Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wet and Wild in Hawaii

That would be the weather to which this title refers, not Hula Babe and Beach Boy.

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Our time here began 10 days ago in a picture-postcard setting; the type for which Hawaii is known. . .

. . . Mai Tai weather . . . . with tropical breezes, blue sky and plenty of sun.  These shots were taken during an outing we took along the coast to Ka’ena Beach Park at the tip of the western side of O’ahu.

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Within a couple days of our arrival came the first ‘weather front’ – a storm strong enough to close the beaches on the island because of the dangerous high waves. A tourist was killed while golfing when a tree branch was blown down. A half dozen homes lost their roofs.

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That tropical sunshine went into hiding behind heavy dark clouds; being fickle and peeking out  for a brief ‘sunset’ one day. So this week’s photos show you O’ahu when it isn’t postcard perfect – on the other hand, when it sure is interesting:
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Our second outing was a Sunday drive under gray skies –  the kind of skies we  have in the Pacific Northwest . We passed Aloha Stadium an hour before kickoff for the Pro Bowl – I snapped the photo above between swipes of the windshield wipers. 

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Those gentle Hawaiian tropical breezes have gusted throughout the week, sending sand and leaves flying. Grounds crews at Ko Olina, where we are,  have been kept busy cleaning up fallen leaves and blowing sand that has covered the grassy areas.
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And the sea gods really threw a hissy fit this past week, tossing enormous waves at the shore– some the largest they’ve seen in 20 - 30 years.

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These photos were taken on the day after ‘the front’s’ arrival – yet the waves still pounded the shore with a deafening rhythm.

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We are reminded that while you can control many things about travel, Mother Nature still calls the shots on the weather. The photo on the left was taken a week ago, the photo on the right this Tuesday. Admittedly we aren’t suffering freezing temperatures like the mid-western United States nor fighting snow in Atlanta, but we are having a rather unusual, wet and wild time in Hawaii.

Gotta run. . .the sun’s finally out and the surf is finally down. . .just sprinkles and some wind. Time to get some rays. . .Hope you’ll return here soon. . .

Linking up this week:

Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
Travel Photo Discovery on Monday

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hawaii: Tales from the Hale. . .

Hale ~ ‘home’ in Hawaiian.

A week has passed already and we are settled in to our Hawaiian lifestyle. We went from replacing a driveway and tree trimming at our Pacific Northwest home two weeks ago, to our carefree (no home improvement projects) lifestyle in a high-rise condo where our view of the Pacific Ocean reaches the far horizon.

I’ve written several times about our timeshares – or as we think of them, 'second homes' – in Arizona and Hawaii. I've told you how we’ve extended our stays by purchasing and using  two-bedroom ‘lock-off’ units. Lock-off, as the name implies, means we lock off one side, and use each of the two sides consecutively: two weeks for the price of one!
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I’ve written about living in ‘the big house’ side before, so this time I wanted to give you a tour of our first week 'hale' at Ko Olina in ‘the lock-off’ or small side --  an over-sized  hotel room with small balcony and kitchenette.

KO2014 005I’ve jokingly called it a ‘glamping’ (glorified camping) because you need to be a bit imaginative when menu planning and shopping to stock up a tiny kitchen; although it probably is as big as many in Paris apartments. It is definitely small compared to the big side.

The week in the small side is always a good excuse, . . .ahem. . ., reason, to visit the many Happy Hours that are within an easy walk of home. 

But we also eat most of our meals in; dining on that table in our nest-like balcony. The small in-room microwave and  the communal barbeques simplify the task.

In fact, gathering at the bank of bbq’s is one of our favorite features of this lifestyle.  We’ve met  fellow owners as well as those who’ve just come for a visit -- and they come from all over the world.

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The Scout, aka Beach Boy, in the photo above is visiting with a friend from Gig Harbor and fellow Ko Olina owner while the two sip wine and cook our dinners.

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The room is 360-square-feet with the balcony adding another 18-square-feet. In reality, it’s plenty of room for two people who spend most of their waking hours outdoors at the beach, pool, gym or off exploring.

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You do need to improvise at times. . .for instance that is my beach bag, shoes and a box of papayas (from Costco!) sharing a bit of storage space.  I photographed the door because it is the link to the full-side condominium --  had we booked the whole unit for a single week it would have been open. 

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Marriott Vacation Club - KoOlina, O'ahu
Yesterday we moved into the large side -- ‘the Big House’ as we owners call them --which is home for the next three weeks. . .I am in the real den, The Scout’s in the living room, we’ve been to the gym, I’ve done laundry, and tonight we are dining at home – we’ve got a couple big steaks to grill.

Last night, a woman clad in a swimsuit, and riding the elevator as we headed back to the room with our grilled Mahi Mahi and roasted corn on the cob exclaimed, “Oh! You actually cook on vacation??!!” I almost replied, “No we are cooking  at home tonight.”

That’s it for this weekend.  I know I promised some ‘novel destinations’ but those will come soon.  We’ve had to get settled into our island lifestyle first.  Mahalo, or thanks, for visiting today. Hope you’ll be back often!

If You Go:

Ko Olina is a planned  development on O’ahu’s West (Ewa) Coast, about 20 minutes from Honolulu International Airport; the nearest city is Kapolei.

Map picture

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

South Pacific: A Tender Tale

DSCF0123We think of them as ‘life boats’ during that – thankfully brief, but necessary – drill at the beginning of each cruise.

The safety drill, for you non-cruisers, is that time when passengers gather at their ‘muster stations’ near those small looking craft that dangling like bright orange ornaments from the side of the ship.

Then crew members review with us the steps to be used in the event of an emergency evacuation. We are assigned a specific life boat and that is the one we will head for in the event it should become necessary.

Those bright orange bobbles are actually called the ship’s ‘tenders’ and in a less serious vein are used to transport passengers to and from ships into ports-of-call where either the ship is too large to navigate the harbor, or too large to fit the dock or in some cases, or when there are just too many cruise ships already there (Alaska, in the summer months).

Bay of Islands, New Zealand
We love riding the tiny tenders that bob and bounce up close to the side of the ship as passengers line up for the short rides to and from shore. 

Somehow that tiny looking deck that hangs above the water seems a bit bigger when you are using it, but it does take a bit of balance sometimes to get from it to the tender and back (thank goodness, staff members grab you by the arm to make sure accidents don’t happen.)



We’ve come to so enjoy this mode of transfer, that we keep our fingers crossed that we will be among the first on-board so that we can climb up the ladder and sit on the roof of the tender as we bobble our way to and from a dock.


And while not all cruise ships can accommodate differently-abled passengers, we’ve noticed that on our last couple sailings on the solstice-class Celebrity ships, the portable dock at the side of the ship was equipped so that those with mobility issues could use the tender (but it is always wise to check in advance of booking a cruise). There were no access accommodations for the rooftop seats.


Riding atop a tender we got a close up view of our ship and the surrounding beauty of the island of  Mo’orea.


Maybe we enjoy this part of cruising because it affords us a different perspective on the places we visit and maybe it is because while we are ‘sightseeing’ the crew members are taking the navigation of this short boat trip as seriously as they do the entire cruise.


Sometimes on repositioning cruises, the weather, like the cruise is in shoulder season – it is sometimes too cold to sit on the roof but that’s fine because there are good views from some inside seats as well.  (They close this hatch before taking off – I just got the photo before they did.)


And so our 'tender’ tale from the South Pacific comes to a close.

Thanks for sailing with us today and we hope you’ll be back soon!  You can receive posts in you inbox by signing up on our homepage, TravelnWrite. Or follow along on BlogLovin or Networked Blogs – or become our newest Google Friend and Follower and add your photo to the page as well.

We are linking up with:
Nancie’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday
Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery on Monday

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hula Babe and Beach Boy Head to Hawaii

Hula Babe and Beach Boy, clad in tee-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, are back in Hawaii!

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If you’ve been with us at TravelnWrite for the last few years, you know that this is our tropical season – the time we head to Hawaii -- and that’s our nom de blog while living in the Land of Aloha.  (Hey, if  Ree Drummond can be Pioneer Woman, we certainly qualify as Hula Babe and Beach Boy!)

sweet aloha 008We’ve settled into our Ko Olina timeshare ‘playhouse’ on the island of O’ahu.

It is here we will  be living during the next few weeks.

Lucky for us several friends need temporary quarters while we are here so we have a built-in cadre of house-sitters back in the Northwest.

“But how can you be gone so long?” “Don’t you get homesick?”   So many of our Pacific Northwest friends have asked that I decided yesterday to answer those questions by use of photos:

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This would be the fog-shrouded Seattle Tacoma airport Friday morning as we taxied for takeoff. . .nice view, huh? (It looked like that all over the Puget Sound.)

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It cleared a bit as we flew over the Washington State coastline.

KirkHono2014 040About five hours into the flight, as we were finishing the complimentary MaiTais  . . .

. . .the view out the window improved. . .

Honolulu was coming into view. . .

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And then came Ko Olina and O’ahu’s Barber Point as the plane banked to land at the Honolulu Airport.

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The three tall white buildings and the four lagoons to the center/left of the photo are Marriott’s Beach Club Vacation villas. I am writing this from our condo in that complex. 

This is the view looking out the window here:
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Guess that answers those questions!

While we are here, we hope to make some new island discoveries. . .have any tips for us? Out of the way restaurants? Beaches? Must see or do? Tell us about your favorites in the comment section below or by sending a quick email!

We’ll be ‘booking it’ to the beach next week so do come back to explore some ‘novel destinations'!  And mahalo for your visit today!!!
We are linking up with Noel Morata's TravelPhotoDiscovery.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

That Unforgettable Taste of Tahiti

Our favorite cruises are those in which the ship arrives early into a port and leaves late. . .you can experience much in a 12-hour time period. We had such a stop in Pape’ete, Tahiti and it afforded us a real taste of the town:


Our evening at Place Vaiete Roulottes – in the shadow of our cruise ship -- may have been one of the best experiences we had while sailing across the Pacific Ocean en route to Sydney, Australia from Honolulu last fall.


Place Vaiete Roulottes, is the most amazing collection of mobile food trucks and food stalls we’ve ever experienced (yes, even better than Portland, Oregon for you Northwest foodie fans out there). Roulotte is French for caravan – and what a culinary caravan circled up to serve an array of dishes. 

A couple dozen chefs rolled in as the sun dipped below the horizon (about 6 p.m.) and the once empty lot, known as Vaiete Square, near the cruise ship dock came to life as colorful tables, chairs and plastic stools stretched in every direction.


It was an aromatherapy treatment for foodies as smells from grills mixed with the pungent smells of spicy stir fry and the sweet scents of crepes.


We circled the area several times before we could get focused on just what we would eat – think children in a candy store – because that was what we were as we strolled, our heads swiveling back and forth, competing with each other to find the next temptation.


Even after we had selected the place where we would dine I couldn’t sit still and  had to watch my dinner being hand made by this culinary artist.


While The Scout dined on Steak Frites, I ate those delightful stuffed morsels you see on the right side of the above photo.  We could have been tempted to eat more, to sample the many more flavors that were seducing us with their scents – but it would have been, sadly, shear gluttony.


Now there are probably some of you reading this thinking, “But was it safe to eat at those places?” and the answer is a resounding, ‘YES!’  They are all licensed and everything was as spotlessly clean as it appears in this photo. (Sadly, we watched many fellow cruisers who walked past this culinary haven as they returned to the ship to ‘eat on board’ because they weren’t up to the adventure or they wanted to get that meal that came with the price of the cruise ticket.)

The food was so good and inexpensive that we could have eaten there every night for a week (or longer) and never have tired of it. It is one reason, we agreed, to put a return to Tahiti on our ‘bucket list’.


Should you find yourself in Tahiti – don’t miss this experience.  Do remember to bring cash – they don’t take credit cards.


The Food Fest on shore was still going strong as we pulled away from the dock at 9 p.m.  And they say that often times music plays on weekend nights – we were so on sensor overload that I can’t recall whether we heard music or not. . .I’ll have to ask The Scout what he remembers beyond the food. . .

That is it for today.  We thank you for the time you’ve spent with us and hope you will be back soon to share in our tips and tales.

We are linking up with:
Nancie McKinnon’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday
Marcia Mayne’s Inside Journey’s Foodie Tuesday
Kent Weakley’s Sweet Shot Tuesday

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Tips and Tidbits

I’ve got a couple health- and fitness-related travel topics this week so without further fanfare, let’s get started:

The ‘Eyes’ Have It. . .

Vegas2014 032This one is for all you contact lens wearing travelers of a ‘certain age’ (40 is usually when the telltale signs start appearing):  the small print seems to be getting smaller and a bit more blurred each time you try to read your passport or credit card numbers and trying to read the small print on a map is more daunting than getting lost. . .could it be time
washington wednesdays 005for those 'readers' on sale everywhere from grocery to book stores?

One more thing to add to that carry-on bag already is stuffed with documents, medicines, prescription glasses, contact lens case/solution and sunglasses?

I’ve worn gas permeable contact lenses for decades and in the last couple years even the ‘bi-focal’ types weren’t quite doing the job. . .that is until  my optometrist asked me if I’d try out a different type of lens. Another patient of hers, a flight attendant, had tried them and was singing their praises, so I agreed.

That was nearly a year ago.  I waited this long to write about them just to make sure they weren't too good to be true. I couldn’t believe the improved visual acuity - and comfort. (Their only drawback is that like all gas permeable/hard lenses I've worn, they do tend to dry out on long airplane flights.) The smallest of print (including those microscopic numbers on the back corner of the credit cards) are as easy to read as is seeing the far distant stuff. In fact, both of my distances are now a smidgen better than 20/20 -- a real plus when focusing the camera! 

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It took a few extra visits to get the fit right because the lenses are weighted to keep the close-up at the bottom and distance at the top – so they have to fit the eye well.

If they are of interest and you are in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, I recommend my optomitrist Dr. Pamela J. Bingham at Market Optical in Seattle’s University Village.

And if you are elsewhere, talk to your eye care professional about “TruForm” rigid, gas permeable lenses.  (I read on the company web site that they even make multi-focal lenses!)

Serving up and Repacking the D2G. . .Diet to Go: 

GreecePt12013 116Three years ago on TravelnWrite we sang the praises of the “Glycemic Load Diet” developed by Seattle cardiologist, Dr. Rob Thompson. We bought his book, tried out his eating recommendations and found the recipes were incredible good and it was a perfect fit for travelers.

So easy to follow when traveling that we called it the D2G; our Diet to Go. Some may even recall the guest post Dr. Thompson wrote for TravelnWrite. If you missed it, click this  link

My physical that year showed not only had I lost weight (13 pounds) but my bad cholesterol levels had dropped significantly, as had blood sugar and everything else that gets monitored - despite four-months of living out of a suitcase; drinking and eating on-the-road. (And I was no longer blaming cruise ship photographers for 'making me look fat!')

Fast forward. . .if you saw the post a few weeks ago, A Taste of the World, you know without me telling you that we – me, in particular – slipped off that D2G wagon. A big burger in Arizona, an Australian Pie in Sydney, a basket of bread here and a serving of French fries there and maybe just a tiny bit of dessert. . . The results of an annual physical a few weeks ago showed the bad cholesterol had skyrocketed and a few pounds had returned, despite a regular exercise program both at home and on the road.

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Vegas2014 027So, the new year has begun with D2G once again, our traveling companion.

Instead of that deep fried bacon cheeseburger I told you about in December, take note of the above veggie burger on a whole grain bun with more veggies at the side and red wine (which is allowed on the D2G).  I had this at one of our favorite places, Todd English’s P.U.B. at Crystals in City Center, Las Vegas last week.

That’s it for this week’s Travel Tuesday – the day we share any  new tips related to travel.   How about you?  What new discoveries have you made for travel. . . Health and fitness?  Packing? . . .Ways to save money on travel?  Let us know in the comment section below or send us an email.

Disclosure:  We received no compensation for recommending the contact lenses, Dr. Bingham, Market Optical or the 'Glycemic Load Diet'. (Although if you order the book from Amazon using the link in the post, we make a few pennies; we'll get paid when we have $10 worth of pennies, about 2050 by my calculations.)  We simply think all are worth recommending! 

Linking up with Marcia Mayne's Inside Journeys Foodie Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Travel: It is not about ‘What you saw. . .’

January is that time of year when travel bloggers tend to write of their previous year’s journeys and start verbalizing their plans for upcoming adventures. 

It is a time for us to put into words the daydreams that will ultimately lead to new travel plans. Yet, moving to the next adventure can’t really be done without a backward glance or two. . . and a bit of introspection. 

This last year we were again reminded that travel isn’t so much about ‘what you saw’ but ‘how you’ve changed’ as a result of your experiences. 

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Musician in Pape'eti, Tahiti with traditional Maori body tattoos
Travel can rock your established, comfortable – albeit, routine – world, just by the smallest unforgettable glimpse of a new culture or land as did our brief series of stops in French Polynesia.

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A dining experience not to miss in Pape'ete, Tahiti

Once you’ve experienced the ‘different’ - smells, colors, people, food, music, religion, culture – you find that upon your return home you are different as well . . .

You’ve been reminded of  your insignificance as you sail across vast stretches of ocean. . .

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Setting Sail from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Your mind has been exercised.  Stretching just a bit further each time you travel keeps the brain questing for even more adventure and stimulation. . .

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A view of Chora Sfakia, Crete
Your soul has basked in the beauty of remoteness.  . .

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Tahiti, French Polynesia

You’ve experienced worlds that once you had only imagined. . .

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Auckland, New Zealand
And after you’ve been home a few days that unmistakable restlessness starts prickling your senses.  You no longer question whether you travel too much and you know it is time to start putting those daydreams into action. . .

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Tahiti's Black Sand Beaches 

Where will your adventures take you this year?  How has travel changed you?  We look forward to reading your thoughts and plans. Tell us by adding a comment below or send us an email! 

Our wishes for Happy Travels and Happy New Year!

We are linking up with:
Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday
The Tablescrapers’ Oh The Places I have Been


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