Archive for May 2011

San Francisco part one…   Leave a comment

One way to lessen the depression of having a cruise end is to go right into another vacation.  Due to the length of the journey between Hawaii and Boston, we’d decided to spend a few days in the San Francisco area on the way home to break things up.

After bidding a fond farewell to Hawaii and the Pride of America, we flew to San Francisco, arriving at 8:30 at night.  Unlike the Honolulu airport, when we followed the signs at SFO for taxis, we found plenty waiting to whisk us to the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf.  I’d call this hotel serviceable.  Maybe 3 ½ stars.  The location was very good, merely two blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, and the hotel room a good size.  But the lobby area was just adequate; rather non-descript and the only restaurant was really just an extension of the bar and part of the lobby.  Nothing fancy, but the hotel did provide everything we’d need.  At $149 a night, it also wasn’t a bad price for San Francisco.  We checked in and now found the time change working to our advantage.  It was 9:30 at night, but we felt like it was 6:30.  We hit the hotel bar for a cocktail and some appetizers then decided to check out the area.   Eventually we’d end up at an Irish pub, enjoying a couple of pints of Fat Tire Ale (which isn’t sold in our area, but is one of DH’s favorites) while listening to a pretty talented guitarist.

Our plan for the next day was to drive to Monterey and check out the Sea Otter Classic.  This is the largest bicycle festival in the United States and when DH realized that we’d be in town for it, well there was no doubt that we had to go.  As we’d stayed up late the night before, we got a later start than planned but still managed to arrive at the festival around noon, after picking up our rental car from the Hertz that was a block away from our hotel.

After parking it was about a mile walk into the festival.  The first thing was saw was a road race taking place and a female cyclist wiped out right in front of us.  All I could think about was all that bare skin sliding along the pavement.  OUCH!  After sitting there, crying and screaming at the top of her lungs for a few minutes, she got up, limped to her bike, and pedaled away.  You go girl!

We were pleasantly surprised to find that admission was free (it was supposed to be free only for the ladies) but we were still giving wristbands to wear.

DH was in Heaven walking around all the booths, checking out the new gear and equipment.  We also saw another race and ended up spending a few hours here before making the drive back to SF.  Back at the hotel valet parking was $40 per night (plus tax)!  Eek!  Glad we’d only be parking it the one night (if we weren’t I would have searched for cheaper parking).

Dinner would be at McCormick & Kuletos at Ghiardelli Square.  Dinner was delicious.  DH had a sturgeon cooked in butter and bacon, so how could it have been bad?  I was trying to compensate for nearly two weeks of vacation by having a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp.  When I did get it, it was delicious.  But my meal had to be re-fired after my salad was given to another diner.  By way of apology, they gave me a free dessert.  So much for saving calories!  No saving money here either.  The taxes added to the meal, including liquor and “health” tax, meant our meal was taxed at over 10%.  San Francisco made Waikiki seem downright cheap!

After dinner we walked around, but didn’t do too much exploring.  In the morning we were leaving San Francisco for two nights in Sonoma.  We’d be back in San Francisco for the last two days of our vacation and would really check out the city then.

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Posted May 15, 2011 by cubechick in San Francisco and Sonoma

Ka’a’awa Valley   Leave a comment

Ka'a'awa Valley by cubechick
Ka’a’awa Valley, a photo by cubechick on Flickr.

Posted May 15, 2011 by cubechick in Hawaii Cruise

Three days on Oahu   Leave a comment

Day Three

After a quick and cheap breakfast at the nearby Burger King (gotta do something to keep costs down a little!) we went to the tour entrance of our hotel to wait for our next adventure to begin.  We’d booked a mountain biking tour of the Kaaawa Valley through Bike Hawaii.  Due to our schedule, we’d originally booked a private tour, but a few other folks expressed interest in touring this same day.  John, who runs Bike Hawaii, cleared it with us first, but we were happy to have company…especially as this reduced the cost of the tour for us!  This guide was also late picking us up, but this time we didn’t panic since we were getting the sense of how island time worked.  😉

Sure enough, about 15 minutes late, the van pulled up to hotel.  There was no mistaking that the van was for anyone but us as there were a half dozen mountain bikes mounted to the roof of the van!  We stopped at one more hotel to pick up another rider, then off we went to the ranch.  Last night I had looked over our stops on the circle tour versus the description of our ride and had concluded that we were heading to the Kauloa ranch, which had been the lunch stop of our circle tour.  Sure enough, as we approached the ranch, I began to recognize places we’d visited the day before.  The rest of our group was meeting us at the ranch as they were staying at the Turtle Bay Resort, just north of the ranch.  They were a family with a teenaged son and a daughter of about nine.  The college student we’d picked up in Waikiki and DH and myself finished off the group. Our guide quickly got to the business of off-loading the bicycles and setting us up with helmets, bottles of water, and bags of trail mix.  DH and I also brought bottles of Gatorade and some power bars both of which we’d be grateful for.

The ride began with approximately a two-mile ride to the Kaaawa Valley floor.  We started by following a dirt road, but quickly had to veer from that easier path, as there were riders on horseback that we needed to avoid.    The trail went from double to single track and quickly became too challenging for the young girl.  Our guide had to double back and talk her and her mother out of quitting the ride.  It wouldn’t be much longer before we’d reach the valley floor and the sites of such movies as Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Windtalkers, Lost, etc.  Once we were done exploring the valley, the two of them opted to stay behind, explore the valley on their own, and meet up with us in a couple of hours at a shelter.

Their staying behind turned out to be a good move, as they would never have handled the muddy single track that waited.  Not to mention the assent up one side of the valley then the other.  The college kid who was with us had never mountain biked and if he hadn’t been in very good shape, he too would have fallen behind.  As it was he took three headers during the course of the more technical portion of the ride.  The website for this ride stated that they could easily find trails to accommodate all experience levels.  I don’t know if this is true or not, only that our guide certainly did not opt to do so.  Ultimately the ride was more challenging than I expected, but DH and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, as did the dad and son who had some experience riding.  When we arrived back to the van for lunch, we viewed being covered in red Hawaiian mud as a badge of honor (they’d had a some serious rain in the valley the day before).   Lunch was my only real disappointment in the day.  We were offered a half a sandwich each and a bag of chips.  After all of that riding I could have eaten two sandwiches!  The lack of food made us very glad that we’d brought our own snacks!

After a much needed shower, we were ready for our last dinner in Waikiki at Roy’s.  Roy’s was the number one rated restaurant in Honolulu on Trip Advisor.  I knew this was not going to be a cheap meal, but hoped it would be worth it.  Roy’s is located in the Embassy Suites, on the other end of Waikiki from the Marriott.  Still, that made it only a 20-minute walk.

The menu at Roy’s is extensive, with half the menu being classics and the other half being specialty items of this location.  After having our head’s swim with all of the choices, we opted for the three-course tasting menu with wine pairings.  At $65 per person we felt this wasn’t a bad value.   The appetizer was three items, including a delicious short rib and a spring roll that DH and I agree was the best we’d ever tasted.  DH had a short rib entrée that was simply amazing.  I’d read so much about Roy’s chocolate soufflé that I simply had to try that for dessert.  It was molten, melty, chocolate yum paired with a lovely dessert wine.  Fantastic.   I was also able to complete a mission of mine at Roys…having a pineapple martini made with Malibu rum…yummy, yummy, yummy.

I had meant to stop at Lulu’s and check out the band my friend recommended, but we needed to pack.  It’s nice to find that packing isn’t terribly depressing when your next stop is a cruise ship!  Also, despite three days in Hawaii we still hadn’t completely adjusted to island time and were still going to bed fairly early.  Early to bed does mean early to rise, but in this instance we didn’t mind.  The next morning, throwing open the drapes, and stepping out onto our balcony, we were able to see the Pride of America sailing into port.  The next part of our adventure was about to begin!

Posted May 15, 2011 by cubechick in Hawaii Cruise

View from our table at Duke’s Waikiki   Leave a comment

View from our table at Duke's Waikiki by cubechick
View from our table at Duke’s Waikiki, a photo by cubechick on Flickr.

Posted May 14, 2011 by cubechick in Hawaii Cruise

Three days on Oahu   Leave a comment

Day Two

I’d booked the Grand Circle Tour through Roberts.  I know a lot of people prefer renting a car and hitting the road themselves, but DH and I prefer tours as that way we can both look around and no one has to deal with the stress of driving in an unfamiliar place.  I settled on Roberts mainly because the timing of their tour worked out for us.  We had dinner reservations at 6:00 and the other tours I found didn’t return you to the hotel until after 5:30.  Our pick-up time was 8:15 and the bus was late.  Late enough that I was beginning to doubt myself.  Either I had the pick-up location wrong or something else had gotten messed up.  No worries, the bus was operating on “Hawaiian Time” and about 15 minutes late.  Our driver, “Uncle” or “Cousin” Roy was very entertaining and informative (and he looked a bit like Pat Morita of Karate Kid fame).  I found the tour to be exactly what we’d hoped it would be.  It allowed us to hit some highlights of Oahu and see a lot of the island given our limited time there.  What we saw made me think that if (when!) we go back I’d like to spend a full week on Oahu…maybe a couple of days pre-cruise on Waikiki then a few days post cruise up by Turtle Bay.  At $50.00 per person, it was also one of our more economical tours.

The only stop on the tour that I didn’t like was the stop at the Coral Factory which was little more than a bathroom break and a shopping stop.  One of the highlights (to me) was the stop at the Dole Plantation, which wasn’t on the list of places we were to visit, but a place I wanted to see.  Although I actually didn’t see much since I made a bee line for the Dole whip line (think soft serve pineapple ice cream and absolutely scrumptious!).  DH wandered around while I stood in line, learned a lot about how to grow pineapple (if we’re ever inclined), and took some wonderful photos.  So we both got out of the stop what we wanted (and I did walk around a small pineapple garden, showing some of the many varieties of pineapple, while enjoying my whip).

On the drive back to the hotel we had our first glimpse of rush hour traffic in Honolulu.  OMG!  It was insane!  It was 3:30 in the afternoon and the traffic leaving Honolulu (on four or five lanes of highway) was bumper to bumper.  What time did these folks get out of work?  Seeing that traffic made us doubly glad that we hadn’t rented a car.

We were back at the hotel around 4:30; plenty of time to freshen up for dinner.  I’d made reservations at Duke’s Canoe Club at the Outrigger Hotel a couple of weeks beforehand.  When I called I mentioned in passing that we were flying in from Boston, so the person taking my reservations said, “Oh, I’ll put an asterisk by your name for a front table”.  I’d heard that these tables give you a front row view of the beach and while pleased, I wasn’t counting on anything.  We arrived at Duke’s promptly at 6:00 (despite wandering into the wrong hotel first!).  We were told it would be a short wait until our table was ready.  After about 5 minutes, we were taken to table number eleven.  I know this because the gentleman taking us to our table told me so and said, “Remember that number.  It’s the best table in the house”.  The table was in a wonderful spot.  Outside, tucked into a corner with a front row, unobstructed view of the beach.  It was a wonderful spot to sip a Mai-tai (and Duke’s makes them better than I’d ever had before) and watch the sunset.  Our meal was fantastic.  We both opted for the fish of the day, monchong, a flaky white fish that had a nice mild flavor.  DH had his prepared in a parmesan and mac nut crust, and proclaimed it one of the best fish dishes he’s ever had!  I had to order Duke’s famous Hula pie and have to admit to not being “wowed”.  It was basically a big slab of vanilla ice cream with a chocolate cookie crust.  Hot fudge sauce and crumbled mac nuts were drizzled on it and while it was good, it wasn’t anything special.

A lovely walk along the beach brought us back to our hotel.  Surprise!  We found ourselves back at the terrace bar for an after dinner drink.  A band was playing and a couple got up to perform hula for us.  What a nice way to spend the evening; under the stars, listening to local music and the sound of ocean waves lapping at the beach.

Posted May 14, 2011 by cubechick in Hawaii Cruise

Dole Pineapple Plantation   Leave a comment

Dole Pineapple Plantation by cubechick
Dole Pineapple Plantation, a photo by cubechick on Flickr.

Posted May 14, 2011 by cubechick in Hawaii Cruise

Tiki Torch   Leave a comment

Tiki Torch by cubechick
Tiki Torch, a photo by cubechick on Flickr.

Posted May 14, 2011 by cubechick in Hawaii Cruise

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