Tuesday, February 26, 2008

South Pacific, Surgery & The Flu

Excuse me if I am one unrelated thought after another. I am still a little hung-over from travel with children (I know. poooooor me).

Our vacation in Kauai did not start auspiciously. For starters, we left a few days later than planned, since Gimp-a-licious had surgery. It seemed less than compassionate to leap aboard a plane the day after he'd been sliced up, leaving him hopping around the house alone, a bottle of percocet clutched tightly to his chest. Oh, and a teenaged neighbor boy coming by once a day to run errands (like picking up take-out) and do a couple of odd chores. So, a few days later than planned, off the kids and I went, leaving Gimp-a-licious with risotto, bottled water, clean laundry and percocet. I felt pretty guilty (still do, a bit). However, the hopper was quite adamant that we not cancel.
We arrived to incredible, dazzling weather, took it all gladly in, went for a swim and then... the kids came down with the flu. Both. At once. By the end of the week we referred to it as the Hurling Championships. Events in the championship went along these lines: synchronized barfing, most puking in an hour, fastest turnaround from clear liquid in to clear liquid, uh, up. And so on. There was, as you might have surmised, far more barfing than anyone really wants to be around (or hear about. sorry). While they had it, songs from South Pacific started to go through my head, with modified titles and lyrics, like “I’m Gonna Wash That Barf Right Outta My Hair,” "Some Enchanted Virus" and “There Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Flu.” I know, not that funny, but I was a little punchy from exhaustion, and I smelled like puke instead of sun lotion and salt water. I'll spare you the modified lyrics.

However, after we lurched (and puked) our way over that speed bump, a good time was had by all. Shave ice was rated. The kids felt that Jo-Jo’s Clubhouse in Waimea was the best on the island (to disclose fully, usually the last one they had is The! Best!). Breakfast was gone out to (the kids adore the Hanalei Wake-Up CafĂ©, a diner in Hanalei), the Kilauea bakery was frequented (I acquainted myself with their nut-free offerings and mooned over but didn't eat the macadamia nut sticky buns), the farmer’s market in Hanalei was attended (if you’re going to the one on Saturday and hoping for decent produce, show up on time), but the food played second fiddle to the island itself. We went to the Kilauea Lighthouse a few times, mostly to spot whales from the point, and since humpbacks come down to the Hawaiian waters to mate and calve, there were loads and loads of whales. We took a day trip down to the south end. We went swimming almost every day. My parents shamelessly spoiled us. Sunshine cannot usually be guaranteed on north Kauai in winter, but this time we had impossible, glorious amounts of it.

And now we're back, and, well, I might still rather be there, but it's good to be home, and see that Gimp-a-licious is down to just ibuprofen, and getting much better at hopping.

These are the details of our Kauai, all of which can easily (and more accurately) be found in a guidebook. The above picture is of Hanalei.

·The Hanalei Farmer's Market is Saturday mornings, just west of the main part of town (almost across from the post office). It starts at 10am, and seriously, be there on time or you'll get the dregs of the produce. Tomatoes, salad greens and papayas are all worth grabbing at the farmer's market. It is not a bad idea to go straight to the stand with the most locals having themselves a salad greens frenzy, and grab some up before it's gone. Local goat cheese is sold there (but the grocery in Kilauea also sells the same farm's cheese). There is also an organic macadamia nut stand there, but, uh, despite the guy running it being super-friendly and offering samples, we didn't buy or sample. The fruit stand near Wishing Well Shave Ice also has reliably good papayas, but they sometimes run out.

·The Hanalei Wake-up Cafe is a run-down but pleasant diner in Hanalei, serving a short breakfast menu. It's prices seem eye-popping until you go to the grocery store and realize that milk is almost precisely twice as expensive as it is on the mainland. They do not serve espresso, but will not fuss if you bring a drink in from Java Kai (across the street). Come late (after 8:30am) and expect at least a short wait. They close by 11am, I think.

·The fish market in Hanalei (right as you come into town, at the back of the Hanalei Dolphin parking lot) sells very fresh fish, as well as an assortment of sushi rolls and poke. We buy our fish there, and have always been very happy with it. There is now also a fish market in Kilauea; it's probably good as well, but we haven't gotten around to trying it.

·There are two shave ice options in Hanalei, Wishing Well and Shave Ice Paradise (or Paradise Shave Ice. Curly says one, I say the other, and we mix one another up). Both are good choices, although Wishing Well is conveniently next to a good fruit stand... but Paradise keeps less erratic hours. Always, always (unless you're lactose intolerant) get ice cream on the bottom. And I hate to say it, but macadamia nut ice cream is often a very good option. If you make the trek to Jo Jo's in Waimea, give serious thought to having one of their combo suggestions.

·The Kilauea Bakery is very enjoyable. Not everything they have is perfect (too much glaze on the danishes, I think, and I'm not wild about some of their desserts), but it's all fresh, and their bagels are nicely chewy and dense. The macadamia nut sticky buns, which I no longer eat due to over-active maternal anxiety (really, the whole ER thing is still sufficiently vivid in my imagination; I don't need a surprise refresher visit), are excellent. I have never, ever had a better sticky bun. They do pizza in the evenings, as well, which we had a couple of times.

·The Kilauea grocery, near the bakery, is well-stocked for such a tiny shop. They sell decent olives and pasta, a small but good selection of cheeses (including the local Kilauea goat cheese), a rather good wine selection that seems not to be as crazily marked up as other places. Much of their stock is organic. It's not, however, the place for napkins or sunscreen or other supermarket items. They are, I think, more thoughtfully stocked than the organic grocery in Hanalei, which sells a great deal more by way of packaged and prepared foods.

·You may well want to eat chicken at least once on your first visit to Kauai. Not because it's better than in other places, but because you will, now and then, be struck with a flash of malice towards the many roosters who clearly never learned the barnyard rules of crowing at daylight and then shutting up for the other 23+ hours of the day. I find that they don't keep me awake, and in fact I've come to simply see them as part of island life, but they do go on, and on, and on. And they are everywhere.
·My parents rented a house across the street from Anini Beach, which they have done numerous times. We cross the street, head down the public access path and enjoy the beach, rain or shine. If the weather's bad, the kids build stuff with coral and rocks, we walk along the beach, and they climb the false kamani trees that fringe the shore or peer in the crab holes to see if anyone's home. Anini is well protected by a long, fringing reef, so the water in the lagoon is as calm as it gets on the north shore. The tranquility at Anini- the beauty of the golden sand (mind your step though, as it is well and full of coral), the dappled, swaying shade of the access paths, the calm turqoise waters, the crash of the waves on the reef... it's tough to beat. But, um, don't go there. Because you'll hate it. Really.

Just in case you think you might not hate it:

Anini Aloha rentals (I can't recommend them one way or another, but haven't heard complaints from the people we've met who use them).

Serenity Rentals (who we've used and been very happy with)

The two above agencies seem to represent the bulk of rentals along Anini. It's good to ask very specific questions about things like entirely closed off bedroom or sleeping loft? Because they are not the same thing. The prices seem eye-popping (and, well, are), but when one checks the per-bedroom price compared to hotels (and not just the pricey ones), houses suddenly become quite competitive. However, some people find that they like hotels, not rental houses. The discovery that the dishes still need to be done in the dreamy house near the beach, and that the wet beach towels need to be pegged on the line is not a pleasant one for many people.


cook eat FRET said...

loved that. especially the 'south pacific' song references. priceless.

you are one damn funny, smart, fashion loving, food appreciating human...

i do appreciate alla that!

Meg said...

Thanks, Claudia. I don't know where the "South Pacific" homage in me came from; I think I saw it when I was 10. I still can't get over that you got your OWN menu at per se, on top of what sounds like a crazy fabulous time in NY. How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

Great post and photos :)

Meg said...

Thanks, Maryann. I am already longing to go back. I read about your festa italiana; it sounds fun.

SteamyKitchen said...

Love the photo of the trees parting to peek at the ocean!

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

oh ack, surgery and puking are not excellent for vacations. But it looks truly sublime outside of that. I have always wanted to go.........

Meg said...

Thanks, Jaden. It's the path to the beach and I'm a little obsessed with it (visually, anway). I think I took more pictures of it than any other single thing.

Maryam- true, the surgery and puking gave us a rough start. But Kaui is, indeed, sublime. I love it more each time we've gone, even when the weather has been considerably less perfect.

chris said...

You know I want to be you when I grow up right?

You are fabulous.

Meg said...

You're going to make me blush, Chris, which given my naturally green skin (olive is the tactful term), is no meaan feat. I am totally going to repeat to Gimp-a-licious that I am fabulous, though.