Hawaiian Voyage | Eat, Explore, Enjoy

I recently returned from a trip to Oahu, Hawaii. Glorious. Beaches, mountains, culture, food, vast landscapes rich with beauty … all of this made for a fun, relaxing, and healing vacay. Some life experiences are good for the mind, body, and soul; Hawaii certainly qualified. I’ve put together a list of sites and things to explore from my stay, if you’re planning a future visit or wondering whether or not to add Hawaii to your travel list. Note – this list doesn’t encompass all of my Hawaiian adventures, but definitely highlights some great spots!

1 – City Running Tours
While the internet houses a wealth of information about the location, I prefer to immediately explore on foot, to get the lay of the land and know what’s nearby of interest I can easily walk (or run) to. Thanks to an incredibly motivating friend who also loves to run, I opted for a sunrise running and yoga session via City Running Tours my first morning on the island. What an incredible experience!

Yovo, our tour guide, may be the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met in life. Between his wonderfully warm spirit and energy, to his Go Pro and running selfie stick (mmm-hmm, he got it all on film), I truly felt like he was there to engage and deliver THE Hawaiian experience. And thank goodness for it all, as I was jet lagged and dragging at 6:00am, after being wedged in an airplane for 10 hours the night before. I stayed at Waikiki Beach, but there are running tours throughout Oahu, so be sure to do your research and find what’s best for you.

Here are some photos from the running path …

img_3735
img_4001
img_3998

img_3997

img_4002

img_4015

img_4016

img_3999

img_3996

Yovo took us thru Waikiki and around the infamous Diamond Head, sharing Hawaiian history and culture as we passed by different stopping points. What was supposed to be a 2 miles one way with a “yoga by the beach” intermission and 2 miles back, ended up being more like 7 miles total, thanks to all of Yovo’s enthusiasm and extra details. “Island Time” may be a little different than what you’re used to, so be flexible. [Smile]. Sore, but worth it! This was an excellent way to get my stiff joints moving and start my Hawaiian adventure. If you’re a runner and/or yogi, this is a must do. Replenish yourself with a delicious breakfast at Eggs n’ Things – there’s typically a line around the corner, but you’ll be glad you waited.

2 – Halona Blowhole
On the Southeast side of Oahu, the waters are crystal blue, housing volcanic cliffs you’ll awe over. Halona Blowhole is a short drive from Waikiki and also has a small beach adjacent to the cliffs, should you want to make a beach day out of it as well.

img_3907img_3906
img_3908

As I mentioned earlier, some experiences are good for the mind, body, and soul. This view was breathtaking. I found several sites on the island a place for purposeful self-reflection and appreciation for creation, life, and this beautiful world we call home. I sat on the Halona Blowhole cliffs for quite some time, listening to the waves crash around me,
taking in the wonder of God’s amazing workmanship. Nature is powerful; it heals, inspires, and rejuvenates.

img_3905
img_3909

3 – Byodo-In Temple
Drive a little further north, and you’ll come to the Byodo-In Temple; a replica of an ancient Japanese temple complete with gardens, meditation rooms, koi ponds, and a Buddha statue incense room. You may recognize this temple if you’re a LOST fan like me, as it was the filming place for Jin’s and Sun’s wedding. Fun fact.

The temple grounds are pristinely maintained and will leave you with a serene and peaceful feeling. You’ll pass through a cemetery, prior to arrival, and may see funerals taking place as this is a coveted burial area on the island. There’s a gong you can try your hand at, as well as incense candles you can light, as part of a more personalized experience.

img_3941
img_3943fullsizerender-5fullsizerender-4fullsizerender-3

4 – Turtle Beach 
As part of the drive to the North Shore, there are several must see stops along the way. The best exploration tool of Oahu is the GyPSy Guide Tour App. An affordable and easy download to your smart phone and then you’re off on your adventure! The app syncs with satellites and will give you directions, history, and information about the sites while you’re driving, along with recommended stops throughout your route. Download and go!

Turtle Beach was the first stop towards the North Shore and it … was … gorgeous. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any turtles, but they’ve been known to frequent this beach, so you may get lucky and see one. This beach comes with some great rock climbing areas, in addition to vegging areas. Part of it is also nicely shaded, so my people (Irish and pale) can get a break from the sun rays.

img_4221
img_4224

Feel free to indulge in some sea rock yoga, should you be so inclined.

img_4223

5 – Banzai Pipeline (a.k.a Pipe)
Probably one of the most popular areas of Oahu and certainly a surfer favorite is Pipe. While I was there, the waves were huge and crashed with a vengeance, but in the winter months, they are grander and much more dangerous. Hard to believe. This beach has thick sand that will literally go to your knees in some areas. Walking along it can be quite the workout, especially when you’re trying not to be pulled out by the current – not the best “wading area”. You’ll see several surfers along your visit; many trying to tackle the fierce waves. I could watch them for hours. Sunset Beach, another popular spot, is a couple miles north where you can also view wave riders. If you’re an advanced surfer, I’m sure you’re itching to get in the water and “shaka shaka” your way towards wave heaven.

img_4220img_4231img_4230

6 – Food Truck Mecca (Giovanni’s)
The North Shore is littered with food trucks, but Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is in it for the win. If you’re hungry … even if you’re not … the shrimp here is the most tasty you’ll devour on the island. And their macaroni salad … yes, please! Be sure to pick up one of their ice cold coconuts for some refreshing natural coconut water to wash it all down (happy place).

img_4178img_4185

Drained it dry – all gone! Delicious.

img_4187

Also on location is marketplace selling local produce and handmade items. I picked up some fresh papaya, coconut, and pineapple from this fruit stand for the rest of the ride along the shore. They will cut it and ziplock bag it for you to go. Perfection.

IMG_4215.JPG

7 – Waimanalo Bay & Beach 
This one takes the cake for me as being my favorite place on the island. Secluded and tucked away in the Southeast side of Oahu, Waimanalo offers a luxurious ocean view with the clearest blue waters, towering mountains, cliffs, and distant mini islands as your ocean backdrop. You’ll find coconuts and the biggest driftwood you’ve ever seen along your walk.

I spent a quiet morning here listening to the waves, warming with the sunshine, and swaying with the breeze. To think, God created all of this vast beauty and still took the time to make, form, and invest in li’l ol’ me. Selah. I was incredibly humbled by His love, in the presence of his amazing creation. Such a great thinking space for self reflection. Healing and inspirational.

img_4301img_4302img_4303img_4304img_4306

My Southern roots were in full swing as my giant floppy hat provided all the Southern feels I’m known for, as well as ample face protection from the ravenous sun rays! Side note – always be sure you’re packing lots of sunscreen and frequently applying. Your skin will thank you! Again … happy place.

img_4387

8 – Eats & Treats
The island offers several dining choices. A few I visited worth the stop are outlined below. Keep in mind, the island is very crowded so it’s best to make reservations when possible. Otherwise, you could be waiting quite some time and dining late.

– Hotel Haelkulania – House Without a Key
Great food and an unbelievable oceanfront dining view. The patio is first come, first serve, so it’s best to get there before 5pm. You can enjoy a fresh Mai Tai, which will most certainly knock you off your feet (strong)! In addition, you’ll get some beautiful sunsets here – great experience all around.

img_3691
img_4388img_4389

– Shaved Ice
An island favorite and you can truly get on any corner. I enjoyed a large pineapple strawberry shaved ice combo beachside at Waikiki. A welcomed refreshment after a nice dip in the ocean!

img_3797

– Brunch at Lulu’s Waikiki
Lulu’s is great for walk-ins, though you may have to wait a while for a seat. And beware of Hawaiian time, as you’ll be amongst all the football fans catching their games at 10am local time. The food is yummy; fruit cups come with fresh coconut shavings and ground macadamia nuts. The atmosphere is open, facing the beach, so you’ll get a fantastic ocean breeze. Enjoy!

fullsizerender-1

– Dinner on the Rooftop – SKY Waikiki
If you want to enjoy a view of Waikiki from the sky, SKY is the place to go. It has panoramic views with lounge areas you can enjoy both shade and sunshine. The food is super tasty and more of a tapas menu. Their cocktails are excellent and beautifully crafted with fresh herbs and hibiscus. You’ll want to make a reservation, as this place books fast! The views are top notch!

fullsizerenderimg_4349img_4376

– Acai Bowl – Family Roots Cafe
The bowls from this establishment are the best I’ve ever had in life. The acai is that perfect  frozen consistency, topped with a variety of fruit, granola, seeds, nuts, and coconut shavings. The one pictured below is a mini bowl and very filling, but I honestly could’ve gotten the large and stuffed myself until I busted …. SO GOOD! The cafe is located in a small strip mall near the Honolulu airport with about two tables and hardly any standing room. I inhaled my bowl on a bench outside. There’s a long line for all the to go orders, as this place does some business! Grab one before you head out, or one for every day on the island. Yummy ……

fullsizerender-2
fullsizerender-3

My Hawaiian adventure was such a treat and one I’ll remember for a lifetime. As much as possible, get out of your comfort zone and enjoy all this world has to offer. Explore and take the time to learn about the history and cultures of the area. You will be enriched and fulfilled when you open yourself to new experiences. Even if it’s not across the Pacific to an island, there’s so much to experience and enjoy in your backyard and surrounding areas. Look for those experiences and seize every opportunity. Be adventurous and be blessed!

Travel Prep Two Cents | Top 5

Traveling can be stressful, even when your destination is a luxurious getaway. All the packing, planning, and preparation required can seem overwhelming and darn near impossible to stuff into a (or several) suitcase(s). And Lord knows I do not approach life like a backpacking nomad. How many outfits do I take for day and evening wear? I need (more like want, but still) options. What’s the weather like? Do I plan to exercise while I’m there? My shoe game just went up another level. Wait, this climate calls for how much sunscreen? Gah … my hair!!!

Totally get it. Listen, I need a bag for my vitamins, oils, and skin regimen alone. A strategic approach to destination organization and necessities is in order. Through my reoccurring role of playing planes, trains, and automobiles, I’ve developed my own personal process to help alleviate stress and maximize comfort.

I’m sharing some “Top 5 Travel Do’s” for your next excursion, be it short or long …

#1 – Research | Lay of the Land
While you may not always have control of your travel destination, researching the location ahead of time is important. I understand business travel may dictate dates and flight times. However, when possible, research the area you’re visiting to determine when the best time to enter and exit will be. For example, with my recent travel to Atlanta, I knew HWYs 75, 285, 400 (ok, the Metroplex) would be a gridlocked prison during certain times of the day, so I planned my flight times accordingly to miss the chaos. Stress reliever … check! In addition, weather is a huge planning component, so be sure you know how to designate your wardrobe for your next adventure.

#2 – Packing
The nemesis that is my suitcase can be a tough one to tackle. I’ve found rolling my pants, skirts, and dresses instead of folding really helps with tight spaces. Plus, it actually helps to reduce wrinkles. Lean principles in progress! Tiny travel bottles and zip lock bags are my heroes. You can get quality pill packs, bottles, and sprayers for all your vitamins and toiletries at your local dollar store; fill with your essential skin, hair, and facial products to save room for all the wedging that will shortly ensue. Zip lock bags will help to secure these items in case they decide to spontaneously combust mid-air.

#3 – Look Cute | Stay Comfy 
I’ve had my share of 4am dead rising wake up calls. And while I’d like to do nothing more than teleport my comatose self out of bed and onto the jet, let’s be realistic in our approach. Airports house all kinds of people from all walks of life, and opportunity exists at every serendipitous corner. I once saw Matthew McConaughey from a distance (blast it all) in the AMEX lounge at DFW. True story. So, you just never know who you’ll bump into while you’re out and about. While I’m not saying you need to get all fancy and doll’d up for your flight, put in some effort. Yoga pants are my travel staple, paired with a breathable long sleeve top that can withstand the hot and cold climates of the recycled air that is your jet home. Do your hair and put your fresh face on. Your fellow passengers will also thank you.

IMG_1839

#4 – Hydrate & Stretch 
Wedged in the cubby hole that is your seating arrangement can be hard on the joints and muscles. Be sure you’re consuming a good bit of water the day before your flight and as a pre-flight treat. I sip a large water on flight day and it has always treated me well! If you’re into yoga, some light pre-flight stretching will help prepare your  muscles to combat the lactic acid build up from sitting for long periods of time. This is especially welcomed for long flights.

IMG_1832

#5 – Entertainment Essentials 
Downloading books, games, movies, and a good playlist ahead of time will be a life saver when you’re dealing with boredom in confined spaces. Be sure you plan ahead and stock your tablet and phones with all manners of addictions to keep you entertained when you can’t sleep the flight away.

Please feel free to share all your travel best practices. I’d love to hear from you and learn from you! I’m headed to Hawaii in 2 1/2 weeks, so if I can glean additional tips, I welcome it all!

Adventures in Antique’n | Dallas Design District

The torrential downpours have made Big D city exploration somewhat undesirable the past few days. Between the scoop you up and away wind, sideways (every way, really) rain, minor flash floods, and you know, the thought of ruining my hair and all … well, staying cooped up inside seems so much more relaxing than the former. As much as I love a good Netflix and/or Amazon Prime chill day, there’s no reason for cabin fever when there’s indoor fun around the corner, sure to fill the day. So … what a wonderful opportunity to explore the Dallas Design District! And specifically, all the antique stores and warehouses! My friend Brandon and I headed to brunch and then braved the rain for adventures in antique’n.

IMG_1264
IMG_1267

We had such a grand ol’ time exploring Lots of FurnitureWhite Elephant Antiques, and Lula B’s. Such beautifully crafted, timeless treasures housed in all these stores. It brought so many memories to mind of growing up in the South. I snagged an incredibly beautiful Fenton glass bowl for an unbelievable price at White Elephant Antiques. And during the purchase, we got to cut it up with the owner, Miss Kay. She is every bit of sunshine and sass! The glassware reminded me of my Grams – so beautiful, delicate, and lovely. Now, it sits perfectly on my nightstand (see below).

IMG_1272

It was such a wonderful day walking thru vintage and history. I’ll definitely be back for more perusing soon! Check out some of the amazing pieces, collectibles, accoutrements and more ….

IMG_1262
IMG_1268
IMG_1259
IMG_1263
IMG_1265
IMG_1266
IMG_1260
IMG_1261

In the market for airplane seats? They have those too! Such a collection of history. You can certainly make the trip here on your own, but it’s definitely fun bringing a friend and sharing all the memories with one another this area will evoke. I love hearing from others and sharing my own personal stories of growing up. Of course my favorite ones … Mammaw stories! My great grandmother was such a hoot. Experience and enjoy.

Stampeding thru the Menu at Stampede 66

This weekend, I decided to venture out to the Big D for some culinary explorations. It just so happened to be Dallas Restaurant week, making a visit to Stephen Pyles’ Stampede 66 serendipitous!

Amidst another lovely apocalyptic summer monsoon (what is with this Dallas weather?), my friend and I finally arrived at this establishment and were absolutely overwhelmed with the uniquely eclectic Texas decor. From oversized chairs and booths, to the large tree and planetarium-esque sky dome, to the emerging wired horses bursting thru walls, to the rotating screen showcasing infamous Texas quotes … we were welcomed with a creative genius of an ambiance!

IMG_1277
IMG_1278

And if the atmosphere didn’t impress us enough, their cocktail menu sure did! They have an extensive wine, bourbon (hello, lover), and cocktail menu that will leave you stumped in decision making. But don’t worry, their serving staff and Sommelier have you covered. Treat yourself!

I’ll forever be up for a margarita – order up! But I’ve never experienced a handmade table side margarita, composed of Hornitos Plata Tequila, prickly pear fruit, Patron Citronage, lime, candied jalapeño and frozen with liquid nitrogen. Seriously, I was looking for the Cirque du Soleil performers to rappel from the ceiling at any moment. What an entertaining culinary treat!

IMG_1279
IMG_1210
IMG_1187

Oh, the anticipation! They describe the flavor as a frozen sweet tart with a TX flare and it is that and so much more. This cocktail is one of a kind sweet, tart, tangy, refreshing, and definitely packs a punch. I only had one and I savored every single sip.

For an appetizer, we chose the “Hell’s Eggs”, which ironically are every bit of heaven. Finely whipped with Sriracha and sprinkled with bacon … I could’ve ordered a crate and eaten every last one.

IMG_1276

For my main course, I kept it light with their special – Red Snapper over a bed of field peas and cilantro puree. Topped off with lightly breaded zucchini halves, this dish was an explosion of flavors. Stephen Pyles speaks my language.

IMG_1275.JPG

Also at the table, for what is now being labeled as our “Gluttony Feast”, was their signature chicken tamales and honey fried chicken. Lord knows the chicken came with “oh ma goodness” biscuits and a variety of dipping sauces. Feeling stuffed? Well, we kept eating.

FullSizeRender-9
FullSizeRender-10

This was a culinary experience to remember and quite the Dallas treasure! We’ll most certainly be back for their Sunday supper (live music included). If you’re in the Dallas area, Stampede 66 is a MUST see, experience, and devour place to be! Link to restaurant menu below.

Stampede 66 Restaurant Website & Menus

Brunch Mu(n)ch?

FullSizeRender-4

For those who know me well, you know I love a good brunch spot. Furthermore, I sure can get down on French food and any combination of bubbly! Today I’m featuring one of my favorite places to indulge, Toulouse Cafe and Bar. And as bonus … I got to brunch it up with my dearest friend, Brandon, who just so happened to introduce me to this establishment on my visits from Florida to Texas, when I was just a mere passerby of this great state. So fun!

Nestled in luxurious Highland Park, you’ll find this quaint treasure, which will quickly propel you into pseudo France (yay!). The atmosphere oozes all things Paris and French countryside, with elegant decor to complement its boasting patio. The interior lounge area has an assortment of closely seated booths and tables, keeping with the European vibes of close knit, intimate seating.

FullSizeRender-5

Let’s talk about the food and cocktails. Order it all! Well, I would if I could. Honestly, I’ve never been disappointed with anything on their menu and always leave pleasantly satisfied and not stuffed  … a testament to their perfect portions and savory flavors. This round, I started with a refreshing Rossini; Brandon with their Bloody Mary. Sipping one of these is a challenge for me, as they are so incredibly delicious and it is SO incredibly hot in Dallas right now. Will I have another? Oui, oui. Merci.

IMG_0342

For starters, we indulged in their decadent beignets, complete with warm cappuccino sauce for the drizzling (or smothering … your choice, of course). Light, fluffy, sweet … heaven.

IMG_0343

For my entree, I kept it healthy and clean …. had to be sure I didn’t need to nap with all the future shopping we had to do! The Katy Trail Omelette  is one of their signature, gluten free dishes. Egg whites with Fontina cheese, spinach, mushrooms; paired with a wonderful side chopped blend of fruit … the perfect starter to any day.

IMG_0344

The following is a link to the Brunch Menu: Toulouse Cafe & Bar Brunch Menu. Be sure to check out their Lunch and Dinner Menus as well. A perfect place for day dates and nights out with friends, family, and/or that special someone.

Time for some shopping … and there’s plenty around! Stay tuned for more adventures with Brandon and Me as we both take on Dallas and explore the world. Adventure is in our souls.

IMG_0338-1