Food

Algonquin Provincial Park and More

Day 6 of our Great Lakes Road Trip dawned warm and sunny, a pleasant surprise since we packed for chilly weather in Ontario, Canada in mid-September. Excited to hike in Algonquin, we departed from our hotel bright and early and soon spotted what all the tourists come for in autumn.

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As we entered the park, we pulled over to the West Gate to pay our fee. King’s Highway 60 through the park doesn’t require a permit unless you plan to stop along the 56 km (35 mi) roadway inside the park. We planned to take our time, explore, and hike a few trails so we gladly paid the $20 daily fee.

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Established in 1893, Algonquin Park is the oldest and most well-known of Canada’s provincial parks. Comprising 7630 square km (2946 sq mi), the park attracts nearly one million visitors each year who come to experience its forests, lakes, and wildlife.  We stopped several times for photo opportunities like this.

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Canoe Lake

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Canoe Lake

When we reached the Algonquin Visitor Center, we had no idea we would spend so much time there. The views were amazing, the exhibits superb, and the wi-fi connection surprisingly good.

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Panorama View from Algonquin Visitor Center

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Algonquin Visitor Center

I would love to have seen bears, moose, and wolves in the wild but, since we didn’t, these exhibits were a special treat.

 

A highlight of our visit, the hike to Beaver Pond over rugged terrain was strenuous enough to seem longer than just 2 km but so well-marked we never lost our way.

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Beaver Meadow

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With 4500 beaver colonies within the park, I was surprised we didn’t see even one of the furry creatures. While we didn’t spot them at work, signs of their presence surrounded us and the result of their labor was impressive.

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Beaver dam

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Our last stop in the park, the Algonquin Logging Museum consisted of a reception building where we viewed an audiovisual program to introduce us to logging in the park and a trail of less than a mile with 20 outdoor exhibits. At one time, over half of the men in Canada worked in logging camps in the winter. Particularly for farmers, it was an opportunity to earn additional income after harvest, albeit a dangerous occupation.

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Camboose shanty where men were housed

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Inside the camboose, 52 men slept two to a bunk

Throughout the 1800’s, felled red and white pine were squared using only axes. The notches on the tree below show how deep to cut to square that side of the log. This process was repeated on each side. The result was a log that was easier to stack on a raft for transport and the log was ready to cut into boards at its destination.

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To transport the logs to the raft, they had to be loaded onto a sleigh using a jammer, a wooden crane powered by horses.

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Jammer

On a steep descent, the sleigh could quickly speed out of control killing the horses in front so sandpipers lined the trail to throw hot sand in the path to slow the sleigh. The invention of the Barrienger brake in the photo below solved this problem

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Barrienger brake

Once the logs arrived at the river, the danger was not past. The invention of the log chute assisted loggers in transporting the logs through the water.

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Log Chute

This is just a small sample of the information we learned about the history of logging in the area. Logging continues today in over 50% of the park according to scientific guidelines in the Park Management Plan.

As we left the park, I took the photo below. We were delighted to get over 56 mpg (23.8 kpl) regularly on this trip. Traveling at slower speeds on two-lane roads through Canada and using unleaded fuel rather than gasohol each contributed to our excellent gas mileage. Also, note the temperature on September 17 was 82 degrees (28 C).

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Successfully escaping Toronto traffic, we headed south for our first look at Lake Ontario, our third of the five Great Lakes and to spend the night in Kingston, Ontario. Rather than taking the freeway at Belleville, we opted to drive along the coast as much as possible.

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My paper map showed a bridge at Glenora but Google maps on my phone didn’t show a bridge. I was concerned that we’d end up backtracking but we were delighted to find a ferry when we arrived and it was free. After a short wait, we enjoyed a pleasant crossing to Adolphustown where we continued our drive along the lake to Kingston.

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Glenora Ferry Dock

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Glenora Ferry

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Our Prius on the ferry

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Lake Ontario

We asked at our hotel in Kingston for a restaurant recommendation and headed downtown to Dianne’s Fish Shack and Smokehouse. Located near the waterfront, we explored the area a bit before dinner. The AAA Tour Book confirmed Kingston was founded in 1673 as a fur trading post and strategic military base. With a population today just under 130,000, it’s also home to over 24,000 students at Queen’s University.    IMG_7194

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Sitting outside at Dianne’s Fish Shack and Smokehouse, we could hardly believe our good fortune to have such a pleasant evening. Jim ordered the pork carnitas and I decided on the seafood poutine. Poutine is a French Canadian classic consisting of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Dianne’s seafood poutine, however, was made with fries, coconut green curry, shrimp, haddock, calamari, mussels, and queso fresco. Yum!

 

After a quick stroll to the water following dinner for another lighthouse photo, we returned to our hotel for the evening.

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Kingston, located where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, was a good place to begin our drive the next morning to explore the Thousand Islands. Come back to read all about it.

 

Based on events from September 2017.

Categories: Canada, Food, History, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lake Huron on Day 5

Every day on a road trip doesn’t have to be remarkable. Some days just entail driving from point A to point B. Day 5 of our Great Lakes Road Trip was a point A to point B kind of day with one notable exception. We were excited by our first peek at the second Great Lake on our trip, Lake Huron, along the North Channel at the town of Bruce Mines, Ontario.

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North Channel of Lake Huron

We stopped again in nearby Thessalon for another look.

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Okay, so we stopped again a third time in Blind River.

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At Blind River, we struck up a conversation with a couple from New York headed the opposite direction and a man from Ontario. All agreed we should definitely avoid Toronto traffic on the 400 if we didn’t plan to visit the city. We decided right then to avoid Toronto by continuing east to North Bay, then south to Huntsville for the night. The following morning we would drive through Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada’s oldest and most famous provincial park.

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I called several hotels from the car to reserve a room for the night and found the rates were high for a town of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants in rural Canada. I finally asked one hotel why the rates were so high and she told me the following weekend was the Huntsville Fall Fair and rates were always high in the fall when people came to visit Algonquin Provincial Park to see the autumn color. Besides that, she said the weather had been beautiful and wasn’t expected to last much longer. Convinced, I reserved a room at the Comfort Inn Huntsville for nearly $200.

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We arrived in Huntsville a week too early for the Fall Fair but the next week we probably wouldn’t have found an available room at all. It was a charming town, reminiscent of small resort towns in New England or Wisconsin and I’m sure they attract a huge crowd for the Fall Fair.

After dining on chips and salsa in our hotel room the previous evening, we were anticipating an outstanding meal at the highly recommended 3 Guys and a Stove.

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We arrived early and requested a table outside which, as you can see, was easy to accommodate. I think we may have been the first diners to arrive. Our table was upstairs and the view through the trees was especially lovely.

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Looking at the menu, we experienced sticker shock. Is that a thing for menus? The entrees cost $30+ and a salad was an additional $9-$14. Fortunately for us, our server told us the special that evening was a BBQ dinner with three meats (brisket, ribs, and chicken), potato salad, and mediterranean salad for $33.95 which he said was plenty of food for two. We ordered it and quite honestly, it wasn’t exceptional in taste or adequate in quantity. Including my glass of wine, our bill was nearly $51CAD. In US dollars, that was $42 for essentially one meal. A little pricy but the setting was pleasant and the weather was perfect for outdoor dining.

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We returned to our hotel immediately following dinner to make it an early night in preparation for our visit to Algonquin Provincial Park the next morning. Stop back next time to read all about it. I promise the next post will be more interesting than this one.

 

Based on events from September 2017.

Categories: Canada, Food, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cruising the Tasman Sea

I know this post is long overdue. Honestly, I’ve had a hard time writing about this trip because it was so traumatic. My husband counseled me to skip it and just move on but I felt a need to finish writing about it for closure. If you just wandered into my blog, my mother died early into this cruise and you can read about it here. Anyway, here’s my feeble attempt to wrap things up.

We’ve always enjoyed days at sea while on a cruise. In fact, Jim has been keen to book a repositioning cruise because they include more days at sea than in port but we haven’t found one yet that fits our schedule. We departed from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand at the end of day-2 of our 19-day cruise to sail 1300 mi (2100 km) across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, Australia. We would spend three nights and two full days at sea before our arrival in Sydney, where we left the cruise early to fly home.

The first evening we went to dinner at Cagney’s, one of the specialty restaurants which charge extra. We wouldn’t normally pay extra for a restaurant but we’ve attained platinum status on Norwegian which provides some perqs like waiving the cover charge at specialty restaurants. The food was very good but I’m not enough of a foodie to tell you whether it would be worth the extra cost. The young couple seated at the next table, Derek and Emma from Australia, were delightful company, too.

 

While I may not have the most discriminating palate, I definitely knew our experience another evening at Moderno Churrascaria was a cut above. This specialty restaurant, modeled after a traditional Brazilian steakhouse, showcases meat. Diners are given a card with a red side and a green side. If your card is green side up, the waiter will continue to bring more meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, until you change it to red. Incidentally, the buffet of cheeses, salads, and vegetables was equally impressive.

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Cheese and vegetable buffet

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My selection from the buffet

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The star of the show

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Green side up

It’s always fun to meet people when traveling and this trip was no exception. One evening we had dinner with the two couples we met while working through the visa debacle which occurred when we boarded the ship. I love the fact that we’ve since connected on Facebook and can keep up with one another’s travels.

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Jim and me with Dale, Michelle, Debbie, and Jerry

And in case you haven’t yet figured out that food plays a central role in any cruise, you can even watch the food as it’s prepared on deck. I especially enjoyed watching the preparation of this seafood dish for lunch poolside.

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My share–Yum!

I tried to walk off some of the abundant food each morning on the promenade deck and encountered many others doing the same. Admittedly, we didn’t use the fitness center this time but on most cruises we do.

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Promenade deck

Lots of activities keep cruisers busy during a day at sea. Fitness and dance classes attract many of the women and cooking demonstrations are popular, too. Or relaxation is also an option, whether reading or simply sunning on the deck.

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Jim reading on deck

If you forgot to bring a book, you can find one in the library. And if sunshine and warmth on deck don’t suit you, you can find a seat in the library, too.

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The library

I’m not a much of a swimmer but the hot tub beckons to me every time. Soothing away all that stress, the hot tub is almost as good as therapy.

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The Norwegian Star is an attractive ship and it’s a pleasure to explore the public areas. While I didn’t take as many photos on this trip, here are a couple of the atrium to give you an idea.

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And since this post is titled “Cruising the Tasman Sea,” a photo of the sea is required.

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Tasman Sea

We arrived in Sydney, Australia early on day-5 of our cruise. We were packed and ready to disembark so we watched our arrival on deck beginning at dawn. The views were outstanding.

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Sydney Harbour at dawn

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Sydney, Australia at dawn

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Sydney Opera House with a cruise ship behind

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Sydney Opera House

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Our last view of the Sydney Opera House as we disembarked from the Norwegian Star

Although this trip ended in tragedy, we are travelers at heart. We will return to Australia and one day visit the other ports we missed on this itinerary.  Life is short; travel like you mean it.

 

 

Based on events from February 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Food, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Hasta la Vista PA

Before I move on to our ill-fated trip down under, I have a few more memories to share from January 2017 in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.

Food is an important component of any trip. Since this was our third stay in Puerto Aventuras, we have several favorite restaurants but Cafe Olé tops the list. (It’s also the top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor.) Jim loves the all-you-can-eat fall-off-the-bone ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans offered on Sundays and Tuesdays and I can always find fresh local fish.

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Ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans at Cafe Olé

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Fish (which I started eating then remembered to photograph) with grapefruit, rice, and fresh veggies at Cafe Olé

The number 1 dessert place is Jessie Gelato where Jim and Gail can be found every evening getting their home-made gelato fix. They didn’t have to twist Chuck’s arm either.

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Jim, Chuck, and Gail at Jessie Gelato

Every year we walk across the highway to the local village to find authentic Mexican food but each time we retreat fearing Montezuma’s revenge from the local water. This time we finally stood our ground and ate at A Tu Parador which means “at your roadside inn.” That makes sense since this place is just next to the highway.

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Jim, Chuck, Gail, and me

The various condiments for the tortilla chips were tasty with some heat and the beers on tap were big and cheap.

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Condiments for chips

I ordered a fish taco and while it was a no frills, basic taco, it hit the spot. This was probably the least expensive meal we had the entire two weeks and we didn’t get sick either. I’m sure we’ll be back.

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Fish taco

One advantage of staying in the condo at Chac Hal Al is the ability to cook some of our own meals. The walk to the large super market, Chedraui, is 2.9 km (1.8 mi) each way but twice a week we can buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market just a couple of blocks from our condo.

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Farmer’s Market in Puerto Aventuras

Each day we checked at the marina for fresh fish that charter boats sometimes sell if the customer doesn’t want it. Chuck got lucky one day and bought some yellow fin tuna that is usually eaten raw after marinating but we grilled it to perfection with a little olive oil and onion.

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Chuck also got a lesson on harvesting and opening coconuts from Miguel, one of the grounds keepers at Chac Hal Al.

Chuck engaging the grounds keepers

Miguel picking a coconut

Opening the coconut

Jim tasting coconut milk

Coconut meat

This year we enjoyed a special treat when the Green Bay Packers played in the NFC Championship. One of the restaurants, Palapas, offered a package for an all-you-can-eat buffet including margaritas, piña coladas, rum punch, and beer during the game for just $12. Although the game was a blowout and the Packers played like high schoolers, the food was good, we had live music before the game, and we drowned our sorrows in margaritas.

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Palapas

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Breakfast at Palapas

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Live music at Palapas

A few more random memories:

Gail and I especially enjoy a drink at the bar at the Omni Hotel next door where we can sit in the jetted pool with a view of the water. We dragged the guys along for the fun. Gail was wearing an itty bitty bikini and I didn’t think she’d appreciate me posting that photo so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

One night while sitting at a restaurant on the marina, we saw fireworks over the water to the south of PA, probably at Barceló Resort. Sometimes if the wind is right, we can even hear music from major artists like Luke Bryan playing at Barceló.

One morning I planned to hike out to the lighthouse but the terrain was so challenging I made it just part way and took photos instead.

The grounds at Chac Hal Al are always well-maintained and I never tire of the beautiful views.

The little pool at Chac Hal Al

Iguana and Jim sunning themselves

Panorama view of our view from our balcony

Gail and me after a swim

We’ve already booked our two-week stay at Chac Hal Al in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico for next January. Until then, hasta la vista.

Riviera Maya from the air

 

Based on events from January 2017.

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A Taste of Provence in Lyon

As we returned to our ship, the Viking Buri, after our tour of Lyon on day 6 of our river cruise, we were greeted by a French accordion player.  He treated us to traditional French café music as we filed into the dining room for a luncheon of regional dishes from Provence. Lyon, France, is actually in the Rhône-Alpes region but we began our cruise in Provence just south of our current location so we were still in the general neighborhood.

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French accordion player on the Viking Buri

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While all of the food on our cruise was superb, this meal was my favorite. Not only was the food excellent but the scene was set to provide us with a full Provençal experience. The tables were set in Provençal style and even the wait staff stayed in character.

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French flag at the entrance to the dining room

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Table setting with Kathy and Jerry

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Provençal dishes on the buffet

The ratatouille was so amazing I asked Chef Pascal for the recipe which he willingly provided. His recipe was actually no different than I make at home so I can only conclude that everything tastes better in France.

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My favorite ratatouille

And who could ever complain about French bread?

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French baguettes

The dessert bar featured a fountain of chocolate but many other delicacies tempted us as well.

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Desserts

Macarons, made of almonds, sugar, and egg whites are typically gluten-free, so they have become my French favorite.

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Macarons

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Decadent chocolate dessert

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My plate: please don’t judge me; it was so good

Enjoy a snippet of the French café music we enjoyed at lunch and imagine we’re together in Provence. But don’t linger too long because after lunch we’re bound for Perouges, a medieval walled town that is the subject of my next post.

 

Based on events from November 2016.

Categories: cruise, Europe, Food, France, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 1: Sur le Pont d’Avignon

Day 1 of our Viking River Cruise, embarkation day, provided us with just a brief sample of the city of Avignon, France in the region of Provence. We arrived late in the afternoon and, after settling into our cabins, we joined the welcome walk through the historic center with a local guide.

Avignon is a walled city with narrow medieval streets and loads of French charm. The historic center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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View of historic Avignon from outside the city walls

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Avignon city walls

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The Avignon City Wall

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Our group on the welcome walk

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Beautiful architecture with typical French charm

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Another charmer 

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A gated view 

Avignon is historically significant as the seat of the Papacy from 1309 to 1378. (More on that later.) The view in the photo below of the outside of the Palace of the Popes stirred our anticipation for the tour of the palace scheduled on day 3 of our cruise.

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Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)

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Palais des Papes

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Conservatory of Music on the Place du Palais across from the palace

The main square, Place de l’Horloge, is the center of many community activities with the National Opera Theater, the Hotel de Ville (City Hall), and even a carousel. It’s also a perfect place for people watching.

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National Opera Theater

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Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

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Place de l’Horloge

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Carousel on Place de l’Horloge

There are over 50 locations with trompe l’oeil (a painting technique to create optical illusion) in Avignon and our guide pointed out one for us on the Place de Sorano. Window peeking is acceptable in this building.

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I learned the children’s nursery rhyme, Sur le Pont d’Avignon (On the Bridge of Avignon), in my high school French class and I can still sing it to this day. The bridge in the song was built across the Rhone River in the 12th century but flooding destroyed it several times until finally, in the 17th century it was abandoned. Today only 4 of the original 22 arches remain but it’s one of the major tourist attractions in Avignon.

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Le Pont d’Avignon

After our guided stroll through the historic center, we stopped to shop at Le Chateau du Bois to purchase some lavender oil, a well-known product of Provence.

 

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Le Chateau du Bois in Avignon

 

 

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Lavender growing in Avignon

 

 

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Lori and I with our lavender purchases from Chateau du Bois

To close out day 1 of our river cruise on the Viking Buri, we enjoyed our first meal prepared by Executive Chef, Pascal Vallee, and his staff.

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Desserts

Everything including the wine was delicious and we looked forward to each and every meal thereafter.

 

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Dinner on the Viking Buri

Based on events from October 2016.

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Europe, Food, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Beach Day at Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is one of the top destinations on the Riviera Maya and while I’d been through there several times on my way to other places, I’d never spent any time there. It was time to correct that omission.

We took the colectivo, a mini bus that shuttles locals and tourists along the Riviera Maya, from Puerto Aventuras north to Playa del Carmen for 25 pesos (around $1.40).

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Colectivo that shuttles people up and down the Riviera Maya

The bus dropped us a couple blocks from the beach. We passed the main shopping street, Fifth Avenue, but we were intent on finding a spot in the sand so we postponed any shopping until later.

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Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen

Portal Maya, one entrance to the beach, was built in 2012 to commemorate the end of the Maya calendar. You may recall the Maya calendar ended on the winter solstice, December 21, in 2012, which resulted in many doomsday predictions but needless to say, they were wrong.

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Portal Maya

I’m a shade lover so we found beach chairs with an umbrella that we could occupy for free as long as we ordered food from Wah Wah Beach Bar. Gail, on the other hand, stretched her towel out on the sand in the hot sunshine.

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Jim and our beach chairs under the umbrella on Play del Carmen

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Our view

As we explored the beach, we spied the pier to the south where the ferries to Cozumel arrive and depart. Next year maybe we’ll check out Cozumel for a day trip.

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Pier at Playa del Carmen

Walking the playa, Spanish for beach, is a good way to explore the area while getting some sun and exercise at the same time.

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Looking north on the beach

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Playa del Carmen

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Walking the playa

I’ve always had a special affinity for lighthouses so I was charmed when I spotted the one below, called Faro Lighthouse. Faro means lighthouse in Spanish.

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El Faro (Spanish for lighthouse)

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Fishing and snorkeling boats

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Boats tied up on shore

At the end of a perfectly gorgeous day on the playa, we wandered back to Fifth Avenue. You can find all the usual souvenirs along this street but there are also some higher end shops and plenty of restaurants, too. Jim and Gail had to try out the gelato but found it was more expensive than their favorite, Jessie’s, in Puerto Aventuras.

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Gail and Jim on Fifth Avenue

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Fifth Avenue

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Shops on Fifth Avenue

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Playa del Carmen if you’re seeking a party atmosphere with lots of people and action. It was fun to visit for the day but at the end of the day, we were happy to return to quiet, laid-back Puerto Aventuras.

Based on events from January 2016.

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The Road to Hana through the Back Door

Our cruise ship, the Pride of America, docked in Kahului on Maui at 8 am and remained in port until 6 pm (1800) the following day. We knew that we wanted to see the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park but we wouldn’t have time for much beyond that.

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Rick and Jim checking out the map in the cruise port on Maui

We weighed several options for an all-day tour of the Hana Highway, a 52-mile, spectacularly scenic road featuring some 600 hairpin turns and 54 one lane bridges along the northern coast of Maui. We could take an NCL excursion for $189 per person which seemed exceedingly expensive compared to renting a car. Car rental for the day would be only about $50 for the 4 of us but we’d have to drive the car ourselves. The price was right but I wasn’t keen on having Jim or Rick drive the route and miss much of the scenery to focus on the road (sometimes one-lane) and the traffic (heavy). My brother and his wife had been to Maui recently and recommended Maui Easy Riders for a Road to Hana tour. A personal tour for the 4 of us while they did the driving would cost $600. We decided that was our best option. By the way, they also offer a Haleakala Downhill Bike Tour but I would have been a Maui uneasy rider on 4-5% grades riding a bike down the volcano. My sister-in-law, however, had a blast on the bike tour so if that’s your thing, go for it.

Kyle picked us up outside the cruise port in his SUV just after 8. Rather than driving up the Road to Hana and returning the same way, we went the back way on Highway 37 so that we could drive back on the Road to Hana. We got to see more of the island and missed some of the traffic, too. Car rentals don’t allow taking their cars on a portion of this road so we got a bonus by riding with Kyle. Our route is highlighted below in yellow. The stretch between the red arrows on the south side of the island is the area where you can’t take a rental car.

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Kyle was engaging and entertaining, telling us story after story about his customers and experiences. Every funny story about tourists behaving badly ended with, “That’ll be in the book.”  I hope nothing we said or did was book worthy.

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View from Highway 37

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View from Highway 37, Maui

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Another view of the Pacific

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Calling these roads highways is an overstatement

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Looking at the backside of Haleakala National Park from Hwy 37

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The coast behind Haleakala NP where rental cars don’t go

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My favorite photo of the rugged volcanic coastline

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More coastline views

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We stopped at St Joseph’s Church, a mission church established in 1862 to convert the natives. The area is verdant and peaceful.

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St Joseph’s Church

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The white lines on the mountains are waterfalls

Laulima Farm, featuring environmental agriculture, has a stand along the highway that was a great stop for a snack and a look around. We walked their trail through the lush tropical jungle where we enjoyed the sights and scents of flowers, fruits, and coffee growing along with other tropical plants.

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Laulima Farm Fruit Stand

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Laulima Farm Fruit Stand produce

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Fruit growing along the trail at Laulima Farm

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Tropical Paradise

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View across the road from Laulima Farm

Our next stop was the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator, who died and was buried here in 1974. The grave is located very near the Pacific ocean and I’m certain the views are incredible when not viewed through a tropical rain storm which came in just as we got there.

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Charles Lindbergh burial site

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Grave of Charles Lindbergh

We stood under the trees to wait out the rain but finally made a run for it to the vehicle through the drenching rain. I’d read to plan on rain at some point during the day when visiting the windward side of the island so we weren’t surprised by the cloudburst.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t obscure of view of Wailua Waterfall, one of the most beautiful stops along our route.

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Wailua Waterfall

By lunch time we reached Hana and Kyle sought out food trucks with local, affordable fare. We didn’t find any so instead, he took us to Hana Ranch Store where we followed his lead and ordered sausages and chili over rice which I’m told is a Maui original.

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Jim and Kyle with our take out from Hana Ranch Store

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Maui chili over rice

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Lunch, Maui style

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With a view like this at Hana Bay State Park, anything tastes good!

Leaving Hana, we began our drive along the Hana Highway through the hairpin turns and one-lane bridges. The views were every bit as spectacular as promised.

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View from Hana Highway

The Black Beach at Waianapanapa State Park was not an exaggeration or misrepresentation.

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View from the trail to Black Beach

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Black Beach

The legend of Waianapanapa Cave added a human component to the natural beauty. Hawaiian Princess Popoalaea fled and hid from her cruel husband, but the chief found and killed her. When tiny red shrimp appear in the pool, it’s a reminder of the blood of the princess.

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Waianapanapa Cave

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View from the Hana Highway

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Scene from the Road to Hana with another waterfall on that mountain

The Painted Forest at mile marker 7 is composed of rainbow eucalyptus trees that originated from the Philippines. It’s a small area and difficult to spot unless you know where to find them and fortunately for us, Kyle knew.

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The Painted Forest

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Bark of the rainbow eucalyptus

This day was an amazing experience filled with all the beauty Maui has to offer. Kyle Barfield was an excellent tour guide and we would wholeheartedly recommend him. He has since opened his own tour company called Sandy Cheeks Tours.

If you’re interested in Haleakala National Park on Maui, check back next week for my new post.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, Food, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome Aboard the Pride of America

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, sailing the Hawaiian Islands year-round since its maiden voyage in 2005, has a capacity of 2186 passengers. Compared to the new mega-ships that accommodate 6000-6800 passengers, that may sound small to you but it was just right for me.

I watched the ship arrive at sunrise from my lanai at the Marriott.

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My ride

Our shuttle transportation from the hotel to the cruise port was included in our cruise package so the transfer was easy and efficient. I wish I could say the same for the check-in process at the cruise port but it was one of the slower experiences I’ve had with Norwegian Cruise Line even though we were in the priority line. I share this with you, not to complain, but rather to prepare you in case you have the same experience. And if you don’t, you can feel lucky.

The last stop after checking in was a photo. In fact, they take a lot of photos on cruise ships hoping to sell them to the passengers. Our cruise package included 20 free photos so we kept them whether or not they were flattering. I’ll share some of the better ones in blog posts.

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Welcome Aboard photo

We booked an inside cabin, knowing the ship’s movement from port to port would be at night and a window would be wasted but the money saved would not. I wake up with the sun, so no window can be a problem. I left the television turned on and tuned to the bow cam with the sound turned off. As the sun came up, the screen lit up the room. It helped. While our cabin was not exceptional, the champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and chocolate bar awaiting us were welcome treats.

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Our welcome aboard gift

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Toasting our good fortune

As we explored the ship, we soon discovered the theme was patriotic with more traditional furnishings which were a definite hit with me. Notably, there was no casino on the ship, a first in my cruise experience. Gambling isn’t legal in Hawaii and the ship never leaves Hawaiian waters so there’s no gambling on board. Not a problem for us.

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Hawaiian performers in the Capitol Atrium

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Sitting area

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Guest Services desk

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Picture of the Pride of America in a stairwell

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Outside the Aloha Cafe before sail away

We belong to the NCL rewards program called Latitudes. In fact, we’ve achieved platinum status so the perks were pretty good. In addition to the champagne, chocolates, and strawberries in our stateroom upon our arrival, we were invited to a wine and cheese event with the captain. The best perk, however, was free laundry service which came in handy  when I spilled wine all over Jim’s good pants. And I do mean all over.  The laundry cleaned them and had them back to us the following day in time for dinner. I’m grateful the wine came out or I’d never hear the end of it!

We also each received a gift certificate for two with a bottle of wine in a specialty dining venue, Jefferson’s Bistro, which otherwise costs extra. We took our friends. Lori and Rick, with us one evening later in the week and had an outstanding dining experience.

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Jefferson’s Bistro

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Painting of Monticello in the Jefferson Bistro

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Dinner at Jefferson’s Bistro

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The menu at Jefferson’s Bistro

Our first-course selections

 

Main course selections

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Filet de Saumon d’Atlantic

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Filet de Boeuf Grille (filet of beef)

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Coq au Vin (Chicken in Burgundy)

Dessert!

Here are several more photos around the Pride of America.

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Main Dining Room

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Hollywood Theater

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Sunset from the aft of the Pride of America

Our first port, Maui, is the subject of next week’s post. Come back and tour the Road to Hana with me.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, Food, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Oahu Wrap Up

Finding cheap eats in Hawaii is definitely a challenge but we thought we did pretty well when we found Waikiki Beachside Bistro. Open from 9:30 am to 5 pm, this is breakfast and lunch fare rather than dinner (unless you’re a senior who eats at 4 pm like some people I know…) If you eat a hearty meal at noon, however, you can make do with cocktails and pupus for dinner, but more about that later.

With a beachside location, I expected a high-priced burger stand and they do serve burgers and other sandwiches but so much more. They feature plate lunches, the classic Hawaiian lunch that was designed to be cheap and filling. The typical plate lunch features lots of rice, a choice of meat, and usually a macaroni salad. I was especially grateful that our plate lunch replaced the macaroni with a more healthy salad. We chose Teriyaki Chicken for $10.95 and shared it. With all that rice under the chicken, there was plenty for both of us.

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Patio at Waikiki Beachside Bistro

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Jim orders our lunch

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Teriyaki Chicken Plate Lunch

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Our table with a view of the beach

While we ate, we observed a couple of guys in wetsuits arrive with fish they’d obviously just caught. With that level of freshness, I wished I had ordered the “catch of the day” plate lunch. While I didn’t get to eat it, I did photograph it. The fish was kala, also called unicorn fish, for the horn-like protuberance on its head. I wasn’t familiar with this fish, but the guys at the restaurant assured me it was tasty.

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Kala, or unicorn fish

Trip Advisor shows mixed reviews for Waikiki Beachside Bistro but we thought our plate lunch was pretty good and it definitely filled us up. We also caught a glimpse of the $10 Loco Moco which is a well-known Hawaiian original consisting of a mountain of rice covered by hamburger, gravy, and egg(s). I like to buy local so this place suited us on that score, too.

Before our trip, I researched restaurants on Oahu and found the Mai Tai Bar at the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu where they claim to serve the best pupus (appetizers) and cocktails. We stopped there on our way back from Pearl Harbor on the local bus. Since we’d eaten that ample plate lunch earlier in the day, pupus seemed to be a good lighter option for dinner.

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Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana Mall, Honolulu

The 3 blackened fish tacos at a happy hour price of $8 weren’t bad but, honestly, they had me at the $6 glass of wine. The sweet potato fries were pretty good, too. This is a chain but their website claimed to win awards year after year for their happy hour so we figured it was worth a try. The place was packed. In this beautiful tropical paradise, I’d rather have had a beach or water view with my pupus and cocktails but the bar was open air, the price was right, and we got to see the Ala Moana Mall.

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Blackened fish tacos at Mai Tai Bar

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Sweet potato fries at the Mai Tai Bar

We spent two full days and three nights on Oahu before our 7-day cruise on the Pride of America.  Here are a few more scenes from Waikiki before our ship sailed.

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Beach at Waikiki

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Waikiki

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaianaole was the last reigning prince in Hawaii until the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 by American businessmen. He was later elected to Congress to represent Hawaii for 10 consecutive terms until his death in 1922. Revered in Hawaii as a champion of the rights of native Hawaiians, he is honored  with a statue in Kuhio Park in Waikiki.

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Statue of Prince Kuhio in Kuhio Park

And here’s my favorite view from our lanai at our hotel, the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. Aaah…

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The view from our lanai

Check back next week as we set sail on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.

 

Based on events in November 2015.

 

Categories: Food, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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