Monday, January 25, 2010

Who Wants To Dine In This Room?

We have been back from Hawaii for two weeks now, classes are back in session and most post-vacation tasks have been completed – time to start a project around the house! Before the holiday break we did some painting updates to the dining room, but we didn’t get time to finish, now with the cold weather and looming snow, I have plenty of time. The dining room is somewhat open to the living room and kitchen so we made sure that the paint flows through the rooms and we want to make sure that the flooring flows and that the window treatments coordinate. On the to-do list for this room include painting and updating the built-in (the original built-in had glass doors YUCK, we already removed them), painting all the wainscoting, painting the trim on the slider door, installing new window treatments, updating the beams on the ceiling and at some point putting down new flooring. I am really looking forward to getting this room done, we have already had some friends and family get-togethers and it would be much more pleasant to have a finished dining room to eat in. Plus, once we get the dining room off the list we can move on to the dreaded kitchen…

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 10 & 11, 2010

We quickly fell asleep at around 3:30AM in a very nice hotel room with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean and the Hyatt pool below our lanai. We were also startled awake at 7:30AM by the marching band practicing their steps on the walkway just outside our door -- the concrete-over-steel design looked cool but every step resonated loudly and shook the entire floor. We also had a very unusual night’s sleep on the “Space-aged Material” bed that we slept in with custom body grooves worn into it courtesy of the hundreds of other guests who have slept there before us. So we got up after very little sleep and got packed again, took some pictures of the beautiful view that we got to take in for 5 minutes and called a taxi to take us back to the airport to try and get off the island again.

Our taxi driver was named Ed and said he would meet us at noon and take us to the airport. We got down to the lobby and saw that everyone who got food vouchers was unable to use them at the hotel’s restaurant and ended up paying out of their own pocket, so we felt better about not receiving them the night before. Our taxi showed up promptly at noon and we loaded up and headed to the airport. Just as we were leaving I got a phone call from a very distraught taxi driver named “Ed” who was waiting for us at the hotel, our current taxi driver, also named “Ed”, confirmed to me that he was “Eddie the Taxi Driver”, of course since the other driver had my phone number, this “Ed” was not the “Ed” we were looking for, we had been Taxi-napped! Meagan and I were just happy to get a ride to the airport courtesy of the airline so we weren’t to upset about the taxi mix-up. Of course the other Ed was a bit upset and let me know in a voicemail, but there were several others behind us headed to the airport as well so hopefully things worked out for him. We got to the airport, again, waited in line, again, and waited at the gate, again… But this time we actually got on the plane! Since we pretty much had the last two seats we were given the two remaining Exit Row seats with about 6 feet of legroom that sat next to the bathrooms and across from a flight attendant’s jump seat. We flew to Kona, landed in a lava field that they called the airport and waited around a bit to take off to Chicago. The coolest thing about Kona was that the airport was completely outdoors and you got out of the plane on the tarmac and walked into a hut village that served as the terminal! We got back on the plane and struck up a conversation with one of the flight attendants, asking her how it was to fly from Hawaii to Chicago and back 4 or 5 times a month. She was very nice and gave us each a bottle of Champaign to celebrate our honeymoon and make the flight a bit more comfortable.

We arrived in Chicago to about 20° temperatures and crossed the frozen tundra to find the shuttle bus pickup area. We were both so tired but we still had to make it back to Grand Rapids. The shuttle took us to our snowbank (car) in front of the hotel, Meagan waited inside while I dug it out and reattached the battery cable and prayed that it would start after 12 days of snow and freezing temperatures. It did! And we were on our way home, taking turns trying to keep me awake until we finally pulled in, Honeymoon over, both of us exhausted, and tons of pictures and memories to share.

Posted By Matt

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 9, 2010

On Saturday we woke up leisurely and packed all of our luggage so we could maximize our carry-on allotment and avoid the baggage fees for additional checked bags. We went back through Pa’ia and had breakfast at a cool restaurant called Charley’s where the locals enjoy the night-life (it appeared to us that several of them had spent the whole night there partying away and were still there for breakfast). After breakfast we went back to the surfer beach and finally saw some surfers on massive 20ft waves. One guy was paddle surfing through the mountains of water like it was no big deal; and a couple of surfers were brave enough to drop-in and catch some monster waves!

After the beach we headed to K-Mart to pick up some last-minute souvenirs before we headed out, then headed to Borders to get a book to read since we were pretty much planning to get to the airport 4 hours before our flight took off, due to A.) the flight take off was pushed back a few hours since the departing winds were favorable, and B.) our rental car was due by 6 and our flight was at 10PM. As we headed for the airport we saw a beautiful sunset over the West Maui Mountains that needed some pictures taken of it, then we headed off to the airport.

While waiting at the airport we overheard some flight attendants talking about some bolts missing from the passenger door and how the “missing bolt” allotment was 2, and they were missing 4, therefore, in their words “this plane ain’t leavin tonight”. Of course 4 hours later the airline finally came to the same conclusion leaving every last passenger in a scramble to make new arrangements to get off the island. Meagan was able to get through to the airline customer service before many customers and was able to get us on a flight directly to Chicago (with a short stop-over at Kona, on the big island of Hawaii) the next afternoon. The airline kindly put us up at the Hyatt Regency for the night along with food vouchers and a taxi voucher – all of which was very nice except that we didn’t get to the room until 3AM and they ran out of food vouchers before they got to us.

Posted By Matt

Friday, January 8, 2010

January 8, 2010

Maui developed in such a way that the “Leeward” coast, protected from the Pacific trade winds by the dormant volcano, is the sandy, sunny, and touristy side of the island. The opposite side of the island (the “Windward” side) is far less developed and offers a lush, rocky and sometimes mountainous landscape. The only road connecting the West (Leeward) side of the island to the East (Windward) side is the “Road to Hana” – which makes sense because Hana is largest town on the Eastern side of the island.“The Road to Hana” is a beautiful 55-mile stretch of road along the North coast that takes you from Central Maui to East Maui through narrow passages and winding roads with speed limits that keep you crawling at 10 mph or recklessly tearing down mountain slopes at 30 mph. As every guidebook and personal recommendation we read or heard said, “you have to do ‘The Road to Hana’” we felt we obliged to comply. The whole point of the trip is to enjoy the drive and not worry so much about getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ (since there really isn’t a lot to see at point ‘B’). The trip is so common, in fact, that the car rental companies push convertibles at double the rate, just so you can see more of the terrain along the way (what they don’t tell you is that it will likely rain at various points along the trip). We stuck with our ultra-sub-tiny-compact Hyundai, which was a wise choice as you often had to share the narrow 2-lane road with 1-½ lane wide tour busses coming the opposite way (usually well above the speed limit).Anyway, since I’ve heard that I tend to be a bit verbose while blogging, I’ll take you along our trip with photos and captions since that’s all anyone looks at anyway:

Waterfalls everywhere

Winding Roads, Narrow Lanes

Garden of Eden, lots of flowers and the valley from the opening scene of Jurassic Park

Black Sand Beach, complete with lava-rock black sand, caves carved by lava and erosion, and jelly-fish, which feel like lava if you get stung!

We stopped at Hana Harbor but decided to move on to see O’heo Gulch before the tour busses caught up with us. O’heo Gulch was called the “Seven Sacred Pools” by tourism companies trying to add some ancient Hawaiian appeal to the spot, needless to say it is a very cool area – after a couple days of rain, that is. When we were there it was so dry it could have been called “Three Sacred Pools of mostly stagnant water”. It was still beautiful.

On our way back to Central Maui we stopped at “The Fish Market” in Pa’ia, which is hippie central in Maui, but this place by far had the best, freshest tasting, and most affordable fish of all the restaurants we went to. We stopped at the surfer beach called Ho’okipa Beach and watched some powerful waves crash before we headed back to catch the sunset and go to bed for our second night at Tradewinds.
Posted By Matt

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 7, 2010

The morning of January 7th we woke up to a strange sound that we had not heard yet in Hawaii. The sound eventually stopped but there was plenty of evidence of where it was coming from based on the puddles and dripping eaves outside on our lanai (hotel deck). It had been raining! But it was done now – apparently from time to time they do get some rain on the West side of Maui (mostly up in the mountains). The rain was done but the sky was fairly overcast, this put a damper on our “pre-checkout” plans of soaking up two more hours of sun before we had to move on so instead we had some Kona coffee and breakfast tea and watched the beauty of the island from our dry and cozy hotel room. We later checked out and were on our way to our new place – a bed and breakfast inspired apartment called “Tradewinds” – for the final 2 nights of our trip. Tradewinds was half-way across the island, just past Central Maui, which was good because we had a few hours to kill getting there before we could check in. On our way, taking our time, we decided to walk down Front Street one last time as we passed Lahaina. The street itself gives a New Orleans like atmosphere with the numerous, colorful, eclectic shops right next to each other all the way down the street. On the other side of the street a few more shops finally give way to the sandy beach and rolling waves. This town was an old Whaler’s port where the fishermen would stop for a bite to eat and some supplies. I learned to surf just down the beach past the original shipping harbor and several of the shops claimed to have been in business since the whaling days. As we walked back down the street we found ourselves in front of the shop window that formerly displayed Meagan’s Black Pearl bracelet, except now it was no longer on the display rack with the others. We walked in and asked the shop owner where the bracelet was, she held up what was in her hand and asked, “you mean this one?” Apparently the bracelet was also coveted by another traveler passing by the night before except she had the idea to put it on hold, along with two others, incase she wanted to come back and buy it the next day. The shop owner tentatively offered us the bracelet mentioning that she didn’t believe that the woman who reserved it would mind since she had two others picked out too. We quickly purchased the bracelet before she could change her mind, we all seemed to think this was the best bracelet of the three and if the other woman was going to buy any of them it would have been this one. We got over the guilt of buying a “held” bracelet very quickly and decided to move on towards our destination.

Our next stop was at a place called the ‘Iao Valley Needle located in the Pu’u Kukui Crater in Central Maui. This large needle-like spire in the middle of a lush volcanic crater was used as an altar by ancient Hawaiians that was believed to have helped them win battles for territory – or something like that; the mythology of many of the tourist attractions on the island seemed to be made up to garner more interest in the very cool and unique geological formations. We were not very impressed by the needle, mostly because it was obscured by clouds and it looked like just another mountain wall. We took photos of it anyway and headed out for lunch.

Meagan picked up a Maui cookbook for 2 dollars at some store closing book sale, the cookbook was for a restaurant called Hali’imalie Restaurant and General Store located in the middle of nowhere in Central Maui. We decided to check the place out since Meagan had the entire menu in recipe form; then we’ll be able to cook any dish from the book in Michigan if we want to feel nostalgic. The place had the feeling of an old country store that had tables for eating instead of racks of knick-knacks and sundries – they did have one rack though, selling the exact same cookbook the Meagan had for $40 a book. Meagan ordered Bev’s “Secret” crab pizza, and I ordered Bev’s “Secret” BBQ ribs; the “Secret” meaning that the recipes were NOT in the cookbook. The crab pizza was crab-cheese on pizza crust – not too bad; and the ribs were good, but very similar to BBQ ribs that you can find almost anywhere, but we won’t spoil Bev’s secret (Costco crab cheese and Open Pit BBQ sauce). After our satisfying meal we ventured on to our B and B-type accommodations.

Tradewinds was the walkout basement apartment of a large house overlooking a lush valley just East of Central Maui. To avoid calling it a Duplex and the tax and city code issues that go along with it the owners moved the microwave oven and portable electric stove top just outside onto the patio, but the rest of the apartment was very nice, with a beautiful lush tropical garden sculpted into the hills surrounding the house. The accommodations were very cozy and we took our time and relaxed playing some “Bananagrams” and taking a dip in the outdoor hottub overlooking the valley. We went to bed early because we planned to drive the “Road to Hana” early the next morning.

Posted By Matt

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January 6, 2010

On January 6th we finally had another morning to sleep in. We took our time getting up and decided to walk down the beach (called Airport Beach or North Ka’anapali Beach) ways to see how the snorkeling was. The walk in the soft coral sand was brutal on our knees and we got about halfway to our destination and decided to check out the beach and sea life there. Meagan soaked up some sun as I waded out with my snorkeling mask and flippers to see what I could see. The sea life was once again amazing, I could see Nemo and his classmates playing along the coral formations, little black spiky sea urchins, and many other curious fish using me for shade. The water wasn’t nearly as clear as Molokini and if all of this wasn’t happening right in front of me I wouldn’t have seen much, but it was still fun. I think the south Kona wind stirred the sand up a bit leaving the normally clear ocean water somewhat murky, but the visibility was still good to 20 feet or so. On our way back to the resort we discovered a neatly built boardwalk that brought us right back to the resort pool; saving our knees from the squishy sand for our hike back.

That afternoon we had plans to travel to Wailea so that Meagan could exchange the IOU card that I gave her on Christmas for her actual gift. Her IOU was to be redeemed “In a special place, at a special place, for a special memory, and a special place to hang it”. Meagan had the riddle solved, with a few hints, after our second day in Maui (the first special place). The second special place was our destination that afternoon, The Shops at Wailea, and once we got there the Tiffany’s store located inside the upscale shopping area. We browsed the shopping area finding that the shops were a bit too fancy and expensive for us to really get excited about shopping there, but the Tiffany’s store had exactly what we were looking for… Almost… I gave Meagan a snowflake charm for my wedding day gift to her, knowing full well that she didn’t have a bracelet to put it on. And rather than order a bracelet over the internet and wrapping it for her I decided to give her a coupon to redeem a bracelet (the special place to hang a memory) and a Honeymoon charm (the special memory) while we were in Hawaii. Unfortunately the Wailea Tiffany’s store was out of several of the popular ocean themed charms so Meagan opted to hold out on the charm until we got back and could check the selection online.

On our way back from the Shops at Wailea we stopped in Lahaina to get some dinner at Cheeseburger (formerly “in Paradise”, but no longer due to some Buffet litigation against the name). Our table was against the wall that faced the ocean, the restaurant was built on a stone wall that was right on the shore, and as we ate the waves were crashing right next to us. There was also a beautiful sunset backdrop accenting yet another one of our evening meals. On our way back to the car Meagan spotted a very pretty single black pearl strung on a silver bracelet but she decided she had enough bracelets for the day and opted to sleep on it and see if she still wanted it the next day.
Posted by Matt

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January 5, 2010

We couldn’t have picked a better time to watch people surf in HUGE waves. We also couldn’t have picked a worse time to get in the water and learn to surf. Matt was a tough cookie and tried it out anyway; I on the other hand did my best to get some sun and take some good snapshots. Matt took a two-hour surf lesson through Goofy Foot Surf and from what I could hear they seemed to be really good at explaining the finer points of surfing. Matt got to test out his skills in some pretty boring waves – with his snowboarding experience I am sure he would have had more fun in some of the other areas around the island. Nevertheless, by the middle of the lesson he had it down and now is sure to make a trip back to Hawaii when the waves are a little more his style.

... Matt is going to start blogging with me, here is his big debut ...

After the rigorous session of surfing and photo-documenting we headed back to the resort to catch get some much needed R&R by the pool. Apparently the strategy for most resort-goers to get good lounge chairs is to wake up at 6AM and go down to the pool with your towels and wrap them around the chairs you would like to use later in the day – that way when you finally show up to the pool at 3PM your seats will still be reserved. Meagan informed me that this is standard protocol at resort-type places, I said that people were more laid back in Hawaii and wouldn’t do anything as silly as that – of course I was wrong. Anyway, amidst the sea of empty yet reserved lounge chairs we found two available next to each other and laid back for a few hours.

All week Meagan had a craving for Mexican food, and we found a coupon for cheap tacos at Fred’s Mexican Restaurant in Kihei. Kihei is in South Maui and we were in West Maui so we headed out early to make it there in time for dinner. Once we got there we found out that it was also “Cinco de _______(insert month here)” where on the 5th of every month they have margarita specials too. Since this was Taco Tuesday and Cinco de _____ on the same day we had about a 45 minute wait to get into the restaurant, but that worked out perfectly because the sun was setting over the ocean as we watched across the street from the public beach, again another beautiful sunset, this time no clouds to hide behind. When we got into Fred’s we devoured two bowls of their extremely tasty chips and salsa and we each had a margarita as we soaked up the atmosphere and waited for our tacos.

Monday, January 4, 2010

January 4, 2010

There is a law posted somewhere that you cannot go to Hawaii without going to a Lu’au, maybe that is not completely true, but it is hard to pass up the opportunity. We did some research and out of the ten or so Lu’aus that are offered on Maui, the Old Lahaina Lu’au sounded like the best one. It was a little different that the traditional hotel Lu’au, it was on the waterfront, we sat on the ground at low tables and instead of having lots of different dancers it had only a few that told the story of how Hawaii was founded. The food at this Lu’au was about the same as a hotel Lu’au and it was really, really tasty. The dancers were amazing and the live “band” the accompanied the show was really good. I was tempted to go back for another night – the food was really that good!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

January 3, 2010

We had heard a lot about watching the sunrise from atop of Haleakala Crater, both the good and the bad. First, the morning starts off at about 2:30 am – you have to leave the west side of the island before 3:00 am in order to make it to the summit before the sun does. Second, the temperature at the summit is a crisp 30 degrees and then drastically rises to around 70 degrees while you enjoy the view. Third, there is a chance that the sunrise will be no better than any other you have seen, but if it is a “good” day it will be amazing. I was on the fence about making the trip, but Matt was really excited to see what it was like. So, we put on as many of our winter clothes as we had brought with us, loaded up our tiny Hyundai rental car named “Ruby” and headed out at 2:45 am for the summit. Hours later when we reached the summit in the dark it was questionable as to whether it was worth it, but when the sun began to rise above the sea of clouds and was equal with our 2 mile high view – it was breathtaking. We thoroughly enjoyed the experienced, I even found it to be rather fun to drive both up and down the mountain, although driving the hairpin turns was much easier in the daylight, there were a few times when I thought Matt could look out his window and see his impending death. Good thing I am such an excellent driver.

After our early morning we enjoyed an early dinner at an excellent restaurant in Kahana called Roy’s. For Christmas Matt’s sister Rachel had given us a gift card to eat at Roy’s while we were on the island. It was such a fun Christmas gift and it gave us something to look forward to. Dinner at Roy’s was delicious - we had island-style pot stickers, amazing Sea Bass and a chocolate volcano for dessert. It was a great way to end a beautiful day!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January 2, 2010

One of the things that Matt and I were the most excited to do while on our trip was to snorkel out at Molokini, which is a sunken crater that is well known for having crystal clear waters and visibility up to 120 feet. We took a snorkel trip with Four Winds and had a great time. On our way out to the crater we saw a competition pod of about 6 whales about 100 feet from the boat, it was really extraordinary to see them so close, they are amazingly huge. The crater offered some good visibility and some colorful fish and coral. The coolest thing about snorkeling this time of year when the whales are in town is that you can actually hear the singing underwater. Along with the snorkeling the trip goes through an area called “Turtle Town” where you can get up close to the “giant” green turtles, which are named because of the color of their meat, not the color of their shells. A bonus for Matt on the snorkeling trip was winning some sort of free raffle for a T-shirt. I can’t wait to get our pictures back from this outing – I need to get into Sams and get the underwater camera developed.

I am not sure if it what the connect is, but after we were done snorkeling I was craving Chinese food – so we found a little out of the way, highly recommended place called the Chine Boat for dinner. Yum!

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010

I think this is the first New Year’s Day that I haven’t spent on the couch watching football – it was refreshing. We took the day to drive from our resort in Ka’anapali through Kapalua and up to the Nakalele Blowhole. The drive was very scenic with lots of lookouts and a ton of switchbacks. We were able to see lots of whales, some great waves, several very good surfers and the Plantation Golf Course where they were holding the first tournament of the year. We ended the day with dinner at Moose McGillycuddy’s where we were able to at least see the scores from the important games of the day. I guess old habits are hard to break.