England 2014

My trip to England was plenty awesome this year, so much  that I may take a trip there annually.  Ok, maybe just every other year? The weather (one must always talk about the weather) was in the comfortably low 70s and sunny almost everyday. Did you know that according to one of the Virgin Atlantic pilot, clear skies with scatter clouds = overcast? I didn’t either until I stepped out of the plane at Heathrow and looked out the window. Seriously, WTF? Luckily that was the only day with gloomy weather.

Prior to our fabulous extended weekend trip to Pickwell Manor, Sara and I spent a evening in London. We were taking the train from Paddington station the following morning, so we decided to stay at the Park Grand Lancaster Gate a few blocks down the street. We were greeted by…well… a lot of people. Someone was there to help with the suitcases, someone handed us warm towels, then out pops a tray with glasses of apple juice, there was the gal that checked us in and then another gal gave me a very good map of London. Now that deserved some kind of service excellence award. I have to admit I was sold when they handed me the apple juice, not cider, juice.

Look how pretty this hotel is. It’s also within walking distance to Notting Hill.

1 - Park Grand Lancaster Gate

Oh and just look at all the cute houses around the hotel. I wonder if they have elevators.

1 - Park Grand Neighborhood

Now as for the room, it was small. So very very small. It was nice and clean, but we didn’t have much room to walk around. I’ll stay here again though. I mean I really liked the apple juice.

Hotel Room

After dropping off our stuff, we ventured out toward Notting Hill. On the way, we decided to stop at The Black Lion for our first dinner of bangers and mash. There will be no photographic evidence that I ever had bangers and mash here because we sat outside, it was dark, and the picture I took is too ugly to post. The bartender messed up our order so we had to have a second dinner at Halepi on our way back to the hotel. I do have evidence of the lamb kebab I had there though. See below.

2 - Lamb

Do you know what I love about London, there seem to be flowers everywhere. We don’t have enough flowers in LA.

3 - Leinster Arms

Now let’s fast forward a few days to when I got back from Pickwell. My original plan for the rest of the week was just going to be me, myself and I exploring the wonders of England, with London as my home base. So of course I had to book myself into a nice (but still affordable) hotel in an affluent part of the city. Plus I had to make sure I was in a safe neighborhood. I had no intention of being mugged in a foreign land. Just think about how upset my parents would be. Who will troubleshoot their iPhone/iPad issues? Who will they cook for on Monday evenings? Anyhoo, after many clicks on Hotels.com and Trip Advisor, I settled on The Kensington Hotel. My room was perfect and I had space to walk around. They didn’t give me any apple juice, but they did give me chocolate truffles and a print out of the weather report every day. Oh and the mirror above the sink in the bathroom is fog resistant.

Mine. All mine.

4 - The Kensington Hotel

A friend I met at Pearl and Tom’s wedding was kind enough to accompany me to Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle. The train ride to Newbury was only about an hour from Paddington station. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a ticket for the Castle (it’s actually a house) because the website said that they only have a limited amount of walk up tickets. We didn’t have any problems. If you ever decide to visit, be prepared to be move through the Castle at glacial speed. GLACIAL. The place is filled with non-English people ooh-ing and ah-ing at every room that was featured in the show. It is still pretty cool to be able to say that I went to Downton though. Ooh we were also told at the Earl and Countess actually lives on the property.

Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle (house/manor)

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Somewhere under a tree outside of the house.

6 - Through the leaves

Looks like a path to a secret garden or something. Actually it was just grass at the end, lots and lots of grass. England obviously doesn’t have a drought problem.

7 - Secret Estate

Looking at the top of the house while crouch down in fields full of dried something….

8 - House from afar

It’s the end of summer. The garden was…lacking.

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The following day I booked myself on a tour to Stratford-upon-Avon, Cotswold, Bath and Stonehenge. It was a long day and I picked up a lot of random trivia. Did you know that in London  you can cross the street anywhere anytime within reason? I have witnessed the driving in London and I think I’ll be ok crossing at a cross walk when the light is green. Did you know that  the best wool in Europe comes from England, and the best wool in England comes from Costwold? I care about that just a little.  There are a lot of sheep everywhere. William Shakespeare came up with the words “bloody” and “assassinate”. I haven’t researched that and probably never will.

After two hours of the driving, the bus made its first stop at Stratford-upon-Avon, the birth place of William Shakespeare, where we were served scones and champagne (or orange juice). They didn’t give me a knife so that I could evenly spread the cream on top. *sigh*

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Shakespeare was born in this house. No comment.

11 - Shakespeare's House

My people are everywhere. Seriously, EVERYWHERE.

12 - Chinese Restaurant

Leaving Stratford-upon-Avon.

13 - Stratford

After Stratford, we spent another two hours driving through Cotswold. I love the pub names in England. The Snooty Fox.

14 - Snooty Fox

I quite like the city of Bath and wouldn’t have mind spending another few hours here, but I was on a tour, so I only got about 1 1/2 hours of sightseeing time. My first,basically only, stop was the Roman Baths.

16 - Roman Baths

They actually let you touch that water. It looks green. I think it is questionable.

17 - More Bath

18 - More Bath

19 - More Bath

After my visit to the Roman Baths, I roamed around the city square for a bit. I people watched, snapped random pictures and listened to a guy play the piano.

15 - Real People

20 - Dude on bike

Per our tour guide’s recommendation, I got ice cream at Marshfield’s. Caramel clotted cream ice cream. Can it get anymore fattening? Probably.

21 - Marshfield

Leaving Bath. 22 - Bath River

The last stop on the tour was Stonehenge. Those are some very impressive pile of rocks. At least I think they would’ve been a impressive if I could get a little closer. Look at my one selfie below. I was that far away guys. The rocks actually looks average from that distance.

22 - My one selfie

Zooming in.

23 - Stonehenge

I slept in the following day. I didn’t make it out of the hotel until a little before noon. My first stop was the Victoria & Albert Museum, which was a just a few blocks from my hotel. It was huge and there was so much to see. It’s no wonder their cafe is so well stocked. I can spend hours here roaming around, grab a bite, and roam around some more. My favorite were the Horst and Wedding Dress exhibitions though. Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed in the exhibits. I wished I had rebelled and snapped some pictures anyways. I did take pictures of other stuff though.

Check out that ceiling. Ooh that guy in the sweatshirt looks cute. He’s tall too.

24 - A & V

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Is that a Chihuly? Looks like it.

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After the V & A, I made my way to Covent Garden to check out the London Transport Museum.

26 - London Transport Museum

27 - LTM

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Guess what else can be found in Covent Garden? A Shake Shack and Laduree. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to either. I did get a chance to check out the Moomin store though. So cute.

29 - Moomin

So that pretty much concludes my trip to England this year. I feel like I did so much and not enough at the same time. *sigh* Is it weird that I already missed the friends that I made there? I hope they plan their LA trips soon.

This was my last meal in England. Burger from Rhubarb in Terminal 2 at Heathrow. Terminal 2 needs an LV store.

30 - Last meal

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Pearl & Tom’s Wedding

     Once in a blue moon, you get invited to a wedding at a beautiful manor house that dates back to the 10th century. Last weekend, I went to one of those at Pickwell Manor for Pearl and Tom. Although there wasn’t a blue moon, just a normal full one, I’m pretty sure this will be the one and only time I get to attend a wedding at a venue with so much history. After all, I do live in California. The oldest building in the state is probably what…300 years old?

The fun started with a 3 hour train ride from Paddington station to Barnstaple. Ok so that part wasn’t fun, but it didn’t suck either thanks to my travel buddy Sara. All train stations should look like Paddington, food everywhere!

We arrived just in time for Pearl’s bridal shower.

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A bottle that holds one of many pearls of wisdom.

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Sara and I stayed in Constance. It was bigger than my apartment and it had a patio. This is the living room.

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After we settled into our apartment, we walked to The Rock for dinner. I was too hungry and forgot to take pictures of the food.

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The weather was perfect on the day of the wedding. I swear I commented on the great weather every single day while I was in England.

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The future Burberry models of England greeted everyone before the ceremony.

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Some beautiful ladies put these floral decorations together.

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Mr. Sun and Pearl. The bride designed her own dress. Our Pearl is very talented.

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We didn’t throw rice, we threw flower petals.

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Is that the standard English post wedding ceremony pose? I’m having mixed feelings about it.

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I didn’t get any pictures of the food that were served during cocktail hour either. *sigh* I did snap some photos of the bride with Sara and Sophie though.

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Ooh that bouquet was pretty. Oh and yes, lychee martinis were served.

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The reception was ten courses. TEN COURSES. Those ten didn’t even include the appetizers, and there were sliders and fries served during cocktail hour. I think I gained a very happy ten pounds that evening. I need to go to more Chinese/English weddings.

Smoked & poached salmon and chicken & avocado bruschetta.

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Brie, tomato & pepper compote and prosciutto, rocket & parmesan bruschetta.

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Langoustines with garlic butter & herbs. I think this was my first langoustine experience.

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Black bream with lemon & ginger salad.

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Duck with savoy cabbage, bacon, carrots & dauphinoise potatoes. My favorite.

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Sirloin, chips & bearnaise.

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Meringue, strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream. I went upstairs for a minute and almost missed this.

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I found the one jar of flowers that I put together. Not too shabby eh?

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Pearl and Tom’s first dance.

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Seriously? I can really cook with this? I should’ve grabbed two.

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Post wedding festivities included a day at Putsborough beach. A few of us decided it was a good idea to walk through a field full of sheep (and sheep poo) to get there. I had the proper beach footwear on for the beach, but not for dodging poo. Sorry no pictures. I was a little preoccupied.

I had my first breakfast bap at the beach. Note to self – share with a friend next time.

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It’s so much prettier than California beaches, and a lot cleaner.

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Later on in the evening, we barbecued and had a bonfire. Pearl introduced the English to the s’mores experience. Apparently there are no graham crackers in England. Sadly, their marshmallows just doesn’t roast the same way the American ones do either. No pictures.

Post wedding festivities also included some more food, crazy golf aka miniature golf and cream team. Okay seriously now…can that chunk of cheese be any bigger? How do you expect one person to eat that whole chunk of cheese?

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Thank you Pearl and Tom for introducing us to the cream tea experience. Butter + jam + clotted cream = a very happy Rennie. I should be eating this everyday.

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Finally got a good shot of the sheeps. No poo was stepped on while taking this picture.

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The gorgeous English countryside.

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It’s important to order bangers and mash everywhere you go.

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Congratulations Pearl and Tom! You two are awesome. Thank you for including me on your special day. I enjoyed my stay at Pickwell, met a lot of really great people and ate lots of delicious food.

Virginia 2014

A friend recently reminded me that I once said I was never ever going to visit Virginia again. I vaguely remember saying such a thing. Actually I’m pretty sure I did since the last time I was there it was hot and extremely humid. Gosh, even thinking about that combo agitates me. Well… I had to travel to nowheresville upstate New York for training, so I decided to take a side trip afterwards to visit one of my favorite people, Evey, in Virginia. She fed me gluten free bread, fruit smoothies, drove around all weekend and help me make some cute cards. Her craft room was amazing and she had so many tools (gadgets?). It was like a mini Michael’s, but with more natural light.

I like it when people feed me. I like it even more when I don’t have to do the dishes afterwards.

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We had lunch at The Black Sheep in Richmond. I ordered the CSS Virginia, which was fried chicken liver, cabbage, granny smith apples and remoulade sauce in a French baguette. I quite enjoyed the sandwich. The water? Not so much. I would tell you why, but that would be gross.

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Geese. I remember encountering them last time I was in Virginia too.

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We did a tour of the Maymont Mansion. I love the pink room.

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This is a swim suit. Women used to wear this at the beach. That’s a lot of fabric. No need for sunblock.

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Sallie Dooley loved swans, so she put together a swan room.

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That’s a Louis. A very old Louis. I like Louis too.

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She is so silly sometimes.

Maymont Evey

We had dinner at Four Sisters in Merrifield and she introduced me to this dish. It was fried and had mung beans in it. I have no idea what it’s called, but I liked it.

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I had fried oysters and Hank’s Oyster Bar in Alexandria. I like fried oysters a lot.

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I wanted to buy a lot of sweets at Society Fair, but I didn’t. I exercised a lot of self restraint.

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We enjoyed some frozen custard at the Dairy Godmother. I had the Mint Oreo.

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It was a nice getaway weekend. I’m missing my Evey and this little guy too. Hi Domo!

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Mar’sel

Tina took me out for a belated birthday dinner this weekend at Mar’sel at Terranea. She really is like the older sister I never had, always directing me to many a delicious meals. I missed those days when she would pack me lunch. No more beef noodle soup or Asian sandwiches anymore at work. Anyhoo…

We chose to sit outside for dinner, hoping the clouds would clear and we would be able to see the sunset. No such luck.

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I don’t drink much, so when our server asked us about bubblies and such, I politely declined. Then she offered us mocktails. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone actually offer to make me a mocktail. I liked her.

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Mar’sel, they do good bread. Really good bread. I like a good bread.

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Santa Barbara spot prawns? Umm…if you say so. I don’t like having to peel the shells myself at a nice restaurant.

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Dungeness crab toast. BRIOCHE!

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Bone marrow may not be for everyone, but I love it.

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Roasted duck confit. CONFIT!

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Hangar steak :)

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We were going to skip dessert, but our server brought us salted caramel pudding and cookies. How could we say no?

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Thank you Tina for a wonderful birthday dinner!

Mar’sel

100 Terranea Way

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

Chasing Daisy

My love for the so-called “chick lit” books by English authors is not a recent thing. I have fond memories of when I discovered Sophie Kinsella and Hester Browne. Although I occasionally cry my eye balls out, thank god my flatmate (notice I didn’t say roommate) is usually never around to witness this debacle, I finish almost every book feeling happy and giddy for the happily ever after endings. Recently, I developed an addiction to the works of Paige Toon. I’m not sure if it was the cute pink cover or the fact that the book kept popping up my Goodreads and Amazon recommendation lists, but I finally decided to read “Chasing Daisy” by Paige Toon. A week later, I have read all 8 of her books and both of the short e-books. Now I have to patiently wait for the next book that comes out in late May, that’s more than two months away. *sigh* This may sound a bit weird, but I really want to start using “cuppa” when offering someone tea and “cow” when insulting a particularly b**chy person. I want to try Penguin bars and I also want to let the world know that I am about to toss my trainers in the rubbish, but I don’t think anyone in America will know what I am talking about.

Chasing Daisy

 

 

Sushi Sasabune

My favorite meal in Oahu was dinner at Sushi Sasbune. Casual atmosphere, friendly service and some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. Thank you for taking notes Betty.

Canadian albacore tuna and Japanese blue fin tuna.

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California squid stuffed with Louisiana blue crab.

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Fatty toro and medium toro. I prefer the fatty toro.

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Japanese red snapper and North Carolina halibut.

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Japanese skip jack tuna

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Yellowtail

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Salmon with seaweed

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Hokkaido scallop with green chili

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Oysters three way

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Japanese snow crab

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New Zealand abalone

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Finely chopped toro. Melts in your mouth.

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Alaskan King crab, sashimi grade.

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Uni aka sea urchin

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Sushi Sasabune

1417 S. King St.

Honolulu, HI 96814

(808) 947 -3800

Oahu 2014

Wind + rain = no skydiving. Damn you Oahu and your crappy weather. I understand this is your Winter, but couldn’t you have given us one good morning with sunshine that wasn’t on the day we were leaving? What does a girl have to do to jump out of a plane? Geez. *sigh* I suppose this means Betty and I will  have to plan another trip to Hawaii. Bad weather aside, we still had a lot of fun exploring and eating. See pictures below.

We arrived on Sunday and checked into the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki. The hotel was beautiful, historic, almost like something out of a movie. Although it was consider low season for tourism in Oahu, the place was still bustling with people. I wish housekeeping weren’t so stingy with the hair conditioners and so overly generous with the body wash.

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Our first stop after check-in was Iyasume Musubi. Ever had a spam musubi? No? Why? Because you think spam is gross. Well I think you’re pretty gross. You’re missing out. It’s delicious.

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I ordered mine with egg, bacon and cheese.

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After our musubi stop, we ventured over to the Ala Moana Center, explored Kalakaua Ave a bit, stopped by King’s Village and finally decided to have dinner at HI Steak. The chimichurri was great, but the steak was a bit over done for our taste.

We bumped in Doraemon at King’s Village. Insane right? I know.

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Next time I want to order the chimchichurri with just a side of rice, but I don’t think that’s an option.

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On our way to our first and only hike the next morning, we stopped at Diamond Head Market & Grill for some breakfast. We ordered the loco moco and the salmon and egg on fried rice. Of course we added the sriracha sauce. It’s never too early for sriracha.

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The Diamond Head hike was easier than we had expected. I would’ve taken a picture from the top, but I was distracted by all the mosquitoes that were congregating up there. Oh and we climbed a lot of stairs.

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Whale watching was one of the highlights on our trip. This is the view of the island from the boat. I was surprise that the whales were so close to shore.

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We saw like 10 different whales on this boat trip because it was Betty’s birthday. It was confirmed in the video below even though it only features one whale that you can barely see.

We stopped by Shirokiya for a late lunch.

Squid okonomiyaki(?) and takoyaki from Takoyaki Yama-Chan. You don’t like squid? Well I don’t like you much either. I am judging you right now.

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We also ordered a pork katsu from Kimukatsu. What’s so special about this particular katsu? Well the katsu is made from quality pork, sliced thin and stacked into 25 layers. At least that’s what I wrote in my Evernote. Fancy, but the pork was a bit dry. I think they might have a shop in Culver City.

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We had dinner at Alan Wong’s, but I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures. Our whole entire dinner was interrupted by a pair of brand name dropping brothers/doctors from Atlanta. Oh you walked into Ralph Lauren? Big deal. I walked into Louis Vuitton and Burberry!

We had scheduled skydiving for Tuesday morning, but it was canceled due to the bad weather conditions. So we decided to visit Pearl Harbor. Neither of us wanted to take the ferry to the memorial after the short film. I was good at holding back the tears when I visited in high school, but not now. I think I would’ve freaked everyone out if I started balling uncontrollably. Betty probably would’ve smacked me. After Pearl Harbor, we spent the rest of the day walking around Kalakaua Ave. I recommend getting your caffeine boost at Gorilla In The Cafe. Just do it.

I’ve always enjoyed a nice bowl of soup noodles on a gloomy day. Marukame Udon was delicious.

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After a relaxing day of doing absolutely nothing that requires any type of physical exertion, we woke up early the next day so that we can grab breakfast at Nico’s Pier 38 Fish Market, go ATV at Kualoa Ranch and then hopefully do some skydiving in the afternoon. Yea…that last part didn’t happen. The weather was not our friend. So instead we visited the Dole Plantation, had some shaved ice and checked out one of the beaches in the North Shore area.

Betty and I are probably the only two people that would eat octopus and shrimp for breakfast. I didn’t get any pictures of our breakfast. A girl can only do so much while she is eating and driving. For the safety of the citizens of Oahu, I opted not to take any pictures. Yes I know that’s quite considerate of me, but well…I also only have two hands.

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The Renniemobile. I named it 2 seconds ago. She is an all terrain ATV.

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We kept our helmets on the whole time.

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That’s not just any puddle, it’s a footprint.

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There were many deadly land mines. I didn’t step on any.

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A prop left over from some movie. I wasn’t really paying attention to the guide. I was too focused on trying to avoid the deadly land mines aka cow poop.

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Kualoa was beautiful. No mosquitoes either.

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Woohoo for spontaneity. We spotted this truck, did a u-turn and found one of the best meals on our trip. The roasted shrimp and chicken combo from Mike’s Huli Chicken was delicious. We didn’t even Yelp it ahead of time.

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Best coconut banana smoothie ever. We should’ve ordered two.

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I was bug bite free until we got to the Dole plantation. My right hand still itches now.

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Dole Plantation advice #1 – skip the garden tour. Dole Plantation advice #2 – cut through the trees in the maze.

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Matsumoto Shave Ice

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I prefer Taiwanese shaved ice.

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Whoa I just noticed that I have a photo bomber in my beach picture. WTF?

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The best meal we had in Hawaii was at Sushi Sasabune. It was so insanely mind blowing that it gets its own post.

The last meal worth mentioning was breakfast at Boots & Kimo’s in Kailua. The pancakes  with macadamia nut sauce was SO GOOD!

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So that pretty much concludes our first vacation together since Thailand 2004. I hope we don’t have to wait another 1o years to go on another trip together.