Italy Trip – May 2008

August 7, 2008 at 1:20 pm (Travels)

So, I’m also way late on blogging about the Italy trip. So, here is the quick-tour of our Italian getaway!

Most important thing to know about the trip – we love GELATO! We ate it every day!
Gelato
First stop Positano with Brad and Amy. We stayed at La Sirenuse – OMG, sooo nice – but not too nice to wear pajamas to breakfast.
Brad and David, Positano

The weather was great, we ate lots of good food and drank lots of fabulous vino (especially at La Donna away from the touristy area). Luckily we countered the food/vino with lots of tennis so we wouldn’t gain 20 lbs!
Jil tennis in Positano

David and I did a day tour to Pompeii. The ruins were fascinating (that is Mt. Vesuvius in the back-drop) and there were lots of phallic symbols lasting thousands of years! ….’THIS WAY TO WHORE HOUSE’.
PompeiiPompeii

After Pompeii, we went to the cute town of Ravello. In Ravello we accidentally got drunk at lunch with Mamma Mia at a hole-in-the-wall-authentic-family-operated-deeelish restaurant and toured the Belvedere Gardens.
David and Mamma Mia in RavelloDavid RavelloRavello

Back in Positano we got in some water time and visited the grottos. Brad and Amy didn’t join us as Brad would rather do anything than go on a boat. He was probably off running up a hill somewhere training for a marathon!
David in PositanoJil PositanoPositano

Off to northern Italy by train (note to self: next time fly!) to meet up with Jeff and Judy on their honeymoon – YES, they spent a week of their honeymoon with the four of us – crazy bastards! We finally make it to Milano and then a wet, cold welcome to Lake Como where it rained and rained and then rained a little more! Our villa was cute with great views and luckily we had good company and again, lots of vino! The sun finally came out to reveal the surrounding beauty and Judy cooked us a nice dinner to enjoy on the terrace!
Lake Como view from villa
Dinner on the terrace, lake como
When the rain started up again, we had to entertain ourselves…
Lake Como, vino!David and Brad working in Lake Como
We did venture out in the rain and decided to make the most of it!
Raining in Lake ComoLake Como in the rain
There was a break in the rain here and there when we were able to get out and see the towns of Leno and Bellagio.
Leno, Lake ComoJil and AmyAmy drinking puddin'Judy with gelato in Bellagio
After being cold and wet for about 4 days straight, we had to cut our losses. Jeff, Judy, David and I decided to head back to Milano, thinking that if it is going to be rainy, it would be better to be in a city with more indoor things to do…and TAXIS. Amy and Brad had had enough and headed home to Boulder.
So, for the rest of us – off to Milano. We toured the main Cathedral (the biggest gothic cathedral in the world, I think), shopped, and enjoyed some very nice meals together for a couple of days before heading home!
Cathedrale in Milano
David, Jeff, Judy in MilanoMilano, shopping
All in all, even with the crappy rain in Lake Como, it was a great trip and we had a fantastic time with Brad, Amy, Jeff, and Judy!

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Oahu, Hawaii

March 12, 2008 at 5:32 pm (Travels)

After Kauai, we headed out to Oahu to stay with my parents in a house on the East side that they swapped out for their condo in Breckenridge. The location was great, it was right by the town of Kailua, which has the prettiest beaches on the island, Lanikai and Kailua beach. The water at these beaches seemed much more Caribbean to me. I’m used to seeing the deep blue water in Hawaii, so I was surprised that the water at these beaches was bright aqua. They are both neighborhood beaches with lots of sand and no hotels in sight, which
is nice for a change!

David snorkeling in Oahu

Oahu Beach

I was also pleasantly surprised by Waikiki. I thought it was a gorgeous beach and found it beautiful to have the city as a backdrop. The shopping there was great too, and tons of cute restaurants on the beach. I wanted to surf there, but they said that where the waves were breaking was at a coral reef, so for beginners, it is pretty dangerous. I thought I should stick to sandy bottom beaches, so I passed.

Waikiki

I liked Waikiki so much that David suggested we stay at a hotel there one night, to get a taste of the nightlife. We stayed at the Hilton, which was a monster resort with it’s own entire shopping area (I got a couple super cute sundresses, but didn’t go too crazy), and David Beckham was staying there too. There was some international soccer tournament going on. I didn’t catch a glimpse of him or Posh Spice, but the front desk lady had said he was there.

One day we drove up to the world famous North Shore of Oahu and watch surfers and boogy borders surf ‘The Pipe’. We saw some very bad-ass moves. Some were doing spins and flips and all kinds of stuff. It was a lot of fun to watch! We topped the day off with a stop at Ted’s Bakery for Ted’s legendary Chocolate Coconut Pudding Pie. It was deeeelish.

Of course we had to get some good snorkeling in, so we went to Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve, which is a volcanic crater sunken into the water with a coral reef. It was beautiful and we saw lots of big fishies, but it was pretty crowded there.

It was fun to vacation with my parents. It has been forever since I vacationed with them, so we had a blast.

I wasn’t expecting to like Oahu so much. I just figured it was an island with a giant city on it, but it was really beautiful with pristine beaches and Waikiki has such a great vibe – I really loved it.

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Kauai, Hawaii

March 12, 2008 at 5:31 pm (Travels)

We just back from our Hawaii trip. It was fabulous. I’ve only ever been to Maui before, so it was exciting to explore some other islands too! I looooved Kauai! We stayed on the Northshore at the Princeville Hotel (thanks for the recommendation Tanya and Ginger). The location was great. Although it wasn’t the best time of year to go. It had been rainy right before we got there, so most of the hiking trails on the North side were closed due to muddiness. And there wasn’t much snorkeling since the water is pretty rough in the winter. Also, all of the boat and heli tours leave from the South side, so it was a long drive to do any touristy activities. That didn’t bother us though, the weather was gorgeous while we were there, and we were happy to chill at the beach most days. I think the Northshore is definitely the prettiest and most magnificent part of the island. The steepness and jaggedness of mountains make them unlike any mountains I’ve seen before, the landscape is really spectacular. So, I’m glad we stayed where we did, and we lucked out with great weather for the whole week! It started raining the day we left – that is our weather luck kicking in again!

My new favorite beach is Hanalei Bay. Famous for its spectacular beauty, Hanalei Bay is a long half-moon of sandy beach carved into the base of a sheer cliff on one side and narrowing into a rocky point on the other. David and I even took surfing lessons and got up quickly. I rode my second wave all the way in (which I guess is not what you are supposed to do – you are supposed to hop off before hitting the beach, but it was fun!). I loved it so much we got to surf on another day too. I’d say that was the highlight of my trip, and I’m sure I’ll do it again some time!
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Jil surfing in Kauai
Hanalei, Kauai surfing

We also did a helicopter tour of the island and saw the Na Pali coast and tons of waterfalls. It was really beautiful.
Kauai waterfalls
Na Pali Coast, Kauai
Then for Valentine’s Day, we went to a outdoor movie on the beach. It was ‘Sabrina’ with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. It was pretty cheesey, but still a fun experience. The champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries helped!

Kauai Valentine's day movie on the beach

We had a lot of time to relax, soak in the sun and read on the beach. I read ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and thought it was excellent. I couldn’t put it down. It was also entertaining to just watch the waves and the surfers. Right from our hotel there was a hot spot for surfing huge swells. They say the waves got up to 30 feet right there one day. We thought the surfers were insane to be out there. The sheer force of the waves crashing looked like they could kill someone!

So, that was Kauai in a nutshell. I’d love to go back sometime and rent a house in Hanalei and surf to my hearts content! Maybe next year…?

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Qamea, Fiji – This one’s for Patrick

January 21, 2008 at 10:49 pm (Travels, Wedding)

David playing volleyball with the staff.

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Fox Glacier

January 21, 2008 at 10:26 pm (Travels, Wedding)

When we arrived at the town of Fox Glacier, it was hard for us to even believe that there were huge mountains there that housed glaciers. It was rainy and extremely foggy so we couldn’t see anything around us. We stayed at a great B&B, Misty Peaks, where our hosts, Dave and Lea, were really fun and there were some other couples staying there that were also a lot of fun. We were all rained-in from doing any activity, so we had dinner and drinks together and got to know each other. This was probably the most social we had been in a while, so it was really nice to be rained-in with some interesting people. Most of the other guests were from the UK, but there was one other couple on their honeymoon from India. They said their wedding had 2000 guests and lasted 5 days… they were very ready for a vacation after that!

We stayed in Fox Glacier for 2 nights. We were supposed to a heli-hike day trip on the glacier, but due to low visibility, the choppers weren’t flying. Luckily, on our last morning, our B&B host got us (along with one of the couples from the UK) hooked up with a chopper just as the fog cleared so we could do a quick trip up to the Glacier. It was soooo beautiful. It is the only place in the world where glaciers descend into rain forests. The helicopter literally swooped around one canyon, and then ‘ta da’, there was the glacier. It is almost right in town, but just around the corner of one of the mountains. I guess normally you can see it really well from town, but due to the fog, we didn’t even see mountains until our last morning there.

We were able to hop out of the helicopter and hang out on the glacier for a little bit to take in the views. It was spectacular. I’m so glad we were able to get onto the glacier, even though we didn’t get to do our big hike.

We both agreed that staying at Misty Peaks was the best of all the B&Bs that we experienced on our trip. The hosts were a total riot and made us feel very comfortable in their home. They cooked an amazing meal and kept the drinks flowing. They really set a great ambiance for the guests to socialize and get to know each other. The rooms were nice and private too. Oh, and by far the best hairdryer in the entire country ๐Ÿ™‚ So, to anyone that may go to Fox Glacier one day, stay at Misty Peaks, and tell Dave and Lea we say ‘hi’…

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Abel Tasman Kayaking & Tramping Adventure

December 17, 2007 at 2:51 am (Travels, Wedding)

Situated in the stunning Tasman Bay region at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular national parks, a unique coastal playground of immense beauty. Golden beaches border the translucent turquoise sea, and sandy estuaries fringed by natural forests.

Before I get in to our actual adventure, it is interesting to know that the tides here raise by over 15 feet from low to high tide. It is really amazing — in under 6 hours the beach-front waterline changes drastically. So, ocean-front properties are literally ocean front for half the time, and have about half-mile or so beach in front of them the other half of the time. Tramping and kayaking trips need to be planned around the tides because actual rivers fill up and drain out every couple of hours, so you can end up beached on your boat, or stuck on a trail with a river through it. On our tramps, we had to cross estuaries a couple of times where you walk through the water that at low tide can still be up to your knees, but at high tide they are impassable except by swimming across. So, if you don’t tramp with a guide you might get stuck waiting for the tide to go down for several hours.

For our trip, we had a guided group that included Adam, our local Kiwi guide extraordinaire, a couple in their late 50s from Auckland, and a dad/son duo of about 50 and 14 years of age also fro Auckland. So, you would think that we, being in our 30s, would be kicking some butt — not so much, these Kiwis are pretty badass in their outdoor fitness level!

Our first day of Kayaking took us 10 miles up the coast of Abel Tasman. We paddled through beautiful bays and inlets and even went in a cave. The water in Abel Tasman is unlike any sea water either of us have ever seen. It is clear and so green you can’t believe it. We are told it is because of the large amounts of quartz in the sand. Whatever the reason, it was simply gorgeous. Adam had warned us of ‘The MAD Mile’, which is one full mile of open sea paddling in rough waters just before reaching the final destination of the day, the Lodge in Torrent Bay. After about 3 hours of exhausting kayaking, when we got to The Mad Mile, David and I thought we were about to drop dead. We were both paddling in agony cursing the decision to have an adventurous Honeymoon instead of being on a beach somewhere getting massages and drinking daiquiris!

When we made it to the Wilson’s Family Torrent Bay Lodge, the tides were low, so we got beached and had to drag our kayaks probably 100 yards to the lodge. But, I have to say, the Wilson’s tour group does it up right. The staff has your luggage there waiting for you at the lodge, with a full bar and a delicious homemade dinner. A staff member even had their new puppy there (the full staff sleeps there too, you can’t just drive in and out to this location very easily), she didn’t have a name yet – just ‘Little Dog’. The lodge only runs on a generator, so it isn’t like a fancy hotel or anything, but it was perfect after a long day of grueling paddling. We were asleep before it even got dark out.

For the second day of the trip, we were set to kayak as much as the first day (10 miles) PLUS tramp for 2.5 hours after. I almost didn’t want to do it. We could do the full day tramping option instead, but then we’d miss a lot of seal colonies, and islands and bays that are only reachable by boat. So, after a pep-talk from the hubby, we went for it.

It helped that the second day didn’t have as much open sea kayaking and we got an early start so the water was as smooth as glass in the beginning. Plus, David and I got our paddling groove down, so we were much more efficient in our synchronized paddle strokes. This ended up being the best day. There is little river that is only accessible in high tide, the tide was just starting to fill it up when we got to it, so in we went! It was lovely, and such a drastic change from the coastline waters. The sea salt water fills in on top of the fresh water, and the river goes through a rainforest jungle. What we didn’t realize (well until Adam told us to turn around), is that the river ends up going underground, so we have to paddle back out to the sea. At this point, the tide had come in quite a bit and getting out from the mouth of the river back to sea was not an easy thing to do. We had to super-paddle through rapids of strong sea current that were filling up the river waters. It was actually fun. We’d paddle hard and feel like we weren’t moving and the current would sweep us to the sides, but we finally made it out.

We also kayaked by a bunch of seal colonies. Seal pups are just being born now, so we were fortunate enough to see lots of pups on the rocks. Some seals would swim up very close to our kayaks and dive under us. I think they liked to give us a little show. The would dive down and then swim around on their backs and rub their face and bellies with a fin. They were taking a little bath right there with us. They were so close we could have reached out to touch them.

After the kayaking, we tramped to the next lodge – Meadowbank at Awaroa. This day wasn’t quite as exhausting as the first, although we were pretty beat. Again, we had a great meal and were asleep before dark. One of the owners was there with his dog too. Love that both lodges had a doggie!

The last day was a 3 hour hike to a campground where a ferry picked us up and took us back along the coast that we had kayaked up. It was a wonderful trip, and I have to say that the Wilson’s company really has this all worked out. From the guides, to the lodging, to the staff, and the meals, and the transportation. It is really a great adventure without having to deal much with anything – other than having a great time.

We learned a lot about ourselves through this trip. I learned that I might be a little tougher than I thought. And we learned that together, we make a good team. On this trip, there were many opportunities to lose our cool with each other, but we were sweet and encouraging and really had a great time. I think all Honeymoons should include a ‘team-building’ exercise. It made us a little bit stronger together ๐Ÿ™‚

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Nelson

December 17, 2007 at 2:42 am (Travels, Wedding)

Nelson is a really cute little town on the Northeastern tip of the south island. It is a town of about 40k people and it nestled in between small mountains and the ocean. It is another town that reminded us a little bit of Boulder, with a lot of young and active people, bike paths, outdoor cafes, and a ‘Twilight Artist Market’ showcasing local artwork with live music on the closed-off main street of town in the evening.


We stayed at the California House, which was OK, but nothing that exciting. What is interesting though, is that in their guest book we noticed that a couple that left the day before we showed up were from Boulder. We haven’t been running in to many American at all, so seeing that we just missed another Boulder couple was pretty random. Most of the other tourists we talk to are either from the UK, Australia, or Auckland. It is refreshing to be on a international trip without running into other Americans left and right! Although, we still cannot escape McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks and KFC. They are in every town.

From talking to the Kiwis, we’ve concluded that the whole country, or at least the South Island, is made up of Boulder-type people. They are all so active and outdoorsy. Couples in their 60s talk about backpacking trips and 75 year old grandmas are on the tramping trails.

Some new fun Kiwi words we like:

Tramping = hikes shorter than a full day (hiking to them means backpacking, so when we talk about ‘hiking’ we sound hardcore)

Capsicum = red pepper

Nibbles = evening snacks (best enjoyed at happy hour-ish time with vino)

We ate well and rested up in Nelson, since our next stop was Abel Tasman, for 3 days of kayaking and tramping.

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Blenhiem & Marlborough Wine Country

December 17, 2007 at 2:40 am (Travels, Wedding)

We stayed for two nights at the Old Saint Mary’s Convent, which was a gorgeous property with its own vineyard and gardens. It was really a unique experience staying there, and the accommodations were very luxurious.

This part of the trip was really low-key and relaxing. We did a tasting tour of 4 wineries. The region has a lot of good Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. So, of course we had to drink some vino!


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Kaikoura

December 10, 2007 at 12:41 am (Travels, Wedding)

We drove to Kaikoura from Christchurch. It was a beautiful drive and a fun road trip of about 2.5 hours. Kaikoura is a small town on the water where a branch of the Southern Alps meets the ocean. It is truly magnificent. The first thing we wanted to do when we got to Kaikoura was the cliff-top hike around the peninsula. It was about 3 hours of gorgeous views with some seal, sheep, horse, and albatross sightings.


Kaikoura is also one of the best places on the planet to swim with dolphins in their natural setting. In my last post when I mentioned seeing a ‘giant pod of dolphins’, I was mistaken. We swam with what is really a ‘giant pod of dolphins’ meaning hundreds of dolphins. We had the privilege of finding a pod of beautiful Dusky Dolphins to hang out with. They are the most acrobatic species of dolphin, and they were amazing! They would jump and flip and you can tell they were just having a blast. There is not any known biological reason for why they jump, they just seem to do it for fun. They are also the most promiscuous species of dolphins and mate for fun too. Females have been known to mate with several different partners in a matter of minutes. So when their calves are born, they don’t know who the father is, and the calves are raised solely by the moms, the males are off the hook and have nothing to do with raising the young. We were lucky enough to see a pod that had a bunch of mom/calf pairs. It was really cute. The calves swim right along side of the momma. It was hard to catch a picture of that since the babies don’t really jump, we mostly saw those when we were in the water, not as much watching from the boat.

After the dolphin experience, we hopped in the car to head to wine country – Blenhiem and Marlborough. On the way we stopped to check out the seals that were in the water on the side of the highway.

We’re off to the Old Saint Mary’s Convent in Marlborough. How ironic to stay at an old convent on our honeymoon. We’d have shown those nuns a thing or two about a thing or two ๐Ÿ™‚

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Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise

December 10, 2007 at 12:35 am (Travels, Wedding)

We drove to the Lyttelton Harbour, which is just a 20 minute drive. But it was a very eventful drive since the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and they drive on the wrong side of the road. We got into the groove though, I drove while David navigated and continuously said “LEFT” to me to help me stay on the left side! To me the hardest part is that every time I go to use a blinker, I turn on the windshield wipers, even those are on the wrong side.

On the cruise, we saw a giant pod of Hector’s Dolphins. They are smallest and rarest dolphins in the world. The captain had warned us that sometimes they can’t find them on the cruise since they are the smallest and rarest dolphins and we are looking for them in the biggest ocean. There had to be at least 15-20 of them swimming all around us and giving us a little show. They would jump in 2s and 3s and swim back-and-forth from under the boat to each side. The captain said we must be lucky because usually if they see them at all, they see 2 or 3, not a giant pod. I think that is our luck kicking in again, just like the snow on our wedding day ๐Ÿ™‚ We got some cool video of the Hector’s Dolphins, but for some reason it won’t upload. So, we’ll have to add it later.

Next we are heading to Kaikoura, for hiking and swimming with dolphins!

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