Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sights to See: San Diego, California


panda in tree at San Diego Zoo
San Diego offers the exhilarating opportunity to mix learning about California's historical beginnings with the pleasure of sunning on beautiful beaches and the adventure of visiting the world's largest zoo.  It is the home port of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, and so has a fabulous collection of military ships.  You’ll also enjoy getting to know a few of the city’s approximately 90 museums.  Good Mexican food is easily found, and many of the restaurants prepare dishes that you don’t often see.  Do try them.  The state's fastest-growing city is also its second largest, and the eighth largest in the U.S.  Renowned for excellent weather, its temperatures average 70 degrees.  Though summer is the most popular time to visit, the year-round good weather makes it a pleasant vacation destination any time.  Be aware, though, that this generally sunny town does get summer fog, and is famous among the locals for it “June gloom.”  However, summer is the time of year when the Jacaranda trees bloom, and the gorgeous lavender blossoms more than make up for a little chilly mist.  You will need a car for convenient access to the many nearby recreational areas, which include ocean, mountains, and desert, and you’re going to love the fact that parking is free almost everywhere.  Train-lovers and most kids are also going to enjoy the many required stops at clanging crossings enhanced with flashing lights. 

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sights to See: Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Sculpture Park & Hardwood Plantation, Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Sculpture Park & Hardwood Plantation  4101 Wailapa Rd., Kilauea, (808) 828-0525.  Tu-F.  Guided tours $35+; special family tour, under 13 $20.  Reservations advised.


Lagoon at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
Lagoon
Rambling over 240 acres, these beautifully scenic, well-groomed gardens are reached by a back road through an upscale residential area.  Formerly owned by Joyce and Ed Doty, who designed and developed them, the gardens are now operated by a non-profit foundation and continue to evolve.  All tours are guided, and some include a tram ride.


Tea for Two sculpture at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
Tea for Two
About 70 whimsical bronze sculptures are strategically placed throughout--many with punny names and humorous stories—and, amazingly, everything was planted here from seed.

jackfruit at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
jackfruit

blue jade at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
blue jade
You’ll see exotic fruits, colorful orchids, tropical hardwood forests (including teak, which they said couldn’t grow here, but which Joyce Doty did grow using a recipe she found in an old seed catalogue), waterfalls, a hedge maze, large grassy expanses, a koi-filled lagoon with spouting fountains, a finely appointed tea house, and black lava rock fences.


treehouse at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii

The Children’s Garden holds holds plants kids enjoy and includes water features, a large treehouse in an even larger rubber tree, and a gecko-shaped maze.











baby Laysan albatross at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii

If you’re lucky, as I was, you’ll see fluffy baby Laysan albatross in a restricted nesting area adjacent to the garden.  Consider taking a morning tour or risk sweltering in the heat of the day.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Things to Do: Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden Luau and Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii


Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden Luau  174 Wailua Rd., in Wailua Marina State Park, in Kapaa, (808) 821-6895.  Reservations required.  Reputedly the island’s best luau, this event begins at 5 p.m. with an informative tram ride through lush tropical gardens.  A traditional imu ceremony, in which a roasted pig is removed from its undergound lava rock oven, occurs at 6 p.m., followed by mai tais and punch and an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet with all the traditional goodies.


dinner plate at Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden Luau in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii
Salads, that infamous poi (here’s your chance to try it, and it’s not so bad—just sort of bland), Jell-O, fried rice, lomi salmon, fresh fruits, kalua pig, teriyaki beef, adobo chicken, sweet & sour mahi mahi, snowflake and sweet potatoes, hot vegetables, haupia, coconut cake, and rice pudding comprise the menu, which is definitely kid-friendly.


dinner at Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden Luau in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii
Dinner is accompanied by singing and dancing, with the pageant show starting in a separate arena at 8 p.m.


dinner plate at Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden Luau in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii
After the torches are lit, Madame Pele makes a fiery entrance that is followed by colorful dances and songs from throughout the South Pacific and Hawaii.  What’s not to like here?


Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise  Smith's Motor Boat Service, 174 Wailua Rd., in Wailua Marina State Park, in Kapaa, (808) 821-6892.  On grounds that were once owned by Hawaiian royalty and accessible only by river boats that leave every 30 minutes, this lava grotto and waterfall makes a lovely destination.  It is a natural amphitheater with impressive acoustics, and it is a popular spot for weddings.  The large flat-bottomed, open-air, canopy-covered tour boats share the water with kayakers on what is the only navigable river in Hawaii.  Everyone, including kids, is entertained en route up the narrow, calm river with historical stories, singing, and hula lessons.  Trips last about 1½ hours and give kids the chance to let off some steam during a walk from the landing up to the grotto.

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first three images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; last image courtesy of venue

Monday, August 25, 2014

Great Sleeps: Kiahuna Plantation and The Beach Bungalows, Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii


Kiahuna Plantation and The Beach Bungalows  2253 Poipu Rd., Poipu, (800) 367-5004, (808) 742-2200.  333 units.


Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
Situated on 35 acres of beautifully maintained gardens punctuated with great expanses of green lawn, this condominium resort fronting Poipu Beach is spread over what was once part of Hawaii’s oldest sugar plantation and is now the largest condo resort on the island.  The two- and three-story plantation-style buildings each hold six to eight individually owned units, which are furnished in wicker and dark wood and cooled by overhead fans.  Some, of course, are closer to the ocean than others, but all are within convenient walking distance.  All have a full kitchen, laundry facilities, a TV, and a large private lanai.  This property is a good choice for families with young children, especially the units that are set back from the beach and open onto an expanse of grass.  I love the early morning birdsong.



My unit attracted an assortment of birds--doves, common mynahs, and "red-headed bluejays," as one of my children called the birds that looked just like that.  The beach itself is reputedly one of Hawaii’s best, with a gentle surf that is welcoming of children, and great snorkeling is within easy walking distance. The resort's many facilities include a beach hut with free use of chairs and towels. Boogie boards and scuba gear can be rented, and surfing lessons are available.  Well-maintained, free tennis courts and a pool are situated a bit of a trek from the condos.


Plantation Gardens restaurant at Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu, Kaua, Hawaii
Plantation Gardens restaurant and bar is located inside the historic Moir House.  It serves dinner  only, and reservations are advised.


Moir Cacti Gardens at Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
Guests and non-guests alike can take a free self-guided tour of the resort’s unusual, very old Moir Cacti Gardens.  It is rough around the edges and in need of some tender loving care, but still a delight to walk through.


orchid garden at Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
A colorful orchid garden located just outside the restaurant is also a pleasure to visit.

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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, August 22, 2014

Good Eats: Randy’s Donuts, Inglewood, California

Randy’s Donuts  805 W. Manchester Blvd. (going south, 1st airport exit/Manchester), Inglewood, (310) 645-4707.  Open 24 hours.

line at Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, California
This is the perfect stop for a pre- or post- airport snack.  Just look for the big donut on the roof.  I like the maple-glazed cake donut with a vanilla iced coffee.  Rain or shine, there is usually a line.  Unfortunately, they have no indoor area or seating and no restroom, so you’ll be standing outside.

Randy's Donuts on Urbanspoon

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menu at Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, California
images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sights to See: Carlingford, Ireland


CARLINGFORD  1 hour north of Dublin, on the Cooley Peninsula. 
Located halfway between Dublin and Belfast, Carlingford was raided and occupied by the Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries.  It retains its original narrow medieval streets and lanes and is Ireland’s best-preserved medieval village, and its sheltered harbor provides views across the water of the majestic Slieve Foye mountain and the famous mountains of Mourne.

King John's Castle in Carlingford, Ireland
The 13th-century King John’s Castle is a landmark for Cuan Aighneach--the town’s ancient name, which translates as "Haven of the People with the Perfect Reputation."  The magical area also seems to be leprechaun central. 

Ghan House  +353 (0) 42937-3682.  12 rooms.  Situated beside Carlingford Lough and just a short stroll from the village, this L-shaped 18th-century Early Georgian house has been converted into an inn that is probably most famous for its restaurant.  The kitchen staff grows their own vegetables and makes all stocks, chutneys, jams, breads, and ice creams in house.

rack of Cooley lamb at Ghan House in Carlingford, Ireland
Guests can have a cocktail in the bar, then go upstairs to the exquisite dining room for dinner by candlelight.  A cooking school—the third-oldest in Ireland--is available to groups.

guest room at Ghan House in Carlingford, Ireland
Upstairs, guest rooms with mountain views are furnished with family antiques.  This charming lodging is particularly popular with ladies on a “hen weekend.”



P.J. O’Hare pub  Tholsel St., 042-9373106.  Established in 1860, this popular pub pours a proper Guinness and is also a great spot for an Irish coffee.  Don’t leave without viewing the display of leprechaun bones in a wall cabinet. 

Carlingford Oyster Company  This renowned oyster farm is home to the famous Carlingford Oyster.
owner and workers at Carlingford Oyster Company in Carlingford, Ireland
Oysters have thrived in Carlingford Lough for centuries, and the Louet-Feisser family has been farming them here for 39 years.  The unique sweet taste and high meat content makes these oysters prized gourmet treasures.  This company supplies top restaurants throughout Ireland and the U.K.

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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sights to See: Newgrange, Dublin, Ireland


Newgrange  30 miles northwest of Dublin, in the Boyne Valley.  


Newgrange site near Dublin, Ireland
Dating back to 4000 B.C., this UNESCO World Heritage Site holds a prehistoric tomb that is older than both Stonehenge in England and the pyramids in Egypt.  


tomb entrance at Newgrange site near Dublin, Ireland
The tomb entrance is a narrow passage made of large stones that leads into a covered burial chamber.  During the winter solstice, the rising sun shines through a small opening above the tomb's doorway and illuminates the chamber, which is at other times pitch black.  An interpretive center with a small cafe are nearby.  Two more passage tombs--Knowth and Dowth—are in the area.  Day tours from Dublin are available.
 

Newgrange Farm--a working farm with animals to feed and pet--is especially fun for children and just a few miles down the road. 



Monasterboice high cross site near Dublin, Ireland
Monasterboice  This graveyard holds one of the best preserved high crosses in Ireland. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Things to Do: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California


Griffith Park  Entrances on Los Feliz Blvd. & Zoo Dr., Los Angeles, (323) 913-4688.  You can easily spend all day in this 4,107-acre park in the Hollywood Hills.  It is the largest city park in the country and offers a plethora of things to do.  In addition to the attractions itemized below, it has more than 50 miles of hiking trails, 28 tennis courts, 4 golf courses, a riding stables, an elaborate modern playground, and a public swimming pool.


Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles, California
Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round  (323) 665-3051.  Daily in summer, Sat-Sun rest of year, 11am-5pm.  $1.  This has been a Los Angeles family attraction for more than five generations.  Built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company and brought to Griffith Park in 1937, this carousel has 68 finely carved jumping horses.


riders on Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles, California
They feature jewel-encrusted bridles, carved draped blankets, and sunflower and lion head decorations.  A loud Stinson 165 Military Band Organ, reputed to be the largest band organ accompanying a carousel on the West Coast, plays more than 1500 selections of marches and waltz music.
Located by the merry-go-round’s lower parking lot, Shane’s Inspiration playground is handicapped accessible.

kiddie rides  Los Feliz Blvd/Riverside Dr., 4400 Crystal Springs Rd.  The first two attractions have been operating since 1948.


train ride at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California
          Griffith Park & Southern Railroad  (323) 664-6903.  Daily 10-4:30.  $2, seniors $1.25, kids $1.50.   This miniature train passes through an Old West town. 


pony rides at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California
           pony rides  (323) 664-3266.  Tu-Sun 10-4.  For kids up to 100 pounds.  $3.  A pony wheel is available for younger children, but older kids get to ride in lanes around an oval track attended to by helpers. 

          simulated roller coaster  Must be age 6+; ages 2-5 must ride with a parent.  $3.


Griffith Observatory and Planetarium  2800 E. Observatory Rd., (888) 695-0888, (213) 473-0800.  Tu-F noon-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm.  Free; small fee for observatory shows.  No pets inside.  Displays and interactive exhibits in the Hall of Science here focus on astronomy and physical sciences.  Kids are mesmerized by the Foucault Pendulum that swings back and forth to the earth’s rotation, knocking down pegs as time marches on.  A working seismograph can be viewed in action, and several telescopes are available for viewing the night sky.  Evening planetarium shows vary, and the Laserium, which is sort of like a ‘60s lightshow pulsating to different styles of music, is quite popular with teens; both are best with children age 5 and older.  Picnicking is not permitted, but a cafe is available. 


Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens  5533 Zoo Dr., (323) 644-4200.  Daily 10-5.  $19, 62+ $16, 2 to 12 $14.  Animals here are divided into areas resembling the five continents they are found on.  To see it takes at least a full morning--the best time to visit as the animals are most active and vocal then--or afternoon.  Animal shows include The World of Birds, and camel and elephant rides are available.  Children seem to particularly enjoy the nocturnal exhibits, including the very popular Koala House.  The Winnick Family Children’s Zoo has an exhibition animal care center and lets the whole family get face-to-face with goats and sheep in a contact area.  An indoor theater features storytelling, puppet shows, and up-close encounters with animals. 


Autry National Center  4700 Western Heritage Way, (323) 667-2000.  Tu-F 10-4, Sat-Sun 10-5.  $10, 60+ $6, 3-12 $4.  This comprehensive collection of American western history tells the story of the Old West through murals, movies, and hands-on exhibits.  You’ll see displays of firearms, tools, clothing, toys, and furnishings that include Annie Oakley’s Tiffany-inscribed shotgun and Buffalo Bill’s gloves.  Contrary to what you might expect, there is little here that commemorates the legendary cowboy Gene Autry, save a bronze statue and one display case, though there is plenty of Hollywood memorabilia and movie clips.  Kids love the Children’s Discovery Gallery, where they can frolic in a small replica ranch house, dress up in cowboy outfits, and ride a full-size fiberglass horse.  A saddle for kids to mount and ride puts them in a Lone Ranger rerun-- have your camera ready.  The Autry's collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant in the United States.  An exceptional gift shop has everything cowboy and western, from a chocolate cowboy hat on a stick to videotapes of popular classic cowboy films.  Time your visit for a weekday afternoon if possible, as weekday mornings are usually crowded with school groups; weekends--when western films are screened for a small additional charge--are also generally busy. 

Travel Town Museum  5200 W. Zoo Dr., (323) 662-5874.  M-F 10-4, Sat-Sun 10-5.  By donation; miniature train $2.75, 65+ $2.25.  Among the railroad cars displayed in this outdoor transportation museum are a narrow-gauge sugar train from Hawaii and a 110-ton Union Pacific steam engine.  Retired fire engines and L.A. streetcars are also in the collection.


Though you may no longer climb aboard, you can board the miniature train that circles the grounds.  A free miniature 1/4-scale train ride is operated nearby by the Live Steamers Club.  All this and city views, too. 

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first four images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; rest courtesy of venues

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Misc.: sidetrip itinerary, to Cape May from NYC or Washington, D.C.


Sidetrip Itinerary:
New York City—Cape May—Washington, D.C.



yellow cabs in NYC
          You can fly into NYC on an open-jaw ticket, stay a few days, then rent a car and drive among a band of yellow taxis on your way out of Manhattan toward the greenery-lined New Jersey Parkway leading to Cape May.  After a refreshing stopover in this seaside village, continue on, taking the 70-minute car-ferry across the Delaware Bay (and maybe seeing a pod of frolicking dolphins, not to mention exotic East Coast seagulls with black heads) to Delaware, landing in picturesque Lewes—the oldest town in the oldest state—and on through this scenic state into slightly less scenic Maryland, and then into D.C.  Or you can visit Cape May as a side trip from either big city.  


Cape May-Lewes Ferry, passengers on deck
Cape May-Lewes Ferry  (800) 64-FERRY.  Reserve at least 1 day in advance. 

Lewes, Delaware  The original town name was Zwaanendael, meaning “valley of the swans” in Dutch.  The first town in the first state, it was settled by the Dutch in 1631.  A round-trip ferry package from Cape May includes shuttle service and a walking tour. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, August 8, 2014

Good Eats: food tours, Kauai, Hawaii

local grinz self-guided foodie tour  One of the best ways to experience the Hawaiian culture is through food.  You can eat your way through through the island, sampling mom-and-pop restaurants, taking part in agricultural tours, and visiting farmers’ markets. Try local favorites such as poi, ahi poke, lau lau, and shave ice.  I took this self-guided tour that hits highlights of the south shore with a native Hawaiian. 


prepared Japanese food at Kuluiula Market in Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii
Kukuiula Market  2827 Poipu Rd., Koloa, (808) 742-1601.  This simple grocery store looks like it has been here forever.  Stock up here on condo cooking supplies, including plenty of Hawaiian favorites--fresh fish, organic produce, Hawaiian Sun canned fruit drinks, and bento boxes and prepared Japanese food such as Spam musubi (a rice roll stuffed with Hawaii’s favorite meat).


Aloha 'Aina Juice Bar at Kuluiula Market in Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii
 In the back of the store, the tiny Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar dishes up popular breakfast acai bowls.  The “B.I.A.” includes acai, strawberry, kale, apple juice, coconut flakes, and bee pollen, and is topped with bananas, homemade granola, and honey.  Delish.  All this and Regae music, too, but only a few seats.  Smoothies, fresh juices, and gluten-free items are also available.



Taro Ko Chips Factory  3940 Hanapepe Rd., Hanapepe,  (808) 335-5588.  The proprietor says it is an all-day job to make a bag of taro or potato chips at his tiny operation inside a coverted home.  The price seems a bit steep at $4.99 per bag, but the chips are so delicious you’ll want to buy several.  My favorite is the potato chips flavored with li hing mui--a delicious plum licorice taste--but I also like the pretty deep-purple sweet potato chips with the same flavoring.  I wish I had bought a whole case and had them shipped home.


lilikoi chiffon pie at Wong's Omoide Bakery in Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii
Wong’s Chinese Restaurant & Omoide Bakery  13543 Kaumualii Hwy., Hanapepe, (808) 335-5066; www.wongsomoide.com.  Tu-Sun 8am-9pm.  Come here for what many consider to be Kauai’s best lilikoi (passion fruit) chiffon pie.  I also loved a square cream-puffy item.  A cafeteria-style plate lunch is available in a small and informal bakery cafe, while dinner is served in a large open dining room.  Wong's is also known for its Hot Bitch Sauce--a housemade vinegary hot sauce with a kick—which is on each table and also bottled to go.
Wong's on Urbanspoon


Jo Jo's Anuenue Shave Ice & Treats  9899 Waimea Rd., Waimea.  Daily 11am-5:30pm.  A favorite here is the #4 featuring macadamia nut ice cream topped with guava and passion fruit shave ice.  And it would be hard to go wrong with a pinky-orange lilikoi shave ice, but I could have done without the additional pink strawberry mochi on the bottom because it tasted like bubble gum and was too brittle--I like my mochi soft and chewey.  A long line of colored bottles holding a vast variety of flavors will require you to make some important decisions.  Boba tea is also available. 


Polish dog and lemonade at Puka Dog in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
Puka Dog  2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., in Poipu Shopping Village, Koloa, (808) 742-6044.  Daily 10am-8pm.  The small menu here is spelled out atmospherically on a surf board.  I like the Polish but a veggie and several other dogs are options.  Slather the housebaked sweet-bread bun with sweet ilikoi mustard and fresh mango relish and you are in for a big tropical treat.  Wash it down with a big, icy-cold fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon


Tasting Kauai tours  (808) 635-0257.  Reservations required. These food tours are organized and led by Marta Lane, author of “Tasting Kauai.”  
Farmers Market Tours  Wednesdays at 3-4pm; at Kapaa Farmers Market; www.tastingkauai.com/event/farmers-market-class.
A Taste of Kilohana  Saturdays, 2 times/month; $140. 
A Culinary Romp Through Paradise  Fridays, 1 time/month; $140.

More things to do in Kauai.

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Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.  

images and videos ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers