Thursday, August 14, 2014

Maui Matters (Repost)

Quite a bit tardy with this but we had such a great time, the memories haven’t faded a bit!
(All photos are click-able).
 In April, we went to Maui with our friends Colleen and Jim. For 17 fun-filled days, no less. The nights weren’t bad, either.
 We stayed at a lovely place in Kihei called Luana Kai. Fab location, on the ocean, with all the facilities you would expect from a top notch resort.
 Spend the day at the beach – or golfing – or both, throw in a bit of ‘shopping’ and then wander back with great succulent slabs of the fresh catch of the day, crack open a cold one and get grilling by the side of the pool. And that sizzle when you squeeze on the fresh lemon juice... Mercy!
 Throw a salad of fresh local organic produce together, slice up the warm crusty bread and only one thing left to do… open the vino!!
 We could either dine down by the pool, in the condo, or around the table on our spacious Lanai (Deck). We supped everywhere, of course. Variety is the spice ...and all that.
 After dinner, drinks and mellow conversation follow, while the warm breezes gradually fade as the sun goes down. Our view was incredible:
 Here’s our view at evening time:

Before I get into a couple of the favourite places (And there were many) that we went, I to have mention one of my favourite things. Getting back after a roasting day on the beach, with fond memories of that lovely long lingering lunch, body coated with bits of sand and dried sea salt, pouring a large cocktail of choice and hitting the shower!
With fresh, clean, cool clothes and smelling of shampoo, soap and after sun, it’s time to look forward to the exciting events of the evening, none the least of which is another cocktail because the first one tasted so good.
And of course, thoughts of supper!
Our friends are such good cooks that we ate in a lot of the time and even I got into the act a couple of evenings. With fresh mangoes, avocados, sweet onions and lush local tomatoes, the salad almost made itself.
And with something fresh to grill, like Mahi Mahi steaks and some local spices that really got the palate singing, the cooking was as much pleasure as the eating. Maybe more, come to think of it because there was always someone making sure your glass was topped up :-)
On one particularly memorable evening on the Lanai, copious amounts of vintage champers flowed, as everyone kindly helped me celebrate Charlton Athletic clinching promotion to the Championship that day, many thousands of miles away….
We still went out to eat, of course and choices were plentiful. Julia and I were lucky because Jim and Colleen were Maui veterans, well compared to us, anyway and knew the best places to go.
The 5 Palms, for example:

How about a Green Curried Seafood Stew? (Prawns, scallops and fresh island fish of the day, udon noodles and fingerling potatoes).
And their ‘Surf and Turf? (A perfect marriage of the Filet of Beef and Macadamia Nut encrusted fresh Catch of the day).
Ok – one more. How about  Rack of Lamb? (Maui Onion mash potato, ferns and Miso Blue Cheese sauce).
Sat outside, almost touching the beach, as the ocean glowed golden from the setting sun, we were treated to a first rate feast served by the attentive and very professional staff. Thanks, Colleen and Jim. That was a meal and a half!
Mostly, we ate lunch out. Either by our chosen beach of the day or at  the golf course we were playing.
I’m sure all will agree that Fred’s Mexican CafĂ©, just across from one of our favourite beaches, rates up there in our popularity.

Walking in from the roasting beach, to quaff down a pint of cold fine local brew while waiting on the ice-cold jugs of Margaritas and then munching on their natchos and fresh salsa before the fresh fish Taco’s arrived, was a mid-day treat that we found never dulled from repetition!  and breathe...
One day, though, I surprised all by taking some lunch to their supine selves on the beach. I’d nipped over to the 808 deli   and got some hot dogs.
Only these were no ordinary hot dogs. They were huge beef Smokies in great big long soft rolls, which had been filled with avocado slices, sweet onion and smothered with home made fresh Mango salsa. Oh Baby!!
The words of appreciation swiftly turned to grateful (and mouth full) grunts as said items were devoured with a passion. Boy, were they good!
We enjoyed all sorts of beaches. There were posh Resort ones, which were bizarrely deserted because the apparently affluent preferred to lie down cheek by jowl on the beds around the pool or in the gardens, jammed in literally inches from the people either side of them. Perhaps there is a charge if any sand is found in their suites?
There were remote beaches with no bar within strolling distance. Really. My complaint letter is in.  Beautifully natural, rugged and serious surf, though.
One of these was Baldwin Beach, across the island from Kihei. With the surf pounding in, it was great fun to get in there and get bashed about- but you had to time the entry and leg it pretty sharpish on the way out, to avoid getting sent flying!  (And all that sand up your...well, everywhere.)
Mind you, One of us had a different way to enjoy the surf:

Best seat in the house...
I also had a go at the snorkelling lark on another beach – much to the amusement of certain persons. As I was about to finally clamber into the water, a voice which sounded suspiciously like my missus, boomed down the beach, "Careful now, Ken – that’s a Whaler!” (Top right of picture). Bloody cheek, eh?

We got to do a bit of golf as well and that was good because I had hauled my clubs all the bloody way down there. It might not look like it from the next picture but we did enjoy it – honest!

“These $#@&ing Bermuda grass greens will be the death of me”

......But who cares about grass when you look as good as this, eh?
Anyway, to avoid 'banging on', I’ll just mention one more 'Joint'. Pretty swish as well. It’s the Grand Wailea Hotel. Stately construction, huge manicured grounds loaded with pools and places to eat and drink, (We didn’t bother with the pools). A visit here has to be a ‘must do’. And here we are: (All dressed up ;-)

There’s one more ‘Must Do’ for us....... and that’s going back to Maui.

Barbados Blitz (Repost)

Last week, I went back to see Uncle Jim in Barbados.

This also involved some golf because he had organised a Tourney at the lovely Barbados GC.

He called it ‘The Ken Jennings BC Salmon Open’. That made me the ‘Official Sponsor’. So I had a travelling companion……. A smoked wild Pacific Sockeye.

As always, Uncle Jim’s impeccable organisational skills were in full flow. (Except the bit about getting to the airport on time to pick me up…).
I got in on the Tuesday night and we played the first round early Wednesday morning. The event consisted of three rounds, Wednesday, Friday and the following Monday. There was to be a random partner draw each round and a ‘Better ball’ format, counting six drives from each partner. The individual player takes their team score into the next round. That was the plan, anyway.
It was destined to be a remarkable tournament, for in the very first round there was a momentous occurrence!  On the 13th, one of our participants got an Eagle!!
Now, the 13th is Par-3, so that means.….It was Hole-In-One!!!
And the ‘participant’ was none other than….Uncle Jim!!!! Congratulations, mate.
And fair play to him. Following the round (and all the noise around the course), he kept the whole clubhouse extremely well lubricated. And for the rest of the week’s stay, I awoke relishing the prospect of the day’s reminder(s) of his amazing achievement.
By the start of the third round, some of us were ‘a little behind’ the leaders and so we had the highest scorers partner with the lowest.
It was thus that I had the honour of playing in the final group with Kevin, who started the round 3 shots back of the leader, Denzil. Colin, the Welsh wizard of the short game, partnered him. I have to say, that final round was one of the most enjoyable I have ever played. And the fierce wind definitely added to the entertainment. (At times, it was at least a 3 clubber!).
Not only was it such fun, we all played pretty well too and the ‘high scorers’ did not let their illustrious partners down (Well- Colin didn’t). At the turn, Kevin and I had pulled back two strokes, so Kevin was just one back of Denzil. Exciting stuff!
On the 10th, a 170 yard uphill par 3, over a large coral gully up to a long, narrow green, Colin and Denzil sprayed their tee shots into goodness knows where and Colin had to hit a provisional, which he also sent way left, like his first one. Mine came up short (Blamed the wind, of course) but Kevin’s made it to the left of the green, on the mounds just off the fringe. As I picked up my ball and headed for Kevin’s, things were looking good for at least a two-stroke swing with Kevin taking the overall lead.
Amazingly and after much searching (I’m sure there should have been a time penalty – but Denzil would not have had any of that ;-), Colin’s “first” ball (oh sure) was found, way off to the left in amongst some shrubs and tree roots – and still in bounds. Even more amazingly, Denzil chipped out of there and came up about 8 feet from the pin. What a shot! Then they made the putt for the par. An incredible up and down.
And that was as close as we got. Over the next eight holes, Colin and Denzil got the two strokes back and both teams finished with a 76! Not too shabby, eh? And the best thing was that the win was earned. Neither team gave a hole away.
I should mention at this point (Because he will not forgive me if I don’t) that Uncle Jim and his partner, Goody, shot 75 on that final round. Well done you chaps.
Denzil won the Salmon. (Which was just as well because his missus had told him not to come home without it!). His three round score totalled 230. Second was Kevin with 233 and Goody came a very close third with 234. Uncle Jim came next with a seriously creditable 238.
The awards lunch was well catered by the Barbados Golf Club as

The Clubhouse
well as the Banks Brewery. And if you read my previous Barbados post, you are aware of my opinion of Banks beer….
It was a genuine pleasure to meet everyone who took part. A great group of guys who, to a man, entered into the spirit of the event.  And thanks again to Uncle Jim for making it all possible. I hope the next one will be as much fun.
And speaking of fun, there was a whole lot of that happening for the duration of my short stay. (Short for me and probably excruciatingly lengthy for Uncle Jim).
We had rounds of golf in between the tournament days and I got some decent beach time to boot. A dip in the ocean in late February is a real treat, I can tell you.
The weekend was quite spectacular. On Saturday, Uncle Jim’s friends, Dave and Lucy, treated us to supper at the Harlequin and Keith, the owner, threw in a round of drinks. Blimey, what a treat! As always, the food was super and the ambiance magnificent. I love that place!
Of course, word of Uncle Jim’s triumph had spread across the Island and a whole procession of folk arrived at the table to offer congratulations and advise of their drink of choice. (Keith sent them all).
All approaches were smoothly dealt with, as one would expect. Uncle Jim thanked each one and then advised there was a Statute of Limitations on the ‘Free Drinks’ requirement. Otherwise known as the ‘You have to be there ‘ rule.
And on Sunday, Uncle Jim took me for lunch to Fisher Pond. WOW! Up in the hills amongst a sugar cane plantation, the setting is spectacular.
Lunch, which is internationally reviewed as the ‘Best Sunday lunch in Barbados’, is served in the Plantation house and if you so choose, as  Uncle Jim did when he booked it well in advance, you can get a table in the beautiful grounds.

On arrival, a casual cocktail is offered and then a choice of soup. After that, you will be invited into the house to be served a generous taste of each of their seafood appetizers.
Then you get to go back in to help yourself to mouth-watering main courses and scrumptious salads. Uncle Jim, being a pro, was a great guide. We made a separate trip for each. I managed some wines to go with them…..
After that, another trip takes you to the incredible dessert table, with cheesecakes, bread puddings, rum cakes and trifles. And the coffee served was the nicest I have ever tasted in my whole caffeine life!
Those of you that have seen Monty Python’s ‘Meaning of Life’ will understand exactly what I mean, when I say I waddled out of there  feeling like ‘Mr. Creosote’.
Funny how things work out. Being so full and all, we had to call Laura and Kevin to say we would not be able to make it to visit them at their beautiful beachfront home that afternoon. All we could do was lie down.
However, on Tuesday, the day before I left, they repeated their invitation and this time I got to go down and see their pad. Uncle Jim said it is one of the nicest homes in Barbados. All I know, is it’s fabulous ‘with all the trimmings’ – and it is right on the beach. And of course much more importantly, they are really nice people to hang with!
After a few cold ones, we all headed up to Chicken Rita’s Rum Shack for dinner. (See previous Barbados post). It was very busy and as we drove up, Jim stopped and told me to go and get a table for four, while he found a parking place.
I couldn’t see a spare seat in the ‘yard’. Let alone a table for four, so I went in the shack to see about a reservation. No one behind the counter – and certainly no sign of a Maitre’d. So I walked lamely outside to wait for Uncle Jim’s arrival.
I met him as he approached. “ I haven’t been able to sort anything, sorry”, I said. He walked straight past me without commenting and entered the shack. He picked up a solitary white plastic table, carried it outside and plonked it down in a spare spot in the yard. That’s what he meant by ‘Go and get a table for four’. Who’d have guessed? I did at least get the message and found some chairs at the back of the shack.
It was a great evening and a totally fitting last memory of my Barbados Blitz.
I flew WestJet for the long journey. My first experience and I was well impressed. Flying them again in a couple of weeks. This time to Maui. Maybe worth another blog.

Barbados Break (Repost)

Like everywhere else in the world, Barbados is what you make of it. But what is particularly special about this little Island is the amazing range of choices. And at most, it only takes about an hour to drive from top to bottom. Most pictures will enlarge or get clearer when you click on them. Orange means a link.
West Coast = Resort-ville. (Though quite lovely, Sweetie Darling)
East Coast = wild and woolly - a windsurfer’s delight but don’t even think about swimming.  
North coast? Dunno. Saw it from a distance - If you can drive to it - good luck.
We stayed on the South coast. Near Oistins.
One of my very favorite people is Jimbo. After traveling pretty well everywhere – and certainly to all points in the Caribbean (he flew himself around), he decided that Barbados would be a good place to spend the worst of the Ontario winter. So he got himself a new condo at the Barbados Golf Club. We got to stay there for two weeks.
Now I will try to keep this post as just an overview of our trip – because the alternative may well outdo Tolstoy, in length only of course – but this next little detail is important because it will give you an insight into Jimbo, especially if you are into golf.
The 3-bedroom. 3- bathroom Condo he chose, provides a view of the 9th & 18th. Fairways and Greens as well as the Par-3 10th.Tee box to Green. You don’t find many of those around. (Kind of like Jimbo). Here’s some pics from his front deck: (click to enlarge, remember)
9th. & 18th. Fairways

9th. Green
18th Green & Clubhouse

Jimbo (blue) heading to the 10th. Tee
Now the really important choices, as you might have gathered from previous posts, involved places to eat and drink. In Barbados, there is a marked contrast of choices. Take one of our most popular menu items: 'Grilled catch of the day', for example. It's about 15 bucks at a great local eatery like ‘Shakers’, for the freshest grilled fish you will ever eat, with all
the trimmings including your Beer or Rum Punch – or you can do it at places up the west coast for about 80 bucks, or more. The beer will be twice as much or you can stump up another hundred or so for a bottle of Prosecco to wash it down. Maybe a few hundred more for champers. Up to you.
Or, there's the renowned old rum shop called 'Chicken Rita's'.
'Rita' sits in the back near the deep fryer and coats all the chicken and hand cuts the chips. That's the specialty - actually that's all they do! There were lots more tables when we went - all full. You can get your booze there, or take your own, they don't care. We took wine. It was fun.
We did a couple of different types of Beach restaurants for lunch as well:
The Beach House, in Holetown. Chilled soup, Shellfish salad and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, type of place. It was indeed delightful and for us, a 'treat'.
Then there was The Carib. More laid back. Sit around here all afternoon sipping cold ones and munching on their excellent fried fish Baguettes and chips:
Most beaches had a Food & Beer Shack: (We got a breakfast of fried egg sandwiches at this one)
One of my favorite munches to have on the beach, though was the ‘Chicken Roti’. A succulent Caribbean curried chicken wrap. Mouth watering stuff!
Julia favored the ‘Cutter’, which is a breaded, fresh - caught Flying Fish in a bun with lettuce.
We both agreed on our favorite to wash all these taste treats down: BANKS - The Beer of Barbados. Truly a lovely lager!
There was more to drink than beer, by the way..... One morning, we stopped to take in the 'ambiance' at our local coffee shop: (Eat your heart out, Starbucks :-)   Grande is lovely -Right?
We did 'Fine Dine'  one evening. Just down the road from us and right by our usual beach, was the Cafe Luna at the Little Arches Hotel.
On our way back from the beach, we visited in the afternoon and had a few on the deck with one of the guests we had met at an earlier beach party. All went 'swimmingly' and we were able to wangle a reservation for later that evening. (No easy task, by all accounts).
Accordingly, we returned, showered and freshly liveried, sat in the moonlight and proceeded to indulge in melt-in-the-mouth lobster, crab, shrimp, perfect pasta, crisp salads, fresh warm rolls and such. They even had Mersault, one of my all time fave Burgundy whites. The nectar flowed all the way through to the "Rum Broulee" we finished with. (Well it just slides down, as my old mum used to say).
Then we invited our new friend over for Bajan Coffees afterward. That's coffee with Rum and Molasses in it. Oh Boy!
Sitting outside, under the stars and over the ocean, with the balmy breezes blowing, sated with the delights of cuisine, service and favorite beverages, we knew this was one of those 'special meals' we would always remember.
Our favorite 'Go To' place for an evening meal was situated a short drive away in a beachfront area, well known for the nightlife, called the St. Lawrence Gap. (Click to enlarge)
Basically, it is a strip of various bars and restaurants - and even a British style pub. The whole area has a great feel, with the tourists and locals eating, drinking, laughing or just strolling along and enjoying the different music wafting along on the warm breeze. The place is about midway along the 'Gap' and it is called 'The Harlequin'.
Decently priced, a very comprehensive menu and great service. It is very popular and books up days in advance. Their Caesar salad was as good as I have had anywhere (I love garlic) and their fresh seafood selections were offered in starter or entree portions. I found the spicing in both their specialty and Caribbean chicken dishes went down extremely well with a tasty little Argentinian Malbec they had to offer. An all round delightful dining experience. We did a hat trick there.
Now of course, all these culinary capers require some serious lolling on the beach, with the occasional swim to work off the calories. Right. The most strenuous it got was holding a book or lifting a beer. The ocean was perfect. Body surf or float around, More choice. Deffo click on these four coming up..
Here's one of the 'livelier' surf beaches at the Crane Hotel.
and this is a lovely beach but a bit of a dodgy undertow at Bottom Bay
This next one was our fave. A few minutes from where we were staying, all the amenities and like the others pictured, VERY few people, though it did get a little busier during our second week. Had to wait an extra two minutes to get a cold one, sheesh! It was called Miami Beach 
So that's our overview. 
It was tough leaving out all the other stuff - the neat places we visited, the shopping, the great people we met, the parties we were invited to. Quiz Nights as honorary members of the team 'Dumb and Dumber'. (We done good). Have I mentioned there was Rum???
And oh yes - we have been invited back - Arrrr Matey :-)
But to put Barbados in a Nutshell, this is why we left our own island in February and took six flights to get there and back...........a final click and you may hear the ocean ;-)