The reviews are all over the place on this very long saga of a book about a female pilot in the early days of pilots and airplanes. Yes it is long…but I loved it. At first I thought it was about a real person, but the character is fictional but comes to life under Shipstead’s genius. Here is my book review Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.
Marian and Jamie Graves are twin infants when they narrowly escape from a sinking ocean liner in 1914. They find themselves growing up with their uncle in Missoula Montana…never knowing their parents. A simple life they lead until one day Marian sees her first airplane when ‘barnstormers” come to town. She will never be the same.
Her obsession with planes will lead her into a violent marriage and a bootlegging world. Marian goes into hiding to allude her husband, and gets thousands of hours of flying in in Alaska, until war provides her opportunities never before available.
Meanwhile the novel simultaneously follows Hadley Baxter, a childhood actor gone a bit astray with wild behavior as an adult. Eerily similar life circumstances between Hadley and Marian is even more coincidental when Hadley is cast to play Marian in a movie about the story of Marian’s life, and eventual death while circumnavigating the world.
As Hadley researches her character she learns some hidden information about Marian’s life that will surprise her and could change history. Should she keep it a secret or share with the director of the film?
These two strong female characters carry the novel, but I preferred Marian’s story the most. I also really enjoyed the character of Jamie, Marian’s twin brother, and his conviction to animal rights. The novel also explores gay and lesbian issues of the period, women’s rights (or lack there of), and how world wars changed everything about society and life in the first half of the 20th century.
*****Five stars for Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.
Thank you for reading my book review Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.
Enjoy this one again or for the very first time. Originally published October 2021.
We love to hike and when we are traveling we always set aside at least one day a week to hike and get out into nature. And during our recent visit to Maui we discovered another great hike to add to the many favorites we already have on this beautiful island. So today I thought I would share with you six great hikes on the island of Maui.
The area known as West Maui is home to Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua. We spent six weeks exploring this area recently. Here are two of our favorite hikes.
Kapalua Coastal Trail
This trail can be busy but it’s worth it because it is so beautiful and definitely one of the six great hikes on the island of Maui. Parking can be difficult but look for street parking near the Napili Kai Resort, or paid parking at Kapalua Golf Course. Start the hike right at Merriman’s Restaurant where the trail heads north. The trail then winds through spectacular lava flows where you can see crashing waves and nesting shearwaters birds nesting. Follow the trail along the road at the Kapalua Golf Course and out to the Dragons Teeth Labyrinth. Round trip about 4 miles. Learn more here.
The Village Course and Duck Pond
The Kapalua Golf Club closed one of their three courses in 2007. Today the cart paths of the defunct Village Course are a unique and somewhat eerie (and steep) walk through a golf ghost town. It’s astonishing actually how quickly nature has reclaimed this course, making the fairways essentially unrecognizable only fourteen years later. The walk is about four miles round trip at the top is Duck Pond, a nice stop to rest or picnic before returning down. Learn more here.
South Maui is usually defined as Kihei, Wailea and Makena. We have spent a great deal of time in this part of the island and we love it.
La Perouse/Hoapili Trail
This is one of my favorites of the six great hikes on the island of Maui, but also a bit rough and difficult. Traversing over sharp lava beds, come prepared with the right shoes. It’s a hot and arid trail but provides some stunning views across to the Big Island of Hawaii. The trail is also a sacred trail for Hawaiians, once part of the King’s Highway that circled the island. Crossing the 300 year old lava field is a unique experience, if you are up for it I recommend it highly. Wear a hat and bring lots of water. Learn more here.
The region sometimes referred to as Central Maui is home to the airport in Kahului and the government seat city of Wailuku as well as malls, shopping and industrial areas.
About a 7 mile drive north and west from Wailuku you find the parking area for the Waihee Ridge Trail. We have done this trail several times and had a wide variance in weather each time. Come prepared for rain, wind, fog or clear blue skies…you never know. Arrive early for parking. The trail goes up and up the green and beautiful ridge for about 2.5 miles and if you are lucky the views are phenomenal. Learn more here.
The astonishing volcano Haleakala rises 10,000 feet (3048 meters) out of the island and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island. If you go to do either of these suggested hikes get an early start. Often the volcano is clear in the morning but clouds roll in later in the day. BE PREPARED, Haleakala can be very cold in the morning…cold enough to warrant a stocking cap and warm coat.
This is one of my favorite hikes on the island. Starting at the top of the volcano at the Visitor Information Center, Sliding Sands, as it’s name implies, is a red sandy trail that goes down inside the volcano crater. Don’t do more than you are capable of on this eleven mile round trip trail, because you need to come back up! Along this trail you will feel like you are on the moon. It’s beautiful, and you will also see the rare and endangered Silver Sword plant known only to grow in this volcano and the two volcanoes on the Big Island. Learn more here.
Approximately 14.2 miles up Highway 378 but before you reach the summit, you will see the Halemau’u Trail parking on the left side of the road. This trail often starts in the mist and clouds, but don’t despair. As you walk the ridge and then go down the rock face trail into the crater the weather usually warms and clears. There is a picnic area that is a good turn around point. Or you can hike all the way through to Sliding Sands and back up to the Visitor Center. But you will need to either have two cars or someone to bring you back to the Halemau’u parking area. Learn more here.
These are just a few of the many hikes available on the beautiful island of Maui. No matter your hiking skill level you can find a walk or hike on this island. If you are looking for additions to the six great hikes on the island of Maui check this out.
As you likely know if you have been following all these years, I track my reading year from August to July. Nothing fancy, just keep a little tally in my notebook of all the books I read. This year I read 69 books, (11 fewer than last year) and today I will share with you some of my favorites, once again, for Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023.
Over the past year I have written 52 book reviews, pulling into reviews my favorites of the 69 books. Fifty of the 69 were read on my kindle, four were traditional books, while 15 were audible books we listened to on road trips or in the car while home in the USA. Some of my top books of the year were on Audible…a fantastic way to enjoy a book while driving.
So as in the past several years (see our year in review from 2022 and 2021) I’m sharing my most favorites in a Top Fifteen list, and a few honorable mentions too. Some outstanding novels, biographies, historical non-fiction, as well as Booker and Pulitzer winners. Other than the number one slot here, the books are in no particular order.
My Top Fifteen
Here are my favorites from July 2022 to July 2023;
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese One of the best books I have read in several years, Verghese is a brilliant man and writer and I will read anything he writes in the future. My favorite book hands down of this past year. Go Read This Book!
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – powerful yet sentimental this story of a brilliant woman scientist in the “women stay home” 1950’s will make you life, cry and jump for joy. Soon to be a movie too I hear.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell – O’Farrell has a magnificent talent to weave real historical characters into fictional historical novels so perfectly you will wonder if the story is biographical. A beautiful read.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanaghihara I believe in my book review of this book I used the phrase mind-boggling. Indeed it was. A spectacular achievement in fiction, difficult to explain, sometimes confounding, absolutely worth the effort. I loved it.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver – winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2023, this fantastic story of drug abuse, poverty and abandonment in Appalachian USA is deep and sometimes difficult to read. But read it anyway.
The Whalebone Theater by Joanna Quinn – set in England before and then during WWII, the changes in Quinn’s astonishing cast of characters through the book and the war will keep you turning every page. A deep story of the meaning of family.
Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris – I had never heard the historical fact that the killers of King Charles I in England escaped to New England. This part is true. What Harris does so eloquently in this book is imagine how the manhunt for these killers evolves over more than a decade. I really enjoyed it.
This is Happiness by Niall Williams – Sweet, heartfelt and identifiable. This is a story about that one great love. This is a story about life. It will make you smile, cry and remember your first love and past regrets. An unforgettable and well written story.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks – Brooks has two books in my top 15 this year (see #14) and Horse is her most recent. She uses the human activity centered around a horse – a real horse from the past – to create this fictional story of racism through the centuries.
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler – what a tale of both fact and fiction of the infamous John Wilkes Booth and his family. The trials and tribulations of this family make a great story, long before anyone shoots Lincoln. Extreme poverty to wealth and prosperity are combined with unfathomable loss of of children and property, alcoholism and rivalry, illegitimate accusations, polygamy, ego, and family love and regret. This was a perfect Audible on a long road trip last summer.
The Night Ship by Jess Kidd – The real life wreck of the Dutch East Indies flagship Batavia in 1629 is the basis for this fictional novel. Wrecked near Beacon Island, the horrifying experience of the survivors of the Batavia is one of the most barbaric ever recorded. Kidd brilliantly chronicles the events in both fact and myth through the eyes of two small children in The Night Ship.
The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead – A very long saga of a book about a female pilot in the early days of pilots and airplanes. Yes it is long…but I loved it. At first I thought it was about a real person; the character is fictional but comes to life under Shipstead’s genius
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – This is Brooks second appearance this year in my top 15. Loosely based on Eyram Derbyshire, a real village that had to quarantine itself during the black plague. Brooks creates a fictional village in 1666. When an infected bolt of fabric makes its way to the isolated village from London, the protagonist Anna’s life will change forever.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – Young Daniel and his father run an antique bookstore in Barcelona during a time when Spain and the city are reeling from war. Daniel has lost his mother, and in his grief he finds solace in a mysterious book but the search for the author will nearly kill him.
Local Author – The Whiskey Creek Water Company by Jan Walker – Walker, who lives in my local town, presented one of my favorites this year in a sweet and simple book about a tiny fictional village in the Pacific Northwest during the prohibition.
Humor – Guncle by Steven Rowley – Gay Uncle Patrick (Gup) also known to his niece and nephew as Guncle, finds his world turned upside down when a family tragedy back home in Connecticut has him caring for his niece and nephew all summer in Palm Springs. I fell in love with the characters and this family story.
Favorite Author – Delicious by Ruth Reichl- I have been a Reichl fan for years. Celebrated memoir author, food writer and former editor of Gourmet Magazine, her first novel is for foodies as well as anyone who has lost someone they love.
Two of my favorite things to do in the world are travel and read…and for the same reason. Both take you to unknown places, where you meet new people and encounter different ways of life. Both open your eyes to alternative ways of life, educate you and present new ways to think and see the world and beyond. Get out there and explore…books are the perfect way for ANYONE to do that. Just. Go. Read!
Thanks for reading this week’s Reading Wednesday post Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023.
O’Farrell is a master at character development. In this novel she creates some interesting characters in two parallel storylines across a fifty year time period. Of course you know these stories will interject at some point, but even when they do you will be taken aback. It is a story of three strong-willed women and their connection.
Lexie – wants so much more than the provincial life laid out for her in the country home of her parents post WWII. She plots her escape thanks to the love of her life Innes. But Innes has his own secrets that will, after his death, haunt Lexie forever.
Margot – Innes daughter will do anything she can to ruin Lexie’s life. She is Lexie’s nemesis but as the story unfolds we realize that their connection will be greater than either could ever have imagined.
Elina – present day a new mother struggling with her near death experience giving birth to her son, tries to navigate motherhood, while dealing with her husband Ted’s memory issues. Ted refuses to admit he is ill, and Ted’s parents – especially his mother – is secretive and aloof. What memories is she trying to suppress from Ted?
The revelations will come to light in a painful way, but Elina will be the hero as she helps her husband grasp his new reality, recover from the shock and repair the fractured family through her never-ending love.
The Hand That a First Held Mine
Not her best work but a superb story nonetheless, in true O’Farrell fashion. I enjoyed the plot and the outcome. Thanks for reading my book review The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell.
****Four stars for The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell.
A month in a motor home around eastern Australia has been a lot of fun, we have done and seen so many amazing things in this beautiful country. All from the comfort of our Aussie Nest caravan/motor home. If you didn’t see last week’s post, you can check it our here Caravan Travel Australia – The Aussie Nest Part One. In last week’s post I covered the first 14 days, covering about 900 miles. Today we continue the journey with The Aussie Nest – Part Two – the second two weeks.
Australia is big. Nearly the same size as the USA but with vast areas of emptiness and limited infrastructure. I’ve been asked why we chose the region we did and also why we didn’t visit Sydney? So take a look at these two maps. One shows how big Australia is in comparison to the USA….even in the Aussie Nest for a month you can’t even begin to cover it. The second one shows, circled in red, the area we did cover over the past month. Seems small doesn’t it? But we were enchanted at every turn. The areas circled in blue, including Sydney, are what we visited, primarily via airplanes and car rentals on our first visit to Australia six years ago. So we had to make choices. These are the choices we made.
Leaving Booderee National Park
We really enjoyed our three days in beautiful Booderee National Park, but three days is all you can book there for camping. So at the end of our first two weeks it was time to move on and start our second half of The Aussie Nest – Part Two. We continued south on a long day of driving to the tiny seaside historic village of Eden.
We didn’t know a lot about Eden other than the fact it looked beautiful from the pictures. I was very interested in exploring some of the Sapphire Coast along Australia’s southern-most east coast. So we somewhat randomly chose Eden. With lots of time still to spare we thought this would be a good place to hunker down for a week in our little Aussie Nest.
We booked seven nights at Reflections Holiday Park Eden. Snuggled between the beautiful and windy Asling Beach and calm and placid Lake Curalo we really found it to be a beautiful spot. We paid only $26 USD for a lake view spot with all hook ups. Arriving mid-week, there were only a handful of other campers. But many more arrived for the weekend, and then left again on Sunday. Meanwhile we found the location, although occasionally windy, a real bargain.
Each morning I did my run along a beautiful boardwalk and trail around Lake Curalo. We also did a hike around Lake Curalo, and walked the 2 km into the small town. The historic town of Eden was founded in the mid 1800’s and for generations was a whaling town. One of the best things here is the fascinating Killer Whale Museum. It’s very interesting, particularly the excellent video presentation about the history, geology and people of Eden. Whale tours are available from May – November.
On a couple of days we unhooked the Aussie Nest and made our way to enjoy the Whale Trail, an interpretive driving tour about historic sites related to the whaling days. We also visited the historic Boyd’s Tower and Seahorse Inn, the Green Cape Lighthouse and Beowa National Park.
Beowa National Park
Broken up into two coastal sections around historic Eden, we made a point to visit as much of Beowa national park as possible. We hiked many trails and followed the interpretive walks. Here we spotted many more fabulous birds, as well as wallaby. The park offers trails for both novice and advanced hikers as well as picnic areas and viewpoints. Very enjoyable.
Taking advantage of being in a pedestrian friendly town, we had a delicious dinner at the Pikes Italian Bistro located inside the historic Australasian Hotel. We also had another night out in the neighboring town of Pambula where we visited Longstocking Brewery and ate fish and chips at Wheeler’s Seafood.
Time to Head North
After 21 days and 1200 miles it was time to turn the Aussie Nest – Part Two around and begin our drive north, with 1200 miles between us and Brisbane. With seven days remaining we mapped out our final week which would include staying two nights in three different spots and one final night back just outside of Brisbane.
The Capital City of Australia often gets a bad rap as a destination. But we wanted to see it and it was easily along the way. We spent two nights at a very nice campsite Canberra Park close to the city, $36 per night. Canberra is a new city, designed and built specifically to be Australia’s capital. Australia’s states did not come together as a federation until 1901. The site for the capital city was not chosen until 1913. It would take another fifty years before the city of Canberra was complete and the filling of man-made Lake Burley Griffin was complete.
The next day was jam packed. We took a boat tour of the lake, walked all over and enjoyed the garden city…which feels so much more like a park than a city, toured the very mid-century modern Parliament House and visited the National Gallery and Sculpture Garden. All of this in one day. We finished our very full day with a movie and a delicious dinner at the Capitol Bar and Grill.
I’ll say it is no Washington DC so if that is what you are expecting you will be disappointed. However, I am so glad we took time to see it for a brief couple of days.
We had been told to stop in Mudgee if it was on our route, as it was a historic town surrounded by wineries. So why not? We booked two nights at the Riverside Tourist Park for $25 per night, just a couple blocks from town. Before arriving at the campground we enjoyed a lovely wine tasting at Logan Wines and picked up a couple of bottles. Delicious and affordable. We had a quiet night at the campground after a long day of driving.
And then it rained. And rained. And rained. AND RAINED. I went for a morning run along the fabulous paved pathways near the Codgegong River but nearly drowned in the deluge. Back at the Aussie Nest we debated about what to do…but we only had the one full day so we dug out our rain coats and sloshed around the town. We had a lovely breakfast at Outside the Square Cafe, took a look at the beautiful historic buildings still lovingly cared for in this town founded late 1800’s and popped into the vast and eclectic museum. We had a nice dinner at Cade Kitchen & Bar.
Another long drive as we made our way north. There wasn’t anything really special about Moree, other than the fact it was a five hour drive from Mudgee. Five hours is about our limit for each day. So we booked two nights at Moree Tourist Park campround for $25 per night.
Moree is a tiny little agricultural town (wheat) that seems to be past its glory days although farming still rules. Parts of town are boarded up but the tiny downtown is still cute and thriving somewhat. It’s one claim to fame is the local Artesian hot springs. Our campground had a hot spring pool so we soaked in the pools and had a very relaxing day. Coincidentally that was our wedding anniversary too – 41 years! Not many restaurants in Moree, but we have been celebrating already through the week so we went out for nice Indian meal at Moree Indian Restaurant. By the way – Australia is FULL of wonderful Indian Restaurants due the immigrants. Indian immigrants make up 3% of the population.
After 28 days it was hard to believe this was our final day in the Aussie Nest. The Aussie Nest Part Two really flew by. Our final night was spent in Toowoomba, at Jolly Swagman Caravan Park about two hours outside of Brisbane. About $30 for one night. We spent the day packing up for our flight to Melbourne. Packing was much harder than the unpacking a month before, given our space restrictions. But we got it done. On our last night, with the cupboards bare, we went to dinner at an amazing Turkish Reataurant called Sofra in the lively and thriving downtown of Toowoomba. Despite some rain we walked around and enjoyed the murals. Next morning before departing we visited the incredible Cobb & Co. Museum. I enjoyed this final stop and wished for one more day.
Grateful for The Aussie Nest – Part Two
But finally it was time to say farewell to the Aussie Nest. We are grateful to how well it took care of us over the past month. Our journey covered 2400 miles, we stayed in 11 parks, visited 15 towns and two time zones. We saw hundreds of new birds, dozens of interesting animals and fantastic flora and trees. Ample breathtaking views, beautiful beaches, darling villages, spectacular wine, interesting history and wonderful, patriotic and welcoming local people. As you travel around in a caravan in Australia there is a surprise around every corner. You can never see it all. But you can try, and that is what we have done. Wild and wonderful. Australia is all that and more…and what a great way to enjoy it, in our little Aussie Nest. Thank you for joining us for the Aussie Nest – Part Two adventure.
More Australia to Come
But wait! We aren’t done with you yet Australia! Next we spend five days in Melbourne before heading to Tasmania for an entire month. The Australian Adventure continues and we invite you to continue to follow along. Life is good in Australia.
We love it when you pin, share and comment on our posts. It helps our posts get more traction when you do. Thank you so much for that. Check back next week for more Aussie Adventures with My Fab Fifties Life. G’Day!
I recently spent twelve days visiting New York City. It was my sixth visit to the city – my first when I was in college in 1980. Since then my visits have all been three to four days…never enough time to really feel the heart of this amazing city. Visiting for twelve days was incredible. We did not visit the top tourist attractions this time like Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island or the Empire State Building. We had done all that on previous visits. Instead we explored deeper, wandered widely and ate with gusto. It was easy to put together my favorite things in New York City. Here is our story.
Well I’m a planner, and so it’s not my style to wing it. And in New York City it helps to try to plan ahead. For example the day we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with our pre-purchased tickets we avoided an hour and a half wait. We walked right in. I told my husband he should be happy he married a planner…:) I think he is. Try to do some planning and you will enjoy NYC with much less stress and less waiting in line.
Be sure in your planning to consider how far things are from each other. For instance group your activities in Lower Manhattan all together. Central Park and many of the Museums are also in the same area. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time running from one end of the city to the other.
Where We Stayed
There are so many options to stay in NYC but we chose a small Airbnb for its location as much as anything else. This studio was on the ground floor with tons of storage, comfortable bed, small bath and even smaller kitchen. But it was in the Upper East Side, only three blocks to Central Park and two blocks to the subway. And we could afford it!
Art Museums and Tours
New York has a plethora of museums and these listed here are some of my favorite things in New York City. There are many others too…I’ll tick those off on my next visit.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – I can’t really rate all the museums but this was definitely one of my favorites. A beautiful display of timeless art and sculpture…I wish we had spent an entire day.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Smaller museum with changing exhibits but worth a visit to enjoy the beautiful building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Museum of Modern Art – large and sprawling museum home to everything from Monet to Warhol and everything in between.
Brooklyn Street Art Tour, The Bushwick Collective – We took a tour of the Bushwick Collective with a guide, the Brooklyn street mural art that has turned this neighborhood into an art Mecca. I highly recommend it.
The Cloisters – at the far north end of Manhattan is a small Medieval Art Museum associated with The Met. A surprisingly vast collection of Medieval Art, but for me the best part is the beautiful building. Worth a trip.
American Museum of Natural History – You can never see all of this vast museum, so before you go choose a few topics of interest to you and enjoy. Great for families. Get tickets online ahead of time.
The Tenement Museum – fascinating museum in Lower Manhattan that has put together multiple ways to learn about the tenement experience in New York City through the lives and voices of those who lived it. This is a do not miss.
The National September 11th Museum and Tour – Now one of the top tourist destinations in New York, the National September 11 Museum takes you down into the underground where the World Trade Centers used to stand. Here you explore a well thought-out and descriptive museum, all about that horrifying event. We chose to hire a guide for a two hour walk about the neighborhood before going into the museum. Our guide was able to show us many of the iconic spots where unforgettable things took place on September 11th 2001 and the days and weeks that followed. His insight as a New Yorker was so interesting. The tour was definitely worth the money.
Parks and Gardens
Central Park – One of my favorite places in the world. It is truly an incredible space, so well cared for by both the Central Park Conservancy and the local public. Adored by New Yorkers and visitors alike. Spend as much time as you can exploring all the pieces of this 1.32 square mile iconic park. It might just top my list of my favorite things in New York City.
The High Line – Stroll The Highline, a re-purposed elevated railroad track in lower Manhattan, turned into an elevated garden and walkway. Simply the best.
Bowling Green Park – if you take a boat out to the Statue of Liberty of Ellis Island you might depart form Bowling Green Park. It’s a beautiful little green space right on the Hudson River looking across to Lady Liberty.
New York Botanical Gardens – yes it’s all the way out in the Bronx but totally worth it. We really enjoyed our day here. The azaleas and lilacs were blooming and it was just incredibly beautiful, well planned and welcoming. A special orchid exhibit was on display in the Conservatory when we were there.
911 Memorial – Gorgeous and somber, the 911 Memorial recognizes each individual who died from the attacks on September 11th. It is a public space, a free park and gathering place and an absolute must when in New York City. Even if you don’t visit the The National September 11th Museum, be sure to come to the 911 Memorial Park. It is definitely one of my favorite things in New York City.
Brooklyn Bridge – we were blessed with a nice sunny day when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, something I have always wanted to do. There were ALOT of people, but most people just walk about a quarter of the way out. It’s a fun and iconic thing to do with lots of photo opportunities.
New York Subway – my hubs has taught me not to fear the underground! And in NYC it’s cheap and efficient. We did not use Uber or taxis during our entire visit except to the airport…and if it wasn’t for the luggage we could have done a subway there too. I love people watching on the subway! Just keep alert and you’ll be safe.
Yankee Stadium – I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I do enjoy seeing different stadiums around the USA and I’ve been lucky to have been in some of the most iconic. The Yankee Stadium was rebuilt a decade or so ago, but it still reflects the historic old look of this iconic team. Yankees beat the Orioles 5-2.
Broadway – There is nothing like a live show on Broadway, and although the Times Square vibe to me feels like a cheaper version of the Las Vegas Strip, I do love live theater. I wish we could have seen more shows, but we saw two remarkable productions; Hamilton and Aladdin. Both amazing.
Rockefeller Center – I’ve always wanted to see the Christmas Tree and the Rockettes but I’ll have to do that in the future. But for this visit we made a quick visit to 30 Rock just to snap a few photos.
Boat Tour around Manhattan Island and the Manhattan Skyline – we hadn’t planned to do this until our friends recommended it highly. And I am so glad we did. Although the weather wasn’t the best, this tour is a wonderful way to learn history and get a real feel for the lay of the land (or island if you will). Great photos opportunities too for the beautiful and iconic Manhattan skyline.
It’s impossible to eat at all the restaurants in this city. Just look for where the locals are! On this visit we chose some hidden gems instead of the more big name spots. Here is a short list we recommend;
Williamsburg Pizza in Brooklyn – much debate goes around about where to find the best pizza is in Brooklyn. Most people wait an hour at Grimaldi’s, Juliana’s or Lombardi’s. We dashed into this little spot and were very happy with our meal. I don’t think you can go wrong with pizza anywhere in NYC. As the saying goes, pizza was invented in Italy but perfected in New York.
Kashkaval Garden in Hells Kitchen – Mediterranean spot tucked into a warm and inviting small space in Hell’s Kitchen. The hummus was exceptional.
Il Corso in Midtown – I think this may have been my favorite meal in New York. I’m still dreaming about the burrata with fried artichokes.
Crave Fish Bar Upper West Side – our first meal the night we arrived in New York was this wonderful fresh and sustainable seafood restaurant. It was really good and the service was also great. Fun space. Check it out.
Boqueria in Upper East Side – I met my friend Heather here and this joint was busy! Reservations are needed in many NYC favorites. We did the tapas tasting meal…wow…I was rolling home.
Black Star Bakery in Gramercy Park – this bright and cheery spot was a pick-me-up on a busy afternoon. I’d like to go back for something off the delicious-looking breakfast menu.
Zia Maria in Little Italy – Very authentic Italian Restaurant in the fun and colorful neighborhood of Little Italy. There are dozens of restaurants and bars to chose from here…I’m sure most are great…but this one was where we ate lasagna and Lobster Ravioli
Ramen Ishida – the day we went to the Tenement Museum we were going to go to Katz’s Deli, even though we had been there once before. But the line was around the block! Although Katz’s is good, I’m not willing to stand in line for an hour and a half. So instead we stumbled upon this incredible little hole in the wall called Ramen Ishida. It was perfect for a cold windy day. Delicious and beautiful.
My Favorite Things in New York City
Well the twelve days of New York were hectic and fun and we were able to enjoy my favorite things in New York City. We saw a lot, but still didn’t see it all. We left a few things to explore on our next visit…in fact more than a few things. I realize most people can’t stay for twelve days. But hopefully this blog post My Favorite Things in New York City will help guide you to the things YOU find most interesting, in the city that never sleeps.
Meanwhile, check back next Friday, because I’ve saved my favorite neighborhoods for an entire separate blog post….the neighborhoods and boroughs are a colorful and interesting thing about the Big Apple. So diverse, historic and delicious! Look for that blog next Friday.
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Now enjoying our sixth week in French Polynesia, we are smitten with the island of Mo’orea. Just a 30 minute ferry crossing from Tahiti and the country’s main city of Papeete, Mo’orea is convenient and has everything we look for in a relaxing destination. We like it way more than Bora Bora and hope to come here again. Here are our favorite seven things to do on Mo’orea French Polynesia.
We originally chose Mo’orea because we found a wonderful Airbnb. Arriving with high hopes it would be as good as the reviews and photos – we were not been disappointed. It’s very comfortable, affordable, waterfront, and a great location. Another bonus is our host Maea is one of the best hosts we have ever had in our 102 Airbnb’s around the world – yes I said 102!! Perhaps it’s time to update this post Our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World.
Mo’orea might not get the same marketing push that Bora Bora gets, but we think we like it better…at least for us. We enjoy a quiet place with a less touristy vibe. Mo’orea has that, especially during the shoulder season. Authentic ambiance is another thing we look for, and Mo’orea has that too. Our experience here has been incredible.
Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Unless you are staying only for a couple days in a resort (we recommend longer) you need to have a car on Mo’orea. Public transportation is non-existent. There are a few taxis and of course tours, but having your own wheels will make all of the suggestions below accessible. It’s worth the expense.
So here are our seven things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia. In no particular order;
There are many snorkel options on the island. Mo’orea is surrounded by a reef that creates a shallow and beautiful lagoon nearly the entire circumference of the island. You can take a snorkel tour in a kayak, small boat, large group tour with lunch or an outrigger. Or you can bring or buy your own snorkel and fins (what we did) and snorkel from any public beach on the island. You will see remarkably beautiful coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. Of course you will see a fascinating collection of sea life including rays, black tip sharks and a rainbow of tropical fish. Want to see more of our favorite Snorkeling Around the World? Click Here.
2. Coco Beach
Coco Beach is a fun day trip, even though we had better snorkeling elsewhere. You need to call ahead for a reservation. A small boat will meet you at the parking area and ferry you over to the tiny island. Then you will be shown to your outdoor table, which is yours for the day. Have a tropical drink, then enjoy the beautiful warm water before feasting on delicious lunch. Last boat back is at 3:30pm. It makes for a wonderful day. Total for our day was $116.
3. Tahiti Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did our first week on the island was to take a tour with Tahiti Food Tours. It’s always a good way to learn about local cuisine. Our tour included stops at 7 local “snacks” (Tahitian Fast Food or Street Food) as well as a distillery. This tour was delicious and opened our eyes to some of the local specialties. Our local guide was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and funny. Cost per person $120USD
4. Food and CookLab Cooking School
Another thing we do in many of our travel destinations is take a cooking class. Thanks to our guide on the food tour (above) we learned about the Food and CookLab, a sustainable and organic cooking school on the island. We took their Polynesian Foods cooking class where we learned to make poisson cru, manioc chips, po’e – a plantain pudding cooked in banana leaf (also a sweet potato version), breadfruit and hibiscus leaf wrapped coconut bread. Cost per person $75USD lunch included.
I enjoyed the class so much I signed up for a second class, presented by a local chef on the island. In this second class we took beautiful local tuna and oyster muscles and created multiple dishes including gravlax, rillettes and fume (smoked fish). $125 USD lunch included as well as doggy bags of delicious fish to take home.
5. Tiki Village
If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, Tiki Village is the Polynesian version. The entertainment is different than Hawaii, as of course it focuses on the Tahitian dress, music and lore. The food is cooked in a pit including a whole pig but includes breadfruit, po’e (see above), poisson cru and local fish. The meal also included some international dishes from the French influence including pate, salads and dessert. The sunset view was amazing. Cost $110USD
Airport/Golf Course Hike – Starting from Temae beach you can hike the flat sandy road along the tiny Mo’orea Airport and the Mo’orea Golf Course and back. Round trip about three miles. Easy.
Three Coconuts – Starting at the Belvedere Lookout this ascent is gradual except for the final mile. But the beautiful view is definitely worth it. Wear proper shoes. Total round trip 3.5 miles. Difficult.
Magic Mountain – most of the tours drive up to the view point on Magic Mountain but if you want a good work out then you can walk up. It’s steep but the road is in fairly good condition and the view is spectacular. Park at the fruit stand at the bottom for $2. When you come back have a fruit smoothie. Very nice lady here. Total round trip less than 2 miles but 700+ feet vertical. Moderate.
Waterfall Hike – there wasn’t much water in the waterfall when we visited, but it was a good sweaty work out nonetheless. This was the most junglesque hike we did, beautiful deep jungle as we trekked a sometimes rough trail to the waterfall. To find this hike go just past the hospital in Afareietu and turn into a small road and park near the Veterans Memorial. Walk up the dirt road and keep left, it becomes the trail. 3 miles round trip and moderate.
Post Office – from the right side as you face the tiny yellow post office building at the Temae beach turnoff, there is a hidden trail that takes you up to the radio towers and then scoots up to a peak. This trail is very steep. Bring lots of water. The view is amazing. You can go back down the way you came or continue on the trail through a thickly forested area where the trail is sometimes difficult to find. Watch for flags tied to trees to keep to the trail. Total distance 2 miles if you head back down the way you came up; 4.5 miles if you complete the loop. Very difficult.
Pineapple Fields – From Pao Pao follow the “Route de Ananas” road inland until it becomes dirt. Park and walk staying to the right to the beautiful pineapple fields. Pineapple is a local cash crop Mo’orea is known for. The tiny and sweet little golden fruits are delicious. On this hike you can see the beautiful plants both in flower and in fruit. You can make this hike short (about 1 mile) or longer (above 3 miles). Easy.
7. Drive Around the Island
It’s 30 miles or 48 km around the island on the “main” road. This is bigger than the island of Praslin we stayed on in the Seychelle Islands and smaller than our favorite Hawaiian island of Maui. It definitely makes my list now of my favorite islands around the world.
There are a few side roads, like the one to the Belvedere and to the Pineapple Fields. But mostly it’s the main road. Locals drive pretty fast and crazy and there are bicycles, pedestrians and lots of dogs. But a tour around the island is a must with stops along the way.
This map shows the island and the main road. Starting at the ferry terminal in Vaiare follow the road counter clockwise. Teavara is the village our bungalow is. Continue up the hill to a spectacular viewpoint called Toatea, down the hill to the entrance to one of our favorite beaches Temae (also the location of the Airport Hike above). Continue around through the main town of Maharepa (don’t blink you’ll miss it) and to the first bay called Cook’s Bay. The village of PaoPao has some tiny eateries and a fabulous view of Rotui Mountain. Beautiful spot here includes a historic church. Pao Pao is also where you turn to the Pineapple Route. Continue on you’ll come to another gorgeous beach called Ta’ahiamanu – my favorite beach on the island. Plenty of parking and a great snorkel spot.
Next you’ll arrive at the head of Opunohu Bay. This is where you turn to the Belvedere lookout and hikes as well as Magic Mountain. As you round the Westside of the island it is quieter and more rural. There is a beautiful public beach here at Hauru and this is also the location of Coco Beach (above). Continue further to the location of Tiki Village (above) and a couple more beautiful historic churches at Haapiti.
At Afareaitu is the start of the waterfall hike (above) and is also home to the island’s administrative center and hospital. Finish your circle tour back at Vaiare. Along the way there are plenty of local “snack” shops, food trucks and restaurants as well as a hand full of souvenir shops and pearl shops and locals selling goods and fruit along the roadside. It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful island. Take your time and enjoy.
Fresh Food Glorious Food
There are some surprisingly good places to eat on this tiny island, and I am putting together a separate blog post about that for next week. So you’re gonna want to check back about that. Meanwhile, check out our latest Tasty Tuesday video on our YouTube channel. Your introduction to Poisson Cru the national dish of Polynesia – we try to eat it everyday. It’s amazing, healthy and very local.
Thanks for following along on our Seven Things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia tour. Please come back next week for more about Mo’orea.
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