Trip of a Lifetime: Day 7, My brother’s Wedding

My brother’s wedding day is finally here!  My sister and I are bridesmaids so we headed over to the bridal suite in the morning to have our hair and makeup done.  Cue many cute impromptu pictures, chilled champagne and a lovely spread that my sister in law’s father (who is a chef) had kindly prepared for us.

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A nice couple pic of us before the wedding.

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The ceremony began at 16:30 next to a gorgeous orchid garden in the Kiahuna Plantation and it was such a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony. 

Both parents typically cried and after the vows we got pictures done (in the blazing sun) and then headed over for a cocktail hour.  After the cocktail hour we had a lovely dinner, although typically for me, I peaked too soon having loaded up on some delicious hor d’oevres and ended up having to take my steak in a doggy bag!

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Tune in Tomorrow!

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 5 – L.A to Kauai

Today….Hawaii!!  I have wanted to visit Hawaii for the longest time and have been excited about this day since I found out my brother was planning on getting married there.  He and his wife chose Kauai, one of the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, it is also the wettest and most lush of the islands due in part to its geology.

I will say that these tickets were probably the most expensive that we bought for the whole trip.  There is no getting around the fact that Hawaii is  a LONG way from the US mainland!  It is a 5.5-6 hour trip from Los Angeles.

We took an indirect flight via Honolulu because of the price and also because we only lost about 1-2 hours by doing so.  Since the flight from Oahu to Lihue is only 40 minutes, we didn’t mind the stop.

20170520_064746Time to fly to paradise!

After a long flight to Honolulu we had a 3 hour layover before we were taken to Kauai.  It was my first time in Honolulu airport and I had read not so good reviews about things to do or eat at the airport.  However, upon arrival we managed to find a lovely set of gardens in the airport.

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Though the weather didn’t offer too much respite, we got a preview of the beautiful foliage that would be awaiting us in Kauai at the Hawaiian garden, then sat and contemplated life (and for me, questioning how people can live in this heat – not the first time I would do that this holiday) We board a MUCH smaller plane to head on the 35 minute flight to Kauai and I must say that it was one of the more scenic landings we have seen the entire trip

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We are excited! (and a bit crazy!)

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Did I mention super silly?

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We jumped in a cab (you cannot get Uber from the airport, although you can use it on the island) and it cost about $40 going from Lihue to Poipu on the South shore. Our driver was a lovely guy who shared several things of interest specific to this island– that the centre of the island is one of the top three wettest places on planet Earth; that there is literally no crime there; there are thousands of chickens running around the island as they have no natural predators, ever since some escaped a farm in the 70’s.

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It’s pronounced Li Hoo EE (with Hawaiian words, pronouncing every vowel separately is a good start)

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We arrived at our apartment and met my sister and her husband. Took about an hour to get settled into our VRBO rental (hotels are more expensive per night, esp. if you are staying with 4 people or more.  One thing I like about Hawaii is that everywhere has a lanai (balcony/patio/outdoor space) and nearly every vista here is breath taking.

The gorgeous view from our vacation rental – only $1600 for the week! (3 bed, 3 bath)

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We were in Kauai for my brother’s wedding and tonight we had a casual meet and greet where we got to get to know the rest of the wedding party.

The dinner was held at Keoki’s Paradise, a semi casual restaurant in Poipu that makes amazing drinks – I had a minty flavoured pineapple colada served in a pineapple – what a nice way to start our Hawaii time!

Bae is trying to have some of my amazing drink here, hence the look!

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The wedding party getting to know eachother

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Sisters together again! Ready for our brother’s wedding in a couple of days!

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Tune in tomorrow!

Trip of Lifetime: Day 4 – Relax and Beach

My brother and future wife leave very early in the morning to catch their flight to Hawaii. A bit later in the day, my sister and her husband arrive at my brother’s house.

We drove around Sunset Boulevard (which is not what I expected!  Very bohemian, not glamorous at all but an interesting walk down the boulevard) and headed back to Santa Monica beach (again!) for some people watching and a couple hours later ended the day with rooftop drinks overlooking the pier watching the sunset – Lovely!

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Nice quiet parking lot about 500m from the pier (north) with lovely sands

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Gorgeous Sand and surf! – I recommend walking a bit down from the pier to get a quieter spot (there is a paved road to walk to the pier or car park)

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Chillaxing

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Some fresh fruit with a drizzle of lime juice and a sprinkling of cayenne – make sure the pepper is evenly distributed!

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Barbie’s house! (Or the owner of Mattel)

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There is a theme park on the pier but was quite expensive and we weren’t very interested.

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The food court is next to the theme park and offers lots of seating to chill and people watch

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Just had to go another round with these delicious corn dogs!

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The centre of a delicious bite

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The garlic butter parmesan fries are especially good!

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View from the end of the Pier (about 15 mins from the beginning if you don’t stop)

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Lot of people catching fish themselves too

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I was surprised at the (low) quality of street vendors and entertainers for the Pier,  most are typical touristy things like below but a lot of them you’d think there was no quality control – there was literally a drunk guy with his boombox doing a weird uncle at the wedding dance – and people were giving him money!

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Sunset on the beach

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We found a cool little spot at the beginning of the pier where we enjoyed some sunset cocktails20170519_183102

Tune in tomorrow!

Day 2: LA (Korean and egg Day)

Going backwards is always easier when travelling – you end up waking up super early and being exhausted by the time bedtime rolls on.

Drivin’ down Main St – that must be the name of a song.

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Walking around downtown is a great way to see some amazing art deco buildings and interesting architecture from days gone by.

My brother and fiancé take us to a cool very instagrammable place called Eggslut at Grand Central Market in Downtown LA.   Coffee was hot and fresh, and the egg and bacon sandwich, albeit a bit small, was bursting with flavour – man you can really taste the difference between good eggs and shit battery farm eggs.  We got there about 08:30 and were apparently very lucky for there not to be any queue as usually it snakes all around the entrance.  We walked around the rest of the market, where there are all manner of delicious foods to try from juice specialists to chill specialist counters.

Finally we arrive at Grand Central Market there is something for everyone here!

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Authentic and good value spices and foods

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The variety of food here is amazing! and all very fresh!

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Very farmers market type atmosphere

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The famous Eggslut

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While we waited for the food Bae and I got a fresh pressed juice from The Press Brothers

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The famous bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.  Honestly, it was very tasty but not the best I have had, and pricey at $8.50!  it was the size of the palm of my hand.

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The dish below is the namesake of the restaurant – Slut – “cage-free coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette”

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After breakfast we walked around Downtown a bit, taking in the sights of Old LA

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Loving the Art Deco!

 

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Art Deco Theatre

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Cool neighbourhood to walk around.  Lots of jeweWllery stores and wedding and quincinera  dress stores

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My brother wanted to take us to Clifton’s Cafeteria as it’s a cool spot to visit but unfortunately it was closed today

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We stopped at a supercool bookstore when it started to get too warm and also in part to avoid a crazy man chanting and dancing on the street – poor guy looked like he had truly lost his marbles as he gesticulated at the floor and made strange sounds – LA is glam just like in the movies but is also home to many more homeless people than we have ever seen before.

But back to the coolest bookstore ever!

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Lots of cool book sculptures

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Me posing by a book “wave”

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We walked for a while further in the heat, and then thought this would be a good time to get some proper relaxation going.

On our list of things to do was going to a Korean Spa.  I have been going to Korean Saunas and Jimjilbangs for quite a few years now and anyone who knows me appreciates how much I lament the lack of such a facility in UK (I don’t even think there are any in Europe!) I enclose a link here to Conan O’Brien’s experience of the Wi Spa, which is where we went. (Note – Conan’ comedic charm doesn’t really convey how awesome this place really is!)

We got an Uber to Koreatown, arrived at Wi Spa and started the check in process, which can be quite long as there are numerous rules.  We had booked a treatment each, which I recommend you do as well as the place gets very busy.

The trick is to book a treatment at the same time and to arrive about 30-45 minutes before the treatment so you can have time to stew and open your pores for the scrub and massage (which is what we both opted for.)

At the desk you are given a t shirt and shorts to wear for the Jimjilbang area (this is the cooed, clothed area –  straight to co-ed area so we could coordinate times.

I would say 45 minutes is a good amount of time to spend in the wet area (if you are in separate areas) Since your phone is in the locker and you are in basically what is a wet room with lots of water (or steam or sauna) having your phone on you is not ideal (plus you are supposed to be relaxing, how can you do that if you have a phone buzzing near you!)  You are given a wristband that allows you to pay for things and open your locker so you don’t have to carry your wallet around with you.

I stewed in the warm, then warmer, then warmest pools before dipping in and out of the steam room to get myself prepared for the scrub.  I will say that if the only kind of scrub you have had is a coconut or brown sugar scrub, this is something completely different – I would say it’s the best scrub I have had, not for the experience as that is almost tantamount to being in constant pain depending on how sensitive your skin is, but my skin never feels as soft as when I get the Korean scrub.

All it really consists of is an ajumma or ajashi in standard issue black underwear (usually lacy), with nothing but a small (usually green or yellow) sandpaper type rag that they scrub you all over with, and I mean ALL OVER (I mean you want to make sure you don’t have an gunges right?) if you are a man this means, things will get moved out of the way in order to reach nooks and crannies you didn’t even know you had.

However, afterwards, you skin feels as soft as a baby’s skin, and tiredness will overcome you. I managed Bae’s expectation so he knew not to expect any relaxation until after the treatment had concluded and I would like to think he is now a convert but only time will tell!

I’ve had my scrub and massage and now ready to eat!

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Luckily in the Jimjilbang section they have lots of comfy places to sit or lie.  We chose to visit each of the rooms to get a feel for each of them.

There is the big thatch hut in the middle of what looks like a giant kindergarten soft play area for adults which is the hottest temperature and where sometimes people go and boil their eggs (yes it gets that hot), then there is the salt room of which the interior is entirely made of rock salt, and there are lots of salt crystals to cover yourself in.

There is a similar room for red clay with lots of small clay balls that you can literally bury yourself under – all in the name of health and well-being and finally a fridge room for when you want to cool off.  Have a look at the room types here

We chilled in each room before getting a bite to eat in their restaurant (where you can also get shave ice and other yummy things) then went up to the roof terrace to grab a bit of sun.  All in all, we spent about 4 hours there, though many a time I have spent the night at a place like this (thinking back to when I went clubbing in Seoul and the university curfew wouldn’t end until 6am and we needed a place to wash and sober up before class).  If you haven’t been to a Korean spa, then I would definitely recommend you go!

We are on Cloud 9 after Wi Spa!

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We decided to end our spa day by staying in Koreatown and heading to Dan Sung Sa, a great Anju spot that does really good yoghurt soju.

Amazing fried Mackerel, just like mum used to make

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I always forget to take pictures of the food at the beginning – this was a really good and spicy Tteok-bokki (rice cakes and fish cakes in spicy chilli sauce)

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Korean Fried Chicken is the best chicken ever – if you are not convinced try it and thank me later.

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The restaurant served lots of skewers – you could literally get anything on a stick!  This is a pineapple.  They have everything from standard chicken and pork, to frogs legs and ginko nuts.

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After a hefty and delicious dinner (with quite a bit of soju)  I was trying to convince my group to go to Noraebang (karaoke) but was unsuccessful so as consolation to me we went to a Korean Bingsu Place.

Below is the classic – shave ice with Red Bean.  If you have never tried Bingsu, it is like eating the finest snow ever.  Top that with Red Bean (which my mum always told me is chocolate so now it tastes like chocolate to me) and you have a winning dessert!

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Tune in tomorrow!

 

Day 1: London to LA

So excited I can’t sleep!

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We have been planning this trip for the last year and a bit and the day has finally arrived for take off!

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Thankfully our flight is at a very civilised 1pm which gives us plenty of time to get to the airport and get some breakfast although Bae still got tetchy and picked up a speeding ticket on the Hangar Lane.  Note to self get him one of those speed camera detector for Christmas!

 

Arrived at Gatwick with time to take down a delicious Nando’s grilled chicken meal before braving the long haul airplane food.

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I love to get the wing roulette – living dangerously at lunch

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Mentally preparing for 11 hours 15 minutes sitting in a big flying tube crammed full of my fellow human being…Bae has his eyes open but he is already asleep

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I love these airplane maps…helps to know progress is being made even while I stare at the back of a seat inches from my face

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Possibly the longest flight I have ever been on (that I can remember)

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Benefit of a Samsung S7 camera – taking shots like these from a tiny airplane window

England’s green pastures and pleasant lands…Bae said I started humming Jerusalem

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Getting higher above the ether

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Food:

We were on a Norwegian Airline flight (It was £200 for our LON-LA trip) and as it is considered a lower cost airline,  I didn’t have very high expectations for our food.

The salad was an oriental salad with a bit too much vinegar, but still edible if you are hungry (we were not – in case you missed the Nandos pics),  a sweet and sour chicken with beans and mashed potatoes – hearty and bit on the sweet side but would eat again, and an apple cinnamon pie which I didn’t touch as cinnamon and I are sworn enemies.  Bae said the pastry was more bready and lots of cinnamon, but overall satisfying

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Bae opted for a Kosher meal, which we had heard were supposed to be tastier than the average airplane meal.  Salad was smoked salmon, then a pulses and veggie chilli (bit salty) followed by a piece of cake AND fruit salad.  I recommend doing this if you want more food – like what the planes USED to serve before portion sizes decreased.

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Must be going over Iceland at this point – I love the fact you can see a blue glow over the horizon – is that the ozone layer?

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Bae bought us an array of neck supports, being long necked humans he had to do some research. In this one we have the Trtl which was purchased for about £20 on Amazon which wraps round the neck and has a brace on one side to support the weight of your head. Bae liked the support but found it hot and not quite as helpful as the Travelrest pillow (red coloured to the left of the shot) which we both used a lot and which work on a different principle. Once you inflate it, you get support all up once side from the waist to your head kind of like when you hug a pillow in bed. Both cost about £20 but the Travelrest is much easier to fold away once it is deflated!

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The reason for the blue tint is because Norweigan has a very cool button on their windows instead of a shutter you close.  Simply press the button (there are 4 options) and it will shade the window from light to completely black – very cool!

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Some more gorgeous pictures of the mountains

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I think this range is maybe the Rockies?

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Approaching Los Angeles!

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Not sure – Is that Big Sur?  Let us know in the comment if you know!

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The one thing I really hate about LA – the traffic and the roads (dangerous – have never seen so many bad and distracted drivers).

Driving back to El Sorreno where my brother and fiancé live after they pick us up from the airport.

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I love these beautiful trees!  My brother said they are Jacaranda trees. Lucky we got to see them in season!

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As the sign says…

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Getting hungry!

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Everywhere in LA is a LONG drive away and traffic (we would realise) can be awful

After being picked up my brother and fiancé who saw how we debilitated we looked after our long haul flight, they took us to a Baby Blues BBQ for a pick me up American-style with massive portions of smoked meat.

Cool ladies bathroom

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Baby Blues BBQ Menu – prices aren’t bad, but food could have been a bit better

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My brother and his beautiful fiancé (now wife and sister to me)!

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A cool looking place to eat with typically large, salty portions, not matched in quality unfortunately. We also tried their mac and cheese which Bae thought was tasteless.  The sweet potato fries were good though.

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After a long day of travelling, we get an early night in preparation for our first real day of holiday!

Tune in tomorrow!