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Friday, November 23, 2012

I interupt your holiday festivities...

I interrupt my usual belated retelling of a vacation to say I hope everyone had a fun, nutritious n' delicious Thanksgiving. Mine was a teensy bit different from usual at the outset because I have a house guest, my friend Barbara who is staying with me for a bit. When I got connected to my Thanksgiving buddies Rick, Nancy & their boys, Diego and Adan, I found out instead of Thanksgiving at their place, it is at Leila's home. Leila is a long time friend of Rick & Nancy, both families and their 2 sons each, have been friends since, using Traveling Wilbury's lingo, "..since they wuz babies". I've been acquainted with Leila over the years through R&N.

My first attempt ever at sweet 'tater pies - not bad!

First off, Leila was amazingly kind enough to automatically not only extend her invitation to me, but to my house guest Barbara. So, armed with a pair of Chez Claire sweet 'tater pies, one with, the other w/o walnuts, we headed over to Leila's quiet little neighborhood.

Leila, making the Thanksgiving miracle happen
I'd never been to Leila's house, but somehow when I saw the two HUMONGOUS boys in the front yard, I recognized her sons I've met in years past, and her ex, Peter. YIKES! The last time I saw Leila's sons, Matt & Evan, when they were wee ones, racing through R&N's house like turbo dynamos, Wii gaming or some such with Diego & Adan. None of the four boys are wee ones now.

Diego and Evan (am godawful with faces/names, so if I'm wrong, forgive me Evan!)
Adan and Matt
 Soon all the guests, which happily even included Tippy (R&N's faithful doggie) had arrived and we all pitched in to do some little task, as Leila worked kitchen magic. She earnestly told us she was no cook, then turned about, preparing the most awesomely delish Thanksgiving feast I've had in years. It was amazing because Leila is Lebanese so, as with us all, her dishes reflected her heritage. So not only did we have turkey, stuffing and cranberry dressing, we had multi-greens salad with fresh mint and pomegranate seeds among the mix, leg of lamb with pomegranate molasses in the gravy, hearts of palm, lentels and rice, rice with onions, almond & pine nuts and I'm sure other dishes temporarily eluding my memory. During the meal I asked what one especially tasty tidbit was, and it was baba ghanoush!  I was tickled, because the only baba ganoush I'd ever tried was store bought and perfectly ghastly. How fun to discover I do like the Middle-eastern eggplant dish when it is properly prepared by a genuine Middle-easterner with culinary skills. Oh yum... 

And the feasting commenced in earnst
So, I ought to add the food, though exemplary, wasn't the best thing about the meal. As I'm near always lucky enough to say, the company was the best thing about our holiday feast. I kept finding myself laughing out loud, probably setting everyone else's ear drums to near shattering. Oh well. What you can you do when you're having that much fun, eh? Hope everyone I know out there had as lovely and fun a Thanksgiving as I had.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Our Long, Last Lovely Day

Jeannie, Steph & Ron heading to the sheltered cove for some snorkeling
 It was our last full day on Kaua'i, today, so we had to squeeze in some extra fun. First up, we headed south to Lydgate Beach. There are some wild waters off the coast of Kaua'i and we decided we'd like a tame snorkeling experience. Happily, ages ago, some smarty put in a rock wall - seen in the photo above. The wall keeps the ocean waves from battering swimmers. The lagoon is split in two actually, with v. protected shallow 'baby' lagoon on the left, where tots can safely paddle about, and for the tougher of us - ok, maybe not that tough - there's a larger and deeper lagoon on the right.

There were plenty of fish, most, hanging along the distant rock wall. The striped fish here are Convict Tangs, and the yellow fish is a Milletseed Butterflyfish.

Blackspot Sargent Damselfish

Yellowfin Sturgeonfish.

A Pacific Chub. Not commenting on this fishies' waistline. Chub means it is a carp, in the goldfish family. This little fishie was not so little - it was about a foot long.

These little guys, of which there were hundreds & hundreds are Hawaiian Flagtails 

Post snorkeling, we went to a local mini-mall for lunch & a big of light souvineer shopping for Jeannie & Ron. This super short clip is of some Surfin' pups that were anxious to sing us a little Kauai' tune.

Now, all week long, we drove up and down the coast, passing the once upon a time, very happening place, the Coco Palms Resort. Conversation about the ruins ranged from "Why is it still standing?" and "Do developers have any plans for it?" to my usual "Duh.. is dat place haunted?"

Jeannie, tired of listening to the inane and never-ending blather about Coco Palms, decided there was only one
way to shut us up. So, this afternoon around 2:00 we lined up at the Coco Palms entrance, each with a 20 dollar bill, tight in hand, ready for our tour.

The hey day of the Coco Palms was in the 1950s
I must say I was impressed with what once was the place to vacation. It hosted loads of celebrities, from the entire cast of South Pacific, Bing Crosby, and most famously perhaps Elvis Presley.  The Van Trapp family singers - think Sound of Music - sang at the Palms.  Near countless movies were and still are, filmed at the palms, mostly on it's 16 acre coconut grove.  Recently, the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movies shot scenes at the there.

Johnny Depp, as Captain Jack Sparrow, was tied to this coconut tree, I kid you not!
Ready to enter 'The King's Cottage'
Tourists posing with Elvis, in the King's Cottage
Another post ruins use of the Coco Palms, amazingly, is people like to get married on the lagoon behind the main building. That is rather crazy and hard to believe, but true. I mean, the place is a ruins... yet, brides go all wibbly wobbly over the idea of saying 'I do' over what amounts to an abandoned pit.

Stephanie & Jeannie at the 'Wedding' Lagoon
More flattering view of the Wedding Lagoon

The now wholly holey, yet unholy Wedding Chapel.

The tour guide told us he once, with great trepidation, gave permission for someone to put their loved one's ashes in the Lagoon.

Interior of the Wedding Chapel
... but when his back was turned they ran over and dumped their dearly departed's pile of ash & bone in the Chapel. He said it was the last time he honored that sort of request. Hum... it was pretty dusty in that chapel, I wonder...?

In addition to South Pacific's cast being housed at the Palms, a 1953 movie, Miss Sady Thompson, which I saw a couple of weeks ago for the first time was filmed at the Palms.The Wedding Chapel is actually a relic of the movie.

Ron enjoying first hand look at a dilapidated section of the hotel

Lots of Mai Tais were once served here to Hollywood elite

All in all, it was a good tour, the guide was super knowledgeable with enough history and stories about the Coco Palms to keep everyone entertained. Mostly we were on the grounds and in the coconut grove, but we did venture into one of the buildings for a bit. Old - decrepit - interesting.

Check out the giant sea shell sink in one of the hotel's upscale suites.

A chilling fact was when the hotel was built, loads of bones were discovered and turned over to officials for analysis. In the long run, the bones were given a burial, and we were shown the spot where the remains of the ancients are now laid to rest. Haunted... uh... I'm guessing yep.

This is the grand lobby where the who's who of Kaua'i tourists checked in
We all enjoyed the tour, which was around 2 hours long - frankly it near wore me out tromping up and down and trying to remember not to stand under any coconut trees. When the tropical breezes blow, you can be killed standing under a coconut tree.

Post Coco Palms tour, we headed back up the coast, bee-lining to a spot I was insistant on visiting, but only around sunset. Turns out that was good - and it was bad. Oh what am I talking about? Why, the Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge!  Whooo hooo! 

Now, an hour before sunset was bad, because, unbenownst to me, the lighthouse closes at 4 PM, so we couldn't go down to the lighthouse. There are cool birds to see at the lighthouse, like shearwaters that nest in the nooks and crannies of the hillside. I was bummed my timing was so bad.

 On the bright side of being at the lighthouse late in the day was, that's when the Boobies come home to roost!

Red-footed Booby coming in for a landing
The photo below was taken from an overlook. Down below on the right the boobies roost. They were arriving when we got there - flying in from the ocean, landing in the trees.

Overview of the Wildlife Refuge/Lighthouse
It was so fun watching the Boobies flying in high & low over the ocean

The Red-footed Booby is a new bird for me
Roosting, bird at a time, on the far side of the hill

This silly bird was in the trees below the overlook. Those feet are crayon red & priceless!

Booby all settled down for the night
So, as the boobies tucked their heads under their wings for the night, we headed back to the time share for several hours of wild-arsed packing and fretting over luggage weights because tomorrow we head home, back over the Pacific.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Unexpected Treasures on Kaua'i

Eureka! I found it! Sort of...
 Today was a day for cruising the island. Early in the day as we were driving, not too far from Princeville, I spotted a sign just off the little Kuhio highway, and shrieked for a stop. Turns out, it was the overlook for the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, I had unsuccessfully searched for last Sunday. There it was - a HUMONGOUS valley - hidden in plain sight!

Sadly, as thrilled as I was to at last discover the refuge, I must say, there was not a beast nor fowl visible in the great expanses below us in the valley. Of course, had there been a thousand birds down there, for the distance, I doubt I would have known what I was looking at anyway.

The refuge is full of endangered plants and wildlife, so is closed to the public, and so I was happy to at least get a grand view of the operations. The ponds are great habitat for birds I saw earlier in the week, like the Hawaiian Gallinules, Coots and Koloa (Hawaiian Duck).

The refuge has around 180 acres of Taro fields
We decided to drive around down by the ocean so we took the serpentine roads down to the beach.

There was a little riverlet that ran down to the ocean, and we spotted some interesting little critters along its shores.

You can't see it from this photo, but on the far shore...
baseball sized gray crabs wandered around the shore

There were lots of Hawaiian orb spiders on the shore too... they were about the span of ping-pong balls

We headed off, along the shore near Anini Beach, and I happened to look up and I went ballistic! A Great Frigatebird was soaring along overhead. Miracaulously I managed to get several good shots of the huge pelagic bird, all the more miraculous as I got my shots through the car windshield and the moon roof. Talk about your dumb luck.

Great Frigate bird, or 'Iwa, as seen through the moon roof
After much sight seeing, we stopped for lunch at the Pono Market in Kapaa. It was a wonderland of local Hawaiian chow, and a nightmare for the 'I like my food plain' folk. Here's my lunch, below. Yummy comes to mind. Really. It does.

Clockwise from white rice, Spicy Korean Clam Poke, Kimchee
(spicy/fermented cabbage) and Pork Laulau (Pork steamed in taro leaves)
Afterwards we walked off lunch at the open air market of Kapaa.

colorful cloth homages to the sea
I didn't get much at the market at all - GOOD CLAIRE!  I try keep souvineer buying to a bare minimum. I only bought a v. inexpensive shell lei at the market, which only put me back $6. But, a little later we visited a couple of waterfalls, the most impressive being the double, Wailua Falls.

Wailua Falls
There was a cool Moke there, selling baskets he made of coconut leaves and I was SOLD.  Had to buy this one, with a cunning little coconut leaf grasshopper on it.

Coconut Leaf Art

Is that cool or what? No clue how I'm going to get it home, but get it home I will!  I would have bought it without the grasshopper, but the guy added a second freebee, a cute, woven rose, which you can see on the side of the basket in the photo below.

The basket man and his pooch are not flipping the bird, they're giving me the 'Shaka'
The falls were really pretty, and they rained into a deep pool in a bowl-like pool. They used the falls back in the day, for the TV show, Fantasy Island. The Plane! The Plane!  But you know my favorite thing about the falls was the White-tailed Tropicbirds that flew up from the valley bottoms. Oooo! Yet another blown chance to get photos of those streamer-tailed beauties.

Steve with a coconut Butterfly fish over Wailua Falls
I am proud that I managed to control my shop-till-you-drop impulses, because tonight was our big 'buy up all the chocolate and nuts on the island' extravaganza. I think when we leave there won't be a chocolate covered macadamia nut on the island. Really.  After the shoping we dropped Steve off at the airport. Instead of going out for dinner tonight, we finished off our ample quantities of left overs accumulated the past few days. Know what? We still ate like Hawaiian royalty. *burp*

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Oy, that Poi!

North Kaua'i Coast
We started off our day, dropping the Keiki off at Ke'e Beach. They wanted to hike up to the summit to view the ocean. While they did that Ron, Jeannie & I had a leisurely drive along the Kuhio Highway.

Through the windshield shot

Jeannie & I shared a late morning snack of a pulled pork sandwich, which I then shared with some uninvited guests - a pile up of recently fledged Zebra Doves. I don't know what's more embarrassing, sharing spit with wild birds (which I realize is a no-no for countless reasons) or just watching myself eat.

Uh... hey, what'd you say we never again discuss that intimate Doves/Claire moment, alright? It'll be our little secret, 'K?

Cave, across the road from the beach
 Above the cave, house plants gone wild
We picked up the Keiki after their mountainside hiking, and did some sightseeing around the north of Kaua'i.

Everywhere you look, magical lagoons

I love this shot - it looks so dreamlike in its beauty

We actually went back to the time share later that afternoon to reconnoiter. With Steve being a Hawaii virgin, and it being so close to Stephie's birthday, it was unanimous, we just had to hit a Luau. I mean, could we send a Kaikunane home without a dose of poi?

The Keiki - Steve & Stephie - heading into the Smith Family Luau

Hey, happy birthday Keiki Wahine!

Once inside the compound, at one's choice you can get onto a tram for a guided tour. The grounds are divided into areas representing the different Polynesian lands, like the Philippines, Samoa and even Japan. There is breadfruit, macadamia nuts, Jackfruit and other exotic tropical fruit everywhere. The tour guide had a tale to tell about just about everything we saw.
Jeannie & Ron on the Tram
Next the tram unloaded and all watched as a member of the Smith family, welcomed us and officiated at the opening of the Imu - the giant pit in which the luau pork and meats are slow roasted.

Strapping young Mokes blow the conch shells over the Imu

After the Imu was striped, everyone headed over to the massive covered dining hall, where it was all free Mai Tais & wine, with sodas for the keiki. This was my third Luau over the years, and this one seemed to me to specialize in a few dishes done very well, over loads of dishes done 'so-so'. I give the Smith family feast two Shakas up! 

Now we were all full of Hawaiian style din-din and Steve was no longer a Luau-virgin, it was time for some Polynesian style entertainment. Wow. Just wow. It. Was. Awesome.

For starters, across the moat from the audience, the Goddess Pele herself, rose from a fiery volcanoe, Then, when she'd spoke her piece, there was some DANCING! 

The dancing was Tahitian, Hawaiian, and New Zealand, but even Japan and the Philipines were represented. My favorite, last up, was the Fire Dancer.

Someone enjoyed having her picture taken with the dancers
Well, the Luau was a lot of fun and Oy, that poi!