Our 10 day home exchange trip to the magnificent Hawaiian island of Kauai was bookended with short stays in San Francisco and Honolulu.
We flew on Thursday from Key West to Miami and then to San Francisco, arriving after dark. Our hotel was the Chancellor, perfectly located just a few steps from Union Square and across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue. After check-in, tired as we were, we went to the hotel bar and had a light dinner.
Our plan the next morning involved Chinatown and shopping, after an excellent and reasonably priced breakfast in the hotel. SF’s Chinatown is still virtually 100% Chinese, and fun to walk through. Pat bought two pair of slippers; I bought a small pack of scouring pads, something I had just purchased incorrectly in Key West.
In one of the stores, I listened to a delightful CD, a two stringed violin played by someone alleged to be famous in China. Very soothing.
We don’t buy much anymore; we’re still in the “unloading” phase. But that doesn’t lessen the desire to shop when great stores are available: Macy’s, Neiman-Marcus, Niketown. Pat has been looking to replace a Nile watch she’s had for years. This store had a very similar watch, but only in men’s sizes. The store salesman was terrific — “It’s Friday, and I have a job!” — and he suggested that we might find the watch on niketime.com. Neiman-Marcus , one of the chains most hard hit by the economic crisis, looked it, with not so much high end merchandise and less customers. Macy’s was better; several purchases were actually made.
Dinner that night at the Italian restaurant at the Francis Drake Hotel across the street from ours; just squeezed in without a reservation at 6:30, which I thought would be before the crowd. Actually, there were plenty of tables by the time we left. Breakfast Saturday morning at a great 50’s diner named Lori’s, after Pat’s run along the Embarcadero.
Later, we walked back to the ferry station and explored the great shops and views there. Weird purchases at an outstanding kitchen and gadget store (called “sur la table”): a plastic cutting board with a scoop shape for dumping in a bowl, a long-handled plastic basting brush to keep me from getting burned at the grill.
The highlight of the San Francisco part of our trip was a late lunch at the spectacular Cliff House restaurant. It used to be a swimming pool and spa, 100 years ago. The pool is a ruin, but the restaurant has spectacular Pacific views and great food.
On Sunday, we flew (via LA) to Kauai, the garden island of Hawaii. Kauai We landed at night and found the shuttle to the Thrifty Car Rental. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a reservation, most likely, it turned out, because I had recorded the information but not completed the booking. Fortunately, as opposed to Seinfeld who had a reservation but no car, we had no reservation but there was a car available.
Thank goodness for Gypsy. The ride from the airport to our condominium was about 28 miles in total darkness and occasional driving rain. Not a single street lamp, almost no directional signs (a malady that plagues all of Kauai. All we had was our GPS (nicknamed “Gypsy”) and her precise British directions brought us to our destination without a single wrong turn.
The condo at Sealodge on Kauai’s north shore (see www.home.earthlink.net/~timbert) was actually a home exchange. Tim and Cathy went to Collioure in May 2007 and we were finally getting around to our half of the deal. Their condo, which they rent when not using it themselves, is outstanding: spacious living area, nice small deck, and spectacular views, of the crashing ocean on one side and the rising, often cloud shrouded mountains on the other.
Kauai apparently has more rain than any other place on earth, a conclusion we will not dispute. It rained on significant portions of 7 out of the ten days we were there.
Let’s get rid of the bad stuff right away. Driving south through the town of Kapa’a is a horror show at certain times of the day. Ok, that said, when the weather was less than perfect, the condo and the views were still great. Pat was able to run several mornings, we read a lot (as we always do) and I made good progress re-writing the opening chapters of my sequel to The Heretic.
The three good weather days were each spectacular.
On the first, we drove to the south shore, to the beach at the Sheraton. NOTE: all beaches in Hawaii are open to the public; so you can enjoy the benefits of a great resort without actually staying there) Absolutely perfect views, water, snorkeling, with a restaurant and other facilities readily available. We took two comfortable beach chairs from the condo and made ourselves at home. After many hours, we returned north, stopping at the town of Koloa, where Pat finally found a Hawaiian shirt (I had purchased mine days before).
We never had good luck with restaurants on Kauai, except for a little breakfast place called Paradise. The food was unexceptional and over-priced; maybe other restaurant choices would have been better.
On the second sunny day, Pat fulfilled a longtime fantasy, a nine line zipline over spectacular valleys against a background of lush mountains. She joined 10 others, suited up with harness and helmet, and drove off. Three hours later, she was exuberant. The first line was short, to get acclimated. Then 8 more of varying lengths.
By the middle of the experience, Pat was comfortable enough to look around, turn herself while on the line, and land each time without incident.
We were now cooking dinner in the condo; penne with meat sauce and red wine works anywhere on the planet.
The next day we went to Hanalei Bay, the sight for much of the filming of South Pacific. This has to be the greatest beach we’ve ever seen (see photo at top of this post). The sand is ok, but the views, mountains on one side, long run of beach on the other, including the famous pier from the movie, and crashing waves in front of us, surf boarders, a few sailboats. Wow!
The rains returned after three great sunny days, but that did not dampen the enjoyment of our stay on Hawaii’s Garden Island. I decided we should leave very early for our 9:55 flight to Honolulu, in case there was major traffic in Kapa’a. There was no traffic, so I had two hours in Lihue airport to write the first draft of this post.
We finished our trip with two nights in Honolulu. The highlight was a visit with a college classmate I hadn’t seen in 46 years. Our taxi driver pointed out the bridge on which the young Barack Obama walked to school every day. We had two great dinners, seafood at the Orchids (Halekulani Hotel) and Italian at the Taormina on Lewers Street.
Then a long series of flights: Honolulu to Los Angeles, LA to Miami, Miami to Key West. It’s always great to travel, and just as great to return home.