Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Aloha-ha-ha

OK – if the last trip got bogged down with introspection, this trip is all about fun, fun, FUN!!!

Hawai’i!!!

Can you stand it?

Our trip begins with a lesson.  A lesson in love.

Love is not a trip to Hawaii.  Love is not a luxury hotel (although, yes, we stayed in a luxury hotel).  Love is not presents.  Although, much of love is presence – to be alive and aware in the moment.

But mostly

Love is a middle seat. 

Truly, when all is said and done, love is travelling around the world for five years, never looking out the window or being able to get up without disturbing someone else.  Fortunately, travel for work has given me fabulous aerial views of the Hollywood sign, the Eiffel Tower, the Rockies, the Italian coast, among others.  Because traveling with Neil, all I’ve seen is the flame-retardant fabric on the seat back in front of me and all of the Harry Potter movies.

Our trip begins with two flights, totaling more than 12 hours, not including nearly three hours at LAX which involved me answering email, Neil playing with his iPhone, and a Mexican lunch that repeated on me across half the Pacific.

Still, Hawaii is one of those places that are worth the schlep.  Unlike, say, Montana, which can take almost as long and, even if you threw in palm trees and great weather, wouldn’t come close.

I am pleased to report that Neil was almost immediately enamored with Hawaii; it’s hard not to be, but still, after dragging him halfway around the world – he doesn’t love to fly – I faced the possibility of seeing the Purse of Disapproval for a week.  (For the newcomers, the Purse of Disapproval is a face Neil makes that involves narrowing the eyes and pursing the lips.  It can be used to express skepticism and frustration, but is commonly used to convey displeasure.  I see it often.)

If anyone had an expression of disapproval, actually, it was me, since the hotel failed to clearly advertise itself as a “Vacation Ownership” resort, which means time shares.  As a result, all the good rooms are owned – the ones left over for hotel usage can face the parking lot, an air compressor, or a community barbecue pit. 

Never one to contain my displeasure, I informed the management that none of these rooms were going to be acceptable for an Anniversary Vacation – particularly in a place that billed itself as a luxury resort.

We were down the road at the St. Regis in ten minutes.

Yeah, I paid more – and since they’re sister properties I could have pushed back a little.  But hey, it’s Hawaii – you gotta chill out sometime.

Speaking of chilling out, the first morning we were there was rather cold - at least by Hawaii standards.  We'd later learn that the day would set a record for the lowest high temperature.  Still, "cold" in a Hawaii is a relative term, and the day allowed us to explore without feeling pressured to make it to the beach or adhere to any sort of schedule.  

We began by leaving the resort and heading into Hanalei for breakfast at the Wake-Up Cafe, a local favorite, where Neil demolished a macadamia nut cinnamon roll in microseconds.  I still can't figure out how my husband has visible abdominal muscles well past the age of 40 and manages to eat like he's 16 and his parents are away for the weekend.  (Meanwhile, I'll know exactly when he's read this post by the Purse of Disapproval I get for revealing his age.)

Meanwhile - if you want a mental visual of our waitress - picture that really slutty girl in college; the one everyone in your fraternity slept with (except the gay kid, who hung out with her and smoked Marlboro Reds - not that I know, or anything...) or the girl down the hall freshman year who - on the rare occasion she made it back to the dorm, often slept (passed out) in the lobby, the hall, or the men's bathroom.

Now picture her at 40.

Serving pancakes.

You get the picture.

After spending the morning loading up on fat and cholesterol and salt, then dragging our bloated tourist bodies through souvenir shop after souvenir shop, we got in the car and drove to the south side of the island.  Kauai has multiple microclimates, and the weather on one part of the island is seldom the same as the weather on another part - from a tropical rainforest in the center, to a desert-like canyon in the west, to the cliffsides and beaches of the north and south shores.

According to the television, the radio and our concierge, the weather was warmer and sunnier in Poipu, in the south.  Which meant, of course, when we got there, that it was cloudy and cool.  Undaunted, we stripped to bathing suits and headed for the beach, turning into those same people we make fun of in New York - the ones who throw on shorts and flip-flops and march through the city on the first day in April that hits 65 degrees.  However, since no one we knew was actually going to be able to see our hypocrisy, we figured we were safe (until, of course, I wrote about it publicly.)

Other than the fact that the sun kept going in and out behind clouds - and a brief drizzle - it was generally pretty nice, though our hopes of a playful afternoon at the beach were dashed, first by a shark that had chased a pair of surfers - and everyone else in the water - right out of the ocean.  Vacationers gathered on the shoreline like a scene from Jaws and, after finally dispersing, a Hawaiian monk seal came ambling out of the water and onto the beach for a nap.

Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species, and there are only 35 known to be left in the world.  They're native, largely to Kauai, and when they come ashore to rest, a barrier is immediately erected to keep humans away.  Most of my friends have this talent, too - and don't require the police tape.

Anyway - once a huge monk seal washes ashore (they look like a cross between a manatee and a penguin and they smell like a sewage treatment plant) - your day at the beach is pretty much over.  Neil and I packed it in and headed out to dinner.

I can skip the parts of the trip where I answer email, or obsess about a deal, or try and make a work-related call from a mountain or a waterfall or a canyon (OK - not a canyon.  I got vertigo halfway up and panicked and turned around.  True story.)  Which leaves a bike ride, a long run, and the hippie coffee shop where we ate eggs on a bagel.  (Word to the wise, when you ordinarily eat actual eggs cooked on a flat-top and served on real bagels (made by real sweaty eastern European women in Brooklyn, don't try to consume microwaved "eggs" on supermarket "bagels" in a place 2,500 miles from the nearest Jew (I love Hawaii, but if my people spent 40 years wandering around Kauai, we'd never have made it to Jersey.)

Saturday night we dined at Kauai Grill, a Jean-Georges restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, overlooking Hanalei Bay.  With contemporary decor a Hawaiian fusion cuisine, the restaurant is an absolute must if you're in Kauai.  We started with a Kabocha squash soup that was fantastic - creamy and spicy with a hint of sweetness.  For dinner, Neil had a pink snapper that was outrageously good, and my duck was tender and flavorful.

The highlight of our trip was a trip to the center of the island, tubing down an irrigation ditch that is nearly 150 years old.  Let me tell you, kids, if you think rubbers can't save your life, get inside an inner tube and float down an irrigation ditch.  Through tunnels, bouncing off of walls - head, hands and feet inches from jagged rock - it'll make a believer out of you.

What you won't believe are the reviews of Postcards Cafe - which was supposedly good, but which actually served the worst pasta I ever ate, tossed with some weird orange sauce that actually managed to separate sometime between the kitchen and our table.  And the shrimp looked like they came out of a can.  Middle of the Pacific and they served canned shrimp.

And that's Hawaii - skipping the sign by the pool that warned against swimming while suffering from a communicable disease (and the one promising the pool would be closed in the event of "unexpected vomitous or fecal activity") - there's not much else to tell.

mail.jpgNeil loved it, which makes me happy.  It's nice to know we can not only make it to five years, but that we can still surprise each other; share something new; bring a little bit of wonder to each other's world.  That's really what love is; the middle seat's just how you get there.

And tune in next time, when we hit three restaurants - from LA to New York - and catch up with two real live divas, including: DOLLY!

Do This New York:

Go to Hawaii

Stay at the St. Regis Princeville

Eat at the Kauai Grill

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