Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Great Sleeps: Hanalei Colony Resort & Good Eats: Mediterranean Gourmet Restaurant, in Haena, Kauai, Hawaii


Hanalei Colony Resort  5-7130 Kuhio Hwy., 5 mi. west of Hanalei, in Haena, (800) 628-3004, (808) 826-6235.  48 condos.  Pool, hot tub.  Free parking.  No resort fee.  Located on beautiful Kepuhi Beach in secluded Haena, Kauai’s northernmost town, this resort is unspoiled and unplugged.  It features a restful atmosphere, with units blessedly free of  televisions and telephones.  Guests can unwind and relax and enjoy the area’s natural beauty, including hanging out at the beach and watching sunsets.  Jet-lagged, I also watched a gorgeous sunrise.  The resort is made up of thirteen rustic two-story buildings, each with four units.  All are attractively decorated island style and get twice-weekly maid service.


guest room at Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena, Kauai, Hawaii
They have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and dining area, a private lanai, and a fully equipped kitchen.  The best rooms are on the point with an ocean view.  Barbecue/picnic areas and a coin-operated guest laundromat are available.


flowers in guest room at Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena, Kauai, Hawaii
Guests staying two-plus nights are greeted by a  gift of fresh flowers, locally-made cookies, a recyclable shopping bag, and a deck of playing cards, and all guests are invited to a complimentary continental breakfast and an afternoon mai tai party once each week.  Free in-room WiFi is provided, but I tried to stay unplugged and not use it.  Personal concierge service assists in arranging dining, activities, and special requests.  Beach mats and towels, books, toys, puzzles, and games are available for loan.  In summer, a variety of cultural and craft activities are scheduled for both children and adults.  For a small fee, “Keiki Kamp” is offered several days and evenings each week, and babysitting can be arranged.  From morning until sunset daily, a free shuttle van transports guests to and from safe nearby beaches and to and from Hanalei Town.  Evening shuttle service is available at $10/unit and goes to and from Hanalei Town, Princeville Shopping Center, and the Westin and St. Regis resorts in Princeville Resort.  This resort is at the top of my list for a return visit. 


view from Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena, Kauai, Hawaii
Currently, a special fall rate of $240 per night for an Ocean View suite is available for stays through November 23.  The rate represents a 1/3 discount off the usual Ocean View rate of $356 per night.  This special is applicable to Ocean View category suites only and requires a two-night minimum stay.  In addition, a seventh night is offered free after six consecutive paid nights.

Mediterranean Gourmet Restaurant  (808) 826-9875.  L-D daily; happy hour daily 4-6pm; live entertainment 5 nights/week; luau Tu 6-8:15pm, reservations required.  Of Lebanese ancestry, owner Imad Beydoun was born and raised in Beirut.  He moved here with his family in 2005.  His surprising restaurant features both traditional Mediterranean dishes and island cuisine, so you can enjoy fresh fish with a Mediterranean twist.


Greek salad at Mediterranean Gourment Restaurant at Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena, Kauai, Hawaii
While others in my group opted for heavier fish and meat plates, I enjoyed a lighter dinner featuring a Greek salad and a plate of hummus and babaganush with housemade pita.  More exotic items include grilled kafta, stuffed grape leaves, hand-rolled fatayer, gyro and falafel wraps, garlic chicken, and various kabobs, but the menu also offers quesadillas, Caesar salad, rack of lamb, and New York strip steak.  Desserts include cheesecake, housemade baklava, and Turkish coffee or French-press teas.


Blue Crush coctail at Mediterranean Gourment Restaurant at Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena, Kauai, Hawaii
The restaurant has an ocean view from every table and a full bar--don’t miss the colorful and tasty Blue Crush cocktail made with silver rum, pineapple juice, and blue Curacao. 
          The beachfront family-style luau features a buffet dinner of traditional Hawaiian food, hula dancing, and Hawaiian music. 
Mediterranean Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Hanalei Day Spa  (808) 826-6621.  Located adjacent to the resort, this independent business offers a variety of therapeutic massages, spa services, rejuvenation programs, and customized yoga and Ayurvedic retreats.

Napali Art Gallery & Coffee Shop  (808) 826-1844.  Daily 7am-5pm.  This cozy spot offers morning coffee, espresso, and pastries as well as mid-day snacks to go.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, September 8, 2014

Things to Do: Ocean Beach Antique District, San Diego, California

Ocean Beach Antique District  4800-4900 blocks of Newport Ave., (619) 233-9020.  A large concentration of shops in this two-block area specializes in American antiques, glassware, jewelry, and collectibles.  Parking is plentiful and free, yet it is very difficult to find a space because this area is also close to the beach. 


Newport Avenue Antique Center in Ocean Beach Antique District in San Diego, California
Newport Avenue Antique Center in Ocean Beach Antique District in San Diego, California
Newport Avenue Antique Center  4864 Newport Ave., (619) 222-8686.  More than 100 dealers are part of this large cooperative.  A coffee bar in the back provides rest and refreshment, and an adjacent customer parking area here is almost worth its weight in antiques. 

Ocean Beach Antique Mall  4926 Newport Ave., (619) 223-6170.  Open daily.  The area’s longest-lived antiques shop, this spot specializes in jewelry. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, September 5, 2014

Things to Do: Little Italy, San Diego, California


Little Italy stretches along India Street, between Cedar and Fir, at the northern edge of downtown.  


neon street sign in Little Italy, San Diego, California
Anchored by an old-time arched neon street sign, this quaint and lively neighborhood is filled with outdoor cafes, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and shops.


boutique in cottage in Little Italy, San Diego, California
Boutiques are scattered along India Street, and several colorful cottages on Fir Street have been converted into browse-worthy boutiques.     

Kettner Art & Design District  Runs along Kettner St.  This area is home to retail shops and art galleries that feature upscale home furnishings and fashion accessories.  Restaurants and antiques stores are also found here.  My favorite don't-miss is:

  
Antiques on Kettner in Little Italy, San Diego, California
Antiques on Kettner  2400 Kettner St., #106, (619) 234-3332.  Daily 10am-6pm.  Here you'll find a nicely curated collection of art, jewelry, pottery, metal, glass, and more.  And the fact that this shop is on the airport descent route adds some excitement to browsing.

La Pensione Hotel  606 W. Date St./India, (800) 232-4683, (619) 236-8000.  68 rooms.  Fitness room.  No breakfast.  Underground parking is limited; $15.  Located in the heart of the Little Italy neighborhood, this boutique hotel offers stylish clean-lined contemporary rooms colored in cool greys and whites.


bed in La Pensione Hotel in Little Italy, San Diego, California
Platform beds feature ostrich-leather headboards and are made up with luxurious 300-thread-count white bedding with a duvet.  Some rooms have a balcony; all have a desks, rich wool carpeting, a flat-screen TV, good lighting, a mini fridge with complimentary cold bottled water, and a shower with rain head tiled either in black or white Carrera.  I could hear the digitized chimes from a nearby church, and the Mercato Farmers Market sets up a block away on Saturday mornings.  Because of its central location, you can use buses and trolleys to get around. 
          Independently operated on-site restaurants include Caffe Italia--an espresso bar and café featuring Lavazza coffee beans imported from Italy and offering a selection of salads, panini sandwiches at lunch--and Na Pizza, San Diego’s first green-certified pizzeria.

Bencotto Italian Kitchen  750 W. Fir St., in Q building, (619) 450-4786.  L-D Tu-Sun, also M in summer.  Pasta is made fresh daily here, so it makes sense that one of the specialties is Pasta Your Way--you choose the sauce and the pasta.


pasta with salsiccia sauce at Bencotto Italian Kitchen in Little Italy, San Diego, California
I selected my favorite salsiccia sauce—a spicy sausage tomato sauce—topping wide hand-cut pappardelle noodles made with eggs and semolina flour.  The portion was large and delicious.


Cesare salad at Bencotto Italian Kitchen in Little Italy, San Diego, California
This combined with a Cesare salad topped with a slab of parmigano and I was set.  Next time I plan to try the gnocco fritto (fried bread dough) and the gnocchi ripieni (potato dumplings filled with gorgonzola) topped with pesto sauce.  The contemporary industrial space features a high ceiling, concrete floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows inside, as well as sidewalk-side tables outside.  Diners are justly happy, and the noise level is high.
Bencotto on Urbanspoon

Trattoria Fantastica  1735 India St., (619) 234-1735.  B-L-D daily; $.  No reservations.


Trattoria Fantastica in Little Italy, San Diego, California
This cozy haven features a sidewalk-side patio dining in front.  Old Dean Martin songs like “Papa Loves Mamo” play in the background, and the waiters sometimes sing along.  Sicilian food and wood-fired pizzas are menu specialties.  Breakfast offerings include an Egg Panini on a croissant (like an omelette in a croissant), Uova Due (two eggs), and an a la carte croissant or bagel.  Dinner favorites include Gnocchi alla Florentine, Gamberi alla Fantastica (shrimp in a lemon sauce), and Imbottiti (a savory eggplant dish).
Trattoria Fantastica on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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