You didn’t really think I would say aloha to Kauai without squawking about their chickens, did you?
Chickens have thrived on the island ever since they were brought as “canoe fowl” by Polynesian voyagers as early as 1000 A.D. We first noticed them in the summer of 2007, our first return trip after Hurricane Iniki swamped the island in 1992. Residents released much of Kauai’s chicken population as Iniki bore down on the island, which gave rise to the prolific feral population of chickens that thrives there today.
Known as “moa” (or alternately, mua, per some sources) the red jungle fowl are as ubiquitous as the mynas, sparrows and zebra doves that populate the island. They are shy of humans and run surprisingly fast, so it’s not easy to snap photos of them, but on any given day we probably saw a few dozen of them as we walked or drove.
Back in 2007 the chickens of Kauai were a novelty to us, but now, as full-fledged chicken nerds, we view them as extended family to our own little flock. I’m not sure who has it better, our girls who enjoy room service in their coop, or the Kauaian chickens who free-range across the predator-free island (if you don’t count humans or cars) and feast upon all manner of exotic plants and bugs.
Not everyone is as delighted with the chickens as we are. Locals and visitors alike are known to deplore the rooster wake-up calls that disturb pre-dawn sleep. Some people don’t think it’s cute when chickens wander through the shops of Old Koloa Town, where one tongue-in-cheek store proprietor has actually painted a brightly-colored line of chicken tracks across the floor. Others fret, unnecessarily, about Avian influenza. For the record, Avian flu is exponentially more likely to occur in conditions where thousands of birds are crowded in battery farm conditions, not in small, open-air wild or domestic flocks.
There were no chickens on the property where we stayed. Technically, the wild jungle fowl are protected, but trapping and “removal” is routinely permitted. I, for one, celebrate the spirit of the free-ranging fowl, especially since learning that many of them were (and apparently continue to be) kept on the island to be used in a widespread underground cockfighting tradition that was originally promoted by Filipino immigrants during the island’s early plantation days. As everywhere else in the United States, cockfighting is illegal in Hawaii, but the state ranks 47th out of 50 for the efficacy of laws pertaining to the practice. For instance, it is legal in Hawaii to possess cocks for fighting (illegal in 37 states) and legal to be a spectator at a cockfight (illegal in 42 states). While cockfighting is a felony in 40 states, it is only a misdemeanor in Hawaii. And only if you get caught in the act. Come on, Hawaii, you’re better than that!
Everywhere we went, all around the island, it was a chick-chick here and a chick-chick there. We saw them foraging alongside cattle egrets and mynas and tending their various-aged flocks throughout parks and condominium developments. They even seem to co-exist peacefully with the substantial feral cat population. The cats, like anyone else considering an on-the-hoof chicken dinner, must have heard the longstanding island lore which states that if you boil a lava rock and an island chicken together, the lava rock will become tender sooner (as in never) than the chicken.
I hope the Hawaiians continue to hang loose regarding their hens, which in some circles are referred to as the “state bird”. A number of enterprising locals have feathered their nests by selling poultry-related merchandise:
A few tourists grumble that the chickens detract from a perfect vacation, but, overall, most seem charmed by Kauai’s signature flocks. I, for one, can’t wait to return to the Garden Island, where, as birds go, I say moa is better!
We’ve been back on the mainland for about twelve hours and I am in severe Aloha withdrawal.
Where is my daily Hawaiian sunrise? No, I’m not talking about a tropical drink. I mean the actual sunrise, which we observed each morning on the Grand Hyatt Kauai Seaview Terrace, Starbucks latte in hand.
Where are my boys? It was so incredibly wonderful that they could both carve out time to join us for part of our trip.
And where, oh where, is that breakfast buffet that we all so enjoyed? The poolside lunch? Dinner at the spectacular Tidepools restaurant, where you dine koi-side?
Where are the nightly games of hearts, which, in our family, should actually be called Hearts of Darkness, for all the times Daniel tosses that Queen of Spades on an unlucky opponent.
Every trip to Hawaii is the best trip ever, and this truly was The Best Trip Ever. Aloha, Kauai, I miss you!
How were we so lucky to score a coveted invitation to Easton and Ming’s wedding? We aren’t swimmers. We most certainly aren’t Princeton alums. And even if you add the bride and groom’s ages together, there’s still a generation gap between us. I guess it must be our connections, one of them being to a beloved grinning sock monster named Pierre, and the other…well, more about that later.
However undeserving of the invitation we may be, we RSVP’d with an enthusiastic YES, and on a beautiful late summer morning, we set out for Sonoma, where Ming and Easton were to be married.
We stayed at the cozy Inn at Sonoma. Just a few blocks from the town square AND they keep a perpetually-filled jar of cookies in the lobby!
We find Sonoma to be friendlier and more accessible than neighboring Napa, and it was especially so the week after a 6.0 earthquake that caused some damage in Napa but left Sonoma undisturbed and undeterred. After settling into our lodgings, we walked into town for the evening.
After a glass of wine on the terrace at Centre du Vin we ambled over to the highly recommended LaSalette for dinner. The cuisine is Portuguese, the outdoor terrace is impossibly charming and their dessert “flights” are completely irresistible.
The next day we toured Jack London State Historic Park and stopped afterwards in London’s cherished hamlet of Glen Ellen. The terrace of the Glen Ellen Inn was a perfect place to enjoy lunch and their cioppino was superb.
After lunch, we visited the nearby Benziger Family Winery and took their tram tour through the vineyard. A fun stop!
For dinner that evening, we visited an old favorite on the Sonoma town square, the girl & the fig, where we happily continued our streak of eating every meal al fresco.
The next day dawned just as beautiful as the two before and that afternoon we made our way to Cline Vineyards, the breathtakingly beautiful setting Ming and Easton chose for their wedding. As the programs were handed out, the guests learned that the couple had a surprise in store for them: they had chosen their dear friend and our dear son, Taylor, as the “officiant” for the ceremony! That, of course, is how we squeaked onto the guest list, and it was such a privilege to be there for the occasion!
Easton and Ming are that “meant to be” couple everyone admires, and many of their friends from their college years at Princeton traveled from all over the country to attend the wedding. Everyone laughed when Taylor took a “ceremonial selfie” and everyone cried when he spoke touchingly (I know he will groan at that adjective) of that “paradoxical creature known as #mingston”.
We were so proud of Taylor, who has a new gig as “officiant” to fall back on in case the day job doesn’t work out, and we are so thrilled for Ming and Easton! What a special, blessed day. How lucky we were to be a part of it.
Two perfect summer weeks in NYC. Glorious weather made for some of our favorite walks ever in Central Park and on the High Line. Saw our family and friends, had some great meals, and, as always, can’t wait to return. Love, love, love New York!
Started things off with a night at the Cabaret. There are not enough superlatives for Alan Cumming in his role as the Emcee. I didn’t love Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles, although the CE thought her divine. Linda Emond, who we previously saw paired with Philip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman, was revelatory and Danny Burstein as Herr Shultz was her perfect match. Least impressive was the so-called table service for those of us who spent a fortune on cabaret table tickets. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I felt some sympathy for Shia Labeouf’s outburst a few weeks earlier. Daniel finally had to belly up to the bar for us at intermission and discovered that drinks were $30! Only in New York, right?
On a mellower note, the CE and I went to the kitschy-beautiful Beacon Theater to see Sarah McLachlan one night. She is a generous performer and has absolutely rabid fans!
We were so lucky to be able to take the whole family to a Yankees game on a perfect summer evening.
We finally got together with our almost-neighbors Michael and Shane for dinner one night in the West Village. Had lunch with friends Lori and Lauren before they headed to the West Coast to wrangle chickens for us. And we felt like real New Yorkers/hipsters when we took the subway over to Brooklyn to join Teri and Billy for dinner at Reynard at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg.
Can’t go to NYC without discussing food. Four memorable dining moments:
One magical evening we walked through the Park to have dinner at the Central Park Boathouse. Yes, it is clogged with tourists. But if you 1) have a reservation and 2) get there right at 5:30 pm when they open and stand in the front of the line, you can get a pond-side table, dine with the koi and the snapping turtles, watch the punters and the gondolier and be bathed in the last rays of the setting sun. You don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy that!
Green space is surprisingly abundant in NYC and part of what makes it the greatest city in the world. The Park, the High Line and the Met rooftop were our pastoral destinations this trip. And Lincoln Center, with its beautiful plaza and free outdoor summer concerts, is another great place to spend an evening.
Best of all, of course, is that we get to be with our family when we are in NYC. We are so blessed.
Cheese and wine, maybe, but do hotels get better with age? Not usually, so was I out of my mind to persuade the CE to make one last stop on our Florida road trip and visit the Breakers with me?
I stayed at The Breakers back in 1976 and remembered it as being almost impossibly grand. Could it live up to my memories of luncheon by the pool with waves crashing in the background (there’s a reason it’s called The Breakers!) and cocktail receptions in the magnificent main lobby inspired by the Palazzo Carrega-Cataldi in Genoa?
Happily, the answer is yes. Oh yes!
As with seemingly everything in Florida, The Breakers began with the vision of Henry M. Flagler, although the first two iterations of the hotel succumbed to fire in 1903 and 1925. The Breakers as we know it today debuted in 1926 and was modeled after the Villa Medici in Rome. It was most recently renovated in 2011.
After scouring reviews in advance of our visit, I decided to throw caution and our bank balance to the wind: if you want the full Breakers experience, you have to book an oceanfront room. Yes, the CE was palpably disturbed when, upon check-in, he was presented with our daily room rate, but as soon as we stepped into Room 5141, it all began to make sense. The sound of those thundering waves was so mesmerizing that my lovely husband almost immediately marched downstairs and extended our stay an extra day.
It was tough to tear ourselves away from the property, where breakfast is served in the palatial Circle dining room and there is the option of dinner at the decidedly not-stuffy HMF (there’s Mr. Flagler, again!) lounge or overlooking the golf course at the Flagler (of course) Steakhouse, but we did make a daily mile-or-so walk into Palm Beach proper just to gawk at the oceanfront estates and walk along the shaded avenues of Seaspray and Seabreeze where the mere millionaires live. Our walking goal was the clock tower at the beach end of Worth Avenue, that almost perfect simulacrum of New York’s Fifth Avenue.
June is embarrassingly off-season in Palm Beach and no socialite worth her salt would be caught dead here as summer heats up, but we happily walked the empty streets and had a quiet dinner one evening in the courtyard at Cafe Via Flora.
Of all the wonderful memories we have of our visit, our very favorite is of the flock of Green-Cheek Amazon Parrots that live in the stand of Australian pines along The Breakers’ Pine Walk. The flock, reportedly descended from pet birds released in the 1940’s, make their presence cacophonously known in the early morning before they disperse for a day of foraging and again at sundown when the flock swoops in to nest for the night. While endangered in its native Mexico, the Palm Beach flock appears to be thriving.
We had so many lovely stays during our Florida road trip. Each stop was memorable: Sarasota, Naples, Islamorada and Key West. But I do think we saved the best for last, and hope we can return soon to The Breakers!
As we made our way north from Key West we stopped for lunch and a fond last look at Islamorada. I don’t think even Odysseus could resist the siren song of Lor-e-lei, where you can snack on conch fritters and commune with the restaurant’s mascot, “Hoppy”, the Great Egret.
The sky darkened a bit as we left the sunny Keys behind and made our way toward Miami. Spitting raindrops reminded us that we were well into “shoulder season”, when summer monsoons drench the Florida coast. Undeterred, we threaded our way through the Miami highway maze and checked in at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach.
Urban and gritty, South Beach pulses with humidity, festivity and barely-repressed debauchery. Low-buttoned shirts, stilettos and a Spanish accent are the de rigueur accessories on Collins Ave., which tells you just about how well we fit in there. Never mind – we loved it!
It didn’t hurt that we hit the upgrade jackpot and were escorted to a swanky penthouse suite where we channeled delusions of Scarface grandeur. Who cared if it rained for the two days we were there? We were in hotel heaven!
The weather was a bit blustery for lounging by the pool, but did not deter us from some long early morning walks along the Promenade through Lummus Park, where equal numbers of joggers and homeless folk share space beneath the tall palms that line the beach. Crossing over to Collins Avenue, snappily-dressed restaurant hostesses brayed at passersby to join them for breakfast. “We’ll rip you off for less”, called out one to a reluctant would-be patron.
Predictably, we did not go hungry in South Beach. The CE was on a quest for Cuban food, and, while we did not make the pilgrimage to famed Little Havana haven Versailles, we did walk over to charming Espanola Way for a convivial al fresco dinner at Havana 1957, where we feasted on Yuca Frita and Fricase de Pollo and watched the parade of passersby.
We went upscale on our second evening for dinner at the lovely Casa Tua courtyard restaurant. The menu is nominally northern Italian, our waiter was from Czechoslovakia and the busboy from Venezuela – all part of the sultry melting pot that is South Beach. After dinner, we sought shelter beneath storefront awnings as a welcome downpour washed away the grime on the sidewalks of Lincoln Road.
Before bidding farewell to South Beach, I enjoyed a complimentary manicure and glass of champagne at the Ritz-Carlton salon (thank you, American Express!) where the Ecuadorean nail technician told me that she had come to Miami after twenty Chicago winters and had no doubt whatsoever that she had finally found “Paradise”. With the exception of January 19, 1977 it has never snowed in Miami; Paradise, indeed!