I get around.
I get around.
I woke up extremely early on Monday, but forced myself to sleep til 8:30. The five-hour time difference was really disconcerting, but it meant I managed to get up bright and early almost every day we were there.
We walked to the nearest ABC store (‘nearest’ usually means within about 50 feet), got coffee, and went to see Waikiki Beach. This was Matt’s first time in Hawaii, and I was excited to show him around!
We wandered down the street looking for a place for a quick breakfast. We didn’t find anything great right away, but we did find a guy with some birds. One of which went on my head. It was already my greatest day ever, and it wasn’t even 10am.
(I’ll remember that green parrot forever. He struck me as the nicest animal I’d ever met, and I wanted to steal him. A lot!)
We finally found a patio restaurant offering a Hawaiian ‘plate brunch’, which had bacon and a Kalua pork patty. Matt was very happy with that, and I was excited for my muffin and local fruit.
We walked back to the hotel for our bags, checked out, and waited out front for our shuttle to the airport. It was time to go to Kauai! Steve and Colleen were waiting for us there, after all.
There were only four of us on the shuttle, so we got to the airport really early. We went to the bar for a beer and watched California high school football on TV. When the plane arrived, we got to walk out to it on the tarmac. That will never not be extremely exciting for me, especially when there’s open seating like a bus.
The flight was 37 minutes long, which is enough time to take pictures of both islands from the air, and read the in-flight magazine. It was alright that they didn’t have Skymall, because there wouldn’t be enough time to even start laughing at it.
We boarded another shuttle at the airport in Lihue; it was supposed to be shared, but we were the only people on it. On the way to the resort, we saw about a million wild chickens on the side of the road, and it was funny every single time.
The driver dropped us off at the Sheraton Kauai on Poipu Beach, where we were greeted with shell leis and led to the front desk. We went to the room and stood on our lanai peering at the garden pool, trying to locate Steve and Colleen. We saw a guy who looked kind of like Steve with a woman who wasn’t Colleen, so we decided they were swingers. It was the only explanation, really.
It turned out they were at the beach pool instead, so we changed into our bathing suits and headed over to find them.
Before swimming, though, there was very important business to attend to: our first mai tais in Hawaii. And some food, because we were dying.
After eating, we went to swim in the ocean. The waves were pretty high, and there was a sharp dropoff near the beach. We floated around for a long time, talking about Sharktopus and high-fiving waves (which eventually led to wavepunching). After a while, we went to go swim in the pool instead.
Round about dinnertime, we showered and changed, met at a daybed in the lobby which would quickly become our customary meeting spot, and went to the Point for food. I had a cheese pizza and a couple mai tais. (While everything else about the Sheraton was excellent, their vegetarian options were incredibly subpar: caesar salad, cheese pizza, and unappealing vegetable pasta. Not good at all.)
We went to hang out in the lobby and talk til around 11pm, at which point we were all ready to doze off. Something about mai tais and the ocean will do that to you, so we headed to bed on Hawaii’s 6th largest island.
Tuesday morning, I got up early and sat on the lanai to write and watch some more swingers at the pool. (I knew they were swingers because the dude had speedos and a ponytail. Duh.) Even at 9am, it felt like the sun was strong enough to burn! Around 9:30, we met Colleen and Steve for brunch at our resort. They had an awesome deal where if you agreed to skip room-cleaning for a day, you got a free buffet meal. Also, this was the view:
Brunch was by far their best food selection. Mine consisted of things like a mini waffle with macadamia nuts and coconut, papaya, cottage cheese, and miso soup.
While Steve rented a car for the day, we watched the fishing bird from our daybed. He seemed really annoyed that we were watching him not catch fish.
Since we’d arrived in Kauai, I’d been talking about Old Koloa Town. Mostly I liked the sound of it, but I decided that Old Koloa Town was obviously where everything awesome happened. Matt and I had driven through it on the way to the resort, but that was all I really knew about it. Regardless, I was convinced that it would be fantastic.
We got the car and headed south to the Spouting Horn, Kauai’s very own blowhole! Since our friends had arrived on the island in the dark, it was also their first chance to see the feral chickens everywhere (apparently the Sheraton bans them).
These were all over the ground. What are they? I need to find out.
We watched this rooster wander into a sprinkler and flop around on the ground, taking a bath whenever it passed over him. It was beyond hilarious.
We went to go check out the local vendors set up nearby, and found both ukelele-playing and surfing Obama bobbleheads. We each got one, of course. I also picked up a cute cooler bag that would serve us very well at the beach over the next week or so.
From the Spouting Horn, we headed down around the south end of the island, toward Waimea Canyon; it’s known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Along the way, Matt became obsessed with the campaign signs along the road, and decided he liked Duke Aiona because of his name. We had other favorite candidates for various offices, but Duke was far and away the favorite. How could you not vote for someone named Duke? We went so far as to research his life story on Wikipedia. (When we got home, Matt checked the election results: Duke did not win, unfortunately. But politically, the other candidate was more awesome.)
The Hawaiian ‘red dirt’ thing is not a joke. Sometimes it’s even purple.
We stopped to buy a coconut from a couple of dudes in a truck on the side of the road, who hacked it open with a machete and gave it to us to drink. Then we went up to the canyon overlook. Photos don’t really do it justice:
There was a guy set up in the parking lot selling all kinds of Hawaiian treats, like dried coconut, mango, taro, macadamia nuts, and lots of candy. We picked up several bags of it, then went down to do some hiking on the nature trail.
Colleen and Steve love nature!
We descended from the mountains, stopped at a subpar gift shop, and then drove into Waimea. Our map showed a Captain Cook monument (at the place he landed and discovered Hawaii), but we were completely unable to find it. There were only about 4 roads in Waimea, and all of them seemed to lead to construction. I’m not convinced that monument exists.
We stopped at the unusual-but-delicious Island Tacos in Waimea, then Steve and Colleen went to get shave ice while we waited outside, watching the local high school football team practice. I did not envy them wearing full uniforms and pads in that heat.
From there, we stopped to see the Old Russian Fort outside of town. This and a pile of rubble that used to be walls is all that’s left of it!
We headed back in the direction of Poipu, with one very important destination in mind: OLD KOLOA TOWN. We needed to do some souvenir shopping, and wanted to pick up some non-resort-priced booze for the beach.
Our first stop was the wine store, which had a decent selection of local liquor and beer. We picked up some Koloa Rum to bring home, and got some six-packs of beer and cheap rum for the hotel. We hit up a few more shops for souvenirs, and Steve picked up a boogie board for $9. As we were walking down the street, Colleen noticed a sign that was like a beacon to us all: $3 mai tais for happy hour at the pizza place. We couldn’t get to a table fast enough.
We ordered drinks and half-price appetizers. The bruschetta was gone within a couple of minutes, and Colleen used the pregnant lady excuse to order more, even though it was us who really wanted them. We had another round of $3 mai tais, then walked over to the grocery store to stock up on sunscreen, snacks, pop, and red cups. At that point, it was clear that I was correct about Old Koloa Town: it did, in fact, have everything we could ever want.
Back at the resort, we decided to meet at the garden pool near our room, because it was never crowded. We brought the beer and rum along, even though I’m sure the resort would’ve frowned on that. As it approached 9pm, we decided to head to dinner. The resort had long since stopped serving in the restaurant, so we drove over to Josselyn’s Tapas Bar in a nearby shopping center.
The place was less than half-full, but the service was remarkably slow. Soon after we arrived, a huge group of very loud, very drunk people gathered near the bar and proceeded to have a party. The food was pretty decent, but the server screwed up our drink orders repeatedly. It was supremely annoying, so at least dinner was good!
By then it was close to our 11pm bedtime, so we headed off to our rooms. There was no adjusting to the time change, it seemed! Matt and I had a Coconut Porter on our lanai, then headed to bed.
Since we still had the car, we went to get breakfast at Poipu Shopping Village. (It seems that not much is easy walking distance from the resorts in Kauai.) We found good food at Poipu Tropical Burgers, and then did some more souvenir shopping at the Whalers General Store (it’s totally a ripoff of ABC Stores).
From there, we headed back to Old Koloa Town, because I just couldn’t get enough! I’d decided to buy a driftwood sculpture I’d seen in a store the previous day and resisted because it was way too big for our luggage, but they’d convinced me that we could easily ship it home via the post office across the street. Matt and I had brought our other souvenirs along, so we packed the largest-possible flat rate box full to bulging and sent it back to Minneapolis for $15. You really can’t beat that deal, especially when you might be running into bag overage fees.
We went back to the resort to drop off the car, and headed to the beach. It was a very hard day, obviously:
We swam in the ocean, then the pool, then went back to the ocean to snorkel and boogie-board. None of us could quite get the hang of the boogie board, but it was fun to float around on it anyway. I went over to the nearby reef to snorkel, and couldn’t believe how big the fish were that close to shore!
Matt and I were in the stages of some decent sunburn, so we covered up and headed to the pool bar to watch the Twins playing the Yankees in the ALDS. I was worried there would be Yankees fans around and we’d have to fight, but we were the only ones watching.
When things went downhill in the 6th inning, we were so stressed out we went to go swim in the pool. The game really didn’t go well, but something about being on the beach in Kauai drinking mai tais dulled the pain. A lot.
Around sunset, we went over to the Point for their torchlighting ceremony. They gave everyone free mai tais, and we all gathered to watch the sunset. Could you ever get sick of this?
We stopped at the resort shop (Poipu Sundries, home of the Hula Angel) and picked up some more beer to take to the garden pool. We liked that it seemed generally unsupervised there.
Since we’d had a few (or many) mai tais, Matt and Steve and I decided to learn how to drink beer underwater, which then developed into a contest. Also, I proved I could swim the entire length of the pool with a red cup on my head like a fez. You know you’re jealous.
After a while, we went to change for dinner, and headed to Naniwa, the sushi restaurant that was only open a couple days a week. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to find anything there, but they assured me they could make me vegetable tempura. It was delicious, and so was the cocktail with soju and grapefruit.
We said goodnight to Steve and Colleen and headed to the Point for an after-dinner drink. The place was amazingly empty even though it wasn’t even 10pm. Resorts aren’t really much for late-night entertainment, although the eavesdropping and the bartender were pretty amusing. And my passionfruit mojito was delicious!
I got up at 8am, because even after almost a week in Hawaii I hadn’t adjusted to the time difference. I was smart this time, and put on sunscreen before going to sit on the lanai. We were a little crispy at that point.
We met for brunch at the buffet , where Steve declared himself a waffleologist and invented “mini-waffles three ways”. It was impressive. We then headed to the beach to swim for a while. On the way to our chairs, I felt a sharp pinch on the underside of my foot, then burning. It hurt so badly when I stepped down that I thought it was glass, but there was nothing there but a red spot.
I hobbled to the chair, and by that time the spot was painful and burning. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt. I’m still not sure whether it was a bee or jellyfish, but I know I never want that to happen again. Even two weeks later, it still got stiff and itchy. Gross.
In the ocean, Matt practiced his wavepunching:
I’d remembered to bring my underwater camera case this time, so I could get pictures in the ocean. It’s always such a novelty.
Shortly after 11, Matt and I went to drag our bags down to the bellman and check out. Our flight wasn’t til that evening, but we had to vacate the room. We went back to the beach, and I did some more snorkeling, even though the waves were a little rougher than the last time. The big fish were still hanging out, though, and I could see the coral a little better.
We saw a sea turtle swimming by, too, but he was too quick for me to get a picture. I didn’t expect them to come so close to the beach!
Round about 12:30, we went to catch the Twins-Yankees game at the pool bar. This viewing involved mai tais, beer, and caesar salad. You know I’m all class.
When it was time for the 7th inning stretch, Matt and I headed to the pool to go down the waterslide. Again, it helped lessen the pain of the Twins getting knocked out of the playoffs. Even our rally mai tais couldn’t help them!
It was finally time to leave Kauai, so we left Steve and Colleen with a stockpile of items: Matt’s snorkel, half a bottle of rum, some beer, our collection of umbrellas, and our coconut from Waimea valley. Then we went to the front desk to get the key to the courtesy room.
The courtesy room is ingenious: it’s just piled full of towels, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. You can shower and change after being at the beach, then repack your bags. Thanks, Sheraton Kauai!
We headed back down to the beach to say goodbye to our friends, and take some more pictures of the perfect beach. Sigh.
Our shuttle arrived around 4:30, with a driver-in-training and trainer whose banter was really entertaining. The driver had gone to school at Vanderbilt, and spent time as a cab driver in New York. We never found out exactly how he’d ended up in Kauai. We got to the airport in Lihue around 5:15, and everyone working there was incredibly nice. (The security guy called Matt ‘bruddahman’. So funny.) As we had time to kill, we of course headed to the airport bar. Wouldn’t want to break our streak or anything. Matt got a ‘tropical itch’, and the included backscratcher provided a lot of entertainment.
We managed to get exit row seats on the flight to Honolulu, but were seated 2 rows apart on the flight from there to Maui. Since all the flights in Hawaii are somewhere between 30-45 minutes, it wasn’t much to complain about.
We landed in Maui around 9, got our rental car – a Dodge Caliber we promptly named Gaylord – and headed toward Lahaina. We needed dinner badly, so I found the first parking spot in town and we walked over to Cheeseburger in Paradise, because I knew they had vegetarian items there. The guy at the podium said they’d just stopped serving food at 10pm, and that there were only 2 places that still had open kitchens. One of them was called Moose McGillycuddy’s, so we chose the other.
Lahaina Coolers was a few blocks away in an old mansion, and there were a bunch of locals hanging out at the bar. The menu was fantastic, and they had Coconut Porter. We were set.
Post-dinner, we drove up to our hotel on Ka’anapali, north of Lahaina. I’d picked it based on the reviews and its reputation as ‘the most Hawaiian hotel’. It was definitely 60s-era, and the rooms were in need of a decorating update, but everything was very clean and definitely Hawaiian-looking. We didn’t do much in the way of exploring beyond noting the people at the tiki bar; it was 11:30, which was getting to be our usual bedtime in Hawaii.
Friday morning, we got up and drove Gaylord down to Whaler’s Village, since we were unsure of how far away it was. (Turns out it was only 2 resorts away, easy walking distance, but whatever.) We checked out menus at the restaurants there, and chose Cane & Taro for brunch, mainly because it overlooked the beach.
The stores opened while we were eating, so we went to go shop. We bought sunglasses, a water shirt for Mr Sunburnt, and checked out many souvenir shops, including the obligatory stop at ABC Stores. We then went to have a mai tai at Hula Grill, because 1) it was a bar on the beach, and 2) it was after 11am. Barely. Also, the bartender was named Fish.
Post mai tai, we went to the hotel to swim.
The surf was much calmer than in Kauai, though occasionally a whirlpool would develop near shore and toss us onto the beach. It was especially clear, so we could easily see both Moloka’i and Lana’i, as well as the people cliff-diving from Black Rock up the beach.
Once our daily swim was taken care of, we cleaned up and hopped in the car to head to Iao Valley, north of Kahului.
It was raining a tiny bit in the valley, which meant we got to see a rainbow:
We hiked up the trail to the overlook, then down along the river. There were fallen guava all over the trail, and we could hear roosters crowing. Also, there were many people swimming in the river despite the warnings that they could be washed out to sea at any time. I assume the locals are probably aware of the likelihood of that happening, though.
The bottom portion of the trail loops through an area planted with local foods, all irrigated by the river. No matter how many times I see banana trees in the tropics, it’s always fascinating.
We stopped at Kepaniwai Park on the way out of Iao Valley, where they have a series of commemorative gardens representing the various ethnic groups that populated Hawaii.
The giant spiders represented nobody but themselves. Creepy!
We also got to witness Colleen’s dream: feral chickens and cats living together in harmony. Or so it seemed.
From Iao Valley, we headed through Kahului toward Paia, the beginning of the road to Hana. It’s a cute little surf town full of hippies, so we had no problem finding awesome food for dinner at a place called Cafe Mambo. Not to mention Coconut Porter, of course. Afterward, we went to see the beach at sunset.
We headed back to Lahaina. There was a cruise ship in port, which seemed really bizarre, even though we’ve spent plenty of time in cruise ports. It just seemed strange in Hawaii for some reason.
We stopped at the Mai Tai Lounge for a couple of drinks from the oldest bartender in Hawaii, then wandered down Front Street to do some shopping. Matt got to see the banyan tree, too! It’s the size of an entire city block!
We headed to Cheeseburger for dinner. (It’s like Senor Frogs… we had to go.) We had some pretty decent food there, and some really strong drinks, such as mai tais with a float of 151. There was a one-person cover band playing upstairs, and old people cheering. The restaurant closed down around 10 and they invited us to head upstairs, but we decided to go across the street to Moose McGillycuddy’s instead. We didn’t expect it to be good, but we figured we’d maybe at least get some cheap drinks.
On the way toward the stairs, we heard the band there playing a Sublime cover, so Matt decided it was meant to be. (The band was listed as ‘Arise, featuring the lead singer from Gomega’.) Shortly after we found a table, they played ‘Welcome to Jamrock’. The band was really entertaining, the drinks were indeed cheap, and the crowd was highly tolerable. Also, the mashup of ‘Single Ladies’ and the Macarena was amazing.
The most amazing part? We managed to stay there til midnight. That hadn’t really happened yet in Hawaii, so we’d at least adapted to one hour of the five-hour time change. I count that as a win.
Saturday morning, we made a quick stop at Starbucks in Lahaina and headed toward Haleakala. It seemed like a pretty good day to drive up a mountain!
We stopped at the visitor center about halfway up to use the bathroom and buy important nene-related souvenirs. I’m still convinced nene don’t actually exist, because I’ve yet to see one on a volcano.
We did see silversword, though! It blooms only once every hundred years, and the leaves are actually silver.
After a short break to help adjust to the altitude, we drove the rest of the way to the visitor center at the top. There, for a mere $1 donation, we got dated certificates saying we were there. I hope Bally was the first basketball to make it to the top of a volcano!
From the north side, you can see Kahului and the coast. It was a little cloudy, but not bad.
We drove up to the actual summit, which is only about a 20-step climb from the parking area. It’s amazingly difficult at that altitude, though; any climbing and you start breathing heavily right away.
In the distance to the south, you can see the Big Island. We’ll have to get back there next time, obviously.
silversword in bloom
We walked to the start of the Sliding Sands Trail, but decided not to attempt it this time. I’d done it before when I was in much better shape, and it’s hard work. Also, you end up with ears full of ash. I wish there was some way to express the scale of this, though… it looks so simple in photos!
We stacked some rocks before we left, too. It’s important.
We headed back down the mountain, stopping at the two overlooks along the way. The lighting and clouds weren’t right for the spectre of the brocken, but we pretended anyway. (Bally wanted to make the spectre of the basketball.)
haleakala crater with old lava flows, and the big island in the distance
clouds coming into the crater. under the right conditions, this is where the brockengespenst occurs!
On the way down, we drove through the clouds, then past the herds of cattle indicating we were back in the upcountry. (I love that there are Hawaiian cowboys!) Near the bottom of the mountain, we turned to head into Makawao, everyone’s favorite cowboy/artsy village. Before shopping, though, we needed food. We stopped at Polli’s for Mexican food and beers, and to watch the Twins’ inevitable exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Yankees. By midway through, the game was so depressing we decided to go shopping instead.
One of our stops was at Volcano Spice Company. If you visit Makawao, don’t miss this place! They have spice blends, a bunch of local coffee varieties (and our favorite, Jawaiian: half Kona, half Blue Mountain), and an awesome hippie dude behind the counter.
Post-shopping, we headed back up toward Ka’anapali. Our destination was Duke’s Beach House, at a resort north of ours on the beach. We got seats at the bar, ordered mai tais, then realized we were stuck right in front of the TV watching the Twins finish their season. At least when you have a view of the sunset like this, it makes it slightly less painful:
We talked to the bartenders for a while before heading out, because we wanted recommendations for places that were open later at night. He gave us a couple options, then joked about ‘The Goose’. We found out later it’s a local dive in Lahaina called the Sly Mongoose, so it’s now on our to-do list for next trip.
For dinner, we went up to Maui Brewing Company at a mall north of Ka’anapali. My veggie sandwich wasn’t that great, but I didn’t really care because we had the beer sampler. Via the sampler, I became acquainted with Father Damien Abbey, their Belgian Dubbel. I kind of wanted to marry it, because it was amazing.
After dinner and beer, we went back to the Lahaina Cannery Mall to check out Lulu’s, one of the bartender’s recommendations. It didn’t seem like much at first: too well-lit, too empty, too full of families. Around 10, though, that started to change. DJ Money Mike started spinning, and locals began pouring in the door. Next thing we knew, it was a club. Also, it was there that I discovered my favorite cocktail yet: a margarita rimmed with li hing mui powder. GENIUS. It’s possible I ended up licking my glass a lot.
Once again, we managed til stay out after midnight! We were on a roll.
Sunday was a big day: we slept til 11am! I’m sure that had something to do with the li hing margaritas.
We got food and mai tais at Tiki Grill at our hotel, which smelled delicious. At least til I realized what the smell was: a pig roasting in a hut.
We went to the beach to swim for a while. It was gorgeous outside (as if it’s ever not gorgeous in Maui).
After the beach, we swam in the whale-shaped pool for a while, then changed and headed back up to Maui Brewing Company. I really wanted the hoodie they were selling there, but they only had tiny ones (I ended up buying one after returning home). We got a pint glass instead, then did some souvenir shopping at the strip mall nearby.
We dropped the car back off at our hotel, then walked to the Westin around 3:30. We had reservations on a sunset cruise on Ka’anapali! Also, the Westin has flamingos:
Before boarding, we had to all remove our shoes and lock them in a chest on the beach. If that’s not a surefire sign of awesome, I don’t know what is. We then got instructions about how to board, because the surf made it tricky. Basically, they would wait for the waves to go out a little, then yell at you to run like crazy til you got up the steps, otherwise you might be drenched. I was the first one on the boat, and managed to make it with only a little water damage.
They had free drinks and pupus on the boat, so we partook in mai tais while sitting on a bench at the front of the boat. I wished I hadn’t worn a dress, though, because the wind kept blowing it up so our fellow passengers could potentially see my underpants.
We rode out a ways from the beach, then put the sails up and headed north up Ka’anapali. We passed our hotel, then Black Rock, the hotel with Duke’s where we’d been the previous night, and got close to Kapalua. Then we jibed (see, I remember sailing lessons) and headed toward Lahaina.
There were two large groups of people on the boat besides us, and they seemed to both be there for weddings. The level of drunkenness was pretty spectacular. Our favorite guy was this one, who started pole-dancing by himself:
Matt having a very good day, with Lana’i in the background.
We stopped to float near the Lahaina harbor to watch the sunset over Lana’i. It was gorgeous. We had champagne to celebrate.
After sunset, they took us back to the beach, where we had to get off the boat in significantly less-sober condition after a boat-wide singalong of “Don’t Stop Believin'”. I hopped off the second they said to, hiked my skirt up, and ran for it. I ran nowhere near quickly enough, though, because the wave caught up to me. Confusingly, only the bottom inch of my dress was wet, but my underwear were soaked.
We decided to go back to Hula Grill for dinner, since it was nearby right on the beach. The place was packed full, but they found us a couple of seats at the bar where the chefs were prepping food. Watching them work was amazing, and convinced me that I would be terrible at that job.
We had the tasting menu for $25, which included tomato soup with focaccia, a tiny grilled cheese made with Surfing Goat cheese, and tofu and veggies with curried rice. Matt had macadamia nut mahi mahi. There were mai tais, and also desserts:
After dinner, Matt asked if I wanted to walk back to our resort via the road or the beach, so we took the beach route. And then he asked me to marry him.
I cried for a very long time. Once I mostly recovered, we started walking back. On the way, I saw a shooting star, torches lit along the beach, and all these amazing tiny glowing things washed up on the beach. I kept feeling like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. We went back to our hotel, where we passed not one but three wedding receptions in progress. We got a table at the tiki bar and watched the band. Even the really cheesy songs made me want to cry.
Once the tiki bar closed up at 10, we decided to walk to Tia Juana’s, one of the other places the bartender at Duke’s had recommended. It was at the end of the road into Ka’anapali, but it was still probably only a half-mile away. When we got there, we noticed a bar in the basement below Tia Juana’s blasting reggaeton, so we went down there instead. (We found out later that Tia Juana’s closes the restaurant around that time of night, and people go downstairs.) Donavan Frankenreiter’s Margarita House was in the midst of happy hour, and we were very happy to be there. They had $3 margaritas and Tecates, and some local girls were blasting Ludacris on the jukebox.
While we sat there watching surfing highlight videos on the TV with the rest of the bar, Matt reminded me that I hadn’t actually said yes yet. (Don’t worry, I fixed it.)
We got up early to go swimming, since it would be the last time on Ka’anapali Beach. (SIGH.) The best part was watching the happiest dog on earth, swimming and chasing a frisbee in the ocean.
We got to the front desk right at check-out, and arrived on time for the lei ceremony. They lined us up and gave us all kukui nut leis, explaining their tradition: all the employees get a lighter-colored nut for each year of service. Each time we return, we should bring the lei and they’ll do the same for us. Then they sang a song, and we were on our way. Yep, we’ll for sure be returning to the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel!
We drove to Hilo Hattie in Lahaina to stock up on a ton of souvenirs, and Matt found this prize:
We then headed down to Kihei to have lunch at Jawz Tacos. It was totally worth the drive, because of my teriyaki tofu burrito. And coconut porter, of course. We stopped at ABC Store for a couple more things, then tore our suitcases apart in the parking lot to cram all the new stuff in. It was tricky!
Since we had a couple hours before we had to be at the airport, we drove back to Paia to see the surfers at Ho’okipa Beach.
matt hangs out with future rum
In Kahului, we stopped at Down to Earth market for Jungle Balls, a snack I’d been obsessed with since the last time I was in Maui 5 years ago. They’re SO GOOD. We then headed to the airport, dropped off the car, and shuttled to the terminal. Since we didn’t want to break our streak of hanging out in airport bars, we went to Sammy Hagar’s place (seriously!) for a beer. The Vikings game was even on TV there.
We flew to Honolulu at 5:00, which meant we arrived there by 5:45. We picked up our car and promptly named it Duke (in honor of Duke Aiona), then headed into Waikiki to find our hotel. The Outrigger Reef on the Beach was way nicer than I’d expected, and our room opened onto a lanai overlooking Waikiki Beach!
After the most basic of unpacking jobs, we picked the car back up from the valet and headed to La Mariana Sailing Club. We had good directions and a warning that it was extremely hard to find, but we still managed to get lost. After a U-turn in a scary-looking pier area, I caught a glimpse of neon and signs of life. (It makes sense it’d be hidden, since it is, in fact, on a boat harbor.)
The place was incredible. It’s one of the most oldschool tiki bars, serving all the classics, and it’s just a giant old room full of bamboo furniture and round booths. We had a couple appetizers are some delicious drinks, and we sad we couldn’t stay there longer. Unfortunately, we had a drive a good distance back into Waikiki.
We dropped the car off again and walked down the street in the general direction of the beach resorts. We found our way into the Sheraton (where they had a spectacular infinity pool I swore I was going to pool-crash the next day), and made a beeline for the bar called Rumfire, mostly because of the name. It was pretty fancy and the drinks were good, but the crowd and service weren’t great. There were a bunch of Australians trying to order drinks, and the bartender was annoyed at their unwillingness to open a tab or pay as a large group. I didn’t realize that was our first exposure to the Australians in Waikiki!
We crossed over to the Royal Hawaiian, the big resort everyone knows by its pink color on the beach (it’s gorgeous inside, too). Out back, we found the Mai Tai bar, as in the real thing. We grabbed seats and checked out the menu, which had four different kinds of mai tais. The bartender was excited we asked about the ‘secret’ mai tai (Trader Vic’s), and started to explain about falernum; we knew all about that, of course.
We sat there by the beach watching the other patrons, who were all very much wealthier and mostly non-American. The place was fascinating.
Since we had one important item on our to-do list for that evening, we headed out and wandered over to the nearby mall to find Senor Frog’s. The mall itself was closed, but we could hear that familiar pounding music upstairs and knew the bar was still open. We spent far too long puzzling over how to make the turned-off elevator work, considered scaling the walls, and then finally realized there was an escalator. Our problems were solved.
The place was nearly empty. There was a large family having dinner (it was 11:30pm), and a couple people at the bar. A dj was spinning, but nobody was dancing. We went to the bar, looked at the happy hour shot menu, ordered a couple of them, and I went to use the bathroom. After doing our shots (a lemon drop and ‘El Sexo’ in Colleen and Wendy’s honor) and collecting our souvenir shotglass, we were out the door. I’ve never seen a non-insane Senor Frogs!
At the bottom of the escalator, we encountered a giant group of drunk Australians. They demanded to know if Senor Frogs was up there and still open. We told them it was, but that going there might be a mistake, because it was empty and also really expensive. They asked us the same questions a few more times, and then asked where we were going. We told them the Yard House (our bartender had recommended it). They said they’d been there, and didn’t want a beer bar. We advised them that if they went to Senor Frogs they would be the party there, and they were fine with that. And now I will forever love me some drunk Australians.
We headed to the Yard House, which was indeed an amazing beer bar. They had hundreds of taps, and also beer cocktails. DELICIOUS. Needless to stay, we were probably there a little bit longer than intended, but it was worth it. Plus we’d finally managed to stay out close to closing time in Hawaii!
We got up and drove a few blocks to the post office for a flat-rate mailing box. We were really glad they had them sitting out, because the line at the Waikiki post office was about a mile long. From there, we went to Aloha Shirts so Matt could get an awesome maroon and gold aloha shirt, plus some souvenirs. Across the street was the famous Rainbow Drive-in. Unfortunately, they had nothing vegetarian on the menu, so we headed elsewhere.
‘Elsewhere’ was Puka Dog. I had a veggie dog with lilikoi (passion fruit) mustard and garlic-lemon-jalapeno sauce. It’s probably a good thing we don’t live in Honolulu, because I would eat the exact same thing every single day.
We drove back to the hotel, dropped the car off, and packed our second box completely full of souvenirs. We walked the few blocks to the post office to mail it, and were again thrilled that we could use the automated postal machine, lest we have to wait in line for hours. From there, we went to see the International Marketplace, making not one but two stops at ABC Stores. They have a deal where if you spend $100 (over various visits, saving your receipts), you get a free gift. At the first one, our total was $96, so of course we had to stop again. I got the hula girl coffee mug, and it quickly became my favorite.
We also stopped at an underground bar at the International Marketplace (after paying tribute to what used to be Don the Beachcomber’s Treehouse) called Lava Rock for beers. The bartender’s kid was sitting under the bar in a stroller. If that’s not a sure sign of a classy joint, I don’t know what is.
typical waikiki beach resort view
waikiki beach, with diamond head in the background
We walked back to the hotel to pack, then to Waikiki Beach. I didn’t know the reef was so close to shore there, but it made it really difficult to swim. We ended up floating around for a while, watching the paddleboarders. Then we went to shower and head to dinner at Kona Brewing Company, south of Honolulu in Hawaii Kai (about 20 miles away).
The minute we got on the H-1, traffic backed up like crazy. We figured it was probably rush hour in Honolulu, but after creeping along at 5mph for a very long time, we started to doubt that. Finally, the radio DJ mentioned something about a water main break near Hawaii Kai causing massive slowdowns on the highway. SIGH.
We finally made it to the water main disaster (which was somewhat under control by then), then followed our Google Maps directions toward the restaurant. It sent us up the side of a mountain in a residential neighborhood, which started to look more and more incorrect the farther we went. Once we dead-ended at the top, we realized we’d been led astray. We drove all the way back down, despairing about ever finding the place. Finally, we located the strip mall where it was located. We had to circle the entire place before finally finding it along the dock. Two nights in a row at a boat-up bar? Win!
We shared the beer sampler, and loved the Pipeline Porter (a.k.a. underwater beer) and Wailua Wheat, which was flavored with passion fruit. I had pizza, and Matt had a dinner involving three kinds of meat: ribs, bbq chicken, and Portuguese sausage. We stopped at the front counter to buy our obligatory souvenir pint glass, then headed back to Waikiki. It was a much faster drive this time.
We dropped off the car and took our familiar route along the beach walk, through the Sheraton (where I really wanted to jump in the infinity pool, but it was closed), and over to the Royal Hawaiian. It was the appropriate venue for our final mai tai of the trip, sadly.
We had the same bartender as the previous night, and he made us the Trader Vic’s special. We sat there eavesdropping on a very loud, drunk small group of people, who had apparently just met there, but were making plans to meet up back on the mainland. The weirdest part was when the one apparently single lady wished everyone goodbye, and gave another woman’s husband a kiss on the mouth. She headed into the hotel, and he followed shortly thereafter and was gone for quite a while. SWINGERS?? I think yes.
Matt had another final mai tai, and then it was time to head back to our hotel at 10am. We had to be up painfully early for our flight home.
We had to get up at 5:45 Wednesday morning to get to the airport, and that hurt a little bit. I was glad we had a car this time, though, because the shuttles are always scheduled way too early.
We got to the car dropoff site only to realize the gas station next door wasn’t open yet. That was unexpected, so we hopped back on the highway and headed toward the next exit. Unfortunately, it was for Hickam Air Force Base. I figured maybe it was one of many things at that exit, but no: the highway led right to the gates of the base, and there were several lanes of traffic backed up waiting to get in. At that point, I was pretty sure we were missing our flight.
We finally got up to the gate, and I sheepishly apologized to the guard there. He was very polite and efficient, though: he took my license, yelled “U-TURN!” until all five lanes of traffic were stopped (seriously), and waved us around. He then handed my my license back and gave us directions back to the airport. I loved him for that.
We had no choice but to drop the car off with the tank unfilled so that we could make our flight, but it ended up not costing very much anyway. We hopped on the shuttle, and our driver told us about the one time he’d been to Minneapolis (and the Mall of America), by way of Grand Forks. (I assume it was something to do with the air force base there.) He told us he’d seen his first squirrel in Minnesota!
At check-in, our bags weighed 49 and 50 pounds. We were so glad we’d shipped souvenirs home!
Our flights that day made up for the debacle on the way to Hawaii. We had rows to ourselves on both legs, which means Bally got his own seat:
LA from above
The couple in front of us waiting to board the plane to Minneapolis said that they’d also just gotten engaged on vacation, so there were congratulations all around. So awesome.
We were slightly delayed on arrival in Minneapolis mostly because of strong headwinds. It was a late flight already, so while I waited for luggage and Matt grabbed a cab to get his car (parked nearby at work), I got to witness something one barely ever sees: a totally empty airport. It was creepy!
We got home, dumped all our bags on the floor, and I checked the house quickly to make sure nothing had gone awry in our absence. I’m glad I checked the porch, because I found this special gift from our awesome friends. It made being up at 2am on a work night totally worthwhile.
We had Friday off work, so we headed north around noon, stopping at an awesome little restaurant in Pine City called Nicoll’s Cafe. We got to Jay Cooke State Park around 3pm, and the rangers there let us check in early.
It was pretty cold and extremely windy, but our campsite was sheltered enough that the wind wasn’t really a problem. We set up the tent, unpacked, and then headed back to the visitor center to do some hiking.
Jay Cooke is gorgeous. I want to spend a lot more time there.
We brought firewood back to the campsite and set about getting the fire going. It was really difficult in the wind and with wood that seemed to have been recently damp, but after four attempts, it happened. I think we managed to make the hottest campfire on earth.
Bally’s first camping trip!
It was really awesome camping by ourselves; we’ve only ever gone with big groups. I was worried I’d forget something (since we assume that amongst our friends, we’ll always have four of everything), but we were very prepared. We made tacos over the fire, then played cards and dominoes while drinking manhattans. We’re the classiest campers ever!
Between the hot fire and our pile of blankets, it wasn’t cold at all that night. I think that’s the most comfortable I’ve ever been while sleeping in a tent!
Saturday morning, we packed up and drove the hour or so to Eveleth to see the world’s largest hockey stick and the US Hockey Hall of Fame. It was absolutely worth the drive.
Items that belonged to Herb Brooks
After we were done with the museum and USA-USSR bubble hockey, we headed back toward Duluth, stopping for an amazingly good lunch at the Duluth Grill. We then checked in at the Sheraton and set to wanderin’ around town. We wanted to find somewhere showing the Twins game, so we finally ended up at a dive called RJ Quinlan’s. There were a bunch of old guys drunk at the bar, and a lot of people who clearly had interesting stories to tell. Right before we left, I was eavesdropping on a conversation at the next table while Matt was in the bathroom. One of the old guys was telling the others about the day his mother died. I started crying my head off right there.
Thank god for sunglasses.
We crossed the street to the Dubh Linn and ended up sitting at the bar drinking Scotch and talking to the bartenders. They had a huge Scotch collection, for easily half the price of Minneapolis, so of course we had to take advantage. We left to walk up towards Fitgers to meet Jumi and Josh for dinner, and found them parked across the street from the bar. Clearly, we have awesome timing, at least when it comes to getting a ride.
We had a cocktail at Red Star (Duluth’s most famous ultralounge!), then went over to dinner in the brewhouse. God, Fitgers is awesome. After that, Matt and I headed over to the Fon du Luth Casino, where he wanted to play blackjack. I didn’t feel like playing (I didn’t think I was in a good-decision-making position at that point), so I wandered around, signed up for the players club, blew my free $5 in the slot machines, and then went to see how he was doing. He wasn’t thrilled with the table he was sitting at, so he asked me to go check on one across the way. Instead of just checking, I sat down to play, and he joined me shortly thereafter. Within an hour or so, I was up $45, and he was up close to $400. AWESOME. We went to celebrate at Blackwater before returning to the hotel.
Sunday morning, we had brunch at Takk for Maten and then did touristy things in Duluth. With Bally, of course.
We had a beer at Green Mill so we could watch some of the Twins game, then went back to the hotel to change for the wedding. The ceremony was held in the rose garden at Leif Erickson park, which was perfect for it.
The ceremony was quick, though it was very effective at making everyone cry. We all then piled into cars and headed to the Greysolon Ballroom, conveniently located across the street from the hotel.
The reception was fantastic. Everybody had a great time, there was dancing and ridiculousness, Bally ended up in a chandelier, the cake had ninjas on it, and Jumi got caught trying to
stealborrow someone’s scooter.
Dan (the groom!) and Bally, the first basketball to be invited to a wedding
We stayed til the end, which was good since the last song was “Don’t Stop Believin'”. We said goodbye to Dan and Kate and headed to Pizza Luce. It seems to be one of the few places that serves food after 11pm, and for that we were very grateful.
Monday morning, we ran into Jumi and Josh again in Canal Park, so we shopped with them at the Northern Waters Smokehaus, then had brunch at Hellburgers. Matt and I did a little shopping before heading back to Minneapolis. Right on time, too, because it had suddenly become winter in Duluth!
Dan and Kate were smart… they headed right to Jamaica. SIGH.
Matt and I headed eastward Friday after work. We got in around 10pm, checked into the hotel, and headed to Bryant’s for some classic cocktails. Though we got there around the same time as our previous visit (close to 11pm), it was mobbed. There was a single round table open in the back, situated alarmingly-close to some crabby-looking ladies have a fancy night on the town. We didn’t care, though… the cocktails more than made up for it. That place is fantastic.
We stopped at George Webb by our hotel afterwards, and proved that you can indeed get food there, in a reasonable time period, with good service. Also, nobody steals your money. WIN.
Saturday, we toured the three places I lived in Milwaukee from the ages of 0-2 years old (it’s part of my 101 things list), then had lunch at Cubanitos. My brunch involved black bean soup and a manchego and spinach empanada, which I’m still fantastizing about.
While we were there, we found a little magazine with a feature on Nick (formerly of Town Talk) and Ira (formerly of the Violet Hour) of Bittercube, and their new bar in Milwaukee, called Distil. We tried to stop there, as it was next door, but the valet told us it wasn’t open for another couple of weeks. Reason to return? I think so.
After dining, we wandered around to see the sights (even though I was born in Milwaukee and spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ there, I haven’t seen that much of it), including the Milwaukee Art Museum. That place is gorgeous. We then drove up the north shore, and climbed up in a lighthouse that just happened to be open as we were driving past.
We even took Bally to see the basketball arena at Marquette University!
We had beers at a brewpub packed full of people from various booze cruises on the river, then hung out at the Swingin’ Door Pub. It’s a bar I was unaware of til last week, when my dad told us he held the record for drinking atop a stack of barstools there. 14 of them, to be exact. I’m pretty sure the place hasn’t changed since he was last there in 1970 or so.
We had dinner at the Hi Hat, where we ended up hanging out with the bartender, who bought us shots. We then headed over to a place in the Ambassador Hotel called Envoy, and finally to the Rave to see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Holy crap, what an awesome show. We managed to get right up front, too. (Also, that building is AMAZING. I’m envious, Milwaukee.)
On the way home Sunday morning, we swung through Madison and stopped for lunch at the Great Dane in Madison. I love that place a lot, despite it being in Bucky’s homeland. Then I made Matt drive the rest of the way while I tried to stay awake in the passenger seat.
Wisconsin has a way of wearing you out.
We had some frequent flyer miles to burn, so we chose New Orleans. We considered maybe not coming home, and instead just buying a little place and opening a bar there. We had a bonus trip across the Gulf Coast to Mississippi and Alabama, too!
(The entire photoset is here on Flickr.)
Read from the beginning below, or jump to each day:
Our flight left Minneapolis around 5:15, but was delayed a bit. We met a couple at the gate who were headed to Jazzfest, so we talked to them about the effects of the hurricane on the city (the guy had gone to college there). When we landed in Atlanta, they asked people to let those with a short connection off the plane first, but of course that didn’t happen. We ended up rushing with the same couple to another terminal. We made it with plenty of time, and were glad to be in a row with only a pair of seats. It was such a small plane that they were checking all the roller bags at the gate.
We landed in New Orleans shortly before 11, picked up my bag, and got a cab to the Intercontinental Hotel. It’s conveniently located about 4 blocks from the French Quarter.
We quickly unpacked and then headed into the quarter, as we were hungry. Since it was late, most of the regular restaurants were closing (and they’re not great at catering to vegetarians, either). We’d made it halfway down Bourbon Street before realizing we were also way too sober for New Orleans, so we stopped at a walk-up window to get a hand grenade. We asked the guy there if he could recommend somewhere to get food quickly, and he suggested the Clover Grill. He said it’s where he always stopped at 4am after work.
The place was awesome. It’s a tiny greasy spoon right on Bourbon. We got seats at the counter and had to wait a bit to order, but it was worth it. Plus we had drinks to tide us over in the meantime.
After eating, we headed further down Bourbon Street to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It was exactly as described: candlelit and definitely haunted-looking. The bar, however, did not look like the kind of place where one could order what was described as their signature drink, the Obituary (gin, vermouth, absinthe); it appeared to be more of a Captain-Coke or shot of Jager kind of place. But when I asked the bartender for an Obituary, he didn’t blink an eye.
Holy jesus, the Obituary is something. We took our drinks to a table (one should never be allowed martini glasses in a bar that’s dark and has uneven flooring, yet somehow we managed) and watched the guy singing at the piano in the back. I was impressed that we’d been in New Orleans for less than two hours and were already drinking absinthe.
I was a little nervous about using the bathroom in a bar known to be haunted, but the toilet showed no signs of spirit activity. In fact, it was quite clean.
Around 2am, we wandered down to the Old Absinthe House at the other end of Bourbon Street. While I intended to indulge in the traditional absinthe drip and figured that was the place to get it, I was by no means going to be having two absinthe drinks after 1am on our first night there. Again, it looked to be the kind of bar where you could only order the most basic drinks, but the ancient list of cocktails on the wall suggested otherwise. To test this, I ordered a Sazerac, and was again shocked when the bartender didn’t even balk. There aren’t many cities where you can wander into an average bar and order a high-end cocktail; I’ll usually only even attempt ordering a Manhattan if the bartender looks to be over 50.
People were coming in and ordering shots of absinthe (at $15 apiece). It was impressive. As was my Sazerac… I still couldn’t get over the fact that you could order a drink like that at a regular bar!
We got go cups (another indication of a truly awesome city) and headed back to the hotel. Matt couldn’t finish his beer, so I insisted that he put it in the fridge in case he wanted it in the morning.
What? It made perfectly good sense at the time.
Friday morning, we got up at 10 and walked over to Canal Street, then down toward the river.
It was windy and overcast, but still warm outside. We walked along the river past the aquarium, then to Jackson Park before making the obligatory stop at Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee.
Bally may have ended up with some powdered sugar on him!
We walked down Decatur, checking out the sights and shops along the way, noting things we wanted to return to. Our plan was to go over to Cafe Negril in Marigny for lunch, but when we got there, it was closed. So we found Marigny Brasserie instead, and were quite happy with that indeed. We sat at the bar and had an awesome lunch.
That sign was on the corner outside the restaurant. It’s particularly close to me, quite literally.
We wandered back toward Decatur, and stopped into the French Market to shop. Everyone we talked to there was pretty much the friendliest person ever. I love New Orleans for that!
As we were about the leave the French Market, the skies opened up. There was an epic downpour that sent people running for cover, and the wind was amazing. We stood there under the awning trying to decide where to wait out the storm, and, really, the answer was obvious: Margaritaville. It’s a silly tradition we’re incapable of resisting. We ran around the corner and bellied up to the bar.
The storm lasted a couple of hours, and we were happy to sit there and drink and talk to other people about Jazzfest. We were very glad to not be there, because the park had to have been a giant puddle by that point. Jazzfest people are hardy, though, because the same thing had happened the previous year as well.
Once the rain died down a little, Matt and I went over to catch the trolley to the Riverwalk Marketplace. We rode a stop too far, and ended up walking what seemed a very long way to get there. We’d already walked a few miles that day!
Our destination at the Marketplace? The Museum of the American Cocktail, which is located inside the American Food and Beverage Museum.
Matt was in heaven, of course. Both museums were great, and so were the shops!!
After touring the museums fully, we cut through Harrah’s and headed down to the Quarter in search of dinner. We wanted something Cajun, but of course it’s tricky to find that plus vegetarian options.
We ended up at Arnaud’s Remoulade, and I was very happy to just sit down and relax for a while. Also, watching the crowds in the French Quarter establishments is always highly entertaining.
We decided to go back to the hotel, drop off our stuff, and take advantage of the rooftop pool before going out for the night. It was dark when we got up there, and there was only one couple out on the pool deck, not even swimming. They hung around for a bit, then left. Another couple came in and lingered for a while, clearly also wanting the pool to themselves. I guess we got lucky! We swam for an hour or so, then went back to the room and changed for more New Orleans adventure.
Back in the Quarter, we stopped in at Arnaud’s French 75 for their famous cocktail. We were thrilled to have the same bartender who was featured in the article where we’d first learned of the place, and he was fantastic.
We were planning to go to a reggae show at Cafe Negril, so we decided to head that direction. It was a long walk, so of course we had to stop in at one of the thousand-or-so Mango Mango shops for a to-go drink. We got to Cafe Negril shortly before midnight and found it crowded, but not terrible; we were able to get seats at the bar to watch the show, at least.
When we emerged from the bar after the show, we found a crowd gathered around a brass band who’d just set up on Frenchmen. They’d come from Jazz Fest, and just picked a street corner to play on afterwards. Have I mentioned that New Orleans is awesome?? I loved it.
Even though it was a very long way to our hotel, we decided to walk it and see what was up in the French Quarter. We wandered into Pat O’Brien’s around 2am, expecting some kind of fratboy disaster, but found the back bar to be very relaxed. The bartender was great, too, and we noticed that the drinks were actually priced cheaper in that bar than in the courtyard.
After our drinks there, we went over to Chris Owens’. I’m not sure what compelled us to go in there in the first place (I’m sure it was my idea, because of the blaring dance music), because the place was neon-lit inside even in the middle of the night, and was mostly empty. We got drinks, though, and sat on a couch watching the highly entertaining people on the dance floor. Also, Matt saw a rat run across the bar. So yeah. We’ll probably just enjoy Chris Owens from the outside next time.
We got back to the hotel around 3:30am, this time sans morning beer.
Saturday, we again walked down to Decatur and found lunch at a restaurant called the Crescent City Brewhouse. Matt’s meal looked especially delicious:
From there, we walked back over to the Marketplace and got tickets for a tour on the Creole Queen. It would take us up the Mississippi to the Chalmette Battlefield and back.
It threatened to rain a few times, but did little more than sprinkle. The boat was great, and the captain’s narrative was way more interesting than I expected. He of course talked a lot about Katrina, and we saw some of the damage from the river.
At the battlefield, we all climbed off and went to walk around. The place was very calm and picturesque.
I learned what ramparts were. I’d never really thought about it before.
We stopped to visit the gift shop, then climbed back onto the boat. Walking on the levee was kind of exciting, too!
The steamboat had us back in New Orleans around 5pm. We hopped off and decided to go get the streetcar down St Charles to see the Garden District. I wanted to show Matt the haunted house we’d stayed in last time!
The cemetery was unfortunately closed, but we got a good view of it. We’ve both visited New Orleans cemeteries before, too. Also, the Castle Inn of New Orleans is now a private residence, and is for sale!! What will all the ghost-hunters do?
We did some more wandering about the Garden District, and headed cityward in search of food. We were slowing down a bit; it was hot, and we’d walked a lot.
I love that you’ll find beads EVERYWHERE in New Orleans. A constant party reminder.
We found a place called Igor’s Bar that was recommended, so we went in for lunch/dinner. After sitting there for a while with no service, however, we got up and left. We headed down St Charles a little further, and wound up at the Avenue Pub. That place was awesome. We had food and beers and enjoyed watching the locals. Then we hopped on a streetcar and rode back to Canal Street.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel, freshened up (it’s critical in a city that’s constantly hot and 90% humidity!), and headed back out again. At that point, I’d developed some amazing blisters on my feet, so I had to half-limp. How do you get blisters in flipflops? Especially when you wear them 6 months out of the year?
Our next stop on the list (yes, we had a classic bars list – there are a lot of famous places in New Orleans!) was Sazerac. Inventors of the… yep, you guessed it.
It’s the hotel bar at the Roosevelt, which means it was full of people with far more money (and much better dressed) than us. We hardly cared about that, though, because we probably knew way more about its history than they did. The place was pretty full, but we managed to get seats on a coach as people were leaving. Some ladies came in a bit later and asked if they could sit at the remaining chairs at our table; we said yes, but it was a little bit awkward. A couple seats finally opened at the bar, so we left the table to the ladies and took those instead. It’s way more awesome when you can watch the bartenders working, anyway.
We left there with a glass (don’t worry, we paid for it) and made our way to another oldschool hotel bar, the Swizzle Stick. The cutest gay server in the world got us a couple more cocktails, and we hung out for a while. We didn’t want to stay out too late, though, because we had big plans involving a rental car the next morning! We managed to be back at the hotel before 1am, which I believe should earn you a medal in New Orleans.
Sunday morning, bright and early (ok, around 9:30), we hopped in a cab and headed to pick up our car at the airport. It was conveniently timed so we could drive ourselves there the following day, of course. They gave us an HHR that we promptly named Beauregard, or Beau for short.
We drove across the Gulf Coast on highway 10, heading for Dauphin Island, Alabama. Matt hadn’t been to either Mississippi or Alabama before, so it was very exciting!
There’s a long bridge connecting Dauphin Island to the mainland, and there are pelicans flying all over the place. While crossing, we found ourselves driving right alongside a pelican more than once. It’s really entertaining.
We stopped at the historic end of the island first, to see Fort Gaines.
Then we hopped back in the car and drove down to the other side of the island, which is a long spit of sand dotted with houses on stilts. For the last mile, it’s just a single road with pulloffs for the houses and occasional beach parking. The road dead-ends at the public beach.
The beach seemed crowded with not much parking, so we decided to look for a spot to park amongst the houses. We found a spot where several cars were pulled over on a “side street”, parked on the sand alongside the road. They all looked perfectly fine there, but the second I pulled off the pavement, we knew there was a problem: Beauregard was stuck.
It took a combination of me rocking the car in 1st and reverse (not easy on an automatic) and Matt pushing to get it out. I didn’t think it would happen; the wheels were more than half-buried in sand, and just spinning and digging deeper holes. But he managed to push us out, much to the amazement of an old lady watching nearby, who congratulated him on the feat. Haha!
We drove around til we found an actual spot on the pavement and parked. There was no way we were risking that again. And then, of course, we did the super-classy thing and changed into bathing suits in the car: Matt between the doors, and me in the backseat. It’s not like there was anywhere else to change!
The water ended up being too cold to swim, but we were very content just laying on the beach.
It’s hard to be too down on the Deep South, knowing there are places like Dauphin Island there.
(I should note that as of July 2010, this beach was covered in oil from the BP spill. That’s tragic.)
Once we started to sunburn, we decided it was time to continue on. We stopped at a little store for provisions, and drove back over the bridge to the mainland.
Deep-fried peanuts, much like boiled peanuts, are not very good. But you have to try them anyway!
We took highway 90 back into Mississippi, driving through places like Fountainebleau and Pascagoula, heading toward Biloxi. We had some gamblin’ in mind.
The Hard Rock Biloxi was way nicer than we were expecting. We went in and won some money on Wheel of Fortune, got some cheap drinks, and went to play Pai Gow. I did very well, and the women at the table were pretty entertaining. We then went to have dinner (have I only eaten at the Hard Rock Cafe when I’m in their casinos? I think so!), gambled a bit more, and around sunset it was time to head back to New Orleans.
We managed to find cheap parking at a lot a couple blocks from the hotel, rather than pay the overnight valet rate, so we left Beauregard there and went to drop off our stuff. It was then time to hit up the Quarter again, for our last night. SIGH.
One of the must-do items on my list was to have the real absinthe drip, and it was finally time. We stopped at the Old Absinthe House for that, of course. Here’s a video!
Around 11, we went back to Pat O’Brien’s to split a hurricane and get some souvenir glasses. I like that you can get the tiny shotglass version of the hurricane, because who wants to transport a giant glass? The bartender made us a layered shot that I don’t remember the name of, but it was hella impressive.
On our way in between bars, I noticed a walk-up window at the Funky Pirate advertising Jagermeister Tooters. Well… that happened. Thank god they weren’t actually that strong. We then walked back down to the other end of Bourbon Street, to Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. The young bartender there didn’t know what an Obituary was, and then proceeded to be disgusted when the other bartender told her what it was. She asked us, “you actually like that??” Haha!
We knew it was about time to head back to the hotel if we had any hopes of getting to the airport the next day, so we began the long walk back. We decided to stop into a bar called Johnny White’s for one more drink just so we could use the bathroom, and I ended up in a conversation with a couple of girls there while I was waiting in line. One asked me where I was from, and the other yelled (through the bathroom door), “YOU DON’T SOUND MINNESOTAN!!”
I told them to go talk to Matt and see if he had the same accent I do. We ended up hanging out with them for a long time, talking about Jazzfest and the Vikings-Saints game. There was a guy hovering about named Beau, who nobody knew, but who really wanted to be our pal. He kept telling people he would do the worm if someone bought him a shot. We refused, so he finally bought the shot himself, then did, in fact, do the worm. It was fantastic.
Our friends took off, sure they had convinced us to come down for the football game in the fall, and we said goodbye to Beau and headed back. With a stop at Crystal, of course. It was necessary!
We got up, checked out, and rolled our bags over to Beauregard’s parking lot to find him entirely surrounded by other vehicles. This instilled a little bit of panic since we were cutting it a little close for our flight, but I caught sight of the parking attendant as I headed over that way, and he waved that he’d be right there with the keys.
Extricated from the parking lot, we set off toward the highway. We’d been on and off the exit in the car or in cabs a few times, but it was still a lot more complicated to get to than we thought. We sat in traffic, made some u-turns, were detoured by construction, and by the time we finally got on the highway, I was really starting to worry. The airport is quite a ways from downtown, and we still had to drop off the car and take the shuttle to the airport.
It turns out I had nothing to worry about: when we got the airport to check in, we found out we’d been bumped, and would be spending an extra couple of hours there. I was pissed, but ultimately it was for the best: we’d have been running for our original flight, had that not happened.
We passed through security and stood in a very long line at the only actual restaurant that was open. We had a subpar lunch and then got on the plane, which was now taking us to Cincinnati instead of Atlanta. Matt got to experience the joys of the Kentucky airport (which is actually quite nice), and Delta got us home around our original time anyway. So as much as I want to curse them, I’ll just have to save that til next time. And there will be a next time.
Here’s the souvenir box I assembled when we arrived home! You can see our growing collection here.
Friday afternoon, Matt and I rushed home to meet my parents for a ride to the airport. We got there with plenty of time to stop at the bar before our flight left. When going to Wisconsin, this is important.
It’s only an hour-long flight there, but we decided to do it that way for speed, and because it would push me over into the free-ticket zone on Delta. WIN.
Wendy and Amelia picked us up at the airport (they had driven, and left earlier in the day), and we all went to the hotel to check into the Hyatt Regency. Because I’m a member of their frequent-visitors club, they put us up on the superspecial top level. (There didn’t seem to be anything different about it, it was just the penthouse. Still!)
The Hyatt was awesome. It was newly renovated, with an open lounge area in the courtyard. You could see down into the courtyard from every level, and the glass elevators facilitated keeping an eye on ones friends.
The four of us headed to AJ Bombers for dinner. We’d read about it in some Foursquare nerd story, and liked that you got free stuff for checking in. They delivered peanuts to your table via a bomb and a chute!!
After dinner, we bar-hopped our way around the area. Our other friends weren’t due to arrive in Milwaukee til 11, so we had plenty of time to kill. We first stopped at an Irish bar named McCarthy’s that smelled like pee, and then went over to a place we thought would be super-amusing, only it was full of douchebags. Backpedaling, we stepped into the place next door, called BarNone. That, it turned out, would be the right choice.
The bartender was fantastic. She lined us up with dollar shots and cocktails, then sat around playing the naked lady matching game with us (almost climbing over the bar to get to it). We all fell in crush with her immediately, because she was awesome.
Round about 11, we hailed a cab and headed toward Bryant’s, on the south side of town. It’s a fancy cocktail bar that Nick from Town Talk helped develop the menu for, so we wanted to check it out. It was definitely swank in a really oldschool way. (The bartenders weren’t what one would consider super-awesome, but they were polite. Also, the lack of menu seemed offputting to some people, but Matt and I loved it.) Within a half hour, Missy, Joe, Meg, and Chris arrived, and the party began.
I don’t remember what time we left… probably between 1 and 2am. We called for a couple of cabs, and Wendy and I did snow angels on the median while we awaited ours. Once everyone was back at the hotel, Matt, Meg, and Chris wanted food, so we crossed the street to George Webb. Which turned out to be an extremely bad decision.
We ordered water and coffees, and put in our food order (I wasn’t hungry, but I ordered wheat toast just to have something). They took our payment right away. 45 minutes later, our glasses long empty, there was no food to be seen. Not even the wheat toast. The place was disastrously full of drunk people (as one would obviously expect), but the only people seemed to get their food delivered were those coming in for carryout orders. Finally, we tracked down an employee and asked what was going on our food. They gave us the runaround, so we demanded our money back. They refused to give it back, so we ran out yelling about how George Webb stole our money. It was pretty hilarious. My god, that place is horrific.
The next morning, Matt, Meg, Chris and I got to have breakfast for real at Buck Bradley’s (home of the longest bar east of the Mississippi!), and it was way more satisfying. The rest of the group met up with us as we finished, and we headed northwards, stopping at places like the original Penzey’s, Usinger’s sausage factory, and to discover a castle you could drink in. Not to mention cheese happy hour!! We made a note to return for those things later.
For the end of February, it was surprisingly nice outside. We decided to walk to Lakefront Brewery, even though it involved this long bridge and scary staircase:
We got to Lakefront around 1, and got tickets for the next tour. The tickets came with drink tokens, so of course we all fought our way to the bar (that place was crowded), and prepared for the brewery tour in the best way possible.
The tour was fantastic. Our guide was hilarious, and made sure we all had beers at the beginning of the tour. Halfway through, we stopped for more beers. The employee there had gone missing, so Wendy got recruited as a bartender.
After that, we got to do things like shout “bunghole” and “bungwhacker”, then reenact Laverne and Shirley’s glove scene while singing the theme song. It was great.
Post-tour, we finished our last beers (there were about 40 of them), went to the store so Joe could buy a beer monkey, and then hopped a couple cabs back into town. We went to Bar Louie for lunch, because Lakefront had also given us all coupons for free beers at one of many bars in town. Um, when you visit Milwaukee, you should probably do the Lakefront Tour. That’s the best $6 you’ll ever spend. You get a free pint glass, too!
Post-lunch and many more beers, we all stopped back at the hotel to drop stuff off and recombobulate. A couple people took naps while the rest of us met in Missy and Joe’s room. Joe had requested we bring the tongs from our ice bucket, because he’d invented a new game. Called ‘tong’, of course.
After a few rounds of tong, we went downstairs to hang out in the lounge and get everyone together again. We’d all become acquainted with a 14-year-old kid who was riding around in the elevator, sitting on the floor and texting. He’d introduced himself to all of us as the elevator hobo. When Meg saw him wandering around in the lobby, she invited him to hang out with us. The kid could not have been more thrilled about that. He even showed us all the sketches he’d been drawing of cars.
We’d been going over and over our to-do list for the evening, and it was impressive: cheese happy hour, drinking in a castle, going to the Hofbrauhaus, and ending up at the Safe House. Also, some of us wanted to go back to BarNone, because it was awesome. We knew, though, that we couldn’t manage all of that, so cheese happy hour had to go. We headed to the castle instead.
The castle (i.e. Knight’s Bar) was not that great on the inside. A server never really materialized, so we had to go to the bar and all cram into a tiny table together. Bally didn’t seem to mind, though.
We stayed long enough for a round, then headed over to the Hofbrau House at Meg’s request. It was no genuine Bavarian beer garden, but what do you expect in Milwaukee? They had beer and ridiculous shots (including a set of five attached to a ski, that required doing in unison). We were very happy there.
Once Wendy and Amelia arrived, it was time for the Safe House!
If you haven’t been to the Safe House, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. But basically, it’s a spy-themed bar with a secret entrance in an alley. You have to whisper the password to the door(wo)man, and if you don’t know it, they send your friends inside and you have to do a dance or something before they’ll let you in. The bar can also watch you doing said dance on closed-circuit TV. Meg was game for that, so she moonwalked while we all watched. So funny.
The Safe House also lets you keep the glassware for most of their signature cocktails. Therefore, this happens:
There were giant multiperson drinks, jello shots, regular shots, beer in a jar, and dancing. They played the Cupid Shuffle twice. Even Chris danced, which never happens!
We took turns exploring the Safe House, too. Matt and I visited the sound effects phone, buttcam, the secret phonebooth exit, and we even wandered through the part of the restaurant that disappears in the evening. It has windows looking out on the street! Shocking!
Missy, Joe, and Amelia headed back to the hotel after a while. Our server put all our glassware in a big cardboard box, and we headed off to BarNone, toting the clinking box. When we got there, we stashed it in a cubbyhole and got to drinking. Because, you know, that was an awesome idea after the Safe House.
Bally loved BarNone, too!
Chris and Meg left, and Wendy and Matt and I straggled back later on, still carrying the glassware. It made it back to the hotel (and Minneapolis, in fact!) in one piece. That’s pretty amazing.
You should ask Wendy about the hallway pizza sometime. That’s her story to tell.
The next morning, Matt and I waited til the last minute to check out, left our bags at the front desk, and headed off on another long walk. Everybody else had already left for the long drive home.
We walked up the hill past the giant bridge to Lakefront Brewery, and ended up at a place called the HiHat Lounge for brunch. Our plan was to check out the area (there was cute shopping and many awesome bars on Brady street), and watch as much of the Olympic gold medal hockey game as possible before we had to leave for our flight. So post-brunch, we stopped to shop at a cute antique store, then headed all the way down to Zaffiros, a pizza place that was highly recommended by my parents. We weren’t hungry, but we figured it would be an awesome dive. And it was.
We had a couple of beers and watched the first period of the USA-Canada game with a couple of the bar’s regulars. As that was ending, we paid up and headed back down Brady, in the direction of downtown. We figured we would work our way back to the hotel while watching the game at various locales.
Our next stop was the Up & Under Pub, across the street from the Nomad. It was very similar to the Nomad, too, and struck me as a soccer bar even if it technically wasn’t. There were a bunch of people there watching the game, all at a pretty impressive level of drunkenness for so early in the day. The bar also was home to two giant dogs, who demanded a petting every time they passed us.
After the second, we hurried the mile or so down the hill into downtown. We figured we’d stop at AJ Bombers for the end of the game, because we knew they’d have sports on there. But as we neared the door, we noticed the place was absolutely packed. Matt said, with a fair amount of horror in his voice, “people are wearing name badges with their Twitter usernames on them!” Yep, we’d wandered into a tweetup.
We stopped in anyway to use the bathroom, and checked in on Foursquare to get the Swarm badge. It turns out that’s what the tweetup was about: they thought they were unlocking the first Swarm badge in the Midwest. Which wasn’t true; I’d seen in a couple of times in Minneapolis before that. But anyway… there was no way we were hanging around there. We left and walked over to our new favorite bar in Milwaukee (well, after the Safe House): BarNone.
We found our favorite bartender behind the bar (she’s part-owner), and everybody watching the game. A couple showed up and got out Drinking Candyland, which is apparently a regular occurrence there. They explained the rules, and we laughed about the tweetup. It seemed like everyone there knew about Foursquare, which is really funny. I remember when maybe 20 of us in Minneapolis were the only people on Dodgeball. Oldschool!
Of course the game went into overtime, and Matt and I started to worry about making our flight. Crosby at least had the sense to end it on time, so we said our goodbyes at BarNone and walked back to the hotel for our bags. We hopped a cab to the airport, and were back to Minneapolis in no time.
Matt and I decided to visit some all-new islands on a cruise, and also spend a few days wandering around San Juan and the rainforest!
(The entire photoset is here on Flickr.)
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