By the Baltic Sea: Liepaj’s Northern Fortress

Liepāja has always been strategic for battles. It was once home to a navy base, and is the place that the first Latvian government retreated to when pushed out by foreign powers. At the end of the 19th century several cement fortresses were built by Tsarist Russia. At one time, the forts encircled the entire city of Liepaja. In 1919, as Latvia tried to establish an independent republic, the Germans tried to take Latvia by sea. Using the forts, the Latvian army held them off in spite of being outnumbered.

Most of the Liepāja Forts were destroyed in the beginning of the 20th century. The Northern fortifications were blown up twice in attempts to demolish them, but the crumbling facades remain to this day.

The Northern Fort, Fortification battery No. 1., is built on the edge of the Baltic sea. It is open to the public. You can climb around on it, but it is forbidden to enter a structure because it could collapse at any time.

 

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By the Baltic Sea: Art Hotel Roma

The Art Hotel Roma was built in 1881 and has been a hotel since 1882. During WWI it was occupied by the Kaiser’s army. The entire structure is built around a large central square with a much-photographed fountain, and also consists of the hotel’s restaurant, Rosemary, plus a renowned bakery, breakfast room, retail shops and businesses.

I reserved the “Studio” for 90 Euros because it had a kitchenette with a refrigerator. It was HUGE! But you can get a room for as little as 60 E. Latvia is a very reasonable place to vacation.

The carpeting had a bit of a “Shining” vibe.

And was that a face in the chest of drawers?

Definitely

and faces on the knobs

and faces on the edging. So many little people.

There was art all over the place, in the room, in the halls…

Everyone thought the woman in this painting looked familiar. I finally decided she reminded me of the Mona Lisa.

We sat down for dinner at Rosemary, but the jet lag was hitting me hard and I just went upstairs and crashed. Reports were that the food was excellent.

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by the Baltic Sea: On the Road to Liepaj

It was a four hour drive to Liepaja, and I slept in the back seat for most of the trip. There is one main rest stop, and we took a break there on the way and on the way back. I tried a candyfloss ice cream, which no one over the age of nine could probably eat.

Of course, there were more unusual offerings…like the dreaded herring in a fur coat!

and aspic…

On the way back we ate in the restaurant. I tried the schnitzel, which had an unusual eggy coating.

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By the Baltic Sea: Lido and the Latvian National Gallery in Riga

Friday we went to Lido, a very reasonably-priced cafeteria frequented by locals. The helpings were ridiculous, I had thought America had a lock on giant portions. There were around six fish dishes, even more meat dishes, a giant wok filled with French fries that had stuck together like a fry king, and stuffed pancakes, which are basically blintzes.

Bob’s mom had an interesting catfish dish that was like a crab cake. Bob was very prudent with just a chicken shish, rice and veggies.

I once again proved that I am not responsible enough to navigate a buffet unmonitored. Luckily we all shared. My chanterelles and potatoes were more infused with rich mushroom flavor than anything I have ever eaten. 10/10 would recommend.

Then we meandered over to the National Museum. It was a beautiful building.

The featured display was on Auseklis Bauskenieks, an internationally recognized artist who pioneered Latvian landscape painting in the first part of the 20th century. The entire basement was filled with his haunting landscapes.

As we were walking back to the elevator, a painting in the storage area caught my eye. A provost stopped me as I paused for a snap, and I thought I was in trouble for taking pictures.

But she wanted to guide us to the third floor where more of that artists’ works were on display. Gederts Alias used intense yellows and oranges, which made his paintings instantly recognizable.

I also fell in love with Janis Tidemanis and the vibrant use of color contrasted with black that gave his works a spooky edginess.

Bob’s mom had described Latvian paintings as “kind of European, but not,” and it was very true. They seemed to combine the darkness of Munch with the delicate brushstrokes of Cezanne.

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By the Sea by the Sea by the Baltic Sea: Riga

Thursday evening we landed in Riga. Bob’s mom picked us up at the airport and we checked into our hotel, The Radisson Blu. The Radisson is a good mid-range hotel. They are clean and reliable, and more upscale than a motel. Our room was on the small side, but it was exactly the cozy little space I needed to crash.

We walked around old town looking for a place to eat.

We landed at Ezitis Migla, Although it’s a chain, it’s kind of a hipster place. It took around 45 minutes to get our order. We had a nice little patio to wait in and enjoyed talking, but even for Europe it was a crazy long wait. I had some lovely potato pancakes, Bob had a crispy chicken sandwich that seemed like it sat too long waiting for the other dishes to be ready, and his mom had a pasta with onions and bacon, which she told us was a very Latvian combo.

Bob’s mom ordered a Kvass, a low-alcohol fermented drink made with rye bread. References to kvass go back as far as 996. Bob had a Diet Coke. References to Diet Coke go back as far as 1982.

We passed a trippy shop window that caught my eye.

When we got back to the room, I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

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Back to Desert Hot Springs – I Need a Miracle

I have been obsessing over wanting a jacuzzi, so I booked a weekend at Miracle Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert. The place itself is like a no-frills motel, but the grounds are gorgeous, with a swimming pool, two wading pools, three big Jacuzzis and two small 2 or 3-person Jacuzzis that are fed with natural mineral water. The best part is that they don’t close the pools at 10 pm like most places. They are open 24-hours, which is awesome if you are going to Coachella or barhopping. You can come back at 2 am and still have a nice soak. Plus, they have a spa with really good massage therapists.

Friday, on our way out of LA, we stopped at Agnes in Pasadena for lunch, my new favorite place. I figured, we were on vacation, so why rush? We had a leisurely lunch starting with their beet salad with oranges nestled in a flavorful hummus, and an interesting if not mind-blowing BLT made with fried green tomatoes,

We also split an awesome pasta. Beef cheeks with homemade pappardelle, which they called a “stroganoff.” It came with shaved Gouda, but that was just too weird for me, so I went without the cheese.

I had made a big mistake leaving at around 2 pm for Desert Hot Springs on a Friday. It took us over three hours to get there! We had wanted to go to Cuistot’s “happy hour” between 5 and 6 with less expensive dishes and appealing-sounding bento boxes, but we didn’t get into town until 5: 45! We decided we were tired and ate at Miracle Springs’ Italian/Steak restaurant called “Capri,” which was another big mistake. It was like the worst rubber-chicken-style wedding food ever. Bob was fine with his pasta. I looked around the room and everyone else seemed perfectly happy. I wished I could be as easily satisfied as other people are. It’s a burden being so damned picky. We had a nice soak and turned in early.

I was pleased with the upgrades to the rooms since our last visit. They had painted, but not replaced the ugly carpeting. It’s super clean, but a little run down, like some caulking was cracked, and there were bleach stains on the carpet. I was worried about our room being between the parking lot and the stairs, but it was really quiet and HUGE. The beds had white comforters instead of creepy brown flowery prints, so I was super happy.

They have cool copper elevators. But they need to take out the carpeting. The elevator smells worse and worse as the weekend progresses.

Saturday, we headed into Palm Springs and had a fantastic breakfast at Wilma and Frieda’s. It’s upstairs in a courtyard where Sonny Bono’s statue holds court and is comfortable and hip. There is a big bakery with tempting treats like house made pop tarts.

The shrimp and grits was no great shakes–the grits were too thick, but the short rib benedict—oh my God! It was heaven! They baked their own rusk, probably out of biscuit dough, the eggs were perfect and the hollandaise…wow…I could eat a bowl of it with a spoon! Their biscuits, which you could order as your bread option were HUGE,,,like kitten heads! I could only eat half of the breakfast, and we were too full to even have lunch.

We had lovely massages. My massage therapist and I spent the whole time talking about Snoop Dog and South Park. When I knew the old Twilight Zone episodes he mentioned, he said, “Wow, you’re cultured!”

I laughed, “Because I watch way too much TV?”

He said, “No, I mean…you’re…cool.” So yeah, I over tipped him.

We had a nice soak, then got dressed up for our fancy anniversary dinner at Cuistot. Unfortunately, they no longer have crab gratin or foie gras, but we have to change with the times. We started out with a lovely asparagus dish.

It seemed so expensive for a vegetable dish, but it was loaded with morels and served in a rich truffle-morel sauce. I was trying to have good table manners, but the waiter suggested I sop up the sauce with my bread. That’s called permission, and I went with it.

For mains, I ordered steak frites, a 6-ounce flat-iron steak, that was the least flat flat-iron I’ve ever seen. It was so ridiculously tender. Bob went with Medallions of pork that were also ridiculously tender, in an ingenious mustard and viognier tarragon sauce. Viognier is a full-bodied white wine from the south of France (yes, I looked it up).

For dessert we tried the peach cobbler and creme brulee. The cobbler was a bit sweet for me, which is saying something when the other dessert has a sugar crust on it. It is still my favorite restaurant and “our place” in the desert. They gave us a card for a free appetizer when we return. The food is always amazing, the service is unparalleled. Cuistot may be the best restaurant in all of Coachella Valley.

Our room had a DVD player in it, so we stopped at Red Box to rent a couple movies. But we were so full and relaxed we didn’t even make it through a single one before we crashed.

We woke up early Sunday and had a final soak, then went around the corner to The Cottage Too for breakfast. We had planned on hitting the much-recommended Delicias, but they weren’t open yet. The decor reflected a very classic local roadside spot, and the food was OK. My biscuits and gravy would have been fantastic if it wasn’t room temperature, and their potatoes were above average.

After checking out, we hit a couple of shops in downtown Palm Springs on the main drag. The Little Shop of Treasures had some cool chairs and china that I liked, but I already have too much of both. There was a cute 2-person glider for $50 that would have been awesome for the backyard, but we couldn’t fit it in the car. Bob isn’t big on shopping, so I didn’t spend hours in all the little antique shops near there, but I did want to shop at The Frippery. Such a cool name! They had clothes separated by decade and color, from the 1930s through the 90s in a variety of sizes. It’s weird to think of the 90s as being “vintage,” but it was 30 years ago! It would be weird to take pictures in a little boutique, but I did take this close-up of the fabric of a 60s mod dress I bought.

We knew it would be hard to eat lunch anywhere brunch-y since it was Mother’s day. I wanted to go to Taylor’s Burgers, but as has happened before, I forgot that they aren’t open on Sundays. So we headed over to the Roadfood-recommended Sherman’s Deli. Waiting near the bakery counter for our table was like exploring the Land of the Giants. The cream puffs were as big as layer cakes, and look at the size of this Black and White cookie!!!

When I ordered corned beef on rye, the waitress stated, “Our most popular corned beef sandwich is the Reuben.”

I demurred, “That’s OK.”

“But the sandwich you’re ordering is just meat and bread.”

“Well, I don’t like sauerkraut or Russian dressing…or really, even the cheese.”

She snapped, “Well, you could order it WITHOUT.

I decided it was in my best interest not to point out that getting it without would just make it the exact same sandwich that I was already ordering. But she was sweet as pie for the rest of the meal. As expected, the sandwich was exceptional. The rye bread is fresh, soft and mild, and the corned beef is flavorful and tender. We wisely split the sandwich between us. We impulsively ordered fries, and they were the hottest, crispest french fries I can remember eating. Ever.

I had seen the “San Jacinto” cake in the display case and I just HAD to have it! It was like a tuxedo cake, with chocolate cake and cheesecake, but added a layer of chocolate ganache. It was awesome! It was so big we had to pack up half of it, so we also ordered sugar-free carrot cake and strawberry cake slices to-go, you know, for when we got back home and started being good. It was an awesome weekend and an awesome meal and we did not have to stop to eat on the drive back.

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Oahu Saturday: Island Tour

Saturday morning I went and checked out the local farmer’s market at the community college. The most interesting thing was the machine splitting the sugar cane.

Then OT and his friend Mike, who OT came to visit, picked me up and we got a local’s tour of the island. Mike’s girlfriend recommended that we start at Kona’s Brewing Co. It was right on the Koko marina, and exactly the kind of place I would have taken one of my aunts. OT got a lovely ahi tuna salad (which one of my aunts totally would have ordered), Mike got a burger and I got some forgettable shrimp tacos. For some reason OT kept ordering beers for Mike and pressuring him to drink even though OT and I weren’t really drinking.

A bird wandered into the restaurant to hang out.

Next stop was the Halona Blowhole, where the ocean has worn away an area beneath the lava and drilled a hole right through to the top, so water crashes in and comes up out of the blowhole.

It wasn’t blowing when we were there, due to low tide or global warming. Some daring (aka stupid) people were posing for pics next to the blowhole. It was kind of foolhardy, because you just never know with the Pacific. The Hawaiians say, “Don’t turn your back on the sea.

There was a gorgeous inlet where people were swimming. This is the beach made famous by the iconic love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, who shared their epic kiss and rolled around in the surf and sand in 1953’s ”From Here to Eternity.” Recent moviegoers may be more familiar with the site as “Whitecap Bay,” from the fourth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

This sign gave me pause.

As we started down the rocks, my legs were wobbly form two straight says of snorkeling. OT said, “Nope. We aren’t going down there.” I tried to insist. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket. But he said, “I’m not taking you to the hospital today.” So, if I insisted on hopping down the rocks and fell, I’d really spoil the fun and he would be telling me, “I told you so,” all the way to the ER. So we drove along the coast looking for a good swimming beach. Almost all of them were full of surfers.

We ended up at a cool little locals’ beach called Waimanolo.

We stopped at a strip mall and I hit the flagship location for Dave’s ice cream, which was opened by David Leong in 1982. There were so many flavors, it was hard to choose. A few of the more interesting ones were Azuki Bean, Caramel Macadamia, Haupia, Lychee sherbert, Poha Berry (Gooseberry), Kona Coffee, and Kulolo–a Hawaiian taro, coconut and brown sugar pudding. My go-to is and always will be mango.

The boys went into a bar, and when I joined them, I discovered that the only other patrons were a large party wearing leis, celebrating while a very old man sang karaoke. He was the only one who sang, song after song after song. In Hawaiian. We stayed there longer than we expected.

Our next stop was a famous lookout known as Pali. So much for the view…it started pouring down rain.

Pali is also the site of one of the most horrible battles fought on the islands. We have always heard Kamehameha was a hero who united the islands against foreign colonizing powers. What they don’t tell you is that those islands didn’t necessarily want to be unified. There was a lot of bloodshed involved. In 1795, Kamehameha assembled an army of 12,000 men. Then he invaded Oʻahu. It is known in the Hawaiian language as Kalelekaʻanae, which means “the leaping mullet,” and refers to a number of Oʻahu warriors driven off the cliff in the final phase of the battle.  The local forces were slowly driven towards to the cliffs at Nuʻuanu Pali. “Caught between the Hawaiian Army and a 1000-foot drop, over 700 Oʻahu warriors either jumped or were pushed over the edge of the Pali (cliff). In 1898 construction workers working on the Pali road discovered 800 skulls which were believed to be the remains of the warriors that fell to their deaths from the cliff above.”

We got lost for a long time on the way back, which I might not have known if we hadn’t driven past Pali 40 minutes after leaving it. The boys dropped me off and I wandered into the bar next to the hotel and drank a Lava Flow, which my friend had insisted upon before I left for this trip.

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Oahu Friday: Eating our Way across the North Shore

After swimming with sharks, we wanted to wander into town and grab a bite. We didn’t get an Uber because it was so close. The historic town of Hale’iwa wasn’t actually that close, and my legs were rubber from two days in a row of snorkeling. But we walked to a little square, where I found one of the places on my must-do list — Matsumoto Shave Ice! The little shop opened in 1951 as M. Matsumoto Grocery Store, and the original couple’s kids still run it today. They brought shave ice from Japan, where it is called kakigōri. In Japan the dessert is often topped with adzuki beans, red beans boiled in sugar. Like New Orleans snowballs, you can also get them topped with sweetened condensed milk.

They had soooo many flavors! You can only order a max of three. I ordered blue pineapple, mango and lychee. Topped with sweetened condensed milk, of course. I was only going to try a little taste, as I often do with desserts, but it was so good I could not stop. I also wanted to try the Lilikoi (Passionfruit), guava, papaya and yuzu. Next time. There are also sone specific, local flavors like li hing mui (pickled plum), Ume (Japanese plum), Mizore, a plain sugar syrup, Ramune, a lemon-lime Japanese soda flavor, and Green River, a local lime soda that actually comes from the midwest.

The classic Matsumoto flavor combination is lemon-pineapple-coconut. Another favorite is the rainbow combination, which tastes like strawberry, lemon, and pineapple. If you want to try Obama’s favorite, try cherry and lemon lime with guava or lilikoi. A competitor makes a guava-passion flavor and along with the cherry and lemon lime calls it the “Snobama.” (Photo from Fanpop)

We wandered down to No. 7, a poke truck that the shark guides had recommended. OT got an assortment that included tuna and salmon. Poke (pronounced poke-eh by Canadians), is a roughly cut raw fish dish. It doesn’t use citrus to “cook” the fish like most other raw fish dishes like ceviche do. I like my fish cut thinly, like sashimi, so I just had some boring old gyoza. There are nice, shaded benches in the sand, and you really feel like a mellow surfer just chilling out instead of the manic tourists we had become.

We crossed the street (to see why all these guys were doing it).

And we found a cool shack selling seashells (by the seashore). Luckily, the guy was too busy to wait on us, as I was prepared to buy a curtain made of shells and some other regrettable purchase. Just down the road I happened upon a cemetery. I always seem to find one. I’m not even looking for them anymore.

We headed further down Kamehameha Highway to Kono’s but it was way too crowded, and we were too burned out to wait. So we walked next door to Breakers. OT got a cold beer and I got some killer Pork Fries with cheddar cheese, green onions and sour cream.

I wandered around and found a little gift shop. Now, I had been seeing these little furry coconut-helmeted tiki-type things and couldn’t figure them out.

 Finally, this shop had a picture that helped me to put it together.

Speaking of being a tourist, after checking out we took an Uber in search of the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. It is supposed to be THE SHIT. You must eat at Giovanni’s if you are on Oahu. The driver took us to the clearing full of food trucks, and I thought I heard him Mumble, “It’s closed.” But it was so quiet, and I was so excited it didn’t fully register until I spotted the sad, graffitti-ed truck. That was as closed as it gets. There was another shrimp truck there, and the line was sooo long.

I ended up getting a crepe at North Shore Creperie, the friendly guy in the first picture up top. It didn’t come with whipped cream, but when he saw me taking a picture of it he stopped me and added a nice swirl.

Here are a few pictures of other people’s food.

I was tempted to head over to the other Giovanni’s, you know how I am when I’m on a mission. But I couldn’t do that to OT, and we had had to get up really early in the morning to catch the boat so we were totally burnt out and we headed home. Here is a lovely Hawaiian flower for you.

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Oahu Friday: Swimming with Sharks

On Friday, we took an Uber to Haleiwa Harbor on the North Shore for a shark dive. Really, it’s snorkeling, but I guess that doesn’t sound as cool. I had never thought of swimming with sharks; it’s not even on my bucket list. But when I had rattled off possible activities, that’s the one that got OT excited. I wasn’t worried because they were mostly Galapagos and Sandbar sharks, and everything I read online said they rarely attack humans. I never wanted to do a shark cage, chumming and artificially riling the sharks up like they do with broncos in the rodeo. This would just be swimming around with them. I forgot to get a nice establishing shot of the boat or the harbor, but I did take a picture of the beach on the other side of the parking lot

We were on a small boat with a captain, three guides and a family of four. There was a long rope floating off the back of the boat so you could hold on and feel secure. This time I held my go pro in my hand. They told me that the camera emits the exact same electrical charge as a crab, and if I had it strapped to my chest, it could make a shark mistakenly bite me. I wonder how they discovered that. Also, what a dumb shark to think that crabs are swimming around on the surface of the ocean. I mean, sharks are known to be smarter than other fish, but is that really saying a lot? Since I don’t use my arms when I’m wearing fins, holding the GoPro wasn’t a bother at all. Here is POV video of me going in the water. I took so long to go in because I was waiting for the waves to be even with the boat so I could just slide in and wouldn’t make a big splash. OT is the one in the black rashguard swimming by like a dolphin in the beginning. I love sharks, even if they are stupid. It was magical.

I wasn’t afraid at all. I love being in the water. I tend to follow whatever creature is passing by, so I kept swimming after the sharks. The guides would tap me, and I would have to surface and remove my snorkel to talk, so I swallowed more sea water than I would have liked. They kept instructing me to get back to the boat, and the third time they told me to just hold onto the rope, dammit! I went back in the boat earlier than I normally would have due to all the water I was taking in.

When I talked to OT later, he said he was terrified the entire time. He pointed out the aggressive way they were coming at us, and the way the guides were bonking them and turning them away. I had actually wanted more action from the sharks. I told OT that it’s not as if we were chumming. He told me that with all the fishing boats around the island throwing scraps into the water, the sharks probably connect all boats to food, regardless. He said, “If it hadn’t been for those girls, we would be shark chow.” There was a ball hanging off a winch on the side of the boat emitting electrical currents to attract the sharks. One shark bit it right off and swam away with it. OK, that was kind of intense.

And there was one time when a shark swam straight across the rope, perpendicularly, that was probably scary for the people at the front of the rope. When we were all back in the boat, I had accidentally left my GoPro on in my bag, so I could hear us talking on the recording later. The tourist mom said, “When that shark swam across the rope, I was OUT!”

I said, “Really? That’s when I was IN!” Maybe adrenaline makes me stupid.

Later, when I watched these videos, I think perhaps I was too cavalier. You can see the women turning the sharks away with paddles, and at the end a shark comes swimming at us quickly on the right, and one of the free divers jumps across my shot to turn it away. Next time I will stay with the boat.

One of the guides was stung by a man o’ war.

Me: Someone got stung by a man o’ war??

Cute dive guide: It was going for my butt, so I put my hand out to protect it and got stung on the hand.

Tourist mom: It’s nice

Me: It’s nice that she got stung?

Tourist Mom: No, Her butt–it’s nice

OT: Yeahhhhh [high fives tourist mom]

I looked up the sharks again later. From the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Galapagos sharks and other members of the family Carcharhinidae are commonly referred to as “requiem” sharks, the group of sharks often considered to be responsible for most attacks on humans [Sandbars are also Requiem sharks]. The potentially large sizes of Galapagos sharks and their tendency to be present in large numbers warrants special attention by divers and swimmers. Caution is recommended when swimming with this species, especially when fishing or spearfishing may excite and provoke the animals.

Then I searched shark attacks in the area and this was on the exact same kind of tour we were on–maybe the same tour operators. Swimming with sharks is considered to be “provoking” them, so it’s not like they were booping them on the nose or anything. That must have been crazy!

So, I have questions. Was it one shark or three sharks? Was it a feeding frenzy? Was it one shark but R. Russell just unwilling to commit to a size and genus? Like, “I don’t know. It was trying to chew my arm off! I wasn’t checking for identifying marks! Length? Big! It was a big-ass scary shark! I didn’t stop to measure the damn thing!”

I need to hear this story. Was “confidential” a tourist who got bit first? Were they wearing a GoPro and that’s how they found out sharks think they are crabs? And then the other two could have been guides who paddled, punched and bonked the shark to rescue ” confidential”? They would explain why they were wounded on the hand and the arm. Or maybe the one who got bit on the hand was like, “It was going for my butt, so I put my hand behind me.”

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Oahu Thursday: Turtles!


On Thursday we went snorkeling. We started the day off with Pineapple whip in pineapples. It was too sweet to drink much, but we really just wanted the picture. That’s probably half their sales. We went to a reef where turtles go to get cleaned by fish, like an underwater carwash. It was so great being back in the water.

They are serious about protecting their wildlife, and there is a serious fine if you get within 10 feet of a turtle. Oliver called to me over to come see this turtle, so I started swimming over. Suddenly this little turtle surfaced right under me! If you have the sound on you can hear me say, “Oh sh*t!” into my snorkel.

My nephew yelled, “Hey! Stop molesting that turtle!” The GoPro was strapped to me and pointing downwards, I wasn’t holding it, so you can’t see the turtle except for the end of my evasive action when i flopped onto my back to swim away faster.

Later they told me, “Ohhh, turtles are curious and it’s not a big deal if they come at you. Just don’t touch them.”

We went to Oahu so that Oliver could hang out with hsi friend who is attending college there. In the evenings Oliver leaves me to relax in the room and goes to party with his friend. We met up with him after snorkeling and hit up Marugame Udon. “Founded in Kakogawa City, Japan, in 2000, Marugame Udon is the world’s No. 1 udon concept with more than 1,000 locations in 13 countries and three U.S. states, serving up authentic, handmade-to-order Japanese Sanuki-style udon noodles, plus tempura, robata skewers and katsu sandwiches.” The udon was excellent and the tempura was good. Best of all, three of us had a nice and filling lunch and it was under $30! It turns out there is a Marugame Udon near me in Glendale, so you won’t have to fly to Hawaii if you are tempted.

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Oahu Wednesday: Trippin Around Sweet E’s and Aloha Bowl

On Wednesdays, there is a big swap meet across town at the Aloha Bowl, so we rented a moped. We got a big one with a raised back seat so I wouldn’t have to cuddle my nephew. We stopped for breakfast at Sweet E’s Cafe, which not only lived up to its reputation, it surpassed it. Named for its founder, Ethel Mathews, the cafe opened in October of 2011.

I am a sucker for a benedict, so I ordered the Kalua Pork Benedict. Oh my God!!! It was amazing! Tender, flavorful pork and a bright lemony Hollandaise. Perfection! Oliver ordered the Hawaiian Omelette with Spam, Portuguese sausage, scallions, onion and cheddar cheese. It was fantastic too. This was one of my favorite restaurants of the week.

I was tripping out at the way this server juggled the cups.

Oliver picked up our cups and noticed a little slot at the top, solving the mystery.

It was a pretty cool place.

It was a really long ride to the Aloha Bowl. I didn’t realize it was 10 miles away. There are a lot of homeless people around Waikiki so it was sad; it sure wasn’t the scenic route. When we got there it was super hot. Most stalls had Hawaiian shirts or wood carvings. One woman told us how her family made these carvings and we bought a few. Then we saw stall after stall with the same carvings. We couldn’t find the food trucks, although we did get to drink coconut milk. I didn’t check my map, so I didn’t remember I had planned to go to Aiea Bowl, a reputedly awesome diner in a bowling alley nearby.

We decided to go to the second location of The Side Street Inn on the way back and get another peanut butter crunch. We kept circling the block and couldn’t find it. Finally we drove up the driveway of a mixed-use building called the Ioloni Center. Then we had to go to the back of the parking lot and walk down stairs, and when we found it, it didn’t open for two more hours. I guess it’s not called “Main Street Inn” for a reason.

The Ioloni Center did have a cool donut shop though. Thank goodness the Purvé Donut Stop has that accent on the final E. Founded in 2018 by Nicholas Cornford and Brion Zablan, the shop is all about speed, quality and service. All donuts are made fresh as you watch. The donut flavors are crazy and fun.

THE “SANCHEZ”
Tossed like a Salad in Cinnamon and Sugar

SMURF BALLS
Mixed Berry Glazed Teased with Captain Crunch & Cream Drizzle

UNICORN BUTT SNEEZE
Lemon Glaze Butt Sneezed with Fruity Pebbles

O FACE
Lemon Glaze, Graham Cracker with a Cream Cheese Climax

NA-NA-NUT BUSTER
Haupia Glaze Lei’d with Macadamia Nuts & Chocolate Banana drizzle

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at ili ili Cash & Carry. The name is short for the neighborhood, “Moiliili.” Alejandro “Aker” Briceno and Lindsey Ozawa are known for their thin New York-style crust and thick Detroit-style. I should have ordered a pizza or sandwich for later, but I wasn’t hungry at all. I got garlic knots. They weren’t the usual baked pizza dough. They were deep-fried, like garlic donut holes. Why doesn’t everyone make these?

Since I hadn’t ordered anything but garlic donuts, I eventually got hungry and wandered off into the night. Amongst the many tourist spots, I happened upon Tiki’s Grill and Bar.

They had standard upscale restaurant fare in a 1980s Gourmet Magazine style. The beets and goat cheese were stacked into a Napoleon

Tuna tartare was in an old school timbale

It was all delicious, and they had crepe cake! I relaxed on the lanai with my cocktail and listened to live music from a local with a ukelele. It’s a cliche for a reason.

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Oahu Tuesday: Highway Inn

We ended the afternoon with dinner at the Highway Inn, a very traditional Hawaiian restaurant. Seiichi Toguchi was born in Hawai‘i, but was raised in Ginoza-son, Okinawa. He returned to Hawai‘i and worked as a dishwasher at the old City Café, where he met his wife. He was was quickly promoted to cook’s apprentice. During WWII the couple were tragically removed and put in internment camps on the mainland. At the end of 1946, the Toguchi family returned to Hawai‘i and opened the original Highway Inn in 1947.

Their son, Bobby, took over the restaurant and moved it to its current location on Leoku Street in 1984. In 2013 a second location opened in Kaka‘ako, in downtown Honolulu. Now with two locations, a fish market and catering, the Highway in is being helmed by a third generation of he Toguchi ‘Ohana.

We started with their Kahlua Pork in fluffy Chinese buns. I am obsessed with those buns!


The Highway Inn is famous for its lau lau–shredded  kālua pork and butterfish wrapped in lu’au leaves and ti leaves. The package is steamed, and when you open up the aroma escapes with the steam. I ordered a lau lau combo, which also included rice, steamed uala (purple potato), potato-mac and haupia, a coconut dessert.

OT went with flame-grilled short ribs in an Asian soy marinade. Maybe it was the familiarity, but the charred meatiness made it our favorite dish.

We watched the sunset on the beach before heading back to the hotel.

I just liked these plants and OT good-naturedly posed with it.

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Oahu Tuesday: A Whale of a Tale

It was about time to catch our 3 pm whale watch tour. It was much bigger boat. I was a little disappointed because big boats can’t get as close to the whales. There were also lots of people. But it turned out to be an open bar, so rescheduling upgraded us from a small sailboat with bottled water to a booze cruise on a big catamaran.

The water was gorgeous, and there was a beautiful rainbow over the city. There were some really active spouts. At first we thought it was a mother and her baby. But it turned out to be two male humpbacks fighting over a female. I think it’s more showing off for her than actually attacking each other. They didn’t breach or anything spectacular, but there was some hardcore fin slapping, which I had never seen before.

The small boats can get much closer.

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Oahu Tuesday: Aquarium and Pho

We had SO MUCH time before our 8 am whale watching, that we kind of dilly dallied. I wanted to hurry OT along, but I didn’t want to ruin the easygoing nature of the holiday by nagging. Our Uber got stuck behind a van loading a million pieces of luggage (I later learned military stationed there are moving their whole world there, hence the insane amounts of luggage). I got a call from the whale watch captain telling us we were running late and they had to set sail. He kindly rescheduled us for the 3 pm whale watch.

We didn’t really know what to do, so we headed for the beach conveniently located just one block away. The sky suddenly opened up and it was pouring. So we took another Uber a few city blocks to the aquarium. I always go to aquariums when I travel, and I’m sorry to say that Waikiki has a crappy aquarium. The octopus and seal exhibits were closed, so maybe that’s part of it, but I am becoming more and more against keeping sea mammals in captivity, so it’s probably for the best. After seeing “My Octopus Teacher” I’m not sure I even want to see octopi in captivity. Still, there were some nice saltwater fish and cool jellies. This fish has arms!

A Georgia O’Keefe coral

We got into an Uber, and the young woman driving decided that the thrift store we wanted to go to was inferior to one she knew of in the opposite direction, so she drove around for a while before deciding that it must have closed down. Then she drove us up into the hills, pointing out a house, “That’s where my dad lived.” It was bizarre and I was relieved when we were dropped off at the correct shop. Oliver said, “She was like a space alien who just got here and is still trying to figure out how things work.”

We went to a thrift store to pick up discount Hawaiian shirts and I was hoping for some tiki stuff, but didn’t find much, then we hit up a nearby mom and pop hole in the wall I had scoped out for Pho. Oliver ordered an interesting roll-your-own summer roll platter. I warned him that the wrappers fall apart easily, and he told me that he makes them for every party they have. The things you learn about people on vacation…

Apparently, we made a mistake by not ordering the crab curry, but sometimes you just have to go with your faithful standbys. Now I have a reason to go back!

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Oahu Tuesday: Leonard’s Malasadas

Malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts that have taken over the island of Oahu. Leonard DoRego, the grandson of Portuguese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work the sugar cane fields, opened Leonard’s bakery in 1952. He then started making malasadas, a Portuguese tradition for Shrove Tuesday, back in 1953. They were such a hit, the bakery started making them year-round, and now the bakery has become synonymous with the fried treat.

Since OT and I were on EST and PST, we were waking up before 5 am. OT was able to stop at Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas when they opened at 5:30 am Tuesday morning and showed up with a box of the outstanding fried dough. they are crisper and a little denser than the jelly donuts they resemble. You can get them rolled in white sugar, cinnamon sugar, or Li Hing, which is a “thing” in Hawaii. Have you ever had those Asian preserved plum snacks? They are sweet and sour and salty, and a bit much for me. You can have your malasadas rolled in that stuff! I had asked for them to be rolled in plain sugar and filled with guava, macadamia nut, and custard. The custard and macadamia nut filled ones were almost identical.

We returned on Wednesday, and also happened upon their truck on Saturday, such luck!

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