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travel: hawaii via land & cruise

I’m a hawaii regular.
I have been once a year for the last few years and my first visit was technically in utero.

I love and adore hawaii.
but I have never seen it by cruise.
until next week.

I’m so excited to be flying to honolulu and after a night’s stay in waikiki, we’ll be boarding the Norwegian ship; The Pride of America to explore the hawaiian islands for 7 glorious nights.

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after the cruise we’re flying to Maui and spending 5 nights before reluctantly departing. because no matter how long you spend, leaving hawaii is always the worst.

we have a balcony cabin booked on the cruise, frankly because I can’t imagine not having a balcony in hawaii, and I’ll be attending some conference sessions and tourism hosted activities including a trek through a lava tube at the volcano on the big island.

I am very excited to explore new parts of hawaii – this cruise will take me to 2 cities I’ve never visited and 1 new island to cross off my hawaii to-do list.
fun times ahead!

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travel – carnival cruise

ah yes… finally… my long long overdue post about my fabulous cruise in the caribbean.

so, back in May, myself and 7 of my coworkers had the pleasure of being hosted on the Carnival Breeze for a 6 night cruise from Miami and visiting Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

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here she was, as viewed from the Miami port before we embarked.  she’s a big girl and beautiful, shiny and new.

this was my view… deck 2 outside cabin.  we had this fabulous little window well that i used many afternoons to sit in and read my book while enjoying the gorgeous caribbean water… there’s nothing like that colour…

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the ports were fantastic… we rode bikes in key west… i did the stingray city excursion in grand cayman (so cool!) and in cozumel we did a catamaran boat cruise with snorkeling and beers & guacamole.

my main challenge on this cruise was to keep active and to try to restrain myself around the food…
there was a Guy Fieri’s burger joint on the ship and I managed to restrict myself to only 1 burger.  which was a miracle, because that was a damn fine burger.  my boss ate 7.  so basically i was the only one showing restraint.

my main temptation was the blue iguana taco bar… they made the tortillas fresh right infront of you and then you got to load up your tacos as you liked and there was even a hot sauce carousel that included my all time favourite hot sauce; a honey habenero.
i could never decide between the pork or chicken taco, so obviously i ordered one of each… there was also a fish option, but it was breaded and deep fried, so i said no to that.

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*drool* makes me hungry just thinking about it…

i also did well in the breakfast department… i’m not a huge breakfast guy, but i did love that i could have my bagel and smoked salmon whenever i saw fit…

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and then one day, i splurged on the huevos rancheros…
oh man, it was good.  three kinds of salsa… and these little hush puppies on the side… yup.  that was a winner.

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and because the best part of cruise ship life is having no limit to what you order, we also got a breakfast mac & cheese for the table… which was garnished with fried chicken and bacon.  hells to the yes.
there was 3 of us digging in to that and it was still too rich to finish.

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so there’s a little snapshot into how damn easy it is to indulge on a ship.
there were a few nights i definitely went overboard… i ate 3 lobster tails one night.  why not?  they’re free and i was still hungry.  there were nights filled with beer until 3am… (couple of those nights infact)…
but i balanced everything out with 4 trips to the gym (which was REALLY nice BTW) and tons of walking.  while you’re onboard a ship, you’re constantly walking from one end of it to another… and in port, with bike rides and swimming excursions, we kept moving.

and at the end of everything, i’m quite pleased that i didn’t gain a single pound.  so that is a total win to me.

carnival really wowed me with their ship, facilities, service and food.  i’d definitely go on the breeze again!

travel: little havana in miami

well, my first real cruise and trip to Miami was a pretty rad success. I’ll talk more about the cruise in another post, but I wanted to give you a couple pictures of my food tour in Little Havana.
we visited a few different places on a walking food tour that lasted a few hours… ate some delicious eats and got to experience a bit of the history of the place. it was very fun.
I’ve never visited Cuba and didn’t have a massive knowledge about Cuban cuisine, so I was looking forward to learning something new. as I expected, the food wasn’t particularly spicy or heavily seasoned, but it was tasty and you definitely could see the difference from other caribbean cuisines.
the area of Little Havana itself was like another world from South Beach and it felt very Caribbean with people just hanging around on the street corners and in public spaces playing dominos and socializing… and pretty much every man was sporting a Cuban shirt. so of course I had to bring one home for my husband.
anyways… enjoy some pictures from my wanders…

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and lastly… the food.
medianoche – the midnight sandwich. it’s a Cuban pressed sandwich but on a sweeter egg bread made for late night eating.
empanadas – these were stuffed with ground beef & green olives. delicious twist on a classic.
tostones – fried plantain cups filled with chicken sofrito.
pastelitos de guayaba – pastries filled with guava. so fucking yum.
abuelita maria ice cream – homemade ice cream with waffle cone & guava in it.

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travel: cruising the caribbean

all this cold winter air and snow on the ground is putting me into vacation mode… and 2014 is going to be a leaner year for vacation for me, which while a little sad, isn’t the end of the world. I’m sure 2015 will make up for it.
the grand plan for 2014 has two guaranteed trips, and I know this because flights are bought already… I’ll be cruising the eastern caribbean in a few months and heading back to austin in October.

in May I’m off to Miami to board the MSC Divina and spending 7 nights on a work vacation. meaning it’s technically work, with days spent in conference rooms, but still with free time (including in port) and getting to enjoy a balcony cabin with my work roomie.

I’m really excited to see some new places, including Puerto Rico!

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I’ve been to the Bahamas before, but to Nassau, so these are all new stops for me… including the port of Miami.
I watched a doc called Cocaine Cowboys the other day and it was centered in Miami and showed some crazy stuff… but I’ve heard Miami is a pretty rad city, so I’m excited to spend a night there before my cruise.
my flight won’t get me in until late so most of my Miami time will be in the morning, so if anyone’s been and has a breakfast/morning wander suggestion, I’m staying at the Hyatt Regency and would love to hear it.

travel: cruising

so, i’m now a cruiser.  kinda.
i’ve moved from my previous travel agent job into the same job, just with a cruising focus.
it’s been very interesting… i like the new challenge and it’s been really fun learning in depth about cruising after years of talking about airlines and tours and hotels and such.
AND i still get to do all the airfare and tours and hotels and stuff that i used to, i just throw this on the pile.  if that makes sense.

anyways, for a few years now i’ve been pretty stoked on the idea of going on royal caribbean’s oasis of the seas.
my husband and i have watched shows on its construction and inception… and i’ve been to more training sessions on it than i can count.  and frankly, it looks freaking amazing.
so we’re going.

next november, roughly a year from now, we’re going to do this 7 night eastern caribbean itinerary.
and it’s gonna be pretty awesome.

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and the really fun part is that we’ve decided to assemble a posse.
so i’ve booked off a whole mess of group space on this amazing ship, so if you’re in the mood to sail the caribbean seas with some cool people (like me, obviously) then you should join us.
it’s tres affordable (savings of about $200 a person from the regular price – plus a $50 cabin credit!) and deposit to secure your spot is only $50 a person.
so if you’re into it or want more info, flip me an email at work.  and if you don’t have that address, leave a comment and i’ll email you directly with the goods.

in the meantime, i’ll occupy my months with fantasies of the ship and all the fun stuff to do and all the food to eat.  because food is included and i’m planning on doing some damage at a few places.  mainly the hot dog place and the sushi restaurant.

travel: hawaii. again.

its funny to think that i was just in honolulu 11 months ago.
but, i’ll be back shortly.
my next trip is back to good old HNL and i’ll be spending 11 days just chilling out and not doing a whole heck of a lot.

see, i have this thing over the last couple years…its the fervent belief that i should wake up on my birthday somewhere warm and beautiful.

basically this is the evolution of my insistence for the last 10+ years that i not work on my birthday.
i always booked it off and would take the day simply to sleep in, laze around and frankly, do whatever the hell i felt like.
there was often breakfast booze, pedicures and haircuts on the schedule…

but while thats been great and all… a couple years ago i booked myself to hawaii early ahead of a family vacation so that i could have all those things, just in hawaii.
last year i didn’t make it back, my trip was november instead of december, but this year; its on.

because i believe that on your birthday you should be happy.  truly happy.
and hawaii makes me happy in a way nowhere else can.

anyways.
i’ve been thinking about my upcoming trip lately because the husband and i watched an amazing 2 hour documentary on eddie aikau.
wow, what an absolutely moving story.
i’ve seen “eddie would go” stickers and signs around oahu’s north shore, but didn’t know where the saying had come from.  and what a legacy this guy has left, not just for being a surfer, but mostly for being such an exceptional human being.

anyways, i won’t readers digest such an amazing film, but i highly recommend you check it out: Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau

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so, after that doc, hawaii has been on the brain… and i can’t wait to be back.

as usual, we don’t have too much planned.
i’m going to the spa on my birthday… and then out for teppanyaki since my husband has never had it before (! crazy, right?)
i hope to get a meal in at chef morimoto’s restaurant which looks amazing and has been on my list for years…  morimoto waikiki

beyond that, it’s a jam packed schedule of sweet fuck all.
which i am more than ready for.

we’re staying in a condo for the first 7 nights and then my husband and i are moving to one of my favourite hotels, the outrigger waikiki on the beach for 4 nights.
i just find that i spend so much time infront of that hotel on the beach, in the restaurants; particularly duke’s, and so why not just buck up and stay there?
we’re in a partial ocean view room which means in the morning i can sit on the patio with my coffee in my jammies and sip while i gaze out over the gorgeous water and daydream of running away forever to the islands…
those morning moments are amoung my favourite little pieces of hawaii.

this is pretty much how i’m envisioning that view going down…
because i’m “thrifty” i only do the partial ocean view… saves about $50 a night and its not like what you get is bad…

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hawaii… come at me!
i’m ready for you.
countdown clock = 44 days.

travel: shamelessly in love with austin.

on my last vacation i discovered something.
i discovered that austin, texas is perhaps one of the greatest places i’ve ever visited.
and while oodles of people told me “you’ll love austin…”, i was still surprised that not only did i love austin, but i LOVED austin.
in fact, one drunken evening, i called my husband and told him “fuck vegas, all our vacations are to austin from now on!”

this city.
it’s the fucking best.
its pure rock and roll, the nicest people and the best food.
if it was in canada, i’d have moved there already.

so… the original draw to austin wasn’t the city itself, it was this festival.

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and this was incredible.  it was amazingly run, clean, efficient… just surpassed all expectations.
i’ve been to a lot of large scale events and this was hands down the best run.
i can not say enough good things about the management of ACL festival.

their food options were out of control… some of austin’s best restaurants and food trucks representing.  none with a lineup longer than 10 minutes even in the peak of dinner rush.

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the beer hall… and it’s important to note that this is a beer HALL, not a beer GARDEN.
because in the great land of america, you get to be a big kid and you can take your beer wherever you damn well please.
and they sold 20 different craft & local beers throughout the festival.
the main beer hall was over 20,000 square feet, again, with no line longer than 10 minutes even in the heat of the day.

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besides the festival, we did some shopping and eating at south congress… which was very cool and we spent a good couple of hours and some decent money in the little funky shops…

we also did the requisite tourist activity and visited the gorgeous capital building…

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and on our food tour we hit some really cool places and noticed that austin loves its infused booze.
and bar worth its salt was infusing their own liquor and some of the brews were wild.
some spicy, some insane and others complete genius…

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the craziest one we tried was the franklin’s brisket infused bourbon.  it was salty, beefy and smoky.  truly one of the most inspired and unique tastes i’ve encountered.

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but this… this is what i came for.
my beloved silversun pickups played on saturday and fucking owned it.
i had a spot right up front and took a million pictures…
the played three of my all time favourites.
they played 10 songs total, which i can’t complain about…
and they declared it to be their last performance until the new album comes out next year.
it was fucking worth every penny i spent.  i’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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in fact…
i already know i’ll be back next year.
thanks for the super awesome fun times austin!

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