Sunday, May 15, 2022

Covid Escape to Maui

Trip date: October 2021

I took my first long-haul flight since the Covid-19 pandemic in late October to Maui. My friend Gail and I were using another Westin condo deal (my 4th time on one of these!) for the Kaanapali Ocean Villa Resort. This was the 4th rebooking of the trip, once due to work constraints and twice due to Covid. For $948 we would be staying for 5 nights/6 days in a one bedroom/2 queen bed apartment. This included a rental car which we upgraded to a convertible for $318. 

We also used an Alaska Air companion fare and upgraded to Premium seats which gave us free drinks as well as the middle seat free, something Alaska had done during the pandemic for a while. 

There were forms to fill out for entry to Hawaii, including proof of vaccination, and masks were required on the flight. It felt heavy & a little uncomfortable but it also was exciting to finally be going somewhere again!  

Our first stop after leaving the airport (which has a huge new rental car area that you take a trolly to) was Tin Roof to pick up some lunch. The casual eatery, owned by Chef Sheldon Simeon of Top Chef Seattle season, was doing take-out only from its strip mall location. We pulled in, made our order online (dodging the line in the hot sun), and found a random beach along the highway to eat at. My mochiko chicken with garlic noodles were delicious!! And the orders were huge!

Upon checking in to the Westin the front desk agent gave me an option between a few rooms, we ended up with a fantastic location, mid pool with peek-a-boo views of the ocean and a balcony spanning the living room and bedroom. Room #2311 if you are so inclined. Bliss. 

Most of our days started with a walk along the beach path, breakfast at the hotel's restaurant Aunties (one of only two restaurants open due to hiring challenges), then down to the pool (masks were required inside the hotel but not by the pool or on the beach) where we rented a clamshell cabana for $75. We had gone grocery shopping so we could have our own wine or margaritas (our kitchen was fully furnished including a blender) and snacks by the pool. Daily drinks on the beach at sunset became a wonderful study in the changing clouds over Lanai.

One day we booked a snorkel trip with Ultimate Whale Watch out of Lahaina out to Lanai. We were on a Zodiac style boat but it had seats built in. Our captain Chris and his mate Levi were awesome. It wasn't whale season but we did see spinner dolphins which I hadn't seen before! 

We went past Manele Bay, where the Four Seasons is located, and snorkeled just near this rock and coast cliffs. The coral was absolutely gorgeous and there were tons of fish. Gail and I were first in and last out and had a blast! Once back onboard the crew handed out homemade banana bread as a snack. Very sweet. 

Unfortunately on our way back across the channel our boat had some engine problems, but instead of stressing about it, our crew pointed out flying fish and told us things about the islands and their diving. And when we did finally get back over to Maui they took us to Turtle Town. This area, where an old cement wharf had come down in a hurricane, is a favorite hang out for honus. As soon as we jumped in there were 3 huge turtles swimming towards us! I had to try to back up to give them way! We ended up swimming around with 8 turtles and spied a small shark under one of the sunken cement blocks. We celebrated the great snorkeling back on board with mimosas we had brought with us!

Another day we drove up the to the very northwest tip of the island for a hike to the Nakalele Blowhole. The drive is very windy but beautiful. We parked at the 2nd trailhead which is just past MP 38. There isn't really one set trail, it's a very dusty and rocky hill that you kind of have to scamper down. 
It's only about a mile down to the blowhole and the last part of the scramble is mainly old lava flow. The rock formations are super interesting and there are lovely views of the ocean of course. But the main attraction is the blowhole and it certainly did not disappoint! We hung out for a bit taking in the cooling spray!

The climb back up wasn't exactly hard, but it was difficult to pick out the best way up through the rocks and lava. Two guys who were just a head of us were super sweet, pointing out the best routes and even lending a hand up the steeper parts. It was a great adventure!

We drove back down towards Kapalua, stopping to take in a great view of Honolua bay and a pod of dolphins swimming around. 

Originally our plan was to snorkel at D.T. Fleming beach but the red flags were out and the surf was big so we continued driving thru Kapalua to check out the other beaches. We passed a sign for the Sea House restaurant, which offered parking and ocean views, and decided to have lunch there. Turns out they are right on Napili Beach! We had a great lunch on their deck and then grabbed out gear (we had rented from Bob's) out of the trunk and went for a snorkel. Immediately upon entering the water there were 2 large honus!! This will be a reoccurring stop for me on future trips!

Another day we drove up to the old town of Paia. I had never been and with Covid the tiny town was even quieter than normal it seemed. We had a good time shopping at some of the cute boutiques before heading to Mama's Fish House for our lunch reservation. 
While wandering their grounds before lunch we spotted another huge turtle sleeping in the shade on the beach! 

Mama's is beautiful and delicious and very expensive. I've been just once before for dinner and I have to say that lunch is the better bet because you get the gorgeous views!

During our trip we also ate in Lahaina a few times. It was easy to take the Westin shuttle and then Uber back as we were generally returning after the shuttle ended for the night. 

Kimo's is one of my regular stops; I go simple with their fresh catch and brown butter. If you have a sweet tooth their Hula Pie is ridiculous and not to be missed. 

We had a surprisingly great lunch at Lahaina Fish Co one afternoon. My poke salad was HUGE, the Mai Tai was solid, and the view was gorgeous! I'll return here.

We also tried the Mala Tavern, not at sunset as most people do since sunset was at ~5:30 and we just don't eat that early! It's a very cute spot with nice cocktails and great food. 

And the Mexican food we had at Frida's on our last night was sooooo good! My black beans with grilled fresh prawns in garlic butter were thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside with this view of sailboats moored in the bay.
It was great to have some new places to check out in Lahaina and none of them disappointed. Closer to our hotel we walked over to Dukes on two separate occasions for dinner. It was close and waiting for a table in the sand with one of their big Mai Tai's is not a hardship for me!

Of course I had to sit through a 90-minute timeshare presentation at the Westin which is now owned by Marriott Bonvoy. In years past I had scheduled the presentation for my last day and then canceled, saying I had to leave to catch my flight. But the fine print now states that if you don't attend you will be charged at full rack rate upon checking out.

I booked it on the first morning we were there as I knew jet lag would have me up early anyway. It was painless as I just kept saying that I wasn't interested. Upon leaving they offered me another vacation package! Since I still had 4 more days I could think over that offer while enjoying a Mai Tai or two! I did end up purchasing another package so I'll be visiting this resort again in the next 2 years :)

Total turtle count: 11! Sun, sand, was a fantastic girls' trip and a bargain on top! 

All Maui photos here

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Olympic National Park Road Trip

Trip date: September 2021

Thanks to COVID, the PNW hiking trip that I had planned with my friends from Paris, Forest and Nicky, for fall of 2020 got scrapped. We had rescheduled everything the best we could for Sept of 2021, but with the USA still closed to non citizens, Nic had to pass on the trip again. Forest decided to brave the pandemic and fly into Seattle, it had been since Jan 2020 since I had seen my BFF, the longest since we have known each other!

We had a six day road trip planned around the Washington coast and ONP, all places that neither of us had stayed at before and we were excited! First stop, Kalaloch Lodge.

We stopped for lunch along the way at Chelsea Farms in Olympia. I love this place! We had some gorgeous oysters on the ½ shell and I had their decadent clam chowder. It's a great place to break up the ~3 ½ hour drive to the coast. 

Originally we had booked to stay at the Quileute Oceanside Resort, but tribal lands were closed due to COVID. Our cabin at Kalaloch sat on the bluff overlooking the ocean, had two bedrooms, a bathroom, small kitchen, and a wood fireplace in the living room. 

It was very rainy when we arrived, so after unpacking we got a fire going, set up a game of dominos, made some cocktails, and settled in for the night. The restaurant onsite was take out only so I had brought a batch of my mac and cheese that we just had to cook up in the oven, and a green salad. It was a super cozy and relaxing night!

The next morning the skies had cleared so we drove out to the Hoh Rain Forest, which was about an hour each way. We did the short 1+ mile Hall of Moss trail which is nothing less than gorgeous!

Pictures just can't do justice to the amazing hues of greens and yellows in the Hoh. I had never been in the fall before and it was stunning!
We were really hoping to see some elk as there had been sightings that morning, but no such luck! 

Just outside the park, we stopped at the Hard Rain Cafe for sandwiches, eaten outside on their front porch as almost everyplace was still closed for indoor dining. 

Back at Kalaloch we went out for a nice walk on our beach. We were the only ones out there, except for a couple of bald eagles!
That evening the sunset was just amazing! We put together a little happy hour and sat outside in our adirondack chairs enjoying the view.

Although our cabin had a kitchen and we were told there would be a bin of sanitized cookware, they only provided us with paper plates and plastic utensils. I had brought posole and quesadilla makings for our 2nd night dinner and we ended up having to eat the posole out of cooking pans! I also had to go buy souvenir wine glasses from the lodge as they only gave us paper cups! But they did provide each cabin with a bundle of wood per day so we were all set for a fire and dominos after dinner (pro-tip: no wifi at Kalaloch Lodge or the cabins).

The next morning we checked out after breakfast of banana bread and tea in the cabin and drove the short distance to Kalaloch Beach for a little hike along the shore and to check out the very cool Tree of Life. Afterwards, on our way to Ruby Beach we stopped for a quick look at Big Cedar which is indeed a very big cedar. 

At Ruby the tide was in so our hike was shortened drastically. But it is still such a gorgeous spot and we were having the best weather!
We stopped in Forks for a quick lunch before continuing on to 2nd Beach. This is a gorgeous hike thru the forest and then onto the beach!

It's about a mile through the woods out to the beach. 2nd Beach feels much more remote that Ruby since you can't drive right up to it. We had a great time exploring and were two of only a handful of people out there.

Three beach hikes done for the day! We got on the road and stopped to check out John's Beachcomber Museum but unfortunately it was closed. We drove through his property and could see that there was a pretty impressive collection of items ammassed!

It was just under an hour drive to Lake Crescent Lodge, which is where we'd be staying for the next two nights. We had rented one of the Singer Cabins, two seperate rooms connected inside and sharing a cute front porch with views of the lake.

I had been wanting to stay out at this lodge for years and it did not disappoint! Such a gorgeous setting! We hung out in adirondack chairs on the lake shore for a bit and then headed inside the lodge for cocktails by the big fire.

Because of COVID the drinks were served out of plastic cups but they were solid. We hadn't made reservations for dinner and because of reduced seating in the dining room there were no tables available so we ended up ordering off the take-out menu and having dinner in front of the fire as well.

The next morning we had breakfast in the lodge dining room on real plates and with a front row view of the lake. It was a gorgeous day and afterwards we set off for a short hike to Marymere Falls, the trailhead starting just behind our cabins. The 2 mile round trip hike is really pretty, lots of old growth trees, some deer sightings, and of course the waterfalls!

Then we jumped in the car and drove to the salmon cascades on the Sol Duc River and watched the salmon make their way upstream. I live near the Ballard Locks so I've seen this many times but I have never experienced it in the "wild" and wow, was it cool!!

We stayed for quite a bit watching and wondering how these salmon were not crushing their skulls on the rocks. The concierge at the lodge had told us about this when we checked in, it was a great tip. The salmon generally run from mid Sept to mid Oct so if you are in the area go check them out! 

Originally the plan had been to go soak in the Sol Duc Hot Springs, so we continued up the road and had a little picnic before checking out the pools. But just like my other time there, it seemed crowded with kids and not very relaxing, so we opted to head back to our lovely lodge. 

We settled into a couple of adirondacks with some wine and books and enjoyed the gorgeous fall weather. As it got later I bought a bundle of wood from the front desk and they delivered it to one of the fire pits for us. I made a small fire that we enjoyed before heading up to our front porch for a great happy hour spread that we had packed in our cooler.

Dinner that night was in the lodge dining room and it was ok, nothing to write home about but fine. I had taken the rest of our wood back up to our cabin, and after dinner we grabbed it and returned to find some other guests keeping our fire going with driftwood. We enjoyed some lovely rare whiskey around the fire, such a gorgeous setting!

The next morning after breakfast and a little more wandering around the Lake Crescent Lodge grounds, it was time to check out. I loved this lodge and would absolutely love to return; fall was the perfect season! 

Our drive to Hurricane Ridge was gorgeous and sunny until we hit Port Angeles. The weather turned drizzly and as we made our way up the road leading to the ridge clouds settled in so low that I couldn't see a thing in front of me. This was not going to make for a good hike, so sadly we turned around and headed back down.

We stopped in Sequim for lunch at Salty Girls which had been recommended. Unfortunately it was just ok. They shucked the wrong oysters for us twice and my crab melt was just luke warm. Maybe it was an off day.

Not to miss out on a last hike in the area, we pivoted (thanks Covid for teaching us all the importance of the pivot!) and drove out to the trailhead for the Dungeness Spit. 

It had been probably been 15 years since I'd been out here. And no we did not hike all the way out to the lighthouse! But it's such a unique and wild strip of sand and driftwood, it was a great last hike!

Our last stop on our fabulous WA Peninsula trip was Port Townsend. I had been thru the quaint town many times but had never stayed! We were booked in at the very well known Old Consulate Inn which at one time was the German Consulate. 

And in true BFF fashion, Forest and I had the honeymoon suite, which was up on the top floor of the house and had a sitting room in the turret! The views of the Pacific from the room were also fantastic!

We walked into downtown that evening; Port Townsend is such an adorable place, full of Victorian style buildings, gorgeous views, and more deer than people it seems!

Unfortunately the restaurant Finistere was closed the night we were in town so we decided to wander into to the Alchemy and get on a waitlist for a table. Thanks to social media I saw that my friends Andy and Carol were in town and were also at Alchemy! They invited us to join them for dinner and we had some very good drinks and bites! 

Breakfast was included at the Old Consulate and was served in a very nice sitting room. It's really a great house to explore, lots of antiques and interesting spaces. Afterwards we packed up and checked out, then drove into town and walked around doing a bit of gallery going and antiquing. 

Andy and Carol had told us they had spent a day in Poulsbo and thought it was really cute, it just so happened that there was a shop I wanted to check out there so after our walk around we headed to Little Norway as it's called.

We had a great time shopping along the main drag. Nordiska is a wonderful store full of everything Scandinavian and also has a lot of artist Anna Brones' work. We also found an adorable housewares/wine shop and did a little tasting outside while we waited for a table at The Loft for lunch.

We took the Bainbridge Ferry home because a ferry ride is *the* way all PNW trips should either start or end! 

This was such an awesome trip around the Olympic National Park and peninsula. I live in a ridiculously gorgeous part of the world and it was super fun to go exploring with my bestie who also has a deep love for the PNW.

All Washington Peninsula photos here.  

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Palm Springs Virtual Office

Trip date: September 2021

I had just returned from Palm Springs when the pandemic hit in March 2020.  By the fall of 2021 I had only flown one other time and was missing my annual sun-cation. I was also missing tan lines as the pandemic had really put a damper on beach vacations! So I booked my 2nd flight during COVID, packed my bikini and my laptop, and headed south to work remote for a week. 

I actually didn't realize until I was headed to the airport that it was September 11th, and the 20th anniversary of 9/11. There was absolutely no one in the Clear/Precheck TSA area which was quite eerie. And a lot of folks on the flight were visibly anxious with the anniversary and the pandemic. So a relaxing flight it was not!

It was crazy hot when we landed and I was very happy to get into my rental car and blast the A/C. The townhouse I had rented was just 1 mile from downtown, in a gated community, and had a private enclosed courtyard with pool & hot tub. I would not have to be around anyone I didn't want to be around.

Inside was a big kitchen/dining room, comfy sectional, big screen tv complete with Roku and a gorgeous fireplace. And upstairs was a bedroom loft and a covered balcony area that looked down on the pool. As I wasn't planning on going out much, this space was absolutely perfect!

I headed to Jensen's grocery and did a big shop to stock up my place for the week. Then back to the townhouse for some rosé in the pool with a floatie. It was 108F so no need to pay for the pool to be heated!! When I finally got out of the pool I had a lovely night in the A/C and a delicious roast chicken dinner thanks to the grocery store deli.

Originally I had planned on heading out each morning for a walk through the various neighborhoods like I normally do. I had even bookmarked a couple of new-to-me hikes. But it was just way too hot to be out during the day with the temps above 100F every day (& one day 110F!). So every single day I got in the pool with my morning coffee and read on my kindle. Then I spent the afternoon working, while taking pool and book breaks. When it cooled off in the evenings I had a quick hot tub before making dinner and watching movies. It was heaven and my tan lines were back!

I did go out a few times to places requiring proof of vaccination. My friend Nathan, who lives there, and I headed to local fave Bootlegger Tiki one evening for pre dinner drinks. When it is hot, nothing cools like a tiki drink (or two)! It had been a few years since I had been and it was still just as good. 

That evening we had dinner at Sandfish Sushi which I had wanted to go to for quite awhile. It was absolutely fantastic! We ordered way to much food, and I had a few now-rare Japanese whiskeys, which are my faves! Service was fantastic and the restaurant is gorg. I'd highly recommend!

Another night Nathan and I had drinks at PSAir, a little cocktail bar hidden in the back of a local wine/liquor shop. My brother had sent me a few photos the last time he had been in town so I was looking forward to checking it out.

As the name hints, this speakeasy is all airline themed. You sit in what looks to be a plane's fuselage complete with first class leather airline seats. A screen shows aircraft taking off and landing while servers bring you "First Class Nuts" and "Paper Plane" cocktails. 

It's cheeky and silly and absolutely fun. We even ran into one of Nathan's friends there who is a flight attendant! Very meta!

For dinner we headed to the bar at Mr. Lyons for big prime rib steaks. An excellent evening!

Another evening a friend who also happened to be in town invited me to dinner and drinks at Workshop Kitchen. It had been years since I'd been and it was still great! We chose to sit outside on their large patio which was lovely albeit a bit warm!

And one afternoon a couple of friends and I braved the heat and had a lovely lunch at El Patio, which I hadn't been to before. The restaurant has a big outside patio, shaded by a huge tree and complete with misters. Our lunch was soooo good! I highly recommend the mezcalita and the shrimp ceviche! Delicious!!

I was just absolutely loving my little condo and was very sad when I had to think about packing up to head home. I had a morning flight on my last day which made sense as my checkout was in the morning too. But I was so bummed thinking about it the day before so I sent the host a note asking if there was any way I could stay all day and take a later flight home. Bingo! 5pm check out for an additional $40 and $98 for the evening flight on Alaska into Seattle. 
I spent the entire day in the pool with my book, going inside to do some work in the A/C from time to time. At 4pm I got cleaned up and packed up and left my sweet little private townhouse. Quite a different PS trip than in years past, but exactly what I needed!

All Palm Springs photos here

Covid Escape to Maui

Trip date: October 2021 I took my first long-haul flight since the Covid-19 pandemic in late October to Maui. My friend Gail and I were usin...

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