Waikiki

Waikiki is great, but if you come to Hawaii and only see Waikiki, you have not seen Hawaii. So please, check out some of the fun in Waikiki but promise me you will take a drive or a tour around the island or even better, hop over to one of the neighbor islands.  What Waikiki does offer is tons of shopping at all of the high end fancy stores, plenty of restaurants, including the world’s busiest Cheesecake Factory, and crowds of tourists from all over the world, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Waikiki beach.

If you want to stay in Waikiki, I recommend The New Otani Kaimana. This boutique hotel is located right on the beach and just slightly out of the busiest part of Waikiki, just a half mile beyond the Honolulu Zoo towards Diamond Head. It is a lovely hotel on a great little beach and home of one of my very favorite restaurants, the Hau Tree Lanai. Their breakfast is my favorite but dinner is fantastic as well, and it is a great place to see the sunset. Reservations are recommended.

If you’ve visited us on Oahu chances are we’ve had drinks at the Moana Surfrider. The Beach Bar at the Moana is my favorite. Walk past the cozy front porch and the lovely rocking chairs, through the magnificent lobby and out the door to the Beach Bar where you can pull up a chair at an empty table under the giant banyan tree – no reservations needed. The drinks are tasty, I love the Ahi Poke Nachos, there seems to always be live music to enjoy and the view is outstanding!

There are a thousand shops and restaurants for you to explore and Yelp will do a better job of directing you to something you will enjoy so I won’t spend more time here making recommendations. I will make a few suggestions of things to do and see but I can bet any of you who visit Waikiki could come up with a better list.

Waikiki Aquarium: Short and sweet, ok if you have an hour to kill but otherwise I wouldn’t highly recommend it.

The Honolulu Zoo: We loved it! Very pretty zoo, lots to see and the animals were all active and fun to watch.

The Beach: Waikiki is a bit of a mad house! There are people everywhere and you usually have to weave your way through beach blankets and bodies to find your sliver of sand to sit on. If you are looking for peace, quiet and serenity, this is not the spot for you. However, it is a great place to people watch and if you come prepared for the crowds it can actually be a lot of fun.

• Rent an umbrella – This has become my new favorite indulgence. I love having my designated spot to leave my stuff while I take a dip in the ocean. (*See warning below.) There are tons of rental businesses all up and down the beach and they will rent you an umbrella and or chairs by the hour. Prices range from about $10 an hour to $50 for the day and there are all sorts of deals, early bird specials, kama’aina rates, military discounts, smile and talk nice discounts, etc. Ask around and see what works for you.

• Surf and paddle board lessons and rentals – I have seen people of literally every age and size taking surf lessons. There are all sorts of businesses up and down the beach who offer such services. Check out Yelp for recommendations.

• The Waikiki Wall – It is always fun to walk out onto the wall and watch the local kids time the waves to jump – usually launching off of the No Jumping sign. You can also get a nice view of body surfers navigating the waves and impressively steering away inches before hitting the wall. Unless you are experienced this is a better spot to watch than practice.

Explore: There are so many things to see and do in Waikiki. Many of the hotels have activities going on that you can enjoy even if you aren’t staying there. Don’t be afraid to wander through lobbies and explore the shops and amenities tucked away.

Waikiki Freebies: Somethings in life are free. Here is a link to one set of Waikiki Freebies but I’ve seen better and if I find it again I will update my post and share it!

https://www.hawaii-aloha.com/blog/2011/12/29/enjoy-some-waikiki-freebies/

• Waikiki Hula Show – Most hotels, shopping malls and restaurants offer free shows for visitors to enjoy. Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 6:30pm there is a show right next to the Duke Statue, at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound. It is an hour long performance featuring local dancers and musicians. You might even be invited up to join the show!

• As you walk past hotels, shops and restaurants you are sure to hear wonderful music, some of it live. The stages at The Royal Hawaiian Center and Ala Moana Mall are just a couple of the places where you can see fantastic performances.

• Take a lesson! Many hotels and some shops offer free lessons in everything from lei making to playing the ukulele or dancing hula!

• Check out www.royalhawaiiancenter.com for a schedule of performances and lessons.

• Once a month or so family friendly movies are shown on the 30 foot screen on Queens Beach (near the zoo). The movies are free and there are plenty of food booths on hand so you can enjoy dinner and a movie. You can find the schedule here; www.sunsetonthebeach.net

• On Friday nights, just after 7pm, you can enjoy a spectacular fireworks show. The epicenter of the show is the Hilton Hawaiian Village and you can enjoy the fireworks from all over Waikiki and from Magic Island.

* Please be cautious with your belongings. There are a lot of people on and around Waikiki and a lot of opportunity to have your items disappear. Use common sense, don’t have valuables out where people can easily take them, tuck your bag under a chair or towel to make it less accessible and check on your items often.

Fortunately I don’t have any bad experiences of my own to share with you and I’m not trying to scare you, just want to remind you to be careful. This goes for your car too. Just don’t leave things out where someone can see them and you should be good.

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NOLA

New Orleans, NOLA, The Big Easy – No Matter what you call it, New Orleans has something for everyone. A rich history – some of it fairly recent – great food, world class entertainment and for nature lovers a short drive can get you up close and personal with a gator.

I’ve only visited New Orleans once, back in 2012, but I loved it and look forward to going back. Some of the information and recommendations posted here are my own and many of them were provided by friends who have visited or even lived in NOLA. Please send me your favorites and I would love to add them to the collection.

Where to catch some zzzz’s….

Hotel Monteleone – Charm, history, comfort, convenience; the Hotel Monteleone offered all of this and more. Located just a block off of Bourbon St, it offered a quiet place to lay our heads and yet it was a short walk back to all of the action. The original 64 rooms date back to 1886 and while there are some quirks in places, such as narrow hallways stairs in the middle of the hallway, etc. everything has been updated and you are provided with all of the comfort and amenities you could need. The bed was so comfortable that our friend Jacob described it as cuddling up against the Queens bosom. The Monteleone is also home of the famous Carousel Bar, located on the ground floor, or you enjoy spectacular views while sipping cocktails around the rooftop pool.

Looking for liquid libations….

Carousel Bar – Located on the ground floor of the Hotel Monteleone, the seats at the bar are an actual carousel that rotate. My favorite drink is the Fleur Des Lis. Don’t forget to ask for a “Go Cup” and take your tasty drink with you as you head toward Bourbon Street.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – Dating back to 1722 Lafitte’s is said to be the oldest bar in the US and there are stories of pirates hanging out here back in the day. It was a fun stop but I would have liked more charm and less “slush” machines.

Pat O’Brien’s  Room after room of libations, entertainment and fun! Want to grab a drink with your pals? Belly up to the Main Bar. In more of a party mood? Join the fun and sing along in the Piano Bar. Need some fresh air? Step out back to the Patio Courtyard with a fantastic flaming fountain at night.

A couple of recommendations I haven’t visited – yet!

Swizzle Stick Bar – Worth jumping into for a drink and a GREAT place for brunch — BEST Blood Mary I’ve ever had, but also a good place where locals go too for drinks.

Cosimo’s – “Friendly neighborhood bar away from the madness.“

Get Your Grub On….  New Orleans food is a complex mixture of cultures, history and flavors. So many flavors! Go hungry and try as many different dishes as you can. A culinary adventure for sure!

Bourbon House – This was my favorite restaurant and possibly the best meal I’ve EVER eaten! On the same street you will see a line of people waiting to get in to Acme Oyster House which has been featured on every travel and food site as the place to go. I tried Acme, good, not great. Skip the line and treat yourself to an amazing meal in a beautiful restaurant.

Cafe du Monde – Home of the beignet, is a must on any trip to New Orleans. Dating back to 1886, Cafe due Monde is the original coffee shop of the French Market. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there are plenty of options to visit but I recommend an early morning stroll to the cafe where you can enjoy a beignet, or several, while sipping some of their tasty chicory coffee.

Mother’s Restaurant – It’s all about the debris!

Gumbo Shop – Remember that culinary adventure I mentioned at the beginning of this section? And all of the flavors? Well the Gumbo Shop is the place to visit when you are ready for that flavor filled adventure! Seriously good food!

Johnny’s Po-Boys – I ate an alligator po-boy and it was delish!

These recommendations were made by a colleague who live in NOLA and I haven’t visited any of them so if you check them out, let me know what you think! They are broken down by neighborhood, some of these places require a cab ride or moderate to long walk from the French Quarter.

Uptown

Mat & Naddie’s – The food is delicious, great atmosphere, definitely local and casual.

Brigtsen’s – No details except it was an amazing meal and maybe a bit more casual than other options.

Patois – This restaurant is “modeled”/featured in the HBO show Treme.  Very good food.

Clancy’s – Very authentic local place.  Good, a bit dressy.

Dick & Jenny’s

Central Business District/Warehouse

Herbsaint – Great, solid, some tables outside. (Looks higher end and delish!)

Couch – Cool atmosphere, and living up to its name, it’s a very interesting, almost all-swine menu.

Tommy’s Cuisine – The food is always delicious, it’s not pretentious and also a bit more reasonable.

Emeralds – Next door to Tommy’s, the food is good and not cheap.

French Quarter

Bayona – Great food, outdoor patio.

GW Fins – Very good seafood.

Amalie – Beautiful patio.

Mid-City

Rue 127

Let Me Entertain You!  (Places to see and things to do.)

Frenchman Street – It may only be a short cab ride but Frenchman Street is a world away, from the wild and crazy scene on Bourbon Street. Frenchman Street is lined with live music bars and is probably as close as you can get to what Bourbon Street was back in the day. As you walk from club to club you can hear the music pouring out the doors. Not juke box music or dance jams played by a DJ, we are talking throaty soul and wailing sax, live music from some spectacular musicians.

Bars to hit on Frenchman Street:

d.b.a.

Apple Barrel

Spotted Cat

Snug Harbor

Blue Nile

Maple Street Bar – If you are in NOLA on a Tuesday night, head to Maple Street Bar and see the Rebirth Brass Band. These guys are the traditional funk and roll brass band and to see them in a small venue is a fantastic experience. The show starts at 10pm so save your energy, you will need it! Unfortunately we weren’t in town on a Tuesday night and we really wanted to see this show.

Music Legends Park – Loved this little oasis in the middle of Bourbon Street. Lovely court yard with great live music.

Tours

Swamp Boat Tour:  We took a swamp boat tour and it was awesome. Beautiful scenery, fun exciting ride and alligators! Fun times!! I don’t remember the exact company we went with but I’m sure there are lots of good options!

Bus Tours: We took a tour that showed us around New Orleans, showed us the 9th Ward, took us out to a cemetery and more. I loved seeing the 9th Ward and the cemetery was fascinating but overall I didn’t love the tour. It was hard to see things from the bus, some of our tour-mates were pretty annoying and I wanted to spend more time at the cemetery but the previously mentioned tour-mates had put us behind schedule so it didn’t work out. Sorry don’t remember the name of the tour but would just recommend you are careful when choosing yours.

Additional Resources

New Orleans Official Guide

New Orleans Restaurants

Aloha Pop

By now you all know I’m living in Hawaii, specifically on the island of Oahu and even more specifically on the windward side of the island in a little town called Kailua. I love Kailua and feel so incredibly fortunate that we’ve been lucky enough to make it our new home. Since we moved I’be been trying to learn as much about our new home as possible. Finding my way around, discovering the best beaches, burgers and bars. Learning the lingo, hearing the stories and basically just taking it all in. Hawaii is a fantastic, complex, interesting place.

I’m so excited to share our new home with all of you and have had the wonderful pleasure of having several friends visit already and am looking forward to seeing more of you in the year ahead! In the meantime I will do my best to share some what I learn with all of you. This post is kind of a bunch of nerdy facts and figures but it is pretty interesting stuff – thank you Wikipedia!

Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian islands, about 70% of the population of Hawaii lives on Oahu (953,207 in 2010) and 40% of the people on Oahu live in Honolulu (387,170 in 2010). In my little town of Kailua on the windward side of the island about 12 miles from Honolulu our 2010 census showed a population of 38,635. Our cute little town has attracted a lot of attention in recent years and I’m guessing the next census will show a pretty steep increase in the population.

Earlier this evening I was wondering about how far I could drive on the island. Traffic is not so awesome here so going a short distance might take a long time – luckily the views are nice along the way! So, how big is our island? East to west, 44 miles, north to south, 30 miles.

OK, enough facts and figures. Here is a pretty awesome picture of “The Mokes,” two small islands less than a mile off the beach here in Kailua. And that is Kailua and the Ko’olau mountains in the background.

The Mokes

The Mokes, with Kailua and the Ko’olau’s in the background.

Knee Deep Thoughts by Trudy

I love great quotes. I’ve collected them in various formats over the years and love finding the perfect quote for an occasion. I’ve often thought about posting them here and now that I’m trying to blog more often I figured why not!

This first quote I’m posting isn’t necessarily a favorite, I received it recently during a team meeting. One of my fellow EAs brought in a deck of cards with inspirational thoughts on them. We each drew a card from a deck and then shared the words of wisdom with each other. In some cases it felt like maybe we should have exchanged cards but we all took our cards and because my card didn’t speak to me 100% clearly, I’ve been mulling it over and trying to determine what it means to me.

On one side it said, “I am willing to let go.”

And on the other it expanded this thought saying, “I release others to experience whatever is meaningful to them, and I am free to create that which is meaningful to me.”

Hmm…. Is this another way of saying, “Live & let live”?

I am really not a fan of having to interpret the meaning of something and I feel like this card is staring at me trying to get me to gain some greater meaning from it. Am I over thinking this? I think I am getting hung up on the “I release others.” That is a funny statement because it sounds like you are saying you aren’t going to control others but you are saying it in a very controlling way!

So, after all of this analysis I can say that I’m still not in love with this card. I will keep it on my desk for a few weeks and see if it gains some sort of meaning to me along the way. In the meantime I release you to think what you like about it!

2015 has gotten our attention!!

Not even 48 hours into the new year and 2015 is already a little roller coaster!

Awesome New Years Day party, great food, good times with family and friends, and making new friends. UP goes the coaster!

What goes up, must come down…..

On New Years Day morning my mom slipped, fell and broke the femur bone in her right leg. She had surgery this morning and thankfully did really well. Unfortunately she will have to be off her leg for 3 months and won’t be able to visit in February as we’d planned.

Even the weather has been all over the place! Yesterday we were blessed with a beautiful sunshiny day! And today has been a crazy, super windy and rainy day!

What will January 3rd bring?

Happy New Year!

As I imagine you might also do around this time of year, I find myself thinking about all that has happened in the last 365 days and begin making plans on how to make the next 365 days even better! Well 2014 was a very eventful and pretty spectacular year so if it can get better, I am really looking forward to 2015!!

Here are a few of our 2014 highlights!

  • January: New Year’s Day fun & 12th Man Fever strikes Seattle!
  • February: Super Bowl insanity!
  • March: Visiting the land down under!
  • April: Grad school & Hawaii – here we come!
  • May: Sail boat racing, celebrating our wonderful friends Kelly & Jeremy AND our Hawaii “research trip!”
  • June: Two one way tickets to paradise!
  • July: Saying goodbye to the Gates Foundation and celebrating our move with family and friends.
  • August: New job, new place to live, new friends and visits from lots of forever friends!
  • September: Kailua, our new home!
  • October: More visitors & celebrating 19 years of wedded bliss!
  • November: Island hopping to spend Thanksgiving with family in Kona!
  • December: Creating new traditions and celebrating with friends and family near and far.

So what are we going to do to top that? I am sure there are exciting opportunities in our future and I am looking forward to the fun as they unfold! My personal philosophy is that we should always be prepared for whatever might come our way so we will keep our eyes and minds open, our passports current and be ready for adventures big and small!

Our calendar is already pretty full with out-of-town guests for the first couple months of the year so we are looking forward to showing friends and family some of our favorite places and finding new things to see and do!! We are always excited for more guests so let us know when you might be coming this way!!

I’m not the biggest resolution maker but in years pasts I have had fun making resolutions one month at a time. This year I think I am going to try eliminating and adding something each month. The beauty of this is that I only have to hold to it for one month at a time!! We will see how it goes! So, for January I am going to eliminate my daily coffee (I might still treat myself on weekends) and I am going to add blogging and commit to posting on my blog at least a couple times a week, maybe more. Maybe as the year goes on my commitments will sound a little more committed! LOL  Baby steps!

I hope the new year brings you joy in all aspects of your life!!

Happy New Year!    Trudy