Saturday, February 22, 2014

Our fabulous trip to Hawaii...and Phoenix?

So there are a couple ways this could go...

1) You could be all like "get your gorgeous Hawaii pics outta my face, I'm staring at 3 feet of snow"
2) Or you could be like "I'm so happy I saw the sun and some warmth, even it's via my computer because that means that spring/summer MUST be coming soon!" 

So I hope it's the latter and that these pictures bring you joy and don't want to throw an icy snowball at my face! 

Mr. Fo and I took a week long vacation to Hawaii in early February which if you follow me on FB, Twitter or Instagram you are well aware of since I was blowing my feeds up like cray. Turns out we picked a good week to go as Charlotte, NC (our hometown) got close to a foot of snow with a crazy storm that kept us from getting home as planned. But more on that later. 

We spent our entire week on the Big Island of Hawaii in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, specifically the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort. It's about 45 minutes from the town Kailua-Kona. In between resorts and towns the landscape is pretty desolate - we're talking a highway in between lava rock covered fields on either side. 

If I had to describe Hawaii in one word it would be: Beautiful. More specifically, I'd say breathtakingly beautiful, but I only gave myself one word, remember? The water was the bluest of the blue and the beaches are lined with black lava rocks which created a stunning landscape that is quite different from your typical beach. 









 


Hawaii also had the most beautiful sunsets I'd ever seen. When a sky turns pink there's really nothing like it! I have about one million sunset photos but will spare you and only share a few here:












Let's talk animals. Yup, animals. Mr. Fo and I were sitting on our patio the first day we got there when we saw a cat run by. Of course we remarked, that's weird. Then we saw another...and another...and another. Turns out that feral cats are a real problem on the island of Hawaii. I'm not really a cat person but they didn't bother me so over the week we got used to it. But still - it's weird. Here are a couple of cats hanging out by the sundries shop at the hotel. Maybe they needed some milk - HA! 


There were parrots galore. What you can't see here is that I had them perch on my arm and tried to get Mr. Fo to take a picture but then the hotel people got mad. Word of Advice: Parrot claws are sharp and will leave indentions in your skin. 


There were tons of koi fish that were literally as long as my arm. What are they feeding these fish? Maybe they are so big so the cats can't eat them.


Of course I have to show you the dolphins. The resort had a dolphin education program where they let kids and adults swim and play with dolphins. The dolphins were so happy and just played all day, I could have watched them play for hours! I loved these two dolphins because they were always swimming together - Dolphin BFFs.


We saw giant sea turtles and they were amazing! I went snorkeling and was able to swim right up next to one! They are ginormous and as you would expect, incredibly slow moving which is why I was able to swim with them.


Finally I want to show you the creepiest creature I've ever seen. When Mr. Fo and I were observing all the cats we noticed something else running around. It looked like a combination of a squirrel, rat and ferret. It's as gross as it sounds. We got sick of calling it a "Squirrel Rat" so we looked it up and it's actual name is "Small Asian Mongoose." I know that animals are all precious and all Gods creatures but I'm sorry, this thing is creepy and I flinched every time one of them ran by me. Look at his eyes - he's starting directly at you right now.


Okay, let's move on from the mongoose by talking about cocktails. Yay! The Lava Flow is signature to the Hawaiian islands due to it's red lava coloring and I think there's rum in it? Who knows, it's pretty and tasted good.


I was also into margaritas on the rocks on this trip.


I was also into beers, specifically the Wailuea Wheat beer from Kona Brewery.


Speaking of Kona, we went into the town one day to go exploring. Honestly it was really a bunch of touristy shops, bars/restaurants and the Kona Brewery, but it had beautiful scenery and we were able to see where the Ironman Triathalon was held. Plus it was fun to walk around and get off the resort for a few hours.



The Ironman Triathlon Championships are held here and just seeing the place where the athletes start and finish was crazy. As you know I did a mini, mini, mini triathlon that was literally 1/450th of the Ironman, so I can't even imagine what these athletes go through to qualify for this Ironman! The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon (that's a 26.2 mile run). For these athletes to make it to the championships at Kona, that means that they have qualified at races all over the continental US. We met a man in Kona who owned one of the shops and he had completed 11 Ironmans in Kona. Really makes your 30 minutes of exercise a day totally doable! I was inspired. 



After we were inspired we immediately destroyed said inspiration with a beer flight at Kona Brewery. All that talking about other people swimming, biking and running made us tired, so we needed to take a load off.


Mr. Fo and I took a Sunset Cruise one night where we saw a ton of whales breaching about 100 yards away which was amazing! 



We got to watch the sun disappear into the ocean from the boat, which was so cool. 


Miscellaneous Photos: Here are some random photos from the trip.

Mr. Fo and I spent the majority of our time in these cabanas. They were first come first serve, super comfortable and had optional shade. Did I mention there was also a waitress who came around to take your food or drink order? Mr. Fo and I read books, napped and enjoyed the scenery. It was heavenly.


We saw about 6 weddings take place on the resort. They had the cutest little chapel and I can definitely see the appeal of getting married in Hawaii! If anyone wants to get married in Hawaii, call me asap! I stalked this bride and groom to get a picture for you.



I brought my Panthers koozie to represent while we were in Hawaii. Also see the phrase on the beer bottle - "Liquid Aloha." I think that is so clever, it's the motto of Kona Brewery. I could use some Liquid Aloha in my life all the time!


Mr. Fo and I attended this fabulous party where we got light up leis and light up glasses. It was a blast.


Music was provided by awesome DJs called DJs from Mars - we loved their DJ attire!



Here's a picture of me on the lava rocks - a word of advice,  be careful on lava rock -that stuff is sharp and will cut you! I know from experience.



If you do get out the big island, go to the Lava Lava Beach Club which is a wonderful beach bar. The food was great and the scenery was even better. Here was our spot for the day at Lava Lava:



Here are a few more pics of us:





Ohhhh those photos almost made me sad because I wish we were there again! But we have the memories and hopefully we can go back again someday. Now, let's talk about Phoenix. 

Yup, Phoenix. Phoenix was supposed to be a 1 hour layover for us, but due to the snowstorm we had in Charlotte, our flight got cancelled and we had to stay for 2 days. After we got over the initial travel annoyance and the fact that we'd be living out of a suitcase for another 2 days, we made the best of our time. We lucked out and stayed right near the light rail which allowed us to go all over the city without having to grab cabs. Since we were in Phoenix we of course had to have Mexican. After getting suggestions from my Facebook friends (one of the best parts about social media is foodie suggestions), we ended up at Z Tejas in Tempe which was a great choice. Known for their margaritas, I had pulled chicken tacos that were awesome but what was most memorable was the queso dip. O.M.G. that was some serious queso.


Here I am with the queso looking oddly mysterious but really I was like, stop taking my picture so I can drink that queso dip.



When I looked up Phoenix food, one of the surprising things I found was this pizza place called Pizzeria Bianco. I'm a total Pizza Snob. Being from NJ, I think that only northern pizza is good and all other pizza sucks. Chicago pizza is good but it's not real pizza. And don't get me started on Papa Johns, Dominos and other delivery crap. That's only good at 3am if you've had a few beers, you know what I'm sayin? So I was skeptical that I'd find great pizza in a Southwestern city. Wow was I wrong! The owner of this pizzeria is a James Beard award winning chef who ended up slinging pizzas in Phoenix and about 18 years ago opened up this pizza joint that has lines around the door. Thanks to a NY Times article and a plethora of attention from the likes of Rachel Ray and the Travel Channel, Pizzeria Bianco has made a name for itself, and quite deservedly. This pizza was thin and crispy and had homemade mozzarella that was to die for. I feel like I'm now spoiled for all future pizza. This alone was worth getting stuck in Phoenix for 2 extra days!





Here I am in pizza heaven. If you want to learn more about how this amazing pizza joint ended up in Phoenix, you can read the NY Times article HERE


We were in Phoenix on Valentines Day but had done so much eating, drinking and traveling that we didn't really plan to do anything special. We'd just been in Hawaii for a week, so that was special enough! I've never been to the west coast burger chain In and Out Burger, so we hit that up for a $13 Valentines Day dinner. It was absolutely delicious and hit the spot! In and Out Burger uses fresh beef, never frozen and they peel potatoes in each location every day to make their fries. You could definitely taste the freshness. One of my favorite parts was the cool hat, which I specially requested.


Looking at these photos makes me tired and sleepy. It also makes me want to be in a cabana under the sun, drinking a lava flow and eating Pizzeria Bianco. What a great trip we had! I will treasure these photos and our memories forever. I hope we have many, many more like it. 

Have a great weekend and thanks as always for reading! Aloha! 

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