What culture shock being home for once, living out of my closet instead of my suitcase is a novel concept indeed. Jetlag-less-ness is both refreshing and unfamiliar. For those who don’t know me, yes, I tend to fabricate the occasional word or two. My precious E and I are both experiencing strange new worlds and I couldn’t be happier. Just visiting Hawaii twice has given me reason to stay away from airports as much as humanly possible. What era are we living in where certain aircrafts have no changing tables? Using the toilet seat as instructed by the flight attendant is far less than satisfactory for a lengthly and hefty 6 month old tipping the scales at 21 lb.’s. Need I mention the blatantly apparent hygiene issue?
The time we spent in Kona was most enchanting though. E had fun with grandpa Jim and tutu Bar Bar whose house was decorated in a plethora of baby necessities courtesy of Baby’s Away Big Island. Thank the Lord I didn’t have to cart my entire nursery and play area with me to the islands. I would have had a far lower level of sanity without their help providing clean and modern baby equipment.
Although for the time being you’ll see less of me and my worldly travel moments, please know that I will do my best to provide as many restaurant, product, and attraction reviews as possible here in my home state of California.
I’m back… Finally recovered enough from my c-section to take a little trip. Welcome Elijah to my chaotic world of travel! (The Birth announcement is really low res., but it says: August 29th 2011, 3:38am, 8 pounds 12 ounces, 20.5 inches long!)
Thats right. Two months later and we’re back to Kona for another leisurely visit. This time we decided to see how the Waikoloa Beach Marriott has held up over the years. I was 14 last time I stepped foot on this property (when my agent had booked me for my first ever fashion show). Oh how I wish that I could find the ridiculous photos of me working the catwalk sporting the latest in Speedo swimwear and adolescent casual island wear for merchants such as Ross and Macy’s. Don’t you miss 1990′s fashion… maybe I’ll find some comedic images later and post them for added viewer amusement. The resort looked fine to me back then, but the convention/conference area was the extent of my Marriott experience, so I was curious to see the new and improved grounds.
We were pleased to be upgraded to a pool view room with a lovely, just through the trees panorama of A-Bay. The room and hotel grounds had obviously been recently renovated as everything has been noticeably refreshed. The only thing that needed upgrading in my opinion was the TV. A flat screen would have been nice. The room was a little on the small side and became hard to navigate when my husband utilized the desk area to do emails. Other than that, we were delightfully surprised by how nice of an accommodation it really was. Our room (2294) was right next to the fire escape which gave us easy and convenient pool access. The infinity pool was quite aesthetically pleasing but the water was freezing. The rest of the property grounds are absolutely beautiful. Inevitably, this part of the island is very windy, so that does get a little irksome at times. Pool staff are rather strange when it comes to the process of picking up and dropping off towels. All other hotel staff were magnificent though.
We did make use of the gym facility during our visit. The fitness equipment is amply stocked and everything has obviously been kept current and is rather clean.
The King’s Shops are right across the street (and Queen’s shops just a little further up the road), so you couldn’t ask for a better location with regard to shopping and dining selection. The Marriott offers the choice of an a la carte menu or buffet breakfast. Both were good but the buffet wasn’t worth the $29 in my opinion.
Overall we couldn’t believe how great this accommodation was for the price paid (approximately 40% cheaper than other 4 star resorts in the area). We almost gave the Waikoloa Beach Marriott a miss after reading a multitude of negative reviews. We’re glad to have given it a chance… it was surprisingly exceptional in almost every aspect and we’ll most likely return to this financially feasible hotel in the future!
In addition, we set off on an around the island drive to perhaps evoke a multitude of childhood memories. My husband’s patience was effectively tested as he endured the approximate 5 hour drive with me conducting an almost constant narrative pointing out every place I’d ever lived or spent any significant amount of time. (e.g. Annoyingly I can indeed point out every health food store from start to finish.) We had lunch at Cafe Pesto in Hilo and then stopped in at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for a quick hike through a glorious lava tube. If anyone has experienced the Volcano Mist Cottage please let me know how it is. I hope to book in with them next time we’re in the area.
Our three-day stay at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel was a pleasant and memorable one. A warm welcome and brief resort overview by Zelda and Bree was preceded by an orchid lei greeting accompanied by cool hand towel and refreshing tropical juice beverage. This impeccable customer service continued when Danny delivered our luggage to the room in great time.
The Mauna Lani has been one of Big Island’s leading accommodations for almost 30 years. The grand entrance leads into a tropical atrium brimming with vegetation and flowing junction of serene water features. As we walked the resort grounds we found ourselves mesmerized by an array of marine life habitats home to endangered green sea turtles, juvenile sharks, moray eels and the list goes on. The Mauna Lani is known for its annual honu (turtle) release program earning it high regard within the marine life conservation community.
Our fifth floor room looked out over a densely vegetated lagoon area (to the left) and the pool area was to the right. Just beyond was a panoramic view of the pacific ocean. Our room was beautifully renovated, clean and very well-kept. Counter space in the bathroom was ample and toiletries were of very good quality. The shower was spacious featuring floor to ceiling travertine tile creating a spa-like feel.
We attempted to make a dinner reservation at the Canoe House Restaurant, however, they were completely booked for the evening. Consider calling ahead if you’d like to make the Canoe House part of your Big Island dining experience. We ended up having our evening meal at The Bay Terrace which offered a relaxed atmosphere, prompt service and good food.
Although I spent most of my time at The Fairmont Orchid assisting in my friend’s wedding (click here for my review of The Orchid from a previous stay), my husband gave me good feedback regarding the Mauna Lani’s pool area and Lunch Grill. He appreciated how much more of a relaxed atmosphere this resort offered than many of the others we’ve experienced. In addition to that aforementioned serenity, pool staff brought by complimentary Melona ice cream bars which were a very nice addition to his sweltering sunbathing experience. Lunch overlooking the waterfront at Ocean Bar & Grill featured fresh menu items and yet again, great service.
The gift shop/convenience store on the lobby level was open 7am to 10pm which proved to be most convenient on more than one occasion. Although neither of us had excess time to visit the gym, we overheard some fellow guests raving about how pleasantly surprised they were with the fitness facility. My husband did make use of the breathtaking ocean front trail for his morning jogs though.
We found time to dine at The Bay Terrace for breakfast on the day of our departure and were happy to see that in addition to the buffet, an a la carte menu was an option. Food in Hawaii is inevitably overpriced but the Mauna Lani didn’t exceed the usual price range for resort quality cuisine.
However brief, our time at the Mauna Lani was relaxing, enjoyable and we’re looking forward to another visit in the future. I’d also like to point out that a few of my personal items were unintentionally left in the room and I didn’t detect their absence until we were already out of town. When I contacted the hotel to see if these items had been collected by housekeeping, indeed they was safely in the possession of security. Every time I’ve ever left something in a hotel room in the past I’ve never been lucky enough to retrieve the lost articles. It’s nice to know that not only are the staff at Mauna Lani friendly and personable, but honest and trustworthy as well.
Please accept my sincerest apologies for failing to record my December Euro trip. Three months plagued with constant lethargy rendered me quite useless. Oh how I’ve missed you all and thank God I’m now able to think straight enough to produce a post reflecting on my more recent trip to Europe (end of March).
The Irish weather was atypically pleasant according to spring time standards (mostly clear skies and around 50 degrees fahrenheit). Although freezing in my opinion, local teenage girls roamed the streets excited to display their pasty white midriffs. Meanwhile, torrential down pours and thunderstorms engulfed Southern California. I’m thankful to have experienced this relatively good European weather, yet I hate how I always miss those momentously rare back home weather patterns. Nothing new, this happens just about every time I travel.
As we continued along northern Ireland’s coastal road, we came upon the seaside town of Ballycastle. We had lunch at the Cafe Boyles which offered a selection of pastries and a nice menu of salads, sandwiches and a few other ‘wee’ menu specials. As you drive further you’ll come upon the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which links the mainland to a small Carrick island. We didn’t make the stop, but the concierge at our hotel had recommended it.
Eventually we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this natural wonder offered a shuttle service for 2.00 GBP per person (I think) which takes visitors to and from the ancient volcanic rock display.
From there we made our way back to Belfast on the A26 and joined onto the M2 into Belfast. Not an enormously scenic way to go, but much quicker than the way we had come.
Fitzwilliam Hotel – Belfast ☆☆☆☆☆
There is a very small turn out on the street beside the Fitzwilliam where you can pull over and check in. Sometimes this area is occupied, so driving around the block a few times can become necessary until space is available. Valet was 17.00 GBP per day. Front desk staff were very friendly. The room was quite lovely and the bathroom was relatively spacious. No notable counter space though. When the mirror got fogged up after taking a shower, they had made a little no-fog spot on the mirror so you’re able to continue getting ready. Strangely it was way too high for me to reap any benefit. I’m not that short so… it was weird. Also, for you female readers, the lighting in the bathroom is extremely bad.
The doors to the hotel room slam so incredibly loud even if you try to shut them carefully. That little design flaw needs to be addressed because when other people would come in and out on our floor during the night it would wake us up every time. Other than those couple of flaws, the hotel was really nice.
The restaurant had some good vegetarian choices at dinner, and breakfast was pretty good yet pricey.
We had a chance to walk around town and beside the city hall is a busy shopping street if thats what you’re into. Before leaving to the airport we had traditional English “Tea” for lunch at the Merchant Hotel. Be sure to make a reservation as it is a very popular place in a beautiful, historic building formerly a bank now converted into a hotel.
As usual, let me know if you have any questions at all. We loved Ireland so much! The people are so warm, friendly and we’re hoping to return again someday to explore this island more thoroughly!
Our decision to visit NYC was yet again purely motivated by our need to accumulate United points toward our elite status (which has now triumphantly been achieved after our most recent business trip to europe and a visit to Hawai’i!)
We settled on The Lucerne Hotel because of its close proximity to Central Park, The Museum of Natural History, generalized shopping and the annual Christmas Market. $260 per night sounded pretty darn good to us considering the typical rates in that area. Our arrival into JFK around 10pm rendered a relatively short taxi-stand line. $45 flat rate anywhere within NYC is a much better and safer option than bothering with public transport.
Our room was spacious for city standards. Everything was very clean and operational. The place may be in need of a little face lift regarding choice of decor, but it worked for us. Earplugs came in handy as expected in a busy city atmosphere.
The meal we had been offered on the plane was pretty sad, so we headed to a deli/convenience store right across the street for something to snack on. On our way out of the market we couldn’t help but be drawn to the luscious picture of an oversized cookie reading: Insomnia Cookies. A freshly baked dark chocolate chip cookie oozing with gooey, delicious morsels of sugary goodness was perhaps a poor choice at 11:30pm and right before bed, but we inevitably gave in to the emanation of doughy fragrance.
The next morning, breakfast at Nice Matin downstairs was delightful. Friendly staff and surprisingly good food. The coupon we had received upon check-in made for a very affordable breakfast.
We had planned a leisurely shopping day in Soho, but the rain and monsoon caliper winds put a damper into that novel notion. We decided on the more sheltered option of exploring the Museum of Natural History. An Imax featuring some galactic, NASA type documentary killed a good 45 minutes of our day. After that we traipsed through taxidermic animal exhibits taking cheesy photos all the while. Do yourself a favor and do not eat lunch at the museum. Not good at all.
We took a cab to Cafe Freida for dinner. They had barely any vegetarian options but what I ended up with was delicious.
By the time we had finished dinner the rain had let up and the winds had died down. We took a walk along Broadway and soon arrived at the Christmas Market (at Central Park West and Broadway). We then had a look in a nearby mall decorated with dangling star like lights that colorfully twinkled along with instrumental Christmas carols.
Soon enough we had walked back to the hotel, collected our bags and were off to the airport… after a four-hour delay, we were officially on our way home!
Recollections of boycotting Sea World as a child were forefront in my mind, but hey, we had a little time to kill before our flight… So why not surround ourselves with the presence of a few beautiful creatures.
If you have any questions regarding travel to North Island New Zealand, I’d love to be of assistance! (Full range of photos can be viewed in the slideshow below.)