Kauai: Part II

We headed to the north shore of Kauai for the second half of our trip from Saturday August 26 to Thursday August 31.

Accommodation: After much research on Andrew’s part, we decided to stay at the Hanalei Colony Resort. We chose this place for it’s location directly on the beach on the north shore. It is considered by some to be “remote” since it’s a 15 minute drive from the closest town of Hanalei, but that wasn’t a problem for us. We planned on cooking at the condo and didn’t need more than a beach anyways. The hotel did have an amenity to make up for the inability to walk to town: a complimentary shuttle to and from any location all the way to Princeville (20 minute drive away). So, we were able to get a free ride to beaches with limited parking and a designated driver out to dinner without a worry.

At the resort we treated ourselves to a Premium Oceanfront condo. Specifically unit G4 in case you ever make it to this resort. The condo was everything we could have asked for. We had an open floor plan with a bedroom, living room, two full bathrooms (his + hers, fantastic!) and a full kitchen. The resort had a pool and hot tub (which we never needed to use) along with a BBQ area with two grills and all the utensils you could possibly need. The resort is located right on a beach with the Na Pali coast mountains rising up behind it. The beach directly in front of the resort was not protected enough for swimming, however if we walked on the sand five minutes to the west there was an area to snorkel and swim as there is a barrier reef about 200 yards off the shore to help to protect the beach from the big waves. We saw tons of cool fish here and even sea turtles. We loved this place and are absolutely serious that we have to return. Flights from SF are only 5 hours direct with Alaska Air from Oakland. Yes, thank you!

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Top left: Our bedroom. The units do not have A/C, but we received a sea breeze off the ocean 100% of the time and the unit had three ceiling fans to keep the air moving, which worked just fine. For privacy, you could close the shutters to the bedroom area, but that’s only if you have people on the twin futons in the bottom left photographed area. Otherwise, you keep them open to the remainder of the space. Top right: the indoor dining area and the small sitting area that doubled as two twin beds and lead to one of the full bathrooms. Incredible views and it would make this unit perfect for a family since the twin futons are in an area you could make separate. Bottom left: the sitting area/other sleeping room. Bottom right: our dining area looking out over the ocean and our balcony.
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Top: Our view from the balcony. Bottom left: the living room; Bottom right: Our kitchen. It was well equipped with plenty of tools to cook at home. Perfect for the fact that we cooked at home 4/5 nights we stayed here!
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Sunrise from our balcony

 

Kauai East Shore to North Shore Day 6 – Saturday: After leaving our cottage in Kapaa on Saturday morning, we did a grocery store run to take advantage of the relatively lower grocery store costs compared to stores on the north side of the island. The drive from Kapaa to our resort was only about 45 minutes, but we made a couple stops along the way. First we went to the Kilauea Lighthouse. Access to the Kilauea point costs $5 per person and includes the lighthouse, amazing views and also guides to identify the various sea birds that live on the preserve and cliffs surrounding the lighthouse. It was a beautiful location and fun to point different species of birds over head.

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Mokuaeae, a small rocky island off the Kilauea point. If you look closely you can see all the resident sea birds

 

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Kilauea Lighthouse, established in 1913
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The cliffs next to the Kilauea Lighthouse were teeming with various types of sea birds. It was a beautiful spot and entertaining to watch the birds from this point.

Our last stop before arriving at our resort was to finally get Hawaiian shave ice (not “shaved”). This is a local dessert, and a liiiiittle similar to Rita’s that we find in Maryland for those of you back home – but I’ll claim it’s better (sorry guys!). We stopped at a local spot recommended by our guide book, Wishing Well Shave Ice. Below is my shave ice, the Rainbow. Andrew got one that was flavored like a Cherry Root Beer Float. Mine was finely shaved ice, with flavors in a rainbow, and underneath is a macadamia nut icecream. It is SO GOOD! We went here twice it was so darn good!

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Our first night at the Hanalei Colony Resort we grilled some locally farmed Kauai shrimp for dinner. They were huge and so good!

Kauai North Shore Day 7 – Sunday: Our first full day in Kauai we used the resort’s complimentary shuttle to go to Ke’e Beach for the morning. We did some snorkeling and hung out on the beach. Afterwards we went swimming on our beach in front of our resort. We discovered that the water there is perfect for snorkeling, even though we had been warned against it due to the strong current. Luckily it wasn’t too bad while we were visiting and we just made sure to watch our location. We’re wondering if the locals are trying to keep the tourists out…

Kauai North Shore Day 8 – Monday: This was our hiking day of the second half of our trip. We hiked the Kalalau Trail along the Nā Pali coast. Anyone can hike the first two miles of the trail, but a permit is required to walk beyond that point. The permit is used by most people to backpack the 13 mile Kalalau trail at Kalalau beach, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that since we couldn’t bring backpacking gear while traveling for four weeks. Instead we used it to be able to hike further along the trail for the day. So, we did a real tiring trip and went into the trail 6.5 miles for a 13 mile hike round trip. After the public section ended and it became permit only, the trail is very overgrown with plants on either side of the trail and at times very narrow on steep cliff sides. I kept thanking my lucky stars that we got a day without any rain, which is something of a rarity in this part of the island. If it had been muddy, some sections would have been super sketchy. The views are so. worth. it.

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Hanakoa Falls – We hiked 6 miles in on the Kalalau trail and then veered off the trail on a separate offshoot for 0.5 miles to reach the waterfall above. We were the only people here and it was gorgeous!
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Views along the Kalalau trail of the Na Pali coast
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Gorgeous wildflower along the Kalalau trail
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View along the Kalalau trail
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Andrew and I on the Kalalau trail. Can’t believe how tan we were from our summer travels and being outside nearly every day for two months!

Kauai North Shore Day 9 – Tuesday: We had originally reserved a spot on a catamaran sailing cruise with Captain Sundown on the Na Pali coast this day, but the company had to cancel due to a big rainstorm that came through that morning. A bummer, but so it goes. Instead, we hung out at the condo in the morning while the storm passed and in the afternoon went down to the beach in front of our resort and snorkeled. We saw SO MUCH at the beach here, so many fish and even a couple of sea turtles! There were only a few other people at this beach besides us, so we thoroughly enjoyed hanging out for the afternoon.

For dinner, we did our one evening out using the complementary shuttle to the Hanalei Dolphin in the town of Hanalei, 15 minutes drive away. This restaurant was excellent. They had freshly grilled fish (for Andrew the ahi tuna and for me the monchong) and we had an incredible rainbow poke as an appetizer. I’d highly recommend this spot!

Kauai North Shore Day 10 – Wednesday: Once our trip with Captain Sundown was cancelled we immediately got on the phone to find a replacement trip for Wednesday. Our optimal trip was a sailing cruise, but since that wasn’t available to book last minute with any company we settled on a spot with the Na Pali Coast Hanalei cruise, which leads four hour tours of the Na Pali coast on a speed boat. This wasn’t our preferred type of trip as we had hoped for a relaxing sailing cruise, but for a speed boat trip, this was a really good time. The tour guides were super friendly and informative, and we stopped for about 1.5 hours at a reef just past Kalalau Beach to snorkel and take in the scenery. They even took us through some sea caves. It was a great time! That night, for our last night in Kauai, we grilled some fresh opah (moonfish) filets we bought at the Hanalei Dolphin fish market and enjoyed sitting on the lanai.

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The Na Pali Coast
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The Na Pali coast

I cannot say enough how much I loved our time in Kauai. The island has something to offer for everyone and can keep you busy for days. The beaches were gorgeous, the mountains lush, and the seafood fresh. I can’t wait to go back and be here again!

Kauai: Part I


Our GRAND FINALE!

To end our summer of traveling, we capped it off with something really good. Kauai. For ten nights.

Neither of us had ever been to this island. I had been to Oahu and Maui as a baby, which in my opinion doesn’t count, and Andrew had been to Oahu twice before. We chose Kauai because it is known to be lush, lined with beaches and also features mountains for hiking. We split our trip into two halves: The first five nights were spent in Kapaa on the eastern shore and the second five nights on the north shore near Hanalei. This provided access to different areas of the island while also only required us to move accommodation twice. So here we go, the first half of our trip in this post, and the second in another (soon to follow).

Accommodation: We stayed in an oceanfront VRBO two bedroom cottage in a residential neighborhood of Kapaa on Fuji Beach, also known as Baby Beach. The house was a bit eclectic, but it was well equipped with everything you could possibly need, including beach chairs, boogie boards, snorkel gear, air conditioning in the bedrooms, sand toys, grill, kitchen utensils and cookware, coolers, etc. It wasn’t fancy, but it was well priced and in an incredible location across the street from the ocean. I cannot recommend enough for people to stay here for bit more of a local feel and to have your own fully-equipped house instead of resort life.

Top left: View out the driveway. Hard to tell, but that’s the beach right there where the car is. Top right: the front of the house with our lanai (Hawaiian for porch) where we ate most meals. Bottom left: Main room and kitchen. Bottom right: Our bedroom. There was one other room of a similar size at the front of the house.

The weather while we were staying in Kapaa was perfect. It was rather hot for this side of the island, with temperatures in the 90s, but throughout most of the day and especially at night an amazing breeze would kick up, and the bedroom A/C was key (especially to cover up the noise of the omnipresent island feral rooster crows!). We didn’t get much rain, either, beyond a storm on our first day that brought in an unusual thunderstorm and delayed my plane from landing for two hours. It was still perfect!

Kauai East Shore Day 2 – Tuesday: This was our first full day on the island. We drove down to Poipu on the southern side. Along the way we stopped to check out the ruins of an old heiau (Hawaiian temple) and then went snorkeling and had a picnic lunch at Lawa’i Beach. The beach was beautiful and the snorkeling was good, though we found it much better on the north shore of Kauai. Afterwards we went to Shipwreck’s Beach, which is another beautiful beach that is sandy enough at the shoreline to go swimming and boogie boarding, which is nice since many other beaches had reef at the shoreline or the waves were too big. When we first arrived at Shipwreck’s, we went for a short walk along the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, which is a trail that goes up on the cliffs at the northern end of the beach. Afterwards we hung out on the beach and did some swimming and body surfing. It was super fun. This beach was one of my favorite of our trip.

Shipwreck’s Beach – similar to every other beach we visited on Kauai, this was a public beach, fully equipped with freshwater showers, toilets and water fountains. Parking was limited but we lucked into a spot.

View from our walk along the lithified cliffs on the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail.

Shipwreck’s Beach

For dinner we picked up some locally fished Ono (wahoo) at the grocery store and had our own BBQ at our rental cottage, where we passed the evening enjoying the sea breeze, margaritas and dinner on our lanai.

Kauai East Shore Day 3 – Wednesday: Late in the morning we went for a drive to check out some local sites, including another heiau ruin, a viewpoint over the coastline and went to see both Wailua Falls and Opaeka’a Falls. The local authorities discourage tourists from going too close to the falls due to the dangers of the path, so we were only able to appreciate them from afar.

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Wailua Falls, which were gushing with water thanks to Monday’s storm

After seeing the waterfalls, we stopped at Waipouli Beach to eat our picnic lunch. We lucked into having the beach to ourselves and even sat next to a resting monk seal.

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Here we are at Waipuli beach, next to a resting Hawaiian monk seals. The species is critically endangered and only about 1,100 are left in existence. This girl had her own volunteer sitting on the beach to keep watch, prevent people from getting too close, and also provide information on their species. They had tagged this seal, so they knew a lot about her, including that she’d had two pups.

That afternoon we went for a short swim at the beach in front of our house and then headed to the luau! There are many choices on the island, and we ended up choosing to attend the Smith Family Garden Luau, which was conveniently only a ten minute taxi ride from our cottage. The ticket was $90 per person and included time to wander through the gardens, a pig roast with a buffet and open bar, and an hour long performance. The garden was beautiful, the food was good and while the performance was a bit cheesy at a couple points, it was entertaining and worth the money.

Andrew and I in the gardens before the luau.

Kauai East Shore Day 4 – Thursday: On Thursday morning we were up early to watch the sunrise and then left for two short hikes. The first was a really quick and easy 1.5 mile hike to see the Ho’opi’i Falls. We loved this hike because it took us into the jungle, where we were able to enjoy hunting for wildflowers and gazing at the canopy high above. It was lovely and such a different type of forest than we had experienced before!

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A beautiful wildflower on our hike.

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Afterwards, we hiked the 4.5 mile roundtrip to go up the nearby Sleeping Giant peak. The hike provided a good workout and incredible 360 views of the island.

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Me, on top of the Sleeping Giant

While we were in Kapaa, we only went out to dinner two of the five nights, otherwise we cooked at the house. Being able to BBQ was a key search criteria when looking for our rental cottage, as we looked forward to relaxing home cooked meals on the lanai. One of my favorite things of Kauai is that we were able to get fresh, locally caught seafood at the store. The seafood markets and even stores like Safeway only carry what was fresh and local! We always found ahi tuna, and at times found Ono (aka Wahoo), Monchong, Opah (aka Moonfish) and even Kauai farmed shrimp. All were so good and it was fun to try new fish, as I had not tried any except the tuna before. So to get some local seafood, on Thursday morning after our hike we went to a nearby fish market, the Fish Express in Lihue. We got fresh poke for lunch and ahi tuna steaks to grill for our dinner.

In the afternoon we stopped by Kealia Beach, where we hung out for a few hours swimming and boogie boarding. I don’t have a picture of it because we were too busy enjoying the beach, but it was gorgeous and not crowded. We even saw a sea turtle here for the first time on our trip!

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Before we went to Kealia Beach, we tried to go to the beach pictured above – Paliku Beach (aka Donkey beach). We did not see any donkeys, but given the secluded area, we did find a couple on a cove off to the side … enjoying themselves 😉 oops! We left quickly, and acknowledged that it was absolutely gorgeous and unfortunately far too rough for us to swim.
The Fish Express poke and other fish options
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Our dinner, featuring freshly seared Ahi Tuna

Kauai East Shore Day 5 – Friday: This was our big hiking day of the first half of our trip. We drove 1 hour 40 minutes to the southern end of the island where you are able to drive up to access the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park. We started at the Pu’u O Kila Lookout at the end of the road on the trail towards the Pihea Vista junction, and then continued on the Alakai Swamp Trail until we hit the Kilohana lookout. It was about an 8 mile roundtrip hike through varied terrain, including a start at a beautiful vista, entering the rainforest and eventually going through some high altitude swamps. The weather varied as well, from sun, to fog, to rain. At times it was a rather difficult hike due to how slippery things get with the moisture of the rainforest, and the muddy sections were really hard if a descent was involved. But still, gorgeous and so worth it!

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This is what about 2/3 of the trail looked like. We walked on these wooden planks, which helped make it easier to navigate than on the mud. We really enjoyed walking through the rainforest, surrounded by the lush ferns, mosses and trees.
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I was so happy to have my trekking poles for this hike! This is one of the steeper, muddier sections of the hike. I was so nervous I’d fall and break something, but of course no worries were necessary. This just slowed us down a bit as you had to carefully walk through.
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This is the section of the Swamp Trail going through the swamps. There was a heavy fog as we passed through and tons of newts scrambling away through the mud as we approached. Isn’t it unbelievable that this is located only a few miles from gorgeous beaches like the one pictured below???
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The view from our destination after 4 miles, the Kilohana lookout. You can distinctly see Hanalei bay on the coastline and the edge of the coast on the left is where we spent the second half of our time in Kauai. Pretty neat to get to see it ahead of time from above.
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View of the Na Pali coast from near the Pu’u O Kila on the Pihea trail. Just gorgeous and photographs barely do it justice.

As you drive towards the Na Pali coast to do the above hike I mentioned, you also pass Waimea Canyon State Park. We bypassed it in the morning but stopped at the lookouts on our way back. It is absolutely gorgeous and since we didn’t have time to explore the canyon, we’ll just have to do it on our next trip to Kauai!

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The Waimea canyon is also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and rightly so. The colors were amazing and wikipedia has some interesting info on the geology here. As we gazed down there were several helicopter tours passing by. I’m a bit hesitant to do such things myself as I get motion sickness easily, but I can only imagine how beautiful this is from the air!

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For our last night in Kapaa we walked 15 minutes up the beach to have dinner at Sam’s Oceanview Restaurant, where we got a table at the window overlooking the ocean. The wine list was excellent and the food so good!

Our spot at Sam’s, cocktail included 🙂 We saw a couple get engaged on the grass just a few minutes after this picture was taken!

Kauai East Shore Day 6 – Saturday: We went for a morning run on the multi-use path that runs in front of our house to Kealia beach. I love to run but it’s even better when it’s in such a beautiful locale! After cleaning up, we departed to drive to our next destination on the North Shore. Sad to say goodbye to our sweet little cottage in Kapaa, but loved every moment!

Home to Virginia

During our summer off from work, both Andrew and I wanted to fit in some time at our respective homes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t manage to visit both destinations together and instead each went home separately. So, after our time in Coeur d’Alene, Andrew boarded a plane taking him south to San Diego to see his family and I headed back east to Virginia from Wednesday 16 August – Monday 21 August.

It was a whirlwind trip for me but so much fun. I flew in late on Wednesday night and immediately left the next morning with my mom to spend the day and night in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We stayed at our favorite spot, the Rehoboth Guest House. On Thursday we lucked into a gorgeous beach day at the Delaware Seashore State Park and had a fantastic dinner at Salt Air, where I got a much needed crab cake. On Friday morning we went for a boardwalk run and sat on the beach for a couple hours before we drove back home to Virginia. The perfect quick mother-daughter getaway!

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On Saturday morning I caught a ride with my friend Ginna and her fiancé, Will, to go down to Richmond, VA, for our friend Laura’s wedding. The wedding was an absolute blast with good food, tons of friends, an incredible live band fit for dancing the night away, and my friend got MARRIED. Such a fun time!

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With the beautiful bride, Laura, on her wedding day
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I loved getting to hang out with so many good friends at this wedding. Here I am with some of my favorite gals, left to right: Heather, Ginna, Jen, me and Jenny.
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With my friends, Sara and Vince, who coincidentally are good friends of the groom from university. It’s such a small world sometimes. 

On Sunday afternoon my family had a BBQ at my Grandma’s house on the back deck. It was great to get to see everyone before leaving again, including my aunt and uncle who came up from South Carolina.

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We were missing some key folks, but here’s the gang. Back row: My cousin, Owen; Arlene, my Grandfather’s friend (and a good family friend); George, Owen’s Dad; My uncle Greg on my Dad’s side; Kelly, uncle Gregg’s girlfriend; my Mom; Grandma (my Mom’s mother). Middle row: me, Aunt Peggy (my Dad’s sister); Uncle Gregg (my Mom’s brother). Front and center: Grandpa (my Dad’s father)

Always a good trip home to Virginia. Luckily I have a few weddings coming up this fall and will be home a bunch more to see everyone.

‘Til next time, Virginia!

 

Lake Coeur d’Alene

For the second part of our U.S. travels, we flew up to Spokane, Washington to meet up with our friend Cody. We stayed from Friday 11 August through Wednesday 16 August with Cody at his family’s cabin on the southern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene within Idaho’s Heyburn State Park.

The cabin itself was really cool and reminded me so much of being at our family’s cottage in Fairhaven on the Chesapeake Bay. It’s rustic and in a quiet location, perfect for unwinding and enjoying time with friends. There’s a bit of interesting history as well! The park was the location of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s, and there are still structures leftover from that time, including picnic shelters and a lodge.

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Cody’s family’s cabin. They had a wonderful deck with a view through the trees of the lake. We were facing west, so we got some beautiful sunsets.
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The State Park sign in front of one of the original CCC buildings.
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The beach of Heyburn State Park. Cody’s family’s house is right up on the hill above the beach, through the trees.

We had four full days at the lake, with two perfect weather days. Similar to Oregon, we arrived in Idaho to smoke, but luckily some rain came through on Sunday and finally cleared up the skies. There were about seven of us staying at the cabin on the weekend, including some of Cody’s friends from high school and also his girlfriend Kim and one of her friends. It was a fun bunch! Everyone else had to go back home on Sunday so it was just the three of us hanging out from Monday – Wednesday. We spent our days on the lake, water skiing and tubing, grilling, playing Settlers of Catan and just catching up. It’s been so fun to get to see our friends after being gone for two years. Big thanks to Cody and his family for sharing their cabin with us.

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Taking the boat to dinner in Harrison. Andrew learned to drive the boat!
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Sunset from dinner in Harrison. It was a Monday and quiet, with barely any people. Fine for us!
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As my family knows, I learned to waterski as a kid on the Chesapeake Bay at our family’s cottage  in Fairhaven. I am fairly confident it has been a minimum of 15 years since I water skied last and I had no idea if I could still do it. But, turns out it’s like riding a bike and I got up on my first try! Andrew had never water skied before and was successful on his second attempt – pretty awesome. Eventually we even managed to get us both up together for a tandem ski.
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View of the mouth of the St Joe river. On our last day we took the boat down the river to the town of St Maries for lunch. 

 

 

 

Oregon

We are now on our second half of the summer trip with four weeks of travel around the U.S. First stop was nine nights in Oregon. This state has so much to offer and we had a tough time deciding where we would go. We drove a small loop that started and ended in Portland, taking us to the Willamette Valley for wine tasting (surprising for us, I know…), the Central Oregon Cascade mountains and finally to the Columbia River Gorge.

We arrived in Oregon during less than ideal weather conditions. The Pacific Northwest was going through an unusual heat wave, with temperatures soaring into the 100s. Many places don’t have AC and were closing down early in the afternoon during the highest heat. To top it off, there are wild fires all over this region of North America. Due to the direction of the winds, we got socked in the entire trip with smoke coming from fires in Oregon and as far away as British Columbia. No clear blue skies for us and low visibility. On the bright side, no rainy days!

Portland

We stayed in Portland for two nights from Thursday 3 August until Saturday 5 August at the Eastside Lodge. This was a motel on the eastern side of the city about a 15 minute walk across the river to the downtown area. It was a lower cost option, though not that much as we found this city is not cheap to visit during the summer. It was convenient to some cool neighborhoods and breweries.

We flew in early on Thursday from San Francisco.  After we checked in and had some time to rest, we headed out in the afternoon for a self-guided brewery tour of Eastern Portland. The brewery scene in Portland is impressive and we had so much fun tasting beers at some great breweries within a short walking distance of our hotel. We went in succession to: Burnside Brewing, Base Camp Brewing, Cascade Brewing (unique for its sour beers), The Commons, and finally Rogue.


That night we bought tickets at the last minute to a comedy show at the Helium Comedy Club featuring Jay Larson. The show was awesome, we didn’t stop laughing the entire time.

We got a seat front and center! I was nervous we’d get picked on by the comedian, but we were safe enough at this distance.

On our second day in Portland we spent the afternoon walking through the city to see the different neighborhoods. This is easy since the city is flat. In the early evening we did a really strange tour of the Portland Underground. These are some tunnels under Portland’s Chinatown that were originally constructed for the purpose of transporting water through the city but then in the late 1800s and early 1900s were also used for more sinful purposes, such as opium dens and also to house “shanghai’d” men prior to sale – which is when men were kidnapped and then sold as slave labor on ships headed for Asia. The tour was a bit gimmicky and I honestly would never recommend anyone do it. Bit of a fail on my trip research part. But we recovered and that night we had a fantastic dinner in the Richmond neighborhood on Division street at Xico, a Oaxacan restaurant.

Willamette Valley

Andrew and I love exploring new wines, and so part of our trip to Oregon naturally had to feature a stop in the Willamette Valley. We stayed from Saturday 5 August through Monday 7 August at the La Bastide B&B in Dundee, about an hour south of Portland. We had a beautiful room decorated in a Provençal style a 15 minute walk outside of the {very short} main street of Dundee.

On Sunday we scheduled a private wine tour with Cellar Door Wine tours. The tour was fantastic and took us throughout the region to five small wineries: Wild Aire CellarsLenne Estate, Beaux Freresde Lancellotti Family Vineyards, and finally Bella Vida. We loved that the wines are Burgundy style and the Pinot Noirs were excellent.

View from Lenne Estate
View from Bella Vida
At Lenne Estate

Sisters

On our drive over to Sisters we took the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. There were several spots to stop along the way, it was gorgeous.

Mt Bachelor from Sparks Lake
Mt. Bachelor

We stayed in a little one-bedroom rental cottage in the town of Sisters for three nights from Monday 7 August through Thursday 10 August. The house had a nice little deck off the back with a BBQ where we ate every night and was a short walk from the main drag.

Our cute little rental cottage in Sisters. The main house is pictured on the left. The building on the right was not accessible to us.

The first morning in Sisters we went for a trail run on the local Peterson Ridge Trail in the Deschutes National forest. Luckily the heat wouldn’t set in each day until 12ish, so we were fine in the morning. The trail system was fantastic! It was well marked and fun to weave through the forest on a quiet morning.

The Peterson Ridge Trail in Sisters

That afternoon we drove east 30 minutes into the bigger city of Bend. We stopped at the amazing Deschutes Brewery for a beer tasting, followed by a float down the Deschutes river – complete with a series of rapids! It was relaxing and a perfect way to spend the afternoon during the high heat. 
On our second day in Sisters we got up early to beat the heat and hit the trail. Our original hiking plan fell through and we realized too late (i.e. at the trailhead) that you may only enter that section of the park with a wilderness permit. We drove around for 30 minutes to find cell service only to discover that all 30 of the day use permits that are only sold online were sold out 😦 But not to fear, there was a backup plan and we hiked a 7 mile out-and-back trip up to the Black Crater. The smoke prevented us from seeing the complete vista but we were able to see the nearest peaks and enjoy our hike.

Three Sisters Wilderness. From top of Black Crater
The view from the Black Crater of the Sister peaks. As you can tell – verrrry smoky

After the hike we stopped by the McKensie Pass where there were incredible views and an interpretive trail all about the lava fields and local geology.

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Entering the Willamette National Forest, with the Dee Wright Observatory on the right. This is where the interpretive Lava River National Recreation trail started, taking us through the lava fields. The lava flowed from the Yapoah Crater approximately 2,000 – 2,700 years ago! It was amazing to see that it takes so long for the new earth to cover up with trees and growth. We were lucky to get to walk this trail as after our visit to Oregon, a wildfire started in this region two weeks after our visit and the whole area is closed to the public.

Three Sisters Wilderness. View of Mt Washington from Mckezsie Pass

View of the Middle and North Sister peaks

Hood River

On our 2.5 hour drive up to Hood River we took a pit stop near Mt. Hood at Trillium Lake. The lake’s location provides a beautiful view of Mt. Hood and had nice picnic areas among the trees, where we picnic’d ourselves for lunch.

Mt Hood from Trillium Lake
View of Mt. Hood at Trillium Lake

Our last stop in Oregon was to see the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed in the town of Hood River, which is right on the river in a beautiful location only an 1.5 hour drive to Portland. We stayed at the historic Hood River Hotel for our last night in Oregon, Thursday August 10.

After checking in to our hotel we laced on our hiking boots and apparently our insanity. It was 95 and smoky out but we went for a short 2.2 mile hike out on the Rowena Crest Trail. We had the trail to ourselves and enjoyed the view. It was a little frustrating because the visibility as you can see in our pictures was really … not good. A bit sad to miss seeing the gorge with clear skies, but what can you do.

Columbia River Gorge from Rowen viewpoint
Off the Rowena Crest Trail – as the skies were filled with smoke we diverted our attention to the golden hills lining this hike.
Columbia River Gorge from Rowen viewpoint
The mighty Columbia River!

That night we grabbed beers and dinner at yet another brewery, this time at Hood River’s own Full Sail Brewing. When we initially made the decision to road trip in Oregon, I hadn’t connected that they have so many good breweries. But clearly we’ve been taking advantage and visiting them every step of the way!!

Our last day in Oregon was Friday August 11. Our flight to Spokane wasn’t until 5 pm, so we had some time to explore a bit more. In the morning we did a short run along the riverfront and had breakfast at the Scandinavian style Broder Øst. Then we packed up all our stuff and started to meander our way back to the Portland airport.

We stopped along the way to do a self-guided walking tour of the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. We were too soon to be able to watch the salmon run or the hatchery in operation as the majority of activity begins in September, but they offered a very interesting self-guided walking tour and the ponds did have some young salmon fingerlings swimming around, waiting to get old enough to be released. I’d highly recommend it. Afterwards we stopped for a short time at the historic Bonneville dam.

We tried to stop to see some of the waterfalls on the way back to Portland, but it was so congested and crowded with people, with limited parking opportunities, we unfortunately had to skip it and satisfy ourselves with the glimpses we got from the road. We moved on to the airport to catch our flight for Spokane, Washington to meet up with our friend Cody to spend some time with him and some friends at his family’s cabin on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In summary…

I loved our time in Oregon. We saw such a small chunk of the state and there’s still so much more to see. But, Oregon is not that far from San Francisco so maybe we can make it happen again some time.

The end of two years living in Switzerland

Wow. I can’t believe our two years living in Switzerland is over. On Thursday 27 July Andrew and I boarded a plane for San Francisco. Between flying back from Bulgaria on Tuesday 25 July and flying back to the U.S. on Thursday, we were busy. Immediately after checking into our hotel, we picked up our Mobility rental van to pick up all our belongings from our storage unit and close the unit.

All of our stuff as we took it out of the storage unit. We used a service called Zebra box, which was conveniently located in the city and had easy access for loading and unloading.
That evening we did our final packing. Similar to when we came over to move to Switzerland, instead of shipping we took all our belongings on the plane with us. We found it is about the same cost as shipping but beneficial to have everything with you rather than waiting for a shipment or needing to know where to have them send it. This is an issue when you don’t have a permanent address but need your belongings close at hand. We distributed weight among all the bags to meet the weight limits and also to help us limit the fees as much as possible. I have United Premier Gold status, which provides me two free overweight (70 lb) bags! This is a huge cost-savings when you’re transporting everything you own halfway around the world and an extra overweight bag can cost $400 a piece. We ended up with 13 bags, including our carry-on and the skis+boot bag (boot bags travel free with a ski bag). We are now self-proclaimed experts at airline baggage policies 🙂

On Wednesday 26 July, we had a wonderful last day in Switzerland. We got up early to go meet our {now former} upstairs neighbor, Esther, from Avenue Juste-Olivier. She has been of invaluable help during our move out of the apartment and was our main line of communication with our non-English speaking property management company. She had agreed for them to mail to her house the letter that documented the agency’s agreement to release the restriction on our rental guarantee account. They had to send it by mail, so we agreed this was the easiest option for us. This account has held three months rent as a deposit on our apartment and the bank required this letter for us to get the money back. Over the past two years, our property management company has proven itself to be inefficient/useless/you-name-it and this time was no exception. Esther had to call four times since our close-out inspection on 30 June to get this darn letter for us, and they finally mailed it the day before we came back. But we got it! Phew! We said our goodbyes to Esther and her golden retriever Milo, some of the best neighbors I’ve ever had. After that we were able to go to our bank and release the cash. Now it’s all ready for a deposit on our next apartment in San Francisco 🙂 We are so thankful to have had Esther as a neighbor. She has proven to be genuinely helpful in many cases and always a friendly face. We’ll definitely miss her!

That afternoon we had scheduled to use our departing gift from KPMG, a 50 minute massage at Lausanne’s beloved Beau Rivage Palace Hotel.  The massage was perfect to relax in anticipation of our 15 hour flight back to the US. Afterwards we walked down to the lake to enjoy the beautiful day by renting a pedalo for an hour to cruise along the coast.


We had a drink at a lakeside bar and capped the day with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Cafe de Grancy.

Drinks at the Terrasse d’Ouchy
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Beef tartare for the last time

Chocolate overload for dessert but it was so good!
On Thursday morning we were up early to go to the airport. We hired a private transport to take us and all of our luggage since we wouldn’t manage on the train or even in a taxi. The transport had to bring a trailer because their van wasn’t big enough!

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Andrew in the morning as we were dropped off at the airport by our transport. This was one of two overloaded trolleys of our stuff 🙂
The airline check-in staff had wide eyes when we arrived with our bags, but we had come early to allow for time. My United Gold status also came in handy a few times this day since I got a little quicker service. The flight went well, with no major delays though we narrowly met our connection in Newark. We made it to San Francisco and while the airline managed to get all of our bags to SFO, we ourselves, in our tired state, managed to leave one of them behind at the airport on the baggage claim belt. We had to go back the next day to claim it. Sigh. After a looong day of traveling we made it back home to our city. San Francisco.
I can’t help but reflect ….
As we have returned to the U.S. I have realized I need to work on my answer to the question that comes once someone finds out we just returned from our time abroad:  “How did you like Switzerland?”
The answer is becoming more refined over time, but I can tell you, my dear reader, a little longer of an answer. While I am so excited to be moving back to San Francisco, where I am familiar with the culture, I can speak the language, and we’re infinitely closer to family and friends; Switzerland was incredible. The country managed to stun me consistently with it’s beauty. I loved having the Alps as our backyard playground. Within a short 45 minute drive we could be hiking, skiing, or on a via ferrata! I’ll never forget how easy it was for us to wake up at a reasonable time on a Sunday morning and hike up in the pristine Alps to 3,000+ meters in a day and return to our apartment that evening in time to cook dinner. Let alone that view of Lake Geneva from our apartment balcony! The country is centrally located, allowing easy travel within Europe – especially by train. We saw and experienced SO MUCH during the past two years. It is mind boggling even to me when I look back at my blog posts and go through photos. I am thankful to having been exposed to the Swiss French culture of the Suisse Romande. We learned to love espresso, attempted the French language, savored the fresh bread, the chocolate … the CHOCOLATE, and always had access to so many amazing wines from our European neighboring countries. Goodness these are things I will miss!
But … Switzerland is far from our families and friends. It was tough to work with the 6-9 hour time difference and to schedule FaceTime dates since only weekends seemed to work with anyone, which is when we’re always on the move. We had trouble finding community. I recognize that we were partially responsible for our limited number of friends because we could have tried harder, but it was difficult. Not speaking French fluently was hard. We both managed to pick up enough to get by in restaurants reading menus and ordering, reading signs, communicating with cashiers in shops, etc but it wasn’t sufficient. It would have required signing up for classes and devoting a lot of time to learning – which we simply were not sure we wanted to commit the time to do. There are reasons why we didn’t decide to stay in Switzerland longer and these things add up enough to make it feel right to not stay.
Regardless of the above, I promise you that as we boarded that plane, I left with a feeling that all was right. We were
so fortunate to have had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go live and work abroad in Switzerland. We experienced so much and this blog is a testament to that fact.
Blogging status …
SO. Clearly the blog posts are on a delay. We’ve been busy having fun and bouncing all over, and we’re still on the move! I took a little break from blogging over the past couple weeks but I promise I am working to get caught up. I’ll continue to blog over the next month or so as we continue to travel and settle back in to SF. I am not yet sure of the future of the blog and whether I’ll stop, but for now I’m going to keep it going. I’ll keep you posted soon 🙂

 

SF: We’re baaaaack ….. for a week.

As you can imagine, Andrew and I spent a lot of time figuring out the logistics to our summer. We had planned over two months off from work and wanted to travel in Europe and the U.S. but also needed to fit in some real-life, administrative stuff in San Francisco to facilitate moving back. So, while the beginning of the summer required the logistics to move out of our Swiss apartment and deconstruct our lives in Switzerland (i.e. banks, utility accounts, lease, job, etc), the next piece of fun was to set all that back up in the U.S.. Since we needed to get our belongings to San Francisco eventually, we decided to make SF our first stop in the U.S. after leaving Switzerland. Also important, this was our first planned time to try to find an apartment. If it didn’t work, we also built in a free weekend before Andrew’s start date on 4 September.

Now, it will appear confusing at first but once I explain it makes sense. We stayed at the Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco this whole time. I know, I know. A hostel! First of all, we got a private room and it was in their secondary building that is a block away from the main hostel building and on a quieter part of Broadway. We were a bit nervous to stay in a hostel in the U.S. since these are not a common accommodation, but we were pleasantly surprised. The Green Tortoise was one of the best hostels we have ever stayed in! Our building only had 5 units and it had a back deck with a view of the bay and the city skyline. It was well located, within walking distance of the downtown business district and also North Beach. They had tons of amenities, included breakfast and a few dinners and we met many nice people from all over the world.

Now for the explanation for why a hostel, because some planning ahead was obviously  involved. Andrew receives re-patriation benefits through his global mobility program and they include a housing allowance when we move back. Since we were unsure of whether we would find an apartment immediately, we set up this week in July and also another week in August to apartment search. That meant we had two periods of hotel stays, while only one would be eligible for firm coverage. Therefore, there was a high probability that we would be paying for the time in July if we didn’t find an apartment at first. So, the plan was to bill KPMG for the second stay at the beginning of September when we move back for good. And since staying in SF is super expensive, we got the hostel for our time in July when we would likely be footing the bill. We were being a bit conservative and it all worked out as you will see…

So, here we were with six nights in San Francisco. And boy, the time was unexpectedly successful! Andrew ended up buying a car! The dealer is holding on to it for him until we return at the end of August.

Andrew with his new car – BMW 428i xDrive Gran Coupe

For those of you who are not familiar, SF is a very competitive rental market. We were prepared to see a lot of apartments and to have to work hard to get what we wanted. After viewing nine apartments, none of them met our exact criteria and we were worried we would have to compromise on a less than ideal spot. However on our final viewing, WE FOUND OUR APARTMENT! We signed a lease to start on the 1st of September at Larkin and Union street on Russian Hill. It’s a one bedroom apartment with a parking space, a storage unit, a dishwasher, in-building laundry, and to top it off a killer view from the living room and kitchen of the Golden Gate bridge and the bay. In SF terms, we did pretty well and even found a place with a rent that is at the lower end of the current market rate for that neighborhood. We are super excited about the place! Additional pros are that we now can use our time in the beginning of September to move in and furnish the place, which is great since we have no furniture or house-hold goods. Even better, we don’t have to pay rent in August AND the owner is renovating the apartment, including replacement of carpets, appliances, cabinets and light fixtures. Couldn’t be better!

It was foggy that day, but here is our apartment building. Our apartment is on the third floor on the other side of the building. There is a bus stop on this corner that has two lines that head directly downtown. Perfect for commuting to our office when we aren’t at the client site!
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Part of the view from our new apartment. We’ll be able to watch the sun set over the bridge 🙂

Other than the car and apartment our time was spent eating at restaurants we had missed (including as much Mexican food as possible), going for runs along the Embarcadero, taking care of banking matters, I had some CPA license renewal continuing education to complete, and we were able to catch up with Andrew’s sister and her fiancé, John, and our friend Lauren who recently moved back to SF after her time working abroad in London. Overall, a far more fruitful time spent in SF than we anticipated. Now we are able to relax and enjoy the next four weeks of travel in August!

On that note, we left SF on Thursday 3 August to begin our four weeks of U.S. travel with a nine night vacation in Oregon. Stay posted!