Cagliari, Sardinia

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Embarking on our trip!

We left Barcelona on the Norwegian Epic. If you know my aunt and uncle well, you’d expect they’d take me on a cruise because it’s the best way to see so many cities in a short time. I thought cruising was for an older crowd, but I saw passengers from all walks of life aboard the Epic: families from China and India, young couples from Canada, Russian singles, groups of friends from the U.S., and the occasional single senior citizen.

The ship embarked on its journey towards Cagliari around sunset and had a party on deck with drinks, a dinner buffet, live music, and these awesome frozen yogurt machines! I know. I’m pretty tacky when it comes to ice cream or frozen yogurt. I caved.

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I believe this is the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate, located along Via Giuseppe Manno, a popular street with lots of shopping.

We arrived in Cagliari early in the morning. Once the captain of the ship announced that we were clear to disembark, we packed our scarves (just in case) and cameras. Right off the ship, tour buses swarmed the exit and tour guides pressured us into taking their one-hour tours of the city’s most popular sights for $10 per person. It wasn’t exactly the trap that I thought it’d be. We headed towards Poetto, the famous beach where the tourists go during the day and the locals party at night. The tour guide pointed out some pink flamingos that inhabit the swamp area across the beach.

View of Cagliari

We rode through Castello, or the Old Town, of Cagliari. The island served as a military base for Italy and Spain, its name literally means “Castle,” and now serves as a point of commerce for Italy.

Pulpito di Guglielmo nella Catedralle di Caglari

We passed through the Pulpito di Guglielmo nella Cattedrale di Cagliari, an interesting cathedral shaped like an octopus. Our bus tour ended in a plaza below Castello, where there were lots of shops, eateries, bakeries, and street vendors.

I loved the colorful, older, pastel buildings in the city.

We noticed the touristy part of the city is aged compared to the clean cut streets beyond the university zone. We got lost trying to find our way back to the ship, but found their business district is very modernized compared to Castello and the plaza below.

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Shopping along Via Giuseppe Manno in Cagliari, right below Castello.
Pastel everything!

Our last stop was at a touristy pizzeria near the port. It wasn’t the best pizza, but the melanzane was decent. More to come!

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Barcelona, España

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La Sagrada Familia

I’m in love with Barcelona. This marvelous city was everything I imagined it to be. It’s colorful, artsy, and there was just too much to see in a few days. I really had to prioritize everything I wanted to see and experience.

We arrived in Barcelona early in the morning. Somehow my Spanish (hadn’t used it in a few years), kicked in and we were able to get around the city easily via taxi and the metro. We stayed at the Hilton Barcelona hotel on Avenida Diagonal, a few minutes from the main downtown area of Barcelona. It was alright with us since it was near Park Güell, a few minutes away from La Sagrada Familia and La Boquería.

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Grabbing some gelato at La Boquería.

La Boquería was one of the places I couldn’t get enough of. It’s a hub catered to both locals and tourists seeking fresh groceries, cheap eats, sweets and spices. This is the one place you go to for groceries and a quick bite. I bought some saffron, tried some gelato and salivated over the cute plastic-toy-like sweets. It’s amazing what you can do with sugar!

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Dulces

The second day, we went to La Boquería again and saw the bar that Anthony Bourdain visited during one of his shows. We ventured further into the marketplace and found that it was surrounded by numerous paella shops, seafood vendors and butchers that would sell paper cones full of jamón and cheese!

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The front of La Boquería
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Numerous bars like this line the outside of the marketplace, making it easy to grab a seat, order some tapas or a plate and wine. 

We tried so many different tapas in Barcelona. From toasted bread with tomato to baby squid and razor clams. The food here is very different. It seems fresher, less preservatives, simple and salty from the ocean. The seasonings are so simple: sea salt, saffron, garlic, olive oil, white wine. I have yet to try something I didn’t like.

Souvenirs from Spain and Italy

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Aloha!

I’m finally back home in Hawaii. I’ve been so busy since I returned. Work and family are keeping me busy so I put off unpacking and downloading photos until now. I’m going to start this series of travel-related posts with some of my favorite (non-food) things I took home from Spain and Italy.

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The first photo is of a shell dish that I picked up at La Boquería in Barcelona. It was cheap and so touristy but I wanted something from the Mediterranean Sea since it was too cold to dip my toes in it when I was there. Inside of the beautiful shell are clay figurines of things you’d find at the market, or mercato, in Napoli. The busy and grimy city of Napoli was exciting, mostly because of the little things we found on the Via dei Tribunali, a popular street with bakeries, eateries, and tiny shops. Along a side street of Tribunali, we stopped at A. Ferrera, a shop owned by clay artist Ferrara Antonietta. The clay figures were adorable and so cheap. I couldn’t resist buying a few.

The second photo is of a book (and a Barcelona metro ticket tucked in the front) that I bought in Palermo. Pan de Limón con Semillas by Barcelona-born writer Cristina Campos. I wanted something local and from a common bookshop/newstand that locals go to regularly, so I chose this literary gem that is based in Mallorca. I’m going to start reading it after this coming week…after all my projects that I must catch up to.

The little tan journal is something very special that I bought in Florence. After we visited the Duomo, we ventured towards the local market, lined with vendors of all sorts. One of the first vendors, unique as hell, was selling customized real leather journals. He stamped my name inside. I was only able to bring a couple of these back since they were going to weigh my luggage down, but I thought it was the perfect thing to bring back to some special people. The journals were not cheap, but they were worth every penny.

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This third photo is just more of the beautiful figurines from Ferrara Antonietta. Artichokes are all over Italy and they’re served fried, baked into pizzas, and steamed. Their artichokes are also different colors, which I thought was beautiful.

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Ah. This last photo is of a few things I picked up in Mallorca. Shopping in Europe isn’t really my thing…just yet. It is quite possible that I haven’t hit the real local shops, but Zara and H&M are huge with the Spanish. Aside from the mauve fringe earrings on the right, everything is from Sfera at El Corte Inglés, which is a huge multi-level department store in various cities. It’s like a Macy’s, that’s the only type of department store I can compare it to.

Stay tuned for the real travel shots…I have so much to share!

I asked God for a great 2015 and he delivered.

 2015 has been really good to me. It was truly one of the best years of my life! I’ll admit I prayed. I asked God for 2015 to bring me happiness, adventure and love. He definitely delivered! Me! Non-practicing-Catholic-sarcastic-but-I-still-love-my-grandma-ME! I prayed and it happened. I truly feel it was the year I discovered a new layer of awesomeness about myself and those around me, made peace with what I’ve experienced in the past and found new goals to crush in the future.

I am so grateful for what I have right in this moment. Can I just list what made my year?

  • Surprising Abbey, the bestie, with a trip to Hilo for her 30th birthday and visiting Mauna Kea
  • Having a job that allows me to have creative freedom
  • Visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time
  • Having a boss that pushes me to grow professionally
  • Jumping off the rock at Waimea Bay
  • Going to Seattle and Portland to visit my cousins
  • Losing some weight, gaining a little back, now planning to lose it all and then some again
  • My cousin Tricia is finally pregnant…with TWINS! I cried when I found out.
  • Kevin ❤
  • New Zealand – I can’t even tell you how I knocked this off my bucket list (meat pies, learning about Maori culture, etc.)
  • Surprisingly being closer to God even though I still don’t attend mass
  • Finding an adult day care that my granny loves and enjoys
  • Putting myself out in the online dating world
  • Abu Dhabi – dune bashing, visiting the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrarri World, riding camels, ATV-ing
  • Crossfit Zeus and my Zeus ‘ohana – faced my fear of crosssfit and super athletes
  • Finally feeling in control of my life – balancing friendship, family, work, travel and love

Okay, there’s just too much to list. Sure, there have been many disappointments, failures, and hardships this year, but you know when your blessings outweigh the negative. I’m truly happy. Happy. That word makes me nervous! I’ve always kinda been a Negative Nancy, pointing out that happiness doesn’t truly last forever, someone is always there to wait for you to fail and steal your thunder, but who cares? We owe it to ourselves to thank God for this moment and appreciate all that we have. As you can tell, 2015 has changed the way I perceive situations, relationships and the world around me.

One of the catalysts in this transformation is…well…I work with some of the most faithful, humble and selfless people. I have to admit that even their faith and grace towards others and myself may have rubbed off. It can’t be helped. They’re a blessing and I learn from them every single day.

Among my many blessings, this year was THE YEAR TO TRAVEL. It started with surprising Abbey for her 30th, a couple work trips to Long Beach, CA and D.C. Then I took a first-time trip to Seattle to visit my cuzzies during the summer and visited Powell’s Books in Portland (checked that off my bucket list).

Lastly, I embarked on a long awaited journey to New Zealand: land of the kiwis, epic meat pie producers of the world, Hobbit habitation land, the place to live pre-zombie apocalypse and the country I have dreamed of for years. Thanks to my friend Lani and Warren for traveling alongside me and taking me on a truly unforgettable trip. The last and final trip of 2015 was to Abu Dhabi for Brentt’s first amateur golf tournament. The only expectation I had was that it was going to be hot. Although I nearly fainted from the heat on the golf course, I was blown away by the kindness of the locals, the intricate and unconventional architecture and the food! Oh the food. Mmm…if there was a reason for you to pay me to get fat in Abu Dhabi…even New Zealand…I’d be so good, you best be quadrupling that salary!

The final touch on 2015 was my mom, dad, and brother visiting me during the holidays. Mom came down during Thanksgiving, dad a couple weeks later and Brentt for Christmas. They all came down and filled my tummy and heart with happiness. I can’t ask for more.

Exactly one year ago, I wrote down my resolutions for 2015. They were to face fears, drink more, enjoy life and be happy. I didn’t drink more, but I’ve accepted that I’m officially allergic to alcohol and it’s best if I just drink on occasion. My goal in 2016 is to love on those that need it (no matter how annoying they are), face fears (yes, again), lose weight (sadly same resolution, different year – but with a little progress), be grateful, pray more, read more, edit myself a little less when it comes to writing and be present. Like right now, I’m present mentally, physically, and spiritually in my element of typing at Starbucks and inhaling burnt coffee grinds listening to bad hipster music…all right before I head into work this morning.

Happy 2016 y’all!

Seattle, Washington

My godsister, Maria, had graduated from the University of Washington and I made a little trip up there to help her celebrate and visit the rest of my cousins in Seattle. Small kine family reunion turned into a fun trip around the city! Here are some snapshots from my trip.

Seattle Art Museum

I arrived a day before the graduation festivities started so that I can fit in some culture and sight-seeing. I went to SAM alone to get familiar with the local culture and history. My fave exhibit was the Pacific Northwestern American tribal art.

 

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

I can’t even figure out how to describe how excited I get when it comes to ice cream shops that make their own unique flavors. Don’t even try to come here and order a vanilla cone because there’s no point in living if you don’t try their earl grey or sasquatch flavors. Mis primas definitely know their desserts.

Let’s EAT

My family is all about eating. Like…we eat when we’re happy, sad, angry and bored. There’s no way around it. That’s how islanders live and enjoy life. I busted out the GoPro for a groupie shot for this one.

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Another shot with my not-so-little cousins. ❤

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

I’m pretty sure that glass artist Dale Chihuly had an exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art a few years ago. I swear I’ve seen his work before. In searching for attractions in Seattle, I came across the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition, which is located right next to the Space Needle. Each room features a theme of various glass art. My favorite part of the exhibit is the garden and greenhouse. The garden features glass art that looks like real plants along with some interesting plants and flowers. If you were to visit Chihuly and the Space Needle, best deal is if you buy your tickets online.

I spent my last days enjoying pauhana happy hour sessions with my cousins and catching up with them.

Aside from the traffic, Seattle is a wonderful place where I could see myself living for a few years. The city is beautiful, ethnically diverse and it seems a lot more laid back than how I perceived it to be.

From Cairns to Sydney

 Processed with MoldivMost of our travel adventures happened before and after the tournament in Sydney. Here we are in Cairns visiting art galleries, the Esplanade pool and walking along Grafton and Abbott.

Brentt and I only had a few days to explore Cairns and Sydney before and after the tournament. Cairns was our first stop from Guam. We stayed at the Holiday Inn (now called Double Tree) and it was in the perfect location. We could walk to the main Cairns Esplanade strip in less than five minutes and to the shopping mall in 15 minutes. The good eateries, ranging from Italian to Japanese, were scattered along Abbott and Grafton streets. Along the Esplanade, you’ll run into tourist traps and shops with crappy souvenirs – something we’re already used to in the islands, so we just kept to Abbott and Grafton, where there were more of the Cairns locals walking around.

Processed with MoldivWe stayed in Kurri Kurri, in the outskirts of Sydney. There were wild kangaroos right outside our rooms and witnessed beautiful sunsets. I even got to sample the local wine.

The “beach” at Cairns isn’t that great. It’s brown. You’d have to ride a boat to the Great Barrier Reef to log in some great snorkeling…or you can just settle for the public pee-pool at the Esplanade. Your best bet to get some sun (other than going to the GBR)? Spend the day at the beach down Captain Cook Highway past the airport. The beaches are still brown, but at least it’s shallow, you can walk on sandbars and bbq like the locals.

After Cairns, we headed to Sydney via Virgin Australia. Most of our time was spent on the golf course (see previous post) and the only food available was fried EVERYTHING. French fries, chicken schnitzel, fish and chips, etc. Not the most comforting way to go with two hungry island kids craving anything with some Asian spice and rice or noodles. On our last day, we had a couple hours to visit the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Our hosts from Hawaii were irritated by the traffic and ready for their flight back to Hawaii so we didn’t have a chance to fully explore the city. But we made the most of it and took lots of photos during our last day in Sydney.

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Our official last day in “Straya” was spent at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm.

We then arrived in Cairns (again), returning from Sydney, we were weary travelers, enduring a rough flight on Virgin Australia and starved after refusing yet another fried meal. After checking into Rydges Esplanade, we took a 20 minute walk to grab some dinner and stumbled upon what looked like a bar from the outside, Rattle & Hum. It happened to have the best pizza in Australia that we had access to at the time.

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This is something we’ll always remember about Australia. Its wildlife, sights, kind people and wonderful weather amazed us everyday.

We also decided to visit Hartley’s Crocodile Farm, which was 45 minutes away from the hotel. We bought a package for two that included the passes to the farm and transportation to and from our hotel for $111 AUD. It was fun! We covered the entire park in about two hours and relaxed with lunch at the restaurant. It was their 80th Anniversary so they had face painting, a free photo booth and complimentary croc sausages. It was the perfect way to see everything we wanted to see in Australia: crocodiles, koalas, cassowaries, wombats, wallabies and kookaburras.

It was a great trip for Brentt and I. We’ve traveled to other places before, but this was our first brother-sister trip to another country. We enjoyed every bit of it. Oh dear Australia, it’s been unreal. It might be a couple years until we return, but until then, we’ll cherish the memories.

The last photos from our trip to Liverpool

LP2 copyMy mom (right) scans Bold Street for some Asian products and restaurants.

On the last few days of our trip in Liverpool, my dad and brother went to the British Open while my mom and I explored the city. We grew tired of English food, the meat, potatoes, fish and chips were not satisfying our cravings for bold flavors, so my mom spent half the day looking for an Asian grocery store that she heard of from a friend.

LP1 copy“Look,” said my mom, “they have noodles! We can eat here when they’re done with the tournament.”

We ate at Seoul Love the next day with another family that attended the British Junior Open. Korean and Chinese dishes in Liverpool are very different from Asian food in Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. Stan, the owner of our cottage, explained that when the Chinese immigrants arrived in Liverpool, they were so skilled in establishing and maintaining businesses, they heavily contributed to the development of the city. They’ve changed the way they cooked to cater to the British, so their kim chee jigae isn’t as salty (which is good!) and the Chinese fried rice isn’t sticky at all (not good!). Overall, we enjoyed our experience there, it was great to eat something with gochujang and chili garlic sauce after all that fish and chips.

LP5 copyOur mom & daughter exploration day included the famous Walker Gallery.

We then visited the Walker Gallery and viewed many original paintings from local artists, an art contest by children and teens from China and sculptures. The café inside the Walker Gallery is exquisite. You’ll see people from all walks of life walking in there just to grab a latte and a slice of carrot cake. My mother was lucky enough to grab the last slice and I grabbed a fresh, warm oatmeal cookie. It was one of the best grab and go breakfasts we’ve had in Liverpool.

LP6 copyIt was pretty awesome walking into the sculpture room at Walker. I’ve never seen sculptures so detailed up close.

After Walker Gallery, we walked to the Liverpool Central Library, where they had a café and three stories of books. My favorite part was the Picton Reading Room. It’s a circular dome reading room with three stories of shelves. Think Beauty and the Beast type of shelves. I went crazy walking around the room. I found Spanish literature books that I’ve read in graduate school (in ENGLISH!) and the staircases were so beautiful. I loved it so much, I think I could live there.

LP7 copyThe Picton Reading Room was my favorite thing about Liverpool.

LP3 copyAfter the Walker Gallery and the Liverpool Central Library, we headed back down to Bold Street. Each unit had a beautiful storefront.

Bold Street was our favorite street for food and shopping in Liverpool. It was a perfect blend of cultural diversity, good coffee, pastries and shopping. We spent two days in the city and always ended up spending most of our time on Bold Street. Just off of Bold, there is also what they call “Chinatown.” It really isn’t a town but a lineup of five Chinese businesses that sell moon cakes, rice cakes, custard and jin doi (excuse my spelling). I remember we also ate at a Lebanese restaurant for lunch, but we were too hungry to stop and take a photo. So here is the last stop we made that day…

LP4 copyAnd we ended the day with some cake! My mom loves cupcakes.

Can’t go wrong with a little cake. Hehe!