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Maui, Hawaii

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 8:00 AM

At the end of October we visited Maui, Hawaii for a week. Unlike past vacation blog posts in which I broke up the posts by days, I am going to try something different and one blog post broken up by activities, restaurants and recommendations. Each section is in date order.

ACTIVITIES

Iao Valley State Park (http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/maui/index.cfm?park_id=36)

Features the Iao Needle which is a 1,200 foot “needle”. It was an enjoyable park to walk through and only took a couple of hours.



Heleakala Crater Sunrise (http://www.nps.gov/hale/index.htm)

On Tuesday morning, October 22nd we enjoyed the “must see” Heleakala Crater Sunrise which takes place at the of one of Maui’s two volcanoes. A few things to be aware of, (1) You should leave your hotel at 2/2:30 a.m. as this is going to be a long and slow drive up to the 10,000 feet you need to go to reach the top, (2) It is cold up there, so dress very warm as it is around 40 degrees, and (3) If you don’t get there early enough you may find you cannot find a parking spot. We originally tried parking at the parking lot at the very top by the summit, but it was full. This was an extremely small parking lot and it caused a log jam of cars, so even though we got there early, we almost did not get a spot in the second visitor’s center because of getting stuck at that small parking lot. Once at the second visitors center, do not watch the sunrise by the railing, but rather make the hike up the path, which brings you to a beautiful view and you won’t be crowded by those too lazy to leave the railing by the parking lot. This had to be one of the most beautiful sights I have seen and it was definitely worth waking up super early to enjoy it.


Maui Ocean Center Aquarium (http://www.mauioceancenter.com)

On Tuesday, October 22nd and Thursday, October 24th we went to the aquarium. I had a great time visiting so we went back twice. It was really interesting learning about Maui and the aquatic life that inhabited its waters. If you enjoy aquariums it is definitely worth the trip. 



Old Lahaina Luau (http://www.oldlahainaluau.com)

On Tuesday, October 22nd for dinner we went to the Old Lahaina Lua. It runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. While on Maui we decided that we had to go to at least one Luau. This one received a lot of good reviews so we figured we could not go wrong. The Luau is located off the ocean and the ambiance is excellent. However, the performance was difficult to understand. I am not sure if they had issues with their sound system or if it was were our table was, but this seriously took away from the enjoyment of the performance. While it was really cool to see the kalua pig being unearthed from the “Imu” which is an underground oven, the actually food was simply mediocre. Overall I was very disappointed and the only thing that saved the evening was that we got along very well and had fun with the other people seated at our table.






Road to Hana Tour (http://www.polyadhawaiitours.com/maui-tours.html)

On Wednesday, October 23rd we went on the Road to Hana Tour. This is an all day drive around the Hana Volcano which ran from 6:50 a.m. until around 8:00 p.m. Even though the official end time was 7 p.m., make sure you give yourself plenty of time after as you most likely won’t be back at your hotel at 7 p.m. Also, I recommend sitting on the driver’s side of the tour bus as it will provide the best unobstructed views. The roads are very dangerous and narrow and I recommend taking the tour as opposed to trying to do the drive yourself. Also, there are limited bathroom breaks, so make sure you are not guzzling fluids or you may be in for a very uncomfortable ride. There were several wonderful sights that we were brought to on the tour:



Ho'okipa Lookout: This was the first stop on the journey. We were fed a small breakfast of muffins, fruit, and coffee and enjoyed the lookout of Ho’okipa beach which is famous for windsurfing.

Kaumahina State Wayside Park: We stopped here for the beautiful views, interesting trees, and a needed bathroom break. 



Lunch: Okay, this was the worst part of the trip. Lunch was not so great, and is pretty much in the parking lot of some sort of health clinic, of which, we are not allowed inside to use the facilities, but instead are relegated to porta potties outside. And there are tons of insects flying around trying to enjoy your meal just as much as you.

Waianapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach, Cave, and Blow Hole): The black sand beach was very interesting. When you first come down the stairs to the beach, there is a cave immediately to the right. We completely missed it when we went down and ended up hiking a path to nowhere for about twenty minutes only to come back and find it on our return trip. There is also a blow hole off the main area of the park, but it was being uncooperative during our trip. The park itself is beautiful and worth visiting.


O’heo Gulch 7 Sacred Pools with Wailua Falls: This was a beautiful area where there were natural pools you could swim in and beautiful water falls between each pool. Tourists were climbing to the higher pools, but it seemed as if one wrong slip and their vacation may come to a premature end. There are tons of warning signs about the possibility of sudden rushes of water from the top of the volcano that can come without warning and which can result in death.

Charles Lindbergh Grave (Palapala Ho'omau Church): This was not part of the tour, but apparently there was a huge Lindbergh/aviation fan and we just had to go see the grave, which is by a nondescript church. It really was not much to see, as most graveyards aren't, but I did find it interesting that he was buried in Maui. 

Tedeschi Winery (http://www.mauiwine.com): This was our final stop on the tour. It was a nice cap to a very long, but thoroughly enjoyable day. They provide samples of different wines at the winery at no cost. There is also a shop across the street and bathrooms...yes, bathrooms. Aside from the above sights, we also made quite a few stops at different locations to enjoy the views and see the waterfalls.

There are also other sights I would imagine are worth visiting, but of which I did not get a chance to see. Check out: http://roadtohana.com/sights.php.

Paragliding (http://paraglidemaui.com)

On Thursday, October 24th, my girlfriend and I went paragliding for the first time and it was amazing! It was a 3,000 foot descent from Polipoli, which is off the side of the mount Haleakalā volcano. The pilot was strapped to my back for the tandem glide. I ran off the side of the mountain when he told me to and off we went. My pilot was able to find a thermal pocket and keep us afloat for around thirty to forty five minutes, or it seemed like that long. The landing wasn't so great and we ended up tumbling upon making contact with the ground, but even that was fun since neither of us were injured. They did not offer any video packages, or I would be showing you a video below of me, but they do have a video from their website that will give you a perfect idea of what the experience is like.






Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm (http://www.aliikulalavender.com)

The lavender farm was located right next to where we met for the paragliding on Thursday, October 24th. We decided after doing the paragliding to head to the farm because we received free admission from the paragliding company. The place smelled great and it was interesting seeing all the different kinds of lavender plants, though the lavender coffee they sold, totally gross.


Surf Lessons (http://www.goofyfootsurfschool.com)

On Friday, October 25th we spent the morning learning how to surf...or in my case, just trying to stay on the surfboard. I have terrible balance and I was just happy I got up once. My girlfriend on the other hand was much much better at it than I was. It was a two hour group lesson with several other people. I think that if I would do it again I would get a private lesson for just my girlfriend and I, as the other members of the group picked up on surfing a bit faster than me so I think I would have been able to get up successfully on the board a few more times if I had more attention from the instructor.


Wailea Beach

On Saturday, October 26th we finally spent a day at the beach. Amazing huh, that the only time really spent on the beach on a tropical island was our last full day. The sand was super smooth. Nothing to step on, which was a much different experience compared to the beach where we did our surf lesson. The water, view, and beach itself was beautiful. I couldn’t have been happier. I’ve read that this beach in particular has received very good rankings.

Nakalele Blowhole

Before going to the beach on Saturday, October 26th, we went to see the Nakalele Blowhole. Make sure you wear sneakers when going to see it as you have to do a downward hike for approximately fifteen minutes to get there. There is all kinds of warnings in reviews of people getting hurt, but it was really a simple path to navigate as long as you took your time. The rocks in the area are all eaten away from the prior lava flow which is interesting and the blowhole was really cool, though don’t get too close, people have fallen in and not come back.



RESTAURANTS

For this vacation I used a combination of a guide book called, “Maui Revealed The Ultimate Guidebook” and various travel websites to guide us in our culinary journey. I more or less took the top rated restaurants and just dined at each one of them.

Lahaina Grill (http://lahainagrill.com)

On our first night in Maui, Sunday, October 20th, we visited the Lahaina Grill and did a brief walk down Front Street. The restaurant describes itself as new american cuisine and boasts of numerous awards received throughout the years. For an appetizer we ordered the crab cakes and escargot. My girlfriend ordered the double cut braised short ribs and I ordered the oven roasted shelton farms all natural chicken breast. While the restaurant received rave reviews, I found that the food did not excite me one way or another. This would be fine for an average restaurant, but due to the reviews and awards this restaurant had won, it did not meet expectations. We passed on dessert. The service and restaurant ambiance was fine, though the location of the restaurant did not provide any notable views.

Capische? (http://www.capische.com)

On Monday, October 21st, we visited a notable Italian restaurant on the island called Capische?. However, when I say Italian, it was far from the version of Italian food one would find in my home state of New York. The restaurant is located in the upscale area of Wailea at Hotel Wailea. For an appetizer we ordered the pumpkin gnocchi. My girlfriend ordered the roasted shelton farms chicken and I ordered the Ciopinno (lobster, shrimp, fish, clams, saffron orecchiette). For dessert we had their homemade donuts. The service was fine and the ambiance was excellent. While we enjoyed our experience, Capische? also failed to live up to expectations. One interesting item of note was the fact that right by the restaurant that night a small plane made an emergency landing a few blocks away while we were at dinner.

Gerard’s (http://www.gerardsmaui.com)

On Wednesday, October 23rd, we visited a french restaurant called Gerard’s which is located in a bed and breakfast called the Plantation Inn. For an appetizer we ordered the escargot forestiere. My girlfriend ordered the roasted rack of lamb and I ordered Gerard’s confit of duck. For anyone who decides to park in the parking lot for Gerard’s/the Plantation Inn, make sure you get your ticket validated by the wait staff, otherwise there is some sort of private corporation that attempts to give a ticket. I ended up having to drive back to the restaurant to have them waive. It was nice being seated on the front porch for dinner, the service was good, but once again, for the amount of money being paid for these dinners, the experience did not conform to expectations.

Hali'imaile General Store (http://www.bevgannonrestaurants.com/haliimaile)

On Thursday, October 24, we dined at the Hali’imaile General store. The restaurant is located in Makawao, which was a bit of a trip from Lahaina and was removed from any worthy sights. This restaurant proved to be quite the disappointment, despite the good reviews and ratings the travel books and websites gave it. For an appetizer we ordered the kalua pork sliders. My girlfriend ordered the bbq kalua pork stuffed burger. Nothing really on the menu stood out to her if you are wondering why she doubled up on the kalua pork. I ordered the paniolo ribs. Whenever I go to restaurants I typically don’t order ribs. I’ve grown so used to making ribs on the bbq that I find restaurants pale in comparison, but since this was supposed to be such a high quality restaurant, it was a big mistake and I was so disappointed that we didn’t even bother with dessert. This was the one restaurant that I would recommend as totally skipping on the list.

Aloha Mixed Plate (http://www.alohamixedplate.com)

For lunch on Friday, October 25th we went to Aloha Mixed Plate. One word sums up our experience. Disgusting. The food was very unenjoyable, though the abundant amount of flies seem to have enjoyed it. The restaurant is outdoor seating only. It claims to serve “tasty dishes from the varied ethnic groups that call Hawai’i home.” The food was far from tasty, avoid at all cost.

Merriman’s (http://www.merrimanshawaii.com/kapalua/)

On Friday, October 25th we went to Merriman’s for dinner. Merriman’s was by far the best dining experience we had in Maui. This was the first high end restaurant we went to where it felt high end. The ambiance and view were excellent and so was the service and food. If we had time to go back we would have. Each dish was better than the next. We started with the parmesan truffle fries. My girlfriend ordered the pan roasted diver sea scallops. I ordered the Merriman’s mixed plate. For dessert we ordered the chocolate purse. I cannot rave enough about this restaurant. Unlike the previous dining experiences on the island, this one was worth every penny.

Seahouse Restaurant (http://seahousemaui.com)

For breakfast on Friday, October 26th we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the Seahouse restaurant. This is a nice restaurant located at the Napili Kai Beach Resort with a view of the beach as you enjoy your meal. The parking is a bit funky in this place, so be careful looking at the signs wherever you end up parking to make sure you do not get a ticket. My girlfriend ordered the loco moco country style breakfast and I ordered the Ali'i breakfast. Couldn’t have been happier with the meal and definitely recommend it for anyone who has time to sit down for breakfast during their trip.

Mama’s Fish House (http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/)

Based upon our research, Mama’s Fish House is the one restaurant that a visitor must experience when traveling to Maui. I’m still a bit ticked off that they wouldn’t let me bring my red bull into the restaurant, but other than that there was absolutely nothing to complain about. While I still hold Merriman’s in top place for dining experiences in Maui, Mama’s Fish House easily comes in number two. The ambiance is interesting, the service was excellent, and the view of the beach was wonderful. I could not have been more satisfied with the food. Considering that we went to the restaurant on Saturday, October 26th, and that this was to be our last dinner on the island, we were very pleased. We started with the wasabi crusted calamari. My girlfriend ordered the natural pasture-raised beef short ribs, slow-cooked “Pulehu”. I ordered the Tristan Island Lobster Tail, which the restaurant claims comes “from the most remote inhabited island in the world.” I never ate a seventy five dollar lobster tail before so I was expecting it to be big and delicious, and that it was. For dessert we ate the kuau chocolate pie. Make sure you make reservations way in advance for this restaurant.

Star Noodle (http://www.starnoodle.com)

On the morning of our flight we headed over to the 10 a.m. opening of Star Noodle. For the entire week we were on the island we heard numerous people rave about this place. And I mean RAVE. We never heard of it. It wasn’t in any of the travel guides or websites we looked at. We had totally discounted trying it since our whole itinerary was booked until we were at Mama’s Fish House and the table next to us was going on and on about it to the wait staff. So we were one of the first in the door to this little asian restaurant located in a business park in Lahaina. They sped up our order because they knew we were in a rush to catch a flight. We ordered the steamed pork buns, garlic noodles, and the Filipino “Bacon & Eggs”. All the food was simply excellent. Who knew we were missing out. I just wish we didn’t have to literally eat and run. I felt I didn’t really have the time to savor each bite. Anyone visiting the island should definitely stop here for lunch one day, it was worth almost missing our flight over.

Hula Cookies & Ice Cream

We went here during one of our visits to the Aquarium. I enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with vanilla chocolate in the center and I was in heaven! It was so delicious. Definitely go here to satisfy your sweet tooth. It is located in the shopping center immediately next to the Aquarium.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop (http://www.leodas.com)

We visited Leoda’s several times for a quick breakfast and lunch. Their pies were only okay, but the rest of the food was delicious and it became out go to spot when we were hungry for a small meal to hold us over while doing the other activities. It is also off the main road from Lahaina so it was very convenient to go to. Make sure you use a navigation to find it though because it is very easy to pass driving down that main road. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

If you are traveling to Maui I recommend renting a car. If you own a portable GPS or have one in your smartphone, definitely use it as it will be very helpful. Also, pick up the book Maui Revealed, The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty, which was an invaluable source of information.

St. Maarten/Martin: Day 7 & Final Thoughts

Monday, June 17, 2013 8:00 AM

For our last day on the island I wanted to go to a place that was known for its authentic local cuisine. All the guide books recommended a place called Chez Yvette in St. Martin’s French Quarter which serves local creole food. This restaurant was perhaps the hardest to find on the island. I could not find an actual address for it, just that it was in the French Quarter. I don’t think I would we would have found it if we didn’t have a navigation system with our rental car. The place itself was a hole in the wall. In New York, the type of place if you saw you would just keep going. Food was good, I ended up getting a platter of different things to get a better idea what the place was about. I would recommend going just for the experience, but if you miss it on your visit to the island, it isn’t the end of the world. 

From Chez Yvette we headed to the Sunset Bar and Grill which is a bar off Maho Beach right next to the airport on the Dutch side of the island. People enjoy standing directly under the landing path of the jets landing at the airport. The plans are extremely low above the beach and there is a risk that the jets from the planes will blow you into the ocean. Other people would wait for the jets to take off and get completely sand blasted. It was pretty amusing and interesting. 

For dinner we headed to Sol e Luna which was one of the nicest meals and by far the most expensive we’ve had on the island. It was one of the only restaurants we went to that was not right off the water, but rather higher up surrounded by nice greenery. I really enjoy making reservations for the more upscale restaurants when the restaurants first open their doors for the evening. It seems as though we have the entire restaurant to ourselves at least for most of our meal. We had done the same thing in Aruba, though at that time it was more an accidental discovery than intentional. 


The next day, Day 8, we headed back to New York.  The only item to address for the last day is, don't, under any circumstance, eat at the airport.  Disgusting food lol.

Final Thoughts 

I have to say, having a rental car was definitely a major benefit on the trip. We had learned our lesson on taking taxis when we went to Aruba and ended up spending a significant amount of money being driven around the island day after day. A lot of reviews of the island say you have to be a complete idiot if you need a navigation system to make your way around, but unless you’ve been there several times, I highly recommend one. It made life extremely easy and took the guess work out of how long it would take to get somewhere and where to go if we got a little lost. Everyone we encountered spoke fluent English and U.S. currency was accepted everywhere as was credit cards in most places. That concludes this adventure. More posts to follow later in the year during our trip to Maui, Hawaii :-)

St. Maarten/Martin: Days 5 & 6 (Flyboarding + Zip Lining)

Sunday, May 19, 2013 8:00 AM

Day 5

We were to begin the day Flyboarding but woke up to rain that would not let up.  I rescheduled the Flyboarding to Friday morning and decided to head back to Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten to do some shopping.  While there we found a little chocolate shop with delicious chocolates called The Belgian Chocolate Box.


For dinner we went to Le Santal, which proved to be a wonderful French restaurant where we enjoyed our meal on a balcony over the water and enjoying the sunset.  One oddity was that the menu I was given had prices and the menu that Jess was given did not.  I read somewhere that this was typical of many French restaurants, but this is the first one on the island where we had seen this done.



After dinner we headed to Grand Case, which is known for restaurants for some cocktails at a place called The Blue Martini.  Traffic and parking is crazy in Grand Case and the street becomes one way, so if you don't find a spot it takes a long time to get back on the main street.

Day 6

Okay, so what is Flyboarding?  Think Iron Man, just in the water.  Instead of trying to explain further, I'm going to attach a few videos below that gives a great idea, and then get into explaining our experience.



We started by taking a small boat ride out from the beach by our resort into slightly deeper water.  Our instructors were Jonathan and Ken.  Jonathan began with explaining how the equipment worked and then demonstrating.  We would take turns doing it.  The equipment basically consists of two boots on a board which is attached to a long tube, which in turn is attached to a jet ski.  There are then two stabilizers which shoot water out which are attached to your arms.  More experienced flyboarders do not use the stabilizers.

The jet ski controls how much water is pushed through the tube which connects to the boots/board and that is what propels you out of the water.

Simply put, this was super hard, or perhaps we were just that bad at it.  Typically each person is allotted thirty minutes of flyboard time.  These guys spent the entire morning with us until we got it.  We didn't get to enjoy all the cool tricks that the advanced videos above portray, but we did have a blast....though not when falling fifteen feet (or so it felt) into the water when I lost balance.  It is not so easy to remain stabilized up there.






We would have continued with the flyboarding, but we had our heard set to go to Loterie Farm which is a former plantation in St. Martin for Zip Lining.

We decided to do their Extreme Zip Lining package.  It took an hour to get through the course and it was pretty intense at times.  Here are some pictures of our fun.









After Zip Lining (and showers lol) we an Italian restaurant called Spiga.  We were getting a bit bored by eating French every night.  The restaurant is located in Grand Case and we was a nice change of pace from the type of food we'd been eating.  From there we headed to The Piano Bar to catch a Friday night performance and enjoy some drinks.  I tried the local drink, which is Guavaberry.  I liked it, but Jess didn't care for it.

St. Maarten/Martin: Days 3 & 4 (Nude Beach + Fort Louis)

Friday, May 10, 2013 8:00 AM

Day 3

We started off the day by heading to Baie Rouge Beach which all the travel guides listed as romantic, quiet and having pink sand.  We did not notice any pink sand but the beach was fairly quiet, not many people there, however the water was not swimmable.  It appeared there was a steep drop off which caused the waves to crash pretty hard into the beach.  I didn't think it was a good idea to risk drowning half way through our vacation. 
 
From Baie Rouge we headed to Orient Beach which is a nude beach of the island.  Yes, we threw off our bathing suits and joined the rest of those beach goers in only their birthday suits.  The entire beach is divided in two, with one side a nude beach (really clothing optional, no cameras allowed) and the other a regular beach.  While on the clothed side of the beach we stopped by a beach bar called Ethnic to have lunch.  I ordered the New York Cheese Burger which came with an egg, sunny side up, on top of the burger.  I have never once seen a cheese burger with a sunny side egg on a menu in New York.  Makes you wonder what the proprietor of the bar really knows.  For those of you wondering who parades around nude at Orient Beach, it seemed that most of the people on the beach were over 45, though there were some young attractive people as well.
 
For dinner we went to L'Escargot in Philipsburg.  I enjoy escargot so I was pretty happy.  The restaurant is in a 160 year old creole cottage.
 
 
 
Day 4
 
Started off Wednesday at the fitness center.  From there we headed to Fort Louis which is a fort on a large hill that protected Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin back when pirates were sailing about.  The guidebooks say it is a lot of stairs to the top...completely exaggerated.  It wasn't a terrible walk up at all and the views were great.  We also checked out Marigot itself.  Philipsburg was more interesting, though Marigot was visually more pleasing.
 

 
From there we headed back to the resort and spent the afternoon in the pool.
 
 
For dinner we headed to Mario's Bistro located by Sandy Ground Bridge.  It is a very nice, right off the water.  The food is considered contemporary French infused with Asian, Moroccan and South Western accents.

St. Maarten/Martin: Days 1 & 2

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 8:00 AM

For my girlfriend (Jess) and I's first vacation of the year we chose Sint Maarten/Saint Martin as our destination.  It is a small island in the Caribbean that is divided by France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Day 1

We arrived at Sint Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport on Sunday afternoon from New York.  This was the first time I have decided to rent a car in another country and went through Hertz which provided us with a white 2011 Toyota Corolla and a very helpful navigation system.  From there we headed to the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina which we were staying.  The resort is located right off of Simpson Bay, making the beach right outside the resort.  Our room is pretty nice with its own kitchen and living room and a beautiful ocean view.

Once we were checked in, situated and did a short walk around the resort, it was already dinner time.  There is a nice restaurant located at the resort right off the water called The Stone.   The Stone restaurant prepares its meals a bit differently than others.  Right from their website's description, "We start the cooking presses with a good sear, then simmer to the temperature just below what you wanted, for example, if you ordered the fillet mignon cooked medium we will prepare the fillet to medium-rare and the steak will finish to your preferred doneness in front of you on the stone."  More or less your food cooks in front of you on this brick sized grey stone.  It was pretty interesting and the food was excellent.

From there we made our way back to our room and I simply passed out at a very late 7:30 p.m. (I was just really tired).

Day 2

Our Monday began early with a 9 a.m. orientation at the resort where we were told about all the activities available directly from the resort and also different things that visitors can do on the island.  From there we headed to the local super market to stock up our kitchen for the week and then to the resort fitness center to get a workout in.  The fitness center was brand new with a great view of the water.  I don't think I've ever worked out to such a nice view before....though then again there have been some nice views while on the treadmill at other gyms depending on who ends up on the treadmill in the row ahead of me ;-)

St. Maarten is known for its shopping.  Not only is the Dutch side of the island duty free but there is also no local sales tax.  The main shopping center on the Dutch portion is the capital of Philipsburg.  We headed there around 1 p.m. and spent the entire afternoon there walking Front Street which is lined with stores, predominately jewelry stores, the side streets which had a nice street market and also the boardwalk, taking in the view. 

While in Philipsburg we also visited the St. Maarten National Heritage Museum which is a small Museum on Front Street that has exhibits chronicling the history of the island.  From there we found this oddity of a place called That Yoda Guy.  It is, and I'm using this word loosely, a movie museum that showcases the work the proprietor, Nick Maley, has done as a Hollywood make-up/prop guy.  The place was part show room for his artwork and movie memorabilia and part museum showing different props from movies he has worked on such as Star Wars and Superman.  It was $20.00 for the museum portion and oddly enough, it was worth it.  There was some very interesting props and behind the scenes information from the projects he has worked on.  For example, one was the three drafts of the opening of the first Star Wars movie.  It was fascinating just to see how much the opening and as a result the entire story changed from draft to draft.
 
From Philipsburg we headed to the Cupecoy Beach Area to a restaurant called Temptation which has consistently received top reviews from every travel website we've visited prior to traveling.  The food was excellent and I had one of the most bizarre looking desserts I've ever had. It was some sort of banana cream pie made up to resemble a potted plant.  The couple at the table next to us looked dumbfounded as it was being put in front of me, so I told them I was a vegetarian and it was the only thing I could eat on the menu.  It was pretty good...definitely didn't taste like I was eating dirt :-)

Philadelphia: A Weekend Trip

Saturday, March 30, 2013 8:00 AM

My girlfriend and I decided to take a short trip from New York to Philadelphia recently for the weekend to enjoy some of the food we've heard about.

There is a well known rivalry between two Philly Cheese Steak restaurants in Philadelphia that sit directly across the street from each other.  I happened to catch a segment on the Food Network discussing them and I knew that I was going to have to give them a try sometime down the road.


First up was Pat’s King of Steaks located at 1237 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.  It was opened in 1930 by a hotdog vendor named Pat Olivieri who is credited with creating the cheese steak. Directly across the street is Geno’s Steaks, 1219 S. 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA which was opened by Joe Vento in 1966. Each claim to have the best Philly cheese steak, I decided to see which was right.

The experience at ordering at both places was almost exactly the same. They each only take cash, no credit or debit, both have separate windows for ordering the cheese steak and another for ordering fries or drinks and both had ample outdoor seating. The difference came in the cheese steaks themselves. I ordered the same from both places, a cheese steak with cheese wiz and onions. Pat’s King of Steaks won hands down. The Geno’s Steak sandwich was too soggy. I can’t say it wasn’t good, because it was, but the consistency of the Pat’s sandwich was just much more enjoyable.

In Man vs. Food, another sandwich location was featured as having the best sandwich in America at Tommy DiNic’s located at the Reading Terminal Market. This sandwich is the Roast Pork Sandwich with provolone cheese and broccoli rob. I had it with sweet peppers instead of the broccoli rabe and the sandwich was pretty good, just not the Best Sandwich in America. The line for this place was about a thirty minute wait.  There is limited setting at the counter, otherwise you wait on line for your food to go and can eat at a common seating area towards the center of the market. The Reading Terminal Market itself was crazy awesome. It was like a mall food court on steroids, without all the chain food.


Aruba: Day 7 (The Red Light District)

Sunday, August 5, 2012 9:29 AM

We had three plans for our last full day in Aruba: (1) Spend time at the beach, (2) Eat at Pinchos, and (3) Visit the Red Light District. 

Our last visit to the beach was a ton of fun. For some reason a lot of fish kept following me around. Every now and then one would try to eat me like I was coral reef or something, but I was interesting. 

For dinner we went to Pinchos Grill & Bar. The restaurant is located on a pier and gives unobstructed views of the Caribbean. It seems that arriving at 5:30 p.m. for dinner in Aruba gets you the best seats in the house. The dinner was great and we watched pelican’s swoop into the water to catch fish as we ate.


Once dinner was complete we headed to the Red Light District in San Nicolas. Before anyone’s mind starts to wander, every tour guide book recommends visiting Charlie’s Bar, which has been a staple of Aruba since the 1940s which is located right in the heart of the Red Light District. Also, every Thursday night is a Carubbian Festival with music and food and is a huge tourist attraction. 

We arrived at the festival around 8 p.m. and we walked around, listening to music and looking at the different people dressed for the festival. We didn’t try any of the food since we were full from dinner. Charlie’s Bar definitely lived up to the hype. The place was so fascinating to look at. Since the place has been in existence it has accumulated all kinds of items on its ceilings and walls, from license plates, souvenirs, money, photos, hats, shoes, clothing, all kinds of things. While in the bar we had Aruba’s Beer called a Balashi. It was pretty good on tap, but out of a bottle, not so much. 

After Charlie’s Bar we basically went bar hopping around the red light district. The festival itself ended right after Charlie’s Bar and then there were several more blocks which made up the red light district and almost none of the tourists were wandering down this way. It was a very fascinating experience. One of the bartenders in a random bar told us how it works. Each bar in the red light district houses 3-4 girls who have bedrooms somewhere attached to the bar. They all come from Columbia and are only allowed to stay for three months and then cannot return for a year. They get tested before they are allowed to come and every week they are in Aruba. We saw girls in the bars and also in the doorways to the some of the bars. Some of the girls were pretty attractive, other ones should probably seek a different line of work, lol, but all looked pretty much in their twenties and thirties. We watched in some of the bars how the guys would talk to the girls and it seemed like they had to buy them a drink, then they would pay the bartender some amount of money and disappear with the girl. The entire thing was extremely interesting…though many of the bars didn’t have many people in them except the girls and the guys looking for their services, so we sort of stuck out. We stayed until around 11 p.m. when the festival was pretty much wrapped up. It was the only place on the Island where we couldn’t get a taxi and ended up taking the bus back to La Cabana.