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Tiki Tour

    Oceania Travel

    Time to Tiki Tour the Wop-Wop

    Chapter Six -New Zealand Impressions

    Location: New Zealand

    We have been in New Zealand 12 days already. Several words come to mind to describe this country in my early impressions;

    CHEERFUL – the people here! Wow!  They are all so happy and nice. Something in the water?  Or maybe they realize how good they’ve got it in this beautiful country.

    PATRIOTIC – everyone we talk to loves their

    Vineyards

    country and wants to tell you all the things you shouldn’t miss while you are here. They actually seem to like tourists.

    COURTEOUS – the roads in New Zealand aren’t freeways. And they do drive fast and on the left. But everyone is so courteous. They don’t use their horn, they allow others to pass when it’s safe. Also everywhere there are these one lane bridges. Everyone waits their turn. And it works. It just

    Blues and greens

    works.

    FUNNY – New Zealanders love to give things nicknames and it’s fun to listen to them talk.  Of course they call themselves Kiwis; their flip flops are jandles; sunglasses are sunnies; breakfast is brekkie.  Clothes are togs, the corner market is the dairy, caravan is a camper and wop-wop is out in the boonies. Ta means thanks, stoked is excited and choka means overflowing.  And the one I like the best is “tiki-tour”  that’s what we are on – a tour without any real destination.

    Interesting finds while tramping

    OUTDOORSY – Trekking (or tramping as it is also called) is a national pastime and everyone young and old is out tramping about on the trails everywhere we go. Being on the water is also a national pastime (this is an island after all) and people are on the beach, in the water and on the

    The trails

    water in kayaks, paddle boards, dinghies, sailboats, ski boats, water taxis, cruisers, yachts, ferries and cruise ships. Boats are everywhere.

    CLEAN – the water is the clearest and cleanest I have seen anywhere in the entire world. There is not a speck of litter ANYWHERE! The beaches are pristine as are the woods and trails and roads. And everywhere there are clean and efficient FREE public FLUSH toilets WITH TOILET PAPER!!!!

    Bathrooms

    GORGEOUS – we have spent most of our time so far enjoying the stunning scenery of the South Island and have been blessed with sunshine the past seven days. As we begin to journey farther south tomorrow I’m anticipating cooler and wetter weather. But even with the rain comes more waterfalls and beautiful rivers.

    COLOR – the multiple hues of green are amazing.

    Beautiful

    Who knew there could be so many shades of green. And the turquoise of the water is such a surprise.

    EXPENSIVE – alas it’s not perfect. New Zealand is expensive. Gas is around $5.50 US per gallon. Groceries are very expensive, but not as expensive as eating out. Our Airbnb’s have been reasonable, but tomorrow we pick up our camper van. It will average about $100 a day (plus gas – yikes!).

    So starting tomorrow we are off in our caravan, wearing our sunnies and jandles, headed to the wop-wop on our tiki-tour.  And we’re stoked!

    Inspire

    My Epic Adventures Around the World

    Just under four years of nearly non-stop travel, as well as many adventures earlier in my life, has left me with an unbelievable collection of epic adventures around the world memories. Lucky me.

    I’m not giving up on resuming our travel life…however I expect we will sit home for a year before we set out on anything too epic. And even if that never happens, what a life we have led.

    In my living room I have a large book case that I call “The Museum”. Here I display my world treasures. There are not alot, given the fact that we travel light and I try not to do too much shopping as we travel, but I rarely leave any country without picking up something special. I love looking at “The Museum” and although I appreciate when guests look too, “The Museum” is really for me, a reminder of my blessed and adventurous life.

    The Museum

    As I wait to determine what my next chapter in my life is going to look like, I spend a lot of my brain cells reliving some of my life’s greatest epic adventures. Therefore it seemed like a perfect blog to pull together and share. My Epic Adventures Around the World. I hope you enjoy.

    The Inca Trail and Machu Pichu – I don’t have a blog about this experience, it was before I began blogging about my travels. But it was a defining experience in my life, opening my eyes to my own physical capabilities. The five day hike on the Inca trail to Machu Pichu took every thing my body had to give, while also providing some of my all -time favorite zen moments. Life changing.

    epic adventures around the world

    Galapagos Islands – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time.  The day we snorkeled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks.  Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.

    epic adventures around the world

    Weekend with the Monks South Korea – spending the weekend at a Korean Buddhist monastery was a unique and slightly painful experience. Living as a monk, mostly in silence, sleeping on the concrete, up before the sun and hours of meditative prayer was certainly memorable. But my favorite part was meeting the female monks at this monastery, hearing their story and gaining such an admiration for such a devout life.

    epic adventures around the world

    Easter Island Chile – Everything about Rapa Nui was stunning, but like most visitors I had my favorites. And like most visitors my two favorite sites were the Ranu Raraku quarry site and the Ahu Tongariki.   Upon laying your eyes on these two sites for the first time you conjure a list of adjectives; breathtaking, fascinating, interesting, surprising, remarkable. At one point I had to just stop and breathe deep – and remind myself how remarkable it all was, and how remarkable it was that I was standing there.

    epic adventures around the world

    Namibia – Arne and I both have Namibia on our top five list of one of the most beautiful countries and most incredible experiences ever. That is saying a lot in 110 countries. Unspoiled, incredibly diverse and still remarkably authentic, Namibia is astonishing. I have two excellent blogs about our experience there. The link above is the first one. Here is the second.

    epic adventures around the world
    Sunny Namibia

    Burkina Faso – who goes to Burkina Faso? Well apparently I do. I didn’t really want to go, but in hindsight spending three weeks there visiting our Peace Corps son was one of the most remarkable and eye-opening travel experiences of my life. And doing it with my grown sons made such fantastic family memories. I will never regret having gone.

    epic adventures around the world
    Burkina Faso

    Inle to Kalaw Hike Myanmar – I don’t have a blog about this experience, but it did win one of our 2019 Travel Awards for it’s uniqueness. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.

    epic adventures around the world

    Camino de Santiago Spain – Hands down one of the best, most spiritual, most life affirming experiences of my life. Walking 500 miles across Spain – 40 days, thousands of memories, one incredible experience. I hold this memory very, very dear.

    epic adventures around the world
    The Grand Adventure Spain

    Gorilla Trek Uganda – a life-long dream for me to trek to see the elusive Mountain Gorilla, for me this has also become a marker for the Corona world-crisis. Doing this tour was the last “normal” thing we did, before the world spiraled out of control, and came to a screeching halt. I will be forever grateful that Covid-19 did not stop us from doing this experience, and I will remember these creatures fondly.

    epic adventures around the world

    Tiki Tour in New Zealand – who knew living in 90 square feet could be so much fun? What a remarkable way to see one of my top favorite countries, New Zealand. I would do this again…and have also considered doing it in Australia. To really see all that is fabulous about New Zealand, a Tiki Tour is the way to go.

    epic adventures around the world

    The Great Barrier Reef Australia I had to really convince my husband that snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef off of the east coast of Australia was worth the money. But I wasn’t visiting Australia without seeing the reef, and despite a crappy weather day, our experience in the ocean was amazing. A pinch me moment, in a life of pinch me moments.

    epic adventures around the world

    Alps Hike Switzerland – with total honesty and without hyperbole, this day hiking the Schilthorn was one of the best days of my life. The physical challenge of it was astonishing, the beauty of it was heavenly and the satisfation on a travel scale of 1-10 was a million. Blessed day.

    epic adventures around the world

    Camel Trek in Morocco – incredibly painful, incredibly memorable. Our overnight camel trek in the dessert of Morocco was quirky and special, despite how uncomfortable riding a camel can be…who knew? But I’m so glad we did it; overnighting in the Bedouin camp, drinking wine around the camp fire in the chilly dessert night air, then rising again and clamoring back onto the beast for the trek back. I’ll never forget it.

    epic adventures around the world
    Sunny Morocco

    Bangladesh – we would have never gone to Bangladesh, except our friend Natalie was teaching there…so why not? A quick stop in this untouristed country to see what we can see. Wow. I would never imagined that we would have enjoyed it so much and have one of the most authentic travel experiences of our life.

    epic adventures around the world
    Beautiful Bangladesh

    Above it all – we paid a ridiculous amount of money to have two separate experiences in our travels – both taking us high above it all. It’s always hard to know if these things are worth the money, especially when we travel on a fairly strict budget. But for me, both of these experiences were worth every penny. Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia and flying in a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan Myanmar. These both will go down in our travel life as phenomenal.

    epic adventures around the world
    The Grand Adventure Australia
    epic adventures around the world

    So the Grand Adventure is on sabbatical until further notice. I continue to hope we will travel again…but the brake is firmly set until further notice and we turn our attention to other inspiring adventures…stay tuned, and don’t give up.

    Thank you for continuing to support our blog – we promise lots of interesting and inspiring articles coming your way. Be safe. Be healthy.

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    epic adventures around the world
    epic adventures around the world
    Island Life  --  Oceania Travel

    Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia

    South Pacific Paradise

    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.

    The ferry terminal on Mo’orea

    Why Mo’orea?

    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.

    Our host Maea teaching us how to open coconuts
    Our beach side Bungalow

    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.

    The beach we stayed on from the air

    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;

    1. Snorkel

    Snorkleing at Temae Beach
    Snorkleing from the kayak

    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
    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

    Poison Cru
    With our guide Haimata

    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

    Wrapping the Po’e in banana leaves
    Making the Manioc Chips

    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.

    Learning three ways to use tuna

    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

    Tiki Village performance
    The feast at 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

    6. Hiking

    The Airport Hike
    On top of Magic Mountain

    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.

    Three Coconuts Hike
    The Top at Three Coconuts

    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.

    The view from Post Office hike
    Waterfall

    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.

    Ta’ahiamanu Beach
    Toatea Viewpoint

    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.

    Several historic churches around the island
    Shopping options abound

    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.

    Beautiful Mo’orea

    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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    See last week’s blog post Bora Bora on a Budget.

    Island Life  --  Oceania Travel

    The Flavors of French Polynesia

    Island Life on Mo’orea

    Location: Mo'orea Tahiti French Polynesia

    We are loving our long visit to the gorgeous island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia where we are living for two months. As usual we are eating our way through this tropical culture and enjoying every morsel. It’s an eclectic collection of cultures and ingredients, so today we will attempt to pull together our impressions of The Flavors of French Polynesia, and specifically of Mo’orea.

    Poisson Cru is the national dish

    History

    The people known as Polynesians migrated to the Society Islands as long ago as 500 BC from as far away as Malaysia. These same people, who are known to be exceptional navigators, populated the south Pacific islands from Hawaii to Samoa and also New Zealand.

    On these voyages the Polynesians had bananas and coconut, as well as taro, yams, plantain, breadfruit and sugarcane. It is thought they also brought pigs, dogs and chickens. They carried with them what would become the flavors of French Polynesia.

    Polynesian Navigators (Wikipedia)

    The Portuguese explorer Magellan sailed through this area in 1521 and the Dutch in the early 1700’s. But the first European to land on Tahiti was a British Explorer named Samuel Wallis who arrived in 1767 and claimed the island for Great Britain, despite the fact that there was already a monarchy ruling Tahiti.

    Shortly after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived and claimed it for France. Tahiti became a French Protectorate in 1840 and in 1880 a French Colony when King Pomare V of Tahiti accepted annexation.

    Today it is known as a collectivity of France, comprising over 100 islands in the South Pacific. It holds more autonomy than most French possessions and has a President and Assembly.

    French Influence

    Our food exploration on the island of Mo’orea turns up a lot of French influence in the cuisine. Despite the fact less than 9% of the population claims to be French, it is a big influence in the cuisine. In the grocery stores available for purchase are beautiful terrines, foie gras and cheeses as well as bread. Lots of French bread.

    Foie Gras (Canva)

    There are several French Restaurants on the island. We enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Mo’orea Beach Cafe and hope to visit another French Restaurant on the island in the weeks ahead.

    We have visited many nations with a history of French occupation. The cuisine in many of these still reflects the French influence. Everything from Bahn Mi in Vietnam to the Burkina Faso street food of omelet in a baguette.

    Chinese Influence

    In the 1860’s the French brought Chinese laborers to the Pacific islands to work in the sugar cane fields. With them of course came their cuisine and food influences. Today the population is made up of about 10% ethnic Chinese.

    One food we had was a strange but delicious combination of French and Chinese when we were served Chop Suey noodles inside a French Baguette.

    Chop Suey Sandwich

    Bao Buns, dumplings and many fried Chinese Foods are popular, especially on Sunday mornings which is always family day.

    This week is also the start of the Lunar New Year and there are some local celebrations. In honor we did a favorite Chinese dish at our Airbnb with local Tahitian Shrimp and shared it on our YouTube channel. Check it out here Kung Pao Shrimp,

    I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

    Coconuts are a staple here on the island and islanders use every part, both historically and today. The amazing coconut has water, milk, meat as well as strong fiber for cloth and rope. Coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut oil (known as Copra Oil) all are part of the culture. And the shell becomes a cup or a bowl. It’s a multipurpose and delicious food.

    Coconut

    Beyond coconut the island weather creates a thriving environment for tropical fruits of many kinds. We have talked in past blog posts about the abundance of mango and banana around the world, and here on Mo’orea is no different. Also available and commercially produced are the sweetest little pineapples. Everywhere you look there are papaya, passion fruit, limes, breadfruit and plantain. Sometimes we can find starfruit, avocado, custard apple and guava.

    Fresh Fruit

    This abundance of fruit makes it’s way into many local restaurants as well as into our morning breakfast bowl with yogurt.

    Agriculture

    The island of Mo’orea has both an Agriculture High School and College. Though pineapple is grown commercially it is not exported. Sugar cane is no longer a cash crop, but due to the resurgence of Rum it is being reinstated. Mo’orea has some commercial production of vanilla.

    Rum Tasting
    Tahitian Vanilla

    Today Tahiti exports coconut oil and pearls, with pearls making up the largest export by far and is second in economic impact to the nation to tourism.

    Teach a Man to Fish…

    Given it’s an island, fish is of course a staple protein. We have been astonished by the inexpensive and delicious red and white ahi. Ahi is served everywhere and is usually the fish enjoyed in the national dish of Tahiti called Poisson Cru. We have eaten Poisson Cru several times now, and have made it ourselves too. Mixing the island favorites of fish, lime and coconut milk with some veg it’s absolutely delicious and served everywhere.

    Fresh Ahi

    Originally however, Poisson Cru was made with reef fish. Reef fish is still a staple and local fisherman, in small skiff or kayaks fish the reefs every morning for Dorado, Parrot Fish and other small fish that live in the coral. We purchased some small fish right in our front yard and enjoyed cooking them.

    Today’s catch
    Fresh Dorado with herbs

    Sport fishing is also popular here for Big Eye, Wahoo, Marlin and more.

    Mo’orea is home to a shrimp farm, producing some of the best shrimp I have ever eaten. I was surprised to find warm water shrimp this tasty. We used the local shrimp for our Kung Pao Shrimp recipe (see above).

    Comfort Foods and Carbs

    I try to stay away from bread and sweets most of the time, but both are very popular in the daily diet of locals. One such food is Firi Firi, a local donut. Firi Firi is available in road side stands around the island, usually on Sunday morning when families gather. Personally I thought the coconut sugar fried dough was too greasy.

    Firi Firi

    Something I did really like was a coconut bread we had from the Chinese take out. It was wonderful and is a very popular local treat. On Sundays the Chinese take out is very busy as locals gather their favorites from bao buns to deep fried pork and sweets for family time.

    Coconut Bread

    Speaking of bread, the French Polynesia government subsidizes baguettes. Which means they are incredibly cheap and abundantly available six days a week, hot from the oven at a cost of 57 cents (USD). We were told this is to make sure everyone can at least afford bread. And boy do the locals eat up those cheap baguettes.

    Baguette

    At the Polynesian Tiki Village Show we attended, our dinner included the local comfort food of Pua’a, a suckling pig cooked underground. Nearly identical to way it’s done in Hawaii. Also in the same pit was cooked breadfruit, coconut bread and plantains.

    Oven for the Pua’a
    Pua’a

    Street Food Tour

    One of the first things we did during our first week in Mo’orea was spend a day with Tahiti Food Tours on a Mo’orea Tama’a Street Food Tour. I love doing these kinds of exploratory tours, to really kick start some knowledge about local cuisine. Our guide Heimata was fabulous and we tasted many different local street foods and the wide variety of different types of outdoor places locals go (see more below about that). Heimata, born on Mo’orea, was the perfect guide to show us the ropes. Some of my favorite things were the local mango sprinkled with plum powder, grilled beef heart, Chinese dumpling, Poisson Cru and homemade ice cream. Our tour also included a stop at the local rum distillery and juice factory.

    Mango with Plum Powder
    Chinese Dumplings

    Local Cooking Class

    Heimata also turned us on to the Food and Cook Lab, an organic and locally sourced cooking experience here on Mo’orea. We spent a day with Audrey and Stevenson as well as two American women and a man from France at their beautiful and sustainable kitchens. The class we took was all about using locally sourced foods to make some of the traditional Tahitian dishes. We went out into the garden and dug up manioc root and made manioc chips. They were so delicious. We cooked breadfruit over an open flame and then made amazing Poisson Cru. They taught us to make coconut bread, steamed inside hibiscus leaves. And we also made pumpkin and plantain po’a, which was baked inside banana leaf and is like a pudding. What an amazing experience we had. I liked it so much I have registered for another class coming up to learn about fish!

    Wrapping the Po’e
    Manioc Chips

    These experiences above also opened our eyes to some of the different kinds of food and dining establishments available on the island. We learned about several different categories of dining;

    Snack Shops

    Called Snacks locally, these are usually take out areas of restaurants, or very small roadside restaurants. On our food tour we visited a couple. My favorite was Snack Rotui right on the water at the head of Cooks Bay (often called First Bay). Snack Rotui is one of the oldest businesses on the island. The food is prepared across the street in a small kitchen and brought over to the road side “snack” by bicycle. Serving a variety of local specialties from quenelles to egg rolls and fish to chicken. Inexpensive and super yummy. We plan to return.

    Snack Rotui

    On another day we visited another Snack that sold mostly juice, smoothies and homemade jams. I bought some pineapple mint jam which I used on chicken and it was delicious.

    Smothies at a Snack

    Food Trucks

    Known as Roulotte, a French word that describes its mobility, Roulotte’s are everywhere. Not necessarily always “trucks” like we see in the USA, more often trailers. Some of the trailers are set up more permanent with attached covered seating, while others come and go. We noticed Roulottes selling noodles, crepes, whole chicken, pork, steak frits, grilled fish, tacos, and even churros. Our favorite is Kaylakea Moz Food right next door to the Mahana Resort. At Moz we had one grilled tuna and one tuna tartar and both were outstanding. So far the best meal we have enjoyed at this darling little Roulotte and much less expensive than a traditional restaurant.

    Kaylakea Moz Food Truck
    Grilled Tuna
    Tuna Tartar

    Fruit Lady

    For lack of a better name we call these small ma and pa roadside tables the Fruit Lady. Usually set up in front of someone’s home, these are likely unlicensed operators selling locally sourced fruit and veg and sometimes Firi Firi. We are trying to buy all our fruit and veg from these vendors and support local as much as we can.

    Fruits and Veg
    at the fruit lady stand

    Some of the vendors are at the same spot everyday, while others come and go, particularly the fish vendors who sell out of the back of their car when they have a catch. We have also seen vendors selling Mape, which is a local chestnut and very popular. At one fruit lady stand they also sell lovely leis and flower head pieces.

    Traditional Restaurants

    Of course there are traditional restaurants too, but they seem less frequent. All the resorts have traditional restaurants and there are several beach side ones as well. Because many business close between mid January and mid February, we are holding out to visit a few on our list. We did have an exceptional (but also expensive) French lunch at Mo’orea Beach Cafe on one of our first days. I had one of the best pieces of fish I have every had (Dover sole) cooked to perfection. The service and view was exceptional too.

    Mo’orea Beach Cafe

    The Flavors of French Polynesia

    We have been on the island of Mo’orea now for three weeks and we have five weeks to go. So we still have lots of time to explore more of the flavors of French Polynesia. Next week we are flying over to Bora Bora for several days. I don’t expect the food to be different, but since we will be staying in a hotel and not in an Airbnb we will be eating out more. So I’ll be in search of the flavors of French Polynesia.

    No blog next Friday but I’ll tell you all about Bora Bora the following week.

    Thank you for joining me today to learn about the flavors of French Polynesia. We love it when you pin and share our blog. Thank you. Mauruuru!

    See our Fifth Annual Travel Awards 2021 here.

    See this week’s top performing pin here Best of My Fab Fifties Life 2021

    Africa & The Middle East Travel

    Dilemma and Delight in Diani Beach Kenya

    Location: Diani Beach Kenya

    Diani Beach Kenya – It’s been a year since the deadly Nairobi hotel terrorism attack that took 21 lives. Kenya has had its share of terrorism over the past decade, mostly attributed to Al Shabab, an African Islamic group associated with Al Qaeda.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach at sunrise

    During this same year 40000 people died in the United States from gun-related violence.

    I share this comparison not to advocate against guns but to make a point; media accounts of violence around the world create a fear of faraway places, even while violence at home is often just as severe.

    It’s a dilemma to decide how to travel safely around the globe. And though we take our personal safety seriously, we do not believe we are in any more danger in Kenya, with its history of terrorist hits, than in the USA, with its history of domestic and international terrorism as well as rampant gun violence.

    Sheldrick Falls Kenya
    Sheldrick Falls

    And so we came to Kenya – specifically Diani Beach Kenya.

    Diani Beach Kenya is both a dilemma and a delight. This beautiful coastal town on the Indian Ocean has seen its own share of violence including murder and bombings.

    Camels on the Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach from The Edge Restaurant

    The larger image of Kenya as a violent place over the past decade has been disastrous for the tourism industry, especially in Diani. Like other places we have visited (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America), war, coups, violent crimes and terrorism – and the media accounts of these- can devastate tourism overnight, and the damage takes decades to recover.

    Think about it.

    Abandoned Diani Beach hotel
    Abandoned Hotel Diani Beach

    But what of places like Paris, Las Vegas, London or Boston? All places that have had terrorism attacks over the past few years but visitors still flock there. Why do we feel safer from terrorism in a “western” culture?

    Abandoned Diani Beach Park
    Entrance to abandoned amusement park

    Diani Beach Kenya, touted as the most beautiful beach in Africa, deserves a chance to rebuild its tourism program. Within the 17 mile stretch of white sandy beach sit several abandoned hotels, bars and even an amusement park – places unable to hold on when the tourists stopped coming.

    Abandoned swimming pool Kenya
    Abandoned hotel pool, Diani Beach

    Today, and particularly during the holiday season when we were visiting, tourism is on an uptick. Europeans from Germany, Scandinavia and Britain were abundant on the beach, in restaurants and bars and in the shopping areas.

    Abandoned Diani Beach Bar
    Abandoned beach bar “40 Thieves”

    Convincing Americans to travel here will take more time, and hopefully there will be no more attacks. Meanwhile we feel safe and happy to have enjoyed this beautiful, affordable and incredibly friendly place.

    We want the best for the Kenyan people and our new friends in Diani Beach. Hardworking people who for the most part want jobs to support their families and have a good life. Tourism is the vehicle for that and they want it to thrive once again.

    The Sands at Nomad Restaurant
    Dinner at the beautiful Sands at Nomad

    So here are some recommendations from our three weeks in Diani, for you to consider when planning your Kenyan adventure.

    Where to stay – Frangipani Cottages – very affordable, beautiful pool and 700 meters to the beach.

    Frangipani Cottages Diani Beach
    We loved our three weeks at Frangipani Cottages


    Our favorite bars and restaurants – Tiki Bar, Havana Bar, The Edge, Nomad Bar and Restaurant, Kokkos, Java House, Oasis Bar, Salty Squid, Piri Piri.

    Favorite Activities – Shimba Hills and Sheldrick Waterfall Hike, Wasini Snorkel trip, Swahili Cooking Class.

    Traditional Dhow boat Diani Beach
    Boat to Wasini Snorkle

    There are MANY other activities in and around Diani that we did not do such as multi-day safari, Colobus Monkey Reserve, slave caves and fishing. Learn more here.

    Next stop for us the island of Mauritius out in the Indian Ocean! Don’t miss our ANNUAL WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS 2019 blog coming on January 17th.

    Thanks for your support this past year. Please share our blog. Happy New Year!

    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Review of McMenamins Elks Temple, Tacoma WA

    Summer in Washington State

    McMenains Tacoma

    Location: Tacoma Washington USA

    My Fab Fifties Life is enjoying a summer in Washington State, USA, where I was born and raised.  As much as I love my life of full-time travel, coming home to familiar ground where my family is brings a sense of stability to our nomad world.

    When we return to the USA most summers, my focus is always family, but we also get out at least once a week and play tourists in our own backyard.  And that is what we did this past weekend in celebration of both Father’s Day and my husband’s birthday.

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    McMenamins Elks Lodge Tacoma

    Growing up in the Pacific Northwest the blue-collar town of Tacoma always had a bit of a “smelly” reputation because of the pulp and paper mill that cast an odor over the town for several generations.  Today however Tacoma has become a renaissance town, with gorgeous views, multiple incredible museums, beautiful parks, and delicious dining.

    And the newest little gem to open in Tacoma is the McMenamins franchise masterpiece in the historic and beautifully restored Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma.

    If you aren’t from around these parts you might not be familiar with the vision of Mike and Brian McMenamin, Oregon brothers who have built a legendary business of turning historic and dilapidated properties into spectacularly quirky and fun hotels, restaurants, breweries, distilleries,

    Many pubs at McMenamins

    Elks Lodge Pub & Restaurant

    and event venues. For the past 20 years my husband and I, (on many occasions with our kids in tow), have made one of the dozens of McMenamins properties a destination weekend.

    The latest addition to the McMenamins dynasty is the opening of the Tacoma Elks Temple after several years of extensive restoration. The building had sat abandoned for thirty-five years, and time, weather and graffiti all had taken a toll.

    And yet, this is what McMenamins does best – breathe life into old structures all while digging deep into the silent history of a building to awaken both the known and unknown stories of the people and events that were there.  The Elks Temple does just that.

    Reflecting Tacoma's history

    Art everywhere you look

    Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, the building was home to one of the nation’s largest Elks organizations until the 1960’s.  It was then used as an event venue and, unlike the all-white Elks organization, the building welcomed anyone of any race and held many of the local African-American Rose Cotillion Balls for several years.  But times changed and so did the building as it fell into disrepair for 33 years until the visionary McMenamins saw its potential.

    We arrived in the afternoon on a very crowded Father’s Day and proceeded to taste our way through all of the properties five bars.  Each bar named appropriately, decorated with fun and interesting relics including menu’s that reflect the individual personality of each bar.  For instance in

    Tacoma's Spanish Steps

    Hand crafted beer and tapas at the Spanish Steps Bar

    the Spanish Steps bar (named for Tacoma’s beautiful Spanish Steps that run along the south edge of the building) Tapas are featured on the menu, while in The Old Hangout, a throwback to Trader Vic’s style 1950’s Tiki Bar serves everything from Mai Tai to Singapore Sling, grilled Pineapple Sundae or Salt and Pepper Squid.u

    True to the McMenamins model, guests must try to find the “hidden” bar called The Vault. We found it, actually cheated a little because someone was coming out…and I don’t think we would have found it otherwise.  Cleverly disguised. That’s all I’m gonna say.

    We had both dinner and breakfast in the Elks Pub and Restaurant where we enjoyed pizza, salad and soup for dinner with more McMenamin

    McMenamins Bars

    The Old Hang Out Bar throwback to old style Tiki

    hand-crafted beer.  For breakfast I had an amazing Eggs Benedict that included artichoke hearts and spinach and included cheese jalapeño grits.  Wow.

    The Elks Lodge now has 45 rooms, each and every one named for a person or group of persons who had something to do with the building or the surrounding area.  Everyone from Robert Cray (musician) to Bill Baarsma (former mayor) to Hattie Lund (no relation to me but a long-time Tacoma philanthropist) to the Puyallup Native American Tribe.

    I have two small complaints about our visit.  Our room which opened to

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    Our room

    an atrium and did not have an outside window, was a bit stuffy and I wished for a window.  If I return I’ll pay a little more for a room on the perimeter of the building.  My other complaint is that although the wifi worked great throughout the building in bars and public spaces, it was non-existent in our room.

    Rooms start around $140 per night.  Food and beverage is very reasonably priced.  If you come, allow plenty of time to just explore…it’s like a museum of both art and history as well as a wonderful place to people watch Tacoma’s eclectic and proud residents.  So much fun.  We will be back.

    Learn more at McMenamins Tacoma Elks Temple

     

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    North America Travel

    What to do in Scottsdale Arizona

    My Fab Favorite Things

    Location: Scottsdale Arizona

    I just visited Scottsdale Arizona for the third time.  I really love this little town because it has so much to offer; great weather, spectacular scenery, interesting history, great outdoor activities and delicious restaurants.  In fact Scottsdale seems to have the highest concentration of dining options of just about anywhere I have every been…all of them delicious.

    During my various visits to Scottsdale area I have created a short list of my favorite things to do while in Scottsdale Arizona.  This list is certainly not complete, because the wide variety of activities ranges from  visits to the Grand Canyon to Food Tours on a Segway, from gambling all night long to lounging by the pool all day.  I myself am not a golfer, but certainly golf is one of the biggest things that draw visitors to this area.  Scottsdale definitely has something for everyone.

    As you plan your visit to the beautiful Scottsdale Arizona area, perhaps this list of what to do in Scottsdale Arizona – my fab favorite things, will be of use. I hope it is.

    Accommodations

    Vacation Rental Kierland Commons

    A wide range of accommodations are available in the area from camping in beautiful state and national parks to budget hotels, high-end resorts and gorgeous yet affordable vacation rentals.

    Food

    You will never go hungry in Scottsdale.  Oh my goodness no.  I could go on and on with the recommendations, but I’ll just list my current favorites; Bowl of Greens, Olive & Ivy, Roaring Fork, Postino, Hula Tiki Bar, Snooze, The Mission, The Breakfast Club, Blanco, La Bocca, and Los Olivos 

    Shopping

    Postino

    I’m not actually a big shopper, but while in Scottsdale this past weekend I took advantage of the great shopping to begin to rebuild my travel wardrobe for the continuation of the Grand Adventure.  I spent a couple of hours at the Scottsdale Fashion Square and picked up a couple of things at the Kierland Commons.  Additional options for shopping in the area include Old Town Scottsdale, The Promenade and Scottsdale Quarter.

    The Desert Botanical Gardens

    One thing I can always shop for is plants and garden related items and my visit to the stunning Desert Botanical Gardens gave me so much inspiration for bringing a wee bit of the Southwest into my Pacific Northwest Garden. I spent about two and half hours here one morning by myself enjoying the gorgeous gardens and the interesting interpretive signage about local flora & fauna as well as indigenous people. During my visit I walked more than three miles around the stunning gardens.  Entry fee is $25 and worth every penny.

    Taliesin West

    Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, AZ.  It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.

    Wright’s beloved winter home and the bustling headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship, was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a world unto itself. Deeply connected to the desert from which it belongs.

    Desert Botanical Gardens

    Tickets are $25 and reservations are highly recommended.  One of my favorite tours in all of the USA. Don’t miss it.  Learn more at Taliesin West.

    Hiking

    Climbing the dry and difficult trail to the top of Camelback Mountain is one of my favorite things to do in Scottsdale Arizona…but it’s not for everyone.  You need to be in good physical condition and carry lots of water, but the effort is worth it.  Pinnacle Peak is another great climb in the area or take a day trip (on your own or with a tour) to the Sonoran Desert for a spectacular hike where you can enjoy the desert scenery to the maximum.

     

    Nightlife

    Handlebar Js

    Everything you can think of is available for nightlight in Scottsdale from casinos and concerts to comedy and festivals.  Cowboy bars, upscale nightclubs, roof top bars and Bodegas are available all around Scottsdale. You can also find a variety of improv clubs, piano bars and dance clubs. Talking Stick is a popular casino with a famous rooftop bar.

    With my high school friends last weekend in Scottsdale

    Or go more “Arizona Country” at the famous Rusty Spur or Handlbar J’s.  For something that will really tickle your funny bone, check out The House of Comedy.

    These are just a handful of suggestions of what to do in Scottsdale Arizona –  the always interesting Southwest USA town.  Not as crazy as Las Vegas, and not as expensive either…Scottsdale offers a wonderful get-away with a warm and inviting climate most of the year.

    Don’t forget your swimsuit!

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