit of  research. Yes, they are licensed and bonded. Even more comforting was the opening page of their web site. . . it's wall-papered with cruise line awards for sales, professionalism and testimonials from happy customers.

So far this cruise has been a good experience. 
We will again ponder whether we are 'cruise people' during those languorous days crossing the Atlantic later this year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Diet to Go: Pack the Nuts and Chocolate!

 We are taking a "Diet to Go" approach to travel this year. Or call it a 'culinary journey' into a new way of eating when living out of our suitcases. We will follow  -- okay, to be honest, we may not be able to follow quite to the letter, but we will try to be close --  the plan outlined in the book, "Glycemic Load Diet" by Seattle cardiologist Dr. Rob Thompson, who is on staff  at Swedish Medical Center.
We thank Dr. Thompson for writing the following guest post:

Think you’ll gain weight on your vacation?

If you’re off to one of those lie-around-the-pool ones, you could be right.

However, if you’re planning on sightseeing in Europe, you might be surprised. There’s something about the relaxation, daily walking and complex cuisine that seems to make us Americans shed a few pounds.

Here are a few tips that will bring you home a little slimmer:

1. Pack plenty of nuts.
When you travel, hunger often strikes at times when your choices of food are limited. Instead of resorting to starchy snacks or building up a voracious appetite, have some nuts. They’re satisfying, full of protein, fiber and omega-3 fats, and contain little starch or sugar. They’ll keep you going until you can sit down and have a real meal.

2. Eat Tasty Food.
Call them baguettes or call them pommes frites, but they’re still just white bread and French fries – mainly tasteless starch that turns to sugar as soon as it hits your digestive tract. Surely, you want to eat more exciting food than bread dough and potatoes when you’re in Europe. Put the chef to work. Enjoy complex dishes made with the fresh ingredients of the region -- meats, poultry, seafood, cheeses, fruit and vegetables.

3. Bring Fine Chocolate.
Good chocolate will satisfy that after-dinner sweet tooth, and help you avoid the calories and expense of full desserts. You can even carry some with you and sneak little with your after-dinner coffee. A couple squares has negligible effects on your blood sugar, especially if it’s dark chocolate. I never leave home without it.

Can you believe it?! Chocolates and nuts. . .I might actually be able to do it! For more details about the diet, Dr. Thompson's book, Glycemic Load Diet, can be found on the carousel on our home page. He is also author of, The New Low-Carb Way of Life. We will post periodic updates on our progress and additional tips as the year goes along. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Diet to Go: Our 2011 Culinary Journey

"You are making  us look too fat and old," Joel replied to the cruise ship photographer, when the perky 20-something asked, "How about a photo of you two this morning?"

Those cruise ship photos -- displayed for all your fellow cruisers to see and in hopes you'll purchase -- are brutally frank ~ relentless reminders of the passage of years and how travel has expanded more than our horizons.

We can't do much about the passage of time other than to enjoy it, but 2011 is the year we are taking a new culinary journey (that's a euphemism for diet).

Oh yes. . .there was Paris. . .sigh
For years we've been yo-yo travel dieters: employing a three-day starvation-type diet to drop five pounds before a trip; then eating with wild abandon while traveling; and returning to the dreaded three-day diet.

Shortly after our cruise we dined with a traveling friend who showed up at the table some 20+ pounds less than he was last year. (During which time he's spent several weeks in Spain and made numerous trips in the U.S. and to Canada.) He credited the weight loss to a book his doctor had recommended. He'd followed the plan it outlined, saying it didn't seem like a diet. 

And that was music to our pudgy little ears.
We ordered the book*. 
We read it.
Hmmm. . .chocolate and wine in moderation is okay.
Just need to curb (well, I think it sort of recommends, eliminate or reduce significantly or something that means eat less of) those sugars and starches - potatoes, bread and pasta. Dang! The same thing my doctor told me to do two years ago.
We decided to give it a try.
We began our  culinary journey in mid November.

Even with Christmas, New Year's and a trips to Savannah and Las Vegas, we've each lost five pounds. And we haven't suffered - we snack, we eat and we drink, just a bit differently than before. Our friend was right, it doesn't seem like a diet.

Paris chocolate shop. . . maybe
But what happens when we really hit the road? 
Or set sail on a cruise?
That remains to be seen.
I'll be telling you about it as the year progresses.

* The book is, "The Glycemic Load Diet" (MacGraw Hill publishers, 2006) by Dr. Rob Thompson, a Seattle cardiologist in private practice who is on staff at Swedish Hospital Medical Center.  Watch for his guest post later this week.  You can sneak a peek at the book by clicking the link or on the book displayed on the Amazon carousel on the blog's home page.

And a reminder: Just as our mode of travel isn't for everyone so goes the diet.  We are telling our story, not promoting any one diet over another. As with all health matters, do what your health care professional and you decide is best for you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Treating the Travel Bug

Over coffee recently two friends chided me for plans to head to Las Vegas - again - as they put it. 

One laughed and said, "Well, at least she didn't say Hawaii." 

I responded, "No, . . . that's a few weeks later" which prompted that maybe-she-needs-help looks from them both. We get that look so often from family and friends, that I wrote in this year's Christmas letter:

"We have good health. . .with the exception of the after effects of being bitten by the travel bug some decades ago. The disease has no known cure.  It's something that must run its course until stopped by advancing age or other medical ailments." 

Those suffering from the travel bug are either traveling or consumed by thoughts of it when not living out of a suitcase. Often, we find, our travels aren't salve enough. We talk travel, watch travel shows/movies and read travel books and magazines.

We discovered a new treatment this last year ~ travel tales and tips of other bloggers. Even if your favorite mode of travel is the armchair, you will enjoy a visit to:

Dick Jordan blogging from Vienna
using his Palm LifeDrive PDA
Tales Told From the Road, is written by Dick Jordan, a freelance travel writer/blogger, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area.  In addition to his own travel tales he offers great insights on the latest in travel-related technology 'gizmos' as I call them and links to the latest travel headlines.  It's a fun read and a great resource.

Vera Marie Badertscher

A Traveler's Library, is to readers and travelers what a candy shop is to those with a sweet tooth. Freelance writer Vera Marie Badertscher, who lives in the Tucson, Arizona area, writes this blog and has just co-authored with Charnell Havens, a biography about Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist, which will be released in April, 2011.  Their blog, tells the story of their writing of the book - and is also worth a visit.

John Heald's Blog masterfully blends facts about Carnival Cruise lines into some of the funniest blog narrative we've read. As Carnival's Senior Cruise Director he provides a most candid report of the happenings aboard ships on which he is sailing, as well as stories about his own family. It took a while to get used to his quirky, sometimes 'frat boy humor',  but we are now among his 8 million (not a typo) readers.

Symi Dream, brings back memories of one of our favorite Greek Islands.  Through the blog we can imagine ourselves back in Symi, keeping track of the lives of its creators, Neil Gosling and James Collins and others living on the island.  We visited the Symi Dream gallery, last spring.  Take a few minutes to watch the video they just added and you'll see why Symi charmed us.

What about you?  Have any travel blog recommendations for us? Use the comment section below and tell us about them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Auld Lang Syne ~ 2011

"We'll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne. . .

Joel and I set out to enlarge our world through our travels in 2010.  And one of the most interesting trips we have taken has been through the blogosphere thanks to all of you who've dropped by TravelnWrite.  We have had  visitors -- in many cases -- repeat visitors, from some 60+ countries spanning the globe from Russia to Romania; the United Kingdom to the United Arab Emirates; from Hong Kong to Hungary.

We only know the countries from which you have come; all other details about you are unknown.  However, just seeing the dot on the ClustrMap on the blog's homepage or on Google map pages, we feel we have a new friend in the world.  Of course, we ponder who you are and about your life and your travels.  As I've written before we are interested in not only places, but the people who are the real  'spirit of place' .

To the many of you who've taken time to write either a comment or emails to us - we thank you for your kindness. Your positive responses and great suggestions are most appreciated. 

Come along with us in 2011 and stay in touch - send a tip, tell us a tale.    And Happy New Year!


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